The Ocean Buffet

There is sketchy and then there is down right punishment. It was the latter for our next foodie victim. In this edition of Dare to Dine, Chow Bella editor Amy Silverman and our last Dare to Dine warrior, Erica O'Neil, challenged fellow Chow Bella contributor Shannon Armour to go where no Chow Bella-ista has dared to go before -- the Ocean Buffet in Mesa.  

Originally, I was suppose to pay a visit to the neighborhood trailer park near my home in Tempe where a woman was serving tacos and burritos for dirt cheap every Saturday and Sunday. I was excited. Like super excited. The thought of homemade Mexican food straight out of a trailer -- burritos for a dollar and actually street tacos? Sign me up. And if it was good, it would be my new go-to hungover breakfast spot.

Then she stopped doing it. 


And so I received my new challenge -- the Ocean Buffet on Country Club and the 60. You know the one -- the former diner with the neon blue and pink lights.Yeah, that one. 


But a dare is a dare. After begging and pleading with several people including the boyfriend who kindly said, "I will do anything for you, but I won't do that" or in other words, a flat out no, I managed to talk two extremely good friends into joining me on my mission.

Find out what Shannon found at the buffet after the jump.

The morning of the buffeting day I received a few text messages from the previously mentioned extremely good friends that read something like, "So this is how you feel the morning before you die" and "I am seriously looking forward to the food poisoning later tonight."

At least this would be a memorable dinning experience. 

So off we went to the Ocean Buffet in, dare we say it, Mesa. We pulled into the quiet parking lot around 7 on a Wednesday night, also know as "buffet-ing time." 

At first glance one might think that the building once housed a diner, and we're still not 100 percent sure just what it used to be, but it doesn't look like a diner up close except for the out of place decal on the north window of a cow licking an ice cream cone which I mistook for something entirely inappropriate. 

Still confused by the outward appearance,  we approached the sightly unkempt restaurant, and with every step we felt like the pulsing neon signs was telling us to go back. Against our better judgement, we ignored it and continued forward.

Somehow once we were actually inside the restaurant, the fear subsided. The place looked clean and we were not met at the door by any sorts of offensive fish smells. We took a few  quick glances at the fishies swimming happily in their tank and at the sparkly plastic jewelry that adorned the front counter before we finally grabbed a table where we could observe the goings on at the buffet and casually people watch the the rest of the buffet-ers (a few young families with small children, a dude with a pretty severe black eye and several lone diners that kept to themselves in there semi private booths). 

The place scored immediate points with me for having my two favorite condiments -- Sriracha and Tapatio on every table  (although I wasn't sure why you would want Tapatio at a Chinese & Japanese buffet -- but it's the thought that counts). The interior was definitely dated. It looked straight out of a cheap motel off the "old" strip in Vegas, with seafoam green vinyl chairs, frosted glass booth partitions and yellow walls (not in a good way). 

Then we got up the courage and ventured to the buffet area. 

​The first row of food was all cold stuff. Potato salad, pasta salad, whole baby octopus, shrimp stuffs and other various shellfish -- none of which looked quite right. We attempted the baby octopus but it was too rubbery to choke down and we didn't dare touch the mussels or oysters. I grabbed a small sampling of something that resembled pasta salad, but somehow once it made it to my plate it became even more unappetizing and was left untouched. 

The next two rows looked much safer. As we navigated our way around an employee who was walking around with a wireless microphone announce to the kitchen what was out and what needed refreshing (weird), we loaded up our plates with bacon-wrapped shrimp, spicy chicken and pork dishes, spring rolls, crab puffs, orange chicken, fried rice, coconut shrimp, chow mien noodles, fully intact crispy shrimp, and taquitos (remember that game "Which of these things is not like the others"?). We stayed away from a couple items like the baked mussels, the garlic bread, and the one sad and lonely snow crab leg sitting in a murky bath of luke warm water. Poor crab leg. 

This stuff was edible.In fact, the spicy chicken was a stand out dish. Lightly breaded, fried, and then tossed in a slightly sweet sauce with jalapenos -- I actually went back for seconds. The orange chicken was entirely too sweet and tasted like orange Skittles; if the kitchen would have actually fried the crab puffs a little bit longer, they would have been quite good. 

Once we had our fill of the basics, we moved on the the dessert table. We skipped the ice cream and went straight for the cakes.The dessert offerings wen't horrible but everything was obviously from a freezer somewhere. If I could go back in time, I would have opted for the fresh fruit instead of the warm, dry cream puffs and grease-filled, fried, sugar coated dough (it tasted like the state fair and left an awesome film on my teeth). 

But in all honesty, we agreed that it wasn't that bad. It was the average. Would I rather be eating at FnB in Scottsdale? Of course, but I would take that over any restaurant in town. Was it mind-blowing? Absolutely not, but I have had much worse (remember when Jonathan went to Sing High? Yeah, I was there, too). I wouldn't call it a gem or anything and I probably would never go back unless it happened to be the last place within 30 miles or I needed to eat on a budget. 

Speaking of budget, did I mention that all three of us ate for $30?  That included drinks. So if you really think about it, it's kinda of a score. Plus the service was impeccable. Our drinks were never empty, our dirty plates were always gone before we came back with more food, no one stole my purse, the server didn't bug us, and our check was brought to us promptly. 

And we all lived. 

Have a suggestion for the next Dare to Dine? Let know where you would like me to send our next challenger to in the comments sections. 

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Shannon Armour
Contact: Shannon Armour