Senior dining deal
Souplantation offers one delicious perk of getting older
By Erica Wayne 04/23/2014
My husband and I are fast approaching seniordom, those decades that younger folk like to term “Golden Years.” Frankly, with sagging thingamabobs, failing whatchamacallits, low T, high BP, HDL, arthritis, GERD, polyps and other age-related maladies, I’m not too thrilled at the prospect, even if, as our friends say, “getting old beats the alternative.”
However, being in one’s 60s does have its minor advantages. AARP discounts abound and, even without membership, there are lots of restaurants, movie theaters, retailers and even carwashes that give a break to the nearly elderly as well as those who have actually attained that status.
One of the best is the year-old senior “prix-fixe” at Souplantation, repeatedly voted top buffet restaurant in Pasadena Weekly’s annual “Best of” poll.
Anybody over 60 who totters into Souplantation can claim a 10 percent discount all day long. But if, like a lot of the not-so-young-anymore, you’re happy to eat an early dinner, Souplantation’s got a deal that can’t be beat.
Between 2 and 5 p.m. Monday through Thursday seniors can have complete run (well, maybe a leisurely walk) of everything the restaurant offers for a mere $6.99, which is especially welcome to those on a limited budget.
The price even includes unlimited drinks, a real bonus since at Souplantation “unlimited drinks” means you can guzzle innumerable diet cokes, root beers, orange sodas and ice teas, then exchange your glass for a cup and finish your meal with as much hot coffee and tea as you can down (provided you’re not worried about insomnia or bladder control, another two of those pesky elder-concerns).
Our love affair with Souplantation began about 30 years ago, when we were still (relatively) young and (literally) fat and happy (about everything except our weight). The 55-foot-long salad bar showcasing the bulk of the restaurant’s raw veggies and toppings captured my heart at first glance while my Atkins Diet-advocating mate fixated almost immediately on the (especially creamed) soups, chili and pizza, although he swore he only ate the cheese.
Most of you have likely visited our Souplantation since it opened, at that time in the mid-1980s one of less than 10. Now there are close to 130 near-clones in 15 states. The corporation has a slick Web site with daily menus for each location and a nutritional breakdown for every item down to the last calorie and gram of fat, protein, sugar, sodium and fiber — a real boon to those of us increasingly on restricted diets as we age.
As long as you’re mobile, serving yourself cafeteria-style is a treat. You pick up a tray and plate and channel it along one of the dual salad lines, helping yourself to whichever of its overwhelming array of salads, fresh vegetables and garnishes strike your fancy before being confronted with a score or more of herbal vinegars and salad dressings. After that, you pay, and, if you’ve taken advantage of the underground garage, validate your ticket for free two-hour parking.
If you have tray space left, you can immediately tackle the soup and pasta bar. Otherwise, drop your salad on a vacant table and mosey on back. Most of Souplantation’s pastas (including the ever-present mac & cheese) are decent but not nearly as mesmerizing as the soups: eight or nine hearty, keep-you-warm-on-a-cold-winter-day varieties like potato-rosemary, cream of mushroom and split pea with ham, most with a porridge-like consistency.
Souplantation’s chili (fairly mild, but, at our age, many of us prefer to avoid anything that might cause heartburn) can be garnished with sour cream, onions and cheese. Clam chowder and chicken noodle soups are, by and large, staples. The 15 or so others rotate, as do the prepared salads, hot pastas, handcrafted desserts and muffins.
Oh, didn’t I mention the muffins? Three or four different kinds per day! Then there’s pizza, focaccia, baked potatoes and cornbread. Plus, of course, a fruit bar with fresh fruits, fruit salads, Jell-O and puddings (some sugar-free for those flirting with diabetes) and cottage cheese. There’s also soft serve chocolate and vanilla ice cream, with vats of chocolate and caramel syrups, nuts and cherries.
For young adults in their first 59 years, the cost of this bounty is approximately $13. But, in addition to the nearly half-off price, the 60-plussers get the extra benefit of dining when there are fewer patrons, making it less likely they’ll collide with some kid bee-lining it to the ice cream. Not only that, but I don’t have to shout to enable my mate (who refuses to believe the audiologist who told him he needs hearing aids) to understand me.
We’re Souplantation regulars, coming in about once a week. And we’ve finally lost the extra poundage, which delights us and the doctors we see ever more frequently. The Atkins proponent still piles up denuded pizza crusts and downs bowl after bowl of soups and chili topped with cheddar tendrils, globs of sour cream and sprinkles of fresh chives. He loads up on greens doused with heavy-duty blue cheese dressing and bacon bits.
I join him for soup (minus cheese and sour cream) and fashion salad masterpieces of purple cabbage, broccoli, shredded carrots, corn, kidney beans, sunflower seeds and garbanzos. (Thank goodness my teeth are still good, and I don’t suffer from diverticulitis!) Instead of dressing, I drizzle on red wine vinegar. Al Gore would be proud of my light carbon footprint.
We both exit feeling full, flush and pretty damned virtuous. Except, that is, for our final forays to the baked goods area. My hand, unbidden, usually snatches up a teensy muffin. My husband often tries a tiny dab of hot chocolate lava cake, apple cobbler or some such. But, then, these are the treats that soothe the soul (aging or other) and make Souplantation the best buffet in town.
201 S. Lake Ave.,