Friday, December 29, 2006

OCB Buys Ryans and Other Snippets

This got past us when it happened this past July but I have just learned (as printed in the St. Paul Business Journal) that Buffets, Inc., the company that operates Old Country Buffet, bought out Ryans Restaurants. The Ryans chain was seeing financial difficulties and Buffets, Inc. bought the chain through the New York-based financial group that owns Buffets, Inc. The official word is that the two chains will be operated independently. Let's hope so. Let's also hope that there are no OCB influences that make their way into Ryans. Ryans is the superior chain (despite the financial problems they were apparently having).


Old Country Buffet is about to embark on another of their special featured menus. This time it is focused around fish. Of course, they could not resist in bringing back some of those awful "Shrimp, Shrimp, Shrimp" favorites. I am assuming this will be replacing the currently featured "Steakhouse Steak", which is as close to a steakhouse steak as a McDonald's hamburger is. Actually, that is not being fair to a McDonald's hamburger - which is better than an OCB steak. The little sign on the table only said starting soon and did not say when. As was done with "Shrimp, Shrimp, Shrimp" and "Steak, Steak, Steak", I am assuming that "Fish, Fish, Fish" will only be offered on certain nights. (Don't know what nights, yet.)


In August 2006 I wrote about a restaurant in North Babylon, NY called China Buffet City. I was looking for something different tonight so we took the drive back there. As this is a Friday night we got to see what the Friday/weekend dinner offerings were. My review of August still stands with a few exceptions. We got there at about 7:00 pm and the place was crowded. (A good sign, as the restaurant was near empty on that Tuesday night in August.) We did not have to wait. The restaurant is large. The price is still the same - $13.99 for weekends - which is now equal with most of the other Chinese buffets in this area. The weekday price is still higher at $12.99.

There were weekend additions to the menu. They had crab leg clusters and there were two types of steak. One of the steaks was on the grill bar and was cut pieces of steak. The other steak was on the buffet table and this was called Mongolian Steak. It was broiled, thick slices of beef round with a lot of seasoning on the outside of each piece, including way too much salt. There was a brownish-yellow sauce on the side that I did not try. Other than this nothing else seemed different.

Some of the minor problems still persist. There were more signs identifying dishes, but several of the signs were mis-placed. The Sushi chef was there when we first came in, but half way through the meal he packed up and left, leaving what he had made for the taking, but when that was gone the Sushi was done for the night - and the restaurant was still opened for dinner for almost three more hours. Some of the fried appetizers are a bit over greasy. They are good, but they drip oil (not so good).

While we were there two men were talking about the restaurant and comparing it to East - and that this is not as good. That is true, but it is half the price of East on the weekend. I still recommend China City Buffet. I have not been so happy with the never changing (except for the worst) Grand China Buffet in Farmingdale and this was a pleasant diversion. For the same price on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday nights, the China Buffet City is far better.


Did anyone get a buffet gift certificate for the holidays?

Everyone have a VERY HAPPY NEW YEAR! See ya in 2007!

Friday, December 22, 2006

Golden Buffet, Centereach, New York

Sometimes the story of how we found a buffet is better than the restaurant itself, but in this case both are good. So here is what happened. We wanted to see a certain movie that has been playing around for a few weeks but has now left the local theaters. A search through the newspaper found the movie playing at a multiplex half way through Suffolk County toward the east end of Long Island (you know, the Hamptons, where the actors go to hide - not quite that far, though). It was a trip, but not so far from there is a shopping center and since we have not purchased one Christmas present yet, we decided to head out east. As we were finding the movie theater with the map software, I did a search for restaurants in the area. There were a few diners so we figured we had dinner covered. After leaving the mall and trying a nearby Wal-Mart to find nothing worth buying (not because it was Wal-mart as we got nothing at the mall either), we saw in the shopping center that the Wal-mart is in a Chinese buffet restaurant called Golden Buffet. It was about two and a half hours before the movie and we were still not sure where we were going to eat. We also were not exactly sure where the movie theater was, so we figured we better eat there and then and not have to go searching for both a restaurant and a movie theater. It was Saturday night, so I was not certain just how expensive this buffet could be. Sometimes weekend prices at Chinese buffets get a little out of reason. No matter, we went in.

The restaurant, as stated, is called Golden Buffet and it is located at 1973 Middle Country Road (which happens to be Route 25). It is located in a strip shopping center that has a section that is a small inside mall. Most of the stores inside have been closed, but despite the large window, (locked0 door, and sign for this restaurant facing the parking lot, the entrance is inside the mall. You enter by the mall door to the right of the restaurant's window and the door to the restaurant is just inside to the left, as you follow the restaurants window from outside and around to inside the mall. The restaurant is large with a big dining area with both tables and booths and a large buffet serving area in the rear. There also seemed to be a private party room in the back. There are six large, double-sided buffet tables and one buffet counter along a wall. The decor is modern Oriental and very nice. The tables have the name of the restaurant embedded into them.

The prices are about the going rate - weekdays dinner is $12.95 per adult with children under five feet (an interesting way of deciding - unless a very short adult shows up) are $7.99. Weekend dinner is $13.95 and the same $7.99 for children. There are lunch prices of $6.95 during the week and $7.95 on weekends. The kids lunch price is always $4.99. Unlimited soda is $1.00 per person. The restaurant always opens at 11 am and closes at 10 pm on weekdays and Sunday. It stays open until 11 pm on Fridays and Saturdays. Seating is up to an hour before closing times. There is also take-out buffet by the pound and a regular take-out menu.

