Jun 15, 2009

Smorgasbord Strategy: Expert Tips and Tactical Maneuvers for Ensuring a Rewarding Buffet Experience

This is my friend Nicoletta. She has a lot of good ideas about how to be fancy while staying on the cheap. Recently when her hours were cut at work, she told me that instead of switching away from using Bumble & Bumble products, she was just cutting her hair so she’d use less conditioner. Genius.

I recently had to consult Nicoletta because I was on my way to Vegas for my mother’s fiftieth birthday and I planned to hit up a very special buffet. I usually don’t go to buffets without Nicoletta, and wasn’t sure what I would do without her live buffet-coaching. In fact, I wasn’t really sure what I would do in Vegas at all without Nicoletta, but I did my best (future post).

Nicoletta came naturally to her obsession with Vegas. Her grandfather is a professional gambler in Oakland and when I met her as a teenager she was working as a waitress in a bingo hall in Oregon. None of us were surprised when Nicoletta fell hard for Vegas at age twenty, the same year she got “glamour for rent” tattooed on left ass cheek. She later got a job as a sex toy buyer which allowed her to make frequent trips to Las Vegas. Between her love of the mystical mermaid penny slots, food, and a good bargain, Nicoletta was able to develop the most comprehensive buffet strategy known to man. Below, Nicoletta shares her thoughts on buffet etiquette, pre-game high-fiber diets, and buffet-performance enhancing drugs.

Addy: So, often, eating at buffets mean we are skimping on quality. Is there some sort of buffet alogorithim of how low you can go on quality and still get good value? If I’m choosing a buffet, what do I keep in mind? How do I stay out of trouble?

Nicoletta: Do your research. There are some bad buffets. Survey the d├ęcor. If they haven’t updated the dining room, they might not have updated the menu. Also, yelp and citysearch can be good.

Addy: But everyone on yelp are these weird haters who can’t enjoy anything about their lives because they are too busy being fake food critics for free. What is it that you look for in a buffet?

Well, Breakfast buffets are always a favorite. I love breakfast food. It’s hard to make breakfast food disgusting. It’s just harder to mess up. Except for that time you and I went to the Flamingo (makes gagging noise), but usually—usually it’s harder to mess up!

Plus, the breakfast buffets are the cheapest. Brunch is another story. The great thing about going for breakfast—okay, I like to get there about like, 40 minutes before lunch time. So you pay the breakfast price, you get to try the breakfast food, but THEN the lunch stuff comes out. So you take a break, you chill out. and then you get lunch at the breakfast price. Lunch stuff is usually worth more money. And I really like to feel like I’m getting my money’s worth at a buffet.

Addy: Yeah, so these are tough times. Are buffets an unnecessary indulgence or a wise bargain?

Nicoletta: Well, they are a little bit of both. You get to treat yourself, but if you find a good deal—if you go at the switchover times—it can be a bargain. Also—well don’t try this in Vegas because they are really intense there and have cameras everywhere—but most places you can take some to go. I mean, you aren’t supposed to, but just line your purse with some tin foil or ziplock bags and. you know…I went to this amazing fried chicken buffet in SF and I mean, I don’t even usually like fried chicken but it was amazing. We got a whole bag to go without being harassed.

Addy: A fried chicken purse! But not in Vegas?

Nicoletta: No way. I have a friend who tried to put a roll in her napkin there and they sent someone to ask her where she was going with it.

Addy: What! Did they want it back?! Brunch big brother is watching you.

I know right! Seriously! Cameras everywhere. Most places that don’t have buffets all the time aren’t as strict.

Addy: Their buffet surveillance technology is a little less evolved.

Nicoletta: Exactly. And anyway, you don’t always want to-go. Sometimes you don’t want to look at food after a buffet. When I went to Vegas, I just got up every day, did the breakfast-lunch crossover, and then swam the rest of the day. That was it.

Las Vegas' Wynn Buffet

Addy: So, what’s your take on buffet performance enhancing drugs? Are they cheating?

Nicoletta: I think they are great, I’ve really been enjoying them before going to my new favorite buffet, Salty’s on the Columbia. But that’s not always the experience you want. But I have a new buffet. The spirit mountain casino in grand ron Oregon. They have a Wednesday night sea food buffet. And it’s ah-mazing. The desserts were in-sane. And the crab legs. I drank a lot of orange juice.

Addy: Okay, about orange juice. Beverages—a necessary component of the buffet experience, or a waste of precious stomach space?

Nicoletta: You know, it really depends. I usually would say waste of stomach space, but I always feel like I should order things at buffets. One thing I like to do—and I’m not usually a juice fan—is order some apple juice. It helps to settle my stomach throughout the buffet. The pectin is really good for holding your poop together.

