Lesson Learned: Crawfish Don't Belong on a Buffet

Categories: Leftovers

Jumbo Buffet 003.jpg
I will concede that the boiled shrimp were not bad, but that is it.
By the time you read this, I will be on a plane home to Houston from Las Vegas, where I will have hopefully won $1,000,000 off a nickel slot machine and eaten at the Wicked Spoon -- which, from what I can tell in the April edition of Saveur, looks like the coolest damn buffet in the world.

I say hopefully, because I need something -- anything -- to act as a mind-eraser for the memories I'm still carrying around after dining at Jumbo Buffet on Airline last week. Jumbo Buffet used to be Empire Seafood, and that's where I intended to head with Eater Houston's departing editor Amber Ambrose before I realized it was closed.

Instead, I pulled up to find a garish sign announcing this new tenant. It was as promising a welcome as the broken bottle of Miller Lite near the entrance, yet I forged ahead.

Why? Because the marquee listed crawfish on the buffet. Yes, I am fully aware that making this choice probably qualifies me as mentally unfit, but I wanted to see those buffet crawfish with my own eyes.

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As you might imagine, buffet crawfish are just about the poorest form of crawfish available outside of the ones you dig up out of Buffalo Bayou. (Probably don't eat those; I'm just saying.) They are puny runts, looking like the larval stage of the big, beefy crawfish found at places like The Hideaway on Dunvale. They no doubt come from China, and the few I tried at Jumbo Buffet had no doubt never been purged.

Despairing, I hit the buffet again looking for something -- anything -- to eat for lunch.

I tried the baked oysters. There were no oysters to be found inside, only imitation crab under mushy bread crumbs. I tried the mussels. They tasted like Dr. Scholl's inserts dipped in chlorine. I tried the salmon nigiri sushi. The rice stuck to my molars and the fish could've been mistaken for a plastic prop. Even the iced tea tasted like plastic.

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Let the record show that I am nothing if not persistent. This is a second plate of food and that is a second helping of crawfish.
I went back again and tried the Chinese side of the buffet. Everything tasted pre-frozen and was overheated, the sweet and sour sauce failing to save even a bite of it. In a last-ditch effort, I tried to scoop some ice cream from the unlabeled buckets of chocolate and vanilla. The scoops were stuck fast into each one.

Not interested in playing a Sword in the Stone-style battle with the desserts, Ambrose and I made a quick exit. She suggested getting a raspa to cleanse our war-torn palates, but we ended up next door at Canino's instead. In the stalls behind the market, we found salvation: fresh-cut fruit with chili powder and salt sprinkled on top, $1 a bag.

I want to say that I've learned my lesson with buffets, but I haven't. I still plan on attacking the Wicked Spoon with a full-court press, and perhaps hitting up a Golden Corral in the future (only to watch little kids stick gross shit into the Chocolate Wonderfountain, though). The only lessons I learned here: Stay away from Jumbo Buffet, and don't be lured in by the siren song of all-you-can-eat buffet crawfish.



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Location Info

Empire Seafood - CLOSED

1848 Airline, Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant

The Hideaway On Dunvale

3122 Dunvale, Houston, TX

Category: Music

Canino's Produce

2520 Airline, Houston, TX

Category: General

Jumbo Buffet

1848 Airline Drive, Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant

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9 comments
MadMac
MadMac

"By the time you read this, I will be on a plane home to Houston from Las Vegas, where I will have hopefully won $1,000,000 off a nickel slot machine and eaten at the Wicked Spoon -- which, from what I can tell in the April edition of Saveur, looks like the coolest damn buffet in the world.I say hopefully, because I need something -- anything -- to act as a mind-eraser for the memories I'm still carrying around after dining at Jumbo Buffet on Airline last week."

So, if I read this right, the buffet was so bad it turned you into an 80-year-old retiree?

Katharine Shilcutt
Katharine Shilcutt

A 65-year-old retiree. I'm still young!

Wagordon
Wagordon

So how was the Wicked Spoon? I've eaten at a LOT of Chinese buffet joints, they're ubiquitous here, as you know. My fave is Hunan something-or-the-other, on W/bound feeder off of I-10 just outside the loop in the frontage strip of the Home Depot. Used to be located in another strip on the west end of the IKEA lot, before it got torn down for parking when they redid the IKEA. I've always thought the best Houston Chinese buffet joint would be a great subject for a reader-response type story......  

MadMac
MadMac

Noted. My job (state agency never to be named) makes me feel like I'm 308. Just saying.

Gerontion
Gerontion

Kpop Korean Buffet might be a better choice.

Actually IS a better choice. Leaps and bounds.

mollusk
mollusk

That is another cursed location.  Empire Seafood rarely had anyone in it whenever I went past.  If I'm not mistaken, some other place may have had a brief run between it and Jumbo Buffet, too.

sad
sad

 The other place was Fresca, an Asian/Mexican seafood place that was quite good, and that we all still miss....

Eric Henao
Eric Henao

Upfff! You are a brave woman. It is a shame that this place is bad. There are quite a few very good places along Airline…

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