Gorge Like A Pro At All You Can Eat Buffets

Eating The Road has posted THE definitive guide to maximizing your all-you-can eat buffet experience. From types of buffets, to pre-game preparations, to inter-diner tactics, to post-game, everything you need to know about pigging your friggin’ brains out like a pro is here. A sampling:

It is a good idea to get in a nice workout prior to the meal as well. This is a great way to get your metabolism running at full speed and burn off some calories that you’ll surely be adding right back up. I recommend a large amount of cardio exercise preferably running, biking or swimming….

It is acceptable to go around slow diners as long as there is room on the other side and you will not be needing to reach back towards the skipped individual. A powerful technique here can be the “accidental” elbow bump in order to encourage them to move on. It is also important to steel yourself from others use of this maneuver….

I try to allot a large portion of my meal to high cost items, while sampling things that look tasty and also making sure that I get to those items that I know and love….

You’ll want to be sure that you have to further commitments for at least 3 hours and preferably the remainder of the day….

Are you an all you can eat aficionado? What tactics and etiquettes do you follow to get the most out of your smorgasboard?

The All-Inclusive All-You-Can-Eat Buffet Guide [Eating The Road] (Photo: Bryan Maleszyk)

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  1. zigziggityzoo says:

    Always go for the carved meats, and avoid the steaks.

  2. tomok97 says:

    In college we used to raid these palces. Our best manuever was arriving about half-an-hour before dinner. That way you could eat the lunch menu AND the dinner menu. Plus, lunch was typically cheaper so you get more options for less money.

    I now weigh 640lbs and have Type 19 Diabetes…but it was worth it. :)

    • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

      @tomok97: Type 19 diabetes? OK, there is Type 1 and Type 2. The number does not increase with severity.

    • lmarconi says:

      @tomok97: Yeah this totally reminds me of the all-you can eat college dining hall and high school after school trips to hometown buffet. I used to think the guys who had competitions to see who could eat the most plates were hilarious…they’re probably paying for it now though.

      • nbs2 says:

        @lmarconi: It depends on how often there were competitions, and what they competed with. For example, I learned that I could hold 132 oz of OJ/choc milk/skim milk no problem. I could even get to 137. But, at that point, if someone tells you not to bring it back up, you will.

        I don’t think I suffered after-effects. I suppose it could have happened if I had stayed on campus after my freshman year, though.

      • varro says:

        @lmarconi: The all-you-can-eat college dining hall was balanced out by my dorm being a 20-minute walk from campus, walking between classes, intramural sports, and exercising on my own.

        • LadySiren is murdering her kids with HFCS and processed cheese says:

          @varro: We once took some of our fellow collegians who hailed from England (exchange students) to an all-you-can-eat buffet. They thought they’d died, gone to food heaven. One guy was a rugby player, very slim with a high metabolism. The servers kept giving us the hairy eyeball because he took plate after plate after plate of food, and actually ate all of it.

          The guys talked about it for weeks afterwards, in these hushed tones of awe. But then again, they also marveled at the fact that we could hit the local Denny’s at 3 AM for pancakes. Oh yes, they also loved Taco Bell’s food like it was manna from heaven.

      • The Meathead says:

        @lmarconi: AFTER-school trips to Hometown Buffet?

        Amateurs.

  3. John says:

    I tend to take the approach of taking relatively light plates back to the table and making several trips. I also tend to minimize the consumption of obvious filler like rice and potatoes unless they are quite exceptional.

    This works very well for me at a Japanese buffet I frequent a few times a year.

  4. UGAdawg says:

    I used to love the buffet. I still love a good seafood buffet with crab legs but as of late I get turned off by them. I guess I’ve seen too many handles go into the food. Depending on where you go sometimes it can feel like eating at the trough.

    • Ihaveasmartpuppy says:

      @UGAdawg: Exactly. I can’t do buffets, too gross for me. Besides, aren’t regular restaurant portions big enough (actually too big) for most people?

  5. umbriago says:

    The meal itself will certainly be a few hours. – what? Spend a few hours in a buffet? Dear God.

    Exit strategy: Leave a tip and waddle out.

