There aren't a lot of commercial eateries that continue to offer the buffet dining experience, although the salad bar, a limited lettuce-based buffet, has become a standard feature in the majority of mainstream restaurants.
As a penniless college student in a small Pennsylvania town where the only restaurant boasted an all-you-can eat buffet I learned how to eat three day's worth of food at one sitting and smuggle out a day or two extra.
Buffets challenge even the most disciplined weight watcher. It is fairly easy not to order dessert off the menu at ala carte prices, almost impossible to pass a table laden with pies, cakes, puddings, and sundaes - part of the fixed priced buffet with no limit on consumption.
Ethnic clubs, particularly in major cities, continue to promote authentic down home buffets. Norwegian American, Polish American, Russian Orthodox, Sons of Italy, Ukrainian, Czechoslovakian, Indian, Chinese massive quantities of indigenous, often excellent food, at relatively low prices.
I remember years ago being a guest for Sunday dinner at the Swedish American Club of Chicago. As an appetizer, they offered more variations of herring than I would have dreamed possible each provocatively displayed and impossible to resist. I so overdosed on marinated, creamed, kippered, salted, and combinations thereof that I was too bloated and uncomfortable to even attempt to attack the meatballs, the variety of which made the herring assortment look anemic.
Germans love to overwhelm the buffet customers with varieties of wurst, sausages, and livers. Argentineans feature meats all of the conventional cuts and a dazzling assortment of innards, organs, and intestines heads, tails, and testicles. The traditional Chinese family dinner is a buffet with multiple dishes placed on Lazy Susans available to all parties at a large round table.
It is very hard to know what you are eating at a Chinese buffet in China. Raw may mean chicken chicken may mean eel or snake stew may mean dog or horse. Chinese people love chicken feet. They eat all of their own chicken's feet and most of the rest of the worlds. I have never been sicker than after eating what I discovered after the fact was chicken feet sautéed in gravy at a fine hotel in Fuzhou.
For the past few Christmas holidays, we have taken our boat to Key West and enjoyed a Christmas buffet luncheon at the Hyatt Hotel on the ocean.
How to control oneself when faced with fresh shrimp, smoked salmon, raw oysters, herring, clams, cheeses, fruit, deviled eggs, spinach, bib lettuce, pasta, Waldorf salads - roast turkey, beef, lamb, chicken, fresh tuna, salmon, scrod mashed, scalloped, sweet potatoes vegetables of every variety stuffing, gravy, cranberry sauce and enough Key lime, chocolate, pumpkin, banana and cherry desserts to raise acne on an AARP bus tour.
While I continue to preach "Moderation in all Things," there just isn't any way to approach a buffet and be moderate. There are no moderate buffets. There is no moderate way to enjoy a buffet. Eating moderately leaves the eater frustrated more untasted than tasted. As the opportunities to enjoy a buffet are limited, perhaps the best approach is to abandon all restraints and go for it.