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Overthinking an overloaded buffet platter
November 10, 2009 1:09 PM   Subscribe

Dismal economy got you down? Chin up, sport - it's possible to save money and eat like a king at one of America's abundant all-you-can-eat buffet restaurants. Before you and your dining companion are whisked off this culinary land of plenty, take note of the definitive strategy guide to maximize both your dollar and your waistline. Fill up on tips such as: Wear items with intricate patterns or designs that will disguise spills and stains. As you get your game plan together, here's your anthem.
posted by porn in the woods (96 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite

 
I'm pretty sure a post about buffet restaurants isn't complete without this Hart's Seafood Buffet advertisement.
posted by pziemba at 1:15 PM on November 10, 2009 [2 favorites]


This is great. Growing up, my family and pretty everyone else from church went to the Golden Corral on Sundays after church. Our mission statement was "make sure they lose money on me."
posted by Lutoslawski at 1:17 PM on November 10, 2009 [5 favorites]


So.

My wife and I flew into Newport News for vacation, and we were at the car rental desk. We hadn't had anything to eat, and I asked the lady at the rental desk for something local, that'd give us a taste of the place.

"Well", she said, putting her hand on her hip and rolling her eyes in thought, "There's a Golden Corral off the airport road". I figured she just wasn't in the mood to answer a tourist's cliche question, but we passed by six or seven Golden Corrals before we gave up counting. So that's what Virginia tastes like: troughs of ham;pans of slightly dessicated and sticky chicken; ignored salads.
posted by boo_radley at 1:18 PM on November 10, 2009


So that's what Virginia tastes like: troughs of ham;pans of slightly dessicated and sticky chicken; ignored salads.

That's what Iowa tastes like, too.
posted by Lutoslawski at 1:19 PM on November 10, 2009


Ha. Very good. Although the part on tipping in the strategy guide makes me realise how OTT American tipping is - a dollar per hour per dine for "service" when you, err, serve yourself. Surely you should be tipping yourself.
posted by rhymer at 1:23 PM on November 10, 2009


Good article The Fat Boys here.
posted by Joe Beese at 1:23 PM on November 10, 2009


Who's down with OCB??
posted by gimonca at 1:24 PM on November 10, 2009


There's havoc on the staircase where the guests come streaming,
Shirt-fronts shining and tiaras gleaming,
Frail folk shuddering and stout folk steaming --
Steaming in the heat of the fray.
Midnight striking and the strife appalling,
Strong men staggering and weak men falling,
And deep in the heart of me a still voice calling:
'Make for the buffet while you may.

'Make for the buffet while you may, poor stranger,
Make for the buffet while you can;
There's hope for the stale there, strength for the frail there,
Drink for the thirsty man.
Thrust through the throng! Be obstreperous and strong!
Fight till your strength is sped.
Fight and prevail; do not falter, do not fail,
Make for the buffet and be fed!

'Make for the buffet and be fed, poor stranger,
Make for the buffet and be strong;
Dense is the press and the air is growing less,
Fierce is the fight and long.
Fierce is the fight and oppressive is the night,
Stern is the strife and fell;
Pale is your cheek; you are wan and you are weak;
Make for the buffet and be well!'

Painfully and wearily the hours are dragging,
Old men are falling now and young men flagging;
White ties weakening and stiff shirts sagging --
Sagging as the hours go by.
Consciousness is failing me and outlines merging,
Thunder in my ears as of sea-foam surging,
And deep in the heart of me a faint voice urging:
'Make for the buffet lest you die.

'Make for the buffet lest you die, poor stranger;
Make for the buffet while you can;
Fight your way through like a woman in a queue,
Fight like a jungle-man!
Batter the élite with your hands and your feet,
Butt them in the backs with your head:
Strike for your own! You are hungry and alone;
Make for the buffet and be fed.

'Make for the buffet and be fed, poor stranger,
Make for the buffet lest you die.
There's hope for stale there, strength for the frail there,
Drink for the throat that's dry.
Courage and strength will rewarded be at length;
Weight in the end will tell.
Up, then, and on! Are you weary? Are you wan?
Make for the buffet and be well,
Poor stranger!
Make for the buffet and be well,
Poor ranger!
Make for the buffet and be well!'

