There are a number of great — tasty and inexpensive — buffet-style restaurants in our neighborhood serving a variety of cuisines. Pictured is Tera Magyar right near our busz stop, which serves very affordable home cooking (and pitchers of water on the tables), but there’s a good “Török Büfé” (“Turkish buffet” = Middle Eastern cuisine) and “Kinai Büfé” (Chinese) close by, as well as a food court in the mall about half a mile away. The experience in each is fairly consistent — your standard industrial kitchen steam tables filled with good — or sometimes just “interesting” — food that you choose as you slide a tray down the line. Real Hungarians actually speak, of course, while we simply point and beg.
And then, you would say to move the story along, “yeah, yeah, then you get to the end and pay for it, big deal.” But you would be wrong, imaginary dining companion! The server then takes the plate of food you’ve selected and places it into one of sometimes a stack of microwave ovens and zaps it for the requisite time to make it hot as well as tasty.
To conserve energy — and dollars — most of these restaurants choose not to keep the steam tables roiling hour after hour, and simply heat the servings on demand instead. I don’t know how crispier stuff would fare under this approach, but for the stews, casseroles and potato/rice dishes that are the staples of these buffets, it works pretty darn well, and it obviously helps keep the cost down.