When I was a necessarily thrifty young adult with two kids we loved cafeterias: in grad school in Charlottesville, Morrison's
on Barracks Road and the University Cafeteria
on "The Corner".
" was almost "fine dining"; I actually met Col. Harland Sanders there! (And, yes, he was wearing his 'ice cream' suit and fedora).
In D.C. we always enjoyed Scholl's Colonial Cafeterias
(along with bus-loads of tourists!).
These days we shun buffets, but there is a decent small chain down here in Dallas that we go to for their "meat & 3": http://www.mamasdaughtersdiner.com/
- friendly serrvice and good, honest food at a very reasonable price.