It is 1:38 pm the day after the event and the best way I can think of to describe the way I feel is: food hangover. I'm dressed in the loosest clothing I own with a throbbing, deep-seated headache and in spite of the disgusting amount of food I helped ingest yesterday from 7:30 am to 9:30 pm, my stomach still growls in a low, permeating kind of way. It only wants more, and the small bran bar I've just eaten is but a fleck in the onslaught that it now expects me to provide.
What's caused this quaint condition is September 3rd's visit to a Super Bar Buffet at Ryan's Steakhouse in Hiram, Georgia. The idea was to cause a scene crashing an All You Can Eat style restaurant with a posse and continue eating from open to close for a single buffet fee. We wanted to demonstrate to the proprietors how, perhaps, they should be more careful with their terminology -- that All You Can Eat might mean way more than they'd expected. And though yesterday we succeeded in 14 hours of a continuous 4-person chew (unless refilling or visiting the restroom), I can't help but feel that, in the end, the buffet won. Yes, though I alone ate 31 plates for $7.49 plus tax and tip, and together our group totaled 102, we never at any point came close to depleting the trough; not once did someone challenge our ambition; no one screamed, "Oh shit, they're killing us here!" In fact not once did any member of the Ryan's staff so much as grouse at what we were doing, except finally to wonder: Why are you doing this?
Our sense of accomplishment about the day was nonetheless immense. Just to give you an idea of what we went through, here is a list of various statistics:
Our journey began 6 am Sunday morning. We picked a branch Hiram for its potential clientele -- we could expect our fellow patrons to be a spectacle unto themselves. Over the course of our meal, I witnessed an array of teeth that could only be described as maligned, from incisors the size of splinters to buck fronts that dented chins; we'd see a family of dwarves; a human incarnation of Humpty Dumpty; an enormous man wearing black leather pants and a cowboy hat with blue bandana bolo tie and egg in his mustache; a man with his whole head burned. But first, even just getting there proved a challenge. We had to be there on time, when doors opened, or we already would've failed. Mapquest ended up getting us off track and at fifteen minutes until 7:30, we were seemingly lost in the middle of nowhere, pissed and sweaty knuckled in anticipation. Another couple wrong turns stretched the desperation higher until finally, after somehow running across the road name in the restaurant's street address, we took off from the directions and followed our intuition, going 90 in a 45 down a road we weren't even sure of. This has to be it, we kept saying.
Our prayers still were in our eyes as the blood-red neon of the Ryan's Steakhouse Buffet marquee rose over morning Hiram highway. This was meant to be, I thought.
Later I'd think different.
As we pulled into the Ryan's parking lot with minutes left to spare, I was somewhat surprised to see it wasn't packed. Inside it was larger than the average restaurant, with dual chrome buffets lined down the center of the room, a dessert pavilion at the far end, and flanked on both sides by huge dining rooms. After hours the room could host a hoedown. We were numbers 5-8 rung up. Right behind me was a group of police officers who I had vague fantasies of being led away by, still certain that around the switch from breakfast to lunch we'd be asked to leave; I was prepared to fight with all my words. I would insist I hadn't gotten all I could eat yet. I envisioned a great moral battle. Indeed our receipts read 1 BREAKFAST ADULT, which seemed like clear legal wording to be used against us to say that we'd only paid for one meal, but there were no hours posted as to breakfast hours. I felt steadfast in our assumptions.
We were seated in a corner booth near the fire exit along the back wall, a speckled aquamarine table with sandstone colored seats. The room was cold, easily in the mid-60's. Our first of three servers, June, took drink orders. She seemed baffled by my friend Tom's request for water and repeated many times that drinks were included with our meals.
With that out of the way, we began to feed. I took a warm plate
out of the seemingly endless spring-loaded receptacle of fresh
plates and wandered along the canopied aisles. All manner of
pastry and meats were to be had; eggs three ways and hash browns
(either plain or in some bizarre casserole). Behind a live-order
omelet station, a man stood with his spatula up in the air and
repeated, no less than three times, directly to me that he could
"make it any way you want" (a by-standing waitress reinforced this
mantra for me, "any way you want," her eyes kind of gleaming as if
she were intensely proud to accommodate all needs). Their
diligence shied me. I had to proceed carefully, because, if I
allowed myself to indulge as I normally would -- diving right in to
all the glorious things my rumbling belly insisted on -- I'd be
screwed in a couple hours. I had to pace myself, think about the
long run; I couldn't go overboard on Belgian waffles and country
ham. Of this mind, I selected
carefully a tasteful arrangement of eggs, bacon and grits, as well
as a greasy, bloated thing that I mistook for French toast, then
headed back to the table where the others had already begun.
TO BE CONTINUED....