Sure, I could’ve chosen a quality multi-course Thanksgiving dinner at a nice restaurant. OR, I could spend the most celebrated meal of the year at a place more in line with my sense of self-worth: the Golden Corral buffet.
For those who don’t have a local Golden Corral restaurant, Golden Corral is a comprehensive buffet that serves 150+ items for <$20. I’d never been before this Thursday, but even I’d understood that Golden Corral isn’t known for the quality of its food. My local Golden Corral has two stars on Yelp. One reviewer, confused, just asks “how is this place still in business?”
I’d overheard people trashing an ad for Thanksgiving at Golden Corral—the regular menu plus the classics like carved ham, sweet potato casserole, turkey, and more—the week before. The general question was what kind of sad creature would spend their Thanksgiving at Golden Corral by choice?
And that’s when I knew where I was going to eat on Thursday. I suggested it to Mom—every year, the two of us try out different Thanksgiving restaurant options—who thought it was a great deal.
Mom: But you’re sure you don’t want to go somewhere nicer? They are more than $40, but we can still go.
Me: No. I want this.
Mom: Golden Corral does make more sense. Turkey tastes bad. Why pay so much for it?
I hear people lament that the spirit of Thanksgiving is reveling in the company of your loved ones, which is lost to glorifying excess and overindulgence. I ask, why can’t it be both? It’s so much more entertaining.
The line into Golden Corral was insane. It wound around itself four times and snaked out of the restaurant. I hadn’t expected a line at all; I’d thought only small families ate out on Thanksgiving. Granted, noon was primetime, but the crowd didn’t diminish throughout the couple of hours we stayed.
Looking around at my fellow diners, I noticed the sweatpants and distasteful expressions of a population that just didn’t care. I was easily the happiest-looking person there, which, given my chronic RBF, says a lot.
Golden Corral really was the move, though. Keep an open mind—there’s hardly anything you can do at a traditional Thanksgiving that you can’t do at Golden Corral.
Things You Can Do At Golden Corral, Too
I employed Buffet Good Practices. I a) surveyed the scene and loitered around stations to make some truly strange eye contact with a chef, b) sampled a little of everything to exercise portion control, and c) nullified b) by constantly going back for more anyway.
To Golden Corral’s credit, Mom and I were pleasantly surprised by the food. It really wasn’t bad, especially the ham, sweet potato casserole, and fried shrimp. I imagine the Yelp photos naturally looked disgusting because it’s hard to arrange aesthetic self-served plates.
2. Glimpse more of the human condition than you’d like.
It was like the revolving door of the depths of humanity. People came alone. With their spouse. With their entire extended family. Toddlers crammed pizza slices into their faces. An old man, clearly drunk, griped about his steak to a waitress, who smiled and told him “that’s the magic of buffets! You don’t have to eat anything you don’t want to!” He thought over this and nodded, turning back to his mashed potatoes.
3. Argue about politics.
No reason you have to destroy relationships across the dinner table; you can viciously attack your loved ones’ worldviews at a booth, too.
All for $15.99.
An appropriate closer to the buffet experience, I spent a good few minutes in the bathroom—or more, or less, as time there seemed to lose all meaning—trying not to retch into a Golden Corral toilet. I swore off overeating. And then, in true Thanksgiving spirit, went on to eat at another buffet the very next day.
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