Thursday, August 11, 2011

The Golden.......Corral

This is one restaurant that I am fully qualified to review and rate.  I worked at the Old Country Buffet/ Home Town Buffet for 8 and 1/2 years.  I started as a bus-boy, cleaning tables and the restaurant and ended as a Dining Room Supervisor, certified trainer in every position and even helped do managerial work.  In that time, I have picked out what recipes we would be serving on the line, picked where they go, helped cook them, helped serve them, and even tasted them.  I had to know for certain how the food was prepared and tasted so when someone complained about a food item, I could try it and inspect it and see.

At my job, food for my breaks was free.  So, when I ate my snack for 10 minutes before the dinner rush or sat down afterwards for my dinner around closing time, I picked things that I not only knew were well prepared but tasted good.  My favorite selection was a main course of pot roast, hot wings, cornbread dressing and a cornbread muffin.  That was almost always my first plate.  My second was more of a mashed potatoes, french fries, and anything else that looked good.  At OCB/HTB, there was always a large wall which separated the front of the restaurant to where we prepared the food but nothing was really a secret.

When you first enter the Golden Corral you are forced to wait in a line and then pay for your meal.  You are given a tray, a filled cup with a beverage of your choice and a receipt and then sent to find a seat. 

When you are at OCB/HTB, as I remember it 6 years ago, you are forced to wait in a single line, you pay for your meal and you get a receipt.  No drink, you get those as soon as you want from the beverage bar.

We sat down, the five of us at a 6 person table and immediately noticed that we had no straws.  I asked where the straws were and were told that they were given to us by the server when they come to greet us.  Well, so we sat for almost 2-3 minutes waiting for a server to greet us and give us straws.  The kids were wanting to drink their drinks and getting anxious as we waited.  Some of my group went up to get their food.  The food line looked nicer and cleaner and more, sunny, with more windows and white-colors to make the place look more nicer.

OCB/HTB was always dark, even with small white curtains on the tops of the booths and walls.  It had dark blue tiles against the back of the food line, dark red carpet on the floor in the dining room and dark red tile on the floor around the food bars. It had large windows but they never faced a real direction where the sun beats in.  With recessed can lights in the ceiling, and dark ceilings, and what little sunlight comes in, it is pretty dark.

The food tasted the same, if not worse than I grew up with OCB/HTB.  The hot wings were salty, the cornbread muffin was dry and the pot roast didn't have enough of a full, umami, flavor.

Now what was good, was the steak.  At the Golden Corral, they had a large grill behind the sneeze guard/glass wall, and on that grill were large slabs of sirloin steaks.  You stood in front of that window, and when asked how you wanted your steak cooked, a cook would cut a slab off of the larger chunks of beef and grill it right there in front of you.  The beef was surprisingly tender for a steak at an all you can eat restaurant.  My 4 year old even was able to eat some of the steak.

As I said, the cooks' line was fully exposed and seen by all people, as it was right on the other side of the food line, which was only one-sided.  The kitchen was exposed and you could see steamers, ovens and even fryers ready and waiting for when they needed it.  In the salad bar section, the greens were in view of everyone and in an open air cooler.
I see what they were doing, making the food look as good as possible from start to finish to make you see that you are getting good ingredients and everything is quality.  What was done behind the walls, in the kitchen and prep area at Old Country Buffet/Home Town Buffet was never really a secret, but we were allowed to say what we wanted and not have the customers hear or see us.  A bit more freedom was allowed overall.  I can't imagine how strict the Golden Corral must be.

As mediocre the food was turning out to be, we were hoping that the large dessert bar would save it all.  We were wrong.  Sure, there must have been 100 items on the dessert bar, but none of them were really good and none were even okay.  Well, maybe one: carrot cake.

The carrot cake is seen to the right, in this picture.  It tasted like carrots and had the simple cream cheese icing.  All was good.  Now, the bad desserts:  That red thing to the left tasted like it was supposed to be a Hawaiian Punch cake, but instead tasted like a bland cake with Hawaiian Punch leaking out that tasted as if it was left out in the sun for a few days.  It had no bite to it and just tasted awful.  When I bit into the cake and it started to leak, I first got a bit confused and then it tasted like kool

What we have here is a chocolate creme pie, a fudge brownie, a chocolate truffle with nuts on top and a chocolate pizza slice.  The chocolate creme pie didn't taste like anything.  All you tasted with the whipped cream on top.  The fudge brownie tasted like a bad version of the Little Debbie fudge brownies.  The chocolate truffle tasted like they took a small ball of the brownie and rolled it in nuts.  The chocolate pizza had a crunchy chocolate "crust" but the flavors on the top competed and had no taste other than chocolate.  Making chocolate treats is one thing, if there are other flavors or levels, not just chocolate, chocolate, chocolate.  

Overall, service (at how only the server could bring us drink refills or straws and we had to wait to start our drinks until he arrived at his own time and pace), atmosphere (how the inside was bright and shiny but the workers had not a single smile or even acknowledged anyone when said "hi" to) and the food quality (the food tasted okay or even bad in most cases), I would give this place about a 2 out of 5. 

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