They claim that there are over 180 items on the buffet. They also claim that the food is American, Chinese, Italian, and Japanese. With no detraction from the claim, I guess so. Italian was a stretch, but if you consider pizza and grilled sausage to be Italian - then it had Italian. It has so much of a variety that anyone should be happy - even someone who does not like Chinese food.

Let's start with the appetizers, salads, and soup. There were four soups including a special beef soup. The salad buffet server had a variety of Oriental and American prepared salads - some with fish and crab. There were mixed greens and a large variety of vegetable toppings and dressings. On this server there were also large, cold peel and eat cocktail shrimp, raw clams, and raw oysters - oysters are s0mething you do not usually see from a restaurant in this price range. There was also cold rock crab - half large crabs. This all filled one double-sided buffet table. On the side of the room was a serving counter table that included a sushi bar and a large variety of sushi and rolls. The sushi was very good. There was both salmon and tuna on beds of rice, California Rolls, Spicy Salmon Rolls, and vegetable rolls. Sushi was not refilled as often as it should have been - but it was refilled while we were there. (No, I did not become a Sushi Grabber - I made sure NOT to take it all. ) On this counter there were other considerable items that we will come back to later. On a mix of other servers there were a variety of other appetizer type dishes. There were all the usual Chinese appetizers, such as egg rolls, spare ribs, etc. There were baked clams. There were three types of dumplings. And yes, there were crab legs. They were good sized clusters.

The entrees were many and varied. Back on the counter server were two hot carvings. There was a large prime rib and there was a leg of lamb. Both hot and moist under heat lamps with the carving knives and forks out for you to slice your own. Along the buffet tables were a pork roast to be sliced and long rolls of grilled Italian sausage. The pork roast was moist and nicely seasoned. There was salmon and there was an Asian steamed fish. There were many Chinese dishes including chicken with mushrooms. a special steak, Hong Kong Beef (beef chunks in a brown sauce), the usual chicken and broccoli, pepper steak, General Tso's Chicken, roast duck (labeled roast chicken, but it was definately duck, mixed seafood (labeled Shrimp with Lobster Sauce- but it wasn't, however, the shrimp were large and good flavored. They were mixed in with mock crab and squid.), crab meat in cheese, and many other dishes.

Side dishes were as many and as varied as the entrees. There was fried rice and lo mein. There were also several types of potatoes including french fries, chunked potatoes, and a potato stuffed with cheese. There were Chinese stir fry string beans, corn on the cob, and many others.

There was a large double-sided dessert table with the usual "Little Debbie" type cakes. There were a number of canned fruits. There were two jellos and two puddings. There was a variety of fresh fruit and melons. We heard a mother telling her children that they were going to have ice cream, but I looked around and saw no soft serve machine. So if it was there, it was not obvious.

So how was the food? - very, very good. There were many things that struck me as better than the usual buffet. One of them was the egg rolls. I like a good egg roll. Usually egg rolls at Chinese buffets are more wrapper than filling. The ones here were a decent size and full of vegetables and pork. They were very good. Everything that I tried was good. Nothing was such that I would say skip it (well... OK, the spare ribs looked dry and were covered in that sweet red sauce that only seems to show up on spare ribs in Chinese buffet restaurants).

Service was equally good. There were several young Chinese women who traveled around the tables making sure that dishes were picked up promptly and soda was refilled. There are knives at the buffet server. A stack of extra napkins were put down on the table. There were little dishes for sauces on the salad buffet table. Everything was well tended. Food was kept moist and refilled. There is a minor problem with labeling on the buffet, but the majority was correct. The check was brought before we were finished, but that does not really mean anything. (Some might take it as a hint - if it is, too bad.) My wife likes to add some fruit to her last plate, before dessert - and often after that at many Chinese buffets, the check is brought to the table. I think that for some reason that fruit is a signal that we are having dessert - even when we are not and I still have a plate full of entrees. No one says anything, and we go right on eating.

My only regret is that Golden Buffet is over 45 minutes away from me, and with the price of gas it cannot be a regular choice. It is far better than where I usally go. So if you are ever in mid-Suffolk County on Long Island, go over to Golden Buffet in Centereach. It is worth the stop. There is no web site, but the phone number is 631-588-5188. (The movie was good as well.)

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to ALL!

Friday, December 15, 2006

The Lobster Grabbers Converted

We have not been to the China Grand Buffet in Farmingdale, New York for over a month or more. The price went up a while ago - just fifty cents per person, but at the same time the lobster was taken off the buffet. Had the price gone down fifty cents when this happened it would have been no real loss, as this restaurant claimed that it refilled the lobster tray every forty five minutes, but in reality, we could be there for 90 minutes having dinner and never see lobster. And, of course, asking for it did no good as you would be told "45 minutes". We have been on a bit of a budget lately so we have not been there.

Tonight we went back. Low and behold, there were the Lobster Grabbers. (For those of you new to this site, check back in past articles for the Lobster Grabbers) What would they do now? There is no lobster any more for them to grab. Would it be the crab legs? No, it was the sushi! The Lobster Grabbers have now converted to become the Sushi Grabbers. The guy literally filled a dish with every piece of sushi that was in the tray. And did the restaurant refill it the entire time that we were in the restaurant eating? Of course, not. My suspicion is that they did not refill the tray because they knew that as soon as they did, this guy would bounce up and grab every piece again. Not so good for the rest of us.

