The Long Lines at Golden Corral Encouraged (Peer Pressured) Us to Try It

Yesterday my husband and I finally ate at the Golden Corral all you can eat buffet that recently opened near us. After watching lines of people, fifty deep, waiting outside in the freezing cold, for days on end I knew we had to go. After attempting a visit during an off time (2pm on a weekday) without success due to lines still being out the door, we found the sweet spot – during a weekday snow storm. Surely no one else would be silly enough to wait outside on such a day, right? Turns out we were correct so we were able to see what all the fuss (and the lines) were about.

First a little about the restaurant. The Golden Corral has more than 450 restaurants nationwide. The first one opened in 1973. The buffet has a multitude of offerings for carnivoresSaladCredit: Patrick Hoesly: http://www.flickr.com/photos/60057912@N00/4237430513 and vegetarians, although vegans would be hard pressed to find anything beyond salad and hot vegetables. The Golden Corral prices are reasonable. At the location near us, the weekday lunch buffet price is $8.19, while dinner is $11.29. They also offer a breakfast buffet for $8.99 and have senior citizen and children’s discounts, but there were no Golden Corral coupons. You can have all the soft drink refills you want for an additional $1.99. No alcoholic beverages are served.

According to their website, the Golden Corral restaurant is “well known as America’s #1 buffet and grill.” I wanted to test that assertion because I have never been impressed with all you can eat restaurants in general and was skeptical that the Golden Corral would change my mind. However, as there was a never-ending line of people waiting to enter this Golden Corral, I HAD to know if it was heaven in disguise as I was beginning to believe.

Does Golden Corral = Heaven?

Well, if heaven resembles a college dining hall and serves canned peaches and salt licks, then YES! Upon entering this Golden Corral we were confronted with plastic beverage cups and felt forced to decide immediately if we wanted something to drink. “Waaait,” I wailed. “Too soon. Too soon! Where are the prices?” Actually, the FIRST thing we saw when stepping through the Golden Corral front doors was the “claw crane game.” You know, the game where you move the crane and try to grab a prize with the prongs. In this case the prizes consisted of Coach bags and Apple products such as iPads.

After paying for our lunch we went in search of a seat. The Golden Corral is set up cafeteria Empy and Dried Trays at Golden CorralCredit: Kim O.style with booths and tables for different size parties. Since it was not crowded, we were able to seat ourselves. We chose a booth that positioned us so that I could take in the experience. A table attendant approached and explained that she would be clearing our plates as we finished and refreshing our drinks. I whispered to hubby that I was not expecting to have to tip anyone, but whatever. We found the cafeteria restaurant to be clean. There was no food on the floor or tables. It was not crowded (although by the time we left there was a long line and you could no longer seat yourself). The staff members we encountered were nice. Now, the food.

Hubby and I are both “tasters” and not really bothered by “strange,” combinations. Take a little of this and a little of that…how else does one decide what to go back for? We were pleased with the plentiful salad bar offerings. I started with some beets, blue cheese, deviled eggs and seafood salad. Everything tasted pretty good and I was pleasantly surprised by the seafood salad. I thought, “Okay. Maybe I was wrong about the Golden Corral all you can eat buffet. What I was wrong about was thinking that I might be wrong.

 No Picture Taking at the Golden Corral Please! Just Eat!

After surveying the other food stations we couldn’t decide what to try next, not because thereGood Looks Does Not Mean Good Taste at the Golden CorralCredit: Kim O. were too many options, but because we were so underwhelmed by what was there. “Honey, should we have the pizza burnt to the point that it should not be put out for consumption, or the hamburger slider that is as hard as a rock?”

We grudgingly picked up our Crayola colored plastic plates and began our tasting journey. While getting food I was snapping pictures to help me remember (and of course to post online). I was approached by a Golden Corral staff member who very nicely told me that I had to stop taking pictures of the food. I asked her why, and she replied, “Because you can’t take pictures.” “Okay,” I said pleasantly with a smile, “But you have to tell me why.” She replied, “The owners don’t want pictures taken of the food.” That didn’t really answer the question about why no pictures of the food, but I wasn’t there to cause trouble, so I said, “Okay. No problem. I will honor that request.”  The entire exchange was pleasant and non-confrontational. Besides I had already taken a number of pictures!

There were food trays that needed refilling and were crusted over with the dried remnants of Mutilated Gummy Bears at the Golden CorralCredit: Kim O.what had been in there. Some food was mislabeled. The bourbon chicken made me exclaim, “Whoa,” due to its saltiness. At the dessert bar, the chocolate fudge (candy, not sauce) was sweating profusely and the poor gummy bears were unrecognizable and melded together like some painful experiment had been carried out (perhaps because of the heat lamps). The (canned) peach cobbler crust was so full of margarine (or something), that I swallowed whole to avoid chewing. The apple cobbler had cinnamon overload. Everything was either too salty, too sweet, or bland to the point that we wondered if we were eating chunky air. The fried chicken looked good, but it did not taste good. And we are not food snobs! We just like good tasting food. Except for the quite yummy buttermilk biscuit, there is not one thing on the Golden Corral buffet that we would eat again.

But I Like the Golden Corral!

Go to any number of restaurant review sites such as TripAdvisor and you’ll see that there are Cotton Candy at the Golden CorralCredit: Kim O.many, many people who LOVE Golden Corral, and others like myself and my husband who…don’t love it. That’s the beauty of having different types of restaurants. There is something for everyone. I think restaurants that have small plates and good bar food are fun. My husband tells me we just chose the wrong buffet and is insisting that we visit the local Chinese all you can eat. He assures me that it will blow my mind. Maybe, but I bet it won’t have blue cotton candy like the Golden Corral did.

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