Chances are if you’re reading this, you’ve been to a buffet before. Of course you have. Buffets are amazing. That long table full of steam trays, the staggering variety of food, the amount of grub you can stuff into your face — what’s not to like?
But here’s the thing about buffets: if you’re going to do them, you have to do them properly. Which means following the Six Golden Rules of Buffet Etiquette.
Instead of simply listing these ancient, time-honoured rules, I took a trip to this tasty little East Indian place up on 8th Street called Spicy Time (formerly known as Spicy Bite). So without further ado:
Golden Rule #1: Get there early
If the buffet starts at 11:30 am, like it does at Spicy Time, then you make sure you’re there at 11:30 am, sharp. This does two things: it cuts down on your wait time while also assuring you get first pick of the best food when it’s hot out the oven (or fresh off the stove.)
Golden Rule #2: Do not cut line
This is common sense. You wouldn’t do it at a grocery store, you wouldn’t do it at the theatre, so don’t do it at a buffet. Luckily for me, when I went to Spicy Time the other day I made sure to follow Rule #1. I got there early and, for a while, was the only person in the restaurant. Beauty.
Golden Rule #3: Take only what you can eat
My editor disagrees with this rule, but she’s a brute who’d bite your hand off if you went for the last samosa so she loads her plate up. This is a no-no. The way to properly do a buffet is to take small portions of what you want and put them on one plate. I repeat: small portions, one plate. It’s not like that entire vat of chana masala is going to be gone in the time it takes you to eat. Be patient. Leave some for others. This is what I did on my first trip to Spicy Time’s buffet table. I put one piece of tandoori chicken topped with onions on my plate, two veggie samosas, and some beef madarasi. Which brings us to the next rule…
Golden Rule #4: Don’t eat in line
Unless, of course, you’re diabetic or hypoglycemic … in which case, eat away. Otherwise show a bit of class and patience. Seeing as I didn’t have to wait in line at Spicy Time, I put the food on my plate, took a seat, and dug in. The chicken tandoori combined with the onions was delicious. The samosas were bite-size and savoury. And the beef madarasi, it was all kinds of good. The beef was tender, the sauce was rich and well-spiced, and the tomato cherries in it gave the dish some pop.
Golden Rule #5: Respect the personal bubble
Finished of my first plate, it was time for another. By that time, a few more people has filtered in for the lunch buffet. And no matter how much I wanted to excuse my way between two of the ladies, invade their personal space and grab a ladleful of chana masala, it simply isn’t right. So I waited, then made another plate. This one had chana masala, paneer makhani, and lamb rogan josh. Oh my, where to start? Unlike some other places I’ve eaten, the lamb at Spicy Time is top notch, moist and perfectly cooked. So was the paneer makhani. Those cottage cheese pieces smothered in that sweet and subtly spicy sauce hit the spot. Then came the chana masala. For me, hands down, this was the best dish of the day. The chickpeas were cooked exquisitely, and the sauce was big and bold and spicy. This is a chana masala you have to try to understand what I’m getting at.
Golden Rule #6: No doggie bags. Ever.
By the time I finished both my plates I was, as my grandmother used to say, “filled to the gills.” But that chana masala — part of me wanted some to go! Part of me said, “go up there, fill your pockets with the stuff, and make your exit.” But I didn’t. Taking food to go defeats the purpose of buffets. You pay for all you can eat, but you have to eat it there. Plain and simple. So I thanked the staff for their courtesy and yummy food, and lumbered out into the cold.