Saturday, December 31, 2005

Buffet Discussion Group Created on the Web

A new discussion group that will coincide with this blog site has been created on the web at Yahoo. Come and join The Art of the Buffet and share your dining experiences and thoughts.

Click to join artofthebuffet

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

The Milleridge Inn - Christmas Buffet

The Milleridge Inn is a restaurant in an historic building that has now built itself into a large complex of the restaurant, quaint shops, and catering. This has been a Long Island staple for many, many decades. The restaurant is located on Route 106 in Hicksville, New York and is less than a mile north of the Long Island Expressway and the Northern State Parkway. It is immediately south of Route 25. The building was a stagecoach stop when New York was still a colony.

At Christmas and Easter the restaurant serves a buffet dinner in it's catering building. The restaurant usually only serves from a menu - this is a holiday exception. The main building of the restaurant - with long waits for a table on holidays, serves from a menu. The buffet dinner is expensive (especially for what you are getting). The prices include dinner, tip - at an undeserved 17.5% - and sales tax. The adult price was $43.95. The children's price was 16.95. The price does not include a beverage except coffee or tea served with desert. Reservations are required and they are only taken for tables of six or more - however, there always seem to be tables of less than six - even two. Reservations are made for "seatings" at specific times. We were at the last seating of the evening which was 7:30 pm. We were not seated until 7:45. There was a small sign on each table that said that the seatings were two hours long, and as I will later talk about - they really mean two hours or less.

The dining room is set as it would be for catering with buffet stations on tables with hot and cold trays on them. There are two duplicate setups on two sides of the room that meet at the carving station in the middle. The rooms were decorated for the holidays. In the past there were carolers who went through the restaurant entertaining the guests with holiday cheer. For several years now NO carolers. The dining room was dark - one member of our party could not tell one salad dressing from the other because the lighting was so low.

The buffet starts with three (only three) fancy prepared salads - a pasta salad with obscure pieces of seafood, a potato salad that was red in color and had quartered potatoes, and a platter of tomatoes and small balls of fresh mozzarella cheese; there was also a "fresh" fruit melon salad (which was terribly over ripe and not edible). This is followed by a raw bar of pre-opened, raw clams on the halfshell (little necks and cheerystones, for those who know clams) and raw oysters. In years past there had been cold shrimp and small, cold lobster tails. This year there was NO shrimp and NO lobster (of course, the price was NO lower). The raw bar was followed by rolls and sweet rolls. Toward the front of the first table there was another small table with a bowl of salad greens and two dressings. No toppings - just greens with some tomato and cucumber tossed in. There was a small table at the opposite end where there were two pasta dishes. There was a station in the middle of the two serving trays that had a burner and skillet - to look as if it was made to order - but no one was cooking there. The two pasta dishes were bowties and sausage in a sauteed oil spinach sauce and rigatoni in red tomato sauce. This followed along to the final table with entrees and vegetables. There were two entrees. One was a chicken stuffed with wild rice in a brown gravy. The other was salmon. There were three vegetable dishes - mashed carrots, small potatoes, and mixed steamed vegetables. Then came three carvings - ham, turkey, and a carved beef that they were calling steak but was more like a flat roast beef. For the carvings there was gravy, cranberry sauce, and mustard. You could go up as often as you like, but it was slim pickings of choices.

If you want a beverage, hard or soft, you are ordering from the bar. A carafe of soda was $8.00 with no refills. The carafe barely made five small glasses. At dessert you are offered hot coffee or tea, but if you wanted more you would have to find the server who never made an appearance at the table. As for dessert you are given a choice of an ice cream parfait, cheesecake, or a chocolate hazelnut cake. The parfait is a slim glass of overly frozen and too hard ice cream, with a spoon that cannot reach the ice cream two thirds of the way down the glass. The cheesecake was a very small slice. No one at the table had the chocolate cake. Two of us ran up to get some of the sweet rolls - which were quickly being cleared away by the serving staff. These were a better dessert than the desserts.

That was what was offered. The taste of most of the food was ok - some of it was bland. As stated, the fruit salad was sour and mushy. As for the service - terrible. When we were seated the table was set for eight - we were five. There were not eight chairs and not all of the settings had silverware. Evidently this was not just at our table as one rude diner came over to our table - said nothing - and picked up a fork that was sitting on the end of our table - while we were sitting there. (Do we need a new rule - don't take silverware from someone's table - at least, without asking.) At various points through the meal there were no clean plates. The server, while polite, basically ignored us. No concern if we were doing well or not. Dirty plates were intermittently picked up sometimes by the maitre'd, not the server who just walked by them. After all she had no reason to make sure that we were satisfied- her exorbitant tip was already built into the price. There seemed to be an unusual number of diners who knew someone who was working there - and those tables were getting extra attention. It was quite obvious that if you wanted to be taken care of, you had to know someone.

No one who was working seemed to want to be working. (This is a consistent problem at this restaurant on holidays - perhaps they should close on holidays to keep their employees happy. It is quite evident that they are not happy working.) At about 8:45 the service staff started to break down one side of the buffet - not too surprising as the remaining side would be adequate - but by 9:00 the other side was quickly taken away as well - remember I said that the seating was for two hours - well, it was not going to be two hours if you wanted to continue to take from the buffet. It was gone in a matter of moments. There is an old expression - "given the old, heave ho!" Well, that how it seemed - by 9:00 there was nothing more to take. Now, no one said you had to leave - but what was there worth staying for. In many good buffets, as closing time approaches, your server will come and ask if you would care for anything more from the hot offerings or the salad bar - and then they will be taken away. Not here. If you thought that you might supplement the meager dessert with some sweet rolls or the terrible fruit salad, you were out of luck. HO! HO! Heave HO!

I was been dining at this restaurant for over forty years. My family took me there when I was a kid and we continued to dine there on holidays and special occasions. The restaurant has gone through several new owners since then. The current management has taken the restaurant to the lowest point that it has been. We actually switched to dining at the buffet dinner a number of years ago following a Christmas Eve menu dinner that was so sparse that as a diabetic, I ate my dinner, part of my wife's dinner, and two meager desserts, and my sugar level was so low that I had to eat again when we got home. Why do we continue to go to the Milleridge Inn on Christmas Eve - because my sister thinks that it is a tradition. Well, it has gotten to the point that we will be starting a new tradition.

The buffet dinner is repeated on other holidays - yes, my sister dragged us there last Easter - the buffet dinner then was even worse - as so much ran out before our seating that there was even less to eat than stated here - and, of course, with no reduction in price - just a slim apology.

Would you like a festive holiday dinner to celebrate? Well, SKIP the Milleridge Inn! They do have a website but I am not going to bother listing it at the side, as you really don't want to go there.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Saturday Night at the Old Country Buffet - What a Freak Show!

So Saturday night we were going to do some late night holiday shopping and I thought that the Old Country Buffet would be a pleasant addition to the evening. I was in the mood for barbecue and in this area OCB's beef ribs was the closest I was going to get.

We got there about 7:30 and there was a short line that consisted of one large group who were paying separately. Ok, they got through quickly enough and we followed behind and paid at the register. This was still early enough for the "hostess" to seat you so we had to wait behind this large group while two hostesses decided where they were going to put this large group in the already crowded restaurant so that they could sit together. This took almost ten minutes and while one of the two hostesses could have attended to the groups of two and four that were waiting, both walked around looking for large tables. Behind us on the line was another couple and behind them was a family of four consisting of an English woman, and American man and their three American little girls. The English lady decided that everyone should go to the restroom and loudly announced this for all to hear - only she went; the girls stayed behind. We are all waiting behind the large group to be seated. At some point the couple behind us disappeared. They must have decided to seat themselves. The three little girls behind us kept whining that they wanted to eat. They were upset with the large group in front. The littlest of the three girls went off and headed for the nearest food bar -one of the food bars is adjacent to the line. Neither parent went after her. She got to the opposite end and started eating - with her fingers out of one of the fruit trays. A few comments from the parents to stop that went unheard and neither parent went to get her. Eventually she wandered back to where we were waiting. Then the father decided that the girls should eat bread while they are waiting on the line for a table and he went to the buffet bar and took pieces of bread, gave them to the girls - which they did not want. There was an approach to place to bread back on the server - by the father, but thankfully one of them - perhaps one of the little girls told him not to put it back now that he has handled it. (There will be a new rule coming about not taking food while waiting for your table.) I thought at that point that it might be a good idea to turn around back to the cashier, get our money back, and leave. But no, I waited for a table.

When one of the hostesses finally came back from seating the large group, my wife stepped up and told her that we were a party of two. Comments now came from the English lady - "Oh, I guess they think they are next." Well, since we came in two ahead of her, I guess we were, and would a table for two, seat five? We ignored the comments and said nothing. The hostess directed us into a side dining room and pointed to a table in the middle of many other tables - she did not walk us to it as there was little, if any, access. We took the table and managed to make our way to it The table for four had five chairs - one at an end. (Ah, perhaps this was meant for the English lady and her family?) Boxed in as we were there was nowhere to put that extra chair but where it sat. We put down our tickets and our coats and headed back out through the maze to get some soup. When we returned my wife asked where I was going to sit. Now that seemed odd as I had placed my coat over the back of a chair - and I had intended to sit there. Then I noticed that directly behind me - in the space of two chairs was this immensely fat woman. I looked behind my wife with the idea to push the table forward and there behind her was another huge fat woman. (A word to excessively fat people at buffets - if you need the cane to walk, you should not be eating at the buffet or at least not eating further than the salad bar.) We managed to move the table enough so that we both could sit. We ate our soup to the sounds of one of these fat ladies complaining about what people were bringing her to eat - they thought she should be eatting vegetables (wise), she thought she should be getting fried chicken. They were bringing it to her because she was too fat to walk to get it herself (SAD). (This may sound like a rip on fat people - believe me, I am not thin, and I know that some folks are fat and there is not much that can be done about it, but these ladies were a category all onto themselves - they were loud and annoying.) Here we were trapped at this table with little way to get out and I was more and more annoyed that I should not have come to the OCB for dinner this night. We got up to get our salad and made our way again through the maze.

