Restaurant Faux Pas — Golden Coral Blues

Golden Coral Restaurant (Gurnee, Illinois)

If you’ve watched any NFL or CFL games over the last year or two, it’s certain you have seen the commercials about Golden Coral, the all you can eat restaurant. We had two, young men with voracious appetites visiting from the European country where the young are teethed on skis and the former home of Arnold Schwarzenegger. So why not, let’s give the Golden Corral a try.

When people mention this restaurant, ambience is not any of the descriptors one might hear. Regardless, we had a waitress (que hablaba poco Inglés) who kept our area clean. As one might imagine, the dining area is strictly for satisfying one’s appetite and is not conducive to intimate or involved conversations unless you want to discuss the perfect temperature for serving pot roast or how long must one cook oriental noodles before they’re ready to be served. 

Our rendezvous put us at the restaurant at around 8 pm — about the same time many sun baked patrons from the Great America theme park made their way across the highway to Golden Coral. The sight of those amusement park patrons after a day riding roller coasters and water rides made the other GC customers look dressed for fine dining.

For 6 meals and 4 drinks, it was a little over $80. For an all you can eat restaurant, I don’t know if this is a standard rate. Regardless, my focus that evening was strictly on the food quality. There was plenty to eat but the variety was average although for those who loved Southern cooking, perhaps it will meet one’s taste buds. Many of the items were fried, some of the food was warm enough and even though the veggies looked fresh,the lack of variety and healthy choices did not trigger my appetite.

It just reiterates my philosophy about the “all you can eat buffets.” The focus is primarily on the quantity and less focus on quality – you can’t have your cake and eat it too. You certainly get much more food at GC than an average restaurant with entrees priced at $10-20, but out of a party of 6, the majority had a mediocre experience and didn’t want to revisit anytime soon.

I’m glad I went to the Golden Corral to check it out and see what the “buzz” was about. Perhaps much of the buzz originated from commercial advertising. Really, my experience aligned to my anticipated experience – the food was “just OK”, staff friendly, and the presentation was OK but nothing exceptional. I suspect ‘Wow’ and ‘Golden Corral’ would not be in the same sentence for a lot of people.

I see that Golden Corral advertises on ESPN and the NFL network, apparently their latest motto is ‘Help Yourself to Happiness’. Are they suggesting football fans do not have discriminating taste buds or simply want to “gorge themselves” at the meat counter?

One more comment, it’s one thing to see the Golden Corral ads on several sports’ channels and imagine how good that particular food must taste and it’s another thing to actually taste the food. Perhaps over promise and under deliver? At least I know for next time.