6110 S Lindbergh Blvd
St Louis, MO
St Louis, MO
Angel was hungry. She’d recently had a disappointing chicken meal at a McDonalds and was furious that her taste buds have become more refined over the last two years, since we started this quest. It used to be she’d just order something at McDonalds, eat it and not think much about it. No more. Now she actually tastes the slop and finds it wanting. It was Adam’s week to choose, Angel had hinted (which is allowed) Golden Corral, he went with it. So at the appointed time we saddled up (get it? Golden Corral - saddled up?) and made the drive to Lindbergh Ave. What with the stupid, recent time change it was still early, about 5:15 PM when we got there, but already dark.
This place is large and usually crowded. This night was no exception. Available parking was sporadic and limited, very, very busy.
We went in and stood in line behind a large group for several minutes before they told us they weren’t actually in line, they were still waiting for more people. So we went around, ordered our drinks, Tea, Diet Pepsi and something called ‘Pepsi Max’*, and paid $42.87 for the three buffets. There were actually two lines, each one about ten people deep, and at the end of the lines were poles with entry ropes keeping us from going into the hectic dining area. At the end of our line was a husky, purple-shirted lady with a 2-way radio. She called in on it what was needed, party of three or eight, etc. and eventually got a call back. She would then open up the rope and send the appropriate matching party through.
It reminded me of those Sci-Fi movies where the earth is being evacuated and the scared and tense families lean into the ropes waiting for their names to be called for the last escape pod out. One wrong move and you’ll end up with a stampede.
Also on hand was an off-duty deputy, just standing by. Yeah it was that busy, like an arena event.
It actually didn’t take very long. The floor crew seemed adept at turning over tables quickly. We were shuffled to a four-seater in the back. I opted for the side that looked toward the buffet line, which had the disadvantage of sitting partially in the aisle. Angel and Adam sat opposite. They got a punier view but more legroom without the risk of being tripped over. We didn’t sit, we just put down our tray and credentials and dived into the mass of trough grazers.
I was not as hungry as Angel. I’d had a pulled pork sandwich and some cheese crackers for a rather late lunch. But that’s one of the nice things about a buffet, you can eat a little or a lot, same price. I decided to small-sample a wide variety. My first round I sampled, about a tablespoon each, meat loaf, fried shrimp, mashed potatoes, 1 sesame chicken chunk, three small strips of Bourbon St. Chicken, macaroni, linguine with scampi sauce, a fist-sized yeast roll, a cheese and garlic biscuit, a teaspoon of stuffing, and lo and behold, Italian Sausage and sauerkraut. Yes fans, finally some sauerkraut!
I had to struggle with the linguine, knowing almost immediately that I was going to have an issue with it. Pasta is simple, but fickle. It doesn’t sit very long very well. I could tell from the exercise of trying to fork out only a small portion that this batch was sticky, rubbery and had been left out too long. I headed back to the table with noodles dangling from my plate.
Angel and Adam were already digging in. Angel had waited in line for a medium steak. It was apparently worth the wait, she shared a piece with Adam. He agreed that it was really good. Her plate also contained more vegetables than mine. I don’t know why.
I tested the linguine, just as I had suspected, it was cold and reverting back to its natural, hard, rubbery state. That was too bad since I hadn’t been able to separate it much and it covered a significant portion of my plate. I piled it aside as best I could. The sesame chicken was sweet, but had a bit more heat than I was ready for. Okay, but only in small amounts. The Bourbon St. chicken was a hit. It had a subtle, smoky flavor and was charred on the edges, not too dry. The mashed potatoes were fine, but not very lumpy, the stuffing was pretty good, the shrimp was shrimp, the meat loaf was fine at first. The biscuit was too hard, the roll too soft.
“My mom loves the rolls here.” Angel said. I did not reply since I’ve never had a lot of success saying anything about her mom. She always takes it wrong. In this case I would have, could have, said something about her mom being a truly wonderful lady, but not necessarily a reliable source of information as to what constitutes good food. I couldn’t think of a way to say that without it sounding like criticism. So I said nothing. I may have made a facial expression or a grunting noise, but not voluntarily. I got the harsh glare anyhow.
The meatloaf was, as I said, good at first. When I got down to the bottom of it, I ran into a wall. A wall of burnt meat. Since I had plenty more to eat I just pushed the charred loaf into the growing landfill along with the pasta.
The kraut was fine, just like mom used to open a can and boil. They seemed to know the trick of drizzling a little sugar on it as well.
Adam and Angel finished quickly and made their second round. I poked through the little I had left and took notice of another family. Mom, dad, teenage daughter, and two younger girls, grade-school age. There was nothing unusual or freakish about the family itself, it was their food that grabbed my attention. The teen was pulling pink strands from a full stick of cotton candy. I shuddered at the thought of that much sugar.
I didn’t know how long they’d been there, how many nutritious rounds there may have been, but all I saw on the table were desserts. The little girls were sucking on chocolate ice cream cones, the dad was sitting behind a plated tart of some kind. Mom returned to the table with a plate full of strawberries, all chocolate covered from the Corral's much ballyhooed 'Chocolate Wonderfall' fountain. She passed those around to her flock of princesses. Dad seemed amused, I suppose since the dentist’s bill hadn’t arrived yet.
Over the course of the next half hour the girls had even more ice cream, more strawberries and a second round of cotton candy. Angel told me to stop judging them. Too late.
My first plate was about half full of tried and rejected samples, I really hadn’t eaten all that much. My second round consisted only of a small baked potato with toppings, and some more bourbon street chicken. Adam had picked up some of the sesame chicken, tasted it, thought about it and said “I think they used orange zest.” Which shocked Angel because she thought he'd said “I think it’s possessed.” After we finally straightened her out we settled into dessert choices. After watching the sugared up family I knew I didn’t want something that severe. Angel told me again to stop staring at them. The teen girl was picking her teeth with one of the strawberry’s skewers. How can you not watch that?
Between us we had brownies, fudge (not my choice) and primarily, for me, banana pudding. I had to mine for the pudding, there was so much whipped cream on it that I had to tunnel under it to get to the pudding part. I don’t care for whipped cream on food, though I hear, just hear mind you, that it’s not so bad on strippers.
The fudge was decent, but way too rich. The brownies, not bad at all.
Sure, there were things that weren’t perfect, or even particularly well made. Don’t get the wrong idea though. The major selling point of a good buffet is that you can create your own meal. If tonight’s meatloaf wasn’t ideal, then just go for something else. If you get a bad meal at Golden Corral it’s ultimately your own fault. There’s plenty there to choose from, as big a variety as you’ll find anywhere on the planet. Angel couldn’t say enough about the steak, Adam loves the place in general, and I’ve never left hungry. On this night I deliberately sampled more than I was actually desired due to my ongoing effort to better inform you, the fans. I strongly recommend that you sample first, then go in for the kill. Also be certain to overeat. It’s a buffet, there’s no reward or discount for being gastronomically frugal. It is also possible to construct a balanced, nutritional meal that does not exceed whatever diet plan you may subscribe to. Yes, you theoretically can have a balanced meal there, not that there is any actual evidence that this has ever been attempted.
*Pepsi Max. A Pepsi product that contains no sugar but contains twice the caffeine of regular Pepsi. When you just want a sodium-fueled, pulse-blasting buzz, but not the calories.