Salad Buffet Insanity

I blew seven bucks and my lunch hour today. But at least I got this rant out of it. I wanted to send it to the manager of the place, but it was telling that their website offered no feedback options. Not even an email address. So I posted it on Urban Spoon instead.

One definition of insanity is trying the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. I was looking for a healthy lunch today and saw Salad Express Clear Lake on Bay Area Blvd and said, “What the hell.” Insanity. I know better, but somehow I keep trying buffets in the hopes that I will like the results *at least once*.

Yeah, I know; Insanity.

Buffet meals are like a bet you make with the buffet owner. They bet you cannot eat more than your meal price worth of food from their buffet. You bet, by paying your price, that you can. Game on, buddy.

But Salad Express suckered me by making me pay for a lot of buffet options I didn’t want or couldn’t eat and by providing high volumes of filling unhealthy food without regard for quality. I was a mere rube in front of a three-card-monte table on payday.

Salad Express’ genius is that it enables people who don’t really *want* to diet the conceit of healthy eating by serving them starches covered in fats (baked potatoes, pasta, tacos) accompanied by goopy desserts (puddings, soft serve ice cream, gelled strawberries, fake whipped cream, and under-cooked sweet breads) in the mere *presence* of vegetables. Most of the place’s offerings were off limits to my diet, so I searched the menu for the ‘just salad’ or ‘just salad and soup’ price, but there was only one price for all. This price was calculated, no doubt, based on the assumption that I wanted to lay down a few chopped veggies on my tray and then top them with 1200 calories of guilt-free incremental suicide.

I should have backed away at that point. But I grabbed a plate anyway. Insanity.

Immediately I frowned at the improperly cut vegetables. Every veggie on the buffet looked as if it were hastily prepared on the same slicer without even changing the cutting attachment. C’mon, for $6.45 can a fella get a simple julienne? Nope. Whole, thick, silver-dollar-sized slices of carrots and radishes, whole slices of red bell peppers, all the monster slice veggies taunted me saying, “I’m going to drip dressing on your shirt when you try to eat me. Na, na, na, na.”

And what the hell am I going to do with a whole slice of Jicama? Listen If you can’t put a fork through it and eat it with a few other ingredients, including a piece of your greens and a bit of dressing, in one bite, take it off the bar and cut it smaller. Honor the laws of salad physics people!

At the end, the topping station was an like an escape hatch for those who somehow got to the end of the salad bar with a salad that was reasonably healthy. There were fried noodles, fried Durkee onions, fake bacon bits, croutons, goldfish, and, as God is my witness, animal crackers. Animal. Freaking. Crackers.

I was hoping for walnuts, pumpkin seeds, dried cranberries, rice crackers, etc. like that they offer on the salad bar at Jason’s Deli (just two blocks away, and for less money, I noted wistfully.) Alas.

So I’d have to try the soup. Aha! Vegetable Beef! At this point I didn’t even mind that the titular beef was *ground* beef. But I *did* mind the fact that the beef was not properly drained. One bite left my mouth with a greasy sheen. Okay, chicken noodle, try the chicken noodle. The egg noodles were bloated and mushy. Zombie noodles. The soup was swarming with them so much that I could not even manage to skim off a simple ladle of broth and a few healthy ingredients. Cream of mushroom soup was over thickened and had the same monster slice vegetable problem as the salad bar. Nix. The red beans and rice soup was the best, had a pretty good flavor, but had way, way too much rice, which was mushy. It was like a soupy rice casserole, but I was able to strain out a ladle of soup with less rice. The soup strategy must have been to pump up the volume of the soups with cheap starches to provide a full feeling at the least possible cost.

What’s wrong with broth, huh? I like a soup that’s, well, *soupy.*

In danger of leaving still hungry and down seven bucks, I filled up on cottage cheese and the only fruit option that didn’t come encased in sugary goop.

So I wasted my lunch hour, wasted seven bucks, and I ended up wasting about 80% of the food I tried today.

I am sure this waste factor is figured into my buffet price. How much more value could they have delivered for the price if they served fewer selections of higher quality that are thoughtfully prepared? If my beef soup hadn’t been sporting a grease slick I wouldn’t have wasted three bowls of soup trying to find something else that was acceptable. If I didn’t have to pick up my red bell pepper with my hands from the top of my salad because the slices were so freaking huge, I wouldn’t have wasted as much salad. Instead I ended up pushing my plate away with annoyance, looking for something else to try.

Insanity. Sometimes when you say “What the hell,” that’s exactly what you get. Lesson learned. I hope.

At least *you* can learn from me and avoid Salad Express. Go to Jason’s if you want a salad bar.

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