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Recommendation for parents who like buffets

Help! I'd like to take my parents out to lunch this Saturday but they haven't liked any of my suggestions. I've tried taking them to more upscale places before, but they always thought they were too expensive and a waste of money. They really like buffets, 'cause they perceive them to be a good value, due to the quantity and variety of food (they are old ;)). Their favorite places to eat are Sizzler and Hometown buffet...i'd really like to take them somewhere else, preferably a non-chain restaurant. Oh, and they're not really into ethnic restaurants, except for Chinese.

I've looked into "nicer" buffets like Garden Court, but they're only open on Sunday (plus my parents might think it's too pricey). Anywhere in San Francisco, Daly City will be good, can probably go as far south as San Bruno.

Any suggestions?

Garden Court Restaurant
8141 Redwood Blvd, Novato, CA 94945

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  1. Fresh Choice in San Bruno
    1202 El Camino Real

    Moonstar in Daly City

    Moonstar Restaurant
    383 Gellert Blvd, Daly City, CA 94015

    1. The Claremont Hotel in Oakland has a buffet lunch. A very popular spot for Mother's day and parents in general. If interested, call first and make sure it's available Saturday as well as Sunday (it may be every day, I'm not sure).

      3 Replies
      1. re: pauliface

        The buffet at the Claremont is $56 which is less than the Garden Room($68). I believe that they bump it up for Mother's Day. It's hard to imagine old people eating that much. I certainly can't, anymore.

        1. re: wolfe

          doesn't really seem like something value-oriented people will be interested in

          1. re: vulber

            I'm not sure anyone said it was but I was merely showing how pricey the "nicer buffets" the OP's parents eschew were.

      2. How about a Brazilian AYCE steakhouse? They can get pricey but you get a lot. There's the place on Market/Franklin and a place in San Bruno.

        4 Replies
        1. re: ML8000

          I'm not sure that Espetus, the Brazilian place at Market/Franklin, fits the bill for these folks. It's $50 per person--while you certainly get a huge quantity of food (in addition to the meats, there is a buffet of salads), it's hard to imagine that folks who committed to frugality are going to be able to see that as a place of good value.

          1. re: ML8000

            I was going to suggest this too, and the place in San Bruno is much less expensive than Espetus and without the line. I believe it's called Cleo's Brazilian Steakhouse.

          2. There's also Komei(?) which took over the old Todai location in Daly City and Hokkaido in Foster City

            1. I'm wondering if you should even try to introduce them to someplace else. This is just an opinion, but it seems your parents are in the "food is sustenence" not the "food is pleasure" camp when it comes to eating (the folks posting on ChowHound are in the later camp). Thus they want inexpensive and filling much more than tasty. In fact I'd put forth that tastiness is not something that much comes into the picture when it comes to mealtime (yes they want something they like but it only has to meet a minimum standard). Note that my parents are like this too so I'm not putting down your parents here.

              All that said you might want to try Brennan's Restaurant in Berkeley between third and fourth street.

              5 Replies
              1. re: skwid

                Am I right in saying that people who fit the OP's parents' profile often like Sears Fine Food in Union Square? Not a buffet but a place that resonates with the older crowd.

                Sears Fine Food
                439 Powell Street, San Francisco, CA 94102

                1. re: pauliface

                  Good call, pauliface: great food and good portions, and now they serve dinner too. if being buffet-style isn't a dealbreaker, i'd head here. Also: I'm struggling with the name, but there's a Churrascaria; I think on Mkt. St., which might qualify as something they'd enjoy.

                  1. re: mamachef

                    Espestus, I think.

                    My SO's grandparents are like this. If we take them to a nice restaurant, they will order only a cup of soup, because it's too expensive to order more. And then they'll eat six dinner rolls because they're still hungry. It's frustrating/heart breaking but habits learned to survive the Depression and other economic calamities are deeply ingrained at this point.

                    We've slowly come around to taking them somewhere they feel comfortable, and at our next meal (without the gparents), we go somewhere we like. Another coping strategy is to whip out a big restaurant.com coupon and assure them that we're actually getting a really great deal on our meal because we bought the coupon during one of the 80% off sales.

                    A pasta pomodoro/ chow-type place might work, if you can let go of the buffet thing. Or maybe a creperie?

                    1. re: artemis

                      Espetus is right. Thank you. Something else that occurred is a fondue-spot. I don't know if Matterhorn is still there; is there another one you could recommend?Otherwise there's always Fondue Fred's in Berkeley, not too long a stretch. But maybe too funky.

                      1. re: artemis

                        Park Chow wold be a good choice. The prices are reasonable and honestly you can spend just as much at Denny's.

                        Park Chow
                        1238 9th Ave, San Francisco, CA 94122

                2. Do you mean in San Francisco proper? How about the Cheesecake Factory in Union Square? Or either Fog City Diner or Houston's over near Fisherman's Warf? Not the first places I would choose to eat, but they could well make your parents happy.

                  And I like Boulevard Cafe in Daly City. They do a quite reliable job on a wide variety of dishes - salads, sandwiches, pastas, pot roast, fried chicken etc. My 10 year-old son really likes it and loves to go after a movie.


                  Fog City Diner
                  1300 Battery Street, San Francisco, CA 94111

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: Calvinist

                    Boulevard is a great recommendation. We've taken young children and fussy eaters there, and everyone always leaves happy, including me. Very friendly and inexpensive too.

