Buffets. I'm told they have them here, but I just can't see them being nearly as good as they are back home. I mean, come on, you can't top a solid all-you-can-eat Chinese food buffet, am I right? And when I was living in Marion before I came over here, I rediscovered the glory that is Western Sizzlin. This isn't the famed Sizzler, mind you, and I don't think I've ever even been to (or seen) an actual "Sizzler," but this has gotta be about the same thing. So here's a list (surprise, surprise) of my favorite buffets in the States.
Western Sizzlin -- when you can pay 12 bucks for a steak with steak fries and a roll, and add on a whole other all-you-can-eat extravaganza for like 3 bucks, that's good livin. Fried chickin, dumplings, meat loaf, spaghetti, salad and desert on top of a full dinner = America. Love it.
Walt's -- nuff said, frankly. If you haven't been there, you don't know what you're missing. If you have, I'm preaching to the choir. I'd give my left pinky for Walt's. Right now, especially, but this is more a general truth.
Cici's -- what is it up to now? Like, 5 bucks? Plus, you can ask them to make any pizza you want and they'll bring it right to your table, instead of throwing it on the bar. Brilliant. Quality not so good, but you can't beat the price.
Pancho's? -- I think that's what it's called. It's in Houston, so you know it's at least decent Tex-Mex, but you get to raise the little flag on the table when you're ready for more, and they'll come around to find out what you want more of. Plus, their sopapillas kick ass.
Nong Chen -- I have vivid memories of going here during marching camp in high school. For some reason, we always thought it was a good idea to pour 3 pounds of greasy Chinese food into the middle of a day spent marching outside in 100+ degree heat. We were always wrong. But that never stopped us.
Reza's -- I tried to take as many of you here as possible in Chicago. It was about 100 yards from my place in Chicago, and their food is simply amazing. Persian food = win. But I'm not sure if any us made it to their Sunday brunch buffet. It cost like 20 bucks, but you could stay there all day, sitting on a couch, watching football on the big screen by the bar, drinking and eating to your heart's content. And with chicken, lamb, beef, seafood... plus all the veggie dishes and couscous, just wow!
This one, although not technically a buffet, merits honorable mention nonetheless: Lambert's in Sikeston Missouri. The Home of Throwed Rolls. Like I said, not a buffet, but it's still all-you-can-eat, so I don't see how that matters. What you lose in choice, you make up for (and more) in sheer home-cookin deliciousness. My personal favorite was the chicken-fried steak, but when you factor in the mashed potatoes, corn, fried okra, macaroni-and-tomatoes... I could go on, but I'm driving myself crazy. Super bonus points: they really do wheel the rolls hot out of the kitchen on a cart and throw them to you from across the dining room. Then they bring around real molasses and drizzle it onto the roll for you. Adam and I used to make it a point to go there on each and every trip between Marion and Houston. I remember once making a conscious and rational decision to "eat until I die," the food's so damn good.
2nd honorable mention: Primo's Pizza, formerly known as Panterra's. My grandpa owned this, so it's got a special place in my heart. Used to do awesome desert pizzas, if I remember correctly. They closed up shop when I was about 12 or 13, so I'm a little hazy, but I've got many a fond memory of the place. Especially the game room. =)
Hmmm.... here's 10 things I will always do at a buffet, given the opportunity.
- Eat a piece of veggie pizza. Because I can. And because you gotta break up all that grease somehow.
- Get chocolate pudding. I freakin love chocolate pudding, and where else you gonna find this anymore? Snack packs? Please... the buffet pudding (for some reason, maybe it's the soup/salad bowl you have to eat it from) always reminds of me of Gran's house, when she used to make it herself. So much better!
- Try one of everything. This always leads to a lot of foods (especially at the Chinese places, where you end up with 4 different "brown" sauces covering a big greasy pile of random fried rice and fried meats) tasting like each other. Of course, since they all started out tasting like "good" then it's no biggie.
- Make my own bowl of ice cream with every topping they have. Chocolate, strawberry, and caramel sauces? Check. Gummy Bears? Oreos? Chopped walnuts? Check, check, and checkmate. Chocolate chips, sprinkles, M&M's? Bring it on. I've got nothing to lose... except my waistline. But God knows your dignity is long gone by the time you start contemplating dessert at a buffet.
- Forgo the soup. Useless, in general. All that liquid is too filling, and doesn't carry nearly the flavor:volume ratio as everything else.
- Put hard-boiled eggs on a salad. I just will. Salad doesn't take up any space anyway, right?
- Eat croutons, crackers (but not just any crackers. I like the buttery rectangular ones whose name I'm blanking on at the moment), and a roll. Because if I'm at a buffet, I obviously am carbo-loading for that marathon I'm running in a couple days. Yeah, that's the ticket.
- Run the flag up, or flip over the coaster to green, or whatever you have to do to get them to come by... at least once just for the hell of it. Maybe I'll ask for more water. Maybe not. I'm crazy, bitches.
- Point at the jello and giggle. Come on, pudding rocks no matter how old you are, but what's the point of the jello? Seriously.
- Eat not to the point of fullness, but to the point of uncomfortable dread. You know, when you finish eating, and yeah, you're really full. You're full enough that you start thinking even as you push your chair back and contemplate loosening your belt right there at the table, you start thinking damn. This is gonna suck later.