A Slice Of Life: My Long-Awaited Return To The Pizza Buffet

“Pizza” by sk8geek

As a Seattle-bred tween who participated heavily in youth sports, postgame/postseason parties were held at one of two pizzerias — Godfather’s or Round Table. While Godfather’s was closer to my house, I always preferred Round Table because its pizza was better (the inclusion of cheddar alongside mozzarella was key) and its arcade area included Mike Tyson’s Punch Out, which I found more enjoyable than the Pac-Man machine at Godfather’s.

During summertime — which, unlike today’s norm, was largely left devoid of camps or any organized activities — my brothers and I would ride our bikes to one of the two pizzerias and partake in the all-you-can-eat salad and pizza buffets during lunchtime. This was a multi-hour, double-digit slice affair that would often constitute two full meals for what was probably around $5 back then (I’m 47). Since Round Table was a bit further away, sometimes my mom would drive us there in our family’s brand new 1985 Volvo 240 DL sedan.

Some 35 years later, Godfather’s and Round Table have a greatly diminished presence, while all-you-can-eat lunchtime pizza buffets, while not entirely obsolete, have become far harder to find — impossible, really, during the two-year COVID pandemic. But after dropping my daughter off at her art class in a suburb just south of Seattle the other day, I drove by the area’s lone Round Table outpost, which had a banner that read, “Lunch buffet, 11–2,” and quickly rearranged my work schedule to block out those hours on a chosen Thursday.

Like my mom, I drive a boxy Volvo 240 DL. (Mine’s a wagon and it’s a ’92, but that’s still before Ford bought the brand and screwed Volvos up interminably.) So in steady rainfall that would soon give way to sunny skies and the attendant post-coital rainbow, I drove my red Volvo wagon to the Burien Round Table with a little extra pep in my gas pedal’s step. When I got out of the car — 12:15ish, a little later than I wanted to be — I didn’t walk into the restaurant; I jogged. I hadn’t been this excited to eat lunch since I was in Little League.

Upon entering the Round Table, I realized they’d done a nice job restoring the pizzeria to its former glory. There were TVs tuned to sports; a back corner with air hockey, pop-a-shot, and a few arcade games; a healthy beer menu; and, of course, the pizza and salad buffets. Since there was a $2 uncharge to consume salad in addition to pizza, I said “no thanks” to that and just got the pizza and beverage deal for $12 after tax. Serendipitously, a new pie came out just as I hit the heat lamps. I loaded my plate with four slices. I was off to a good start.

The four slices took me all of 10 minutes to finish, but when I returned to the buffet, it was empty — and remained empty for 10 minutes. In the realm of all-you-can-eat etiquette, this constituted a crisis. It didn’t help that there were about a dozen dudes at least as overweight as I am hovering around. I envisioned a scrum of the sort that could go viral. Thankfully, we were all gentle giants, and nobody took more than two slices once a fresh pie came out.

I wound up consuming 10 slices (they’re on the small side) and could have had four more. The pizza remained delicious when stacked against its non-gourmet peers. Everyone in there — and it was all adults, as kids were in school — was instantly outed as a glutton, and the crowd was aggressively male and girthy of gut. A pinch of embarrassment gave way to knowing looks which transmitted the message, “Hey, we’re all shameless fat-asses here.” The only situations I could equate this with were being in a strip club or doing naughty drugs with nice people.

Only pigging out on pizza has a childlike innocence that these other activities lack. For a couple of hours, we felt like kids again, and the feeling was good. So good, in fact, that I’ll be back another weekday, with a fellow man-child or two in tow.

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Author of Seattle's Best Dive Bars. Contributor: No Depression, America's Best Racing. Greenland's #1 Jai Alai player. Do you have a vacancy for a backscrubber?

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Mike Seely

Mike Seely

Author of Seattle's Best Dive Bars. Contributor: No Depression, America's Best Racing. Greenland's #1 Jai Alai player. Do you have a vacancy for a backscrubber?

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