The now, Sushi Grabbers like to fill entire plates as serving dishes. There are only two of them but they fill several plates and put it out in front of themselves, in addition to their own plates full of food. As I have pointed out before, this is incredibly rude, wasteful, and inconsiderate of every other diner in the restaurant. They, apparently, have no concern or thought for anyone but themselves. (I often feel this is a New York phenomenon - but perhaps you in the rest of the country will tell me that it happens every where. I generally find people outside of NY nicer.)

The Sushi Grabbers are not so unusual, unfortunately. I have seen this other times at other restaurants. People decide that they need to fill plates of one item and bring it to the table. Often the plates are almost as full when they decide to go and fill plates with dessert as when they started the meal. The plates of food are left and thrown out as the table is cleaned. For everyone else, all of the chicken is gone; all of the french fries are gone; etc. Terribly rude! It also send sends a message to the restaurant - too much is being taken too quickly and prices are need to go up.

One day I am going to make up a card to hand out to people like this at buffets. It will have the address of this site and say, "Come read the RULES". I would just say, "Take a look. You might find this interesting." And I would smile - no sense in getting punched in the nose for a piece of sushi or chicken. If anyone else would like to make such a card and use it, be my guest. I am sure that you have all seen and encountered your share of Lobster/Sushi/Chicken/Shrimp Grabbers. Let us know what you have seen by posting a comment.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Buffet Employee of the Year

I had never thought of a buffet employee of the year until the other night when we were dining at the Ryan's in Fredericksburg, Virginia. (Yes, we were on the road again.) We got into the restaurant late on Monday night - late, because this particular Ryan's changed it's hours. They close now at 8:30 on weeknights (since the end of November according to the sign on the door). We arrived at 7:30pm as we were driving north.

We got to the cashier and there was no one there. It took a short while to be noticed and then a young lady came over to the cash register. We were seated and I looked around the restaurant to see that there were not many there - which is probably why they have shortened their hours. A trip to the soup area was an indication that I should not put much hope in the evening's dining experience. They have really good chicken noodle soup with thick noodles. The soup was just about at the bottom of the server - and in the last hour was not likely to be refilled. There was enough soup for my wife and I to each have a quarter bowl. Looking around, most serving trays seemed full enough, so perhaps there was no need for concern.

I finished my soup and headed to the grill for what I still consider to be the best chain buffet steak. I asked the young gentleman at the grill for a steak medium rare. He looked at me and and said that all he had was well done, but he had a steak on the grill that would be ready in ten minutes. Great. I told him that I would be back. I filled my plate with some of the other good entrees on the buffet and returned to our table.

More customers were coming in - and by now it was near 8:00pm. The restaurant was far from full but now had a decent number of diners for a Monday night. I noticed three waiting by the grill. I finished my plate and headed back to the grill - the ten minutes were just about up. As I approached the grill, the same young man had just served a man in front of me a piece of steak. I got up to the grill and asked for a steak medium rare. He looked at me and then with recognition told me that he had just given that steak away. He apologized, but made no offer to make another one. I said, ok - what did he have? He told me that all he had was very well done. I took it.

I returned to my table a bit peeved. I was not going to make an issue because I realized that we arrived an hour before closing and we were probably lucky to be eating there at all. I told my wife what had happened. I poured steak sauce on the plate in an attempt to soften the meat and started eating the very well done steak. I thought about the comments that have been posted on this site about not going to buffets late when they are about to close.

Now, what happened next was remarkable for a buffet restaurant employee. The young man from the grill walked over to our table carrying a plate. He stopped and asked me if I still wanted a steak medium rare. He held out the plate with the steak on it. Wow! He told me that he felt badly that I had not gotten the steak that I had asked for earlier and he made this one just for me. I smiled and told him that I absolutely wanted it. He handed me the plate went back to the grill with both of us smiling. This unidentified young man is my buffet employee of the year. Any place else, anyone else would have just cleaned off the grill for the night and give no thought to a disappointed customer. Not only did this young man go out of his way to make me a happy patron of the restaurant, but a short while later he walked back to the table and asked if it was ok. I said yes, and he gave a big thumbs up. He returned to the grill area and started to clean and close down the grill for the night.

Perhaps you have encountered a buffet employee who has gone way beyond what was necessary to make a customer happy. If you have let us know!

Friday, December 01, 2006

Shields Tavern, Colonial Williamsburg, VA

I am in Virginia again and I am going to tell you about an all you can eat experience that I also wrote about this past September. I am purposely not looking back at that article so that I may give this restaurant a fresh review for the second time around. If I repeat myself...- it is worth reading it again. We dined at Shields Tavern tonight and had their special groaning board feast dinner. This is one of the best kept secrets in Colonial Williamsburg. It is easy to find out about this restaurant, but almost impossible to find out about this special dinner. It is not on their website. It is not in their advertising literature. It is not on any sign. How did we find it? By chance when making reservations, the dinner was mentioned when we asked if there were any reservations available for this special holiday weekend. Now, you may ask - what holiday weekend? Go ahead, ask - Ok. In Colonial Williamsburg this is the hottest weekend of the year - not in temperature but in popularity. This is Grand Illumination. A weekend of Christmas activities that come to an explosive crescendo on Sunday night when fireworks fill the sky in three areas of the historic city.

