The Glutton’s Guide to Buffets
A glutton doesn’t want much from life, other than a limitless supply of food, ready access to air conditioning, a shower massage, and eventually, a full-time attendant. For such a person, only one form of food service will do, and it’s not a stool at a modernist tasting counter. It’s a buffet, and only a buffet. But how should a glutton navigate a buffet? And what should be one’s overall strategy?
Before going any further, let’s make it clear what I mean by a buffet. There are the vast, imperial casino versions, opulent troughs so spacious that even walker-assisted senior citizens can find space inside them. And then there are the small, fast-casual versions, like the Old Country Buffet and Golden Corral. Finally, there is the bottom-rung of unassisted dining, which includes both the deli and breakfast buffets. I like all four of these options and consider myself something of an expert in each.
The Casino Buffet
The casino buffet diner is an apex predator, feasting on what is to my mind the summit of self-service dining. But taking advantage of one requires planning. The thing to remember about even a small casino buffet is that it’s big. Very big. Typically, there will be multiple hot entrees, ranging in ambition from macaroni to veal Oscar. There will be a dessert area with up to three flavors of Jell-O, a wide selection of towering pies and cakes, and possibly, a jumbo salad bowl filled with pudding. Any buffet worth the name will also have at least one carving station, where a friendly man will be hard at work on a large joint or steamship round of roasted beef, helpfully ladling floppy slices, with knife and carving fork, onto your waiting plate. The key here is pacing. No one can exploit a given section in a single trip. Multiple return visits, planned far in advance, will avoid the embarrassment of overloaded plates, unsightly stains, or—worst of all—a quiet word with the manager, every glutton’s deepest fear.