Buffets aren’t usually my thing. But I’d drive miles and miles for what might be the most tender fried pork and stewed chicken in greater Columbus.
A stop at Normita’s Latin American Restaurant and Deli for its all-you-can-eat lunch buffet will leave you happy and with a full belly. If not, it’s your fault.
The yellow restaurant with a red roof on Fort Benning Road is hard to miss. The bright colors make Normita’s stand out from the rest of the sparsely populated shopping center. It’s right across from an auto shop and not far from an animal hospital.
The interior is deceptively large, and once inside, you’ll likely see some 9-to-5 workers or soldiers chatting in between bites of food. Mike Haskey, the Ledger-Enquirer’s video extraordinaire, and I made our way to the counter. We were hungry.
But there was one problem — we missed the lunch buffet by about 5 minutes.
Rather than leave, we decided to eat. Based on how our experience went, we’d then decide if we wanted to come back later for the full buffet.
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Foodie Friday is a bi-weekly series by the Ledger Enquirer that highlights the robust and diverse food and restaurant scene in Columbus. Reporter Nick Wooten is a Columbus transplant whose goal is to try a little bit of everything the Columbus area has to offer. We choose restaurants at random, pay for the meals and don’t tell managers about our visit until the meal is over, or we go anonymous. If you have a suggestion for a Foodie Friday profile, email Nick at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We were allowed to pile our plates with two meats and two sides. Much of the meal was spent silently enjoying the food. It didn’t take long to dub the trip as a success, and the clear stars of the meal were the meats.
The stewed chicken was cooked in a red sauce or thin gravy that stuck to its skin. The tomato base and fresh herbs like oregano, basil and bay leaf gave the chicken its best qualities. Served as whole thighs or legs, the meat was tender and pulled cleanly off the bone when I stuck my fork in.
The empanada was impressive. The pasty’s crust was soft, and it flaked in my hands as I ate it. The beef was well-seasoned but not overly spicy. The yellow rice was fluffy and a nice compliment to the entrees. The tostones (fried green plantains) were almost like home-cut french fries. They were thin, circular and starchy. I had my fill quickly.
We knew we needed to come back. So, we made plans to return the next day.
Our second trip was even better. I ate two plates of food at the buffet. I again got some stewed chicken and an empanada — because why mess with a good thing.
One plate was filled with new items from that day’s menu. The beans, paired with the yellow rice, were well-seasoned. The plantains served this visit were the soft and sweet kind that brings a smile to my face with each bite.
The fried pork was the star of the second visit. The meat was cut into bite-sized pieces, and the thin skin was crispy. Each bite was tender. There was more to try, but I was far too full to continue. I tapped out.
The lunch buffet, which runs from about 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m., will cost you a little over $8, not including a drink. It’s a great value. You should get there as early as you can.
If you’re looking for a delicious lunch buffet at a good price point, Normita’s is your place. If you’re not living or working in south Columbus, it’s a little bit of a drive. But it is worth it.
Normita’s Latin American Restaurant
2036 Fort Benning Road
11:30 a.m.-4 p.m., Monday-Friday