Wookiee Hut Cuisine presents:
Justin's
4900 Sinclair Road, Columbus, OH
Review by Diana

Conventional wisdom says do not eat at hotel restaurants -- especially not buffets. They cater to the ignorant masses, filling their bellies for the cheapest cost per belly. All in all, you might be better off at Taco Bell. Ugh ...

A well-worn joke amongst my crowd states that most toxic landfills would put a sign reading, "Caution," or "Danger," or "Keep Out!" However, in this part of the country, the sign reads, "Welcome to Columbus." Too bad we had to be here for a meeting.

So we were wary of the "All you can eat Prime Rib Dinner $9.50" sign -- visions of bad meat and crummy pasta side dishes filled our brains. But it was hot outside, the car was threatening to overheat, we were someplace we didn't know that well, and we were tired from the conference and workshops. So we succumbed.

My expectation from Southern-style buffets is long lines of hot and cold cafeteria serveries with hundreds of dishes on offer. Many are available in warehouse club stores like Costco or Sam's Club. There is no way you can taste it all, and it all ends up as sort of a brownish gray mush with a bland or salty flavor. I keep waiting for a mutated salmonella and E. Coli bacterium to grin at me from steamy pools of overboiled bain-maries.

To our delight, the prime rib was freshly cooked and carved in front of you by a man who knew how to handle a knife ... on the clean steam table were selections of sides and mains, including cheddar mashed potatoes, penne vegetable toss, fried catfish in lobster sauce, roasted pork in dijon cream sauce, and szechuan chicken. There was also soup, rolls, salad bar -- all in all, fairly simple, in quantities small enough to be removed and refreshed frequently.

All of it was actually cooked well and thoughtfully. Whomever they have as a cook, they need to keep him or her or them! Soft drinks were bottomless refills, the service wasn't prompt, but courteous and nice. The lounge piano music was a bit annoying, but if you use a Jedi mind trick, you can ignore it. There aren't really walls in the restaurant, being a part of the Ramada Plaza and Conference Center lobby, across the corridor from the television lounge. You're completely exposed to all who pass -- not a place to not be seen or for a tête à tête. The hotel is older, a bit dowdy, but the rooms are clean and comfortable, with relatively thick walls for a quiet rest.

They do a $5.95 breakfast buffet, too, which serves stuff like oatmeal and toppings, biscuits and gravy, French toast, bacon, sausage, as well as chopped fruit, yogurt, cereals, danishes, etc. It was surprisingly good, and included coffee, tea or juice.

So despite having to be stuck in Columbus, OH, all was not lost. Okay, maybe the toxic stuff tenderizes the meat or doubles as a flavorful seasoning. But there's an up-side to that reputation! It means a surprise like Justin's is appreciated even more than if we were in, say, New York City ... It's economical, the food is good, the servers are nice, and it kept us from having to go out in the heat. Who could ask for more??


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