The special dinner is served on Friday nights during the summer months and, apparently now, on Friday night of Grand Illumination Weekend. This is a reserved seating dinner and advanced reservations are required. You cannot just walk up to the door and expect to get in. Let me first explain that this restaurant is part of the museum. It is a rebuilt 18th Century building on its original foundation. It is authentically decorated as it was when it operated as a tavern in 1760 - a tavern then was a like a hotel today. You could eat, drink, and sleep there. Today, at Shields Tavern you can eat and drink. When the special dinner is not being served this is a counter service sandwich restaurant during the day and an alcohol lounge in the evening. At one time not so long ago it was a full service restaurant all of the time. Now the only full meals served here are this special dinner.

The dinner costs $29.00 per adult and $13.00 per child. It includes a beverage of coffee, tea, ice tea, or lemonade. This is an all you care to eat dining experience. The food is served to you at your table and every platter is refillable at your request.

The meal starts with salad. This was a mixed greens and tomatoes salad served in a large serving bowl and covered in a special malt vinegar dressing. The dressing was wonderful - sweet and salty at the same time. Unfortunately, it was so good that I had two bowls of salad. Why unfortunately - well, without realizing it at the moment, the salad filled me up. At our table for two, we had enough salad for four plus. With the salad, you are brought of a basket of rolls. There is home churned butter on the table when you sit down. The ever present server comes by when you look like you have had your fill of salad and politely asks if you are ready for the main servings.

You are now brought a ten inch cast iron frying pan filled with slices of roast turkey covered in a thick, rich turkey gravy, real mashed potatoes, and a savory bread stuffing. You are also brought a metal platter full of sliced Virginia ham, string beans, and stewed peaches, pears, and prunes. You are ALSO brought a kettle of stew - tonight it was braised beef in a wine sauce with vegetables. You serve yourself, or each other, from the platters on the dish that the table was set with. There is also a bowl for your salad.

All of the food is excellent. The Virginia ham is not what you might expect in Virginia. It is not the Virginia salt ham, but a mildly flavored sliced ham. The turkey slices are thick and fresh. The gravy was on the salty side, but very good. I enjoyed the stew. My picky wife does not like anything that has wine on it, so she tried a bit, but left the rest for me. I asked for a second kettle to be brought. As the platters are emptied you ask for more of whatever you would like or more of everything. The server is there so you do not have to wait so long to ask for more that you do not want it anymore (as happens at some other restaurants where you must rely upon the server to get you more). There was so much - especially after the second kettle of stew and the second fry pan of turkey, potatoes, and stuffing - that I broke the rule and ate more than I really should have. It was good - and perhaps it was the two bowls of salad, but I was more than full. I was even a bit uncomfortable - which is really not a good way to be - especially since dessert was still to come.

When you have decided that you have eaten all that you care to eat you are asked which dessert you would like. I do believe you could get both of the two choices if you really want them. The desserts are pumpkin bread pudding covered in a sweet custard and a fruit cobbler which tonight was apple with blueberries, and this, too, is covered with the same sweet custard sauce. The pumpkin bread pudding is more of a pudding than bread. It was not too sweet and very good. The cobbler was a biscuit on top of lightly cooked fruit. I tried the pumpkin and my wife tried the cobbler. I could only finish half of the large portion, as I was full before dessert arrived. (But you will note that I did manage to get down half.)

While we were dining there was a server in the corner of the room playing 18th Century tunes on a recorder. During dinner there are two visitors. One is a strolling musician who will entertain the room with a few songs. Tonight in our dining room it was a gentleman with a fiddle. Stamp your feet! Sing along! Or just enjoy the music. No matter what it is polite to stop dinner conversation and eating while the musician plays. You also will be visited by Mr. James Shields, the 18th Century proprietor of the tavern. This costumed, first=person interpreter talks to each table and the room. He will make small talk, ask where you are from, and talk in general about whatever comes to mind. This character interpreter is one of Colonial Williamsburg's longest working interpreters. He was part of the original pilot program of first person interpretation many years ago. He remains an excellent interpreter and a very amiable fellow - especially with children. It is always a delight when he enters the room.

So for $29.00 plus tax and tip you get an excellent all you care to eat SIT DOWN dinner and entertainment. No so bad for a vacation evening or special occasion.

Like Glockamora, the special meal fades into the mist and is gone until it appears again. (If you do not know the reference, look up the play (or movie), "Brigadoon") If you plan to be in this area call the Colonial Williamsburg reservation line - you can find it from 800-HISTORY - and ask if the Shields Special all you can eat dinner is being served, If it is make a reservation and enjoy!

Friday, November 24, 2006

The Worst Old Country Buffet

The worst Old Country Buffet restaurant has to be the one in Levittown, New York.

We have been visiting this restaurant since it opened a number of years ago. It has had its ups and downs - mostly downs. The problems all seem to come down to management - and not just the on the spot supervisors (who have their problems) but the general manager of the restaurant. Since they have opened there have been several general managers. Some have been better than others, but none seem to get the idea of anticipating the number of guests that they are likely to have on any one particular day - especially days on or before holidays. These are days and nights that I (if I were the restaurant manager) would expect a larger than usual crowd and make the necessary arrangements to have enough of the day's menu on hand. The managers here never anticipate the crowd.

We have frequently gone to the restaurant on Sunday nights. There is always a crowd and the crowd stretches into the later part of the evening. People are still coming in at 8 and 8:30. They close at 9. By 7 to 7:30 pm most items are gone, especially the carvings, which are the main feature of the Sunday menu. Many of the trays are empty and they are either not refilled or they are refilled with a non-comparable item. For example, pork chops are gone and they are replaced with a vegetable.

