In HearSway, SwaySnacks & Sips

Search your memory banks, fellow elder millennial, for a place with red booths, wood paneling, and the muffled sound of a wireless vacuum gently chafing a low-pile carpet. A place where little league teams destroy slice after slice, where plates full of discarded crusts stack up high, and where textured plastic red cups overfloweth. A place where reading is rewarded with a deep dish of carbs.

Yes. Pizza Hut. The one place in the 1990s where your average American child could feel like a king — without the false confidence of a paper crown from a 2-D monarch.

Sadly, in 2019, Pizza Hut started closing its fine dine-in locations, and remodeling those that remained open. Interior features did not quite devolve into sad, millennial grey, but an online market quickly developed for the iconic features that many locations moved on without. On eBay, you can buy an original ceiling lamp for around $250. Grease not included.

If that’s too rich for you, you can opt for a lamp you can wear on your head for a cool $80 — or what we’d call a bargain.

If bucket hats hit you right in the nostalgia, could we interest you in a Pizza Hut set made by American Girl just for the children you may now have? Part of the company’s 90s collection, it includes such historical artifacts as the Book-It pin; the personal pan pizza plus the little skillet it came in; a red cup; and a set of seasoning shakers.

In the United States of Pizza, there are about 7,000 Huts and a fraction of those remain open for dining in — including locations in Carthage, Albemarle, Durham and Holly Springs, and in a place called Wingate. We hadn’t stepped foot in one since we filled up our last Book-It pin. Speaking of Book-It, did you know it is still very much a thing?

Anywho, one fine Wednesday, we dug up one of the pins partly responsible for our childhood obesity and took a field trip to the Carthage Pizza Hut’s lunch buffet.

Carthage Pizza Hut

Was it everything we remembered? No. Here’s a quick rundown:

The Pros:

  • Hot slices. We came in at the tail end of lunch and everything was still nice and steamy. There was cheese, pepperoni and chicken barbecue available, along with two varieties of penne pasta.
  • Fresh cinnamon sticks. They saw us eyeballing the near-empty container, and baked us a fresh batch.
  • Super nice staff. The nicest. See cinnamon stick example above. They even brought us branded to-go cups at the end of the meal.
  • The cups we all remember. What color is your drink? It’s red.
  • A deserted dining room. Whether or not you see this as a plus depends on the kind of person you are. Maybe you’re just not feeling very people-y. Maybe you’re here to meet up with a sneaky link. Either way, no one will know where you are.

The Cons:

  • No iconic lamps. Seriously! No lamps.
  • Lots of natural light. A Pizza Hut should not have skylights. It should be dark and red, to hide your mealtime sins, and when emerging one should feel like they are a reluctant bat leaving a cool cave.
  • A drink fountain that’s behind the counter. No access to making weird flavor combos, a rite of passage for every child.

So, would we go again? Yes. Save some cinnamon sticks for us.

Visit the Carthage Pizza Hut lunch buffet from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday through Friday at 4280 U.S. 15-501. You can also order takeout — this location does not deliver.

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