An inexpensive, healthy dining out option for RVers


By Emily Woodbury
Golden Corral, America’s leading buffet chain, is known for its mouthwatering BBQ chicken, its melt-in-your-mouth mashed potatoes, and its juicy roast beef. The chain is family friendly and delivers wholesome foods at a reasonable price.

Since opening in 1973, the chain has expanded to 481 locations in 41 states, including Alaska. The buffet is open breakfast, lunch, and dinner from 7:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. on weekends, and 9:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. on weekdays. While Golden Corral can be a 5,000+ calorie meal commitment, it offers healthier options that taste just as good, and, in my opinion, are just as much fun to eat.

For RVers, it can be hard to find healthy dining out options. Many of us have health issues that prevent us from eating in just any ol’ restaurant, which can complicate matters. And while fast food is fast, it doesn’t give us the proper nutrition we need for energy and to keep our minds alert while driving.

So, this brings us to Golden Corral. After a long day on the road, the restaurant beckons you in with the soft neon glow of its macaroni orange sign. The scent of freshly-baked yeast rolls fills the air; butter and, well, more butter.

Once inside, ask for a water, not a Coke. Grab a pastel-colored plate, get overwhelmed by the million options, and go.

THE SALAD BAR, which wraps around two counter spaces, has everything on the green spectrum from spinach to arugula to crispy romaine. Corn, carrots, olives, tomatoes, mushrooms, ham, salami, hard-boiled eggs, beets, sunflower seeds, dried cranberries, candied walnuts, crumbled blue cheese, feta cheese, all decorate the buffet line – there’s pretty much anything you can imagine; grab that side of coleslaw too.

For dinner, grilled shrimp, fish or chicken (probably not wild caught or sustainable, but it’s better than the Burger King options across the street) and a side of fresh corn. Gluten-free bread options are available too. Remember, just because it’s all you can eat doesn’t mean you have to eat it all (I know, it’s hard.)

Ah, dessert. Look at that chocolate fountain, spewing out pure luxurious chocolate. Strawberries, marshmallows, rice krispie treats, pineapple; stab it with a skewer and dunk it under. As soon as your spouse notices you starting to drool, she tells you to stay away from that killer ingredient, sugar. But wait, you notice a sign, the most beautiful words you’ve ever read, “Sugar-free desserts available!” “Don’t worry, Honey. I’ll stay away from the sugar,” you say with a grin. You get up abruptly and run up to the dessert bar, dramatic music plays as you read the food labels in slow motion as if you were playing a role in a Spielberg movie,
“Sugar-free apple pie,” “Sugar-free strawberry cheesecake,” “Sugar-free cookies.” The dessert gods have listened.

Golden Corral, sure, it could be bad for the arteries and the cholesterol levels and it could keep you up all night with indigestion, but, for all the unhealthy options we’re offered out there on the road, surprisingly, this might be the healthiest of them all. Plus, who says healthy has to be expensive? Dinner will run you $11-14 a person, depending on the diner’s age and the day of the week. Make your spouse proud with a salad, a gluten free-bread roll, and a sugar-free dessert. That little s’mores belly will roll right off you.

Find the nearest Golden Corral to you here.



14 Thoughts to “An inexpensive, healthy dining out option for RVers”

  1. Susan Smith

    We have been to Golden Corral before, it is a shame we don’t have one in southern Oregon. Love them

  2. Michael Galvin

    Sugar-free means aspartame, saccharine, and other artificial (don’t exist in nature) products which are much worse for you than sugar.

    1. Hi Michael,

      Thanks so much for writing. You’re absolutely correct – most sugar-free products are actually unhealthier than their full-sugar counterparts. Luckily, many of Golden Corral’s “sugar-free” items are actually just “no-sugar-added,” which is something I should have specified in the article.

      Also, for many people who are diabetic or have other reason’s for not being able to eat sugar, sugar-free options are always appreciated – just hopefully, as sugary products are too, in moderation.


  3. Summrbrz

    Love Golden Corral! I love veggies and they have an abundant selection. I can fill up on them without touching meat. I usually do two plates!

    1. That’s fantastic, Summrbrz! I think the salad bar is one of the best parts of Golden Corral – they have everything! Plus, I think the “build-your-own” idea always makes eating more fun.


  4. George B.

    Emily we too enjoy Golden Corral as we winter in Yuma, AZ. If I recall correctly, go in for dinner before 4 PM and there is a great discount. And Flay, this is an informative post which is appreciated by most RVers.

  5. David Ozanne

    I also love this restaurant. It gives a Military discount to me as a retired Marine. Hopefully Rand McNalley will list them on their RV maps.

    1. William A Bailey

      I too retired from the us army. My familey use the military discount, up in saratoga springs ny. Good food , we go about 2 times a month.

  6. John Koenig

    Golden Corral buffets are my favorite and first dining choice when I can find one. Your article is the first time I’ve heard of Gluten Free bread being available at GC. I’ll have to ask about GF bread the next time I’m in a GC.

  7. FJay

    Seems like an ad, more than a story. What’s the benefit for RVers? Plenty of parking, RV slots? Discounts? Overnight parking?

    1. Fjay, The benefit is it’s a good, healthy and inexpensive place to dine. And this is not not an ad; nobody to our knowledge at Golden Corral knows the story was even written, and Emily, who wrote the story, paid for her meal. Must we restrict our stories about places to those that provide RV parking or discounts?

    2. Hi Fjay,

      As my dad, Chuck, mentioned in his comment, this was not a sponsored ad or anything that I didn’t write myself. While driving cross-country a few months ago, my dad and I stopped at Golden Corral a few times for dinner. We noted that it was a great place for people “on the road” to be able to get a filling, cheap, meal. There is no overnight parking, no discounts for RVers (though there are military discounts) but it is a great place, in many states, to find a quick, healthy and reliable dining option.


  8. Drew

    Great job Emily and welcome to RV I’ve been reading your Dad’s newsletter for at least 15 years now. Good luck and enjoy yourself!


    1. Thanks so much for the kind words, Drew. I’m happy to be a part of something that you look forward to each week.

      Take care!

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