Thursday, January 7, 2010

All You Can Eat.

I couldn’t possibly cover everything that’s wrong with All-You-Can-Eat buffets, ever. But I’ll try to touch upon the most common issues.

Avoid places containing stereotyped Italian-style first names, like Frankie Pepperoni’s, Giuseppe Cannelloni’s or heaven forbid Tony Rigatoni’s. It’s damn expensive for what it ends up being: cheap chewy carbs. One thing you really don’t need is All-You-Can-Eat pasta stations. If you want all you can eat pasta, save yourself the money and go buy an econo-size bag of macaroni for eighty cents. Also, someone once told me that his uncle died from eating too much gnocchi, that heavy-ass potato pasta. Apparently it expanded in his stomach and he blew up. Can this really happen? I don’t know, but I don’t care to find out, especially not with greasy gnocchi out of one of those bedpans they serve the food in. Basically, whatever place you go to, steer clear of pasta.

Aim for the places with Chinese sounding names. They seem to do cheap food right, and the food is generally more acceptable. If it’s a Chinese buffet then the name will be something real epic and fun too, like Palace something or Dynasty something, or Jade Wong’s Mandarin Dynasty Palace, or whatever. Every trip to the buffet will feel like an exotic journey because of the over-the-top décor. Even though the food is generally acceptable, as I stated above, there usually isn’t anything very Chinese about it. Get a load of that Chinese sushi station. And let’s not forget about Chinese pizza. I also had some really awesome Chinese French fries once at a place called Decent Chow Empire of Jade Super Delicious. The Chinese Naan Bread, however, was nasty.

So you’ve picked a place and are now waiting to be seated. This is my next big issue with these restaurants. While you’re waiting to be seated, you should be allowed to take a plate and score your first round while you wait. This way you’re kept busy and you avoid that awkward moment when they first sit you down, when you’re not sure how long you should wait before you get back up and head towards the buffet. You know what I mean. They sit you down and you look at whoever you’re with for a second and there’s an awkward silence. This is especially bad if it’s a first date. In fact, avoid buffets completely until you’re married, or at least until you know it’s safe to fart in front of each other, otherwise it may be a long cramp filled night post-buffet.

“So… I guess we just get up and go?”
“Do we need to tell them we’re having the buffet?”
“How does this work?”
“Can I leave my purse here?”

Why are we all suddenly so stupid? We’ve been to these places before. Sometimes it’s even a restaurant we’ve already eaten at, and we still have an awkward lift-off. I’m guessing it’s because we’ve all experienced a time where the server actually asks:

“Will you be dining from the buffet tonight?”

And then we get confused and we question ourselves. We always say yes and get the buffet anyways. But you have to admit, you’re a little curious to know what kind of food isn’t already available in the buffet, what a weird menu that must be. Well, from then on, we always end up wondering if the server is going to ask us this time or not. And why is he asking us anyways? How often does anyone really go to Captain Chuck Fuck’s Bottomless Bucket of Eats to order a cheeseburger with two side dishes?

Usually you start your meal at the soup and salad station. You should be fine, just avoid the skin at the top of the soup and the brown veggies, and be careful not to take any of those shrimps with those legs still on them. This has happened to the best of us at one time or another. We head back to our table with a whole plate of shrimp.

“Hey guys, did you see that huge bowl of shrimp? Aw yeah, I love shrimp!”
“Dude, those are those weird ones with the legs and shit.”

It takes five minutes to free just one little morsel of shrimp meat. What crappy payoff. It’s definitely not worth the effort, and you always feel you need to eat a bunch so you don’t look like food-waster guy.

Another station that confuses me is that meat station. Keep away. Aside from the fact that I’ve never really seen anyone eat anything off of those big wooden tables with the gigantic smoked miscellaneous meat rump loafs, it’s insulting. I think someone should tell these buffet owners that some “Hanzo The Razor” guy, with an apron and a giant hat that goes all the way up to the ceiling, cutting off a succulent slice of beef with his pitchfork and samurai sword, does not camouflage the hilarious truth that he is standing across from dozens of tins filled with room temperature saucy ribs, chicken balls and day-old onion rings.