I got to the salad bar and saw an empty table right on the aisle in the main dining room. There was no line and no one looked as if they were about to be seated there. I said to my wife to go get the coats and the ticket. She got the idea and headed for our table. I went right over to the table but as I got there two women were walking to the table and looked like they were going to sit down. Too late! With a grump, I went back to the table where my wife was picking up the coats and told her to leave them - we were still trapped.

We went back out to the salad bar and low and behold the table is empty again - no ticket, no coats. Aha! I sat my wife down and got the coats and ticket. Free! We were now at decent table and looked toward continuing the meal in comfort. But the strangeness of the evening was not over.

It was a restaurant full of people who went up to the buffet bar and stood and stared. Mesmerized, maybe? They did not take anything. They just stood holding an empty plate and stared. Zombies at the OCB?

All around there were plates with food taken, but not eaten and abandoned on the counters of the buffet bars . A hotdog on a bun with ketchup sat for almost an hour before someone took it away to dispose of it.

There was an infant that screemed so deeply that it could not be consoled. It did not want to eat. Nothing the large family that was passing it around could do would stop the screaming. One woman holding the baby suddenly got up and walked away from the table to the middle of the dining room and told the baby, "Now you have done it. We are going to have to leave!" As if this three month old really cared about staying.

All through dinner the English lady, the man and the three girls wandered around, eating while they stood at the buffet servers. A lot of people decided Saturday night that it was ok to stand at the buffet and eat. It was the thing to do!

One more - we are finishing dinner. There are two people who recently sat down behind us. I had a full view of the lady. The man brings her a plate full of brisket - (oh yes, they had barbecue brisket! That was a treat making the evening almost worth the effort. Remember I went because I had a taste for barbecue!) she cut off half of a slice of brisket and put the whole thing in her mouth. A moment later half of it came back out and hung there. Just like a circus seal with a fish in it's mouth, she chewed and chewed on the half still in her mouth and then slurped the rest up and in. She must have chewed for five minutes to get this down. But this was not just a chance occurrence. The next peice was cut and when in - and out the same way. It was time to leave.

We had thought Napkin Man was the oddest person that we had seen at the OCB. He was normal compared to many of these people. (By the way, he has disappeared, never to be heard from or seen.)

I hope that this is not a typical Saturday night at the OCB. Maybe it was the holiday shoppers out for a meal. I hope so!

Friday, December 09, 2005

Leola Restaurant Revisted

A short time ago I wrote a post about the Leola Restaurant in Leola, Pennsylvania on Route 23. I found the buffet to be very disappointing, though I have always liked the restaurant's menu offerings. I made note that the ownership of the restaurant has recently changed.

I visited the restaurant again this week in the afternoon on a Wednesday at lunchtime. I ordered off the menu but I very carefully observed those dining from the buffet and I checked out the buffet bar very closely. What I saw was what I had expected that Sunday night that I had the buffet here. There were the usual buffet items that I was expecting - moist and crisp looking fried chicken, ham balls, and other typical Pennsylvania Dutch-style buffet items. Nothing was dried out. Nothing was sitting in oil or grease. Had this been there that night I would have been delighted.

What is the reason for the difference? It may be that the chef and staff on Sunday are not the same as during the week. This is an area where most local restaurants - buffet restaurants - are closed. This is a very religious area. Also the weekly clientele of this restaurant most likely do not go out to eat on Sunday nights. During the week this restaurant is full of local business people and seniors. Many have been dining and lunching here for years on a regular basis and expect certain things. Those things were missing that Sunday night. They were not missing when I visited here this week - during the week.

The buffet menu also changes from lunch to dinner and at dinner on Wednesday there seemed to be some changes to less common dishes - baked chicken was a feature. It may be that this is a buffet to go to for lunch and not dinner.

I still believe that the new owners who are Greek are a large factor. I overheard a waitress speaking with a customer. She was asked about the cakes in the display case in the lobby. She told them about the usual layer cakes, etc. but then said that she could not even pronounce the names of some of the pastry there - "they are Greek", she said and then made a face. Not too many of these pastries are going to be sold when even the wait staff are not familiar with them or would recommend them. I do not give this owner long to seek to sell this restaurant. It will not be what I believe he would like it to be and that is a dinner-style restaurant. He has now filled the lobby - which was always a very pleasant, homey country atmosphere with gumball machines. (I saw an elderly lady and a four year old girl bring one of the little toy capsules that comes from the machine up to the register and complain about what or the lack of what was inside. She wanted her quarter back. She got it from the nice cashier (not one of the owners or a relative). These are the Pennsylvania Dutch. They do not allow themselves to be taken advantage of and they want what they want.)

By the way, the menu items that we had were just as they always have been - very good. This is another possible indication that the chef during the week is very different than the chef on Sunday.

Well, I revise my comments in my last post about the Leola Restaurant. Give the buffet a try - but only for lunch and during the week or Saturday. If you do, post a comment and let us know how it is.

Friday, November 25, 2005

International Buffet - Garden City, NY

The International Buffet has been open for a number of years in Garden City, New York. It is located just off the Stewart Avenue exit of the Meadowbrook Parkway. This is essentially a Chinese buffet with very extensive international offerings.

The buffet is not cheap. It is $15.99 per adult on the weekdays with unlimited soda extra. Fridays through Sunday are more at around $24.00. The reason for the price is the extent of the types of food offered on the buffet and until just recently was justified on the weekends by the main dish that they are known for on the buffet - unlimited, broiled lobster. Unfortunately, on my recent visit a few days ago, there were notices everywhere posted on the walls, the buffet tables, and the door that there would no longer be unlimited, stuffed, broiled lobster on the weekends. There will continue to be lobster in ginger sauce (as is found at many Chinese buffets on the weekends), but if you want broiled lobster there will be an extra charge for half a broiled lobster brought to your table. There is no reduction in the weekend price, just no more broiled lobster. There still is a large lobster tank in the lobby of the restaurant. It was filled to the brim, but these guys were going to be safe for a while. Big disappointment!

The restaurant is large with two dining rooms, a private room that contains a cocktail lounge, and a large buffet area that includes a charcoal grill. Your table is set with place settings and soda , if ordered, is brought to you by your server. You take your own plates. If you are paranoid that someone is watching you, skip this restaurant, because the whole place is full of surveillance cameras that are pointed everywhere and monitored at the cashier desk in the lobby. There is also a time limit posted at each table. It is over two hours and has never been an issue, for me anyway. There is a napkin dispenser on each table, which is nice for this type of restaurant. On Saturday nights you will usually find a wait to get in. This is a very popular restaurant. Many people know it and go on "special occasions".

There is a soup bar with your choice of eight soups from the usual Chinese soups to Miso soup to New England Clam Chowder to a very good Lobster Bisque. There are two salad bars - one with greens and salad fixings and another large, two-sided bar with prepared salads. In the many times that I have been to this restaurant I have never taken anything from the salad bar - there is just too much else to eat than salad.

The grill is flanked by two seafood areas - at one end is a full sushi bar with a sushi chef continually cutting and refilling the variety of salmon, tuna, and other fish rolls and sashimi. At the other end is a raw bar with clams on the half shell and oysters and cocktail shrimp that have been peeled and deveined. There is cocktail sauce and lemon. The cocktail sauce tends to be on the sweet-side.

The grill serves spare ribs, beef ribs, skewered beef, grilled vegetables, mushrooms, fried dumplings, and salmon. At one time - not so long ago, this was where you would find the broiled lobster - served from the broiler to your plate. At the side of the grill is carved prime rib of beef (not roast beef but real prime rib) and Peking duck. A hot pizza server has recently made an appearance here as well.

There are three and one half double sided buffet bars serving Chinese entrees. Some are exotic - there were fish heads the other night. You will find steamed crab legs - large clusters that are full (not the broken pieces found at other Chinese buffets). There used to be steamed lobster claws mixed in here - not anymore. There are many dishes to choose from and they are well prepared. There are several shrimp dishes, crab in ginger sauce, chicken dishes, beef dishes, hot,spicy and mild dishes, and almost anything that you might expect to find.

If Chinese is not your thing there are one and one half double sided buffet bars that are serving continental cuisine - Italian, French, and American. There is eggplant Parmesan, chicken Parmesan, baked ziti, sausage and peppers, shrimp scampi, baked clams, scallops, sliced ham, a variety of fish, mashed sweet potatoes, and much more. Everyone should have no problem finding things that they like to eat and plenty of them. The other night there was a very good scallop dish with a scallop an cheese mixture baked on a shell. There is no reason for anyone to leave here hungry. The International and American dishes are prepared well. For the adventuresome there have been frogs legs. (Sorry, Kermit!) The buffet offerings on just these bars represent a complete menu in a menu only restaurant.

There is a double-sided chilled dessert table and a long cake buffet bar. The chilled bar offers fresh fruit, puddings, tapioca, flan, etc. The cake bar has a variety of regular layer cakes - not the little squares found in most Chinese buffets, and also pastries. There is ice cream from a machine that a server must server to you at the dessert bar. There is also a sugar-free ice cream machine with a sign on it that says "For Diabetics Only - too expensive". The sign goes along with the cameras, etc.

