8 Best And 7 Worst Things To Eat At Golden Corral - Mashed (2024)

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8 Best And 7 Worst Things To Eat At Golden Corral - Mashed (1)

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BySteven Luna/

Buffet eating doesn't get any more tempting than the smorgasbord offered at Golden Corral. There's something there for just about every taste and eating plan, whether you're keto, paleo, vegan, or dining agnostic. This diner's paradise began serving customers as a steakhouse in 1973, expanding in the mid-1980s to a buffet and grill, with extra seating and a salad bar to meet growing demand.

In 2019, Golden Corral earned especially high marks in Entrepreneur Magazine's Annual Franchise 500. Despite shuttering almost 100 locations since 2019 (via FSR)and enduring a love-hate relationship with the dining public, this buffet brawler keeps fighting fork and knife for the championship buffet belt. According to quite a few people's estimations, it keeps winning.

It may be the variety of fresh dishes that has earned Golden Corral such a loyal following, with a menu that now includes breakfast, lunch, and dinner options. In addition to homestyle favorites like sirloin steak and pot roast, the buffet boasts to a baked potato bar, salad bar, and dessert station. So which options are the best and which are the worst for all-you-can-eaters who can never corral enough Golden? We've rounded up our most informed choices from both categories to make the culinary possibilities a little clearer.

Best: Fried chicken

A fried food appearing on the best side of the Golden Corral menu may seem unlikely, but this protein-packed option lines up with many popular eating plans where carbs are forbidden but fats and protein are encouraged. To be sure, the 240 calories, 15 grams of fat and 460 milligrams of sodium per serving (via CalorieKing) are a hearty helping, but a pretty serious 19 grams of protein helps to tilt the scale in this food's favor. Pairing a piece or two with vegetables or a low-carb green salad can keep you in the zone while providing an enjoyable all-you-can-eat-in-moderation meal.

Even with all the back-and-forth about Golden Corral's customer service and news of dangerous food handling(via NBC) that makes some guests reluctant to return, fried chicken-loving diners haven't been discouraged from enjoying their favorite selection whenever they get a hankering for all-you-can-eat quantities. As one Redditor puts it, "I don't care what anyone else says, their fried chicken is delicious."

Best: Shrimp

Seafood lovers rejoice: a six-piece serving of Golden Corral'sgolden fried shrimpcomes in at 210 calories and only 9 grams of fat while providing 9 grams of protein — not too shabby for a battered crustacean. Depending on the location, you can also try variations likesmokey garlic shrimp skewers, which will net you 160 calories, 10 grams of fat, and 16 grams of protein for two skewers' worth, or mandarin orange shrimp, at 220 calories, 7 grams of fat and 7 grams of protein for six pieces.

Having a choice between fried and grilled shrimp expands your options for enjoying a seafood meal the way you want it, which is an excellent feature at an all-you-can-eat buffet. But even if you opt for the fried version, as long as you keep your portions sensible, you can enjoy a dependably tasty shrimp meal without feeling lost at sea.

Best: Salad bar

Any time an all-you-can-eat buffet includes a salad bar, you have a handy choice for creating something good to eat. Vegans and vegetarians can enjoy a robust selection of spinach and mixed greens topped with raw veggies and a variety of seeds, nuts, and other healthful power foods. A careful drizzle of dairy- and egg-free dressing like Italian vinaigrette can keep the added calories and sugar under control, too, paving the way for a light yet satisfying meal. With a saucy spud from the baked potato bar on the side, you have a well-balanced, plant-based meal that helps to maintain your dining standards.

In addition to the usual iceberg lettuce mix, you may also find spinach at the salad bar. By loading up on these more nutritious greens, you can add iron and antioxidants to your super salad (via Healthline). If one serving isn't enough, you can return for seconds without feeling overstuffed. Just beware of the extra calories and unhealthy fats from dressings and some denser toppings, which can turn your happy greens into a 1000-calorie salad bomb and derail your thoughtful meal.

Best: Bourbon Street Chicken

If copycat recipes found online are any indication, this smoky-sweet chicken dish is one of the most popular things in the Golden Corral lineup. A three-ounce serving of this browned chicken marinated in bourbon teriyaki will only set you back 170 calories, with 9 grams of fat. But the 19 grams of protein you'll get arguably make up for the fat content. Even the salt is kept to a relatively workable 350 milligrams of sodium, or 15% of your daily allotment of sodium. Served on a bed of rice or with a baked potato, you have a combination that can get you on the S.S. Satisfaction without throwing your eating goals overboard.

