Saddle Up! Golden Corral Coming Back to GF? (UPDATED)

First Denny’s, now Golden Corral?

It seems the buffet on 32nd Ave. S. will be reopening soon. Re-branded as the “Iron Kettle,” the place shuttered in late February. A sign on the door said it was closed due to “required maintenance.” No idea what this maintenance could be or why it would take nearly two months, but it does indeed look like the Corral is coming back.

And a few recent job postings seem to confirm it. They’re looking to hire a hospitality manager, kitchen manager and general manager. I also got a tip from “Big Guy” that the restaurant was taken over either by Golden Corral corporate or a Texas franchisee, but I couldn’t confirm that on Tuesday.

The Grand Forks Denny’s also closed up shop, but recently a few jobs were posted and on the application it said the owners were looking to re-open.

Golden Corral received a warm welcome in the area, considering there are no other American-style food buffets in Grand Forks beside the Royal Fork and Ponderosa, which are both no longer.


But ever since a few months after opening, I’ve heard horror story after horror story about the place. It also got the lowest sanitary rating from the Health Department late last year.

Customer reviews cite cold, dried-out food, mushy pasta and neglectful service. One diner said the employees were rude, silverware not out, dirty dishes and poor food selection. Out of 20 reviews on UrbanSpoon, Golden Corral got an average of 2 stars.

The only bright spot about the restaurant re-opening is that it means more jobs for those who need them. But other than that, color me unenthusiastic.

Buffets are always hit and miss, and I usually try to avoid them. But my recommendation for a good buffet in GF would be the Panda Buffet on Columbia Road. The normal Chinese food offerings are there and are usually tasty, but the real selling point is the big, circular grill tended to by an expert cook with just a wooden stick.

You can choose from fresh vegetables and frozen meats to add, along with any combination of sauces. The cook throws the ingredients on the screaming hot grill and slides them around until they’re cooked. This has got to be the best way to eat vegetables, piping hot and picking up some of the flavor of the grill. I highly recommend it.

Anyway, what do you think of the possible re-opening of Golden Corral? Were you a fan?


A person who seems to be in the know adds this:

What happened is the people/person who had the franchise agreement for the 3 Golden Corral locations in ND (Bismarck, Fargo, GF) got in a dispute with Golden Corral Corporate and tried to operate outside of the franchise/corporate agreements and not follow Golden Corrals corporate requirements. So the franchise owner got mad and the stores were all reopened as the Iron Kettles, well the quality suffered big time without Golden Corral Corporate overseeing things and all 3 locations closed down shortly after. Golden Corral took the franchise owners to court and got the stores back because of the franchise/corporate agreements that the previous franchise owners viloated. So Golden Corral corporate is now reopening all 3 locations. Bismarck opened last month, Fargo end of this month and GF probably the end of May. So I will give the place another shot, because you should definitely see an improvement all around.

We’ll see what happens.

‘Iron Kettle’ May be Headed to Scrap Heap

The Iron Kettle buffet restaurant on 32nd Ave. S. in Grand Forks has been closed for the past couple days. A sign on the front door said “due to required maintenance, we will be closing our doors early. We will not reopen until Tuesday, February 28 at our regularly scheduled hours.”

But the place was closed on Tuesday at about 7 p.m., which would be during regular business hours. It was completely dark and the door had a padlock on it.

It was re-branded from the Golden Corral a few months ago. When it was tested by the health department in September, the Golden Corral got a 71 out of 100 on the sanitation tests. That was the lowest score in town. It was tested again as Iron Kettle on November 17 and got a 75.

And the comments on sites like Urbanspoon and Yelp tell of a bad experience for most:

Now to the food, the steak was either still walking around the grill or incredibly dry and tough. You could wear down your teeth just chewing. The chicken, shrimp and anything that stands alone without a sauce also was dry, rubbery and unappealing. The food was either overcooked or sitting under the heat lamps too long.

Another diner:

To sum it up it was our worst experience . We will not be going back. There was nothing pleasant about it. All the food was cold and tough and you could tell it had been sitting there for a LONG time and this was right at supper time so everything should of been fresh.

Yikes. Bad food and poor sanitation is pretty much the worst combination for a restaurant.

But we haven’t heard for sure if the place is closed. This is similar to how Denny’s was closed. Management put up a piece of paper that said they were closed for maintenance while guys were loading up equipment into trucks. Another chain, Grizzly’s, bit the dust a while back too. So that’s three chain restaurants relatively close to each other in the busiest retail area of the city that have closed within about 6 months.

But Pizza Ranch, Five Guys, Olive Garden and other places around there seem to be doing fine. And it shouldn’t be too long before Old Chicago Noodles and Company and Erbert & Gerbert’s opens up in Grizzly’s spot. (I don’t think Old Chicago has a building picked yet.)

I never set foot in Golden Corral or Iron Kettle. Did you?

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