Speaking as a dad who is trying to be healthier for the sake of his child, I’m not strictly sure that I should be posting this. In fact, I think that I definitely should not be encouraging overeating in any form. But it’s Valentine’s Day coming up, so yeah . . . Valentine’s Day.
What is Valentine’s Day? Other than the holiday to celebrate love and some saint… whatever his name was. That’s right. St. Valentine. So it’s the holiday that celebrates some saint who performed weddings for some soldiers who were forbidden to marry by law. And so he was martyred for love or some such nonsense.
But we all know what St. Valentine’s Day really is for. It’s Black Friday for all restaurants, candy shops, flower shops and greeting card companies, without all of the Black Friday deals. But then again, Black Friday deals were just deals on over inflated prices for items that were magically brought down to legitimate pricing by the Walmart price reduction fairy. Or the Target Fairy. Or the Best Buy Fairy. And all of those fairies are in a nasty civil war with the Amazon Fairy that comes out the night before Cyber Mondays. But I digress.
St. Valentine’s Day. That blessed day where all the single people in the world are reminded of their singleness. It’s the day where all the lonely people suddenly remember how lonely they were, until some guy named Ralph decides that he will finally discover that the perks of being a wallflower weren’t all that great and he gets off his butt and invites Janice to the company picnic, only to find out that it doesn’t happen until July, and he would rather invite June instead.
Or maybe I really mean it’s St. Valentine’s Day. That day created to remind all of the married schmucks of the world that they better actually buy their wife a card and a rose and take them out to a nice dinner because they forgot that their wives were special for anything the other 364. Well maybe 363 because there is that Christmas Day thing too. Valentine’s Day, that beautiful day when the man in your life purchases you that new silent mixer for your kitchen because he doesn’t want you to disturb him while he is watching his football games. Go Packers!
It’s the day where you go nervously to a restaurant with your significant other while you stare at one another nervously with your cell phone on the table waiting to hear the slightest buzz; because Julie the baby sitter has shifty eyes, and you can’t possibly trust any baby sitter with shifty eyes. (Who cares your husband John told you that it wasn’t shifty eyes but actually she has a lazy eye? They were shifty to you. And you just know she will have Steve her boyfriend over the minute you two leave for dinner.)
Valentine’s Day. The day you remember sitting there 10 years ago with the foolish grin on your face, staring as your fiancée Shalyn tries to explain to you that she is running off with her ex boyfriend Brandon or Benjamin or some other B name. (Although you can think of a better B name for him.) The day where she threatens to take off with the engagement ring you gave her; because you gave it to her, and she earned it for putting up with you for the last six months, despite the fact that you still have one years of monthly payments left on it. That beautiful fun loving Valentine’s Day.
Just kidding. Kind of. I’m actually not as against the holiday as the last couple of paragraphs would lead you to believe. If Valentine’s Day is about love then celebrate it with someone you love or someone who sacrificed themselves for you. “Greater love hath no man than this, that he lay his life down for his friends.” Who has laid their life down for your benefit or who would you lay your life down for? Spend it with them. And do a romantic dinner at home with wildflowers. Because screw the card companies, candy shops and flower carts. (Or not… )
But if you are going to go hog wild this Valentine’s Day, why not do it at a Buffet? My daughter gave me the inspiration for this post at breakfast today while we were eating. And as she is my inspiration, I will hand this inspired thought down to you. In that light, I’m going to discuss the five best buffets to take your family or significant other in Southern California. (Sorry Golden Corral and Hometown Buffet, you didn’t make the list.). And if you disagree I am as always open to disagreement. Make me change my mind. I dare you.
5. Kyoto Japanese Buffet (Brea, California) – Tucked in the north east corner of Orange County, the Kyoto Japanese buffet offers a plethora of fresh options of all imaginable foods. From sushi to steak, from chicken to vegetable options, this buffet has a little bit of everything. Anyone who wants to eat at a buffet has to be able to have amazing options at their finger tips. The greatest thing about this place was the vast selection of choices that you have. For instance, usually if you go to a buffet with sushi rolls you may have a California roll and a few other options. Here there were tons. Chicken was cooked in various ways, salads were prepared in various ways. It’s not Soup Plantation for salads as far as selection but it has such variety I doubt anyone would complain. As it trends towards Japanese dishes, you do need to be prepared for that as a focus of your meal. But as my daughter isn’t a big Asian food fan and still loved this place, it’s well worth a look. Go to Kyoto Buffet for more information.
4. ILCHA Korean BBQ (off of Olympic in Los Angeles) – If you have not been to Korean BBQ then you are really missing out on something. Rated 4.6 out of 5 stars on Yelp, this is a must go place for Buffet lovers. I was out on a date hiking a couple years ago. (Cue the “you needed to go hiking afterword to work off all that food” joke here.) After the date she suggested we go to this Korean BBQ place out near where we were at. I was seated at a table with a cooking area in the center and a list of the meats we could have for the all you can eat main course. Then they had all of the side dishes that you could choose from as well. It wasn’t exactly classic buffet style served out in front of you, but they were on top of our order and gave us everything we wanted almost immediately. The meat did come last and we were the ones responsible for cooking it after they lit the grill in front of us. The side dishes were great and the meats were marinated in some amazing Korean marinade, both sweet and spicy at the same time. If you love Buffet and have never had Korean BBQ, you should check this place out. Go to ILCHA BBQ for more details.
