142. “I’ll get that guy, but first I’ll just stop at the Bishop’s Buffet here.”

The episode:Hobgoblins,” ep. 907

The riff: Spoken by Mike as he imitates the movie’s senior citizen security guard, who is supposed to be going after an intruder at the time.

The explanation: Bishop’s Buffet was a chain of classic Midwestern buffet restaurants. I say “was” because it is today no more. The last Bishop’s was located in Moline, Illinois and apparently closed in mid-2012. There were once 38 Bishop’s locations throughout the Midwest, with the first opening in Waterloo, IL in 1920. It seems they failed to adapt with the times, blaming the eventual going-out-of-business on “people not eating out anymore.” I think it’s more likely they just couldn’t keep up, as this sparse Facebook profile for the final Bishop’s location would imply. They never even made an announcement when they closed the doors forever.

Novelty factor: Despite living in Illinois, I hadn’t heard of these before their closure. It sounds like they were fixtures of smaller towns than the suburbs where I grew up. I count it as another Midwestern joke, as the buffet restaurant in this style strikes me as a supremely Midwestern sort of place to name-drop.

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30 thoughts on “142. “I’ll get that guy, but first I’ll just stop at the Bishop’s Buffet here.”

  1. I grew up around Moline, IL, and my grandpa absolutely LOVED going to Bishops. As far as buffets go, it was weird because you had to get in line and tell someone behind the counter what you wanted as you moved through the line, and they would serve it to you. Any time we went with my grandparents to Bishops, my brother and I were almost invariably the youngest people there. It closed down with so little fanfare that it took locals a while to figure out it was closed for good, and not just remodeling or shut down temporarily for health code stuff.

    • Aha, I guess that’s why I saw it referred to as a “cafeteria-style” buffet. I had wondered about that.

  2. My grandparents loved it in Dubuque. Well, the three that lived long enough to see a Bishops here. My cousin, my brother and sister all worked there over the years. I liked going there, but I just never went there much. Just not my thing, really. I kinda miss it, now that it’s gone.

  3. I am from a small Illinois town (Paris), yet I have never heard of Bishop’s until now. This is the one time, Jim, where you & I were in the dark with the reference. lol

      • Roughly from when it opened in 1978 to 1988? It was on the North side of the SE mall entrance, across from where Replay arcade was. I don’t know what is there now.

        • Oh, I remember it now. I think I even ate there once. I’m not much of a mall person. Maybe now that I a bit older, I can be one of the early-morning mall walkers. (As opposed to those “other” walkers.)

  4. I’ve lived in northern and central Illinois my whole life without ever hearing of them. When I first heard the riff, I thought it was the place from Seinfeld, until I remembered that it was Monk’s Diner.

    • There was one in downtown Peoria, IL for years and years, down where the old Sears store was on the riverfront. Also, there was one in Bloomington, IL at Eastland mall for ages, and I know of one on the east side of Rockford also I seem to recall. All sadly gone.

  5. I miss the Ambrosia (sp?) chocolate pie the most. One slice was never enough, second piece made you feel like the cheeks of your mouth were gonna blow out.

    Alas, the “you can never go home again” moments continue.

    • I don’t think I’ve ever heard someone describe a taste so good that it will “blow out your cheeks” before.

  6. My dad managed the Bishops in Sioux City before getting the manager position at the downtown Bishops in Des Moines, Iowa. He was there until about 1964 when we moved to Missouri. I loved Bishops, I remember well the chocolate pie that Nick mentioned as well as the standing rib roast!! Also, I remember each table had a small lamp in the center to get the waitress’ attention. William Bryson’s book ” Revenge of the Thunderbolt Kid” goes into detail about Bishops – his father was the sports reporter for the Des Moines Register for a long time. It’s a great read if you can find it. It saddens me that Bishops is gone forever, it was an icon of a bygone age.

  7. I played very briefly for the Rockford Rox in 1949 or 1950 It was a Cincinnati Reds farm club in the Central Association League, as I recall. In the morning we would go to Bishop’s for breakfast. The line formed before opening went plum around the corner of the block, I swear. It was great and today……… after more than 60 years…. I can easily recall those days. It was the days of the Rockford Peaches and if they had a home game when we did……… no one was at our ball park and we could easily hear the cheers from THEIR ball park as it wasn’t a mile away.

    Memories!

  8. Sorry that your suburb was too large to enjoy a bishops. I just ran across this article hoping that one was still open nearby. You probably hate maid-rite and turkey and dressing sandwiches as well. What can you expect from a dork who brags about the size of his burbs though.

  9. If you were a member of the clean plate club, you got a balloon with feet. it was a balloon with some sort of animal (a penguin in a tuxedo maybe?) and it had this heart shaped cardboard cutout with feet printed on it that attached to the knot where the balloon tied off. A balloon with feet.

