Salad bar sociologist

When I was a kid I used to love family outings to Sizzler, although not really because of the salad bar. I mostly looked forward to the soft serve machine adjacent to the salad bar that they (abandoning all sense of logic and decency) allowed children to operate unsupervised. Thanks in part to health and safety regulations, it seems that Sizzler has all but disappeared from the American landscape. However, luckily for me, China doesn’t really pay much attention to health and safety regulations.

For ¥52 (roughly $8.50) you can get the unlimited salad bar at Sizzler, or 时时乐, which loosely translates as HAPPY TIME! Yes, the caps are necessary to convey the excitement of the double “时” in their name. This ¥52 also gets you one piece of cheese toast and as much people watching as you can get in before the restaurant closes. You technically receive the salad bar free if you order one of their entrees, but these are all insanely expensive and look as though they were microwaved by a stewardess on a regional airline.

I only eat the "gourmet mix" because I'm obviously a foodie

I only eat the “gourmet mix” because I’m obviously a foodie

Even better than all-you-can-eat wasabi potato salad (which is difficult to top) is all-you-can-watch couples on dates at Sizzler. Alex and I like to make sure we get our money’s worth, so we were there long enough for the tables around us to clear a few times over. She is by far more of a salad bar champion than I am, having managed to eat half a dozen plates of salad and fruit. She also turned pasta sauce into soup, because nobody tells her how to live her life. Respect.

Things I observed at the Sizzler while Alex showed the lettuce who’s boss:

  • Not one, not two, but three gentlemen ordering for their lady friends like they were at a restaurant with chez in its name
  • A dude sitting solo speared his steak rather than cut it into pieces. He bit chunks out of it like a raptor.
  • An older couple in track suits power walking between their table and the buffet
  • Lots of ladies food hoarding. They would fill five or six plates before they started eating. I don’t think they understand how a salad bar works.
  • At the insistence of his date, one dedicated fellow left Sizzler, bought hot milk tea at another stall, and returned triumphantly, a provider
  • A couple arrived already eating fried potato balls from a different restaurant. They did not properly prepare for salad bar domination.
  • Several guys drinking cans of beer not on the menu. Apparently Chinese Sizzler is BYOB.
  • A man who kept making trips to the salad bar for things his date requested. She would continue eating while he made subsequent trips. She obviously wears the (stretchy) pants in that relationship.

I’m not sure if the clientele is as entertaining at other locations, but I can safely recommend the U-Town Mall branch of Sizzler for some Grade A people watching and Grade D steak. Seriously, don’t order the meats. Just stick to the salad bar and enjoy the show.