  6. h3llc4t, breaker of office dress codes says:

    I love buffets not because I can eat a lot, but because of the variety. I take just a tiny amount of a ton of things. Once in a blue moon I’ll go back for a full plate of the ones I really loved. I’m always hesitant to eat the crab legs at the local $8.99 a head Chinese buffet; they’re very popular and the place must still be making money off of them, so what kind of crab am I eating, exactly?

  7. The Porkchop Express says:

    Rule 1: don’t talk about all you can eat

    Rule 2: Mashed pots and Mac&Cheese are last trip items.

    Rule 3: not sure what it is, but it smells good? take one.

    Rule 4: try not to stare at the giant guy that is, oddly, eating way less than you.

    Rule 5: Try not to stare at that guy half your size that is, oddly, eating twice what you are.

    Rule 6: if this is your first all you can eat, you HAVE to eat.

  8. SPENCERG says:

    Good grief- the author of this article has spent a meticulous amount of time strategizing their buffet eating experience!!

  9. sirwired says:

    I’m completely baffled as to why you would want to specifically fill up on high-cost items. Wouldn’t it make more sense to fill up on the items that are tastiest to you? Why gratuitously fill up on, say, crab legs at a seafood buffet if maybe something like honey-glazed salmon is your favorite? Yeah, the guy that eats five helpings of crab legs costs the restaurant more money, but if you prefer the salmon, you’ll be happier eating what you enjoy.

    You’re eating a meal, not buying a mutual fund here. Your criteria should be tastiness and satisfaction, not ingredient cost.

    SirWired

  10. Oranges w/ Cheese says:

    I love showing off my mad icecream cone skills at buffets.
    I spent a summer at camp (they had a cafeteria with a soft-serve machine) learning how to make super tall amazing cones.

  11. kyle4 says:

    I have a tendency to go for the most expensive stuff first to “repay the cost of going there”. We usually go to the Mandarin and I immediately start devouring the sushi. As someone who doesn’t eat a lot my method is to not eat the entire day and walk around a bit to exercise.

    • Jubes says:

      @kyle4: That’s my method for the Mandarin too, except with stretch pants! I am the worst buffet eater, I fail every time. It’s kind of a waste for me to go there but they have awesome waffles lol.

    • blueneon says:

      @kyle4: I’m not a sushi eater, but does it not cause any concern to eat raw fish at a (usually low-priced) buffet setting? I see it sitting out and I wonder how long it has been sitting there.

  12. Kishi says:

    The disclaimer on that post is pretty entertaining.

  13. albokay says:

    im gonna try the cardio route b4 hitting the all you can eat sushi place. Last time I put down five 8 piece rolls. Im going for 6!!!

  14. Outrun1986 says:

    I don’t do buffets anymore (very bad experience at a chinese buffet, lets not say anything else about that). But if you are doing one find one that starts at breakfast. Get there at the end of breakfast, you pay the breakfast price. You can make it through lunch and the beginning of dinner if you are careful and if the place is crowded. This works well at casino buffets.

    I would go for the foods you like the most, but you might want to skip everyday filling things like Mac & Cheese, pizza, rice and potatoes or at least save those till the end. I find it kind of pointless to fill up on high cost items if that is not what you like to eat, but if you like it go for it.

    • h3llc4t, breaker of office dress codes says:

      @Outrun1986: We had one of those experiences too. That location is now known as “The Home of the Doody Crab.”

    • Wombatish says:

      @Outrun1986: Oh man, Casino Buffets…

      I am -so- glad I’m going to Vegas soon because my mouth is now watering.

      The good ones are -so good-. They actually cook and will take requests and such!

      And you can usually get it comped if you win (or lose!) enough! Added bonus.

  15. larrymac thinks testing should have occurred says:

    When I worked in an office, our group would occasionally head to the Chinese buffet place, which we affectionately christened “The Trough.” (When a newer place opened, we called it “The New Trough”, but eventually it lost the “new” and the old place was forgotten.)

    Anyway, one of my cow-orkers got visibly angry with me for choosing some tater tots from the vast selection. He was upset that I’d be taking a low value item instead of something more costly. But I liked the tater tots. After the first incident, I’d take the tots just to piss him off.

  16. theblackdog says:

    This is hilarious, and I’m going to have to try some of this out the next time I go hit a buffet.

