If you doubt for a second why Afrah is building a massive, new restaurant right next door to the original in Richardson, you only need to show up on a sunny day during buffet service. The lunch buffet is a long-standing tradition in office-worker, daytime-calorie maximization, but what happens at this Lebanese spot borders on unprecedented, spilling out from the main dining room and onto the patio.
I showed up at noon, and a slow-moving line snaked out the door. The tables on the patio were as filled as the trays that left the queue, and customers churned through the place, stopping to leave money at the register on the way out the door.
The problem with Afrah's buffet is that it's not set up to let you survey the offering before you commit to the fray. You enter the cold side at the right with hunger and hope, not knowing what foods lie just down the pass. Grab too much tabbouleh and you might have to pile your meats on a pyramid of vegetables.
I'm sorry to say my attempt at the line was a terrible one. In addition to not formulating a plan before I got started, I let a little old lady strong arm me down the line. Her tray was always right against mine, subtly, no, overtly pressuring me to move more quickly. By the time I got to the soda machine, I felt like I'd missed out on so much. And looking back down the line at a sea of churning serving spoons, I knew there was no going back. What was on my tray was my lunch.
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SHOW ME HOW
Obviously, buffets work in the restaurant's favor financially. There wouldn't be any buffets, otherwise, and there certainly wouldn't be a second Afrah the size of Medieval Times in the working next door. Still, looking at these trays as they come off the line, it's hard to figure out how Afrah makes a dime. Customers grab two plates and two bowls, and hit the meat trays with gluttonous vengeance. You can see them calculating their cost per ounce decrease every time they pick up another spoon, planning to cancel dinner even though they surely won't.
The tray you see pictured here was likely the most modest one constructed that day, and I'm ashamed to say I still didn't finish it. No matter. I'm not the only one to waste a little gyro meat, and Afrah rolls on, not just with the massive location next door, but an additional one in Irving. Done properly, this buffet has to be one of the most cost effective lunches in the Dallas area, and if one practices restraint, you can really make it a healthy one. If the new locations help this line move more quickly and the food tastes just as good at both of them, I'd say we're all winners in the game of office lunches. Both should be options before too long this summer.