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30 Restaurants in 30 Days: Golden Corral

IMG_7935

Okay, Snarkosphere, bear with me.

When I decided to visit chain restaurants this week, I promised to myself and to you that I would approach each place with an open mind and a spirit of hopeful curiosity about the food. I vowed I would not make any facile jokes about customers strapping on the feedbag, lining up at the trough, or shuffling into the feedlot — even if I find myself in a buffet restaurant named for a livestock holding pen.

On to Golden Corral!

I was honestly curious about this restaurant, particularly the one I observed going up earlier this year in the corner of the North Dekalb Mall parking lot. There are so many nights when my wife, kids and I want to catch a 7 o’clock movie at that mall and need to eat something fast, inexpensive and reasonably healthy beforehand.

Why not Golden Corral? It was made for this situation. The cost: $11.49 for a weeknight dinner and $12.99 on weekends during the current prime rib promotion. That’s not cheap, cheap, cheap, but it’s what we would spend for a quick taco dinner, or at an Asian noodle quick service restaurant, or for a box of whatever at the Whole Foods hot bar.

IMG_7937At the Corral you buy your meals up front, find a table and present the receipt to your waiter, who will bring you water or any pre-ordered drinks. Then you’re off. Salad bar, potato bar, Asian station, wings wheelhouse, grill, bakery, soups, dessert. It took the teenager in our party about three seconds to notice the chocolate fountain, cotton candy and soft serve ice cream among the desserts.

Impressions? Impressions:

  • There are loads of families, not all of which have perfectly behaved children. Watch underfoot for dervishes.
  • The salad bar has a lot of creamy prepared items but the fresh fruit and cut veggies were in short supply when we visited at 7:30.
  • They do potatoes well. The mashing happens in house, and you can choose from  both baked regular and sweet potatoes.
  • There are several kinds of chicken wings. I liked the spicy Buffalo more than the thick-crusted fried.
  • The steamed veggies are so soft you can mash them with a fork.
  • People wait in line for steaks to come off the grill, but it takes forever. I listened to the people around me grumble to a mute grill guy but gave up.
  • Our server was kind of awesome. Really upbeat, really trying to make it feel like a special experience, even as he had to manage a huge station and routinely bring vertiginous stacks of brightly colored plastic plates heaped with semi-eaten food back to the dishwasher. “I’ll be right back with some water!” he’d call from the behind the leaning tower. I think his name was Walter.

My curiosity has now been sated. I most likely would not go back to the Golden Corral. I wasn’t looking for a memorable meal but nonetheless I couldn’t find much that personally appealed beyond the dishes mentioned about.

IMG_7934The cotton candy was fun.

- by John Kessler for the Food & More blog

63 comments Add your comment

Baltisraul......

August 15th, 2013
11:18 am

We go only for the ayce shrimp. It is fair but my wife likes it so we go!

GaPeachy

August 15th, 2013
11:27 am

I have two teenagers that both play sports so this place is a perfect for after dinner games. They eat like horses so while buffet style isn’t my favorite it gets them good and full. My only rule is we all have to eat from the salad bar for our first plate them I let them go for whatever they want as much as they want.

JDJ

August 15th, 2013
11:33 am

The Saturday breakfast serving is pretty good, if you’re not in a hurry. Not the place for a quick coffee and biscuit, save that for a drive-thru.

Atlanta Mom

August 15th, 2013
11:34 am

I like the gummy bears on the soft ice cream.

Grasshopper

August 15th, 2013
11:37 am

It must be humbling to try and get the page hits up since the MyAJC debacle.

But face it John, Marilyn Hagerty you ain’t.

