You’ve been there before… aisles of choices, sitting lukewarm, waiting for your time to make a decision. But what will you choose when you can get almost anything but also, sort of nothing. We asked The Prompt staff to pick their favorite things at the generic, little bit of everything, all you can eat buffets.
I build the most childishly topping-heavy salad, with globs of bleu cheese dressing, everything crispy they offer (croutons, fried Asian noodles, old garlic bread) a mountain of bacon bits, pieces of cheese that aren’t the bleu cheese in the dressing, boiled egg, and ham cubes. But, hey, it has mushrooms and olives, so it’s at least as healthy as a pizza, right?
Waffles. You can’t mess up waffles. There’s no question of “Is this meat good?” or “Is this salad wilted?” or even “Is the bacon crispy?” Waffles are just pure, unadulterated, fluffy, safe carbs. Whether the waffles are sitting on a plate under a glowing red heater, or it’s one of those machines where you pour the batter yourself, you know exactly what you’re getting. Spread some butter throughout the cracks and crevices and drizzle syrup to your heart’s content.
So, you’ve finished your ninth plate at the buffet. Think you’re full? You’re not. That’s skinny-boy-quitter-talk!
It’s time to waddle over to the soft serve ice cream machine, conveniently half-hidden behind an accordion-wall room divider.
Revel in the opportunity to forcefully inject either a vanilla-ish or a chocolate-ish non-Newtonian fluid into the here-to-fore unrecognized-as-empty crevices of your stomach / intestines / heart / lungs / throat / brain / soul!
Craving a combination taste explosion? Too bad! The swirl nozzle was manufactured to be broken, just like your brain / relationship with food!
I am a sucker for few things more than the dependable buffet platter of noodles with some meat and some veggie and some brown Asian—but actually not remotely authentic—sauce. The noodles may be thin or thick, and the same goes for the sauce. The meat will usually be scarce or picked through, and the veggies of a lower esteem. But like all good teams, the whole is greater than the sum of their parts, and “Asian noodle stir fry thing” can always play for me.
At the buffet, I have rarely found anything that competes with the gooey, cheddary goodness that is mac and cheese. In my youth, my family and I spent many weekends at Shakey’s, and after running around the arcade and playing game after game, I’d come into the buffet to fill my plate with pizza, vegetables (only because of my parents), and deliciously thick mac and cheese.
With travel, I found the superb macaroni wasn’t confined to Shakey’s. Maybe it’s because many of the buffets I’ve been to have been attached to arcades, or maybe it’s because Wisconsin just loves cheese, but buffet macaroni and cheese is one thing that never disappoints me.
Intricate roses, meticulous slivers achieved with mandoline prowess, or simple bright rosy orbs, any way you slice it, this edible root vegetable of the Brassicaceae family is the rockstar at any old school New England salad bar. I pass by the bunches in the produce aisle, knowing I can quickly rinse off grit, sever the root, and bite into a raw, crisp, peppery gem. But it’s never easy. Overcome with guilt, I confess I will toss the edible greens after they’ve wilted and rotted in a wasted Ziploc bag. Overwhelmed by the challenge of crafting perfect petals for crudités, I decline. Lucky me, I’m the only one who raids the chilled metal bowl of aphanus raphanistrum as others wrangle over big-ticket condiments. Defying my ingrained tendency to choose the best bang for my buck, my peasant roots take over. Across the world, the magic radish inspires myth and folklore.
For a standard, run of the mill buffet, I’m a dessert man. I want everything with all the toppings. If we’re talking about my very specific buffet situated in a potholed parking lot behind a Hastings (less classy, flyover country version of Borders) next to a townie bar called the Phoggy Dog? Then we’re talking about Peking Taste. When I went to Peking Taste, my first two plates were mounds of Chicken on the Stick piled like felled lumber. I’m pretty sure the only ingredient in Chicken on the Stick that isn’t already in its name is MSG. God, I miss Chicken on the Stick.
My local Wegmans has a self-serve buffet that charges by the pound, and when I need my dinner to give me a warm, high-cholesterol hug, I cram my clamshell container with small portions of the following:
– Mozzarella sticks
– Chicken fingers
– Boneless buffalo wings
– Dry-rub chicken wings
– Singapore rice noodles
– Vegetable lo mein
– Fried potato wedges with cheese
– Macaroni and cheese (with extra cheese sauce from the potato wedges)
– Jalapeños from the salad bar, because balance