-Patrick Barrington, "Battle Song"
posted by WidgetAlley at 1:25 PM on November 10, 2009 [5 favorites]


Also do not be intimidated by owners or servers who seem to glare at your eating technique. Keep in mind that they are truly only in awe of your abilities.
posted by uncleozzy at 1:25 PM on November 10, 2009


Oh, goody! A thread where we declare it to be open season on Americans and the obese! It's been far too long. HAMBURGER
posted by deadmessenger at 1:26 PM on November 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


This post is kinda like that "People of Walmart" site, only without photos.
posted by jbickers at 1:26 PM on November 10, 2009 [3 favorites]


My sister-in-law's wedding was in Las Vegas when my son was nine months old. While there are a lot of downsides to spending a week in Vegas with a child that age, one big upside was the buffets. We never had to pay for him, and I was able to have him sample all different kinds of foods at basically no cost. Avocado to Zucchini, Sushi, Lamb, lots of different fresh fruits, and he loved it all. No one ever batted an eye at us (it helped that he is very cute) and unto this day I attribute his wide ranging palate to that trip.
posted by anastasiav at 1:27 PM on November 10, 2009 [8 favorites]


Previously
posted by IndigoJones at 1:27 PM on November 10, 2009


Real talk I'm wearing an Ed "Cookie" Jarvis shirt right now.

Well, hope you enjoyed my post.
posted by hamida2242 at 1:28 PM on November 10, 2009


The one that is stuck in my mind is Chuck-a-rama. They are all over Utah, and two in Idaho. What a great name.
posted by unSane at 1:29 PM on November 10, 2009


Your honor, does my client look like a man who's had all he can eat?
posted by The Straightener at 1:35 PM on November 10, 2009 [17 favorites]


My sister-in-law's wedding was in Las Vegas

I don't generally do buffets, but I'll usually spring for one of the high-dollar buffets in Vegas when I'm there. There's some surprisingly good stuff, sometimes.
posted by uncleozzy at 1:37 PM on November 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


In college, there was a Furr's nearby, and me and my pals always went in for the early bird special when we could. It was like being on the set of "Cocoon".
posted by reenum at 1:37 PM on November 10, 2009 [2 favorites]


rhymer: "Surely you should be tipping yourself."

Those buffet trays don't fill themselves...
posted by Kadin2048 at 1:39 PM on November 10, 2009


Seriously, though, this is insanely detailed. And awesome. This guy is on a fucking mission.

Thank you for educating me in the ways of expert level chow down, Big Dog.
posted by The Straightener at 1:42 PM on November 10, 2009


"The insane abundance makes the place unlivable ..."
posted by The Whelk at 1:43 PM on November 10, 2009


The best buffet I've ever been to was Shealey's in Leesville, South Carolina. The vinegar pulled pork was the best I've ever had, bar none (and I've eaten a lot of pulled pork in a lot of places) and the fried chicken was definitely top ten lifetime for me.
posted by dersins at 1:45 PM on November 10, 2009


A friend and I went hiking in Pinnacles National Monument, and on our way out we stopped in a little town in hot, dry central California. We had a craving for milkshakes, but we wanted something with proper ice cream, so we skipped the fast food restaurants and ended up stopping in a bakery. They had ice cream, but didn't make shakes, so we asked where to go.

"There's a place down the street. I forget the name of it, but they make really good milk shakes."

We drove down the block, and only saw one restaurant. It was Jack-in-the-Box. They let us mix chocolate and vanilla, and it ended up being good enough, but I still felt bad for that town if this was their best milk shake.
posted by filthy light thief at 1:46 PM on November 10, 2009 [2 favorites]


I feel like the strategy guide linked is like a direct response to this old, very excellent onion article.
posted by peachfuzz at 1:53 PM on November 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


Optimal Foraging Theory explains so much about buffets.
posted by benzenedream at 1:53 PM on November 10, 2009 [3 favorites]


Those buffet trays don't fill themselves...

