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Holiday Shopping at Jacobson’s Le Buffet Café or "In Seach of the True Seven Layer Salad"

“Enjoy an informal lunch at Le Buffet or traditional dining [at] Machus Hungry Fox Restaurant under the red canopy on Jefferson”

-From a Jacobson’s advertisement, The Saginaw News, July 7, 1980.

As the 1976 Holiday Season approached, Jacobson’s was putting the finishing touches on its expanded and remodeled downtown Saginaw store. A multi-year project had transformed the retailer’s South Jefferson Avenue location. Now covering a full city block, it was the company’s flagship store, referred to as the “superblock.” (This link will take you on a tour of Saginaw’s Jacobson’s Store in 1955.)

The images are of the architect's model for the expansion of the store and construction of the superblock, along with advertising.

Known for service, the overall shopping experience, and of course, the quality of merchandise they carried, Jacobson’s Saginaw store closed in 2001 with the entire chain folding in 2002. While that was over two decades ago, many Saginaw residents still miss the experience of shopping at Jacobson’s. An integral part of the fun was being able to take a break for a meal or snack at one of the department store’s two restaurants.

When the superblock was completed, the restaurants were operated by H.O. Machus Enterprises. Based in Birmingham, Michigan, the 10-restaurant group was led by Henry and Elaine Machus. Elaine Skimin Machus was from Saginaw and a graduate of Arthur Hill High School. (For a little more information about the Machus Group, click HERE.)

Machus Hungry Fox opened on November 23, 1976. The moody, dimly lit dining room featured dark paneling and deep red leather booths. There was valet parking and easy access from a canopied entrance on South Jefferson. (As this was the 70s, the waitstaff was insistent on using over-scaled peppermills to pepper salads.)

The second restaurant, Le Buffet Café, was on the second floor. Secreted behind departments and aisles of clothing, it was a frothy confection of white and hot pink. The menu was light. Although it seated 94, it seemed intimate. By the mid-1980s the restaurants were no longer operated by the Machus Group. The change really wasn’t that noticeable – other than the absence of the fox in the name.

By the 80’s Le Buffet’s menu included a selection of pre-made salads. These invariably included a version of taco salad, a spinach-mandarin orange mixture and seven-layer salad. Located directly across the street from the Castle Museum, Le Buffet was quick and relatively inexpensive. It was a favorite of Castle Museum staff and visitors. Jacobson’s recognized the importance of the Castle Museum as an anchor in downtown Saginaw and for years was a sponsor of The Courier, the museum’s newsletter.

The Recipe: Seven Layer Salad

We were unable to locate the true recipe for the Seven Layer Salad served in Le Buffet. However, this version of Seven Layer Salad is similar to what was served. (Castle staff members who ate lunch at Le Buffet did not take notes—and their memories of the layers vary slightly.)

This version comes from a recipe published in the Saginaw News on February 28, 1982. It was submitted by Linda L. Hamilton of Richville.

Seven Layer Salad

1 medium head lettuce, shredded ½ cup celery, diced ½ cup green pepper, diced ½ cup onion, diced ½ cup carrots, shredded 10 ounces frozen peas, half thawed 1 pint mayonnaise* 1 tablespoon sugar* 6 – 8 ounces shredded sharp cheese 8 pieces crisply fried bacon, crumbled

Layer the ingredients in order given in a large salad bowl. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

*In most versions of this recipe, the mayonnaise and sugar are whisked together to form a dressing, and this is the procedure we followed. This recipe is a generous seven layer salad – most interpretations count the dressing as a layer. And - of course - the ordering and contents of layers vary.



After you assemble your salad, spend the rest of the evening looking for a Jacobson’s box—you just might find one hiding in your holiday ornaments. The next day, after your seven layer salad has spent the night in the refrigerator, go shopping with friends. Return home. Place one of your purchases in a silver box and place it in the center of the table. As you eat your seven-layer salad accompanied by a glass of Perrier, pretend you and your friends are dining in a white room with hot pink walls – it was the 70s, after all. As you pretend to sit in your white, ice cream parlor-type chair, remember it can be fun to shop

About the black napkins: They were purchased from Jacobson’s in the mid-1980s. They have served the CTK well and testify to the quality of Jacobson’s merchandise.


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