Dilemma: You got home later than usual, having forgotten to take something out of the freezer for dinner. The kids want fast food, and you're tired of it. And nobody can agree on what to eat.
Solution: Buffet, domain of the indecisive, palace of gluttony.
And perhaps nowhere are there so many buffets to choose from as in Glen Burnie. There are almost as many buffets as car dealers.
Here's a sampling of five that my family has checked out of late, all found along or near a three-mile stretch of Ritchie Highway:
Best Buffet, closest to my home, which opened in March at 6630 Ritchie Highway in the shopping center across the street from the Motor Vehicle Administration. Open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. seven days a week, it is unique among the local buffets in offering Chinese and American food.
The choices are set out on several serving islands - Chinese or American entrees, salads, desserts. Lunch, served Monday through Friday, is $5.70; dinner, evenings and all day on weekends, is $8.55. Beverages are not included in the price. There are reduced prices for children and seniors.
Old Country Buffet, just across the street at 6619 Ritchie Highway, which opened in November 1995 at the site of a defunct buffet. You'll find a quiet, comfy atmosphere with food like grandma used to cook - an American grandma, that is - despite the fact that it seats up to 274 people and welcomes bus groups.
Some of the menu selections change daily, but not the favorites.
It's the only place where I've had creamy chicken and dumplings, pot roast and meatloaf all in one meal. The food was pleasantly flavored without being too spicy.
Hours are 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday (the only day it serves breakfast), 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday-Friday and 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday. Prices for adults are $6.49 for breakfast, $6.39 for lunch, and $8.39 for dinner, including beverage. The cost for children is 55 cents per year of age, up to age 12.
Golden Corral, off Ordnance Road one traffic light to the south at 6701 Chesapeake Center, one of four Maryland locations in a national chain.
When you walk into the brightly lighted place, the aroma of freshly made baked goods greets you. Signature favorites include fresh fruit and vegetables, delivered daily, prepared and cooked on site. And the homemade mashed potatoes have lumps in them, just like at home. The pot roast is said to be simmered for 12 hours or more, and pizza, bread pudding and rolls are constantly replenished.
On weekends, breakfast is available with typical Southern touches: cinnamon rolls, grits, omelets made to order. You'll find the large staff keeps the tables clean and the drinks coming.
Hours are 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. weekdays, 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday and 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday. Basic prices for adults are $6.29 for weekday lunch, $7.19 to $7.99 for dinner, depending on the day of the week, and $6.29 for breakfast on weekends. Children are charged $2.99 to $4.99, based on height.
The New Hunan Inn, for which you head back to Ritchie Highway and make a right turn into the next shopping center, Chesapeake Square, at 1714 Ritchie Highway. Welcome to my choice in Chinese buffets.
Weekdays, lunch costs $5.50 and dinner is $7.95, including hot tea - and it's $5.50 all day on weekends. Other beverages are additional. The place features more than 10 hot items including soup, vegetables, rices and main dishes, some of which vary from day to day. Triple Delight, my favorite, consists of jumbo shrimp, beef and chicken sauteed with vegetables in a special sauce.
This restaurant is not as large as the other buffets, seating almost 80 people comfortably.
Family owned, New Hunan has been in business since July 1993. Hours are 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday.
Cactus Willies, if all-you-can-eat steak is what whets your appetite, is a little farther south, at 7315 Ritchie Highway. You may recognize the location as the site of the former Horn & Horn and Duffs buffets, but there is no comparison to the past.
Horn & Horn, in partnership with the owner of Cactus Willies of Hanover, Pa., turned the place into a restaurant with a Western theme - its special feature is the grill where steaks are cooked to order and chicken is barbecued.
The place has theme nights with food to match. For example, stop in for Italian night and a cheesy manicotti, or on Western night for spicy ribs.
The largest of the buffets in terms of food and seating capacity (it can accommodate 350 appetites), Cactus Willies is open daily for lunch and dinner. Hours are 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday.
Tuesday through Friday, steaks are served only at dinner. On Saturday, Sunday and Monday, the grill serves up steak all day. Prices for adults are $5.49 for lunch and $7.99 dinner; children are 55 cents per year of age up to age 12.
All of the buffets are accessible to the handicapped and accept major credit cards. None offers doggie bags. This gluttony, alas, has to end at the door.