It’s on the right on highway 78 as you are heading from Atlanta to Athens, just before the Famous Dave’s (now closed). It’s a low lying building, large but unpretentious. It’s the last surviving chain version of a once popular formula for a dinner buffet (the Ryan’s in town having closed now). And if you want to eat there you need to realize how popular it is. Whole churches seem to descend on this place on Sundays.

My first exposure to Golden Corral came when my wife was pregnant and we were living in North Carolina. In those days, the bakery was semi-separate from the eatery and you could buy fresh baked goods there.  Their rolls were one of the few things she could eat late in her pregnancy that wouldn’t make her sick. So while coming home, I would stop off, buy a baker’s dozen of Golden Corral rolls, and take them home to my wife.

These days the bakery is internal, as opposed to external, and there are a few other changes. There are more meats on the menu, which makes it relatively more expensive. There are more items on the menu, and they try to rotate the dinner items so that they’re not all the same. You need to check in advance to see what entrees are featured. But I suspect it continues to florish because it serves a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, breads, soups and other basic fare. On days when every parent in a family is exhausted and everyone wants just corn, black eyed peas and a heaping plate of collard greens, this restaurant delivers.

Complaints? Yes, a few. The restaurant doesn’t have enough seating for the people that want to eat there. Hence, it it always cramped. You are elbow to elbow with other customers, and sometimes without the room to scoot out your chair without bumping into your neighbor. Service, which can be good, is only as good as the server of the moment.  Meats, which ideally would be cooked to order, get cooked haphazardly. If the chef needs a break and walks off, then all the steaks turn well done. Prices just seem to creep up and the incremental improvements seem marginal at best. The steaks are okay, but if they dropped all meats but ham, fried chicken, and their good fried catfish, I don’t know if they would see any drop off in attendance.

And personally I’d love it if you could shop the bakery again without having to buy a whole meal.

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