Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Steveats: The Bristol Buffet is OK, which is OK, for a buffet

Good fried pickles [top left], horrid mushrooms [bottom]
Mashed taters, dumplings, questionable water chestnuts
Debuting a new, semi-regular feature! I tryout questionable food items so that you don’t have to in… Steveats. (Note: Title developed in about 10 seconds of brainstorming.)

If there is one type of sit-down restaurant that perfectly fits the criteria for a Steveats, it is the buffet. Even the best buffets at a casino feature a mixture of things like prime rib next to a salad and pasta first put out for consumption in 1976.

Watery sauce for pasta and meatballs, yay!
So, it is with great interest that in a recent passing through of town, I saw that the Bristol Buffet was now a thing that existed in Rhode Island. I formerly remembered it as a place called Tweet’s Balzanos Family Restaurant, which a bunch of civic organizations used to host fundraisers. I believe it was because they were the cheapest place to do so in town, because the carpeting in the place was probably first put out in 1975. (And, by the way, their Yelp page still exists, and the one-star reviews are fantastic. And holy hell, look at that picture of Seafood Alfredo!)

I went on a weeknight, so unfortunately, there was no prime rib waiting for me. Most of the cuisine was Generic American – fries and onion rings, bland pasta, salad, questionable seafood – with a few Asian options. It was basically a 50-50 split between Hometown Buffet and a traditional Chinese buffet.

But typically with a buffet, I’m happy if there are two to four items I can just repeatedly gorge on, and the Bristol Buffet hit the spot in this regard. Firstly, they had fried pickles! I don’t think I’ve ever seen fried pickles on a buffet line before, which is bizarre in retrospect. They’re delicious, plus, you can just deep fry the hell out of them and leave them out. It doesn’t matter, as long as you have the sour of the pickle.

Secondly, there was some sort of sour cream mashed potato. (At least, I hope it was sour cream, and not just sour potatoes, but I haven’t died and this was a couple days ago.) They seemed like real potato, as opposed to instant, but I’m such a whore for potato products that it doesn’t really matter. When I was a kid, I used to make instant mashed potatoes for myself, because I liked them better than the chunky real mashed potatoes. Now that I’m a sophisticated adult with a bottomless trash compactor stomach, I don’t have that issue, but still – Bristol Buffet potatoes, good stuff.

Outside of those two things, they had some edible General Tso’s chicken, and a bunch of other adequate to bad options. Also, Wikipedia tells me that General Tso probably didn’t make the chicken, which is disappointing. Other “highlights” – kind of watery mac and cheese and meatballs and pasta, bland stuffing, some OK dumplings, and disgusting battered and deep fried mushrooms.

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