American buffet restaurant

Pizza Hut 6/25/99
1639 Carson St.
Torrance, CA 90501
phone 310-320-1590

Location. This is on the north side of Carson St., a few buildings east of Western Ave. This is actually located in the strip of L.A. City that runs through the South Bay, a section called Harbor Gateway, just east of Torrance. There is parking at the side of their building to the west and behind it to the north.

Introduction. I had tried the buffet here a few times over the years. But when this place won this year's Daily Breeze reader's poll for the best pizza, I knew something was wrong, so I went back. On about the second recent visit I found out they had a buy-five-get-one-free card. I told the guy I didn't get a card the first time, and he gave me an extra punch on the card. Good customer relations. Today was my free one. I've only tried the buffet, I wouldn't buy a whole pizza here or at most chains. I got there before noon, and there were a bunch of noisy kids, some playing the game machines. Just about noon their keepers got their to-go pizzas, and most of them left. I haven't seen noisy kids here before, and I never noticed the machines.

Hours and prices. They're open longer hours, but the buffet is from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. One day I got there just after 11 a.m., and I don't think I waited too long. Friday is their busy day, so go early to avoid waiting for a table. They only do the buffet Monday through Friday. The price was $3.99 for years, but about 5/99 it went to $4.49. Once the bill included a coupon for a 99-cent buffet when I did a survey over the phone. Years ago I got there to discover the buffet was officially over, but stragglers were finishing up the remains. They weren't putting out fresh food. Just on a whim I told the guy I'd eat for half price, and he said yes.

Buffet. First is a space for six pizza pans. They usually start with six different toppings and crusts, but latter they bring out a dessert pizza. I didn't care for thick crust, but this wasn't bad. Most times the thin crust was too thick or soggyish. A couple of times they got it thin and crispy, and it was good, but don't plan on it. They usually put out maybe four thick crusts and one thin crust, so if you want thin, tell them when you get there. The desert pizza was too sweet for me. They give you plenty of cheese and toppings (for California), but like many places, almost no tomato sauce. The pepperoni pizza was quite salty.

Next comes regular and dessert bread sticks; just cut up pizza dough. I never tried these. There's a tomato sauce for the bread-stick which I tried with the pizza. Its ordinary. There's a baked pasta dish which I only sampled. It's ordinary. The salad section has two bowls of greens, one with dressing; sometimes too much dressing. There's a bunch of other raw vegetables like cherry tomatoes along with pickles, beets, etc. There are also several crunchy toppings and five dressings. The only fruits were raisins and the canned, mixed stuff.

Rotation. Today, maybe for the first time, there were numbers next to the buffet pizzas. I saw them replace old pizzas with new ones before the old ones were finished. I asked why the numbers, and was told it was to help rotate the pizzas. I also saw them rotate the pasta dish at least once. Good idea, but I didn't notice the pizza was any better. If they had a thin, crisp crust it might help.

Summary. I like their customer relations, and each good incident was with a different person. The servers only bring drinks and napkins and pick up dishes, but they act like they're glad you're there. The rotation idea shows they're trying to keep the buffet fresh. Pizza Hut gives you more cheese and toppings on their pizza than Shakey's who has their own review page. Neither makes good crust, but on their best day the thin crust at Pizza Hut was better. At Pizza Hut I'd skip the bread sticks, dessert pizza, and only sample the pasta. Try the tomato sauce with the pizza and pasta. Both do a better-than-expected salad bar; it's a tie. At both, fresh fruit and/or something better for dessert would be nice touches, without a price increase. If you like fried chicken and can tolerate inferior pizza, it's yours for 50 cents more at Shakey's on Monday through Friday. At Pizza Hut do get the buy-five-get-one-free card even if you don't plan to go five times. You may, and that works out to $3.75 a meal. Since some of mine were at the old $3.99 price and one was 99, I paid even less. But, with my six recent visits, I've had enough for a while.