Now, here is an interesting twist. A few weeks ago, on a Sunday night, trays remained empty through the entire time that we were dining. Carvings were gone as well. By 8:30 no one new had come into the restaurant. At 8:45 pm the employees began to set up tables for themselves to prepare to eat. Suddenly, as most of the guests were leaving, trays started to come out and be restocked. Carvings made their first appearance in over an hour. Now, who was going to be eating all this - you guessed it - the employees. They all ran up to the buffet tables and began filling plates of all of the menu items that had not been out for hours. We may be inclined to blame these employees, but you really need to blame their supervisor. Why wasn't the manager on duty that night actively making sure that all trays and carvings were available for the guests all night? It was not because they were out of them - as they all were brought out as the guests were leaving. This is not a one time happening. We have observed it again since that night. If it has happened twice - it happens a lot.

Often there will be no one at the carving station to carve. Guest will line up waiting for an employee to come over and carve - no one comes. The line disappears as no one wants to wait when nothing is going to happen.

There are nights when no one picks up dirty dishes from the tables until the guests are leaving Stacks of dishes pile up and the server is cleaning empty tables. (I must say that there are two very good servers working here, a man and a woman, who both make sure that every dish is picked up as soon as they can get to it - but this is just two, of many.)

The restaurant floors are also not kept clean throughout the day and night. Anything that falls pretty much remains there in the dining area until the end of the night. No one ever seems to clean under that tables until closing. I once was there with my four year old neice who told me that the restaurant was dirty. Well, if a four year old can make this determination, how come the restaurant manager is unaware (or does not care).

It is not just late night that problems occur. We have been in at early dinner hour and we have been in for lunch. It is never much better.

So why do we return? The next nearest buffet restaurant (other than Chinese buffet) is more than twenty five miles away. So if we want to eat buffet there is no alternative.

So what does one do? We have made complaints to the central office via their website. Know what? You get no response - ever! We have gone to the manager on duty - you sometimes get an apology and an attempt to fix the problem - but there get to be oh, so many problems.

So I get to complain to you all! I am sure there are stories about other buffets that you can relate - post a comment and tell us. I know from previous comments that there are some regular or semi-regular readers who have been to this particular restaurant - some often. If they have a comment or would like to disagree, post a comment. The best thing would be if someone from this Old Country Buffet or better yet, the central office would read this and post a response. Let's see.

Friday, November 17, 2006

East Buffet - Huntington, NY

When you do an Internet search for Chinese buffets on Long Island only one name comes up - East Buffet. It is known to be one of the best Chinese buffet restaurants in New York and perhaps it might be considered to be "the best" any where. East is located on Route 110 in Huntington, NY.

I have been to East a number of times over a number of years. I have not been there in over one year - until this Wednesday night. We have not gone because the price has gone beyond what a usual night out should be for us. A week ago the newspaper ran an ad for the restaurant and there at the bottom of the page was a coupon for ten percent off the bill for up to twenty persons at lunch or dinner from Monday to Friday. We decided to go to East mid-week - figuring that the price would be somewhere around $15 to $18 less the coupon.

East is a very good restaurant. The food is very good. The variety is extensive. The price is very, very expensive. What you get is well worth what you are paying, but it is expensive. The weekday dinner price is $21.99. Children are $10.99. Beverages are extra. A lobster brought to your table is an additional $4.99. Lunch prices are about half at $11.99 each with children at $6.99. The weekend prices were not posted on the wipeboard in the lobby, but from past experience I could safely say that they are about $6.00 or higher more per person.

What you get is a very interesting mix of authentic Chinese dishes with a mix of Korean, Thai, Vietnamese, Japanese, American and Italian. The center of one of the dining rooms and the entire rear of the restaurant are buffet servers and grills. There are two double-sided, half, buffet tables in the dining area and one long double-sided buffet server in the rear. Along the entire rear wall are grills, carving stations, and a sushi bar. Along the wall next to the half buffets is a dessert buffet.

On one of the two half buffets are fruit and salad - the salad being just lettuce, toppings, and dressings - along with a variety of cold Oriental dishes, many very exotic and some recognizable such as cold noodles with sesame sauce. There is also cold peel and eat shrimp here. The fresh fruit included papaya, kiwi, a variety of melons, etc. The website says that there are 11 types of jello - and there are. The other half buffet has hot dishes including fettucini alfredo, chicken marsala, baked ziti, eggplant Parmesan (which was oddly made with chunks of eggplant rather than the usual stacked slices), spare ribs, braised short ribs, two kinds of fried rice, boneless ribs, and a variety of unusual Chinese meat and appetizer dishes. There was a crispy shrimp roll that was a whole shrimp wrapped in a thin wrapper and fried.

The long buffet server in the back has four types of soups - wonton, hot and sour, miso, and seafood soup. There were several types of dumplings, all fully stuffed and each set out in steamers. There was a steamed shrimp dumpling that was bulging with several full size shrimp in each one. The shrimp were very flavorful. There are crab legs - whole, large clusters. The rest of the table is filled with Chinese dishes - some familiar, many unusual. In between the hot trays set into the table, they set out serving platters of more entrees. There were crabs in ginger sauce, scallops in black pepper sauce, very jumbo shrimp made into salt and pepper shrimp, salmon, shrimp and lobster sauce (made like a real Chinese restaurant makes it- full of pork, egg, and only large shrimp (not mixed with fake crab), Chinese Fillet Mignon, and other excellent dishes.

