Tracy Kyle works the room like she owns the place. Which she does. Ushering elderly women to their booths, clearing tables, filling waters, and greeting customers – most by their first name – the entire time. “I’ve got the biggest family ever. I know so many people.” Tracy started working at Jeffrey Kyle’s eighteen years ago, when the restaurant had another owner under another name. She met Jeff Kyle, they married, he bought the place, they had three children. Everything was good.
When he was six, their son Jeffrey died. Six months later the restaurant burned. They rebuilt it, renamed it for their son, and employed an unusual format: a buffet restaurant that also offers a full menu. “We are known for our tenderloin, which is a menu item. Some people just like to be waited on.” I asked Tracy why the buffet, at $8.59 per person for lunch, was priced below most of the menu entrees. “Jeff feels that we have to remain competitive. People will go to McDonalds or KFC if we get too high.”
It is a sad commentary on our times that the only full service restaurant in Richmond has to compete with fast food franchises. The food here is fresh, real, and plentiful. True, there are more breaded items than I prefer, but Missouri is still the south and the habit of breading everything runs deep. I avoided the broasted chicken, though I did love their lightly breaded zucchini and the pumpkin bread pudding.
Tracy described her family’s dark time. “People ask how we survived our son dying. We have peace in the Lord. He provides the strength. He provides the Light.” Tracy will never forget what she lost, but she does not let it diminish the gifts she still has; her husband and daughters, her enthusiasm for life and her neighbors.
After I ate my hearty fill and went to the cashier, Tracy refused to let me pay. Instead we took pictures and she gave me a hug. “Can I put you on my prayer list?” “Absolutely,” I replied. I’m a small yellow thing among millions of fast moving machines. I’m eager for all the prayers I can get.
How will we live tomorrow?