End of the line
By Brandon Yip, Senior Columnist
Did you know that smorgasbord literally translates to ‘butter-goose table’?
In the 2001 comedy action flick, Rush Hour 2, Detective James Carter (Chris Tucker) snaps at Chief Inspector Lee (Jackie Chan): “What’s wrong with you? You don’t jump in front of a black man in a buffet line!”
It’s difficult to refrain oneself from budging in front of others at a buffet. So many things are happening simultaneously while waiting in line. Your stomach growls, your eyes and pupils widen, your mouth salivates, and jealousy increases—all while staring at customers enjoying their dinner.
Buffet dinners have got to be one of the most enjoyable dining experiences. Buffets are amazing because there is so much variety. Though buffets are not always good for your waistline, they are incredible nonetheless. Years ago, there was a great buffet restaurant called Old Country Buffet at Bellis Fair Mall in Bellingham, Washington. Old Country Buffet offered a wide assortment of breakfast, lunch, and dinner items where customers served themselves. I ate there several times and it was probably the best buffet place to make a pit stop to fill one’s palate—heading north or south on the I-5 in the US. The restaurant first opened in 1998, and later closed in June 2016.
According to Brian Bartles, in an article he wrote for vinepair.com in May 2017, the history of the buffet has French origins. The buffet is derived from the 12thcentury word, bufet—meaning stool or bench. From the 19thcentury onwards, the word “buffet” (in English) refers to food being served from a sideboard. Merriam-Webster defines “buffet” as “a meal set out on a buffet or table for ready access and informal service.” The buffet later emerged in the US—using the term “smorgasbord” instead of buffet.
Interestingly, the term “smorgasbord” has its roots in Sweden; being defined as a side table where a person has the choice to select a pre-dinner drink or snack. From the official Merriam-Webster website, smorgasbord is defined as “a luncheon or supper buffet offering a variety of foods and dishes (such as hors d’oeuvres, hot and cold meats, smoked and pickled fish, cheeses, salads, and relishes).” The concept of smorgasbord was shown prominently in the US at the World’s Fair in New York in 1939. Bartles writes, “The smorgasbord, which literally means ‘butter-goose table,’ was an excuse to ease into the main meal by standing among family, friends, or peers, celebrating the initiation of dinner.”
Locally, Sky Dragon Restaurant in Port Coquitlam at 1538 Prairie Avenue, served a buffet until the pandemic arrived in March 2020 (offering take-out and delivery). Sky Dragon has been around since the 197os and has changed ownership several times. I cannot remember the number of times I have eaten their buffet dinner. I love it, it’s so good! It is greasy for sure, but if you love Chinese food—this is the place if you want to eat lots! The buffet previously operated every night from 4:30 to 8:30 pm ($16.95 for adults and $14.75 for seniors). Some of the tasty items they had in their buffet: stir-fried mixed vegetables, fried rice, beef chow fun, sweet and sour pork, deep-fried wontons, pot stickers, deep-fried prawns, hot crispy chicken wings, egg rolls, and wonton soup.
But it does not end there. On the other side of the buffet, dessert is available for your pleasure—entailing a selection of chopped fruit, ice cream, cake, and Jell-O! One final note about Sky Dragon: if you want a ‘real tasty burger, order their Giant Burger with Fries for $9.95. You get two stacked patties with cheese in a fresh bun with lettuce, tomato slices, mayonnaise—it is yummy and delicious. You won’t regret it!
Unfortunately, not many restaurants serve buffets, apart from several small eateries and hotels that prior to the pandemic—served breakfast, lunch, or dinner buffets during special occasions and holidays. Hopefully, when it is safe to return to dining in at restaurants without restrictions—the buffet dinner will also have to continue to wait in line.