What a weird phenomenon these places are. Seriously, where else can you find half-authentic chinese food, salad with ranch dressing, enchiladas (at least in Texas), chicken-fried steak and shrimp all in the same buffet? I mean, really folks, Golden Corral ain't got nothing on these places. But it's so bizarre to me--for a few reasons.
1. THERE'S NO ONE EVER IN THESE PLACES
Ever notice that, it doesn't matter when you go, they're always about 7% capacity? Yet, for some odd reason all the food's fresh-ish and there's like 50 employees scattered around doing something. I don't get it. They gotta have mob ties. The other day we were in one here in the Yellow and I must've counted about 10 people in this place yet that buffet was piping hot and ready to eat. How can they afford to operate on such inefficiencies? They got a parking lot the size of a football field and, get this, truck parking in the back, but there are tables that have about an inch of dust on them because they haven't been occupied in maybe two months.
2. BEYOND CASHIERS, GREETERS AND FLOOR MANAGERS, NO ONE IS ASIAN
It dawned on me the other day that, to ensure a somewhat authentic Asian cuisine experience, you'll need someone Asian to greet you at the door, an Asian behind the counter running the register and usually a very quiet, studious Asian floor manager walking the floor. Yet, when you sit down at the table, some trailer trash with only two teeth and double wide to her name is taking your drink orders. I'm not trying to make a race issue, but it is a little peculiar asking for subgum egg foo young from a woman named Florence. That's all I'm saying.
3. THE DECOR IS USUALLY COMPLETELY OVER THE TOP FOR A 7-DOLLAR BUFFET
There's usually a huge hole in the ceiling with a gargantuous lighting fixture that looks like a million crystals lit by the rays of the sun. There's also normally very intricate and ornate dragons and swords throughout. Neon lighting is a must around the buffet as seen above and, of course, the very elegant tables with inlayed mother-of-pearl.
4. THERE'S ALWAYS THE ICE CREAM MACHINE
And the topping selection is, without fail, always M&Ms, Oreos, chopped peanuts, strawberry sauce, fudge sauce, sprinkles and, if it's really special, toffee chips. Some of the nicer buffets have the chocolate and vanilla mix. It's my favorite. Because after packing in as much chinese food as possible, the first thing that sounds really nice is about two bowls of free ice cream. Free, unlimited dessert makes any silly American go bonkers. I might even pay just ten dollars just to eat dessert all night.
5. I'M NOT SURE WHAT "MSG" IS, BUT IT'S WORTH ADVERTISING WHEN YOU DON'T HAVE ANY
Apparently, it's like a food enhancer. It makes it taste better. I thought it was like napalm. Maybe I need to read up. But apparently it's something worth mentioning when you don't include it in the food because you'll see it somewhere on a sign, piece of paper or menu. I suppose it's like artificial sweeteners--it causes blindness. Don't believe that. I don't know that.
6. THE FORTUNE COOKIES ARE FROM CHICAGO
Nothing really to note here other than they didn't ship them in. It's some guy who got fired from Hallmark and lives in Aurora, Illinois.
7. WHERE ARE THE CHOPSTICKS?
I don't use them anyway, but I've never seen anyone use chopsticks in these places. It's people using forks that have just a very slight bend in them and can warped as easy as foil if you get too excited. I guess the point is that Americans eat a lot of food and like to eat fast so the fork is the preferred method. Some people find it easier to just tip the plate over their mouths. These people typically hang out at buffets of any sort.
8. AROUND THE WORLD IN FIFTY TRAYS
You name it, it's there. You can never complain about not liking Chinese food before going to one of these places because, in reality, they're never serving it. Enchilidas, jalepeno poppers, chocolate chip cookies, spaghetti, fried shrimp, pizza, steamed cabbage, chocolate cake, chili, french fries, onion rings, mac and cheese--you'll find something you can eat on.
9. YOU'LL ALWAYS FIND YOURSELF GOING BACK
"You feel like Chinese tonight?" "Sure." "Let's go to that buffet up on the interstate." "You got it." It's a trap. You'll go back.
It's a very unique cultural experience because every culture's represented. It makes me wonder if the Asian population, as a whole, resent these places--like they're a disgrace to their culture. I wonder if by owning one, it's like you've disowned your entire race and culture. Maybe not. I just know if you say you had Chinese at any place with "express" or "super" in the name, chances are you didn't have Chinese. It'd be like considering Taco Bell "mexican." But that Mongolian beef sure hits the spot. Watch your soy sauce intake--it's pure sodium and dehydrates five times faster than soft drinks. Get plenty of water during the meal or you're gonna be hurting later.
Still in search of Chinese in the Yellow. Good night.