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.


Anonymous said...

plain and simple u dont like it at the milleridge then dont eat here...

Robert A said...

The Milleridge Inn was informed of this post and asked to comment. If the above annonymous post was from them, then it shows how well they care about their business. Let us assume for a moment that it was not from them, then in that case the comment was from a fool who has no concept of what this blog site is all about - which is to pass along the good and the bad and save someone from wasting money on a poor meal.

Now from the use of the last word - "here" and not "there", I would say the comment was from them. How sad.

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Anonymous said...

I worked at the Milleridge Cottage for 5 years as a Banguet Manager . I cashiered thier Holiday Buffets also.I can say in thier defense , the staff (servers), is slightly overworked but I dont think they realize it much.They honestly do care about service issues and they discuss in meetings constantly how to improve. We need to realize the Cottage and the Inn (Restaurant)are owned the same but run completley on thier own.The person in charge of the Holiday Buffets at the Cottage , is the Director of the Cottage.When I was there , A Director by the name Valerie was ther and left nothing undone.She made sure everything from the napkins folded to the dinner were immpecable.Fixing servers ties , and so on.She has since moved on to THE PLAZA and Im not quite sure were after that. I would put this current complaint on the current Director (whoever it may be )Since they are the ones who DIRECT this from beginning to end . Yes the owners are very greedy and they are always looking for ways to make more for less (seen that way to much)I actually left beacuse I couldnt stand how greedy they where and it went against my morales.Some employees and myself called the entire property "The Devils Haven".But as far as the servers , they work extremely hard w/ a lot of lack of sleep , maybe 30 hrs total a week.They get repremanded alot and try hard.I hope this helps in anyones idea of Milleride Company .

Robert A said...

The staff on Christmas Eve do not seem to be working too hard - or if they are the attitude of "I do not care!" comes through loud and clear. As I stated in the article, members of my family have loved this restaurant for years and overlooked the shortcomings. With this article I finally decided that enough is enough. There was a Christmas Eve a number of years ago - when my Dad and Mom were still alive, that we all were there - at the buffet. We had just been seated and our drink orders were taken. We went up to the serving table and came back with salad. The server who had just brought the drink orders came over and asked if we wanted coffee and what were we having for dessert. When we pointed out that we had JUST started our meal, she was surprised and walked off in a huff. So this year was not the first bad year at the Milleridge Inn for Christmas Eve. There have been other bad years and bad Easters there too.

Avoid it - I will.