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I Ate Thanksgiving Dinner at Golden Corral


(Video courtesy of the official Golden Corral YouTube channel. Are you one of its 784 subscribers?)

If you watched UFC Fight Night 57 last Saturday, you might have been surprised and horrified to see FOX Sports 1 running commercials for Golden Corral’s $12.99 Thanksgiving Day Buffet. MMA twitter’s reaction to these ads was uniformly negative. I mean, who would eat there on Thanksgiving, of all days? How sad is that? Well, it turns out that our friend Tori ate there. This is her story.

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By Tori Eberle

Thanksgiving is a celebration of togetherness, in which we use copious amounts of food and drink to smother unsettled familial feelings and America’s unsettling relationship with its past. Many people travel far and wide to be close to their loved ones for the holidays, and I’m no exception. I’ve lived in New York for about two years now, and I use every single one of my corporate allotted vacation days to make it home to my family in Virginia for the major fall/winter holidays.

With a family as used to being uprooted as mine (I’ve moved 18 times since my birth), our few holiday-specific traditions have been treated pretty seriously. Then, my baby brother received a full ride scholarship to Florida State for football, and new traditions had to be made for the sake of food and football and family — AKA, the Eberle family trinity second to the Almighty.

Essentially, if you don’t read this entire article, what you need to know is that I, my dad, my mom, and my sister went on an 11-hour car trip adventure to Tallahassee, Florida, stopped at a Golden Corral for Thanksgiving Dinner…and it was AWESOME.

I feel that I need to be upfront about something before we get into the actual review of my $12.99 Golden Corral Thanksgiving meal: I. Love. Shitty. Food. Diner food. Cafeteria food. Fast food. Little league baseball game food. $1 pizza. Bring me your salty, fattening heart attacks in a soggy paper dish.

Blame my upbringing of growing up in the pub & grille/sports bar restaurant business and being on the road a lot for moving and visiting extended family in Texas, but I have always had a strong relationship with lowbrow food and the establishments that pander such goods. Truly, I just love food in general. More than most people love other people, probably. And it should come as no surprise that Thanksgiving-related food falls under that umbrella of food love.

Alright, let’s get to the actual review of Golden Corral. When my family was planning the trip to Tallahassee for Thanksgiving weekend, Golden Corral was pretty much always on the table. We knew the drive would be long, and to find great tasting and simultaneously quick options would be scarce on a holiday. Plus, we wanted to find something kind of semi-relatable to the amazing food that my mom has made every year since we’ve been able to fully appreciate a mashed potato (Sorry, mom).

Thus, Golden Corral — a tried and true Eberle road trip favorite — was our top choice for a mid-trip Thanksgiving dinner. And by Eberle favorite I mean my father, myself, and my sister were overjoyed to experience GC in all of its joy and wonder. My mother was not too pleased. Even as we were waiting in line to pay and venture into buffet wonderland at the Brunswick, Georgia, Golden Corral location, she groaned and tried to telepathically communicate with us just how displeased she was to be in our current situation. But it was too late, we had already crossed the threshold. We paid $12.99 each for four people, and found our table in a sea of y’alls and “shankshgivings.” Please read below for a breakdown of every aspect of my GC Thanksgiving experience.

The staff:
Overall, the staff was amazingly friendly and accommodating. My family was pretty shocked at the amount of people who were ay Golden Corral for Thanksgiving dinner. Every table was full once we were sat by a flustered server named Annie. Servers in matching black aprons fluttered around tables, refilling drinks and yelling around tables, refilling drinks and yelling to the cashiers when a table opened up. Their movements were frantic yet methodical. It was weirdly beautiful, like a greasy grandfather clock made of cornbread.

The people:
There were SO MANY PEOPLE at this Golden Corral. So many. So many different kinds. So many different shades of weird and strange. The man sitting alone at the table next to ours looked just like Benjamin Franklin reincarnated. When my dad, sister, and I took the first stab at navigating the various food stations, we left my mom alone at the table. Benjamin Franklin took this opportunity to tell my mom that she would most likely keep getting ditched by us so she should probably just run away with him.

Another fine example of the Golden Corral population was when my mom observed a brunette woman in her 40s and her ailing, aging mother. The daughter was a skilled negotiator/manipulator, spooning sweet potatoes onto her mother’s plate while also trying to scam her for some non-specific amount of money. She insisted continually that some mythical creature named Ronnie was “good for the money” in about a week as long as the ailing mother would “kindly lend the first $5k.” The mother’s jaws seemed glued shut with marshmallows so it was hard to know how she felt about Ronnie and the loan for who knows what. She was clearly unable to respond.

Combine these fine specimens with the woman who was either crying or vomiting or having diarrhea (or all three at once!) in the restroom and the experience of the patrons of Golden Corral was a vibrant and passionate group of food-motivated individuals.

And now the most important part, the food:
The chocolate fondue fountain was in full effect during the Thanksgiving meal today. It was three or maybe four levels, with rice crispy treat squares on sticks for patrons to plunge into the fudgy falls.

Golden Corral had two different stations for carving, and two separate stations for already cut turkey soaking in gravy. These stations were in the midst of the regular Golden Corral meatloaf section and the creamed corn and mashed potato station on the other side. I made the mistake of taking a wing at first pass, which was honestly too horror show to actually eat. I went for the gravy soaked already cut pieces and I don’t regret my decision at all.

The salad bar was standard for Golden Corral with the three different types of lettuce and diced fruit. The creamed corn was a little less creamy and a little more just liquidy. But the green beans were pretty good and the corn bread was mushy in a way that only Golden Corral can make palatable.

The best part of the Golden Corral Thanksgiving feast was the dessert. Aside from the chocolate fondue, banana pudding and bread pudding were available. A few different pies (obviously pumpkin) and the classic GC chocolate cake were also available. All three parties that experienced the banana pudding were impressed. My mom is on a gluten free diet so she could really only eat the salad and some of the meat foods.

In summary:

Golden Corral Thanksgiving is the best option if you
1) Have no other option and have a spare $12.99
2) Are traveling and haven’t researched the local dining establishments
3) Don’t have any gluten allergies
4) Get pumped about chocolate fountains
5) Like rolls. A lot.

I don’t regret my decision at all. And I think it’s safe to say that the Eberle family has a new family Thanksgiving tradition now that my brother is in college. And if you really wanted to know, Thanksgiving night we started a new tradition of having night time dinner at Hooter’s. But that’s a story for another day…

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