Service here can vary. This is a problem as the drinks need to keep flowing and sometimes they do not. Now I have been here many times when a pitcher of soda is brought to the table and that is great. Other times I have been at the mercy of attentive and non-attentive servers. The other night the restaurant was near empty - just six or so tables filled and the service was not good. There were plenty of servers but they were busy cleaning tables and the room - not clearing my dishes or keeping my soda glass full. It was late but they were still seating guests. The buffet bar was kept full, but the servers were otherwise occupied!

I would recommend this restaurant to anyone to try at least once - just for the experience. It is easy to overeat here - there is just so much to try. Even without the lobster, you will not find anything lacking. If you never knew there was once lobster here you would never know that it is missing or that you were not getting value for your money. The food is good. The price, of course, is a big factor here for many - but the place is full on the weekends and as I said, many come here for a special occasion. The restaurant is open most holidays and the price on holidays is usually the weekend price. There is a New Years Eve party here. Some singles groups meet here at night and have dances in the lounge during the week. The restaurant is open late almost every night - until 11 pm. If you are looking for something different, try it!

Friday, November 18, 2005

A Buffet for the Holidays

What better a restaurant than a buffet for a holiday feast? There you, your family, and your friends will have all they could ever want to eat and you, your mom, or your spouse will not have to cook. Some singles with families to go to will have a wonderful time at a buffet. You get all of the holiday dinner that you want, festive surroundings, and you will be with many people celebrating the holiday with you.

Many buffet restaurants are open for the Holidays and some add special entrees to match the spirit of the holiday. Thanksgiving is upon us and a number of buffets will be serving the turkey and all of the trimmings. Usually, if there is a special weekend price at the buffet restaurant, that is what they charge for the holiday. Most of the chain buffets will serve the holiday dinner at the usual cost. The menu is holiday oriented and most of them remain open for holidays such as Christmas. Some of the non-chain restaurants are not open on Christmas but are open Thanksgiving and New Year's Day.

I know of two buffets in Pennsylvania in Lancaster County that are planning special Thanksgiving dinners. One is the Bird in Hand Family Restaurant and they will be serving on Thanksgiving with a special Turkey buffet menu. This restaurant has been reviewed (positively) in a separate post. Another restaurant in that area - The Leola restaurant - is also serving a special Thanksgiving all you can eat dinner in two different ways. Now I am hesitant to mention this restaurant again as my review of my recent buffet experience there was not good. However, I have been dining here for a long time and despite the change in ownership, the menu dining had not changed at all. For Thanksgiving they are serving a buffet Turkey dinner and a family style Thanksgiving dinner. We have not talk much about family style on this site. It is another way of a restaurant presenting an all you can eat meal. Instead of you going up to the buffet bar for your meal, servers bring platters of food to your table. The platters are passed around and they are refilled as they are emptied. This is the answer to those who want to remain seated throughout the meal and be served. You get all that you care to eat and it is served to you - just like home. The family style dinner on Thanksgiving at the Leola Restaurant will be served in the catering room on the lower floor, while the buffet dinner will be served in the main dining room of the restaurant from the regular buffet table. There is a special price for the Thanksgiving dinner - and the buffet and family style prices are different. Advanced reservations are necessary at both of these restaurants for the Thanksgiving Dinner.

Some restaurants that are not buffet or all you can eat restaurants create special smorgasbord dinners for the holidays. One such restaurant is on Long Island in New York and it is the Milleridge Inn located in Hicksville, NY. (Yes, there is a Hicksville) This restaurant does this not only for Thanksgiving, but also for Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year's Day, and Easter. They use their catering building, while the main reataurant serves from the menu. The prices here are not cheap. There is supposed to be a minimum of 6-8 guests for each table, but we have seen less. Reservations are a must. The price includes the smorgasbord tables and a single desert selection. Drinks are separate and are charged at bar prices. There is a cocktail bar. The offering is "festive" with a raw seafood bar that includes small, chilled lobster tails, clams and oysters on the half shell, and cocktail shrimp. There is a salad bar of greens and "fancy" prepared salads. There is a pasta station. There is a long smorgasbord table of entrees, side dishes, and meat carvings. The room is decorated for the holiday. The server must bring your drinks - no refills, and your desert. I have dined here on Christmas Eve and on Easter. Frankly, I do not like it - it is too expensive, the service is poor, and if something runs out it may not be replaced. There is no complaint about the quality of the food - it is well prepared. It is just that the people working really do not want to be working on a holiday and they make it obvious. (As this restaurant has become a family holiday tradition beyond my control, I may be back there again this year and I will give a detailed report after Christmas Eve 2005.)

A number of the Chinese buffets have holiday dinners. Most do not vary their usual menus so do not expect carved turkey and stuffing. One of the best holidays to go to a Chinese buffet is New Year's Eve where for a special price you get a buffet dinner and a New Year's Eve party with entertainment and music.

So if you do not feel like staying home for a holiday dinner - GO TO A BUFFET!

Sunday, November 13, 2005

The Rules Go On

When we started we established a baker's dozon of rules for eating at buffet or all you can eat restaurants.(Scroll down to the bottom of the blog and read Post #3 to learn about the rules. Of course, those thirteen were not all the rules. We added two more as we went along. Here are a few more.

Rule #16 - Never use your silverware to serve yourself from the buffet trays.

Is this something that you actually have to tell people? Apparently so. We have seen this many times.

Rule #17 - Once you have gotten what you want, don't stand around the buffet tables. Move on back to your table.

So many times there is someone just standing in the middle of the most crowded spot in the restaurant, staring blankly out (sometimes with the mouth hangind open) - seemingly oblivious that there are other people around. Perhaps this is some type of "buffet shock" - overwhelmed by too much to take in all at one time.

Rule #18 - Children should remain seated through the meal.

We have a rule about children going up to the buffet and serving themselves, but apparently, there also needs to be a rule about children getting up from the table and running around the restaurant. Not only is it annoying to the other diners, but it is dangerous. The buffet is not a playground.

Rule #19 - Do not fill community plates for the "table". Each should take their own plate of what they wish to eat.

This may be cultural, but often people fill plates with crab legs, chicken, etc and bring it back to the table for each diner to serve themselves from. This not only takes a large amount out of the serving trays at one time, but just as often is not all eaten and must be disgarded.

Rule #20 - If you cough or sneeze into your hand, please do not use that hand to pick up the serving utensils.


Rule #21- In th buffet, as in any restaurant, children (and adults) should use their inside voices.

There will be more to come - unfortunately...

Monday, November 07, 2005

The Leola Restaurant, Leola, PA

The Leola Restaurant is located on Route 23 in Leola, Pennsylvania – Lancaster County. This has been one of my favorite menu restaurants and when I have gone there it usually has been for lunch. For several years this restaurant was owned by the same family as the Bird in Hand Family Restaurant and was known as the Leola Family Restaurant. Recently the restaurant was sold by that family and bought by a Greek. I have eaten at the restaurant on the menu since the new owner took over and saw no difference. The menu remained the same. The recipes seemed the same. The same buffet seemed to be offered. With the change in ownership another change took place; the restaurant is now opened on Sunday. In an area where none of the local restaurants are open on Sundays, much less Sunday night, this seemed great news. We decided to try the restaurant for dinner – try the buffet and try it on a Sunday night. What a great disappointment!

The Sunday buffet is $10.99. It includes the soup and salad bar, the entrée and side dish bar, and an unlimited beverage. No dessert is included, except fresh fruit salad, jello, canned fruit, and what appeared to be banana pudding on the salad bar. Silverware and one napkin is on your table. Your server brings your drinks.

This is a one rectangular, three sided buffet table. One side has the salads – mixed greens, toppings, a few prepared salads – macaroni and cole slaw, and the dessert items mentioned above. One end is open for entry by staff and the other end has two soups and three breads. The other side is the entrée and side dishes.

This particular Sunday night there was an odd assortment of entrees. There was cold peel and eat shrimp – which was just cool, not cold. There was fried shrimp, fried fish sticks, ham, baked chicken, stuffed chicken, smoked sausage wrapped in bacon (very strange), stuffed peppers, ham, pork and sauerkraut, vegetables, stuffing, noodles, and mashed potatoes.

Everything on the entrée bar was overcooked and sitting in grease (or oil). The ham was overdone and dry. The sausages in bacon were hard and overdone. The baked chicken was sitting in a tray of grease. The mashed potatoes did not seem like they were real mashed potatoes but rather from a mix. The buttered noodles had no taste. The fried shrimp had no taste. The stuffed peppers were just warm and sitting in grease. I did not try the baked chicken for all of the oil or shall we say grease that it was sitting in. I had a hard time finding something to eat that I was enjoying. I tried a piece of corn bread and it tasted like soap powder – someone make a mistake in the mix?

This is not like this restaurant – at least not like it used to be. The only thing that was the same this night was the chicken corn soup – which is the same recipe as when the restaurant was owned by the Bird in Hand Family Restaurant. This recipe is my most favorite soup and I would have had more of it, but when the urn was empty when I went back for a second cup it was replaced with vegetable soup – the other soup was minestrone, so you have to wonder if there were not just two minestrone soups out now.

I was terribly disappointed. I had looked forward to this meal the entire weekend. How sad that this restaurant has come to this. I had eaten lunch here two days ago and was just as happy as I had always been here. Could it be that the Sunday chef is different? Could it be that the new Greek owner wants to create this restaurant that is a favorite of the locals into a diner? This could be. There are refrigerator cases in the front lobby that had always been filled with local-style pies and desserts. This is full of cakes now – just like at the diner. I will go back again for lunch from the menu, but I will not go back for the buffet.

