Friday, September 23, 2011

Two Nights at a Golden Corral - Williamsburg, Virginia PART 2

Last week I wrote the first part of this article about a dinner that we had in the Golden Corral located in Williamsburg, Virginia. This week this article continues Part 2 with the second night.

We waited until Wednesday night to go back to the Golden Corral. It was still mid-August in the middle of tourist season and there were still thousands of tourists in the area. We just had to see if our experience on that past Saturday night at this same restaurant was going to be repeated on Wednesday night. There was little wait to get in - not much different than that first night but a slightly shorter wait. This night we were told to seat ourselves and we picked our own table - well away from the plate area. In fact, we sat ourselves in a different dining room. The room was still crowded - not overwhelmingly so, but there were people in at tables in every one of the dining room sections.

Right away things were better. We were able to go up to the soup area and not jostle to get a cup and take soup. Golden Corral has very good chicken noodle soup with thick, dumpling-like noodles. The soup was there also on the first night, but it not a hassle to get to it on this night. The salad bar was also easy to walk up to and there were items out this night on the salad bar that I had noticed were missing from the usual Golden Corral salad bar on the first night. Again, walk up to what you wanted and take what you wanted into your plate. Already, dinner was far more relaxing than it had been on Saturday night.

The physical layout of the food bars is exactly the same, but while there were people at them, there was less confusion and much more ability to walk up to what you wanted and take it without standing on the back of a line and walking through a cafeteria line. One of these days I am going to write about "scatter buffets" and how a buffet is not a cafeteria. The steak grill on this Wednesday night could only be accessed by the rope poles that directed guests into a line up to the grill where you tell the grill chef how you want your steak cooked and then he cuts a piece of a steak that is cooking that way for you. The line took a little time to go through but nothing that was different from any other grill or carving line.

Speaking of carvings - there had been no carvings out on the Saturday night - and there should have been. On this night they were carving ham. The carving was off to the side on one of the regular buffet areas and was not in the way of anyone going up for anything else.

The pan-seared seafood still had the same problem and the same chef was following the same procedure that he had on Saturday night - again, the custom created and cooked to your order just does not work in a buffet restaurant. I looked to see if there was still sauteed spinach being used instead of the sauteed mixed vegetables that the feature calls for and the spinach was still there. The lemon picata sauce did not look any better than it had the first night. I did not have the seafood feature on this night. I learned my lesson the hard way the first night.

Able to move around the buffet server much easier I saw things that had not been out on Saturday night. There were Kansas City Ribs. There were grilled slider cheeseburgers. Now these cheeseburgers are an odd thing - on Saturday night I saw them cooking them while I was at the grill waiting for steak. I never saw them go out on the buffet server. My wife said she saw a sign for them but each time I went to look there were none. On this second night, I tried one - they were over-cooked and dry. Steak at Golden Corral is very good and I did have some on Saturday and I had some again this second night. They do serve it to you as you ask for it - and rare is rare and well done is well done. It comes straight off the fire and there is no sitting in a pan as in some other chain buffet where it is allowed to overcook in the serving pan while it waits to be carved and served. No, here, you are getting a steak - or piece of steak, I should say, off the flame and right on to your plate.

The food was how I expected that it should be. The people on this night were also properly behaved and acted as adults should in a restaurant and a buffet. I was very glad that my wife had been the one to suggest coming back because this was the experience that I expected to have at any Golden Corral.

When I had written about the Golden Corral in Pennsylvania I had said that the desserts there were nothing very special. And while still not overly special here, they were presented much better and there was much more of a choice out here to select from. There were several cakes - and the chocolate cake was very tempting. There was plenty of fresh fruit out here to take. The soft serve ice cream was good and there were full containers of ice cream toppings to make a sundae or put on your ice cream cone. Presentation is important and here the desserts were presented properly and appealingly. Again, as I started the first article with - not all Golden Corrals are the same. And as I saw first-hand at this one - not every night is the same.