Are they filled by people making less than minimum wage on the expectation of receiving a tip? Someone does bring you water, though), and they are entitled to something, provided they keep it coming.
posted by adamdschneider at 2:00 PM on November 10, 2009


Ugh. Until the advent of Fresh Choice and other salad-friendly All-You-Can-Eat restaurants the mere thought of a buffet was enough to make me queasy. There was only one AYCE restaurant in the small town I grew up in and for the longest time my parents would refuse to take me there. Of course this only served to elevate it in my estimation. If my parents didn't want me to eat there it must be awesome.

Finally the day came when my victory was at hand. One of my schoolmates was having his birthday there.

But something was wrong. Horribly, horribly wrong.

Everything was swimming in grease. Realize when you read this that it's the observation of a 10-year-old boy. When a 10-year old realizes that there's too much grease, there's too much grease.

The fish tasted like cardboard. The steak and lamb tasted like fish. I think the worst part of all was realizing that my parents were right the whole time.
posted by lekvar at 2:00 PM on November 10, 2009


I have an incurable weakness for buffet style restaurants... Unfortunately food-poisoning, too much MSG have not stopped me.

However, after the last - the one the kids "begged" me to go to, I will henceforth refer to them as "barfets"...

For me, its' not about stuffing myself - its about variety and choice. One of the things I loved about Brazil was many restaurants were buffet-style, but you paid by weight. You could pick'n'choose, but it was not an "all-you-can-gorge" deal.
posted by jkaczor at 2:00 PM on November 10, 2009


It might be worth mentioning all you can eat catfish because it is a very good thing.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 2:04 PM on November 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


I think the worst part of all was realizing that my parents were right the whole time.

I propose the following categories for the forbidden: the awesome, like too much candy, and the terrible, like too much grease. If only parents would clarify the two.
posted by filthy light thief at 2:06 PM on November 10, 2009 [4 favorites]


Your honor, does my client look like a man who's had all he can eat?

Tis no man. 'Tis a remorseless eating machine.
posted by Tavern at 2:06 PM on November 10, 2009 [6 favorites]


Unfortunately food-poisoning, too much MSG have not stopped me.

Don't worry. Eventually the heart disease will.
posted by tkchrist at 2:11 PM on November 10, 2009


So, I went climbing with some friends at Horse Pens 40, down in the hills of Alabama. For the most part, we ate granola and other cheap stuff we had around our campsite. A week later, and we're trying to get home to the Great White North, and we get hopelessly lost on back roads. We emerge into civilization after a few hours, starving, and stop at the first place that looks like it served food. Having never heard of one of these "Golden Corrals," we all pile in. One of my best meals ever.
posted by craven_morhead at 2:11 PM on November 10, 2009 [2 favorites]


Unfortunately food-poisoning...

BTW, Bhagwan began bioterror by buffet.
posted by dersins at 2:15 PM on November 10, 2009


I remember when I was younger my whole family would pile into the Plymouth Caravan and head down the coastal SC for a few weeks each summer from DC. My favorite part of that experience was that it was the only time in the entire year when my parents would actually take us to buffets.

Now I am hongry for hush puppies!
posted by BobbyDigital at 2:16 PM on November 10, 2009


Oh lovely. This is one of those things that they do pretty well in Japan. Except they call it a "Viking", for some reason. Ranging from quite plain to quite cool. The best ones are in the big hotels.
Oh man now my mouth is all hungry...
posted by mjg123 at 2:16 PM on November 10, 2009


It's a shame that Sizzler is no longer in New England. Because it was awesome to hear the fishermen from the Casco Bay Islands come into town and say they were "goin' to the SIZ'lah."
posted by Mayor Curley at 2:20 PM on November 10, 2009


if you are ever in north carolina

travel into the deep woods, on the narrow lanes surrounded by endless fields, past the decaying farmhouses to here,

an amazing place, really. besides the menu, which is on the website, the restaurant itself is filled with reddened, bloated gents and their plump wives of thick nail and cultivation.

on some, there is gospel music is the house next door. last i was there, three old men with acoustic guitars, a hulk of bassist, and a mustachioed steel guitarist harmonized to the lord the whole night through
posted by past at 2:25 PM on November 10, 2009 [5 favorites]


what where's my link here it is http://www.hillbillyhideaway.org/

should be on some nights
posted by past at 2:26 PM on November 10, 2009


When I lived in Memphis, one of the casinos south of us in Tunica County, Mississippi had radio ads that would tout the buffet, complete with a very satisfied customer who intoned, "You can eat, and eat, and eat, and eat..." I imagined an insatiable devouring juggernaut, sort of the opposite of a cornucopia.