There are limited choices in this area on a Sunday night. There are the chain menu restaurants and there are two local Chinese buffets. Skip the Leola Restaurant, Try one of the others. I am so disappointed!

Friday, October 28, 2005

Myths About Buffets - Odd Things You Overhear

So we are sitting and eating at a buffet restaurant tonight and we hear a conversation from the table behind us where three guys are sitting. One guy knows the secret as to how the restaurant makes you leave when the manager decides you have had enough- the restaurant puts the air conditioning so high that it is uncomfortable for you to sit and eat there any longer. Now it was about 45 degrees outside and the air conditioning was not even on, but this guy was convinced that somehow the manager directed the a/c directly at him so that he would need to leave. This directional air conditioning unit is amazing - that it can pinpoint an exact table - without effecting any other table in the room (those who have not overstayed their welcome - yet) and chill the diners into needing to get up and leave. Hmm. It is a technological marvel. It must be a feature at the buffet and all you can eat restaurant conventions.

Well this was one of the oddest things that we have overheard sitting at in a buffet. Another guy at the table across from us decided that since he was not charged on the way in, he was going to be charged for each thing that he took. The woman sitting with him asked if he had ever been to a buffet before. He stated that he goes to OCB all of the time- but this must be different because he did not pay on the way in. Yup!

Well, next week we are on the road again and we will be visiting some different buffets - hopefully, and there will be more exciting things to write about.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

People Watching at the Buffet - Some of he Largest People in the World

This is the second in a series of articles about the people you see at buffets. Buffets and All You Can Eat restaurants attract some of the largest people in the world as their customers. You see people so large that it can make a fat man feel thin.

Now, perhaps the reason is that large people want to eat all that they can or perhaps it is that these restaurants are the only ones that can provide enough food for people this large to feel satisfied - at a reasonable cost. You might recall in the old movie, Diner, there was a large man in the diner every night who would order an entire side of the menu. Even at 1960's prices, when the movie took place, this was costly. At a buffet, it is all one price and providing the management does not have a stroke, a very large person may eat until full at the same price as anyone else.

I have seen many large people at buffets. I have seen entire large families at buffets - and I don't mean the number in the family. Some of these large people are fairly unobtrusive, despite their size, but some stand out - they seem to go out of their way to stand out. Let me tell you about this woman that we saw a month ago. She was so odd that she brought comments from a number of diners at tables throughout the buffet restaurant. First off she was wearing a pink, skin tight leotard-type top and bottom. This clung and squeezed so tight that everything showed. The topper was that this woman's lower abdomen hung to six inches above the floor. It was a sight that no one wanted to behold! This must be some form of medical condition. No one could believe what they saw, and then they could not help but stare and comment. What was commented upon the most was what she was wearing. I wondered if she had to wear such a garment to keep her stomach area from falling further and dragging on the floor. Everyone wondered if she realized what she looked like, but as she seemed oblivious to the stares and the comments - she probably did not realize that she was a sight. Now one could say that this is a poor woman just going about her life, but did she ever look in a mirror - not at her condition, but at her clothing. Wouldn't someone with this condition (if it is a condition) want to wear a loose fitting dress that would hide all of the details. If as I wondered she needed this tight fit to hold herself together, then why not wear it as an undergarment and put that loose fitting dress over it? It was all rather unpleasant and enough to set you off from eating.

Ahh! Perhaps that is it. Buffet restaurants may like very large people as they are a reminder to other diners not to eat too much or they will become excessively large people too.

I keep saying "large". I should be saying "fat" but it is more than fat - clinically it would be called "morbidly obese". I have nothing against fat people. I am no light weight (not excessively fat, but... Ok... fat).

There is nothing against these people. They are welcome to enjoy the buffets just as anyone else. I have heard of stories in which a large person was banned from a restaurant, but I am not sure these are not just myths. (If you have ever been or know someone who has ever been banned from a buffet, please leave a comment and tell us about it.) There is the observation - as above - that large (fat) people sometimes need to look carefully in a mirror - front and back - at what they are wearing and see if they really look ok. If ego gets in the way of perception, they need to get an honest friend who will tell them what even a best friend will not say, "Don't wear that, you look like an apple on a stick (or a round ball or the largest,roundest ass in the world)". There are ways to cover these things up and look good despite one's size. (Perhaps I digress to much from the topic of buffets here. BUT I have got to make one more remark - heavy women should not wear spandex or any material that stretches - no matter what you have heard, you do not look good.)

So, anyway, if you want to see really large people visit a buffet. You will certainly always find at least one there.

Thursday, October 20, 2005


This post has been created just for your ability to tell us about buffet, smorgasbord, or all you can eat reastaurants that you have enjoyed - or did not enjoy. Please use the comments section to tell us your dining experiences.

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Friday, October 14, 2005

People Watching at the Buffet OR OCD at the OCB

This is the first in a series of articles about the people who you see at buffet and all you can eat restaurants. Amongst the usual diners that one would see at most restaurants, buffets tend to attract some of the oddest people that you will ever see.

I will start with the story of one of the oddest diners that we have encountered. Now, before I get inundated with complaints from people with mental illness or the mental health community, let me establish that I am a mental health professional. In no way am I mocking or making fun of someone with an emotional illness, but let's face it - the guy that I am going to tell you about is odd and in fact he developed quite a reputation at the two buffet restaurants that he frequented. It seemed that anyone who is a semi-regular to these restaurants knew about him and he was dubbed "Napkin Man".

Napkin Man has Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. If you have seen the movie, "As Good As It Gets", the character that Jack Nicholson so aptly portrayed had Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder - popularly called OCD. Napkin Man dined nightly at one of two buffet restaurants - an Old Country Buffet (OCB) and a Chinese buffet. Going back about two years ago when he was first noticed - and you could not help but notice him, he would cover his table and his chair - and all of the empty chairs at his table with paper napkins - LOTS of paper napkins. When he ate he would pick up the utensils or hold the fried chicken leg with a paper napkin. When he went up to the buffet bar he would bring a number of napkins to pick up and hold the serving utensils. If anyone was near the buffet bar that he was going to he would stand back and wait until he would be the only one there and then take his food. If anyone approached him he would step far back. One night we were there with our three year old niece and she walked toward him, I thought that he would have a stroke. He never said anything to anyone. He also never removed his baseball cap or his jacket. Basically, he did not bother anyone and he minded his own business. Children avoided him - he was kind of frightening to kids. People would stare and comment under their breath - but actually, that was their problem.

Had he continued this way he would have just remained an odd poor soul with a problem that he seemed to be adequately coping with. As my wife will say about the infirm or the elderly - he is out and he is having a good time. Unfortunately for him and everyone else at the restaurants who had to share the buffet with him, his disorder increased to a point that it did interfere with others' dining. He became even odder and now he was a problem. Now he would go to a full buffet serving tray and fill a plate with everything that was in the tray. All of the fried chicken was on his plate. All of the tomatoes were on a plate at his table. He would take two of three plates full of all that was available of that item and bring it to his table. He would not start to eat it right away but seemed to ritually wait. When he did start to eat he would eat one of the plates-full at a time and not always in the order that one would normally eat. All of the cake first, then the chicken, then the tomatoes. Then he was up for more, and more trays would be emptied. He would be in the restaurant for hours and ate more than any thin man should be able to hold - and he is a thin, small man.

Not only did this annoy the other customers who would have liked to also take some chicken, fish, whatever, but this put a strain on the restaurant that now had to rush more of that item out - if there was any more of that item to put out. When there was no more to put out this enraged the other customers even more with calls for the manager and direct and vocal complaints to management about him, often made in front of him at his table. The restaurants were good to him - they made it clear to their other customers that he had a right to dine there and to take what he cared to take as long as he ate it - and he did eat it. He now became notorious and the target of dirty looks and loud comments. Of course, none of that seemed to bother him and he went on eating.

We would see him at the OCB when we went and, oddly, when we went to a particular Chinese buffet (that has been reviewed elsewhere on this blogsite) he would be there. Just the same, and doing the same thing. What has interested me (being in the field) was that at the Chinese buffet he would eat crab legs. Someone who is obsesionally clean - and this was something that he seemed to be, what with the napkins and all - should be concerned about eating shell fish with shells that have been in the ocean and the mud and the gunk before they got out of the boat and onto the table. There are entire religions who do not eat shell fish for these reasons, but here was this OCD guy eating crab legs directly from the shells (held in napkins, of course).

About four months ago Napkin Man disappeared. He has not been seen at the OCB or the Chinese buffet. Perhaps he has found a buffet that I do not know about - though I doubt that can be. Perhaps he succumbed to the onslaught of comments and stares. Perhaps the restaurants - both restaurants - could not take it any longer and kicked him out - he was a problem losing them other customers and eating more than $10 should buy every night for 7 days a week. Perhaps he ate himself into the hospital. Or perhaps, just perhaps he is on vacation somewhere eating at buffets somewhere in America... or Europe. Never the less, he is gone.

If anyone spots Napkin Man out there, leave a comment. It would be nice to know that he is ok.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Lunch at the Old Country Buffet

It is very rare that we go for lunch at a buffet restaurant, but this past week we had an afternoon on a day that I had off from work that we were looking to have a large lunch so we decided to try the Old Country Buffet for lunch.

Price for lunch is a few dollars less than dinner ($7.19 per adult), and the primary thing missing from the buffet tables were the carvings. Everything else is the same with a few added items that made for a very nice lunch.

