American Chinese Buffets Have Roots In Ohio

If you grew up anywhere around Middle America or in certain areas of the coasts, you probably remember trips to the local Chinese buffet being a part of family celebrations. While the restaurants may be a reflection of popular Chinese cuisines, the history of the Chinese buffet is uniquely American. The first Chinese immigrants began arriving in the U.S. as early as the 1850s and brought with them a myriad of flavorful foods that were previously unknown to many North Americans. Many of these new Americans began opening restaurants that featured popular foods from their country of origin. 

As Chinese cuisine became more and more popular in the Coastal regions of the U.S., entrepreneurs soon began introducing the restaurants in other regions of the country, cementing Chinese restaurants into their place in American gastronomic culture. Finally, during the 1940s, another foreign food trend became partly responsible for the Chinese buffets found in cities today. Smorgasbords were becoming fast becoming a trendy option for entertaining guests during the decade, and one Ohio social club's smorgasbord menu helped set the stage for other buffets in the decades to come. The group's 1948 ad in the Akron Beacon Journal for a "Chinese smorgasbord and Sweater Hop" helped to popularize this kind of dining experience among diners and is thought to be the first mention of a Chinese buffet in the media (via Sampan).

Modern Chinese Restaurants have more authentic food on offer

Today, Chinese buffets are still as popular as ever all around the U.S. However, many of the modern iterations of these restaurants feature more traditional fare than their predecessors. Despite being called Chinese buffets, most of the food served at Chinese restaurants is very different from what you might find on the menu at a Chinese restaurant in China. This is because restaurant owners typically tailor their dishes to suit local tastes, a process that has created the American-Chinese cuisine that most Americans associate with Chinese buffets, per Fact Frenzy

In recent decades, more Chinese restaurants have endeavored to serve a selection of authentic regional dishes to their American customers. Dishes like frog legs, hot pot, dim sum and many more delicious delicacies can all be found being prepared in the kitchens of many modern Chinese eateries. Whether they serve chow mein noodles and sweet and sour pork or Congee porridge and mapo tofu, Chinese buffets and their fascinating history are a part of what makes the American food landscape so wonderfully diverse.