When I actually visited one of these for the first time, it really did have an excellent selection, but I didn't try as many different things as I'd thought I might, simply because I was there on an MS 150 ride, and although you might expect that I'd be hungry after that--and I was--I was also too tired to make more than two trips through the buffet, and the second trip was pretty pathetic. On the plus side, I was also too tired to gamble.
posted by Halloween Jack at 2:29 PM on November 10, 2009


First: do they have properly prepared portobello mushrooms? No wait, do they know what portobello mushrooms are. If yes, perhaps they are Mefites and you can have an impromptu meetup.
posted by Cranberry at 2:32 PM on November 10, 2009


See, I like a good buffet for the variety, and the fun of trying out little bits of lots of different things. But 'make them loose money on me' style gorging? No. Ugh.
posted by sandraregina at 2:33 PM on November 10, 2009


three old men with acoustic guitars, a hulk of bassist, and a mustachioed steel guitarist harmonized to the lord the whole night through

...and it sounded like this (nsfw lyrics)
posted by squalor at 2:36 PM on November 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


I generally hate buffets, but there's a local sushi buffet - still kind of pricey, but it's sushi, so you make up for it fast - that gives you little slips of paper to order off of. One's for sushi, and includes special rolls, and one's for 'kitchen food.'

We still don't know what the Japanese cake is (it tastes like samosa insides) and it's always super crowded, but damn, if it's not worth the elbow-to-elbow crowds and sketchy parking for, at least every few months.
posted by cobaltnine at 2:36 PM on November 10, 2009


From hamida2242's link, I have learned that there is a competitive eating event titled "the Alka-Seltzer US Open of Competitive Eating."

Thank you, hamida2242.
posted by nickmark at 2:38 PM on November 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


America in general: troughs of ham;pans of slightly dessicated and sticky chicken; ignored salads.
posted by philip-random at 2:39 PM on November 10, 2009


An all-you-can-eat restaurant called the Golden Corral? I don't know why but that just makes me sad.
posted by StickyCarpet at 2:47 PM on November 10, 2009 [3 favorites]


The strategy guide really needs more about maximizing your ROI at Pizza Hut.
posted by twoleftfeet at 2:47 PM on November 10, 2009 [2 favorites]


This post made me verrrrry hungry. I'm especially craving the mac'n'cheese from Homestyle Buffet.
posted by muddgirl at 2:55 PM on November 10, 2009


I once ate so much at a Chinese Buffet that I couldn't maintain composure afterwards, and my friend had to my car keys from me and drive us home.
posted by stevenstevo at 3:11 PM on November 10, 2009 [2 favorites]


Years ago at a family reunion weekend we all went out to an all-you-can-eat buffet in Lansing, Michigan, and the 18 of us did some serious damage. Several months later our cousins there both gleefully and sadly let us all know that the place had gone out of business. We're sure it was our fault.
posted by twsf at 3:17 PM on November 10, 2009


The Golden Corral over here had this amazing banana pudding. It was worth the price of admission to just wait around until they rang the mini-gong they had over it when they filled it with a fresh batch.

The key was to ignore the little desert bowls and take a full size plate with you.

The restaurant eventually failed and in the last 3 yrs has been about 4 different varieties of buffets, from American to Chinese back to American and back to Chinese. I can't wrap my head around the entrepreneurs who keep thinking, "Hey, I bet I could make a buffet work. The other 4 guys didn't know what they were doing."
posted by M Edward at 3:18 PM on November 10, 2009


This is the rare MeFi posting that is not only entertaining, but highly useful. Thanks!
posted by grouse at 3:23 PM on November 10, 2009


It's not all you want to eat; it's all you can eat!

*ominous laughter*
posted by GuyZero at 3:24 PM on November 10, 2009 [2 favorites]


Lutoslawski: Apparently you're eating at all the wrong places in Iowa - in my college town of ~50k residents, there is only one buffet, a Chinese buffet. The closest Golden Corral is a 20 minute drive. We don't need your snobbery here.
posted by sararah at 3:25 PM on November 10, 2009 [2 favorites]


Are they filled by people making less than minimum wage on the expectation of receiving a tip?