    BTW, I did learn for the first time a month ago that Cici’s pizza buffet is the kind of place you take your kids for pizza if they’re going to eat a lot of it and haven’t picked up on how much pizza quality can vary.

  17. balthisar says:

    Ugh. I avoid buffets like the plague. If I were to be forced to eat at a buffet, though, I’d eat what I like rather than targeting something specific due to the ingredient cost. That makes no sense.

  18. OnefinFinn says:

    After high school track practice we would head to Ponderosa’s $4.99 all you can eat fried seafood and sundae bar.We would then go into the parking lot and punch each other in the gut.The first person whose stomach blinked would have to pay for everyone.Combine that with the above tips and you have something fun to do on Friday night.

  19. There's room to move as a fry cook says:

    When I’m pigging out I half expect the management to cut me off and say “I’m sorry, but that’s all you can eat.”

    • RecordStoreToughGuy_RidesTheWarpOfSpaceIntoTheWombOfNight says:

      @IfThenElvis: Then he’d end up in court, like Captain McAllister.

      “Does that sound like the actions of a man who had all he could eat!?”

  20. Scoobatz says:

    I hate buffets. There, I said it. For the most part, I don’t think you get your money’s worth and the food choices are generally lousy and poorly prepared. Plus, I don’t see the need to eat until I’m ready to puke.

    And, when I do go out for dinner, I would much rather spend my money on items that are generally not offered or prepared the way I would want in a buffet.

  21. Khuluna says:

    My strategy is don’t eat breakfast, and have copious amounts of marijuana after a light snack.

    ENJOYMENT SUCCEEDED

  22. TheLemon says:

    After reading this “how to” guide, the last thing I want to do is eat.

    “The point here is to get home and into a comfortable environment as soon as possible. Ask you server if it is alright if you may take a cookie, brownie or ice cream cone to go with you and employ this tactic. Sweet in hand, return to your table and leave a tip, I recommend $1 per hour per diner. Now exit gracefully as the triumphant buffet master that you are. You should have the closest possible parking spot to the exit and be able to waddle right to your car.”

  23. mikesfree says:

    Tip: Avoid buffets at all costs.

  24. vdragonmpc says:

    My fraternity brothers and I were tossed out of a buffet in Myrtle Beach. It was a travesty. Ate the place to the foundations the poor lady came out and told us we had been there long enough. Sadly some were still on a tear eating ribs and crab legs.

    What made it worse? Eating the contest steak dinner down there. It is a real bad thing when 4 tables order the ‘death steak’ and all 4 ask the manager what they have for desert and are there any more rolls? We were banned from there. Guy claimed we were professional eaters or something. No we were just college guys on beach week. heh. I could never pull that off today.

  25. CapitalC says:

    Just remember…

    “You don’t win friends with salad.”

  26. TravisL says:

    “Buffet” is French for “food others have sneezed on.” Eating it will build your immune system.

  27. cash_da_pibble says:

    I am going to Vegas in a couple of weeks, and am looking forward to getting my money’s worth from the mega buffets they have to offer.
    Reading this article was like a refersher course on how to do it right- since I only Buffet maybe once a year- usually IN VEGAS.

  28. bohemian says:

    I generally avoid most buffets because they have the trough quality and atmosphere. A surprisingly good Chinese buffet opened up in town. Eventually the trailer trash set discovered it and would seemingly make a contest of running for the crab legs. They would put out crab legs, the chubby rats would scurry over, load plates and scurry back to their tables. The last time we were there people were loitering around the end of one buffet line waiting for more crab to be brought out.

    The food quality went down drastically I am guessing to make up for what they were losing on the crab gluttons.

    I still want to hit up one of the better Vegas buffets.

  29. cmdrsass says:

    File this in the “Ruining it for Everyone” category.

  30. bfwebster says:

    Back in high school (40 years ago in east San Diego County), one of our football team boosters ran a buffer restaurant (“Sir George’s Smorgasborg”). Once a year, during football season, he’d invite the entire varsity football team to a free dinner there. We’d usually wipe out the place, leaving scraped-clean serving bins in our wake. I think he got a kick out of having no food left at the end of the evening.