  10. I remember the Bishop’s in Lincoln, Nebraska. It was located downtown and then moved outside the Gateway mall around 1971. We use to go there once a week. My mother loved it because my brother and I could get a chicken leg, mashed potatoes, a piece of pie, and a drink for 95 cents. If you were to small or old to carry your own tray, then a waitress would carry it for you to your table for you. I also remember the little signs that said “No tipping at Bishops”. That is probably another reason why so many older people went there. Great service and no tipping. After I grew up and moved away, they eventually closed. We used to have to wait in line for 20 minutes (regularly) before a meal until we got to where you could pick up your tray and utensils. My Mother told me the crowds slowly went away and then they eventually closed. We found a cafeteria here in High Point, NC that is similar Bishops. But I don’t think anything will ever equal them (at least in my memories).

    • I went to law school in Lincoln and my grandparents would come in from Geneva and check on me and take me to Bishop’s for “supper”. I don’t why I went out of my way tonight to see if the place was still open. Probably because my grandparents have passed away and I am missing them with Christmas fast approaching. Lots of memories… Sorry to hear it’s gone. I thought the food was very good.

  11. I grew up in Moline, Il. and remember Bishops quite well. As a kid, the two desserts that was hard to choose which one to have was their custard or the chocolate pie. When getting groceries for Easter dinner just this weekend, low and behold what did my eyes spy–but BISHOP’S AMBROSIA CHOCOLATE PIE!!!! This was at HyVee on 53rd in Davenport, Ia. And it was just as delicious as I remember.

  12. Article above says that the first Bishop’s opened in Waterloo, Illinois in 1920. I believe that location was Waterloo, Iowa.

  13. i loved bishops. i am 77 years old and barely remember the first time my aunt took us to one in cedar rapids,iowa. loved it all my life. went to the one in duck creek mall in bettendorf iowa and south creek mall in moline il. i like all cafeterias and buffets but i thought bishops had a better and more diversified menu and was much better seasoned.like a lettuce wedge with blue cheese dressing and shaved blue cheese, cordon- blu ( spelling?) standing rib roast and other specialty dishes on different days. can any one else remember more of their specialties that others definitely don’t carry?

    • The Bishops in Sioux City had delicious orange rolls with orange zest baked in and a tangy sweet orange glaze on top. Very tasty and unique for a buffet. The chocolate pie was so good. All kinds of fruity jello desserts with nice garnishes. The thing that separated them from the troughs of today was nice presentation, friendly staff, and a classy enough environment to eat in. People were more civil and respectful, and made their children behave. The food tasted like it was higher quality than you get at buffets these days. I remember the little lamp on the table too. Downtown in Sioux City the people dressed up to eat there, they had a place to hang your coats and hats. Just a different time, I really miss eating there with my mom and grandparents when I was young.

  14. I grew up,in eastern Iowa and remember Bishops well. We used to go to the ones in Dubuque and Cedar Rapids. So many memories from reading this- the lamps on the table, the ballon with feet. Their fried chicken was wonderful. As well as the ambrosia pie. The one in Kennedy mall in Dubuque closed at the end of 2011. I was fortunate enough to go there right before they closed.

  15. They had one I remember going to weekly in Lincoln , NE. It did not make it into the 21st century. I don’t remember if it made it into the 1990s.
    Food was OK, for a preteen certainly good. As a kid I loved being able to choose my own food, that place where you had to choose whether to keep your tray in the main line or move to the one on the right with other meat entrees, and the lights on the tables to signal you need the post-line service staff to bring you something else.
    Then there was the big bin of inflated balloons near the exit.
    Not sure how many of these things were just at my location but it does not surprise me this did not last long after the 70’s.

  16. I am 46 and have great memories of the Bishops in Rockford, Illinois. It was located in the Colonial Village Mall lot, but not connected to the mall. We would go there as a family in the seventies on the occasional Friday night, and we dressed up to go, my dad in his work suit. There was often a long and windy line and I would try so hard to behave and not get squirmy or distracted, so that at the end of the meal I could have a small balloon with cardboard feet printed to look like tennis shoes. I loved choosing my coke in a glass bottle from the bin full of shaved ice near the cashier’s station, which was opened, placed on a tray, whisked to our table, and poured over ice before my eyes after I was seated, usually by an earnest young waiter who might have eyes for my ten-years-older sister. I would have a hard time choosing between salad or cottage cheese, between potatoes or rice pilaf, and between fried chicken or fried fish, but desert was always chocolate cream pie. I would be so full when we got home that I would never want to sit in front of the television, but would every time go outside instead to the back porch, to blow bubbles — unless it was icy out, and then I would work on my ice cube igloos.

    • I grew up in Moline, IL. I’m 81, and when I was young, Bishop’s was in downtown Davenport, IA. We went there all the time. There would be a line, and there was a framed cartoon hanging along the serving line that showed a guy trying to decide what to eat. It said, “As over your choice of food you ponder, remember you too once stood back yonder.” When Duck Creek Plaza opened in Bettendorf, IA, with a Bishop’s, it was a favorite Sunday dinner after church place.We would see all the folks from other churches there too. I
      moved away before South Park Mall opened in Moline, but we always went there when visiting home. Some years later Furr’s took over Bishop’s, changed it to a buffet, and it just was never as good.
      I remember Bishop’s in Peoria, Rockford, Omaha and Kansas City. Later they were in the Spring Hill Mall(?) in Dundee, IL.
      Oh, the “call lamps” on the tables were little lighthouses. And, absolutely no tipping. The servers would chase you down if you left a tip.

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