Don't know, but buffet-restaurant front-of-house staff are subject to the waitstaff minimum wage of $2.89 hour. In theory, the management has to make that up to minimum wage if there are not enough tips, but I have no idea how often that is respected.

American tipping is not "over the top" at all. What's over the top is that diners are expected to pay the waitstaff, rather than the management paying the waitstaff.
posted by Sidhedevil at 3:28 PM on November 10, 2009 [6 favorites]


This is the rare MeFi posting that is not only entertaining, but highly useful. Thanks!

Always happy to provide lifehacks -- and buffet hacks -- for my fellow coffin stuffers.
(lines pants with Hefty Bags, waddles out of buffet with a month's worth of BBQ chicken)
posted by porn in the woods at 3:29 PM on November 10, 2009


I once ate so much at a Chinese Buffet that I couldn't maintain composure afterwards

You go away! You eat too much! You been here three hour! You go home now!
posted by hippybear at 3:30 PM on November 10, 2009 [8 favorites]


Don't know, but buffet-restaurant front-of-house staff are subject to the waitstaff minimum wage of $2.89 hour.

That is not a national standard, but is determined by the states. In the state in which I live (WA), it is illegal to pay anyone, waitstaff included, less than the state minimum wage, which is considerably higher than all other states.
posted by hippybear at 3:32 PM on November 10, 2009


Oh lovely. This is one of those things that they do pretty well in Japan. Except they call it a "Viking", for some reason.

They probably call it a "Viking" because of its similarity to a Smorgasbord.
posted by runaway ballista at 3:32 PM on November 10, 2009


Polyester.

That is all.
posted by krinklyfig at 3:47 PM on November 10, 2009


Heh. I don't know if it's just a New Zealand English thing or universal, but for a while "smorgasbord" became synonymous with "buffet", so you could wander down Courtenay Place in Wellington and see numerous places offering a "Chinese smorgasbord" with nary a salt herring in sight.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 3:48 PM on November 10, 2009


Yeah, in southern New Mexico where I grew up, "smorgasbord" had more of a meaning of "a huge spread of food" than actually meaning "a Scandinavian-style buffet". Like it was taken into the symbolic meaning and then translated back to being about food without any regard for its actual food-related meaning.

But then, the percentage of actual Scandinavian people living in southern NM in the 1970s was pretty small.
posted by hippybear at 3:52 PM on November 10, 2009


because of its similarity to a Smorgasbord.

Ye gods, that's Swedish Christmas, right there. Those julbord are also a big part of Swedish corporate culture, every december every company has to treat its workers to a julbord, it's pretty much the law. Failure to comply will result in much grumbling among the workers, I can assure you. Then there are other julbord going on as well, I have friends who on average attend five-six of these things in the two weeks leading up to Christmas alone. Then, of course, on Christmas you'll have another julbord. And then you'll spend the week up till New Years Day eating said julbord's leftovers. In December the whole of Sweden pretty much turns into a buffet, is what I'm trying to say.
posted by soundofsuburbia at 3:57 PM on November 10, 2009 [4 favorites]


The excess of fat on your American bones
Will cushion the impact as you sink like a stone

posted by CynicalKnight at 4:02 PM on November 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


When I first moved to Minnesota many, many years ago, one of my first (college age) dining experiences was at the local smorgasbord called Viking Village. There were at least two: one on Snelling in Saint Paul, about a block north of University, and another at 27th and Lake in Minneapolis. They're gone now, the Saint Paul location is now a discount furniture store, the Minneapolis location was torn down when they built the Rainbow foods and surrounding strip mall on that corner. The Saint Paul building still has some of the hewn-timber look about it that was supposed to make you think of a viking longhouse, if you had an active imagination and squinted really hard.

They were cheap--around $4 or $5, depending on the day of the week, Sundays were more--homey, warm, and nothing but blandish comfort food, all you could eat. Your glasses would fog over when you walked in the door, from the big steam tables stocked by matronly middle-aged women. Mashed potatoes. Roast turkey. Green vegetables boiled soft and gooshy. Sweet, inoffensive, fall-off-the-bone barbecue ribs, with no hot seasoning to offend Aunt Lena.