3. El Torito Sunday Buffet- (any El Torito location near you). If you have never been to a Sunday Brunch at an El Torito then you are missing out on an amazing spread. Only served every Sunday they do omelets made to order, waffles, banana crepes, ceviche, posole, taco bar, fruit salad, freshly roasted meats and a ton more, all with a Mexican flavor. Once again, having a daughter who is a picky eater and is wary of anything spicy, Mexican food can be quite challenging for her to eat. She had no such problems here. Rice, beans, eggs, bacon, freshly made tortillas, waffles, apples, enchiladas, all served with just the right amount of spice. And if you needed to add some heat to your dish, they had plenty of pepper of various varieties and salsas on hand to up the spice quotient. The service was friendly and the people taking our orders did not seem to take offense to the usual Sunday Brunch crowd. They served with a smile and were always there to clean plates, refill drinks or give you any extra things that you might need. If you are looking for Buffet with a Mexican flavor, there is not a better place. Go to El Torito website for information about their Sunday Brunch.
2. Goofy’s Kitchen (Disneyland Hotel – Anaheim) – Speaking in all honesty, my daughter helped me select the order here. But as a 10 year old she had amazing rationale. Quality of food came first. All things being equal, entertainment was what pushed something over the top. This is why Goofy’s Kitchen is at number two. The quality of food isn’t necessarily any better than El Torito. But all things being equal, the experience here was definitely worth a trip. You pay for the meal up front, which can be a it pricey. (Here is one of the places where having an annual pass really cuts the cost down.) Its about 20 dollars per child and another 40 for adults, which can add up quickly. They then put you in a line to take pictures with chef Goofy. Afterwards, they seat you and it’s off to the races. My daughter got six plates of food. (She didn’t eat it all and yes I demanded a long walk all across both parks of Disneyland afterwards.) They had all sorts of things to choose from, plenty for dessert and some unique Disney food options. (Where else can you get both peanut butter and jelly as well as macaroni and cheese pizza?) the food was of good quality and the service as well. And of course between your meals they had entertainment. Whether this was a dance with all of the different Disney characters, or the Character wait staff coming to your table to take pictures, it’s all in good fun. And this is a Disney adventure that you can do while not having to pay to go into the park. Just make sure to park in Downtown Disney and have your parking ticket validated. Good food. Live entertainment. Great fun. And all with the Disney ambiance. Try out Goofy’s kitchen at the Disneyland Hotel. Go to Goofy’s Kitchen for more information about the brunch and reservations.
1. Buffet at the Queen Mary (Queen Mary at the Long Beach Harbor) – I know you were thinking, as I have a kid, what could be more kid friendly or Disney fun than Goofy’s Kitchen at the Disneyland Hotel? All I have to say is that my daughter reiterated what was important when grading, and food was the most important. First, the sheer magnitude of the food in the banquet hall was crazy. I never saw a spread quite as big as that. I don’t think I will ever see a spread like that again. There was food everywhere. And the food was sectioned off into themes whether it was ethnic or breakfast or Italian or whatever.
Second, the quality of the food was the best I’ve seen bar none. Usually you get a little worried by how long the food has sat underneath the heat lamps. The longer it’s out there the scarier it is. But they had a ton of wait staff watching the food and rotating it out so that it never seemed to go bad.
Third, the food itself was surprising. To give you an example: I hate oysters. I have had them a million ways. Raw, cooked, seasoned, fried, etc. It didn’t matter which way it was cooked. I hated it all. But there in the banquet hall of the Queen Mary I had raw oysters with ceviche. I loved it. I was shocked. If a buffet could change my mind about a food anything was possible. Maybe the Clippers could win the NBA championship. (Nah! There is the impossible and the stupid impossible. The Clippers winning the championship fall under that second category.). The truth is . . . The Queen Mary Buffet was great food, beautifully spread, and an experience unlikely to be forgotten. But as my daughter reminded me, it’s just on Sundays so plan in advance. And going on a Sunday Holiday like Mother’s Day would be insane, especially for those who hate long wait lines and tight spaces. Go to Queen Mary Sunday Champagne Brunch for more information about the Brunch and for reservations.
There are a ton of Brunch places out there. Let me know about some of your own. I’m always willing to check them out… every few months… while my stomach has a chance to forgive me in between now and then. Because it will need it. And may my daughters blessing this morning be the same for you as you eat your brunch: “May I eat well, and may my stomach forgive me later.” No eleven words were truer spoken.
So this is me again, signing off.
David Elliott, Single Dad’s Guide to Life.