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The all-you-can-eat buffet guide

Eating The Road covers every imaginable aspect of getting your money's worth.

By Karen Datko Nov 30, 2009 7:04PM

A post from "ETR" at Eating The Road -- “The All-Inclusive All-You-Can-Eat Buffet Guide” -- arrived with perfect timing, as a new Chinese buffet has opened in town.


Sick of turkey leftovers, we tried it out last night -- using a few of ETR’s best tips for getting our money’s worth. Why didn’t we try them all? ETR says his tips are “the best, quickest way to find yourself in a motorized cart.” 

Here are a few snippets from his post -- the most comprehensive and entertaining guide to all-you-can-eat buffet dining we’ve ever come across:


Types of buffets available, both good and bad. The best bet is the ethnic buffet, in particular the Brazilian (churrascaria) dinner.

Objectives. Have one. Essentially, are you there to stuff your face or try different types of cooking?


Prep, including the essential question of what to eat in the one or two meals preceding your pig-out. To prepare for a dinner buffet, eat lots of veggies and bread at dinner the night before, then a sugary breakfast and no food after that -- but drink plenty of water -- until it's chow-down time. He also addresses what to wear and when to eat -- not during off hours as the food will be stale -- and how to entertain yourself while you’re chowing down. Sudoku, perhaps, or like-minded dining companions (no dieters allowed). For obvious reasons, pick a regular table, not a booth.


Pre-dining setup. Try to pay in advance. Accumulate the dressings, sauces and utensils you’ll need, plus your drink (water, hot tea, or a tiny bit of soda).


Scout and serve. Do a complete walk-through, then serve yourself the must-have (including priciest) items that just arrived from the kitchen. Small amounts only, he advises, because you can get more of your favorites when you return to the line again and again. And although it seems counterintuitive, don’t stack food in huge piles. That risks a cross-contamination of flavors. ETR says, “Take as many plates as you need; skilled diners can fill three or more in one trip.” 


The most important point in this section seems to be what NOT to eat -- breads, unless they’re something special; the same rule applies to soups. “There is never a need to eat steamed rice (shrimp fried rice in small amounts is acceptable), dinner rolls or the like; this is completely unacceptable,” the master writes.


Also, he addresses the hugely important question of whether it’s OK to jump ahead in line: “It is acceptable to go around slow diners as long as there is room on the other side and you will not be needing to reach back toward the skipped individual.” That’s good to know -- you don’t want to be rude.


Etiquette. Among the many tips here are: Don’t use the same serving spoon in two items, don’t eat until you're seated at your table (not even finger foods), don't talk on your cell phone, and make sure you tip -- $1 for each hour per diner is recommended.


Don’t care for buffets? Read his post about his favorite restaurants on his journey, including diners that sell “chicken and waffles.”


Related reading:

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