The only culinary adventure of any kind there was at Christmas season: lutefisk. In all its lye-infested glory, laid out with no shame, jellied, glistening, smelling of chemicals like the segmented guts of some alien worm. In butter sauce. The most shocking thing about it: it was....okay. Trying it was the point that I knew I'd been assimilated into upper Midwest culture.

Their place in the market has been taken over by OCB, which is also locally-based. OCB isn't quite the same to me, maybe because I'm not varnishing it with nostalgia, but the "OCB experience" at the nearest one to my house is notable for its diversity: Asian, Hispanic, Ethiopian and Somali families all eating next to white Scandinavian/Slavic and black African-American families, all together having dinner in the same room. Maybe it's a bit maudlin or corny to say so, but it's nice to see so many different people eating peaceably with each other, even if it's only over fish sticks and pasta salad.
posted by gimonca at 4:19 PM on November 10, 2009 [5 favorites]


An all-you-can-eat restaurant called the Golden Corral? I don't know why but that just makes me sad.

My husband sometimes tries to frighten me with possibility of a family meeting there-- 10 years and I have managed to avoid it-- but I am scarred for life by his nightmarish descriptions. The name gives me shivers because it conjures up images of humans being corralled and then force fed until they are fat enough for market.

Aside from my wedding, I do have one very pleasant memory of buffet eating, however. The Queen Mary used to put on a Sunday morning brunch buffet with harpist in the Grand Salon. Along with the normal breakfast-style foods (eggs, bacon, ham, cheese in various combinations) they had a pastry station, seafood station, hot breads, dessert station, waffle maker, and on and on and on. Meanwhile the waiters made sure your bottomless mimosa glass was always full. I'm not sure why in this case the buffet was more fun than a very extensive menu, but I think the setting and the well-dressed patrons gave it the feel of a cruise or enormous party. Because all the food was arranged around the edges of the room (which was gigantic) you had quite a long stroll exploring what was available so that you could digest what you had eaten and make room for more. Fortunately it was expensive, so it was a rare treat to be saved for very special occasions.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 4:20 PM on November 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


Before anybody wanted K. West beats, me and my girl split the buffet at KFC
posted by porn in the woods at 4:50 PM on November 10, 2009


This is the rare MeFi posting that is not only entertaining, but highly useful. Thanks!

"My recommendations are a large dinner the night before consisting mostly of light breads and vegetables to expand the stomach...The morning of I would suggest a very small meal containing some sugar in order to get your metabolism up and running. Eat nothing more throughout the day. Liquids are advised, preferably water, as almost a mandatory health concern due to the high sodium content you are about to consume."

This is both ridiculous and hilarious, and also advice I will no doubt call on at some point.
posted by Flashman at 4:55 PM on November 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


During my new employee orientation, one speaker promised that we could find a buffet in town with a sign that reads: "No Eating on the Line."
posted by woodway at 6:06 PM on November 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


Golden Corral after church—me, too.
posted by I'm Doing the Dishes at 6:11 PM on November 10, 2009


Yeah, these serve-yourself places are great places to eat during a flu pandemic.

Just love sharing serving tools with other diseased or soon-to-be-diseased people.

Purell: the essential condiment!

yuck.
posted by cogneuro at 6:22 PM on November 10, 2009


A few months ago, my parents wanted to try out the new Golden Corral down the road, so we all headed in there. The food is... not impressive.

However.

The guy at the table across the aisle looked perfectly normal, but the only thing he ate was corn on the cob. His plate was stacked high with it and he just sat there eating it steadily, a row at a time. Then he went back for more. (We were paying close attention by this time, while trying not to let him see we were looking.) Hand to god, he probably ate at least twelve full-sized ears of corn, if not more. His table was piled with plates that were piled with sad, empty corncobs.