“Oh thank you, that’s a perfect rare cut of prime rib roast; it looks so tender and juicy. Please lay it on top of my slice of pizza, and try not to let it touch the bacon and mini corn dogs that I garnished my vegetable lasagna and fish-sticks with.”

Just dish the meat out in tins like everything else. We know nothing is fresh, you’re not fooling anybody.

I won’t get into plate sizes or even plate arrangements, because everyone needs to find their own groove, and each buffet has a different level of plate capacity. Some people don’t like their smoked salmon to be covered in General Tao chicken, while others won’t eat it any other way. Some people want to make the least amount of trips possible, while others want to stack up the largest amount of empty plates, and try to burn some calories with the extra walking. These are all personal choices that should stay between you and your God.

I can’t cover all of the entrées available in these fine establishments either, since each place is different, but a good guideline is to stick to finger foods and stuff that you can recognize without having to read the labels. If it looks mysterious and intriguing, then a cheap buffet is probably not the best place to try it for the first time.

“Mexican-Australian Ratatouille Ginger Balls? Hmmm… oh gee, what the hell, why not?”

Big mistake.

So you’re feeling full now, as you’ve just had your eighth plate. You’re contemplating a ninth plate, but then thinking that maybe, just maybe, you should leave room for dessert – a common mistake.

Don’t bother with dessert. You must believe me when I say that there is definitely not always room for J-E-L-L-O, especially not the runny kind. Don’t fall into that trap. Also, don’t touch the fruit salad. Peaches should not have that kind of texture and you’ll end up debating whether what you just ate was a pear or an apple. You will however agree that, either way, it was gross. The cakes are generally very stale, very dry and somehow always either way too sweet, or completely tasteless. There are always several types of nasty mousses and puddings to not enjoy. The key one to stay far away from is the rice pudding which, as far as I know, shouldn’t taste like cold corn on the cob.

Now, you may be thinking, hey, what about ice cream, surely that’s not so bad. Ice cream would be fine if you could just find a regular flavor. But you won’t. Pink is not strawberry here in buffet land, it’s candy-bubblegum. Green isn’t mint or even pistachio, it ends up being some kind of sour apple. I took brown once expecting chocolate. Wrong. Caramel-Coffee-Caca. One time I took white. It must be vanilla. It wasn’t. To this day, I’m not sure what it was. It was some sort of coconut action, but I swear it had a just a hint of fake banana in it. I won’t even get into Rainbow sorbet.

You probably feel that these general guidelines won’t always suffice. Well, we could help improve everyone’s dining experience by agreeing to casually warn people on our way out about what to avoid. Everyone looks so happy on the way into a buffet, so full of hope, dreams and wonder. On the way out, everyone looks slow, depressed and fat. I’m not saying that you should completely burst their bubble and scare them or puke on them, but maybe, if you have time, write your overall thoughts on a napkin and hand it to someone on the way out. You’ll have done your part. Pay it forward.

“To Whom It May Concern,

Avoid the manicotti and the Jalapeño Poppers. Also those unlabeled little deep fried balls are not full of cheese like you would think or hope; they are full of tuna fish and taste like poop.

Bloated Man Who Just Gave You This Napkin.”

Also, cut the server’s tip in half. After all, they’re only doing half the usual work, and if we all start doing it, I won’t look like such an asshole next time.

I have one final question. Your favorite selection at the buffet was probably the pizza. But, compared to any actual pizza restaurant, the pizza sucked. So why the hell did you come here instead of a pizza place? I think it’s because quantity beats quality every time.

That’s it. Bon Appétit.


  1. The awkward pause before the first trip! So true. I always picture the waiter coming to stop me:
    "Sir, are you authorized to access the buffet area!? Let me see your pass please."
    "I uh... I'm from that table over there..."
    "Please return to your seat and complete the buffet entrance application form. Only THEN will we consider approving you for dining."
    And it makes a big scene.

  2. I WILL NOT have you trash talking The Mandarin's Chinese Pizza!