Kayla

August 15th, 2013
12:09 pm

I appreciate the review! We drive past that Golden Corral all the time and my youngest in particular wants to go (he’s heard about the chocolate fountain). I wondered if the salad bar would make it worthwhile. Doesn’t sound like it! Thanks for saving me a trip.

janice

August 15th, 2013
12:36 pm

never been there for dinner. have been on sundays for breakfast after church. i have a huge phobia about buffets. last time i visited g/c on a sunday, omelet station had a tip container there. so they wanted a tip for fixing omelet, belgium waffle or other eggs and person refreshing coffee expects tip.

if g/c is place group picks for breakfast i ALWAYS look at restaurant score. just not my cup of tea.

g

August 15th, 2013
12:44 pm

this is the worst Golden Corral EVER. Too small and impossible to navigate.

just me

August 15th, 2013
1:02 pm

This is not a place I would choose on my own but my sister’s family consists of five children ages one to nineteen so often times we end up here with them at her invitation. We always have a good time when we go with them. The children having a good time is what makes it fun for us.

Rex

August 15th, 2013
2:07 pm

ITP dining rules. Those of us in the ‘burbs are stuck with independent locally sourced options.

weena

August 15th, 2013
2:11 pm

And boom, it goes all Atlanta ghetto in less than 12 comments. Where’s the fried chicken jokes?

Rick_James

August 15th, 2013
2:11 pm

@Cancer Breath

Right on target..

Rick Frisbie

August 15th, 2013
2:23 pm

Enter your comments here

Rick Frisbie

August 15th, 2013
2:31 pm

Amazing how much hatred is released over a fast food restaurant review. Try saying or doing something decent for a change. You might became a good example rather than a hate-spewing jerk.

Harold Maddox

August 15th, 2013
2:31 pm

Good Grief Folks….You cant beat it for the price. There is no way you can tell me that you were not able to find a delicious complete meal for the price. I had a Beverage, Salad, Steak, Seafood, Vegetable sides and a Dessert. Then I went back to sample for my next visit. AMAZING!!!.

Deanna

August 15th, 2013
2:35 pm

I’ve seen them advertisting prime rib at Golden Corral. How is it?

Peach

August 15th, 2013
2:47 pm

B.U.F.F.E.T Big Ugly Fat Forks Eating Together

Grasshopper

August 15th, 2013
2:50 pm

Ooohh drama! What’d I miss?

JB

August 15th, 2013
2:57 pm

Read that the AVERAGE guest consumes 3,200 calories per visit. 2 of the rolls are pushing 800. Desert bar adds another 1200….You do the math. I avoid this place….and those like them, at all cost.

JB

August 15th, 2013
3:01 pm

Average has a meaning. Grown men will consume 5000 to 6000 calories.

HERE COMES THE JUDGE

August 15th, 2013
3:02 pm

The best cook in the world…MOM! But when she comes to ATL she only want to go to one place to eat…she’s always critical of restaraunt food but her negative comments are few and fair between when we take her to the Corral…great stuff!!

I'm Hungry

August 15th, 2013
3:19 pm

It is never great but truthfully I eat more vegetables there than I would at most other restaurants. I also really like seafood salad and they always have seafood salad. The fried fish is usually pretty good. The place is usually a zoo so if you are prepared for that it helps. There is a great variety of food at an ok price.

Dorf

August 15th, 2013
3:31 pm

Really John (not that you care), there salad bar is not THAT bad, at least the 3 times I’ve been there. It may depend on when you go. I’ve been for lunch –which I think is $7.49 and is served until 4pm. They had cheeseburger sliders twice, and those were great, as good as at any fancy burger place in town! And no big lines to get those. Really, you have to go more than once to figure out the things they do well, or at least average to above. After that, a once-a-month visit or so is not a bad thing at all.

MrsW

August 15th, 2013
3:31 pm

I can’t believe a review of Golden Corral did not mention the rolls! That was the one highlight of my forced visits to Golden Corral growing up, especially with the honey butter spread.

Rick_James

August 15th, 2013
3:33 pm

There’s a reason for the steak line..It’s really good.Golden Corral is also one the few places in town where I can get good chicken livers on par with Mary Mac’s and The Colanade..

Twin Mom

August 15th, 2013
3:36 pm

We’ve eaten at this chain a few times. Only a few things I like, but don’t feel it is worth the money. Usually when we go, it’s to appease the MIL. ugh
This type of food is “great” for some, but not me and my kids. The type of people that frequent there aren’t the most cultured, but whatever. The servers are usually really nice. I wouldn’t go out of my way for this place, but it’s not terrible.

