Chinese Buffet Resturants

Do Chinese Buffet Resturants all get their food from the same place?

That is to say, I have been to a number of Chinese Buffets, and they all seem to have the SAME exact offerings, and SAME titles for the offerings. This leads me to believe that Chinese Buffets seem to come from a catalog of sorts, where you can mix and match for your prospective buffet venue.

I remember reading an article in the Washington Post in which the reporter happened to spot one of those jumbo sized cans of food labeled “Chinese Brown Sauce”. He (She?) surmised that the Chinese restaurants here in the U.S. order from the same catalogue which then leads to the stunning sameness that permeates the industry.

It intrigues me –mildly- as to how similar the Chinese restaurants are to the fast food places such as McDonalds. You order a Big Mac in Baltimore, San Francisco or Podunk and you know what to expect. Order General Tso’s Chicken in those same three cities and I would bet they would be surprisingly close in taste.

Lastly, my understanding is that “authentic” Chinese food, the kind you might find in the more renowned Chinatowns throughout the country or that which can be found when visiting China, is quite different from the Americanized fare we Yanks have now grown accustomed to.

I don’t even want to talk about the Fortune Cookie thing.

I know what you mean.

For our play-at-home audience:

They are american

I’ve noticed a similar phenomenon at “authentic” Mexican restaurants, but to a somewhat lesser degree. In widely separate places, I’ve seen the same menu items called the same things and prepared in the same way. But something tells me that the “Special Texas” just isn’t the name of a popular dish in Queretaro.

I’ve wondered about this myself, as it applies to both Chinese and Mexican restaurants.

That raises another question. I can Hi-jack my own thread right?
Why do Mexican resturant combo numbers … seem to be the same… regaurdless of the resturant ?

This has been common for a long time. ITs cheaper and easier to buy bulk cans of pre prepared products and heat to serve. This could easily apply to things like chili verde/colorado, enchiladas, tamales, as well as many types of chinese fare.

We have a local mexican chain here that all of their food is made in a central facility and shipped out in bulk to the restaraunts who pretty much just heat and serve. Scary thing is, they otherwise look like a nice respectable sit down restaraunt, even though they do very little cooking beyond garnishing and plating the stuff.

Pizza places are gulty of this as well. Many places buy the exact same product from the exact same distributors. Big chains sometimes have private stock but when I left Round Table Pizza just about everything we were buying was AFAICT generic stuff anyone could buy.

But that’s true of most types of restaurants, isn’t it?

If I go to an ‘American style Steakhouse’, I will find T-bone, Sirloin, New York Strip, etc. on the menu.

In an Italian restaurant you’ll find Spagetti with Meatballs, Chicken Alfredo, Veal Parmigan, etc.

And is there any pizza restaurant anywhere that won’t have Pepperoni Pizza on the menu?

Restaurants offer the same dishes because those are the ones that customers want! Every type of restaurant cusine has certain basic dishes that have been offered for years, that people consistently order, and that are the mainstay of the business. Restaurants don’t stay in business long if they don’t offer the dishes that customers want.

I don’t go to them, but around here there are a lot more of these places than McDonalds. One near us has tour busses that come at lunch. :eek:

True, based on our experience with our friend originally from Hong Kong who knows the obscure New York Chinatown restaurants quite well.

I’ve never even heard of this dish. Clearly it hasn’t penetrated the UK market yet.

Yes and no. Sure, you’d expect every Italian restaurant to have fettuccine alfredo. But you don’t generally find that such a dish at two different restaurants is indistinguishable. Every pizza place may have pepperoni pizza, but they’re all generally unique. (I haven’t actually encountered the phenomenon drachillix describes.) I’ve been to countless family-owned Italian restaurants in my time, and every one of them makes their lasagna in a different way. I could not, however, tell a quesadilla relleno at Los Mariachis from one at El Rancho Grande.

Having mostly the same menu items is one thing. We’re talking about having the same menu. Including the order of all the items on it, the names of seemingly non-standard dishes, and even down to the numbering scheme. The menus at many Chinese and “authentic” Mexican places is like some industry standard, with only a different name on the front. This, again, is behavior I wouldn’t expect to find at a family-owned Italian restaurant.

That’s another oddity. While American Chinese restaurants are all very similar, Chinese restaurants in other English-speaking countries have different styles. So there is an Australian Chinese cuisine, which has been around for a long time, and mainly survives in country towns and the large registered clubs. (It’s died out in the hearts of the big cities, because there are a lot of recent immigrants from China, so what you get is closer to what you would get in Hong Kong or Beijing).

But all these ethnic restaurants adapt to local tastes. Those that have been around longer (like Chinese and Mexican in the US) have adapted more than the more recent styles (like Thai and Vietnamese in the US).

Who was General Tso and why are we eating his chicken?

Really? I had no idea. I would consider General Tso’s, like Kung Pao, and Moo Goo Gai Pan to be relatively faithful and immediately recognized mainstays to be found on the majority of Chinese restaurant menus here in the U.S.

I remember when I was in Paris and passed by a Chinese restaurant though we didn’t actually go in to eat.

The menu posted on the display window listed very few offerings and labeled the dishes as simply pork / chicken / fish “à la chinoise”.

Another quirk to the Chinese menus is the things like “Happy Family,” and “Buddhist Delight,” which seem to suggest a less than masterful grasp of the language but are charming nonetheless.

And now for a brief trivia interlude in that comes to mind. What Paul Simon song was inspired by a dish he found on a Chinese restaurant menu and what it consist of? Quickly now. And no googling.

Mother and child reunion. Also a Mexican dish, to my knowledge.

Do I get a fortune cookie?

Sadly, most quickie Chinese eateries I frequent have a rather sweet, not too spicy, General Tso’s. However, a dozen years back, it was be spicy, with the hot peppers, and usually served with steamed broccoli, as the norm.

Imagine my surprise, when working a project outside of DC, the quickie Chinese eaterie was serving the older, better, spicier General Tso’s. To say I was pleasantly surprised would be an understatement.

I’d suspect that unless your going to a “good” chinese restaurant that uses their own recipies and cooks fresh,
that most hole-in-the-wall chinese buffet type restaurants use the same local disributor. That is, they all get the same sauces, noodles, rice, chicken, desserts, etc. from a bigger outfit like SYSCO.

A kosher pizzeria?

Not in Buffalo. Each pizzeria – and there are hundreds of them in the city – have their own sauces, dough mixtures, and so on. Topppings may come from a food service company, but the pizza itself varies greatly from pizzeria to pizzeria. Same thing with chicken wings.

The Greek restaurants that are everywhere in Buffalo are all independently owned, but the menus are almost identical, and the food similar. Only in Buffalo are “Texas hots” Greek.

Actually, if you go to relatively authentic Chinese joints in the US (think SW Houston on Bellaire Blvd.) you’ll probably get something more or less authentic. During my study abroad time, I didn’t find the UK Chinese Food appreciably different than the Chinese food in the SW Houston restaraunts I’d grown up eating in.

However, when I moved to Dallas, and went to Chinese places that aren’t in the Asian areas, I was astounded and amazed at how much different and blander the dishes were.