All You Can Eat

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UK / British visitors guide to OrlandoThese terms used by Restaurants may be confusing...

Entree - the main dish of a meal.

'a la carte' - separate dishes with different prices.

Buffet - An island unit filled with salads, potatoes etc & deserts.

All-you-can-eat - Return to the Buffet as often as you want after buying an entree.

All-you-can-eat Breakfast -
No entree to buy just dig in to a huge selection from the Buffet.

See Eatin-out for hints & tips...

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Eatin Out - All You Can Eat

Not really seen in the U.K. to this degree... This form of Restaurant will become a major part of your holiday, especially if you have a family.
Also know as All You Care to Eat or just Buffet Dining.

There are many, many of these establishments - The main concept for Lunch & Dinner is that you buy some combination of main course or an empty plate and then go to a series of Buffet Bars... and help yourself.

Breakfasts are an open buffet. Usually the only thing you will order is an Omelette and that is only to ensure it is as fresh and fluffy as possible.

It's wonderful, but you would be amazed as to how different it feels and how uncomfortable you can get about how it all works.

First things first - Watch out for coupons giving a free breakfast, kids eat free etc. Not just in low season, there are summer specials to tempt you in.

Kids just go mad, once they get the idea and loose any inhibitions, running around loading up with chicken nuggets mainly. Adults though need some extra help.

You will see people starring blankly at menus before they order, after they order and when they leave, trying to figure it out 'after the event'... They also sit with this empty plate before them not knowing quite what to do. Waiters seem to drift past with a smirk sometimes unable to explain to you what to do next, you know that these people are Brits...

Lets take you through two similar, yet different, places and give you an idea of how it works.

No special preference given or harsh criticism intended. They both have many more good points than bad, both are excellent value for money and both serve 3 meals a day, every day...

Evening Meal and Breakfast

Ponderosa for an Evening Meal -

At Ponderosa you buy a main course item, Steak, Chicken, Fish etc. Called an Entrée, with potatoes or rice and are then given a plate to take selections from the buffet.

As you enter a Ponderosa you are presented with a menu of entrées  
and here you try to decide what you want as the main part of your meal.
Note -  Kids older than 6 and under 10 can just buy the Buffet and don't have to have the entrée. This allows them to just choose what they want. Under 5's each eat free when an adult pays for one meal.

If you order steak you will be asked as to how you want it cooked. There is a photo chart showing various stages of cooking and you can pick from this if you are not sure where rare ends and medium begins.

Ordering over, you move to a waiting area from where your waiter or waitress will escort you to a table. There will be a moment or two of fluster while they set out the table before you and ask what you want to drink. Standard stuff here, cola, fizzy orange, 7-Up are referred to as 'sodas'. Ice tea is good but not sweet, it's way too sweet...

You should get some instruction as to what to do next but I have never heard it said slow enough to get a grasp on it. Plus, they will usually only say it to the party 'leader'. If you are new to this or in your early days of a first USA visit, you may catch one or two words but not the meaning. 

It is from this point onward that you see tables of 'obvious' Brits sitting looking sheepish and confused. You have been deserted and left with a drink and an empty plate... What now?

Well, you take the plate to the buffet and try to fit on as much as you can. You start all shy and embarrassed right up until you come across something you really like. With me it's always the ability to mix Blue Cheese and Thousand Island dressing over a salad crammed with tiny tomatoes and croutons.

After you have filled your plate, you look up and realize that that was just one bar... There are others. Chicken bits, Mexican, Italian, Breads it just goes on and on.

Back to the table and with the same amazed smile that every new AYCE user has, you tuck in. Happy in the fact that you will go back and get more in a minute.

After about 30 -45 minutes you will be given a plate containing the entrée you ordered.

Ah, forgot about that... Remember how you ordered that huge steak that you would never be able to afford back home. Well, now you have to eat it...

Just take your time. At this point you realize that eating here for you and your kids is a different experience. They have either moved on to unlimited ice cream with Oreo Cookie bits or are so tired and full that they can't even speak.

Still, you battle on and finish most of your steak!

Hmm - Desert. What a selection... How do they ever expect you to eat all this. Well, they don't and don't try to. Plan your next trip. Pick what you like, and in small amounts...

You may feel that you are being hurried to leave after about an hour of being here. You can stay as long as you want and order as many drinks and get as much from the buffet as you like. The staff though do seem to have a good idea when you have had enough.

Tipping - As with all US restaurants, tipping is part of the staffs pay - so be nice!

What have we learned from this experience?

Starve everybody, all day long... Not easy to do when every day is packed with ever more yummy things. But seriously, eat big at breakfast, graze for lunch and eat lazily at night. If you are spending your stay in a Hotel, you don't want to spend hours staring at each other, so use your evening meal as a wind-down, fill-up time and try and get the kids back to the Hotel just before they collapse.

It's another day of walking round theme parks tomorrow... At least it's exercise!

Breakfast at The Golden Corral -

Note Orlando Restaurants only currently have Breakfast at the weekend

The reason for doing these two this way around is that Breakfast is a much more informal affair. We have eaten at various establishments for Breakfast and they almost all have a similar easy format.

Golden Corral certainly seem to have cornered the market on having the biggest buffet islands that I have ever seen...

Before you enter, check to see if you have any coupons. You do keep your coupon books in the car? (or in the wife's shoulder bag, sorry dear!). Expect kids younger than 10 to eat free. If you haven't got a coupon or don't see an advert then just ask. You have been here a few days now... Be bold.

Here, you just buy admission and then pick up a plate. The only thing you 'order' here is an omelet cooked to your liking. Bacon, sausage, eggs, lot's of different types and some amazing combinations that may blow your mind.

Among the strangest but easily palatable is to mix sweet and savoury...
Try pancakes or waffles with hash browns and lot's of bacon drowned in maple syrup.

Stranger to our palate -
You may stumble at biscuits (look like scones, but taste more like doughy bread) and gravy (a kind of white sauce with a slight taste of something else. Basically it's a mushroom & sausage soup type thing). The way to eat this it to pour the gravy over a biscuit and sausage and tuck in. Very Southern.

Checkout the yellow gritty looking stuff too. This is 'Grits', a courser corn grind than corn meal. If you don't fancy Corn Meal in a semi-liquid form, look for Corn Bread. A yellow looking bread usually in small rolls. Have it either just a bite at a time with melted butter or with some Apple Jelly. Ooh, well yummy!

The best way to do this is just get everything and be surprised, most times for the best, by the taste combinations...

There is a huge selection of breakfast cereals and fruit and breads and... jelly. Yep, that's what I said.

Drinks are serve yourself, except for coffee which is where your waitress will come in to play. They will generally hover around and clear away as you finish up. Again, don't think they are rushing you... I am told they are not doing this at all. You may feel otherwise.
Grab a few minutes to finish that cup of coffee and plan your assault on today's itinerary.

The kids have probably disappeared to the games machines or to check out the toilets just one more time... Don't forget your gratuity!

All You Can Eat is certainly a wonderful experience, but be warned...

Sodas are usually a little thinner than you would expect and the food can be very 'mass produced' in it's appearance and taste. Still, what the heck, you don't eat like this every day of your life... Do you?

Now, go walk it all off. Only another 8 or so hours before we start again... Diet when you get home - O.K.



The Biscuits & Gravy Quarterly

Also check out the Main Sites Buffet section...

Information on this site is provided 'as is'.
Apologies  for any omissions or errors. E.& O. E. 
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