    A few years later, as a young starving college student, I used to stop in Las Vegas (which lay between my home town and my alma mater) and consume mass quantities at one of the casino buffets. Pretty good food, too (at least to a still-skinny young man).

    I largely avoided buffets thereafter. However, in the last four years or so, when my wife and I visit her mom and stepdad, they usually take us out to dinner at a Golden Corral buffet. The food actually isn’t bad, but it’s not a place I’d choose to go on my own. ..bruce..

  31. bishophicks says:

    When my wife was in grad school, she and her friends referred to eating at a buffet as “filter feeding” (the way certain whales eat – essentially swimming around with your mouth open). They also referred to eating more expensive items as “maximizing their buffet dollar.”

    All buffets aren’t terrible. Some can be terrific (there’s a Japanese place a few town’s over that is amazing). That being said, I think the two worst dining experiences I’ve had were at buffet restaurants. Nothing makes a memory like rotten, smelly bacon.

    My main strategy is to go early or late (arrive at 11:45 or 1:15 for a lunch buffet for example), walk the whole buffet to see everything before picking up a plate, and get a little of everything that looks good. I also try to skip whatever meal preceeds the trip to the buffet so I can over eat a bit without guilt.

  32. Carlee says:

    I don’t particularly like buffets, but my family does. My parents, especially, load up on seafood. Never had a problem with food poisoning (knock on wood).

    The only problem, though, is that they pile their first plates up high. And it takes them forever to get through the first plate but they can’t possibly just eat one plate! So they end up quite stuffed.

    I personally like to put only a few items on the plate – and go back for more trips. Having so much food piled on a plate is a bit unappetizing. Plus, more exercise in between plates :)

    And definitely go for the more expensive, or more special, items. Though I will admit that one place had great seasoned french fries…

  33. alshultz says:

    And most importantly visit a buffet that always has a lot of patrons. Once I was traveling with family and we pulled into a chinese buffet to find we were the only ones the parking lot. The place smelled like it had roaches and everything looked a day old. Once we started to leave without even sitting down the owner pleaded with us and told us they were making fresh stuff in the back if we would just wait :/

  34. do-it-myself says:

    I’ve been to my share of magnificant and deplorable buffets. From my experience, Chinese/Asian Buffets are the absolute best. Those with Mongolian grills are on the top of my list. I went to Hometown Buffet a few months ago for the first and last time. It was a combination of the so-so food and the crazy patrons. At the local HB, I had to get my own drinks, which was fine….but only ONE item was worth eating. Some Hawaiian BBQ chicken. One problem, it went FAST and was never refilled as often as it needed to be. I’ve never felt so gross within a buffet.

    The local Chinese Buffet, although it didn’t have crab legs (which is something I always expect during dinner in such a place), every item and the grill made up for it. I always get a bowl of soup first, then I sample each and every tasty item. Then I prepare a plate for the grill, then I sample more items, then I go back for what I REALLY like, then I get ice cream. This is essentially my usual rotation.

    I love buffets for their numerous food choices, but I loathe them for their somewhat rampant and unsanitary atmospheres….but in the end my stomach wins. I try not to go too often (usually twice a month at the most so I can keep my boyish figure). I have actually been trying to eat less nowadays…

  35. zzxx says:

    Are there any more ‘all you can drink’ bars in NYC? I remember one on 75th & 1st that would give you all of the beer you can guzzle on Wednesday night for $10.00. I was so wrecked, really wrecked. I would stay there until closing (4 am) and somehow stagger back to my apartment. I would be out of work on Thursday and barely make it in on Friday. Then I would go out on Friday night again and get wrecked but for more money.

    I loved those years (89 – 92). I loved the all you can drink bar. They made their money from girls who thought they could drink $10 worth of beer. Where is there an all you can drink bar?

  36. thereisn0try says:

    Japanese buffets are serious business for my dad. They get mad when you skip the rice and just eat the fish off of the sushi, because then you’re not getting full as fast and thus they lose money. So he’s taken to hiding all of the little clumps of rice in a napkin while he gorges on the fish.

  37. LucindaJobnick says:

    Is this post written for people who feel that normal restaurant portions are too small? Seriously?

