Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Chow List: Buffets & Brunches

(Listed from favoritest to un-favoritest.)

1. JB's Family Restaurant
704 W. Appleway, Coeur d'Alene website
The food isn’t exactly manna from h
eaven, and it’s nearly unbearable to listen to the notoriously loudmouth waitresses gossip, kvetch and fight, but there’s something tragically alluring about the all-you-can eat breakfast spread that’s on offer at this unholy chain restaurant every single day of the week. Endless cereal and milk, healthfully fluffy golden scrambled “better-n-eggs” served cake-like, and piles of barely-warm but delicious French Toast triangles. Okay. Yeah. Uh huh. You want tapioca and cantaloupe for breakfast? You got it. These guys even serve up an intense breakfast casserole that disappears fast upon arrival amidst the swirling breakfast vultures. The Grandmas run thick through here, so the line moves slow, but for $6 plus the cost of coffee, it’s worth the wait.

2. High Mountain Buffet
Coeur d'Alene Casin
o, Hwy 95, Worley website
It’s hard not to feel spoiled and impossible not to feel stuffed after a visit to the High Mountain Buffet in the Coeur d’Alene Casino. Juicy Prime Rib shimmering in the glow of the slot machines, the humongous Alaskan King Crab legs, the big, sexy baked potatoes with everything. Brunch is a craze of specialty omelets and intense baked goods. Easily the classiest spread in the Panhandle, and along with a dozen hours of lost to mindless gambling, it’s the perfect mini-vacation and an excellent way to blow through your bill money. That damned
Avista can wait another month.

3. King's Buffet
740 N. Cecil Rd., Post Falls
After being shut down a few years back by local police for harboring illegal immigrants, this Post Falls Chinese buffet reopened earlier this year and although the food is actually quite fresh and unique, an eerie air of mystery and drama still hangs heavy in the air. These girls don’t speak a lick of English but communication needs are minimal: you pay, you eat. I can’t tell you how much better the food is here than at those other local Chinese buffets. The dishes offered change on a daily basis, depending on what the chef decides to make. Everything I’ve tried here has been surprisingly edible and they’ve even got a full ice-case of hard ice cream flavor
s for dessert. Note: do not be afraid of the pickled baby octopus. It’s actually quite tasty.

4. Coeur d'Alene Resort

115 S. 2nd St.,Coeur d'Alene website
I suppose there are folks around who think this sort of food layout is pretty magnificent and over-the-top, but I’ll bet very few of them actually live here. When I worked at the Resort, they’d feed all the Sunday Brunch leftovers to
us grunt workers and eventually I got really sick of half-day old potatoes au gratin and trays of congealed american-cheese omelet. Even the frou-frou pastries and cannolis became tiresome after a while, although the trademark orange rolls never really did. I miss the heady days when smoking was allowed in the Shore Lounge (where they house the Sunday buffet serving area) and there would still be a foul tobacco haze hanging in the air from Saturday night’s boozy party crowd to soil the delicate fabrics of the tourists. If you’re not a fan of soggy sun-lamp abused meats and eggs, at least you can get your $30 worth of fresh fruit and champagne.

5. Templin's
414 E. First St., Post Falls website
It’s been a few years, but the last time I went to the Sunday Brunch at Templin’s Red Lion in Post Falls was on Mother’s Day with the who
le fam. I don’t really remember how the food was, but I do remember we were unhappy with the service; it was kind of a shoved-in-a-back-room-and-forgotten-about sorta feeling and I remember my mother getting royally riled up about the whole thing. Well, that could have been due to all the Mimosas she was sneaking from the beverage cart during the server’s long absences.

6. Mulligan's at The CDA Inn Best Western
506 W. Appleway, Coeur d'Alene website
Generic Hagadone blah. Exactly like the CDA Resort’s Sunday Brunch doo-dah but with half the glam. This kind
of food seems so homogenized, so gentrified and geriatric. Easy to digest. Beige walls and beige food. Mix, bake, and repeat. I one went for brunch and ended up stuffed in the corner of some converted convention center room with no windows and no personality and tables full of nervous Christians with dozens of children scurrying like little rodents. More hassle than it’s worth.

7. (tie) I.T. Buffet/Top of China
200 W. Hanley/757 W. Appleway, Coeur d'Alene
The I.T. Buffet (an ESL damaged abbreviation for “International”) and it’s older sister Top of China are the same in nearly every way; 80% non-edible 15% passable and 5% yummy little sugared Chinese fried dough balls. Those are about the only things I can stomach at these places, save for the salad bar. The I.T. is located in the ghostly Silver Lake Mall in the former location of Granny’s Buffet, once the glorious Queen of the North Idaho buffet scene until it’s untimely death a few years ago. It is missed. Alas, we now have to drive to the Spokane Valley and hit up Old Country for our fix of Americana served hot under sneeze guards. However, if you’re tempted to dine at these two fast-Chinese dives, I’d say a trip to the OC is a much saner option.

4 comments:

JBelle said...

hi Patrick,

We will be in Coeur d'Alene tonight and after cocktails, will want to go have a nice dinner somewhere. What's the best place, really? for a nice dinner?

OrangeTV said...

