GLORIA'S BUFFET & SALAD BAR 305 N. Charles St. Hours: 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Mondays to Fridays; 11 to 3 p.m. Saturdays. Call (410) 685-7578. Food by the pound -- it sounds more like grocery shopping than lunch. But the hot buffet/salad bar, at which diners load up a tray and pay the tab according to its net weight, is a popular option among downtown eaters both hearty and dainty.
Gloria's is one of the newest of such eateries, occupying a narrow but brightly lighted and mirrored storefront on the east side of Charles just above Saratoga Street. Tables accommodate a dozen or so eaters, and a counter with stools for additional seating is along one wall.
The fare in the hot buffet bar ($3.65 a pound and available from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.) is mostly Chinese. It seems a wider and considerably fresher assortment than at some similar places, and a nice menu on the wall lists each day's choices (as does a printed carryout menu).
A good fried noodle dish is available daily, for example, with light sesame-flavored pasta garnished with green peppers and mushrooms. Also good every day are the hot buffalo wings: chicken wings in an orange and garlic sauce which some might find a bit too piquant.
The shrimp egg rolls are also particularly good, with a flaky texture to the wrapping rather than the greasy variety you sometimes find.
Each day's selections also include standard fresh vegetable salad bar items as well as hot American and other non-Chinese fare. Among these are meat loaf with gravy (Tuesdays) Turkey a la King (Wednesdays) and Italian sausage with green pepper (Friday).