All of this said- as I have stated in other articles about Golden Corral - IF you do not eat meat or fried foods or side dishes cooked with fats - DO NOT go to a Golden Corral. This is a primarily meat oriented buffet and every side dish that they serve has something in it or on it. The string beans are cooked with ham. The carrots are cooked in butter or some butter like substance. And this holds true for just about everything on the hot servers. If you can manage with salads then there is a nice salad bar to create your meal from but if you eat non-fat or even just low fat you are going to have a real hard time finding hot things to eat. Just like most chain restaurants - buffet, fast food, or otherwise, they are not catering their menu to the health conscious eater and they do very good business not doing so.

I am glad that we went back because now I will go back again when I am in Williamsburg, Virginia (as I have in the past). Regular restaurants can be very expensive to eat in around there - and I have managed to find several buffets that make it possible to have an enjoyable vacation and stay to a budget that will not make you feel that you are on a budget.

Avoid this restaurant on a Saturday night. Go mid-week or if you are local, go when the tourists have all gone home.


brian said...

I've always thought of Golden Corral as one of the better buffets. They have a good selection of food and something for almost everyone. Totally agree with you on the seafood special. It isn't a good cook to order item for them. I was able to try it out at a GC when they still had the ayce ribs special. I was not impressed and thought the portions and quality weren't there. I do miss the ribs special !

We plan to go to a GC breakfast buffet soon, we had it once and liked it, especially for only $8.99.

We had a meal at Dienner's Buffet a few weeks ago and liked it. Although there aren't as many dishes as Shady Maple, it was good quality. Would definitely go there again if near Ronks.

If you and your wife like seafood, especially snow crabs, and you are in the Williamsburg area, you may want to stop at Captain George's buffet. For about $31 pp you get ayce Alaskan snow crabs, blue crabs,
steamed shrimp, fresh salmon, clams, prime rib, bbq ribs, chicken, potato salad, green beans and dessserts. Most of the food is high quality, the service is excellent and the inside of the restaurant is very nice and not hectic or basic like GC.

Writer said...

We have been to Captain George's many times and we were just there again in August. Look for my updated article in a couple of weeks.

Claire said...

Excellent point about the meat and not catering to the health conscious eater. Very true. Hard to believe in this day and age, with all the dietary information out there, but true. We've been to the Amish buffets but find that they are too much of a temptation and very damaging to our health. There is really no way not to overeat at them. OCB is also bad as far as fat, salt and sugar. Someone told us also that many restaurants and buffets either marinate the meat in a sugary marinade, or in fact add sugar to the burgers for flavor. I can imagine that that may be the case. My neighbor's daughter worked at a national seafood chain and once told us that they add sugar to the sautes on almost all of the fish dishes there, for flavor and to counteract the saltiness.
That's why we like Souplantation, less meat oriented and they make an effort to present healthy options. Great article though.

Writer said...

Always remember the second part of the title of this site - All You Can Eat is Not a Challenge. A buffet is an offer of a variety of foods - there are many healthy things that can be found at most buffets - if you choose them. Portion size is also up to you so if you would like a taste of something that you ordinarily would not eat, you can have a taste - but I really mean taste - a fork full. Yes, it takes a lot of will power. And for those who know they cannot resist taking what they should not eat - and taking it in quantity, then a buffet is not a good choice for a restaurant. As to what is added to recipes or meat marinades, you will find that many menu restaurants do this as well. Each of the chain restaurants has nutritional information on their websites. Take a look before going to one of their buffets and know in advance what are good choices and what to avoid.

And yes, Souplantation is a great buffet - unfortunately they are not located everywhere in the country. The furthest north they are in the East is North Carolina.

Claire said...

True about the nutritional information on the websites, but they don't disclose usually the sugar (or corn syrup) which they add to the entrees. Menu and buffets restaurant alike do this. So you're getting alot of sugar in addition to the salt but unless the website shows specific ingredient lists, you only know calories but not sugar. Many of the meat tenderizers which they use also have sugar, or brown sugar, just like the ones you can buy in the supermarket. it makes the food very tasty, but some of us shouldn't have so much sugar. we avoid some desserts, but never knew the main courses had it too.
About willpower, yes, it is very hard not to leave a buffet stuffed. Many (including us) cannot do it very well.

Writer said...

Look at the carb counts. The carbs are going to turn to sugars in your system regardless of the source. I don't look at calories, I look at carbs.