    Here’s what I think when I hear the word buffet: Hoards of obese sweaty people in sweatpants. Shrimp, crab, and beef imported from China or maybe North Korea. The only way these places can stay in business is to buy the cheapest, lowest-quality food available. This is what you want to put into your body?

    The owners of these places aren’t stupid – they know a large portion (heh) of their customers will eat 47 pounds of shrimp each. So if they’re still making a profit on this, what does that tell you about the quality of the shrimp?

  38. 3skr1mad0r says:

    There is no shortage of buffet places here in San Antonio which may be why we are one of the fattest cities in America.
    I’m actually kind of grossed out by this article. The only reason we ever go to “Heifer Heaven” is so the kids can choose what they want to eat. We make sure they choose a few healthy options along with the normal junk kids like.
    Our family just doesn’t eat in quantities to make the cost worth it. The quality at most of these places surely doesn’t make up for it either, not to mention the atmosphere of sitting across from people who are so fat they sweat butter.

  39. bbagdan says:

    Has no one mentioned going to the bathroom a few times and vomiting so you can continue eating?

  40. Jeremy82465 says:

    @Kimaroo – Fortified with Kittydus Purrularis: As John Pinette so wisely said: “Salad isnt food, salad is the promise that food will be arriving soon.”

  41. MostlyHarmless says:

    @Kimaroo – Fortified with Kittydus Purrularis: What? That thing has no lettuce??

    Darn. That explains it.

  42. pop top says:

    @Kimaroo – Fortified with Kittydus Purrularis: You call yours a garbage disposal too? :D

  43. jackbishop says:

    I realize this article is in no small part a joke, but, damn, if you have to work that hard, it takes all the fun out of the buffet.

  44. mazzic1083 says:

    @heltoupee: Haha is that logic like “Well instead of refilling those lazy bastards we’ll make them get up off their glutonous behinds and get their own drinks?” I like it!

  45. thisisasignin says:

    @heltoupee:
    Beverages just fill you up anyway.

  46. Kimaroo - 100% Pure Natural Kitteh says:

    @GitEmSteveDave_OverSleptThisMorn: I’ll have the breadsticks..

    …OMG….the breadsticks…

  47. ngoandy says:

    @Trai_Dep: Keeping your children in your orbit is the poor man’s leash.

  48. Copper says:

    @Trai_Dep: You’re describing my boyfriend. He fits this description to a T. And he’s only 21…

  49. shalegac says:

    @UCLAri: Mr. Brimley’s plan is to use Liberty Medical to convince the masses that only large quantities of oatmeal can help TYPE 19.

  50. StanTheManDean says:

    @UCLAri:

    With Free Shipping.

  51. ospreyguy says:

    @pecan 3.14159265: Oh, and can you eat your own pompous ass as well?

  52. subtlefrog says:

    @Kimaroo – Fortified with Kittydus Purrularis: BF is the garbage disposal, too. It always shocks friends, even those who know him well, how much he can eat. It is impressive.

    As a vegan, it’s rare I find an all-you-can eat that is worth the money, but when I do, look out. I make it a point to make sure I eat like I haven’t eaten this century. Like this past weekend. I was still full on Monday. I think my belly is still not 100% recovered…

  53. mon0zuki says:

    @ospreyguy: I hope that was meant to be a joke.

    If it wasn’t, that was -totally- unnecessary. :/

  54. MostlyHarmless says:

    @subtlefrog: Maybe all the extra abdominal weight put extra weight on your collarbone?

  55. subtlefrog says:

    @MostlyHarmless: Hey now.

    Actually, the collar bone thing has been since before the swine hit.

  56. JulesNoctambule says:

    @varro: This is my favourite Simpsons reference so far in this post.

  57. DangerMouth says:

    @econobiker: Eat Desert First!

    I totally get that.

  58. proskills says:

    @dragonfire81: About adults and the child menu… Restaurants generally lose money (or make significantly less) on the kid’s menu and would prefer that only happens when kids are around.

  59. dragonfire81 says:

    @proskills: How in the heck can they be losing money by selling less food than an adult portion?

  60. The Porkchop Express says:

    @nbs2: You can’t just “argue” that you ate your veggies…you DID eat your veggies.