You may already have noticed the large metallic pigs outside of the old Golden Corral location in Destin. Those pigs are serving as the welcoming crew for Ole Times Country Buffet and Barbeque, a new buffet restaurant that is set to open in mid-March.
“We are known for our barbequed pulled pork and St. Louis ribs,” said restaurant owner Pat O’Neal. “We will have basic country food, such as fresh cabbage, creamed corn, mashed potatoes, fresh squash, peas and butter beans, fresh collards and turnips; what’s in season.”
This will be the 15th buffet for the restaurateur out of southern Georgia, but only the second in Florida, with the other being in Lake City.
“We have 13 Ole Times restaurants in the region and in Valdosta, Georgia, I have the Smok’N Pig and Mama June’s named after my mom,” O’Neal said.
In addition to the southern-style home cooking, Ole Times will also feature a full bakery, a salad bar and – specific to Destin – a nightly seafood buffet.
“We will have a full bakery with fresh peach, blueberry and cherry cobbler and homemade banana pudding, pecan and lemon meringue pies,” O’Neal said. “We do every night, a seafood buffet with steak and shrimp every night and we are going to be having fried and baked fish every day.”
O’Neal said he has been coming to Destin to vacation for 15 years and even owns properties in Miramar Beach, so when he saw the old Destin Golden Corral for sale he grabbed it.
“We were getting shrimp in Fort Walton and I saw it on the drive so we went in there and got it,” he said. “I’ve actually overhauled several old Golden Corrals.”
First time visitors to Ole Times Southern Buffet may be surprised by the scene when they first enter the restaurant as a fresh vegetable market will be the first thing they see.
“We have a little produce market when you come in with vine-ripe tomatoes, sweet potatoes, cabbage, red potatoes, bell peppers, cucumbers; whatever I got,” O’Neal said. “It’s just a little farmers market we do year round. I do that in all of my stores.”
O’Neal said he gets his produce from local farmers through the Georgia Grown Association in Georgia and Florida Fresh in Florida.
Also available in the small market will be Tupelo honey and “fat-backs” or pork rinds, which O’Neal said have become quite popular at all of his restaurants.
As for the labor-force, O’Neal said he hopes to hire about 70 local employees, and will be bringing about six existing staff members from Georgia to help launch the new restaurant.
Ole Times Country Buffet and Barbeque will be located at 733 Harbor Blvd. in Destin with an opening date set for the second week of March. For more information visit www.onealrestaurants.com.