We went on a Tuesday and many of the Tuesday dinner items were there. At lunch there are three soups including beef vegetable which I have not see there at night. The full salad bar was offered, as was the full desert bar. Tuesday's feature theme is Italian. The entree bar included veal cutlet Parmesan, baked ziti with sausage that was better than any of the pasta dishes offered at night (this may be a new night feature as well, as it has been a while since we have been to the OCB for Tuesday night dinner), Italian pork sausage, spaghetti with meat and marinara sauces, and pizza. Of course, there was fried chicken, as well as mashed potatoes, french fries, and a variety of vegetables including a vegetable stir fry. There was broiled chicken and a taco bar. The carving station was converted to a burger bar and there were beef burgers and a variety of toppings including melted cheese. There were also barbecued chicken strips here. I enjoyed lunch much more than most dinners at the Old Country Buffet.

One of the best things about lunch at the OCB is that nothing runs out. As it is early in the day they are refilling every tray as they empty.

The crowd dining at lunch was primarily seniors ( everyone else is working). We did not see any business people - who you would expect to find in a restaurant at lunch time, but perhaps a buffet lunch is too time consuming and much too much for lunch during a workday. Even the OCB employees were different. The woman at the cash register was a senior and was hassled by the cash register- "I can't get used to these computers!" She had trouble ringing up the sale, getting the credit card processed, and then getting the register to give us a receipt. It took her calling the manager to finish the transaction (that the night crew can probably do in their sleep).

The table servers were slower than they are at night - even at night this varies. Our dirty dishes were piling up before someone came to clean them away. Eventually, through the meal, this improved.

Lunch at the Old Country Buffet was a last minute decision, but one that I did not regret. If you are looking for something more than a quick lunch, try it!

Friday, September 30, 2005

Asian Buffet - Hicksville, NY

The Asian Buffet is located at 276 Old Country Road in Hicksville, New York. This buffet over the past several years has changed names three times and tried different approaches to bring in business. The owners seem to have remained the same throughout. Business here remains sparse mainly because of the price. This is a Chinese buffet that wants to be one of the large, international style buffets but does not offer any way near the quantity of variety that the big ones offer. The restaurant is large and mostly empty. The price on the weekends was just raised to $15.99 per adult because they have added lobster to the buffet. Monday to Thursday are $13.99 without lobster. For a while they were printing $2 per person off coupons in the newspaper. Business picked up - but the price was lower then. With the raise in prices they have printed coupons again that are good on weekdays. I go when I can get a coupon - otherwise the price is more than I want to spend. The weekday buffet offers less seafood. Soda is unlimited and one dollar. The servers bring the soda to you. You pick up your own plates at the buffet tables. Silver ware and plenty of napkins are at your table. Additional silverware is available including knives.

It is a shame that they do not bring the price more in keeping with what they have to offer because the food is good. This is not one of the cookie cutter buffets - though there is a Chinese buffet in Lancaster, PA that has many of the same items (like exactly the same recipe) on the buffet. Asian Buffet has a nice assortment of dumplings and dim sum. It also has some basic sushi with salmon.

There are three double-sided, short buffet tables at the side of the restaurant along with a small desert area. The rear buffet table has mixed green salad, some toppings and dressing. There are also prepared salads and some cold Oriental vegetable dishes such as kim chee - spiced cabbage. The sushi is on the table, as is a section of iced seafood including shrimp and raw clams. The far side of the table has fresh fruit and puddings.

There is an appetizer table with four soups including a hot and sour soup that is spiced just right to enjoy it and not steam your collar. There are egg rolls, fried cheese wontons, chicken wings, chicken nuggets that are real slices of chicken fried to a crunchy crust, Chinese donuts, spring rolls, fried dumplings, french fries, pizza (one of the better Chinese buffet pizzas!) and other appetizers. At the front of this buffet table are several "American" entrees including baked ham, salmon, baked clams, stuffed shrimp, etc.

The entree table has Peking duck, flounder steamed in ginger sauce, stuffed mushrooms, king crab legs (broken clusters and pieces), teriaki chicken, fried shrimp, shrimp and "crab" in lobster sauce, fried rice, lo mein, spare ribs (that vary from night to night from having too much glaze to being just right), beef with vegetable, seafood in butter sauce, and other Chinese entrees. Also here is the lobster - cut up and tossed in ginger sauce. At the end of this buffet table are several steamers with dumplings and dim sum. Here you find shrimp dumplings, pork dumplings, shu mi, lotus rice, honey potato balls, scallion pancake, and fried vegetable dumplings.

There is a small desert corner with the typical assortment of "Little Debbie" cakes and cookies. (There has got to be a Chinese buffet supply warehouse somewhere!) There is a soft serve ice cream machine - it is more ice milk than ice cream - and some toppings.

As I have said, the food here is good. You can make a full meal of appetizers and dumplings - plus there is a nice assortment of entrees. The lobster - what you could get of it - was moist. It was taken as soon as it was put out and was not replaced more than once while we were dining. As this is the big feature that is linked with the price increase, that lobster tray should be full at all times. (There is a sign now as you enter that says "all you can eat lobster" - well, only if you are quick and leave none for anyone else.) Lobster in most Chinese buffets has the same problem. It is put out sparingly and it is descended upon as soon as it hits the steam table by every diner in the house. If you are not one of the first two to get near it, it is gone. The restaurant is open until 10 on weeknights and 11 on Friday to Sunday. Diners were still seating at 9:30 on Friday night and some items were being refilled, but the lobster tray sat with one small shell in it and the pizza never came out but once while we were dining.

The service is quick and dishes are removed right away - sometimes too right away when my wife's soup dish was taken away with the spoon in she just put the spoon down in mid-bowl to take some soda. The server will come and ask if you would like more soda. The manager - probably owner - walks around the dining room. At first you get the impression he is watching over your shoulder to see what you have taken, but in reality, he just seems that he does not know what to do with himself and walks around to be friendly. He does make an effort to come over and chat - and as we have been there a number of times, he makes a point of acknowledging us and making friendly conversation when we come in and while we are dining. It is nice.

The atmosphere is "Chinese" restaurant with booths and tables. There is a large fountain in the middle of the dining room. The background music is odd. Instead of the usual Oriental melodies they have been playing show and movie tunes, and tonight there was oldies rock and roll playing with lots of 70's bubble gum music. It is not unpleasant - but not what one would expect. The building many years ago was a well known American restaurant and the layout of the rooms has changed little. For those who miss "Cookies Restaurant" there is a lot of nostalgia just being in the dining room.

There is no website. The phone number is (516) 433-6688.

If you don't mind the price, try this buffet.

Friday, September 23, 2005

China Grand Buffet - Farmingdale, NY

The China Grand Buffet is located in a strip mall shopping center next the Republic Airport in the Airport Plaza shopping center at 201 Airport Plaza Boulevard in Farmingdale, NY. It is just off of Route 110. This is one of the "cookie cutter" Chinese buffets, meaning it looks and has some of the exact same menu items prepared the same way as many other Chinese buffets in the area - and around the country.

This restaurant offers a lot on its buffet tables from lobster and crab legs to a Mongolian-type barbecue - yet in many ways it seems lacking. One reason is that there is rarely anyone cooking at the window that contains the Mongolian barbecue and it always seems like an imposition to get someone out there. This does not seem to change whether you go in early or late in the day. Along with the Mongolian grill, there is a charbroil grill - but again - no cook. In addition, the lobster is put out so sparsely and with long periods in between, that when it does go out, diners descend on the lobster tray and there is rarely enough to go around. When the restaurant is not crowded and you find the lobster still in the tray from an earlier serving, it is often dry and tough from sitting too long. When it is fresh out, it is good.

The restaurant has three dining rooms - this is not a small place, despite it being in a store front. It also has a separate room for private parties. There are four long buffet tables - two of them double-sided. There is a buffet table that contains mixed greens and all of the toppings and dressings for salad. This table also has cocktail shrimp (shell on), raw clams on the half shell, sushi and sashimi, sauces, fresh fruit, jello, and puddings. There is a double sided buffet table with four soups, dumplings, dim sum, a variety of Chinese appetizers, the lobster, sweet and sour chicken, French fries and hot apple pie. There is another double sided buffet table with all of the entrees including Happy Family, the usual General Tso Chicken and Chicken and broccoli, and an assortment of stuffed items - all with the same chicken stuffing including peppers and mushrooms. On this table are also the crab legs (small broken clusters and pieces) and baked salmon. The final buffet table is the desert table and this is filled with small cakes and pastries that are identical to those found in many other Chinese Buffets. I often think of the Little Debbie snack cakes that are sold packaged in supermarkets whenever I see these cakes. They are good for a fast sugar fix, but have little substance. There is a soft serve ice cream machine with chocolate and vanilla with dry toppings. At the window, when there is a cook, there is a variety of raw meats and vegetables to create a Mongolian barbecue on the griddle. There are also spare ribs that sit in a heavy, sweet sauce. They are not to my liking because of the heavy sauce, but there are those who seem to enjoy them - if you can find them, as the hot tray is covered and unmarked. There is also a hot dog server with hot dogs rotating around to cook.

There is certainly no problem in the quantity and variety that is offered. The food tastes good - and we have never gotten sick - that is actually the best recommendation that any restaurant could get. The restaurant is kept clean. The trays - except for the lobster - are filled regularly. The service is usually good - although tonight we never got a soda refill - we could have asked, but it should be offered. Dishes were picked up promptly - sometimes too promptly with the server looking to take a plate that is still being eaten from. The servers just barely speak English and are all young, Chinese women (girls, actually). The servers bring the check too fast - tonight we were still in the middle of our entrees. My wife feels that this is timed. There is no rush for you to leave, but the check should not be plopped down in mid-meal, as if to signal you that it is time to go. One good thing is that there is a supply of napkins on the table in addition to the place setting that is there when you sit down. You get your own plates and there are knives and shell crackers at the buffet table. Most of the tables are booths that would just seat four. There are a few larger, regular tables in the back two dining rooms.