Along the back wall they are carving real Prime Rib, Peking Duck - carved off the duck in front of you and placed into the pancake, and leg of lamb. The grills are cooking appetizers from all over the Orient. These come off the grill and into hot pans set along the top of the counter. They are constantly refilled. Here were pan fried pork dumplings and scallion dumplings. There is Thai sate chicken and beef served on skewers with a sate peanut sauce on the side. There is Korean short ribs, grilled pork loin, a rolled beef grilled with chopped greens. There is tempura. There are scallion pancakes. There was an unusual French Seafood Roll that was a thin wrapper filled with fish and pork - it had the taste of the seasonings of Italian pork sausage. There are several seafood dishes and appetizers coming off the grill. The sushi bar is more extensive than the usual buffet offering. It is continually made at the counter and there are a mix of raw fish and vegetable offerings. There are a lot of different raw salmon sushi offered. One really nice thing is that there is low sodium soy sauce out for the sushi.

There are so many dishes on the various buffet tables that it is impossible to list them all (as I am able to do at other buffets). They do change night to night - and during the night. The web site claims 250 dishes - and I would doubt that, as it seems like more.

Dessert will not disappoint. There is a lot more besides the fruit and 11 jellos already mentioned. There is a variety of little cakes, cookies, and pastries - a step above the usual Little Debbie type cakes. There are a number of Oriental desserts - puddings and custards. There are fried bananas. There is even a Chinese dessert sweet soup. Of course, there is a soft serve machine with creamy ice cream.

There is a mix of Asian and American in the customer-base of this restaurant. On some nights the dining rooms are filled with Asian-Americans. They know what many of the exotic dishes are and that is what you see them eating. One night here I ran into the owner of our local take out restaurant dining here with his wife. (East is about a 15 mile drive from our home.) Asian people take the private room here for parties. An excellent indication that the food here is authentic and good.

Service is as good as the food. Dishes were taken up from the table as soon as they were empty. We did not order sodas (to keep the price more affordable, even with the ten percent off coupon), but the water glasses were refilled when they were half empty. There are extra napkins on the table and knives with every place setting. Often at Chinese buffets as soon as you take dessert, the bill is plopped down on your table. Here you ask for it when you are ready. The servers were all friendly.

When the bill comes it comes with a 12 and one half percent tip automatically added on. This is fair for the quality of service. But when you get the bill, with the tax and tip included dinner for two is running about $54.00. That is a lot of money for a weeknight. We usually reserve this restaurant for a special occasion - and never on the weekend.

The restaurant closes every night around 9:00 pm and I mean they close - not just stop seating. It is always best to get here no later than 7:00 pm and even that can be too late if there is a crowd. You can wait here on a Saturday night over an hour to get in. There have been waits on other nights as well. The wait and the closing time can be a problem.

The restaurant is located at 179 Walt Whitman Road (yes, that Walt Whitman - his home was just around the corner from the restaurant) in Huntington Station, New York. The phone number is 631-385-0800. There is a web site and it is listed at the side of our page.

If you can afford it and you want a Chinese food extravaganza try East. There are many who say so - the Internet has many reviews about this restaurant. And that is unusual for any buffet.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Heelies at the Buffet

Have you seen kids rolling around on the heels of their shoes? These are called "heelies" and they have found their way to the feet of children at buffet restaurants. The children scooting around on these things are enough of a hazard, but how about these kids rolling around the buffet servers?!?

We have experienced this several times since this past summer. One night we had a child wheeling his way through the buffet line trying to balance and hold his plate at the same time. Of course, in the process he had no awareness that there were people walking around him trying to carry their plates.

We have spoken before about children at buffets and their treating the restaurant as one large playgound. With the addition of these shoe roller skates,they have become a hazard. So where are the parents? Right there along side or at their table with no concern that the kid is cruising along in a crowded restaurant.

So... a new rule. One that should never have had to been stated. Common sense apparently means nothing. So here goes...

No heelies in buffet restaurants. Parents do not permit your child to wear heelies at the buffet.

How ridiculous!

>Spot any heelies at a buffet? Let us know.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Ming Gourmet Buffet - Lancaster, PA

The Ming Gourmet Buffet is located in Lancaster, PA in a strip mall next to a K-Mart on the Fruitville Pike. The restaurant has recently opened. It takes up the space of three storefronts. Inside the restaurant is nicely decorated and is typical of the larger Chinese buffets. There are three large dining rooms with booths and tables. One of the dining rooms can be used as a private party room - though it is glass-walled and in full view of the rest of the dining rooms. The buffet tables are located in the center of the dining rooms and there are three large buffet servers.

Price is moderate - not cheap but not excessive for what is offered. Dinner on the weekends from Friday through Sunday is $12.15. The weekday dinner price is $10.35. Lunch is $6.25 every day except Sunday. Sunday is dinner prices all day. Children's prices are weekend dinner - $6.05, weekday dinner - $5.25, and lunch - $3.85. Soft drinks are $1.29 and are refillable.

There is one buffet table with salads, desserts, and sushi. The other two tables have appetizers and entrees. There was a lot of seafood offered on the Sunday night that I went. There were large cluster crab legs. There were crabs in ginger sauce. There is peel and eat cold shrimp and they were a nice size. These shrimp were on the mushy side and that means they were over cooked. The sushi was salmon, shrimp, and crab. There was also a variety of vegetable sushi rolls. It was replenished throughout the night. Also in the seafood offerings were flounder steamed in ginger (not refilled while we were dining), frogs legs, crayfish, and several shrimp dishes. A number of the dishes had octopus and squid. This is not my thing so I passed these by.

