Thursday, June 5, 2008

Memories of the Flaming Pit Restaurant

No list of old Columbia restaurants would be complete without the Flaming Pit Restaurant which still comes up in conversations as a favorite memory of the locals. Located at the Eastern entrance of Parkade Plaza, this restaurant was known for the good food with adults and a favorite with children because of its treasure box of little gifts and the little umbrellas put in their drinks.

I never ate supper there but went to their lunch buffet several times with my friends. We would go for the great price and the huge amount of food offered on the buffet. I felt the food quality was just okay but for the price I thought it was worth it. Later on we discovered the Flaming Pit's Happy Hour in their wonderful little bar area with the extremely comfortable chairs. We would get there early before the crowd and leave before it got too crowded with patrons. Those too few Happy Hour meetings were a lot of fun with great friends and outstanding conversations and are wonderful memories, no matter if they are incomplete. So there you are readers, I finally put the Flaming Pit on my list and would like to hear other people's memories of one of Columbia's past great restaurants. Let us know your thoughts on this restaurant.


Eric said...

I remember Flaming Pit very well. It's a shame that it closed. Not only was it a great place to go, but the food was great too.

Anonymous said...

I'm too lazy to set up an account, so I'm posting this anonymously.

My family moved to Columbia in 1967, and for many years there were only a handful of restaurants of any kind. I don't know exactly when the FP opened, but it was certainly well established in my memory by the early 1970s.

The Parkade Plaza was an early indoor mall, and it was the only game in town throughout much of the 1970s. The anchor store was JC Penney. The Flaming Pit fit right in, as the best restaurant in the best shopping center in town, at the time.

For many years, the FP was about the only decent restaurant in Columbia. Everyone went there for special occasions. As a kid, I usually got the fried chicken, which was very good by any standards--they were clearly making it from scratch back in the kitchen. The chickens were enormous compared to the game hens they use at KFC today, and cracking through the fried batter coating always released a huge rush of steam. Kentucky Fried Chicken had the spice blend and all that, but the Flaming Pit had the overall quality nailed down. If you are going to eat a regional speciality, you might as well do it right...

The FP used to put frog legs on the menu once in a while, too, which is practically a delicacy nowadays. I ordered a plate once just to be daring, and it was terrific...sadly, I've never had frog legs since then. In its heyday, circa 1975-80, I'm guessing the FP made most of its stuff from scratch, and it was vastly superior to the mass produced stuff out of chains like Applebees today.

Long after I left Columbia, I heard from my parents that the quality went downhill as the traffic to Parkade Plaza declined, and the restaurant scene in Columbia started to diversify. Upstart restaurants like Glenn's Cafe took off in the late 1980s, and the good ol' FP was stuck in a dying mall that just looked depressing after all the other stores fled. I suppose it stopped being a place people felt good about going to.

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Paul said...

I remember when the Flaming Pit opened in 1965. It had the first salad bar ever in Columbia, which blew people away.

Anonymous said...

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