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Friday, June 18, 2010

Columbia Eats: Eastern Buffet

I hate buffets. Few things are as bad in my humble opinion. Between the caloric disaster and overpriced/undercooked food, buffets rarely make the cut in my book as the place to eat. That being said, coming from a family that enjoys torturing me by venturing into even the most nightmarish of Chinese buffets, I've learned to cope and become somewhat of an aficionado at the job, spotting the best and worse in the business the moment I hit the line. While most Chinese buffets in Columbia get the thumbs down, Eastern Buffet stands as one of the better, if not best, around town.

If you're looking for something truly different that sets Eastern Buffet apart from any other of its size, you'll be somewhat disappointed. In the grand scheme of things, Eastern is your run-of-the-mill buffet featuring all the Chinese fast-food favorites. The difference here compared to others in town is the quality. While nothing stands out as legendary, everything stands out just enough to satisfy everyone's taste buds. The soups are fairly edible and always hot, and the typical millions of variations on chicken usually meet up to standard - not life-altering, but satisfiable. For those looking to get the upper hand, however, you'll want to look for the latest items to hit the line. The fresher the better should be your motto here, and at any other buffet you ever go to. I was fortunate enough to get some newly-made General Tso's Chicken on my latest visit. Hot, crunchy, and with a light, spicy kick, the chicken was one of best fast-food versions of the dish I've had in ages. If you see one of their many workers pouring out something new, make sure you hurry over and take advantage for the best possible bite.

Eastern also sports a sushi line filled with both the usual options and on occasion some various oddballs that may catch your eye. Bacon - a constant theme that seems to be turning up in our weekly stops - was also one of the oddball picks that stood out of the ordinary. Personally, as a rule of thumb I tend to steer away from sushi at Asian buffets as they usually aren't made in capable hands. If you are in the mood, however, the usual suspects are available.

No Reservations, The Shakedown on Eastern
Atmosphere: Standard Chinese buffet with a bit of a military crowd.
Cost: Fine for lunch($8), a bit high for dinner ($11).
Try: Anything that comes piping hot of the kitchen.
Don't: Look for sexy sushi.

Final Verdict: For anyone desperately in search of Chinese food - and lots of it - in Columbia, look no further then Eastern. They've got a nice, clean facility along with a generous side buffet that is sure take care of most's deepest desires. There are a few drawbacks though. The price is a bit higher then the norm (around $12 for dinner with a drink, and $8-9 for lunch), and the overall quality has been wavering between edible and slightly underwhelming over the past few months. That being said, 'edible' is still a hell of a lot better then most places in town when it comes to this category of dining.

Eastern Buffet on Urbanspoon


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