September 25, 2020
Unlike many popular restaurant chains that come and go, the disappearance of the Holiday House chain has a happy ending.
Holiday House Restaurant began operation in DeLand in 1959. It was started by Bob and Willa Cook. Mrs. Cook had been a national champion water skier who was a star at Cypress Gardens in Winter Haven.
The restaurant was on the ground floor of a century old building and the family lived upstairs.
The specialty at Holiday House was their buffet.
It was loaded with bountiful selections of salad items, vegetables, breads, fish, meatloaf, and a wide selection of desserts.
A carving station was also on the buffet line so you could get a nice warm slice of turkey, roast beef, ham and other specials of the day.
The desserts were also delicious and included in the price of the buffet meal.
The food was so popular that the original Holiday House in DeLand expanded to 14 locations in Central Florida.
I remember eating at the ones at Ben White Raceway on Lee Road in Orlando, Aloma Avenue in Winter Park, and others in East Palatka, Titusville, Ormond Beach, and Mount Dora.
There were more, but I can't remember where they were.
My parents enjoyed it when I would take them to the one on Ben White Raceway. My dad loved to sit in the car and watch the trotters circle around the track before going into the buffet.
They also enjoyed the Holiday House in Mount Dora on Highland Street.
That building is now another restaurant and sports bar, Lake House, nothing like the old Holiday House. I still have memories of the old Holiday House when I drive by.
Like so many mysteries in life, I don't know why the chain no longer exists. It was great food at a reasonable price. Many of the customers were senior citizens.
Maybe that group has thinned out so the business model wouldn't work anymore for a chain.
The last Holiday House in DeLand closed its doors in 2013. It was not in the original old building, but in a newer one story building north of the original one at 1206 Woodland Boulevard.
It served the same kind of great food, but with fewer items on the buffet than the original.
The good news is that the descendants of the Cooks have opened a restaurant in the completely renovated old building.
Cook's Buffet, Cafe & Bakery serves the same kind of great food that made Holiday House a central Florida favorite.
It is located at 704 N. Woodland Boulevard in DeLand.
It is my ritual to plan my trips to DeLand around lunch at Cook's.