The term “squash-puppy” may evoke a little nostalgia and even a few hunger pains in those who have tasted the fluffy, fried morsels.
They were once available at The Buffet, which closed in 2008, but the couple who owned that restaurant has opened up another business and squash-puppies are one of many food items on the menu.
Jim and Wendy Kelly have established a casual, buffet-styled restaurant in Burnettown which had a soft opening in September.
It's called Kelly's Family Buffet and offers mostly Southern cuisine such as fried chicken, meatloaf and all the fixings as well as the occasional Asian and barbecue dishes.
The Kellys owned The Buffet, which was located on University Parkway and lasted for 21 years. In 2008, the couple was a bit burnt out and had just adopted their little girl, Samantha. They decided to step out of the restaurant business for a few years so they could spend more time with family.
But, several years later, Jim Kelly started itching to get back in the kitchen.
“It's just in his blood,” Wendy said laughing.
She wasn't kidding. Jim's father, John Kelly, started a restaurant in 1977 called the Heart of Aiken. In 1978, his father opened another restaurant in Augusta called Harvest Table which is still around today.
Since the new restaurant opened, several old customers of The Buffet have found their way to the eatery and to the locally famous squash-puppies.
Jim said the squash-puppies were an accident when they were first made but turned out to be well-received by their customers. They are a sweeter version of a hush-puppy with chunks of squash fried inside the dough.
The style of the restaurant is laid-back, with a few small sayings sketched onto the wall such as, “Enjoy the little things in life,” and each table is complete with an upright paper towel holder.
There's also a “crooked coat rack,” humorously labeled as such in green lettering, that was installed at an angle so they could fit more than two hooks on it. It became a little joke at the restaurant.
“We just wanted to keep it simple,” Jim said. “We didn't want it to be cluttered. That's the whole theme – not too fancy but simple.”
The kitchen has been completely remodeled with all new equipment, new carpet was put into place and the walls got a fresh coat of paint.
The Kellys are having fun with the new business where their son, Chris, also works as well as a few waitresses from The Buffet. The only real difference between “The Buffet” and this restaurant is that it's in a smaller, more intimate location and the Kellys have been more hands-on.
“I like it. It's really all I know,” Jim said. “We're really excited to be back in it.”
The Kellys said they've gotten great support from customers and are receptive to any feedback.
Kelly's Family Buffet is located at 3032 Augusta Road in Burnettown and can be reached at 593-7299. They can also be found on Facebook by searching “Kelly's Family Buffet.”
It's open Monday through Friday from 10:45 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Starting this week, they will also open from 5 to 8 p.m. every Friday for dinner.
Customers can dine in or carry out. The restaurant also offers bulk orders for events.