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Buffet Restaurants are not all bad, are they?

benkar Apr 25, 2013 06:10 PM

If you were forced to eat in a buffet type restaurant which one would it be? Most people would never admit that it would be about quantity. We would love to eat all the shrimp,lobster and prime rib that we could eat. Oysters and clams on the half shell?
OK, returning to reality. What are your favorite Buffet restaurants?

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  1. ipsedixit RE: benkar Apr 25, 2013 07:28 PM

    Garden Cafe at the National Gallery.

    One of the best kept secrets in DC.

    8 Replies
    1. re: ipsedixit
      curioussheridan RE: ipsedixit Apr 25, 2013 07:40 PM

      Agreed that National Gallery is good. Have had much better, but not in D.C.

      1. re: ipsedixit
        KWagle RE: ipsedixit Apr 25, 2013 11:08 PM

        That buffet menu has like 9 items on it!


        With a selection that small, I would be surprised if they couldn't do a good job. Not sure pot roast or turkey pot pie is very appealing as a main course, though.

        But for the most part... yes, yes they really are all bad.

        (Well, there's the possible exception of the Moonlite Bar-B-Q Inn, but that's in Owensboro, Kentucky. I haven't been there in a long time, but I remember them being passably decent for the most part, and their lamb ribs are truly excellent.



        1. re: KWagle
          ipsedixit RE: KWagle Apr 26, 2013 07:51 AM

          Uh, have you actually been to the Garden Cafe?

          Yes, it's a limited menu (but I think it's closer to a dozen, but whatever), but the items on the menu are not only unique, but generally above-avg in quality.

          And, all that for $20 (AYCE too).

          1. re: ipsedixit
            mjhals RE: ipsedixit Apr 26, 2013 07:12 PM

            Agree with ipse- you need to check out the buffet at the National Gallery before commenting. It may be be AYCE, but the unlike most, the focus here is quality over quantity. The menu is developed by some of the best chefs in DC, with well thought-out recipes, and fresh ingredients.

            I've eaten ate each iteration of the buffet, and as a light eater, have never had more than one plate, but even given that- the meal is still a steal given the quality.

            1. re: mjhals
              KWagle RE: mjhals Apr 27, 2013 04:08 AM

              I haven't been there yet.

              As I said, with a small menu I would expect them to do well. So I don't think we disagree on this.

              (But I do hope the entrees change before the next time I'm in DC.... Oh look, they have already changed! Bubble & squeak and pasties are much more interesting to me than pot roast and pot pie. Now I hope they'll stay the same for a few weeks.)

              1. re: KWagle
                DanielK RE: KWagle Apr 27, 2013 09:23 AM

                It doesn't change that frequently - they change the menu to match the rotating exhibit in the Gallery.

                So the menu is usually in place at least a few months, sometimes a year.

                1. re: DanielK
                  KWagle RE: DanielK May 8, 2013 12:59 AM

                  It's already changed again. Now they list beef stroganoff and salmon en croute.

          2. re: KWagle
            flavrmeistr RE: KWagle Apr 26, 2013 01:40 PM

            The Moonlite is awesome. One of the few places you can get all the burgoo and barbecued mutton your heart can endure.

        2. w
          wayne keyser RE: benkar Apr 25, 2013 08:58 PM

          Most buffets have duds and standouts if you choose your dishes with a discerning eye.

          Hokkaido Seafood Buffet, Bailey's Xroads VA (Currently $9.99 for lunch) - quite acceptable sushi, Mongolian grill (where you have nobody to blame but yourself if it doesn't please you), salads (seaweed, kimchi, baby octopus, etc)

          Bamboo Buffet (same area) but I haven't been in a long time

          Hibachi Grill, Woodbridge VA

          1. q
            Querencia RE: benkar Apr 25, 2013 11:29 PM

            The Mandarin, Toronto Canada (several locations). Chinese buffet with 48 entrees (I counted) plus a Canadian buffet with roast beef and Yorkshire pudding plus a grill buffet with salmon and lamb chops plus a salad bar with ad lib shrimp plus a sushi bar plus a dessert bar with French pastry plus a waffle bar. My husband once asked me where I wanted to go to dinner on my birthday and I said the Mandarin. So we did, and we lived in Chicago. BTW google The Mandarin to see pictures. I don't know why it is that Chinese buffets in the US tend to be junky; in Canada they are pretty nice.

