The Crazy World of Chinese Buffets

On Saturdays, I usually eat something other than pasta and Sidney eases a bit on her Keto regimen. This past weekend was no exception. After mass, we went to the Myrtle Beach China Buffet for dinner. It had been years since I last went to a Chinese buffet but the concept has not changed. The location we went to on 38th Avenue reminded me of all the other Chinese buffets from my past. Whether it be a booth in Spokane, Las Vegas, Missoula, or even Myrtle Beach, five endearing characteristics of Chinese buffets seem to always register with me.

This is the Myrtle Beach China buffet we ate at on Saturday.

To-Go Boxes – There is no China Buffet restaurant I have frequented more than the one on Brooks St. in Missoula, Montana. When I was a bachelor, I would often drop in and pick up a big white Styrofoam container to fill to the brim. I would go down the buffet line and pack the container with meats, fried rice, and chow mein. Half embarrassed, I would go up to the register and the lady would use a scale to weigh my container. I can’t remember the price charged per unit, but I usually paid more for my to-go container than a regular dine-in buffet price. No matter, I had Chinese food for at least two days. Anyway, point of this story is that all China buffets (including the one we ate at on Saturday) allow customers to purchase to-go containers on a weight system and it is awesome.

Chicken On Chicken On Chicken – If you like all types of Chinese chicken dishes, regardless of how well they are cooked, a China buffet is for you. Imagine if your favorite Chinese takeout restaurant offered a chicken platter…got that vision in your head? You can create it at a China buffet. Before I can even get to egg rolls, potstickers, dumplings, and other fun Asian fare, I have to get a plate full of poultry. It is always a representation of Americanized Chinese at its best as I load up on Generals Tso’s chicken, sweet and sour chicken, almond chicken, and sesame chicken. Last weekend I even got black pepper chicken. A bit overwhelming, huh?

American Food Surprises – You will notice that all Chinese buffets offer a small American section of dishes. Think mashed potatoes, mac and cheese, pasta, and pizza. Most of the time I will pass just because I want to eat what the restaurant actually specializes in. But every now and then, you can find some quality options. I was with my friend in Las Vegas and we stumbled into a Chinese buffet in a hidden spot on the Strip. We liked all the regular food well enough but the dinosaur-shaped chicken nuggets really made our meal spectacular (and helped fill our stomachs with something other than booze).

Donuts – It is not a Chinese buffet unless there are donuts included in the spread. No, no, no, I am not talking maple bars and apple fritters. I am talking Chinese donuts. These morsels of goodness are fried dough tossed in sugar. Hot and fresh, there might not be anything better in the restaurant than these. For the sake of my cholesterol, I was going to pass on Chinese donuts over the weekend but Sid brought a plate of them to our table and I just couldn’t resist.

Ice Cream Machine – Typically at the far corner of the buffet floor you can find a rinky-dink soft serve ice cream machine. Usually with just the basic vanilla, chocolate, and swirl options, it isn’t Baskin-Robbins by any means but if you are still hungry after eating heavy, salty Chinese food, it is kind of a nice touch. Don’t get your hopes up because there is always the chance that it is out of order. However, I have found that the old, basic ice cream machine is a hallmark of Chinese buffets.


Eating at a Chinese buffet is definitely a unique experience and is not for everybody. As I have grown older, I have come to the determination that it is an experience that I can handle about once every five years. Do you have a good story from a Chinese buffet? Let me know! Don’t Blink.