One thing to note is that the soup is served VERY HOT in temperature. This is as it should be for health reasons, but it is too hot to eat without letting it cool down first. The Hot and Sour soup is not only served hot in temperature, but it is also HOT in taste. I think too hot and has a strong pepper taste. It makes me sweat and I do not enjoy it - though I like this type of soup very much. I have even mixed just a touch of this soup into the egg drop soup to get the taste of Hot and Sour soup and it is still too hot in taste.

Just from the offerings alone, this should be one of the premiere Chinese buffets, but it is not. It is just ordinary and average. More attention to management - particularly of the grill window - and it would improve some. As I am sure that the grill is figured into the price, it should be better attended to. One often has the impression that the grill is closed, despite the large sign on the wall over the grill window that says, "Grill included with Buffet".

There are always people dining, usually couples and families. I always look to see how many Asian people are eating at a Chinese restaurant - there are rarely any dining here. We come here often and drive a bit to get here. It is a satisfying meal, but I feel it is missing the mark. Also as a regular customer, you would think that there would be some recognition, by the same host that is there week after week - no, there is no acknowledgement at all.

Prices at Chinese buffets in this area have recently gone up and this restaurant is no exception. The price is $13.49 per adult. There is a children's price. Everyone must pay. (I have seen a few here try to pull the "I am just sitting with them and not eating. No go - you have to pay to eat or sit. (Ahh, One of our rules!)) The soda is an odd price of $1.16 for unlimited refills - that the server must bring you and hopefully, she will. (I have to be fair and say that most times when I have been here I am asked if I "want more drink?".) You pay as you leave, however, I have seen them make groups of teens pay in advance.

At Christmas time they decorate the restaurant with a Christmas tree and have a big raffle on New Years for many big prizes including TV sets, DVD players, etc. You have to be there on the holiday to participate. They hand out bamboo calendars throughout the holiday season.

There are other Chinese buffets around named Grand Buffet. There is a possibility that this is one of a small chain, but there is no indication at the restaurant that there is any other location. There is no website. The hours are Monday to Thursday, 11 to 10:30 (last seating at 9:30); Friday, Saturday and Holidays, 11:00 to 11:30 (last seating at 10:30); and Sundays, 11:30 to 10 (last seating at 9). The phone number is 631-777-8199.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005


Well, we were at our local Old Country Buffet Sunday night and when we got up from the table for desert, we returned to find our table covered in dirty plates. My wife got to the table before I did and she saw a woman placing a dirty plate on the table and walking away back to her own table. Apparently the whole group had done this. Now, we did not know these people, had done nothing to offend them, and had not any interaction with them the entire night.

Old Country Buffet is one of the buffets that clearly marks your table as occupied with a paper slip that you keep on your table until you leave. The paper was quite visible on our table. We made our indignation noticable - though the folks who had done this did not seem to pay any attention. The girl who was cleaning away dirty dishes saw this and came running over - apologizing because she decided it was her fault because she had not had a chance to get over to that table to clean away the plates - but it was not her fault. This was incredibly rude of these people. If they were annoyed at the girl for not getting to clean their dirty plates away, they could have a) gone directly to the girl or b) gone to the manager.

Is another buffet rule necessary for what is basic courtesy? Do we need to say that Rule #15 is Never place your dirty plates on someone else's table? I had hoped that that one would not have been necessary. Perhaps not. Perhaps it needs only be a New York rule. Born and lived in NY all of my life, I find New Yorkers generally rude when compared to the people that I have met in other states.


Friday, September 16, 2005

Chinese Buffet Restaurants

Chinese buffet restuarants have been around for a while, but there had not been as many as there are today. On Long Island in New York State it seems as if there is a Chinese buffet restaurant in every village - if not more than one. Most new Chinese restaurants that open are Chinese buffets. The interesting thing is that many of these Chinese buffets are carbon copies of each other - and that observation is not limited to just my area. I have visited Chinese buffets 150 miles away from home that are serving the exact same dishes as several of the restaurants at home - prepared in the same way, the exact same deserts, the same special dumplings, etc. It appears as if there is a pre-packaged Chinese buffet set-up or every owner attends a Chinese buffet convention and purchases the same packaged food. Sometimes the decor is exactly the same.

I believe that offering a Chinese buffet is more economical for a restaurant owner than a menu Chinese restaurant. The quantity prepared is less for the buffet, while the income is the same. When ordering from a menu in a Chinese restaurant, the entree is usually served as a pint to a quart of food. At the buffet the buffet tray usually holds perhaps three times that amount and feeds a number of diners. While diners are picking from a number of entrees on the buffet they are not taking as much as they would have been served if ordering from a menu.

There are many Chinese buffets that are offering a basic selection of appetizers, entrees, and small cake or cookie desserts. One of the big draws on Long Island at Chinese buffets is the addition of king crab legs. Usually put out in broken clusters, rather than the full clusters, many diners just come for the crab.

Beyond the basic Chinese buffet, you will also find Chinese buffets that call themselves, "International" buffets. These offer a variety of cuisines, but primarily they are Chinese. Often you will find a mix of Chinese, Japanese, American, and Italian. Some of these add lobster as a featured dish. Many of these restaurants are at the higher end of the price range.

As we go along, I will review the Chinese buffets that I have dined at. There is already one such review on this site - The Peking Buffet in Virginia. As was presented in that review, that restaurant is one of the more unique Chinese buffets.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Shady Maple Smorgasbord - Lancaster County, PA

Shady Maple Smorgasbord is located in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania in the town of East Earl at 129 Toddy Drive just off of Route 23. As far as I am concerned Shady Maple is the premiere of smorgasbord/buffet restaurants. They claim that they are the largest smorgasbord in Pennsylvania. I would go them one better and say that this may very well be the largest restaurant in the country. I have been to a restaurant that claims to be the largest in the country and this one is definitely bigger. The main floor of this restaurant is about the size of a football field. The smorgasbord tables combined are two hundred feet long. There is a lower floor that contains a gift shop, banquet rooms, and another restaurant that serves “fast food”.

The current location was built a few years ago on property behind the original location. The new building is lavish with chandeliers, a large, fancy, furnished lobby, and the look of a fine hotel. This is very unlike the surrounding farm community and must take the locals and the Amish who dine here along with the steady tourist clientele by surprise the first time they walk in. The original location was smaller – but still a large facility. It had a much more country décor and atmosphere. Personally, I liked that atmosphere much better as it was more in keeping with the locale and unlike what I seek to get away from when I come to this area. I was there the last week that the old location was open and I was here shortly after the new location opened. I come to this restaurant frequently and it is one of my favorites of any restaurant that I have ever been to. Most local people know of this restaurant and you can hear people say that they are “Going up to the Shady Maple tonight.”

The restaurant is privately owned and the owner is often on site and looking over the dining room. There is often a long line to get in to this restaurant with waits up to fifteen minutes. There are several cash registers – you pay as you enter. (A secret that I should not reveal – if there are lines go to the lines on the left; for some reason they are usually shorter.) After you pay you get on another line to be seated. There are so many dining rooms that the wait is not that long. There are both tables and booths. The price varies by night, as do the specials that are served from five grill areas. Tuesday night is the most expensive night at $17.49 per adult for the seafood night. The least expensive night is Thursday at $11.99 with marinated chicken breast featured. Other nights are between those prices. Children up to 10 years are half the adult price. There is a 10% discount for seniors. The restaurant adds 8% to every bill for the tip. You are asked not to tip at the tables. The price for dinner includes everything with unlimited soft drinks, juice, coffee, tea, hot chocolate, specialty coffees, slushies, etc.

After you pay and are brought to your table by a host, the layout and the specialties are explained to you. You are then off on your own. You get your own drinks and plates are at the smorgasbord tables. Silverware is set at your table but additional silverware is out if required (why put your fork full of mashed potatoes into your cake). The two sided smorgasbord table starts in the middle and goes in two directions. Each direction is supposed to be a duplicate of the other, but check both out. You will often find different entrees, soups, and sides mixed into what is common on both sides.

The table starts with a salad section that has several types of mixed greens, toppings, and dressings. There are also prepared salads – many of which are local area specialties. Try the pepper cabbage; it is like chopped coleslaw but with a different dressing. There is also hot bacon dressing – tastes good but it is probably a cholesterol doctor’s nightmare. Soups are next – there are four soups and chili.

You then come to several lengths of entrée tables. There is turkey, pork, sliced beef, pork and sauerkraut, fried chicken, croquets, fish, and meats that vary. They claim 8 meats plus what is found at the grills. Some of the special meat items have been meat loaf, meat balls, chicken cordon bleu, sausages, ribs, and pork barbecue. They have had nights when many of the beef dishes have been replaced with buffalo. Interesting, if you have not tried it before. The side dishes are mixed in with the meats and entrees. These have included dried corn, potato filling (both local specialties), corn or corn on the cob, barbecue beans, mashed potatoes, French fries, potatoes that are thinly sliced and fried almost to potato chips, carrots, fritters, buttered noodles, a pasta dish, and much more. They say at least 14 vegetables are offered. At the five fry grills are meats depending upon on the feature of the night. Mondays, you will find steaks – served to you whole. Tuesdays there are several varieties of fish, shrimp, and crab legs. Wednesday is prime rib – sliced to your order. Thursday is marinated chicken and pork. Fridays feature fish and meats at the grill that vary. Saturday night is an assortment from the week’s offerings. I have had steak, veal parmagean, Philly cheese steaks, smoked sausage, perogies, ham, prime rib, catfish, flounder, and other meats. Recently they have started serving pizza at one of the grills and they are also carving beef brisket. At the sides of the grills there is an extensive assortment of breads. These include bread that is swirled with fruit. There is gourmet apple bread with sugar frosting on top.