There were three soups - wonton, egg drop, and hot and sour. The usual appetizers were there but there were no egg rolls (but there were spring rolls). There were few meat dishes. There was beef and mushrooms, chicken and broccoli, and an interesting pork meatball. Carved ham was on the end of one of the buffet tables.

Dessert was sparse. There were a few types of "Little Debbie"-type cakes. There was jello and pudding as well as fruit. There is a soft serve machine and the ice cream was very good and creamy - not icy.

The food was tasty. I would have preferred more meat offerings and less seafood, but if you enjoy seafood this was an excellent buffet. If you enjoy crablegs they were large and properly cooked. The broke open easily and the crab came right out of the shell. (One lesson that I have learned about crab legs over the years is not to take too many at once. As they cool down they get harder to take from the shell and the meat tends to stick to the inside. When they are hot they break easy and come out without a struggle.) For the money you got a lot of seafood. Many of the seafood entrees were in some form of butter sauce.

Service was excellent and the buffet tables were well tended. Serving trays were refilled regularly (except for the flounder). Dishes were cleaned away quickly and the server made sure that the drinks were refilled.

Ming Gourmet Buffet is a good restaurant. I would recommend the neighboring Star Buffet (see review) before this one but that may just be my preference for the variety there (less seafood and more meat).

There is no website. The address is 1858 Fruitville Pike, Lancaster, PA. The phone number is (717) 560-0998. They are open until 10pm on Sundays to Thursday and until 11 pm on Friday and Saturday. They open at 11 am every day except Sunday when they open at 11:30 am. There are 10% off coupons in local newspapers and there are little advertising cards found in hotel lobbies that offer the same discount. If you are looking for all the seafood that you can eat and are in this area, try it.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

CiCi's Pizza

There was an ad on cable television for this chain of restaurants. I quickly hit the Internet to find out where they were and discovered that this is a chain of over 600 restaurants primarily in the Southeastern United States. Looking on their locator map they are as far north in the east as Pennsylvania, and recently a restaurant opened in Chicago. Sadly, there is none near me, though there are several in areas that I travel through. I have not reviewed a restaurant that I have not eaten at, but I am going to tell you about what I have learned about this chain - and perhaps there is someone out there who has eaten at CiCi's Pizza who can post a comment and tell us all how it is.

Cici's Pizza is a pizza and pasta buffet. It is one of the cheapest buffet meals that I am aware of. The entire meal including pizza, pasta, salad, dessert, and soda is just $4.49. This seems to be the only price - lunch or dinner. There is no mention of a children's price. This is all you care to eat and there is a lot of variety.

They claim to have 16 different types of pizzas and "tons" of toppings. I am not sure what this means, but the implication is that you can add toppings to the pizzas that are on the buffet. The pizza's on the buffet are 12 inch pies cut into ten slices - it is all you want so the size does not really matter. There is pasta with two types of sauce - either marinara or alfredo. The claim is that the salad bar is "expansive". Desserts include chocolate and apple desserts and cinnamon rolls.

There are also take out pizzas which are larger, 15 inch pies. There is also dessert to go.

A pizza buffet is an interesting concept. Pizza Hut does a lunch buffet. It is not this cheap. The chain started in Texas in 1985, so the restaurant is long established. There are peel and win contests that make the price even cheaper and the website has a game page on which you play the games to win coupons and free meals. I would love to see one of these restaurants. If anyone has been to one please tell us about it!

There is a website which is posted at the side of the page. The website will tell you where the nearest restaurant is to you.

Friday, October 20, 2006

China Buffet Restaurant - East Meadow, NY

The China Buffet Restaurant is located on Merrick Avenue in East Meadow, New York. Years ago this was a neighborhood regular Chinese restaurant. A number of years ago they became a buffet that includes a Mongolian grill.

This restaurant is just a mile from my home. About two years back we had gone to this restaurant regularly, but then stopped. At the time the dinner was $8.99. The reason that we stopped was that it never seemed to be kept as clean as it should be. One of their problems is a carpeted dining room floor and anything that falls or spills is very obvious. Tonight, we were looking for some place different and this restaurant was brought up. My wife said that in two years things could be very different. So we decided to give it another chance.

There is a primary difference in two years - the price has gone up two dollars. The dinner price is now $10.99. The lunch price is $5.99. The prices are the same seven days a week. Children under two eat free and under seven are half price. Soda, RC products, is $1.20 with free refills. The price is low compared to other local Chinese buffet restaurants, but the variety offered is limited.

The restaurant is one large room. The seating area of booths and tables is divided down the middle by one long buffet server and the Mongolian grill behind it.

I must say that many of the things that diners look for in a Chinese buffet are here for the price. There are crab legs - single legs, not clusters. There is sushi - California Rolls and salmon on rice. There is the Mongolian grill. At the grill there is chicken, beef, shrimp, and pork. The meat should be frozen and kept that way - here it was not. There is an assortment of vegetables, but the usual chopped cabbage that should be the filler vegetable was missing. There were noodles. There were two sauces - both unlabeled and both looked the same (soy sauce?). There was hot pepper and garlic to spoon on top. In addition there was crab in ginger sauce, fried dumplings, cocktail shrimp, egg foo young, several chicken dishes, sweet and sour pork that was made up with vegetables (not the usual fried chicken pieces with red sauce to pour on top) shrimp with lobster sauce, and the usual beef and peppers and chicken with broccoli. The chicken with broccoli was made with a nice brown sauce and was better than most. There are also the usual fried appetizers. There are three soups - wonton (with the wontons on the side to add in), egg drop, and hot and sour.

