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The All-American History Behind the All-You-Can-Eat Buffet

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It’s difficult to say when exactly people began assembling meals from large spreads of food. But that oh-so-American tradition of offering it all together at a low-low price? That started in Vegas, naturally.

First, a helping of history: Sweden and France were the first countries to formalize the buffet concept. The Swedish smorgasbord originated as a way to feed hungry out-of-town visitors who’d pop in unexpectedly. Starting with just bread and butter—the term translates as “buttered bread board”—the smorgasbord display grew to include several sequential courses, beginning with salted fish, eggs and boiled vegetables, then moving on to cold cuts, warm entrees and salads, and ending finally with dessert and coffee. The French offered a more refined model, filling their lavish “buffet” tables as a sign of prominence, and as a way to focus on entertaining rather than cooking. In 1939, the Swedes brought the smorgasbord to America at the 1939 World’s Fair in New York, offering a sizable selection atop a rotating platform inside the Three Crowns restaurant. The Swedish creation would go on to inspire buffet-style restaurants in the ‘50s, albeit ones that were less structured than the Nordic model (also: way less pickled herring).

The man credited with creating the first all-you-can-eat buffet, though, didn’t have the smorgasbord in mind. He was just trying to keep his gambling customers happy. Born in Alberta, Canada in 1919, Herb McDonald made his way south to Las Vegas, where he worked as a publicist at one of the first hotels on the Strip: the El Rancho Vegas. The story goes that late one night in the mid 1940s, he wandered back into the kitchen, brought out some cold cuts, cheese and bread, and spread them out along the bar for hungry customers. The late-night selection was a hit, and McDonald eventually evolved the menu into a 24-hour all-you-can-eat “Buckaroo Buffet.” For just $1, people could choose from a selection of cold cuts, salad, and seafood—“every possible variety of hot and cold entrees to appease the howling coyote in your innards,” according to a flyer.

El Rancho lost money on its Buckaroo Buffet, but gained it back by promoting customer loyalty and roping in new patrons. Pretty soon, other establishments along the Strip were copying the idea, until nearly every hotel had their own version of the “midnight buffet.” These all-hours establishments are still a big draw throughout Vegas, and they range from the dirt-cheap to the incredibly lavish. In addition to revolutionizing the Sin City dining landscape, Herb McDonald’s creation, together with the smorgasbord trend, spawned a buffet bonanza across the U.S., with restaurants like Sizzler, Hometown Buffet, Golden Corral and numerous others modeled after the concept.

So if you’re ever in Vegas helping yourself to one of the now-ubiquitous hotel buffets after a long date with a slot machine, just think: You're stuffing yourself at the original American buffet.

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Target Expands Its Clothing Options to Fit Kids With Special Needs
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Target

For kids with disabilities and their parents, shopping for clothing isn’t always as easy as picking out cute outfits. Comfort and adaptability often take precedence over style, but with new inclusive clothing options, Target wants to make it so families don’t have to choose one over the other.

As PopSugar reports, the adaptive apparel is part of Target’s existing Cat & Jack clothing line. The collection already includes items made without uncomfortable tags and seams for kids prone to sensory overload. The latest additions to the lineup will be geared toward wearers whose disabilities affect them physically.

Among the 40 new pieces are leggings, hoodies, t-shirts, bodysuits, and winter jackets. To make them easier to wear, Target added features like diaper openings for bigger children, zip-off sleeves, and hidden snap and zip seams near the back, front, and sides. With more ways to put the clothes on and take them off, the hope is that kids and parents will have a less stressful time getting ready in the morning than they would with conventionally tailored apparel.

The new clothing will retail for $5 to $40 when it debuts exclusively online on October 22. You can get a sneak peek at some of the items below.

Adaptive jacket from Target.
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Adaptive apparel from Target.

Adaptive apparel from Target.

Adaptive apparel from Target.

[h/t PopSugar]

All images courtesy of Target.