            1. monkeyrotica RE: benkar Apr 26, 2013 05:52 AM

              Green Olive Buffet. $14 all-you-can-eat oysters on the half shell. They're not so much shucked as opened, so you have to separate the oyster from the shell, but for $14, I can manage. A little tabasco, a little lemon, and a lot of beer. Everything else there is a big slab of mediocre, but the oysters are good and briney.

              2 Replies
              1. re: monkeyrotica
                thistle5 RE: monkeyrotica Apr 26, 2013 02:13 PM

                I will agree that Green Olive Buffet, if you choose wisely, can be a good meal- & it's very inexpensive, so it pays to be selective. We've had very good meals here, & also subpar ones, but for the price, you can't beat it. I used to be a fan of Blue Pearl on Commerce (back when it was Dragon Sea, went there regularly w/ a friend), but haven't been there recently.

                I'm a shrimp buff, & it's a lot harder to present acceptable shrimp, than oysters-they're usually overlooked, but I can deal w/ their salads, noodles, & other stuff...

                1. re: thistle5
                  monkeyrotica RE: thistle5 Apr 29, 2013 04:21 AM

                  It's also a matter of proximity. On that stretch of Route 1, you've got Green Olive, Old Country Buffet, and Great American Steak & Buffet. Green Olive is the only one of the three worth going to. You'd figure a buffet place that does a lot of Mount Vernon and DC tour bus volume would have reasonably fresh food. And you'd be wrong. Makes me miss Scholl's Colonial Cafeteria that much more.

              2. Kris in Beijing RE: benkar Apr 26, 2013 06:26 AM

                This is sort-of a comment/question.

                It was a BIG DEAL to go to a hotel buffet in Beijing-- like $75-$1000USD per person.
                A few of them had stellar, fantastic food.
                The Easter season array at the Financial District Westin or Intercontinental were shockingly good.

                Do those exist in The States?

                5 Replies
                1. re: Kris in Beijing
                  ipsedixit RE: Kris in Beijing Apr 26, 2013 07:51 AM

                  Yes, esp. during the Holidays like Easter, Thanksgiving, Xmas, New Years.

                  1. re: ipsedixit
                    Kris in Beijing RE: ipsedixit Apr 26, 2013 04:01 PM

                    Any DC-area hotels you'd recommend?

                    1. re: Kris in Beijing
                      ipsedixit RE: Kris in Beijing Apr 26, 2013 07:03 PM

                      No, sorry.

                      In LA, yes. DC, no.

                      1. re: Kris in Beijing
                        melpy RE: Kris in Beijing May 6, 2013 09:35 AM

                        I am not sure about DC locations but I know the upscale chains like the Ritz Carleton and the Four Seasons do excellent buffets. FS I believe does Sunday brunch and RC does holiday brunches although I can't say which ones. I would check with these first.

                    2. re: Kris in Beijing
                      agarnett100 RE: Kris in Beijing May 2, 2013 06:54 AM

                      Bellagio - Las Vegas

                    3. m
                      mdpilam RE: benkar Apr 26, 2013 06:39 AM

                      This is a no-brainer: Indian. Indian food tends to stand up best to buffet conditions (sitting in tray warmers), and I love Indian food.

                      Pretty much any other type of buffet I loathe (and I can eat a lot of food).

                      1. j
                        jimg28 RE: benkar Apr 26, 2013 07:18 AM

                        Agree with the Indian food. The lunch buffet at Royal Taj in Columbia MD is my favorite in the area.