Ready for dessert? There are two desert tables, one with cakes, pies, and cold dish desserts. The other has hot dish desserts such as apple dumplings and fruit cobblers. To the side are more cakes and a soft serve ice cream machine with a sundae bar with every topping that you can think of including pretzels. There are also a number of sugar free deserts offered including fruit pies that are sweetened with nothing more than fruit juice – no artificial sweetener. The sugar free pies are on a dark plate and are very good. The blueberry pie is great when they have it. There are fancy coffee machines around the beverage area including cappuccino.

The food is very, very good. Food is prepared properly, however, if you are very conscious of your fat intake, be aware that on the grills they often put a large quantity of butter (or whatever it may happen to be) down on the grill to fry on. I have never asked but I would not be surprised if they would clean a section of the grill off for you to cook something without it. They are so accommodating and nice about everything else, I am sure that they would do this. The barbecue pork ribs that I had fell off the bone and the sauce was just tangy enough. Steaks include Delmonico and New York Strip. They are cooked to your liking and you are served the whole steak. They are served with sautéed onions, mushrooms, and onion rings – your choice of any or all. There is really something for everyone. You can eat “Pennsylvania Dutch”, country, or just American. A vegetarian can be easily pleased, as can someone on a diet.

The service is good with dishes cleaned off the table regularly. You are given a paper slip to put on the table to signal the server that the table is occupied and not to clear it away for another customer. This works most of the time. I suspect that a number of diners do not pay attention to this and leave the paper face up after they exit. On a very rare occasion the server slips and clears a table still in use. In the old restaurant they had a plastic plaque that said reserved that you placed face up when you were dining and turned face down (stating open) when you left. I believe that this system was better as people were more conscious of the sign on the table when they first sat down. The restaurant is exceptionally clean. Even the restrooms – men’s and women’s are lavish with an ante-room that is furnished nicer than many living rooms. There is also a family restroom.

This is one of those restaurants at which you really have to make an effort not to eat until you feel bloated – it is very easy to eat too much here. I have, too often, walked out to my car feeling like I would burst. I am the one who wrote down the rules of buffets and I wind up breaking some of them here. I came back to the table with two plates – one with pizza on it. My wife said to me – “didn’t I read on the Internet about some rule of taking only one plate at a time?” Yup, but there was not enough room on the plate for what is almost a full slice of pizzeria pizza – so I put it on its own plate.

In addition to the dinner smorgasbord there are lunch and breakfast smorgasbords. The lunch smorgasbord features most of the offerings of the dinner with the exception of the grills. The price is $9.29 per adult, Monday through Friday until 3:15 pm. The breakfast smorgasbord features eggs prepared to order, quiche, breakfast meats, scrapple, pancakes, waffles, omelets, French toast, mush, pudding, breads, baked goods, fruit, and much more. The price for breakfast is $7.29 Monday to Friday and $8.29 on Saturdays and holidays. Breakfast is served from 5:00 am (this is farm country, after all) to 10:00 am. Dinner is served until 8:00 pm. The restaurant closes at 8:00 pm but diners may remain until 9:00. Food trays are refilled through the night. The restaurant is closed on Sundays. It is also closed on New Year’s Day, Memorial Day, Labor Day, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. The gift shop is open until 9:00 pm and recently expanded. The restaurant has a website that is linked at the side of this page.

There is a special promotion that gives you a free meal on your birthday when you are there with at least one other diner. They even have a way to register at the restaurant or on their website so that you will get a reminder to come on your birthday for your free meal. All you need to do is prove that it is your birthday at the cashier; registration is unnecessary.

There are banquet facilities that seat 1000 people. There are special banquet packages. The banquet is not part of the buffet; however, there are private rooms off the main dining rooms that will accommodate private parties or meetings that include the smorgasbord.

If there was only one buffet restaurant that could exist this would have to be the one. This is the top. It would take a great deal to do better and I have yet to find any that does.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

The Family Cupboard Restaurant and Buffet - Lancaster, PA

The Family Cupboard Restaurant and Buffet is located at 3370 Harvest Drive in the village of Intercourse in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. It is located in the parking lot of the Harvest Drive Motel. It is off the main roads in the middle of the farm fields. You drive past several farms and lots of cows as you travel off Route 340 to get to the restaurant. There is a sign on Route 340 at the turn to the road that leads up to the restaurant. Keep an eye out for that sign. This is a privately run restaurant with two current locations. This location is scheduled to close in December and move to a location more centrally in the flow of tourists who come to this area to see the Amish and the Pennsylvania Dutch Country. It will move a few miles away to the Amish Barn Restaurant located on Route 340 just before you reach Intercourse, PA traveling east. When the move is made there will be only one location.

This is a small restaurant with both a menu and a buffet. The buffet is reasonably priced at $10.80 per adult on weekdays and Saturday afternoon and $11.75 per adult on Saturday evening. The restaurant closes at 8:00 pm, as do all of the similar restaurants in this area and is closed on Sundays. Soft drinks are $1.25 and are refillable. There is a lunch buffet during the week that is cheaper.

You are seated by a host in one of two dining rooms – one at ground level and one a few steps above. The upper dining room has the buffet tables but you can sit anywhere and have the buffet. As stated, you may order from the menu – often duplicating the offerings on the buffet or order the buffet. As one diner at an adjacent table commented, if you intend to order dessert it is cheaper to order the buffet.

Dishes are located at the buffet table. Silverware is set at the table and drinks are brought to you by your server.

The buffet is small with limited offerings. The feature here is rotisserie chicken and it is always offered on the buffet. In addition there is fried chicken, beef chunks in gravy, and another meat entrée. Some nights that is meat loaf or ham loaf – a local specialty. Tonight it was Pork and Sauerkraut, an Amish dish that is pieces of pork loin in sauerkraut. There is an assortment of sides including mashed potatoes, buttered noodles, bread stuffing, stewed tomatoes, wild rice, corn, string beans, and other vegetables. On Friday nights there is seafood and fried shrimp. Everything is freshly made with local recipes. If you are looking to eat “Pennsylvania Dutch” you will get it authentically here. There are no carved meats.

There are three buffet tables that fill one side of the upper dining room. There is a salad and soup bar with two soups – local favorites. There is mixed greens and toppings and an extensive assortment of prepared salads and cold items including pickled beet eggs. The entrée table is described above. There is a dessert table and a dessert counter. The table has an extensive assortment of puddings and spooned desserts including local specialties such as cracker pudding, tapioca, éclair pudding, egg custard, and more. At the counter is hard ice cream, scooped for you from a selection of flavors. There are also cakes and pies including shoo fly pie. Bread rolls are found at the end of the entrée table and you will also find a local Amish spread that contains peanut butter and molasses. It is very sweet but worth a taste if you have never had it before.

My wife likes this restaurant a lot. I like it but there are others that I like better. The food is good – not exceptional, but definitely good. The service here is exceptional and the servers are very pleasant. Dishes are cleared quickly and drink refills are offered when you glass nears the bottom. The servers make the atmosphere here very welcoming. Here is a little story – about two years ago my wife and I were dining here. There were just a few tables full as it was near closing. Our server gave the check to another table of diners and then came over to us. I asked for our check and she said that dinner tonight was on her. We had never met this young lady before nor had she been our server prior to that evening. I was a bit taken back – especially being a suspicious New Yorker. I asked why. She simply said that she wanted to do a kindness to someone and she picked us. I insisted no – another NY trait. She insisted yes saying something about it pleasing the Lord. There was an implication that the restaurant had directed her to do this but I was never sure if this was something that the restaurant had her do or if she actually paid for our meal. I tipped her exceptionally well, thanked her profusely, and we left. This was so incredibly nice. It never happened to us before anywhere. It has never happened again. I left that night with such a good feeling – very unlike anything that I had ever felt before. It made me feel like doing something nice for someone else – paying it forward so to speak. Enough said.

The view from the upper dining room is incredible looking out over Amish farms and mountains in the distance. One night, sky balloons were being inflated in a nearby field and it made for quite a dinner show. The restaurant is well maintained and very clean. It is frequented by locals, Amish and tourists. There is a place in the parking lot for horse and buggies to be tied up.

The Amish Barn, the restaurant that this restaurant will be moving to in a few months is currently owned by this restaurant is being run by them. I am hoping that when the move is made that restaurant will improve in atmosphere and service. Most of the people from this restaurant will be moving over there. My wife and I tried it in July in anticipation of the move. The food was exactly the same though there were fewer deserts, The service was amateurish and did not make a good impression – in fact during one trip to the buffet table the bus boy came and cleaned off the table and re-set it – I suppose assuming that we had left despite that we had only had soup. The atmosphere there was not nearly as nice. I very much am hoping that all of this will change when the move is made.

There is a frequent diner’s card that is free. For every $100 that you spend over time you get a $10 gift card for the restaurant. In the lobby of the restaurant there is a small gift shop.

The restaurant has no website. The telephone number is 717-768-4510. I f you are going and it is December 2005, call first to see if the move has been made. I believe it is planned for the 1st of January. Don’t expect lavish, This is a plain restaurant with plain, good food – remember this is the home of the Plain People.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

General Pickett's Buffets - Gettysburg, PA

In Gettysburg, Pennsylvania you will find General Pickett’s Buffets. It is located at 571 Steinwehr Avenue just diagonally across from the main entrance to the Gettysburg National Park entrance. Now, the buffet is not owned by General Pickett. It is named for the Confederate General who led Pickett’s Charge across the field that is just opposite the restaurant. This is a privately owned restaurant and it is in the lower level of a theatre that features Civil War performances and a gift shop. There is parking in the rear of the building and the entrance to the restaurant is also at the rear. The restaurant is called Buffets but this is the only location. I presume that the plural refers to the three buffet tables or the different lunch and dinner buffets.