It was worth the price of admission, to see that.
posted by sugarfish at 6:48 PM on November 10, 2009 [2 favorites]


I'm kind of horrified by this. It's a buffet - presumably you eat because you're otherwise not going to for a couple of days. Generally, I avoid those places - to make that kind of food affordable, the first place the costs get cut? The food. You really are eating slop, all too often. When I worked for Ponderosa I was put off the buffet permanently when I realized the "taco meat" came in cans marked "Grade D meat product."
posted by medea42 at 6:50 PM on November 10, 2009


A few years ago, I used to serve in Americorps, and spent a great deal of time traveling for disaster relief. Our food stipend at the time was $12 a day, while traveling. Coming up from Mobile once, we stopped in a very small town in central Alabama which boasted an all-you-can-eat Chinese buffet for $4. Before the day was out, each and every one of my twelve teammates developed a crippling case of food poisoning, while all stuck in our van. Having seen my share of honest-to-god horrors, those 72 hours were worse than some hurricanes I've been through.
posted by gam zeh yaavor at 6:53 PM on November 10, 2009 [4 favorites]


Y'all motherfuckers need to get yourselves to the Shady Maple in Lancaster, PA.
posted by Doofus Magoo at 7:26 PM on November 10, 2009


I'm one of the Corn-On-The-Cob Guys mentioned upthread.

See, whenever I end up at one of these places I find most things too greasy/salty/breaded to really enjoy, but If I poke around a little I can usually find one or two things that are REALLY FREAKING GOOD! When I find that thing I'm all over it like color on a TI-99.

On my annual work event at Golden Corral I've learned I'm quite content to only eat whatever meat they're CARVING, the fresh pineapple, and banana pudding. I'll eat plates upon plates of those things BUT NOTHING ELSE.

I'm convinced the breaded stuff (chicken, shrimp, okra, fish) contain some sort of appetite depressant in order to help bottom line.
posted by sourwookie at 7:34 PM on November 10, 2009


When I worked for Ponderosa I was put off the buffet permanently when I realized the "taco meat" came in cans marked "Grade D meat product."

Yeah, really?
posted by suedehead at 7:46 PM on November 10, 2009 [8 favorites]


Ouch! You been snop'd! It's on!
posted by sourwookie at 7:58 PM on November 10, 2009


When I worked for Ponderosa I was put off the buffet permanently when I realized the "taco meat" came in cans marked "Grade D meat product."

Yeah, really?


OH SNAP SNOPES
posted by porn in the woods at 7:59 PM on November 10, 2009 [3 favorites]


Obviously it is never advantageous to bring children or the elderly along...

Let them stay at home, hungry. And they can feast on your tales of culinary prowess when you return.
posted by a womble is an active kind of sloth at 8:18 PM on November 10, 2009


Shady Maple in Lancaster, PA.
posted by Doofus Magoo


On the Pennsylvania Turnpike? I'm stopping there the next time I go that way.
posted by StickyCarpet at 9:11 PM on November 10, 2009


My kids think Fresh Choice is the pinnacle of awesome dining experiences (and they've been to really nice places, so they feel they're qualified to have an opinion on the matter).

Someday I'm going to take them to a Sizzler and BLOW THEIR MINDS.
posted by padraigin at 9:36 PM on November 10, 2009


The Golden Corral in my hometown in Montana gets all its beef from local producers. The hamburger patties are freshly ground. Most of the other ingredients show up to the kitchen in whole form (potatoes, cabbage, lettuce, carrots, etc.) which the salad preparer then gets ready for the rest of the stations throughout the restaurant. Some of the sauces come from a just-add-water package, as does the stuffing, but the rest of it is surprisingly high quality compared to what I've experienced at some midwestern buffets.

And even though I'm in China right now, I've always got a hankering for a good American Chinese buffet. It's to Chinese food what Little Caesar's is to decent pizza, a greasy but necessary periodic indulgence.
posted by msbrauer at 9:49 PM on November 10, 2009


Y'all motherfuckers need to get yourselves to the Shady Maple in Lancaster, PA.

From the Shady Maple website:

Gastric Bypass Surgery Discount Policy
Year #1 – 50% discount off base price.
Year #2 – 10% discount off base price.
Year #3 – 0% discount off base price.

That's all kinds of awesome.
posted by squalor at 9:51 PM on November 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


I live in a town without a buffet :( This post and discussion made me wonder if I could call up Sysco and say "Hey, what would it take for you to sell me a variety of 5 gallon buckets full of miscellaneous foodstuffs that I can re-heat somehow and sell for a modest profit".

