Get Your Chow On (But Follow The Rules) at Chow Time

Posted by Holly Whitfield | December 6th 2011 2884 0

Have you ever had one of those nights when you get excited about a restaurant and drive all the way to it, only to find that it's closed? And when you move on to your plan B restaurant, you find that it's mysteriously disappeared from the place Google Maps said it was?

That was me last night. After my first choice restaurant (Maharaja) was closed due to "electrical issues" (at least, that's what the sign on the door said), and my second choice restaurant was seemingly nonexistent (Woodlands), I found myself driving aimlessly up and down Hacks Cross in the rain, confused and hungry.

I was with a friend, and we were both nearing the point where we were about to give up and give in to the Steak Escape drive through when he saw something promising: Chow Time, a Chinese and soul food buffet with a sign ringed in brilliant white light blubs like a theatre marquee.

It seemed like a good idea.

And was it ever.

Chow Time Rules and Regulations, Memphis, Tenn.

First of all, while most restaurants have the basic "No shoes, no shirt, no service" rules, Chow Time is the first place I've ever been that has an entire wall devoted to rules and regulations. No sitting for more than two hours. No miniskirts. And everyone must be wearing a shirt at all times. There were so many of them (and they were so specific) that I have to wonder how many of them were written to address a real-life problem.

We were seated immediately by the security guard, and a friendly waitress brought us drinks. Families were eating from plates piled high with food, single men were watching football and we were standing there wide-eyed,  staring at the buffet's sections – "China Inn", "Southern Home Cookin'", "Grill USA" and "Salad Bar".

Chow Time, Memphis, Tenn.

When I posted to Twitter that I was trying Chow Time, I got an immediate reply from @ismh that said "That place is insane." He's right – insane is a fairly accurate descriptor. One might also use "intense".

I started on the soul food side of the buffet. It was sprawling and complete with its offerings of Southern staples (think mac'n'cheese, greens, mashed potatoes, cornbread) and delicacies (like pig's feet and chitterlings).

Chow Time Buffet, Memphis, Tenn.

And then, just because I could, I plopped two egg rolls from the Chinese buffet on my plate, setting them atop my fried catfish to keep them from being soaked by the juice from my  greens. The soul food was all pretty tasty, but I have to give high marks to the greens, which (with the addition of a little vinegar) were close to perfection.

First plate from the Chow Time Buffet

As I ate from that first plate, I came to two important realizations about Chow Time: 1. Chow Time is kind of brilliant in its ability to please just about everyone (except, sadly, vegetarians); and 2. Chow Time would be amazing if you were drunk.

On my second trip to the buffet, I went for the Chinese section. I loaded up my plate with Chinese vegetables (water chestnuts, bamboo shoots, celery and baby corn), pepper steak, zucchini in some kind of clear sauce and some rather delicious fried potato wedges.

Second plate from Chow Time, Memphis, Tenn.

While most of the food was decent, you don't have to worry about legions of pretentious foodies flocking to Chow Time. The food is good (and some of it, like the greens, is really good) but it's designed for maximum efficiency. 

But the quality of the food doesn't really seem to be the point at Chow Time, and that's more than alright. The point is that it's a place that just about everyone can agree on. It's inexpensive (dinner for one with a drink is about $12). Also, it's an excellent people watching opportunity. It's got the kind of concept that seems like it would only work in Memphis.

Go There:

Chow Time (Note that if you click the link, the website has a sultry song that autoplays while a man talks about how "It's so great to be able to find a place that's so elegant and classy" and urges you to "come to Chow Time and get your chow on" in a Barry White voice.)

4207 Hacks Cross Road
Memphis, TN 38125-3102

(901) 737-8272

Chow Time Buffet & Grill on Urbanspoon

Author: Holly Whitfield

I write about what’s going on with Memphis music, food, arts, events, sports, people, and culture. Memphians love Elvis and barbeque with a passion that must be seen to be believed, but there is so much more to this place.

Show Comments


  1. Tiffany says:

    Bummer about Maharaja (cause it's delicious).  I've never heard of Chow Time till now, but I'm going to have to check it out.

  2. Mike says:

    Woodlands Indian restaurant changed its name to Flavours Indian Cuisine, 4205 Hacks Cross Rd #101.  It's in the back section of where you were in that strip of shops. It's the far left corner suite of the strip as you are facing it.  Great place!

  3. marlo and mashun says:

    We were in Memphis the end of Sept 2011 on vacation. We heard how good the food was there and we went. ALL THE FOOD WAS EXCELLENT!!! It was the 2nd best thing we loved about Memphis,I’m sure we gained a few pounds. Can’t wait to go there again.

  4. Heather says:

    I love the food at Chow Time, but if its your first time, I suggest going on a weekday during lunch. Stay away from there on a Sunday afternoon or you'll be caught in the "just-got-out-of-a-3hour-church-service-and-hungry-enough-to-punch-everyone" crowd, lol!  BTW, you can also get a buffet-to-go there.
    I agree with the blog, you can get some GOOD people-watching in, especially on sunday whilst stuck in the above-mentioned crowd, waiting for a table. But don't DARE come in with a hat on fellas, you will be asked to remove it. Also, have your receipt ready for the security guard to check on your way out, as if you're in Sam's Club, lol! I made the mistake and put mine back in my wallet before I got to the door and you'd have thought I was a terrorist or something!
    Now that you reviewed it, I think I'm about due for a dose of soul/chinese! Chow Time here I come.

  5. M Patel says:

    Woodland now renamed to Flavors is way better. It is by far the best Indian food in the memphis area. Must Eat.

  6. Flavors is owned and run by an Indian woman who is cooking and, more importantly, spicing her food for the Memphis Indian community. It's not "American" hot but Indian hot and spicy! Be prepared.

  7. Jay says:

    I've been to Woodlands many times. There must have been a change in ownership because the same restaurant is now called Spices. I've loved the food every time I've been, no matter what name it's under. My wife and I have stumbled into Chow Time for the very same reason that Kerry mentioned. I haven't been there in several months, but I would hate to hear that great Indian place was closed. 

  8. Jay says:

    * I meant Flavors. Sorry! 

  9. Kenna says:

    I was in Memphis this weekend visiting family and I went to China Inn which is a part of the Chow Time family…this place…oh my God…who knew soul food and Chinese food could exist under the same roof and actually taste good?? LOL, I enjoyed myself there but I'm back home in California and I am running to the gym tonight to burn off that banana pudding I ate last night and the other good stuff there! Can't wait to go back to Memphis!

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