Sunday, August 14, 2005

Types of Buffets

There are many types of all you "can" eat restaurants. The term has generally been associated with cheap, lesser quality restaurants, but that can be far from the case. There are a number of buffet restaurants or restaurants that offer buffet dining as an option that are considered fine dining and appear in the best restaurant guides. While the average price for a buffet meal is around $12.00 per adult, there are a number who charge much, much more and offer the dining ambiance of the best five star restaurants.

The way the meal is offered also varies. There are buffet restaurants that are self-serve There are buffets that are cafeteria-style with someone serving you from behind a counter. (You will often get a larger portion than you really want when it is served to you this way, so make you wants clear to the server - ask for half or a small piece if you want to leave room in your stomach for something else.) There are all you can eat meals that are served to you at your table - family-style on large platters or the server returns (if you are lucky) and offers you another portion. There are some that are a combination of two or more styles. Common to most is that a server or bus-person will clear the used dishes on a regular basis.

The type of food that is served varies as well. Most of the big chain buffet restaurants offer what they call "country" cooking, which tends to be in the style of "southern cooking". There are buffets that specialize in a cultural style of cooking - Chinese, Asian, Japanese/Sushi, Italian, Indian. (The Indian restaurants that I have come across in many areas seem to offer a buffet lunch and a menu dinner. Perhaps this is a way to get those who have not tried the cuisine to experiment on their own terms.) Pizza Hut in some areas offers a buffet pizza lunch. The seafood buffet is popular in the Chesapeake region. Most of these restaurants are fine dining establishments with a multitude of regional seafood dishes offered with a price to match. There are "International" buffets that offer cuisines from several countries as diverse as American, Chinese, and Italian. (Though I suppose some would argue that today that is all considered "American" food. There are some menu restaurants that offer a soup and salad bar or just a salad bar to compliment your meal. This is usually offered as a separate menu choice or in combination with an entree, sometimes included in the charge or sometimes for a discounted additional charge with the price of the entree. Some soup and salad bars offer enough variety including some small entree items that they are satisfyingly enjoyed as a meal in themselves without the need for a menu entree. The Olive Garden serves unlimited soup and unlimited salad as a menu choice or combination menu choice that is server served to your table. (In my experience this selection is a problem for the server - who often does not appear again until the entrees are in hand - and then there is confusion and commotion about what do with your entree as more soup or salad is sought. While I have enjoyed their soups this is not a good selection when dining with others.)

The diet-conscious and vegetarian may enjoy a buffet as well, as most offer extensive salad bars and vegetable selections. For those on a diet take note that what makes the vegetables tasty at many buffets is the amount of butter or fat that is added.

One thing to be aware of is that the term buffet has also come to be used for a food or salad bar that does not offer all you care to eat. These are found in supermarkets, delicatessens, and some food courts. Sabaro's Italian Buffet is this type of buffet - it is sold to you by the pound. You fill your plate and it is weighed at the cash register. You pay by the weight and there is no removing anything from the plate once you put it on.

So, don't be quick to judge a restaurant because they offer buffet or all you can eat dining.


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Anonymous said...

hi you seem to like buffets!
I was wondering if you could answer a question of mine. I recently went to a sushi buffet. I took several pieces of sushi the one with a piece of raw fish on top of a piece of rice....I only ate the fish off the rice cuz I did not want to eat rice... the manager came over and said I had to eat the rice also or I will be charged extra... My question is can the manager tell me what I can eat and not eat off my plate? And can they charge you extra because the manager does not think you clean off your plate.

Robert A said...

Buffets have the right to charge extra if the customer wastes food. Of course, this is in their opinion, and as a private establishment the can set the rules any way that they want.

Now, as to not eating the rice. I often leave most of the rice when I eat sushi at a buffet. No one has ever said anything to me about it. I will surmise that this buffet owner is one of those that thinks that the more rice you eat, the less fish you will eat, and therefore if you do not eat the rice he is losing money. This, in my opinion, is not so nice, and I would not go back to that restaurant, if that attitude continues. Some sushi buffets offer fish without rice. You may be able to ask for the fish without the rice. If they want to insist that you eat the rice, then find a new restaurant.