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Pop Culture
How Jimmy Buffett Turned 'Margaritaville' Into a Way of Life
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Few songs have proven as lucrative as “Margaritaville,” a modest 1977 hit by singer and songwriter Jimmy Buffett that became an anthem for an entire life philosophy. The track was the springboard for Buffett’s business empire—restaurants, apparel, kitchen appliances, and more—marketing the taking-it-easy message of its tropical print lyrics.

After just a few years of expanding that notion into other ventures, the “Parrot Heads” of Buffett’s fandom began to account for $40 million in annual revenue—and that was before the vacation resorts began popping up.

Jimmy Buffett performs for a crowd
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“Margaritaville,” which turned 40 this year, was never intended to inspire this kind of devotion. It was written after Buffett, as an aspiring musician toiling in Nashville, found himself in Key West, Florida, following a cancelled booking in Miami and marveling at the sea of tourists clogging the beaches.

Like the other songs on his album, Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes, it didn’t receive a lot of radio play. Instead, Buffett began to develop his following by opening up for The Eagles. Even at 30, Buffett was something less than hip—a flip-flopped performer with a genial stage presence that seemed to invite an easygoing vibe among crowds. “Margaritaville,” an anthem to that kind of breezy attitude, peaked at number eight on the Billboard charts in 1977. While that’s impressive for any single, its legacy would quickly evolve beyond the music industry's method for gauging success.

What Buffett realized as he continued to perform and tour throughout the early 1980s is that “Margaritaville” had the ability to sedate audiences. Like a hypnotist, the singer could immediately conjure a specific time and place that listeners wanted to revisit. The lyrics painted a scene of serenity that became a kind of existential vacation for Buffett's fans:

Nibblin' on sponge cake,
Watchin' the sun bake;
All of those tourists covered with oil.
Strummin' my six string on my front porch swing.
Smell those shrimp —
They're beginnin' to boil.

By 1985, Buffett was ready to capitalize on that goodwill. In Key West, he opened a Margaritaville store, which sold hats, shirts, and other ephemera to residents and tourists looking to broadcast their allegiance to his sand-in-toes fantasy. (A portion of the proceeds went to Save the Manatees, a nonprofit organization devoted to animal conservation.) The store also sold the Coconut Telegraph, a kind of propaganda newsletter about all things Buffett and his chill perspective.

When Buffett realized patrons were coming in expecting a bar or food—the song was named after a mixed drink, after all—he opened a cafe adjacent to the store in late 1987. The configuration was ideal, and through the 1990s, Buffett and business partner John Cohlan began erecting Margaritaville locations in Florida, New Orleans, and eventually Las Vegas and New York. All told, more than 21 million people visit a Buffett-inspired hospitality destination every year.

A parrot at Margaritaville welcomes guests
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Margaritaville-branded tequila followed. So, too, did a line of retail foods like hummus, a book of short stories, massive resorts, a Sirius radio channel, and drink blenders. Buffett even wrote a 242-page script for a Margaritaville movie that he had hoped to film in the 1980s. It’s one of the very few Margaritaville projects that has yet to have come to fruition, but it might be hard for Buffett to complain much. In 2015, his entire empire took in $1.5 billion in sales.

As of late, Buffett has signed off on an Orlando resort due to open in 2018, offering “casual luxury” near the boundaries of Walt Disney World. (One in Hollywood, Florida, is already a hit, boasting a 93 percent occupancy rate.) Even for guests that aren’t particularly familiar with his music, “Jimmy Buffett” has become synonymous with comfort and relaxation just as surely as Walt Disney has with family entertainment. The association bodes well for a business that will eventually have to move beyond Buffett’s concert-going loyalists.

Not that he's looking to leave them behind. The 70-year-old Buffett is planning on a series of Margaritaville-themed retirement communities, with the first due to open in Daytona Beach in 2018. More than 10,000 Parrot Heads have already registered, eager to watch the sun set while idling in a frame of mind that Buffett has slowly but surely turned into a reality.

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