I find something inherently appealing about a buffet. A flat rate for all the food you can eat and a wide variety of culinary options generally make for an enjoyable dining experience. Chopstick Gourmet Buffet is no exception. I was excited to give it a try because I am a big fan of a bottomless plate, and I've been on a Chinese food kick lately so it seemed like the perfect assignment.
I entered the restaurant to find the standard Chinese buffet format with a few notable exceptions. Much like most of the buffets I've been to, the buffet itself lines one entire wall of the large, open room with tables and chairs filling the rest of the space. A booth with the cash register and a server occupies a small area near the front door. Though I had never been to Chopstick, it seemed somehow familiar. However, unlike the majority of the buffets I've been to, Chopstick was impeccably clean. The dining room and buffet sparkled. Either the furniture and equipment are brand new or are extremely well-maintained. Also, the large and numerous windows let in ample sunlight. In short, the environment is warm and welcoming.
The one server on duty seated me and took my drink order. As usual, I ordered a root beer ($1), which was promptly brought to my table. I got up to scope out the buffet. Options ranged from American favorites, such as pizza and Jell-O, to authentic Chinese fare—like fish fried in its entirety, fins and eyeballs included—that maybe only the hardcore Chinese food enthusiast could stomach. When I saw that fish, it occurred to me that to commit to the whole Chopstick experience, I should try to eat some fish eyeballs—but I really didn't want to. Luckily, there were plenty of other more appetizing options to choose from to give me an overall take on Chopstick. I knew I had to pace myself so I wouldn't fill up before I could try as much as possible, although I could have eaten several plates of their potstickers alone.
But portion control was key, so I stuck to little more than a taste of each item. As with any buffet, it's hit or miss. Fortunately, most of the choices were hits. I especially enjoyed the walnut shrimp, the teriyaki chicken skewers and the orange chicken.
At Chopstick, every dish is accompanied by a label, some of which were laughable. Ambiguous titles such as "Hot and Spicy" and "Baked Seafood" prompted such questions as, "Hot and spicy what?" Or, "What exactly qualifies as seafood?" The lesson within these questions is to avoid the items with the more vague names. The "Hot and Spicy" was neither hot nor spicy, and the "Baked Seafood" was a mysteriously generic fishy-tasting sort of cake with a quiche-like texture. It actually kind of scared me.
One of the coolest things about the Chopstick—which they may want to have as their calling card—is that they are willing to go the extra mile to satisfy the customer. At one point during my third trip to the buffet (remember, I went with small portions), the server noticed that I seemed indecisive, so she asked me if I was finding everything all right. I expressed my disappointment that there was no sweet-and-sour chicken. Without saying another word, she walked into the kitchen and asked the cooks to make a batch of it. I was impressed.
Chopstick Gourmet Buffet is more or less what you would expect from a Chinese buffet, from the fried rice to the chocolate pudding and ice cream bar. And for the $6.75 lunch price tag for all you can eat, it's worth it.
—Tom Kershaw is thrilled to have the same initials as root beer giant Thomas Kemper.