For diners looking to take the savory goodness home for family dinner or a friendly get-together, Golden Corral's to-go menu offers Bourbon Street Chicken in a family-style pan that serves 10 diners. If you happen to be serving a smaller group, that leaves plenty ready for next-day lunches and dinners on the home front.

Best: Baked fish

Baked fish is nearly always a healthy go-to option for any restaurant, but at Golden Corral it's one of the best choices you can make. Not only is fish a healthy source of omega-3 fatty acids, but Healthline reports that baked fish retains more of these essential nutrients than its fried or grilled versions. The plain baked fish puts you in the sweet spot, with only 8 grams of fat per 150-calorie serving. If you opt for the baked fish with lemon butter herb sauce, you'll still be downing a meager 150 calories, but with 13 grams of fat and 7 grams of protein per three-ounce serving.

Depending on location, you may find other baked fish options with sauces added for flavor, which will naturally alter the nutritional value. Luckily, since buffet eating invites more than just a three-ounce serving of fish, you have plenty of room left to add healthy steamed veggies like broccoli. With this menu item, healthy dining is a tasty prospect.

Best: Turkey

Who doesn't love a restaurant that lets you enjoy Thanksgiving dinner all year round? Turkey is one of the most innocent options in the Golden Corral line-up when it comes to nutrition, with a slim 110 calories, 6 grams of fat, and 15 grams of protein per serving. With numbers like that, you can afford to dish up a few servings and still maintain your health. If that's your goal, it's best to keep away from starchy additions like rolls and mashed potatoes, which can quickly foul up the fowl you've so smartly chosen.

Speaking of Thanksgiving, Golden Corral has begun offering a full Turkey Day spread for diners who prefer a restaurant-prepared meal rather than doing the cooking themselves. Depending on the location, you can find a full spread with all the fixings, served with the same items in this bountiful spread appear in the usual menu.

Best: Vanilla soft serve

Dessert at an all-you-can-eat buffet is always a risk, largely due to the unlimited quantities of sugar and rich dairy available. But if you can resist temptation and control your portions, you can enjoy a dish or cone of vanilla soft serve without being extra. A half-cup serving presents a modest 110 calories, with only 2 grams of fat. While the carbs weigh in at 22 grams, it's a far cry from the 240 and 12 grams of fat you'd get if you went with a slice of carrot cakeor something else from the dessert offerings. The fact that soft serve is dispensed from a chiller also means that you'll have the best-maintained option at the bar when it comes to freshness and temperature control.

Don't be put off by the flavor of vanilla, either. You'll be enjoying one of the most popular ice cream flavors in the nation, as per Food Business News.If it still feels a little plain, you can always doctor up your soft serve with toppings. Should the additional calories and sugar be a concern, opt for a 20-calorie cake cone to add a little crunch.

Best: Baked potato bar

8 Best And 7 Worst Things To Eat At Golden Corral - Mashed (9)

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You can't go wrong with baked potatoes. They're loaded with nutritional powerhouses like fiber and potassium, as per Healthline. At Golden Corral, apotato on its own is a satisfying 160 calories, with 4 grams each of protein and fiber. When you top one with broccoli, green onions, a sprinkle of cheese, and a sensible portion of bacon bits, you come up with a classic stuffed potato that's delicious and nutritious. Or season your spud with a splash of salsa and goodies from the salad bar for a spicier take. Pair it up with a green salad or other steamed or baked vegetables while you're at it.

There's great news for sweet potato fans, too, as Golden Corral also serves these nutritional power players in their buffet. Skip the butter on this healthful tuber and you'll be taking in 110 clean calories, 2 grams of protein, and 4 grams of fiber.

Worst: Fried cheese ravioli

Maybe an upscale version of pizza rolls sounds like great party food, but when the option is Golden Corral's fried cheese raviolis, it's anything but a celebration. A six-piece serving may only come in at146 calories, but that also comes with a whopping 12 grams of fat. Not the best ratio, especially for an option presented as an appetizer or side. You're likely to add these to whatever else you're eating, which means extra calories, fat, and sodium without much protein or other nutrients to even things out.

What's more, if these little pillows of disappointment sit under the heat lamp too long, then their texture becomes something akin to cardboard, adding to the sorrow of anyone unlucky enough to pile them on the plate. It's better to skip over the ravioli in favor of something less disappointing. As for what that would be, we think just about anything else will do.

Worst: Mac and cheese

Mac and cheese is a widely beloved side dish that turned into a true-blue American dish in the mid-20th century with the advent of processed and packaged food, as per Smithsonian Magazine. But when you scoop out a serving of the real stuff strung with real cheese and real white sauce, thenyou're surely in for a really unhealthy meal. Beyond the fact that48% of its calories are from fat, the flavor just isn't there. Everyone knows what proper mac and cheese tastes and feels like, right? It's got to be rich and gooey and satisfying in a way that's downright spiritual.