Below Average Tipper

August 15th, 2013
3:43 pm

Sorry, Grasshopper. You missed all the action. It was quick and ugly.
That mop bucket over there with the Wet Floor sign next to it is holding what’s left of a guy calling himself “Buffet Bandit.”

Gus

August 15th, 2013
3:44 pm

Isn’t there a minimum weight limit to enter? Also, doesn’t the dress code require denim shorts?

Ziza

August 15th, 2013
3:46 pm

There are in fact a few things done well and it is a fun experience. Their chocolate pie is absolutely delish and the DH and I split it so not too many calories imbibed there.Once you learn your way around, you’re good to go. Lots of healthy choices and you have a little of the not so healthy. Perfectly fine.

Mark

August 15th, 2013
3:46 pm

Thanks for the warning. I went past this establishment nearly every other day when it was being built and prayed it wasn’t going to be another bad food restaurant.

My hopes were shattered when saw “Coming Soon! Golden Corral!”

Then the enormous and eye-searing digital sign went up: “Chocolate Fountain!” “Prime Rib!” “Rivers of Ketchup Pouring Over French Fries!” That greasy, queasy feeling came over me.

Yet one night I thought to myself, “I’m in a hurry, maybe I should check it out.” Maybe there’s some fresh veggies and other healthy stuff to eat.” So I pulled into the parking lot, looked at the familiar steakhouse signage… and kept driving – to the buffet at the DeKalb Farmers’ Market.

Thanks again.

Jan

August 15th, 2013
3:47 pm

Aren’t buffets full of germs?

BIG JOHN

August 15th, 2013
3:47 pm

Love your writing. I was wondering if you have heard of a tradition that my wife and I started 30 years ago. We ALWAYS celebrate our anniversary with a meal at the waffle house. Ok, lets set the record straight, I can easily afford ANY resturant. We just wanted a simple, no pressure meal where we
can concentrate on our celebration. WE have never had a BAD meal or BAD service and of course
it’s always under $20. SO, laugh if your want…we always leave relaxed and happy !

JayDubu

August 15th, 2013
3:53 pm

Peach,

That just ain’t right!! L-O-L!!!!

My Three Cents

August 15th, 2013
4:05 pm

This is a great place for lunch. Nobody is forcing anybody to eat the rolls and the pizza (which is very good). They have a spinach, onion, and strawberry salad that is so delicious. Vegetables and fresh fruits are abundant there and the baked fish is wonderful. They serve also serve real ice cream to finish the meal. For $7.48, it is well worth the money and I don’t have to worry about eating supper. This restaurant is too small for the crowds. I hope it relocates in some vacant space in the mall.

Betty J.

August 15th, 2013
4:15 pm

“I most likely would not go back to the Golden Corral.” John, I generally love your reviews and try to always read your column. I’ve enjoyed going to some of the places you’ve recommended. But really, that statement just leaves me cold. Was it that important for you to emphasize that you were just slumming? :-( And if that’s all you are doing in the chain restaurants, how exactly is that helpful to us common folk? Disappointed.

BKS

August 15th, 2013
4:21 pm

I have eaten at the one in Cumming once, and it was fabulous! I also visited the one on Barrett Pkwy with my elderly grandparents, but it was not as nice and the food wasn’t as good. I’m not a fan of the AYCE buffet because I always see kids playing in the food and it kinda grosses me out. I went to the one in Cumming when it was new (it was a few years ago), and it was excellent and VERY clean.

Tim James

August 15th, 2013
4:37 pm

Deadbeat parents go here and let their kids run wild. Not uncommon to see small running children slamming into adults but they keep on going, no apology. I make sure I walk to and from the buffet with both eyes open, ready to mow over any kid stupid enough to get in my path.