                  2. My in-laws like buffets. Specifically, Vegas buffets, and Japanese or Chinese buffets in Los Angeles.

                    Their favorite dining experiences in SF were dim sum and House of Prime Rib. Yes, HOPR costs more than a typical buffet, but they were blown away by the concept that a "real" restaurant would let you have seconds of prime rib and basically all you can eat on a few selected sides. And it'll still be less than Garden Court.

                    House of Prime Rib
                    1906 Van Ness Ave., San Francisco, CA 94109

                    Garden Court Restaurant
                    8141 Redwood Blvd, Novato, CA 94945

                    1. How about Tommy's Joynt in SF? Old school and a good value. Plus, a barrel of pickles!

                      Tommy's Joynt
                      1101 Geary Blvd, San Francisco, CA 94109

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: macadam

                        What a good idea!! Now THAT'S value, and good food and history to boot. funky enough to have the true SF vibe, but not too funky for delicate sensibilities.

                        1. re: mamachef

                          Thank You! As a relative newcomer I am flattered my suggestion was approved! My father was an engineer at KRON-4 (across the street) for 30+ years, and he and my mom enjoyed many meals there together. Fond memories, and decent food.

                      2. I think you said Chinese was OK?

                        Check out Fortuna Buffet.

                        1. My old parent begs for Bristol Farm buffet and/or Food Court which is kinda like a big buffet, then a Beard Papa for dessert.

                          Just plain folk afraid to go beyond S&P, garlic, onion.

                          Mom said she hated French food until she tasted my plate of Aiguillettes de Poulet aux Morilles, BC (before cholesterol):
                          Chicken Filets, Cream, European Dried Morels.

                          Bristol Farms
                          845 Market Street, San Francisco, CA

                          1. Here's a way to get around the "it's too expensive we'd never be able to enjoy it" mentality -- find a nice restaurant that serves family style like Lulu. The logic goes something like -- the food is already on the table so just try it, have some. This eliminates the "get soup and eat dinner rolls" move.

                            My Dad who also likes Hometown Buffet, is a Depression Era kid, etc., cringes at expensive places too although he'll enjoy once things get rolling and will spend on certain meals.

                            Any way, large family party went to Lulu 3 or so years ago and I know if it was single meals/entrees he would have cheaped out and order something very basic. However since the plates were flying around the table, he just had some and he clearly stated he enjoyed himself.

                            The other trick here is to order a few items to start and add as you go, the price doesn't seem as prohibitive this way.

                            Besides Lulu, old school Italian and Basque places serve family style. Capp's Corner?

                            Capp's Corner
                            1600 Powell St, San Francisco, CA 94133

                            5 Replies
                            1. re: ML8000

                              I think that's a great idea. I wish I had tried it with my parents rather than arguing over a $5 bowl of soup.

                              1. re: ML8000

                                I think Capp's Corner is the only old-school North Beach Italian restaurant left that still offers a family-style option, and that's only at dinner.

                                All the old-school Basque places in SF are gone. The Basque Cultural Center in South SF has a family-style option, but not at lunch.

                                Basque Cultural Center
                                599 Railroad Ave, South San Francisco, CA 94080

                                Capp's Corner
                                1600 Powell St, San Francisco, CA 94133

                                1. re: ML8000

                                  Family-style meals is GENIUS. I am so doing this next time with the SO's grandparents. You totally made my day!

                                  1. re: ML8000

                                    If you're eating with close friends/family, and everyone doesn't mind sharing his/her food with one another, it's already like family-style dining right? I remember my last meal at Ad Hoc, we kept asking for free seconds of everything (salad, entree), simply because we were big eaters, at one point my best friend said, "Hey maybe we shouldn't ask for *another* seconds; it's embarrassing." =)

                                    Ad Hoc
                                    6476 Washington St., Yountville, CA 94599

                                    1. re: vincentlo

                                      Sharing is one thing...but family style forces the issue.

                                      Any way, funny thing is I went to lunch with my family over the weekend to a casual but nice place and no family style service. Everyone got what they wanted and yet because it was seemingly fancy to my Dad he ordered the cheapest thing on the menu...a Nieman Ranch hot dog at $7 bucks. The dog was grilled, on good bread, homemade condiments and it looked good but Pops still cheaped out over a the steak sandwich at only $3 bucks more which I'm 100% positive he would have enjoyed more. (The thing is, if he was paying he might get the steak sandwich...but since he wasn't...he ordered to save his kids a few bucks.)

                                      I had to laugh to myself upon seeing that but it confirmed the family style thing to me.

                                  2. You can't miss at any Fresh Choice...and they can claim a seniors rate. Trust me...they will love FC.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: OldTimer

                                      This is a fun topic because my parents are pretty much the same way. What about that buffet place in Daly City that used to be Todai? I don't know the name but I always see a line out the door when I drive by.

                                    2. There is a cheaper version of Espetus called Cleo's (http://www.cleossteakhouse.com) in San Bruno. It's $16/pp for lunch and $22/pp for dinner. It's all you can eat. There is a salad/hot food self-serve area plus there are servers that come to the table and carve meat onto your plate. Espetus has more variety, better service and better quality but cost twice as much. I have taken my folks to Cleo's and they love it for the value and they think it's fun.

                                      1. Another option for family style eating is Bucca Di Beppo. Just take the menu and order for everyone that way they don't see the prices. You get big platters of salad, pasta, and fried calamari. And the pizza a Bucca is actually decent. I get the Gamberi which is not on the menu anymore, but they will still make it...

                                        1 Reply