As you enter the restaurant the front lobby walls are covered in photographs of the filming of the feature motion picture, Gettysburg. These and other photographs that decorate the restaurant have been taken by one of the servers who works here. A few years ago the restaurant played the movie soundtrack as their background music and the two cd’s seemed to repeat over and over. I liked it but I am sure someone not familiar with the movie or who is not as much of a Civil War buff must have thought it excessive. I would guess that eventually it must have driven the employees crazy. They no longer play the soundtrack but there is quiet music playing as you dine. The restaurant is small as is the buffet. It is a favorite of locals, tourists who wander in as they finish touring the battlefield, and by reenactors who come following the Civil War living history events that happen often in the area.

You are seated at your table by a host and a server comes to take your drink orders. Soft drinks are extra but are unlimited. There is also beer and wine. The dinner buffet costs $9.95 per adult. Drinks are $0.80. There is a lunch buffet for $5.95 with different selections.

The first buffet table has three different soups, chili, nachos, mixed green salad and toppings, prepared salads, fresh melon, canned fruit, puddings, and jello. There is also a basket of hot corn bread. To the side of that table are two breads and a serving bowl of peanut butter.

The hot entrée and sides table features two specialties of the restaurant – barbecue pork ribs in a good sauce and fried catfish chunks. There are two carved meats – roast beef and ham. There is baked pollock, baked chicken, spicy seafood creole, rice, potatoes, pasta, corn, baked beans, string beans, summer squash mix, carrots, sauerkraut, and other items.

The desert bar offers pies and a large assortment of layer cakes including German chocolate cake, apple walnut crumb cake, and others. There is no ice cream.

The buffet includes all you care to eat of all that is offered. The food is very good. The ribs are some of the best that I have had at a buffet restaurant. Everything is “homemade”. Trays are regularly refilled. Service is very good and the server was very pleasant with conversation. Our server was the photographer and in addition to that talent he knows a lot about the battlefield, answering questions from the diners. Used dishes were removed quickly and fresh drinks kept coming. If you want to switch to coffee at dessert, you may. The restaurant is well maintained and clean.

While dining a couple at a table near us seemed to only have the salad bar and we heard the server offer them the dessert table for only a dollar more. There is no indication that the salad bar alone is offered as an option, but if you are just interested in salad, ask.

There are a number of restaurants in this small town, but other than the usual fast food places, this is by far the most reasonable. There is also a free frequent diner’s card that gives a 10% discount when you come again and gives you a free eleventh meal. Not bad! You get it from the cashier as you pay your check and leave. Whenever I am in Gettysburg, I have dinner here. My wife who is a picky eater is happy too. When reenactors are in town you will see Union and Confederate soldiers sitting side by side enjoying a good meal. If you are in Gettysburg – or nearby – you must try General Pickett’s Buffets.

The lunch buffet is served from 11:30 am to 3:15 pm Mondays through Saturdays – not on Sundays. Dinner is served from 4:30 pm to 7:30 pm, Monday to Saturday, and 11:30 am to 7:00 pm on Sundays. There is no website. Their phone number is 717-334-7580.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Golden Corral - Second Time Around

I went to another Golden Corral - this one in Williamsburg, Virginia (one that I have been to before). This Golden Corral was somewhat different than the one that I wrote about in North Carolina. Here there were fewer choices and several of the buffet areas were missing. There was no taco bar. There was no stirfry grill. Many of the barbecue dishes were missing. A lot of the meat dishes were missing. The salad bar was much abbreviated. This all goes to show that there will be differences in this chain from restaurant to restaurant.

In the two other chains that I have written about - Old Country Buffet and Ryan's - one restaurant is pretty much the same as the next. This can especially be said for OCB. I have been to some Ryan's that were smaller than others but the offerings were the same.

The food was still good. In fact the steak here was very good and an effort was made to cook it to order. It was better than the steak that I had in North Carolina. The service was good as well and this server brought a stack of four dishes over to the table at a time and kept them coming along with the drink refills.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Captain George's Seafood Restaurant

Captain George’s Seafood Restaurant is a small chain of restaurants in the Tidewater region of Virginia. The restaurant that I frequent is their location in Williamsburg, Virginia. There are four more restaurants in Virginia Beach, VA, Hampton, VA, Pungo, VA and Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. This is a fancy seafood restaurant with a complete menu and… the mother of all seafood buffets. This is the seafood buffet that all other seafood buffets should be judged by.

The Williamsburg restaurant is large with a separate dining room for smokers, a separate room with the “haunted” dinner theater attraction, and a large main dining room. The décor is that of a harbor front. One wall is a lighted façade of old shops and harbor side buildings. Another wall is an ocean view mural. In the main dining room is a three-masted schooner that is ONE of the buffet tables and it is almost the width of the restaurant on a diagonal. Another smaller schooner is adjacent with another buffet table and then two more tables are at the side. Scattered through the room are floor to ceiling supports that resemble the deck supports in the hold of a ship. This is the quintessential seafood restaurant.

Dinner here is not inexpensive. The buffet costs $25.99 per adult and unlimited soft drinks are $1.99. A maitre-de escorts you to your table. Tables are set with fine napkins and silverware. A menu is offered or the buffet. Your server comes to your table, introduces herself and takes your drink order. There is a bar and cocktails are available as are wine and beer. You order and then go off to the buffet. The server will bring your drinks, make sure there is a full drink always there, and clear your plates. Plates are located at the bottom of the schooner buffet table and you take them as you need them.

The start of the buffet is a small salad bar with greens, toppings, and prepared salads. You will find REAL crab salad here – large chunks of crabmeat (not sealegs) in a mayonnaise based sauce. The buffet moves along to two soups. One is white clam chowder that is thick and full of clams. The other is she-crab soup, a specialty of the restaurant. This is a thick, cream based soup full of crabmeat with a pleasantly, sharp taste. The buffet moves along to several broiled fish choices – on this night there were catfish in a cream sauce, salmon, and mahi mahi. As you continue you find pork barbecue, prime rib (pre-sliced), manicotti, potatoes, vegetables, gumbo, rice, a variety of fried seafood including shrimp, calms, scallops, and pollock. There are hushpuppies, rolls, corn on the cob, and then you come to the area seafood specialties – seafood Norfolk (Norfolk Special), deviled crab, Crab Imperial, crab cakes, stuffed clams, clams casino, baked clams and more.

On the next schooner are the highlights of the buffet. You first find large, steamed king crab clusters. These are large, hot, and full of meat. They are not sitting in water and are not soggy as they often are at some buffets. Next there are steamed hard blue crabs, steamed crayfish, steamed clams, mussels, Oysters Rockefeller, and hot, spiced, steamed shrimp. You will find non-seasoned shrimp cocktail on the salad bar. Of course, there is lots of hot butter sauce, cocktail sauce, and tartar sauce. Nut crackers are at your table to break the shells, along with several extra large, fancy paper napkins, and wetwipes. Take an extra plate to put the shells in as you eat.

Next there is a small round buffet around one of the ceiling supports with several cakes, Greek pastries, tarts, and cookies. This is followed by another buffet table with puddings, hot cobblers, and fruit. The deserts are exactly the same as those found at the Country Harvest Buffet Restaurant located a few miles away – see the article on that restaurant for my comments. The desserts are a feature here,

All of the food is excellent. There is every seafood that you can imagine with one exception – there is no lobster on the buffet. There is lobster on the menu. You will not miss it as there is everything else. Crab is king here and there is plenty of it in every form that you can think of along with every other type of seafood. This is a seafood feast.

Service is excellent. The server continually comes to the table to clear your plates, ask if there is anything that you need, and to keep bringing more beverages. Each time you get a new glass full of ice and drink with a new straw. At dessert you are invited to switch to coffee or hot tea if you wish.

This restaurant is frequented by both locals and tourists. At home 600 miles away, I have mentioned this restaurant and it is known. Even Santa Claus eats at this restaurant. Several years back in early December my wife and I visited this restaurant and there, a few tables away from us, enjoying crab claws was an elderly gentleman with a large white beard along with a lady with white hair in a bun. The gentleman was dressed in a plaid, flannel shirt and work pants. The lady was wearing a plaid skirt. They had their dinner and left without fanfare – but it was them, Santa and Mrs. Claus – there was no mistaking it!

One of the recent additions to this restaurant has been the haunted dinner theater – a theatrical production in a dining room separated from the main part of the restaurant. It is a spooky murder mystery and always has a crowd of both adults and kids. With the show you get the full buffet and come into the main dining room to pick up your meal and return to the fun.

Dinner starts serving at 4:00 in the summer and 4:30 in the winter. There is no lunch – on Sunday the dinner menu and buffet starts at Noon. The restaurant closes at 10:30 from Monday to Saturday in the summer and at 10:00 in the winter. Saturdays in the summer they open at 3:30. In the winter they close at 9:30 on Sundays. They state that the buffet menu may change with the season. I have been here both in the summer and the winter and do not recall much difference, if any.

In Williamsburg, the restaurant is located at 5363 Richmond Road. There is a website and it is linked at the side of the page. If you like seafood, do not miss Captain George’s. Even if you do not like seafood, there is something here for you. It is definitely an experience not to be missed by people who love buffets.