Friday, January 29, 2010

Old Country Buffet

It happened surprisingly easily: I was driving through Factoria with an easy-earned $125 in my pocket and a growing hunger in my belly. I felt weird and dreamy and passed by the restaurants of misc Asian flavor that would usually tempt me. When my car parked, I realized I had been mysteriously guided to the Old Country Buffet in the semi-deserted Factoria Mall.

I have talked about standard all-you-can-eat buffets from a vegetarian or vegan perspective in the past: They tend to more or less suck. It is hard to feel like you get your money's worth, and the quality protein options tend to be pretty limited. In addition, the buffet also has a pretty substantial unappetizing element that includes an excessive number of people touching, breathing on and fidgeting with your food before it becomes yours.


Something about this grossness and the simplicity of the food and the all-you-can-drink soda machine (who the hell is writing this???) were really a turn-on to me today.

And so I had a very leisurely solo, all-I-could-eat grossout lunch. I started with a big salad made out of spinach, garbanzo beans, sun flower seeds, Parmesan cheese, carrots, baby corn and radishes. I foolishly dressed it (thank god very lightly), in a "light ranch," that tasted about like spermy corn syrup.

For my main course, I somehow bypassed the endless pile of joe-joes and big vat of velveeta mac and cheese, and got some smoky stewed pinto beans from the "build your own nachos" bar, with a little nacho cheese sauce on top. I was excited to see the tray of "Steamed green Cabbage," and piled that on my plate, and also got half of a perfectly crispy, buttery velveeta grilled cheese sandwich.

As somebody who is generally pretty darn saddened by food waste and unnecessary over-abundance and people of unhealthy weights and processed food and nutritional ignorance and on and on, I was feeling pretty good. In fact, the largest stress I had as I ate was a pang that something was going to run out and I wouldn't be able to get seconds if I wanted to. And even that resolved into the relaxing realization that EVERYTHING WOULD BE REFILLED and I'd feel giddy and wonderful.

Usually I am an "eat what I take" type, and often suffer from "adventurous choices" that turn out disgusting and I feel emotionally stuck with eating them as the consequence. Not so today!

By dessert time I was well into the mindset of the OCB and I took a small sample of each of the desserts that appealed to me: cheese cake, coconut cream pie, peach cobbler, hot fudge cake, brownie, apple crisp and an albino turd of soft serve to enjoy at my leisure.

I took small bites, ate what I liked, and let the rest be whisked off by the fast moving AARP senora who did a great job of discerning the active plates from the duds.

Regarding the desserts: this might have been obvious to somebody in a sensible state of mind, but the only edible desserts were the apple crisp and the ice cream. All the rest tasted like fluffed crisco or extreme artificial flavor in one form or another.

You see a lot of interesting behaviors at the Buffet:

1. Kids dipping, dragging, smearing their fingers through anything they can reach
2. Grown ladies somehow justifying to themselves that discretely (I saw you!) serving themselves the ENTIRE crust off of a communal baked dessert is reasonable
3. Grown men in suits pissed that the non-fat-sugar-free-fro-yo machine isn't working.

After my meal, I sat in my booth for some time waiting for appetite #2 to roll around, but I just got fuller and fuller as I sat there and started to get grossed out as I watched kids abusing the butterscotch pump at the soft serve station. It became clear that the magic was wearing off, and I took a timely and gracious leave.

Old Country Buffet (Bellevue) on Urbanspoon


Terrace Crawford said...

Just ran across your blog! Thought I'd say hello!
Good stuff here!

BTW, I love Old Country Buffet. We use to have one here. It closed when the economy took a nosedive.

--Terrace Crawford

Ben said...

Nice run down on a very curious eatery. You have covered much of the good and bad that this place offers. I manage to end up there about once every couple of years and it is always an interesting experience.

I agree with your assessment of the deserts. Only a small percentage of them are edible.

As an omni, I usually feel I get my moneys worth with the ever present but somewhat mysterious "Baked white fish".

I must commend you on your restraint when it comes to the general interior photo you posted. It must have been tempting to include shots of some of the pro level patrons who install themselves in those booths for half days at a time.

Radish King said...

Some day check out the all veggy all kosher afternoon buffet Pabla Cuisine in Renton across the street from Fred Meyer. AMAZING! I bet I've left this message before.

T. said...

Tofu Hunter, you are one brave woman!
And you made me laugh out loud. Ha!

Matthew and Gudrun said...

Matt is now on a hunt for OCB's slogan. It sounds like you had a good system down and your senora was probably thrilled that you had some knowledge of "the drill". What is it about OCB that draws us in, only to leave feeling empty and kind of ashamed?

Tofu Hunter said...

Terrace: Welcome! Thanks for the comment.

Ben: I saw the whitefish in question and thought of you. How funny! I think I've got to be careful about taking pictures of patrons, lest this blog turn into a "people of wallmart" type of affair.

RK: Haven't been to Pabla, but it is definitely on my list!

T: Thank you :)

Gudrun: HA! You are totally right about the full+empty feeling. I hope Matt located his slogan!