Addy: Okay, it’s the night before a buffet. How are we getting ready?

Nicoletta: Well don’t make the mistake of not eating or eating too little because your stomach is going to shrink before he buffet. You know, eat your normal amount, maybe a little more. Things that move through you fast. You know, fruits, vegetables. Don’t overdo it, but keep eating. Then stuff will move through you quicker later at the buffet because you’ll have something in there, I think.

Were going for high volume, high fiber. Next item. Talk to me about attire. What are we wearing to the buffet? I understand expandability is a primary concern. There are basics. No button flies. And we may need to look respectable enough to fly below the radar if we are packing a fried chicken purse. What else?

Nicoletta: Yeah, totally totally. Well, luckily these days there is a lot of jersey cotton in the world and I’m a big fan. I like to dress up, you know to go to a nice buffet. Recently I did make the mistake of wearing tight jeans. I felt so full and so sick I didn’t even come close to eating in buffet quantities.

That’s pretty much my general experience of wearing pants in the world. I feel really held back. I mean, what if you want to dance—or eat a buffet? You never know when you might need an elastic waistband.

Drop crotch pants may be a fashionable and sensible buffet choice for maximum expandability and extra space for smuggling your fried chicken purse.

Addy: Now, a question that may concern many of us when we cross through the turnstiles. Is there such a thing as buffet etiquette?

Nicoletta: There is. There is buffet etiquette. You know, don’t cut in line. I mean, it’s okay to go around someone if they are stuck on one thing, but you don’t want to reach over people. It’s hard. You see something good, or you are on a final round and you know what you want and you just want to make a beeline. One thing that is always good to remember at a buffet, though, is that it’s not a race. It’s just not a race. You can relax. You can take breathers. Maybe go poop if you need to.

Addy: Okay, and about poop. We touched on fiber before, but…Laxitives? Coffee?

Nicoletta: Well, I wouldn’t recommend laxatives. That’s just me.

Addy: Well, I’ve been wearing heels, training for Vegas, and I’ve been noticing something. See, this yoga teacher I used to know had a poop stool in her bathroom, you know, to rest your feet on to emulate a squatting position. It’s way better pooping ergonomics. And high heels, they really jack up your knees and put you in that classic squatting position that is conducive to bm’s. They are like poop stools that are actually attached to your feet. They can really help things. Maybe a good choice for buffets?

Nicoletta: And people who don’t wear heels, they can think about propping their feet up on something. Tampon disposal boxes.

My Las Vegas poop stools plus KFC's witch flats

Addy: Okay, let’s get back to the good stuff. Stomach space. You are approaching the buffet. What do you start with?

I think it’s good to start with ruffage. Some salad. A lot of people think you can make salad at home and it’s a waste, but I think it’s a good start. Whatever you do, you want to never ever start with carbs. It’s the most common mistake. Round two I go for proteins. After that you are free to roam and finish yourself off in whatever way you like.

Addy: And what about if you get something and you don’t like it?

Nicoletta: Well, take small portions. You can always go back. You are at a buffet. Also, start with small bites. I personally like it when buffets have paper napkins and I can discretely spit the things out that I don’t want to designate stomach space for. It helps if you have a bowl to put them in, and if the people you are going with aren’t grossed out by this. You know, the great thing about going to buffets with crab legs is that they have buckets you can put the legs in. I just put all kinds of things in there. I think more buffets should have disposal buckets.

Addy: Maybe they should have compost motes that flow behind the tables for people to just throw stuff into. But we’d have to be careful that everyone tottering around in their poop-stool high heels wouldn’t fall in. That could be dangerous.

Nicoletta: And smell bad. I think the buckets are better. Just remember, small bites.

Addy: And I have to ask about the old salty panty trick.

Nicoletta: Ah, well one thing you can do at a fancy buffet is plant a pair of dirty underwear under the table when you arrive and then when you are done with the buffet you can “find” them under the table and try to find out what’s going on. This happened to my friend’s family at Salty’s on the Columbia, but it was all accidental. They didn’t know where the panties came from until later, but they got half off their buffet anyway.

Addy: So, it works better if the people who find the panties didn’t plant them there so they can actually complain in earnest?

Nicoletta: Yes, and it helps if you have a kid to find them under the table (laughing).

Addy: So talk to me about this: how do you know when it’s time to stop? Just stop eating?

Just listen to your body. I think when I first started going, I overdid it. It’s exciting. It’s hard. You just want to keep going. But it’s really not a race. It’s not worth it. When you are done, just be done. It’s okay. There will be more buffets in the future. There will always be more buffets.


  1. My friend Adele is incapable of writing bad shit. She simply cannot write bad anything.

    Like always, this is the kind of thing I want to read. The photos were good too!

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