Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Golden Corral Buffet & Grill

6110 S Lindbergh Blvd, St Louis

Website

Golden Corral originated in the early 1970’s by a couple of guys that gave up trying to buy into other franchise restaurants. They started in North Carolina and expanded, slowly at first, to a couple hundred in the first few years. They then added nearly two hundred more by buying up the suffering 'Sirloin Stockade' chain in the early 80’s. There are now nearly five hundred Golden Corrals, spread across forty states.

In the late 80’s through early 90’s when the U.S. bought into the myth that red meat was a bad thing, the business suffered and GC added salad bars. That way people could pretend they were going there to eat healthy. Most of the original salad bar items are still there, since to date, no one has ever actually served themselves a salad at a Golden Corral. (un-researched assumption). There are unconfirmed rumors that the salad bar produce is not even real, but is instead Disney-like animatronics, merely projected images of actual produce.

The Place:

On Lindbergh, east/south of Highway 21 (Tesson Ferry). It was quite a chore to get there. We went on Sunday evening, Adam’s work scheduled allowed for an evening meal, finally. It had snowed a couple of inches overnight, I had spent most of the day shoveling off our 400 foot paved, curved and uphill driveway. Klondike road had been cleared though so we assumed other roads had been as well.

The wind was kicking up, the temperature was dropping, it was around fourteen degrees when we left the house, the wind gusts were topping twenty mph. At that temperature even a slight breeze can become a deadly weapon.

Angel had doubted my driveway clearing as it appeared to have just turned the driveway into an Olympics-sanctioned luge track. The snow was cleared, but the underlying thin slush coat had turned into a hardened, shiny and slick, refreeze.

We climbed into Angel’s Trailblazer, (which I had cleared and warmed up earlier because I’m a great husband) she twisted the knob to 4WD and we made it up and out without a slip. (I was more worried about the return trip, downhill)

The rest of the roads were not in as good of shape as Klondike. In fact they got worse the closer we got to the city. It appeared that in order to save precious highway dollars some of the crews were waiting for the snow to completely stop falling before seriously attacking the roads in their care. There was refreeze and slush patches in most of the inner lanes, and quite often on the primary lane. Passing was infrequent and a bit scary. We never exceeded fifty mph. Inside the first suburb the roads had been barely treated at all. The run on Lindbergh was like a scene from upstate New York, snow-covered, drifting, thick, gusting white-outs. Angel likened it mockingly as ‘Ice Road Trucker’* stuff. (She drives on these excursions since I’ve totaled more vehicles (one) than she has.)

The trip should normally take about thirty five minutes, on this trip it took closer to an hour.

The place was surprisingly, nearly packed. The parking lot was almost full and the tables we could see from the outside appeared to be as well.

We walked in, stepped into a short line, grabbed a tray and shouted out our drink order, tea, tea and Pepsi. They served the drinks in plastic tumblers and we slid up to the cash register and paid up the fixed price. We were told we could sit anywhere we wanted, there wasn’t a lot of choice as all the tables within arm’s reach of the serving lines were all taken.

We set our tray down on a table in the back forty and headed for the lines.

It’s a buffet. And a pretty good one at that.

The Food:

GC made its name by offering fresh meat, steaks, etc. rather than the frozen/shipped steaks in other steakhouse buffet chains. On this night they were cooking fine steaks to order as well as fresh ham and brisket. I put on my buffet hat, which is not a hat, but really only a way of thinking, and grabbed a small plate and loaded it up with about a tablespoon full of a dozen or so choice items. No, I didn’t stop at the salad bar, the staff was busy, clearing the cobwebs off of it.

There was a section for foreign food, Chinese and Mexican mostly. I grabbed up some ‘Brandy Chicken, a couple of shrimp, and some pepper steak. At the meat island I skipped the chicken and dipped up some pot roast. I added white beans, macaroni and meat loaf, then found ‘fish and chips’ and grabbed a couple of nuggets. At the bakery section there were about a dozen possibilities. I grabbed a fat, flaky looking biscuit as well as a condiment packet containing about a quart of margarine. There was also another type of shrimp, pretty much just breaded and fried. A couple of those and round one was ready to eat.

I was first back at the table, Adam showed up with a roll the size of a bowling ball as well as some of the brisket. He really liked the glaze. Angel had some fried chicken as well as potatoes, some of the fish, and some veggies. My biscuit was a huge disappointment. Though it looked fresh and flaky, it was actually as hard as a rock. I tried cutting it open with my steak-like knife, it merely shattered, even adding some margarine didn’t soften it up. I sat it aside on a napkin of shame.

Everything else was quite good indeed. Unlike at Ryan’s where it was hit or miss, the food here, entrees as well as sides were well prepared and quite tasty.

Round two, I decided on more of the same, with a couple of differences. I passed up on the granite biscuits and chose one a cheesy biscuit instead, much better. I skipped over the Chinese and got more pot roast, meatloaf, white beans, fish and added a small dollop of mashed potatoes with brown gravy.

Angel opted for a steak and a small baked potato, then polluted her plate with cauliflower and boiled cabbage. She had apparently forgotten that the great depression was over and we don’t have to eat that disgusting stuff anymore. She did let me try her steak, it was very, very good. Ryan’s offered nothing near this quality.

Adam’s second round included ham, which looked kind of dry, but he insisted it was not.

Dessert was only an option for Angel and I, Adam skipped it since he’s dating. ( I assume that’s the reason) Angel sampled the chocolate-chocolate-chocolate cake and some peach cobbler, I had a small slice of apple pie and some banana pudding, with sprinkles. By sprinkles I mean candy corn. Angel finds this completely disgusting, which I admit is the real reason I add candy corn to banana pudding.

Summary:

The service was not much to speak of. Our server only came around for drink refills once, plate-clearing was satisfactory but not complete. The food, except for those biscuits was all very good. Much higher quality than at Ryan’s.

The place was quite messy though. The well-worn floor was littered with discarded food items, fries, beans, etc. This I attributed to one enormous fault of the eatery; they allow children.

I don’t mind the teenagers so much, they’re pouty and sulky and arrogant, but not very loud. It’s the smaller ones, the sticky, screaming, crying, food-tossing tykes that really get my goat. And of course when the tykes scream, everything stops and mommy has to make a massive fuss about it. Geez lady, the kids SAW the desserts, they SAW the ice cream machine, but you think they’re going to settle for chicken nuggets, fries and beans? HAH! They can SEE what they want and they KNOW you’re going to let them have it, so why not just eliminate the noise and the mess and let them have their ice cream cone! You want them to eat nutritious food? Then don’t give them such obvious options! Feed them at home!

The price was reasonable, forty two dollars and change, not bad at all considering we could pick and choose between scores of items, and have as much of each as we wanted.

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*'Ice Road Truckers' (IRT) is a series on one of those Discovery/Learning channels. It’s about truckers, mostly fat and out of shape, driving truckloads of oil drilling supplies across the frozen tundra and even the frozen lakes and sea in the really, really far north areas of Alaska and Canada. They drive hundreds of miles in desolate wasteland, often alone and often with poor visibility. There is no place on the entire road that is not either made of ice or snow covered. The roads are not so much constructed as they are carved out of the ice and snow by sadists. They go over impossible mountains and are too narrow and poorly marked. For all this effort and terror, the hapless drivers make less money per year than I do.

THAT kids, is why you should stay in school!

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