So when reviewers describe Golden Corral's Mac and cheese as "rubbery" and "well-made mass produced portions", you know the soul has been stripped out of this beloved dish just to serve the masses. You're better off making mac and cheese at home, or at least looking elsewhere for a more carefully crafted menu item.

Worst: Creamed chipped beef

A meal of chipped beef may conjure nostalgic memories for some, but sliced beef afloat in a creamy béchamel is best left in the past. Though it has a colorful and even occasionally cuss-filled history,as per Atlas Obscura, the plain truth is that this dish just isn't appealing, no matter who serves it. The recipe was originally meant to be mass-produced to serve soldiers on the cheap, and so it became a familiar if not entirely elevated flavor for service members.

Maybe the best thing that can be said about chipped beef is that there sure is a lot of it. The fact that it appears on Golden Corral's unlimited menu means there are options for diners of all tastes out there. But with such a broad array of other more contemporary options, it seems pretty easy to omit this old-fashioned creation from your plate. Simply put, you have better things to eat.

Worst: Bread pudding

One of the most indulgent desserts this side of gourmet baking, bread pudding is a carb-loaded comfort food that has never done anyone any favors when it comes to keeping one's health in check. It may taste delicious, but most things soaked in eggs, bread, and sugar usually do. Because this is in the dessert section of Golden Corral, chances are good that you'll be choosing it after you've had mass quantities of food, which means downing a bunch of extra calories and unfriendly ingredients as a chaser.

Bread pudding is typically made fromday-old bread, which means that you're not starting out with the freshest of ingredients. The possibility of day-old rolls that have been sitting under a heat lamp making their way into this dessert strips away whatever magic the sugary custard might add. It's not exactly great for you in other respects, either. At 270 calories per gloppy, soupy half-cup serving, there are far better ways to spend your daily calorie allotment.

Worst: Pot roast

8 Best And 7 Worst Things To Eat At Golden Corral - Mashed (14)

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This downhome favorite might be tempting but piling a heaping portion of the Golden Corral pot roast on your plate is nothing short of a colossal mistake. The word around the internet is that this beloved roast is slow cooked for 12 hours in order to create some ultra-tender and juicy meat. Unfortunately, the results of all that work are not quite so favorable, resulting in a final product that's often dry and difficult to chew. That sounds more like jerky than pot roast, to us. That may be okay with some Corralers, but not when it's labeled as "pot roast."

The biggest disappointment may be in the fact that this is one of the healthier choices you can make among the chain's beef options. But when the promise of tender roast made by professionals gives way to something you could easily fail at in your own kitchen, it goes straight to the bottom of your choices.

Worst: Mini steakburgers

While these sliders by another name may seem pretty harmless to down as part of a meal, the nutrition facts say otherwise. Sure, you get 17 grams of protein, but each slider also packs in 260 calories and 14 grams of fat, with one-third your daily value of saturated fat (via MyFoodDiary). That's seriously troubling for one little 3.5-ounce burger. That's not even taking the bacon-topped version into consideration, which represents 290 calories and 16 grams of fat.

And when they're this cute and inviting, nobody eats just one. You're in for at least a double or even a triple serving if your eyes are bigger than your stomach. Anything else you add to your plate will only compound the issue. So, while seeing the adorable little burgers in their endearingly tiny buns may trigger love chemicals in your buffet-addled brain, don't be taken in by these little saboteurs. They may seem small and innocent, but they're a great big "no" in the Golden Corral serving line.

Worst: Chocolate fountain

8 Best And 7 Worst Things To Eat At Golden Corral - Mashed (16)

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Perhaps the most unsanitary food since unpasteurized dairy, the chocolate fountain is at least a fascinating conversation piece. It draws curious adults and often unsupervised kids who select an array of treats to bathe in the flow of melted chocolate. It doesn't take a food inspector to recognize the lack of sanitation in the open, recirculated flow of ingredients, however. Cross-contamination from food is one thing, but the possibility of some bacteria-laden chocolate getting in the mix and recirculating for hours is too much.

Liquid chocolate has never done anyone any favors.Everyone knows what happened to Augustus Gloop in Willy Wonka's factory when he got too close to the fudge river — and that was just one child. With the number of children using their unwashed hands to fish out their treats, there's no telling what might be floating in the Golden Corral chocolate fountain. No Oompa Loompa song in the world could finger-wag you enough for indulging in this temptation. It's best to sidestep this confectionary microbe trap altogether.

8 Best And 7 Worst Things To Eat At Golden Corral - Mashed (2024)

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