Most other Chinese buffets offer more variety in the dishes served. The Mongolian grill can make up for that here, as you can make yourself almost any combination.

There are NO knives to be found in this restaurant. Several of the dishes need to be cut - unless you have a very large mouth or extremely strong teeth. This was a problem two years ago and it is still a problem now.

The desert selection is very limited. There is pudding, soft serve ice cream, jello, orange sections, a non-labeled pie that could have been like a cheese cake pie, and bananas in a red sauce. There were none of the little cakes usually found at these restaurants.

If the price were still $8.99 I might be inclined to go back sooner than later, but for a few dollars more there are better Chinese buffets to be found. The cleanliness issue is still marginal. The same carpet holds the dirt on the floor and unless you are there when they open for the day you are not going to see a clean floor; the carpet is not cleaned until they close. The dishes seemed clean,and the table seemed clean. The food was refilled regularly and there was someone maintaining what was out on the server - stirring, etc.

There is no website. In summary I will say that this is a coin toss - not great, but not bad.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Steakhouse Special at Old Country Buffet

Tonight we decided to try the new "Steakhouse" special at Old Country Buffet. The special menu is served from Thursday through Saturday nights. As many of OCB's special menus are, this one is disappointing.

The menu introduces several new items to the buffet. There are two types of "Steakhouse" steaks - garlic mushroom and peppercorn. There is rotissarie-"style" chicken. There is peel and eat shrimp. There is butterfly shrimp, and there is a "blooming" onion.

In actuality the two types of steak are just the same steak that OCB usually serves, fatty and overdone, with two different sauces served on the side. The garlic mushroom sauce is the same mushrooms with garlic that is always served at OCB with their steak. The peppercorn sauce tasted like a mushroom gravy with too much cracked pepper added. It was definitely not the French peppercorn sauce that I have had at restaurants before. Silly me, thinking that Old Country Buffet was actually going to serve steak au poivre.

The rotissarie-style chicken never came near a rotissarie. I guess that is why it is called "rotissarie-style". It was better than the usual OCB baked chicken. It was moister and had a good taste. Had it actually been a rotissarie chicken it would have been even better.

The picture at the door shows a "blooming" onion just like the one at Outback Steakhouse, a whole onion fried and open. The Outback has nothing to worry about. This was no where to be found on the buffet servers. What was there was breaded, fried onion sections and were called "onion chips" on the sign above them. The special sauce shown in the photo was also no where to be found.

The peel and eat shrimp, on first look, had promise. It was located on the salad bar and the shrimp were served in a large dish full of ice. The shrimp were nice sized, cocktail shrimp. Unfortunately, the shrimp mostly sat in the melted ice water and were soaked through with water. They had little taste. There was a serving dish of cocktail sauce next to the dish of shrimp, but it was empty. I asked one of the servers if it could be refilled and I was told that there was no more. This is Friday night - does this mean that tomorrow, at Saturday's dinner, there will be no cocktail sauce. And if there is, where will they get it? And if there is, why was it not put out tonight?

The butterfly shrimp were just small fried shrimp, butterflied and fried. Nothing special.

So overall, don't rush out for the steakhouse special. It is better than Shrimp, Shrimp, Shrimp - but, if they are going to do this - in obvious competiton with the steakhouse steaks now featured at The Golden Corral, why not do it right - serve steak that has in some similarity (other than that it is beef - I hope) to a steak that one would get in a steakhouse.

The Old Country Buffet that I go to most often - because of proximity - is the OCB in Levittown, NY. There is a continued problem at this location that has only to do with poor planning on the part of the management. They frequently run out of things or have long delays in refilling things. They never anticipate what the crowd might be - especially when the day is or is before a school holiday, when more families will go out to eat. A good manager would plan in advance that more needs to be on hand on those days. There is also inconsistency in the cooking at this location. I would think that things are precooked, heat and serve, but they do not seem to be. Some nights they are much more salty than other nights. Tonight was one of those salty nights.

When we arrived at the restaurant this evening we saw two large buses parked outside. With some regrets that we picked the wrong night to come, we went in to find that a college football team from Georgia was having dinner inside. A group this large must have made advanced arrangements - again, this was not planned into the preparation for the evening's business, and there was a lot empty at the buffet tables. They were a nice group of guys - all large and all hungry. The lines were long around the buffet servers. To top it all off, one of the two ice machines (that never have enough ice and are often quickly emptied) has been out of service for a week. So the line at the only ice machine went on and on. Usually the soda is cold on its own, but tonight it was warm out of the spout, perhaps related to the broken ice unit. When the team left things settled down and some (just some) of the trays got refilled. To go to the only other OCB on Long Island I would have to drive 30 miles. Not with gas prices as they still are. It is not so bad that I won't go there, but this location needs improving. So does the overall chain's special menu offerings.

Friday, October 06, 2006


Well, we are home again. We have been for a few weeks. The posts were written after dining at the restaurants and published one a week. It is time to start writing again.

Since returning we have been back to a few of the local buffets. Tonight we went back to the Good Taste Buffet in Commack, NY. (See July 22, 2006)Sometimes the second time around, things are different - or disappointing. The Good Taste Buffet was just as good this time. The food has a fresh taste - you can taste the shrimp as shrimp - not so in many restaurants, buffets or not. