Is it possible to get really delicious food from a steam table? "If you mean out at a restaurant in the States, I have never found a buffet I really enjoy," says escondido123. "In Italy, we did go to restaurants that offered a large antipasti of room temperature dishes all laid out on a long table and that I really enjoyed. But hot food sitting in warming trays, no thanks."
"Sure you can have great buffet," says wekick. "Some small towns have them with smaller containers and a quick turnover and are packed. I've eaten at some that all the veggies were from the garden, everything was made from scratch and had really good fried chicken."
"There's nothing wrong with keeping food warm for a while, so long as it's the right kind of food," says alanbarnes. "Cassoulet, braised short ribs, soups, and stewed dishes from coq au vin to doro wat to rogan josh to feijoada hold up very well. Eggs Benedict or stir-fried dishes? Not so much. Then there are the room-temp and cold options. The antipasti mentioned above are a good example of the former; for the latter, the Sunday brunch buffet at the Mark Hopkins has a big bed of crushed ice with oysters on the half shell, crab claws, and several varieties of caviar with all the fixings. Hard to complain about that."
And bulavinaka has a great buffet plan: "Barbecue and fixin's—nice smoked barbecued ribs, brisket, mustard-laced vinegary potato salad, barbecue beans, mac 'n' cheese, and cornbread. Strawberry pie or banana cream pie? Why not both?"