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.

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