DrexelGal

August 15th, 2013
4:42 pm

If you are a senior (60+), the buffet costs $7.41 (in Cobb County), and that includes a drink and tax.I do like the food here, since I was raised in poverty, and still consider roast beef a “delicacy”. You are right about the children. Most are products of neglectful families. Sometime, I will shoot video of a typical evening at my local Golden Corral. It will be TRUE “reaility TV”.

honest honey

August 15th, 2013
4:43 pm

@John Kessler and all the other haters out there. For your information, your negative comments about this location goes right out the window. The lines would not be so long if the food was that bad…..everyone I know whose been to this particular location has given rave reviews. So I don’t know what rock you crawled from to get to the North Dekalb location but I suggest you crawl back under. Have a blessed day and do not visit again….If it is that bad….GOSH!!!

'burbsorbust

August 15th, 2013
4:55 pm

JK..While you are hitting the chains, please visit a Mellow Mushroom, then tell me i’m not the only one who gets half interested, i’m wasting his/her time, rude service from an unsanitary, stoned-out-of-his-mind, dreadlocked hobo on his cell phone. Pizza is tasty though.

biscuit

August 15th, 2013
4:57 pm

It is what it is. You were expecting Rays or Chops? I have no words.

Takeout

August 15th, 2013
5:00 pm

And to guess how many millions of starving people throughout the world would think they have died and gone to heaven to have this food available to them any day of the week. And we discuss if the food is good or bad. We have it way to good.

Art

August 15th, 2013
5:12 pm

@Betty J, I’m confused… Did you mean to say that JK should always review a place positively even when he doesn’t really care for it? I didn’t think he was “slumming” at all; he went, he saw, he tasted and he doesn’t want to go back. What’s wrong with that? When my children were younger, we used to go to a Ryan’s near us. The “R” on the big sign out front was always on the blink so we called the place “Yan’s”. We knew what we were getting before we even walked thru the front doors and because of that, we were rarely disappointed for the price and my kids loved the soft serve ice cream. Every now and then, it’s kind of fun to go somewhere and sample a bunch of different dishes, even if they are reminiscent of a TV dinner.

Dorf

August 15th, 2013
5:24 pm

Art and Betty: JK made the point that he’s only going to these places once. Fair enough. But he’s also said, repeatedly, that for his “real” reviews, he goes to a restaurant multiple times. So when he says “I won’t go back”, you have to take it with the proverbial grain of salt. Forget that it’s Golden Corral — for any restaurant, there is no way for him to know for sure if his criticisms (or compliments) are accurate, based on only one visit.

Steve

August 15th, 2013
5:30 pm

I think their fried chicken some the best I’ve had and I’m picky. Their grilled chicken livers are also great. No complaints from me on the salad bar either. Something for everyone. I disagree with your assessment. I’ve only gone there for lunch but I’m always happy.

Art

August 15th, 2013
5:32 pm

@Dorf, all good points although I’m well aware of how “real” restaurant reviews are constructed and at the same time I don’t think a “real review” of Golden Corral would be much different no matter the number of visits. If it quacks like a duck, walks like a duck and looks like a duck, it’s probably… a duck… and not every one likes duck… plain and simple.

John Kessler

August 15th, 2013
8:33 pm

Hey, Betty J. – I might have softened it a bit and made it clearer that I wasn’t going back to this specific place in my neighborhood, but we all do this, right? Go a restaurant once and think, “Nope, not for me.” I definitely was not slumming; as I said I honestly was curious to see if the Corral would be usable for me. I could tell after one visit that it wasn’t. Now, if I’m on a road trip and it’s the best game in town, of course I’ll go. It’s not like I’m turning up my nose at the place. But I need food that appeals a bit more to me.
Again, I’m just making one visit and drawing an impression, not writing a full review with multiple visits and a full exploration of the menu. (Thanks, Art, for pointing that out for me.
I hope it came through that I would indeed go back to some of the other chains I’ve written about.

John Kessler

August 15th, 2013
8:34 pm

Big John – Love it. We’ve been known to celebrate birthdays and anniversaries at a cheapie taqueria we love.

John Kessler

August 15th, 2013
8:36 pm

Honest Honey — thanks for your opinion. YOu have a blessed day, too.

John Kessler

August 15th, 2013
8:58 pm

My Three Cents – I should have tried the scooped ice cream. The soft serve was a lot grainier and less tasty than that at Dairy Queen.