Family Vacation Buffet

A few weeks ago I mentioned, in passing, a travel experience in a Friday Five post that Pat asked me to expand upon. It’s been quite awhile since this happened, so I’m sorry if the details are hazy.

A few years back, maybe five or six, I went to Virginia Beach for a week with the family… Chuck came along, and my sisters brought friends as well. We were in this really nice condo, way high up on the 12th floor or somesuch, overlooking the beach and the ocean, it was awesome. While the Virginia Beach area doesn’t have the hokey splendor of Seaside Heights, it was a nice relaxing time.

One night, we were out looking for something to eat, and people started getting impatient… We eventually agreed on this buffet place we saw earlier… I hadn’t been to a buffet restaurant since Sizzler as a kid, so I didn’t really know what to expect. I wish I could remember the name of this place, perhaps one of my family members will read this and post a comment here. Anyway, the place looked alright from the outside, but I remember walking in the door, and there was this really long stairway up to the restaurant. It was covered with really dark, spooky red carpeting, which in concert with the aqua-kitsch on the walls gave the place a distinct “Spooky David Lynch Movie Set” feel. I remember commenting to the family that I thought the place was completely unreal from the first minute we set foot inside.

We get to the top of the stairs, and the place is interestingly large, yet almost completely empty. There is a bar, with a bunch of really busted people sitting at it, all of which turned and kind of gave us a staredown as we got to the host podium. We are seated, and we are given flatware and plates to go start digging into the buffet. Larissa’s friend (who I notoriously didn’t get along with) had some nasty shit on her flatware, and the waitron seemed completely annoyed that she wanted it exchanged. We ordered our drinks and walked up to the buffet.

Now, based on the cavernous expanse that was this dining hall, I expected this buffet to be a bit more substantial, but it consisted of about 18-20 trays. I wasn’t big on fish at that point in my life, but even if I was, the fish plates (which accounted for the majority of the trays) were smelling extraordinarily fishy. Not just fishy, though, spoiled fish. In fact, it was at this moment that I noticed that the place smelled faintly of rotting fish. I went from tray to tray, and eventually decided to try some spaghetti-type-substance, some mac and cheese, and lots of bread. I went back to the table.

To add to the already surreal atmosphere, I sat down at the table and the entire party was just sitting at their seats staring at their plates. It was like everybody knew they SHOULD be eating, but were too disgusted to actually attempt the act. Slowly, people started to peck at their plates. I was confounded by how completely this restaurant screwed up both the spaghetti and the mac & cheese. It was completely revolting, in a way I never imagined macaroni could be. I must have turned green or something, because whoever was sitting across from me shot me a sympathetic glare. We were all reduced to kind of pushing food around on our plate.

My parents paid the bill, and on the way to the car my sisters noticed a McDonalds next door. They made a beeline there. I said I was too full, but I was really just sick to my stomach.

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