This place is no stranger to me, but every time I enter, I can’t help but feel a sensation of satisfaction steadily ease into my mind, almost as if I have been put into a state of peace. After another exhausting day of school, which featured an AP Physics exam and track practice, I yearned for a safe haven that would allow me to escape the grind of everyday life. So naturally, I came here.
Greeted by the sounds of chatter and laughter, my party of five couldn’t help but smile when were first walked into the building. To our surprise, there was no waiting, despite the almost fully occupied parking lot. I confidently walked over to the cashier and made my purchase, “Your total will be $16.09,” she said to me with a nice, comforting smile as she handed me my receipt. I knew she could feel the sense of ambition radiating out of my body.
It was 7:34 pm on a Friday night, and there was no other place I would rather be. I patiently waited for the others to finish their purchases, but deep down inside I was like a child who just stepped into the gates of Disney World for the first time. My sense of excitement filled my soul and began to overflow into the rest of my body.
I looked around to observe the overall landscape. Seemingly endless buffet lines bestowed upon my eyes, filling the air with a celestial aroma. I could feel my stomach, which ached in pain and hunger, now begin to sing like a mother hummingbird. When asked to describe the atmosphere, Jake Johnston (‘17) could only say “exotic.”
I quickly rushed over to my table so I could grab a plate and begin what would be a meal of a lifetime. At first, I was rattled by the variety of selection. Oh Yeah Yeast Roll, Awesome Pot Roast, salad bar, pizza pepperoni style, grilled-to-order sirloin steak, the list goes on and on. As I struggled to maintain room on my plate and with a limited amount of room in my stomach, decisions had to be made.
For my first plate, I went with a grilled-to-order sirloin steak topped off with rice and a handmade pork taco. The steak was tender and cooked perfectly and was complemented by the juicy pork taco. I could feel the enzymes in my stomach dab on ‘em with each passing bite.
As I continued on with my meal, I began to come to a realization: Golden Corral is the embodiment of the American Dream. To phrase it differently, the customer determines the value of his/her meal. This isn’t some typical restaurant where you’re handed a menu and forced to decide between the daily special and a limited selection of meals. Golden Corral instead provides every customer with an abundant amount of food and resources so that the customer has the power of choice and freedom of expression in the capitalistic food market. The customer needs to make the right decisions and have the overall creativity to maximize their experience. So, if you ever go to Golden Corral and leave dissatisfied, then the only person to blame is yourself.
But I can assure you that on this Friday night, I and my party of five felt everything but dissatisfaction. I had plate after plate, which included food items such as hush puppies, Bourbon Street Chicken, and crisp seasoned vegetables. I wish I could tell you my favorite food item from the buffet, but that would be like asking a proud parent to pick their favorite child. Instead, I asked for the others in the group to give their opinion on what they enjoyed most. Gordon Granger (‘16) said that the popcorn shrimp was “simply magical,” while Ben Greer (‘16) really enjoyed the Bourbon Street Chicken. However, the chicken tenders really was a fan favorite. Dalton Ruh (‘16) believed that “The Sriracha Chicken Tenders was an innovative twist on your typical chicken tender.” Johnston was left in awe as he said, “The chicken tenders stood out… I think the tenders and the sauce (BBQ) is the most deadly combination of the restaurant.”
And while we were just begging to experience the state of dining nirvana, we decided it was time to put the icing on the cake. Possibly the most challenging task of eating at Golden Corral is leaving room for dessert. But going to the Corral without visiting the dessert buffet is simply treason. With no hesitation, Granger made a play for the apple pie, and after he finished his first bite a smile quickly emerged on his face.
After devouring the apple pie, he couldn’t resist to make another trip to the buffet line and returned with soft-serve vanilla ice cream topped with three cookies. Granger then wowed us all by using the cookies as a spoon for the ice cream. You see, this is the entrepreneurial and risk-taking spirit necessary to maximize your experience at Golden Corral. While Gordon did set the bar high, Johnston absolutely jumped well over it, like an Olympic pole vaulter, when he decided to get a brownie topped off with vanilla soft-served ice cream paired with Froot Loops. While he did admit later on that the Froot Loops might have been a mistake, his willingness to go beyond the norm was admirable.
Inspired by them both, I realized it was my turn to step up to the plate, and I knew exactly what to do. It’s the first thing that catches your eyes when you first step into the door. It’s the center of the Golden Corral Universe, the Holy Grail, the Grandaddy of them all. When my eyes first laid upon it, I could only help but to stare in complete admiration, watching the smooth, rich streams glisten in the light. A tear slowly began to roll down my cheek. Ah yes, the chocolate fountain. I had seen it on television and heard the rumors and fables, but there is nothing like seeing it in person. I just barely managed to spare room for dessert, but there was no way I would pass up on the opportunity of a lifetime.
I walked up and surveyed my options: strawberries, marshmallows, and Rice Crispies. I took one of each, because I could simply not make a decision. I then proceeded to put the marshmallow into the fountain and watched in absolute bewilderment as a creamy chocolate layer managed to perfectly coat itself onto the white exterior. Everyone gathered around me when I returned to the table to see the assortment of chocolate-covered goodies (and a few gummy worms to add some color).
I picked up the Rice Crispy treat, took a bite, and the rest was history. The chocolate fountain definitely lived up to the hype, and the overall meal was spectacular. The atmosphere was electric, while the service made you think that you were in a five star hotel. The server would come back frequently to check up on us and give us refills on our drinks. And it was safe to say that we left with full stomachs and rejuvenated bodies. Being located in the heart of Southside just off of South Providence Road, we had countless amounts of options to choose from for post-dinner activities, such as Putt Putt and bowling. While Golden Corral did have various arcade games, we decided against it, as they could easily tempt even the most casual gamblers into spending their entire savings.
Going to a Golden Corral should be on your bucket list. If you don’t go at least once, then you should probably ask yourself, “What am I doing with my life?” and then proceed to slap yourself across the face. But when the time comes, be ready, be prepared, and fasten your seat belt and hold on tight for an epic ride of a lifetime.
All photos by EJ Patterson.