Chain Challenge II: The Electric Boogaloo

Last year marked the debut of the Chain Challenge. You remember this stunt, where if I raised at least $1,500 for the Greater Syracuse Walk to End Alzheimer’s, that I would dine at the Olive Garden and write a honest-to-God restaurant review about the experience. Remember? Well, you made it happen. With your help, dear reader, I raised $1,810 and wound up having the fourth-highest individual fundraising total at the event. And dinner was terrific and terrible all at once.

Well, it’s 2015 and time to bring it back. Ladies and gents, welcome to the Chain Challenge II.

“Wait,” you say. “I’m too lazy to click the link and figure out what happened last year.”

Good point. So, long story short, this blog is about celebrating the high-quality local food. It’s about the unique tastes and restaurants in the Syracuse area, and the other cities that I visit. I believe strongly in eating where the locals eat and discovering what’s new and great about a community’s food culture. Sure, I could eat at The Cheesecake Factory or P.F. Chang’s when visiting The Sister on Long Island, but maybe there’s a great French bistro that we could try instead. On a Friday at home, we could go to the Buffalo Wild Wings down the street, or we could go a little further and hit the Pale & Bucket for better wings and better beer choices.

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I’m not against chain restaurants. I’m against chains that serve low-quality food at high-dollar levels and give people a false sense of what good food from that genre is supposed to taste like. It’s how the Olive Garden, Red Lobster, and Outback have ruined American palates for what high quality Italian restaurnats, seafood houses and steakhouses should be.

And it’s not about economics and what people can afford, so don’t give me that. For what we paid at the O.G. last year for dinner and appetizers ($113), we could have had an exponentially better dinner at a family-owned Italian joint.

So, what’s with the Chain Challenge II?

If I raise $1,750 for the 2015 Greater Syracuse Walk to End Alzheimer’s by 11:59 p.m. on October 3, 2015, Al Dente will visit and review Rochester’s Golden Corral buffet restaurant.

Eww. Really?


The Chain Challenge started as an idea of Smartest Man I Know™ Dr. Brian Moritz. This year, we will head down to the Best Buffet In The USA™, where he will select every plate that I consume. He will have help. You, dear reader, will have the chance to choose what I have to eat. Here’s how:

  • All gifts receive a Facebook and Twitter shoutout.
  • For a gift of $50, you can consult with Dr. Moritz on what I have to eat during the meal. There will be interactive polling prior to our visit.
  • For a gift of $100, you can having naming rights to the course (I will hold a sign with your name next to the dish, take a photo, and use it in the review). Limited to three donors.
  • For a gift of $150, you can join us at dinner and experience my pain in person (Donor responsible for their own transportation, food and drink costs.).
  • For a gift of $200, you not only join us at dinner, but you get exclusive rights to your own trip to the buffet to select what I have to eat. (Donor responsible for their own transportation, food and drink costs.)
  • For a gift of $500, you get the all of the benefits of the previous level, plus at a mutually agreed upon future date, I will cook dinner for you, a guest, The Moritzes and The Wife at my home. (Donor responsible for their own transportation. I, of course, reserve the right to refuse your donation if it turns out you are a former co-worker/girlfriend/family member since I probably don’t want you in my house.). Limited to one donor.
  • For a gift of $1,000, you get all of the benefits of the $500 level, plus a heartfelt kiss on the cheek.

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Why the Golden Corral?

Why not? 

Seriously, unless you’re buffet surfing at the Wynn or Bellagio, buffets are the scourge of American dining. Want to eat a metric ton of food for a reasonable price? Buffet, baby! We ate at a lot of buffets when I was a kid. My parents saw no connection between my off-the-curve weight childhood weight gain and my diet, so there were all sorts of trips to Ponderosa, the dearly departed Bonanza! on Route 57, and the buffet that was in Shop City (I can’t remember the name.). 

Think about the American buffet restaurant…the great wasteland of poorly-prepared food and elastic waistbands. It’s on par with the worst college dining halls and quite possibly below fast food.

So, why Golden Corral?

Because it’s $15 apiece to go out and spend $60 at a lot of better places at dinner. 

Because it’s guaranteed to terrible.

And, well, because Jeff Foxworthy shills for it…

After all, the Golden Bill of Rights says that I have the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of dining happiness. And if all-you-can-eat baked fish with piccata sauce and Machaca beef cannot deliver on that sweet, sweet promise, I don’t know what will.

Are there any rules?

One or two. The donation has to be made online at my personal fundraising page. And, I get to preemptively strike four items from the buffet for consumption. For instance, I dislike cauliflower and squash greatly. And carrot cake. And I would rather not drink soda. See, what I mean?

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So, tell me again why you are willing to degrade yourself by eating at the Golden Corral?

Alzheimer’s disease is the sixth-leading cause of death in America. More than 5 million Americans have it, and 15.5 million others provide unpaid care to them. One in 9 Baby Boomers will develop it. It will bankrupt Medicare and Medicaid unless a cure is found. 

This is my favorite shock and awe statistic: For every $1 we spend on Alzheimer’s research, we spend $265 on care. Pretty disgusting, eh?

Walk To End Alzheimer’s is the largest national event aimed at defeating the disease and supporting those touched by it. Yes, I work for the Alzheimer’s Association, but I have lost two grandparents and multiple other family members to the disease, as has The Wife. This is more than just a job. It’s a personal mission.

Learn more about Alzheimer’s disease and the Alzheimer’s Association at Find a Walk To End Alzheimer’s event in your community at

And, of course, give what you can.

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Wait, I don’t get the Electric Boogaloo? What does that mean?

Sigh, I shouldn’t have to explain this, but I will…

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