                        1. Bob W RE: benkar Apr 26, 2013 11:12 AM

                          I don't think it's a great value in my case because I am no longer the trencherman I was back in my salad days (that is, I eat more salad now, if you can follow that), but Todai in the Fair Oaks Mall has surprisingly good food -- especially the sushi, which in my experiences has been quite fresh, and the variety is very impressive, including several different gunkan (boat-shaped, oval) nigiri wrapped in seaweed or cucumber. There is plenty of sashimi if you just want to zero in on the protein.

                          1. w
                            Worldwide Diner RE: benkar Apr 27, 2013 05:40 AM

                            Indian buffets aren't bad, they're just limited in selection and protein (usually just butter chicken and tandoori chicken). Uncle Liu's buffet is decent (lots of selection, from dim sum to pork chops). Il Mee is probably the best Korean buffet - you get tableside BBQ as well as a large selection of other dishes. I don't eat sushi at buffets - the cheapest cuts of fish are then sliced paper thin....

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: Worldwide Diner
                              monkeyrotica RE: Worldwide Diner Apr 29, 2013 04:24 AM

                              I've had excellent vegetarian buffet at Woodlands in Langley Park. A fairly broad selection of items, well seasoned, and I never missed the animal protein.


                            2. h
                              Hobbert RE: benkar Apr 27, 2013 09:33 AM

                              I like Curry Mantra's buffet. It's an ever changing variety and is just delicious. I particularly the lentils. Guapo's does a fun breakfast buffet. I must say, though, I've never been to a restaurant that was just a buffet that I actually enjoyed.

                              1. b
                                BookGuy RE: benkar Apr 29, 2013 05:48 AM

                                I took a ride out to Thurmont, Maryland, the home of Camp David, and tried the Cozy Inn Restaurant which is as close to a classic Southern-style buffet you can find--and only an hour out of Rockville. They have a nice Camp David museum and the place seems to cater to families with children and older couples. If you dine sleectively, there are excellent things on the buffet such as good ribs and fried chicken, some excellent vegetables, and a good selection of cakes and pies. It is pretty cheap by today's standards.

                                1. w
                                  wayne keyser RE: benkar Apr 29, 2013 11:24 AM

                                  I hadn't thought about Great American Buffet and Old Country Buffet and the like (my mind is so stuck on Chinese).

                                  Again, go with flexible expectations and pick the best dishes - you'll do as well there for a plate of meatloaf, mashed potatoes and gravy as you will at any "diner-style" place, and there are probably some additional decent selections.

                                  1. keithlb1 RE: benkar May 2, 2013 06:16 AM

                                    Wegmans locations in the metro area have some very good selections in the Asian Wokery sections, with Thai, Indian and Chinese selections...salads are fresh as well as Sushi I would trust them over some of the Chinese style buffets in the area. I see them rotating their food constantly. Cost is 8.49 per pound. Some of the stuff is just okay but most of the Asian food is quite good. Soup bar is nice also.

                                    1. h
                                      Hal Laurent RE: benkar May 3, 2013 09:43 PM

                                      Buffets are the triumph of quantity over quality. Bleh...

                                      2 Replies
                                      1. re: Hal Laurent
                                        Steve RE: Hal Laurent May 6, 2013 11:53 AM

                                        So true, and I include the Indian ones in this as well.

                                        1. re: Steve
                                          Marty L. RE: Steve May 7, 2013 10:38 AM

                                          That's certainly the norm; but always? Don Rockwell raves today about the buffet at Masala Art.

                                      2. alkapal RE: benkar May 8, 2013 10:55 AM

                                        i think there are some good values. i put raaga in falls church on saturdays as an example: it has a lamb dish and also a fave spinach dish. they are not as spicy as one would like on buffet, but you can get an idea about how you might want to talk about your preferences with the chef, Ramesh. If you call ahead, he will make an awesome Punjabi Chicken Curry.

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