I kinda miss Uncle Willy's in Greater Vancouver. Not hugely miss though, as I still remember how violently ill I got after eating some kinda "Curried Peas Surprise".
posted by Kickstart70 at 10:01 PM on November 10, 2009


I had to stop reading at "sweat & sour sauce" (under the pre-meal setup category).

I know it was a typo; in context, that didn't help me any. Bleah.
posted by Graygorey at 10:26 PM on November 10, 2009


Korea has VIPS (pronounced "Veeps"), and it's a surprisingly good buffet. Good choice between Asian and Western dishes. But the best part is all-you-can-drink beer.
posted by bardic at 11:07 PM on November 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


It's a Raddison, so.... it's pretty good.
posted by porn in the woods at 1:45 AM on November 11, 2009


I can't find anything ironic in people considering a buffet meal a luxury. In the heady post-dotcom days, a similarly-unemployed friend and I discovered that the food:money ratio at the Old Country Buffet was too good to pass up. So once a week after we hit up the Unemployment Double Feature (sneaking into a second afternoon film at the superplex -- always with the same crowd of regulars, I noticed) we'd go to the Old People Buffet, reduce the average collective age of the room considerably, pay our $9.50 or whatever and load up on carbs, protein and coffee.

Considering it was one step up from college dining commons food and we were one or two steps up from college at that point, the dining experience was reassuringly familiar and almost as cheap. We just couldn't show up in bathrobes.
posted by Spatch at 5:57 AM on November 11, 2009


I remember going to a place in Tokyo that had all you can eat yakiniku, a ridiculous buffet of mostly awesome stuff and all you could drink beer. The only limit was all you can consume in an hour. We had many ridiculous food and drink marathons there. Its a wonder I didn't come back from Japan heavier..
posted by zennoshinjou at 7:17 AM on November 11, 2009


I see I'm too late to mention the Shady Maple, but it is awesome. Plus they have a huge gift shop so you get a buffet of food and a buffet of cheesy crap gifts!
posted by interplanetjanet at 8:20 AM on November 11, 2009


Also, I worked at Ponderosa in the 1980s and it is not true that they used grade D beef. It was true that they had a no tipping policy and still paid us less than minimum wage. At least to start. Though it wasn't technically a buffet when I worked there, only the salad bar was all you can eat.
posted by interplanetjanet at 8:31 AM on November 11, 2009


gimonca, I was going to mention Viking Village, too. As a kid I drove past it so many times (and yet maybe went there once), and I always strained to see through its dark windows to discover what wonders lurked, steaming gently, within.
posted by wenestvedt at 8:41 AM on November 11, 2009


I. Whilst in recovery from my eating disorder*, the threat made by my darling now-wife was that if I missed a meal I would be eating dinner at the Golden Corral that abutted our apartment complex.

Ia. Let it be known that in the three years we lived there, I did not miss a meal.

Ib. The green space for that apartment complex was directly across from the dining room of said Golden Corral. Diners, then, could see not only the beautiful oak trees and well-kept grounds, but also my dog pooping**.

II. If you are ever between Houston and Austin, stop in Columbus at Schobels Restaurant for a good, family-owned (and what a family it is) buffet, the kind where all the vegetables are made with butter and the green beans have bacon in them. Brisket and sausage! And on Friday nights they have good fried catfish! We've been stopping there for years and years, as long as I can remember.

*But really, aren't I still?
**And me picking it up, of course.
posted by fiercecupcake at 8:43 AM on November 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


In December the whole of Sweden pretty much turns into a buffet, is what I'm trying to say.

My family is Swedish in origin and we do the full julbord on Christmas, boy howdy. I've warned new comers that pace eating is a cultivated skill, and many have failed to make it all the way to the post-dessert cookie buffet. I think the Swedish take on holiday eating involves getting the entire rations for one winter overwith in as few actual meals as possible. This is my theory.

(Also: The answer to the question "How many different types of herring do we actually NEED on the table at one time?" Always more than two.)
posted by grapefruitmoon at 2:06 PM on November 11, 2009


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