Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Ryan's

331 North Creek Drive

Festus MO.

Once again we visit a place that was once a regular spot, part of the tiny rotation of three or four places that we ate at for several years. Our palate now cleansed several months into this quest, Angel chose this place to compare to the many, many new spots we’ve tried.

The Place:

On a hilltop above Bank of America, Home Depot, and to the east, Walmart. It is a very large building surrounded by a usually crowded large parking lot. In the entrance is a kids crane game filled with tempting stuffed animals, all begging to be snared by the suspended hook and set free.

Business is conducted up front. You name your drink (Tea, tea and Coke) then pay the tab. It’s a buffet, just under ten bucks a head.

We were handed a table marker and Angel led us to our booth because she thinks we all prefer a booth to a table. (I’m going to keep bringing this up, week after week until she sees it here on this page that I actually prefer a table.) The booth was buried in the back away from the buffet lines. That was strategic on her part, we’ve eaten at several kinds of buffets, there’s no real advantage to sitting close to the food and in a place filled with way too many clumsy, free-ranging children the farther away the better. We plopped down our paperwork and charged the line.

The Food:

It’s a comfort food buffet extravaganza. You’ve already paid for it, you might as well make it count. Eat a little or eat it all, it doesn’t matter at this point. There’s a very large buffet section just for salad stuff. Bright green leafy stuff, tomatoes, cheeses, dressings, cucumbers, onions, peppers, even some fruits. At this line there’s no waiting, it’s virtually unvisited.

Near the front is a grill station, steaks cooked to order. Also ham, roast beef and a few other major meats. The grill pilot was loading up the steaks, small, six ounce medallions, a couple dozen of them sizzled as they hit the hot iron grate. Three or four of us waited to shout in our preference, mostly medium rare. As the steaks cooked the patient and personable grill master carved ham and served heaping knife-loads to even more people lined up for that.

I finally got mine then headed for the main lines. Row after row of every kind of food imaginable. Pasta, chicken, vegetables, shrimp (fried), fish, beans, lots of beans, corn, various gravies, pizza slices, egg rolls, cornbread, rolls, dumplings, chicken, chicken, roast beef, meat loaf, chicken… If you can’t find something you like here then you’re already starving to death.

I started conservatively with the little steak, a small plop of creamy mashed potatoes, seven and a half green beans, sixteen baked beans, a tablespoon of white gravy, a massive white roll already shimmering with a thick butter coating.

Angel skipped the steak and instead opted for the thirteen pound baked chicken quarter, corn on the cob, black eyed peas, cooked cabbage and okra. She also tried the ribs and some roast beef.

Adam dived into the fried chicken, added some plain rice, and some mashed potatoes.

I know this sounds like a lot of food for such a petite family, but the secret was in the portions. None of us had plates that were overflowing, the plates were not large and we just didn’t shovel that much of any one thing.

The steak was cooked perfectly, just as ordered. It was also as tough as a saddle, just a really poor quality cut of meat. All the steaks grilled there are made from this same tough animal, there were no variety options. Fortunately it was small so it didn’t fill me up. The mashed potatoes Adam agreed were very good, creamy, and made from actual potatoes. The green beans were limp and overcooked; the macaroni was sinfully cheesy, so much so that the cheese was as thick as and almost indistinguishable from the overcooked macaroni. The roll was to die for; it was nearly the size of a baseball and weighed less than helium. It was coated in butter and I stuffed more into its middle for ballast.

Adam said that his chicken was very good, but the rice was a bit bland. This from a guy who doesn’t like anything in his rice, he eats boil-in-bag straight, but this rice he considered bland.

Angel loved the chicken but didn’t finish it entirely since she wanted to sample other things as well, like the ribs, which she said were simply way too tough. I can’t trust her opinion though; she said that her cooked cabbage and fried okra were great. Any one that says cooked cabbage and / or okra are ever great is simply a dirty-dog liar and should not be trusted around innocent children, farm animals or machinery, much less allowed to be quoted about the quality of any food anywhere.

I had overlooked the black eyed peas so she offered me some of hers. As she violently thrust the fork toward my face a couple of the peas jumped ship and ended up in my lap. Thanks to her clumsiness I suffered through the rest of the evening with a prominent pea stain on my pants. Fortunately the other patrons were even more ‘casually’ dressed than I, their clothes (mostly sweat pants and gaudy oversized tee shirts) in some cases showing stains that surely originated during the Carter administration. I say ‘casual’, but the dress theme seemed to be more along the lines of ‘threadbare and very loose-fitting’ than just casual. These folks were buffet veterans, they all knew you’ve got to have room to expand.

I reloaded my plate with a few bits and bites of other meats and veggies. I did seconds on the baked beans as they were better than the other choices even though they were pretty dried up. The meat loaf was ketchup-y but a bit on the dry side as well, the roast was juicy but bland.

We all made another run after critiquing our main courses, dessert. Adam wanted carrot cake for reasons I don’t quite understand, Angel had small portions of banana pudding, double chocolate cake and a tiny Rice Crispy treat (very stale), along with a spoonful of warm peach cobbler. I had banana pudding alongside some of the most disappointing apple pie I’ve had since my grandmother stopped cooking. There was also a dollop of something that tasted like cheesecake. I spruced up my pudding with sprinkles, not those namby-pamby little sugar balls, I used candy corn. Why they had a bowl of candy corn laid out I’m not sure, but I’m glad they did. They’re lousy on ice cream, though Lord knows I’ve tried, they just get too hard, but on slightly chilled banana pudding they ratchet up a perfectly tasty treat to a near coma-inducing ultra-sweet delight. Candy corn is by far my favorite vegetable after lima beans.

I asked Adam how his (blech) carrot cake was, he answered “It was carrot cake.” Which is about as high a compliment as he’s ever really offered on any food.

After finishing up desert and having our tea glasses refilled for the third time, (the tea is apparently made in the proportion of one teabag per bathtub full of water) we just got up and waddled out.

Summary:

You’re probably under the wrong impression at this point. In review it appears that I had very little good to say about anything. But the thing is that there was so much variety, so many choices and possible combinations that anyone that goes there will probably find something to satisfy their appetite.

No, this is definitely not a five star experience. This is an inexpensive comfort food buffet where it’s more about quantity than quality. You pay ten bucks per head and then are allowed to pick and choose from over a hundred items in any quantity you like. How can that be a bad thing? Sure, none of the food was outstanding and even my mom could make some of it a little better (and that’s saying something), but you will not be hungry when you leave. There’s nothing gourmet or chef-y about it, it’s meat and potatoes cooked just the way you’d find it at any given church dinner. It’s the perfect place to take a crowd, like visiting family or any other large group of people (or especially a group of large people) who have limited expectations and a ravenous appetite. Even kids love this place as they get to run amok and sugar up at will. Face it, they’re not going to eat their veggies here either.

I’ve often said that I don’t mind paying well for good food. I also don’t mind mediocre food in vast quantities for a really low price. Don’t be ashamed, there’s times when you want to dive into the trough and gorge yourself, this is the place to do just that. Just don’t forget to wear the really stretchy pants, pea-stained or not.


Ryan's Grill Buffet & Bakery on Urbanspoon

1 comment:

  1. I allways put stuff on my plate at those places and then smell it and say eww and not eat it.but I am weird when it comes to food .I would really like to be able to jsut take apill and never eat again .I course my food choices have been dwindled down to pretty much nothing now anyway .I eat because I have to not because I want to,I guess thats why I enjoy reading your blogs sooo much they make me smile really wide lol Kelly

    ReplyDelete