There are a number of factors that make America great – freedom of speech, the dedication to innovation, our steadfast refusal to adopt the metric system, and, most importantly, the preponderance of all-you-can-eat buffets across the land. As a moral duty to all my readers, I’d like to share some of my favorites from the Chicago area in no particular order (please note that these are old school eat-from-the-trough buffets, so the amazing all-you-can-eat Brazilian steakhouses such as Fogo de Chao that are on a whole other level aren’t included here):
1) Aurelio’s Pizza Buffet (506 West Harrison Street, Chicago) – My favorite food in the entire world is pizza and my favorite pizza in the entire world is from Homewood-based Aurelio’s. Thus, when Aurelio’s began a lunch buffet a few blocks away from my Loop office, my cholesterol level shot up about 100 points just with the marvelous foodie thoughts dancing through my head. Plus, the salad bar has crushed up bits of real bacon (that’s really the only time I ever touch the salad bar over there), which means you can turn any slice of pizza into a bacon special.
2) KFC Buffet (700 North Milwaukee Avenue, Vernon Hills) – Did I just say that there is KFC that allows a patron to delve into an orgy of Original Recipe, Extra Crispy, and sides without limitation? Damn straight. As far as I know, this is the only one that exists in Chicagoland. After having lived in nearby Libertyville for a couple of years, I can no longer eat KFC like a normal human being. Unless I get 15 wings and 5 breasts, I’m not satisfied. Damn you Colonel Sanders, with your beady little eyes!
3) Malahini Terrace (321 West 75th Street, Clarendon Hills) – Pretty much all Chinese buffets are inherently good. However, the last time I went to this place, it had Peking duck as one its offerings, which makes it inherently stupendous. (Sidenote: How about a pay-per-view battle between General Tso and Colonel Sanders for chicken supremacy? That would totally kick the hell out of that Burger King chicken fight from a couple of years ago.)
4) John Barleycorn’s Sunday Brunch (3524 North Clark Street, Chicago) – Yes, I know that the bar is played out for anyone that is more than two years removed from college. However, the breakfast spread here with made-to-order omelettes is surprisingly good at an inexpensive price, although my memories might be colored by the fact that I was probably nursing a hangover during my visit.
5) Bobak’s (5275 South Archer Avenue, Chicago) – It’s Xanadu on Archer. Chicken stuffed in pork stuffed in beef stuffed into a deep-fried pierogi… that essentially describes the experience at this Polish classic. In the end though, it all comes down to how many of the Nobel Peace Prize-winning bacon-wrapped hot dogs you can down Kobayashi-style. That is not a misprint. I would never, ever joke about the existence of a restaurant that offers hot dogs wrapped in bacon, which has been verified by Dan Brown as the main course at the Last Supper. Just be sure to duck your heads while you’re in the parking lot to avoid the jets flying into Midway.