It’s a not-so-well-known fact that Brookland Baptist Church has been preparing a lunch buffet for 10 years in the church’s Banquet and Conference Center.
The Tuesday through Friday lunch – along with Sunday breakfast/brunch and lunch – is open to the public, not just members of the West Columbia church, which is among the area’s largest Baptist congregations. It is led by the Rev. Dr. Charles B. Jackson Sr., who has served the ministry for more than 46 years.
The buffet started out as a form of community outreach, said Marnie Robinson, marketing and public relations manager at Brookland Baptist. It offers a relaxed atmosphere where people can come and sit and visit with friends – and make new ones – while dining on delicious Southern cooking.
The church makes sure the price is affordable for the entire community, and the good food and friendly staff keeps people coming back.
Brookland Baptist sits just up the street from the Columbia Farms chicken plant, in a stretch of businesses, older apartment complexes and single family homes. Robinson said the lunch buffet has helped diversify the community by bringing different groups together.
“Everybody is your friend here,” she said.
That diverse crowd stopping in at Brookland also includes out-of-towners, from groups traveling from other churches to political candidates on the campaign trail.
Robinson easily rattles off a who’s who list of people who have dined at Brookland. Among them are former President Barack Obama; presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, both Democrats, and Republicans Carly Fiorina and Marco Rubio; former Gov. Nikki Haley; and S.C. Attorney General Alan Wilson. Congressman James Clyburn is a regular when he is in Columbia. Actresses Lynn Whitfield and Vanessa Bell Calloway also have stopped by for a meal.
Depending on how many events are being held, on any given afternoon Brookland serves between 250 to 600-plus diners, said Gregory Daniels, general manager and director. People are welcome to reserve tables for lunch or dine in the communal atmosphere. Private dining rooms are available for meetings and special events.
On the hot buffet of Southern favorites, fried chicken is the most popular item. Lenwood Greene, food services manager, said he orders more than 1,000 pounds of chicken a week. Most of the chicken will be hand-battered and fried, but the Brookland kitchen staff also serves baked chicken for those looking for a healthier alternative.
Fried and broiled fish and shrimp on Friday make that day the most popular of the week. Some folks, such as buffet patron Gerald English, who said he dines at Brookland at least twice a week, like the choices on the salad bar and the ribs on BBQ Thursday.
Brookland’s congregation numbers 8,000 but Robinson said Sunday attendance averages 3,000. Of that number, about 300 to 400 have breakfast, brunch or lunch Sunday. Since food service is open to the public, the number of people served can reach 1,000 in an afternoon.
Daniels hints that probably the best time to come to the Sunday buffet would be around 11 a.m. – that’s when Sunday School lets out and the later Sunday worship service begins.
Sunday is also the day that the Brookland crew pulls out all of the stops.
Sunday meal service has three parts: breakfast, brunch and the Sunday feast (lunch). Breakfast and brunch feature made-to-order omelets and Belgian waffles in addition to the salad and dessert bar. The feast (lunch) adds the full hot meat and vegetable buffet line, a made-to-order pasta station and carving station.
“Don’t worry if you feel that you’ve eaten too much,” Robinson joked. “You can always walk it off next door at the Health Center’s indoor track.”
Buffet at Brookland Baptist Church
WHERE: Brookland Banquet and Conference Center, 1046 Sunset Blvd., West Columbia
WHEN: Weekly lunch, 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Tuesday-Friday, breakfast/brunch, 10 a.m-noon Sunday; Sunday lunch buffet, noon-3 p.m.
COST: Weekdays, $9.99 for adults, $8.99 seniors (ages 65 and older), $6.99 for youth ages 13-17, $4.99 for children ages 5-12; Sunday breakfast, $7.99 adults, $6.99 seniors, $4.99 children (5-12); Sunday brunch, $13.99 adults, $11.99 seniors, $8.99 youth (13-17), $5.99 children (5-12); Sunday lunch buffet, $11.99 adults, $9.99 seniors, $8.99 youth (13-17), $5.99 children (5-12).
SPECIALS: Tuesday is 2/$15 buffet; Thursday is BBQ Day; Friday is seafood day
INFO: (803) 744-7956