How do you negotiate a buffet?

There it is, a wonderful long buffet line filled with everything from soup to nuts. Do you just pile everything on the plate, or do you go one or two courses at a time? I have learned to take it easy over the years, and I especially do not want to mix any competing sauces on the same platter. But sometimes I lose it and go into food coma…What is your plan?

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One or two courses at a time.

That said, I seem to be in a minority at the few buffets local to me, where most customers seem to be in a competition to see who can get the highest pile of disparate foods on one plate.

By the by, we did a short cruise from Miami a couple of years back. The buffet irritated the fuck out of me. Actually not the buffet itself. But many of the other people in the queues who didnt seem to grasp the concept that just staring at food did not get onto their plate. They’d stand there for fucking ages just looking at the stuff. Which meant folk like me - those of us who instantly knew whether we wanted green beans with our pork chop - just had to stand there with our meat cutting cold while these tossers stared blankly at the cucumber.

FWIW, we’re doing another cruise shortly - with Oceania. They apparently have very extensive buffets, but it is served to you. You point, they plate. I live in hope this works better.


Buffets are often front loaded with fool’s gold –iceberg lettuce and mayonnaise salads, mass produced carbs, and crowdpleasing comfort foods similar in quality to what you get in the frozen food section. A true buffet slayer will skip these altogether. I make one full lap around the buffet to determine what the most expensive items are, or in the case of a wedding, what foods might be unique to the heritage of the families. I then get fork-sized portions of those to sample. On the second round, I will get larger portions of what I liked and may open up to challenging to prepare items too. Fool’s gold only enters the picture late in the game.

For a ‘one plate only buffet’, I will seek out flat items like cucumber slices to expand the circumference of the plate.

I look around to find somewhere else to eat. I hate most buffets with their mountains of mediocre food kept tepid under hear lamps.

There was a great buffet where we lived in France that had a short array of small serving dishes over a steam table. Because the dishes were small, they refilled them regularly and things stayed got and fresh.

There is one buffet near me that I’ll go to by choice…local Southern fare prepared on-site and served in small dishes like the above. They get double points because they offer a one-trip option…one salad plate, one trip through the main line, and a dessert plate, all for a reduced price. I only ever make one trip anyway.

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I look for things that I don’t, or can’t make at home. I skip most of the chicken items, and anything that looks like it came from a frozen dinner.
I’ll try the sushi, asian noodle dishes, fresh sliced roast beef, and any elaborate vegetable dish or salad. If there’s cheese, olives, prosciutto or good cold cuts they will end up on my plate.

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I’m with you. I am not a fan of buffets!


I don’t eat buffets much, but when it is, its almost always Indian. I take a plate, put a bite size of everything, and then for the second round, I get more of the stuff I like.


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With the occasional exception to amuse my fellow NJ Ho’s with a food challenge I just can’t eat like I used to. If I go to a buffet, which isn’t very often, I generally go slow and do several “courses” depending on what exactly is available. Long gone are the day’s of piling it high and often just to enjoy a gluttonous meal.

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I absolutely avoid buffets at all costs. There are, however, exceptions to that rule. Family parties or catered events (i.e., weddings, funerals, etc) I scope it out. If there’s garden salad(s) I start with that, then return and take a little of anything that looks appealing, then return for a dessert or two.

The other exception is a local inn that has a brunch buffet on Sundays that I enjoy with friends or family a few times a year. I know the set-up well–it meanders through several rooms. First I hit up the station that holds the fresh fruit, cold fish and breads and 1/2 bagels. Then I go to the omelet station where they will gladly prepare a 1/2 omelet for me and maybe wander over to the central main buffet for bacon or sausage. Then, depending on mood, either the waffle station, where they’ll gladly make me 1/2 waffle, or the carving station for beef or turkey. Then on to the dessert table, where they have a large assortment on mini desserts–really the highlight of the meal for my sweet tooth and me. I avoid the prepared fish/chicken/pasta dishes; although I am told they are good, they’re a little too buffety for me :blush: And yes, that is my one and only meal of the day.

Yeah, I basically don’t eat any food that requires a sneeze guard.


I usually do Indian buffets, too. I have learned to go by course. But when I want several disparate dishes on my plate I use the rice as a border between.

We’ll be on an Oceania cruise within the next year. It is said they are among the best for food, at least until you get to the four luxury lines (Regent, Silversea, Seabourne, Crystal). Please report back your experiences both at the buffet and the dining in general.

Most of our cruises to date have been on Celebrity. I have experienced the problem you mention, but not the the point of annoyance except perhaps at the very peak demand times. Celebrity at least uses the multi-station setup in the buffet which perhaps helps.

Interesting…my last cruise which was just over a year ago, I was surprised by the lack of buffets. Yes, the main cafeteria all had appropriate buffet items depending on the time of day, but in the past there were more buffet options. Long gone are the mid-night buffets and the formal buffets with crab legs / lobster etc. I’m not saying I missed them, but buffet dining used to be a cruising staple, now it seems to just be limited to the cafeteria. (this was a Norwegian Cruise)

Yes, the cruise industry has long since moved away from buffets being a key part of the culnary experience, e.g. midnight buffet and so on. Most ships today have a buffet dining room that is open for all meals, and then many other sit down and bar options for food service. Most have “specialty” restaurants and that is where the high end food is typically available these days. Those may be at no extra charge on high end ships where you are paying $400-500/day per person or more, and at an extra charge on mass market ships (like Norwegian) where the base fare is one-third of that or less… Every line has its own approach and its own price points.

Certainly one of its main selling points for us (as well as the lack of formality and the fact that the cruise we’ve booked sails from/to the UK ). I gather the buffet food often replicates what is available that day in the main dining room but in a more casual setting (which seems to boil down to the fact that shorts & T shirts are acceptable in the buffet but not elsewhere at dinner). You’ re also getting access to the four speciality restaurants as part of your reservation and everywhere seems to be using high end ingredients.

My problem is that I am greedy and want to try everything. So if I use rice to separate all the dishes I end up with way too much rice. But this is a good way to keep the saucy dishes from intermingling.

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I love the fancy buffets in Vegas. My favorites are the Bellagio and the Venetian.

I order a glass of champagne, then go straight for the seafood. :stuck_out_tongue:


{{{Ahem}}} As someone who’s lived in the Utopia of buffets for nearly 2-1/2 decades, I have a little to share.

Now that I’ve learned which buffets to avoid, I make certain to visit only those that will give me the quality that I don’t mind paying for.

My method is thus: I usually avoid salads and raw fruits & veg unless there’s something very special that I wouldn’t have at home. Unfortunately, it’s been my observation that most buffets, even the high-end ones, tend to be kind of the same when it comes to the first course. At that point, I start with the seafood and then make my way up the ladder, just as I would at any meal. Every buffet in Vegas expects you to use clean plates every time you go to get more food, so single-plate buffets are unknown here.

And one more quick point - to those who are staring at the food and not knowing what to get - just walk around them and get what you want to eat. There’s no law that says that you have to stand in line behind someone who’s indecisive.

I hope this helps!



Thanks, Irene. Yes, Vegas is certainly buffet central even with all the big culinary names floating around town. Your pointers make sense…

I have had two buffets in Vegas but didn’t find them particularly good. One I believe was the xmas eve buffet, about $50 -60 about 10 years ago. I still remember the tasteless king crab legs. The other was a ‘French’ food buffet in one of the hotels, most likely Paris Hotel, on the strip. About $30. Nothing was French. Didn’t attempt another buffet there afterwards.

Any recommendations?