From HBO:

Question: Which business offers the best brunch or buffet in the Inland Northwest? Which offers the worst?
Posted by DFO | 11 Sep 1:13 PM

There are 10 comments on this post. (XML Subscribe to comments on this post)

I agree with High Mountain Buffet - love it.

Orange - have you reviewed Blue Plate in Hayden? Love that place.
Posted by Me | 11 Sep 1:26 PM

Golden Corral is the best, followed by the Top of China up by Northtown.
Posted by Shannon | 11 Sep 2:13 PM

Shannon! NO, not Top O' China. Icky! I'm still queasy from my sister-in-law's 40th BD bash, there. And it was two years ago.
As a parent of four boys with big appetites I appreciate the value of buffet dining, but I hate the whole experience.
(Move along if you don't want to read the rant.)
I hate following hordes of seniors with shaking hands slopping jello into the wilted iceberg lettuce salad mix. I always end up being stalked through the line by some 300 pound dude in baggy sweats who wants to TALK to me about the FOOD.
I hate the unholy conglomeration of foods. Chow Mein next to lasagna. California rolls by the mac and cheese. Could we maybe segregate the foods by color? Green foods on one station. White on another... etc? Or maybe fried foods here, fresh foods there? A little thought to appetizing displays wouldn't hurt.
And is it me, are do the guys they always have carving the meats seem a little bit edgy with their glittery eyes rather unfocused as they hack away at pounds of pig?
I hate cafeteria eating. Is it too much to ask for a table cloth?
And the waste! We could feed an entire third world nation on the amount of food thrown away because somebody's eyes were bigger than their tummy. (You know who you are.)
OK. I think I'm done now.
But if I am forced to choose a buffet, I'll pick Moon's Mongolian on N. Division.
Posted by Cindy H. | 11 Sep 2:36 PM

I'm with you Cindy even if you are an elitist.;-)
Posted by Sisyphus | 11 Sep 2:45 PM

Don't get me started on white wine vs. red :-)
Posted by Cindy H. | 11 Sep 2:46 PM

I've eaten 3 times at Top Of China. The first time was very good. The second time was so-so. The third time was bad b/c everything tasted the same -- so bad that I apologized to my wife more than once during the meal. I don't know if/when there'll be a fourth time. But I know that my wife won't be with me.
Posted by DFO | 11 Sep 2:58 PM

Funny, Cindy - I am such a horrible cook that my family has made it a routine to have a dinner at least once a week at the Old Country Buffet on Pines. I feel sorry for the staff when we arrive. I'm not saying I'm fat or anything - but have you looked at all the people there? The majority of them are HUGE. Here's my significant other at 300 pounds and he zeroes right in on the steak, ham, turkey. . . He could give lessons on how to load 30 different substantially portioned splotches of food items on one plate. It's called the "layer" look. Then there's me - I have my plate (and I hunt for one that looks really clean) and I prowl and graze through the different food islands. I feel guilty that I haven't amassed huge quantities of every kind of food available – it's called the "anti-gag-reflex" mode. A little potato something here, a little mystery meat there, lots of fruit, and veggies that appear to be cooked just right – not over, not under. Then I sit at the table with my head down, focusing totally on my plate and not on HIS which is just waiting to tip over or something – all meshed together, gravy on fruit on meat on macaroni on jalapeño peppers. Eeeeeeuuuuuuuu. But it beats me cooking. My least lowest skill level. I could build a computer faster.
Posted by JeanieSpokane | 11 Sep 3:02 PM

Jeanie, when I motioned being stalked by 300 pound men I assure I wasn't referring to your SO!
But you do bring up another point. All those tables smushed together in under the sickly glow of fluorescent lights. No dimly lit booths in cozy corners for people to over-indulge in relative privacy.
Nope it's all pigs to the troughs.
No offense to my legions of buffet- loving friends :-)
Posted by Cindy H. | 11 Sep 3:10 PM

Cindy-seriously, that Top of China on North Division is WAY better than the one we have here in town! The food is fresher and they have a lot of items that the one in Cd'A doesn't serve.

I'm not a big Moon's Mongolian fan because the last time we tried it they didn't let you take any home. One of their medium sized bowls is 4 meals for me, so I'll stick with the local Mongolian BBQ where I can get my money's worth.
Posted by Shannon | 11 Sep 3:28 PM

The Circus, Circus buffet is the buffet that I judge all buffets against. Some are better, some are not.
Posted by MikeS | 11 Sep 7:36 PM

OrangeTV said...

JBelle - I just caught your question and it's probably too late, but if I HAD to recommend just one place (and this always changes with mood), right now I'd say...uhh...hmmm...how about Pho Thanh Vietnamese Restaurant on N. 4th St. Just visited the other day, first time in a long while, and the pho was terrific as ever - fresh, steamy and sinus-clearingly spicy with lots of Sriracha (aka cock sauce). O yea.

data entry said...

hey Patrick, I loved your response because as we drove out of town after a lovely dinner at the Beach House, I thought, wonder how their Pho is? In December, I rode my bike from Ho Chi Minh City to Saigon and became smitten with Viet Namese food. So I will follow up on your suggestion ASAP. By the way? in Viet Nam, it's pronounced fa, as in do re mi, and as a question, FA? If you look them in the eye, smile and order FOE, they have absolutely no idea. none. And believe me, it takes awhile to get from FOE to fa? :) Thanks for your help. I don't make a move without consulting you first!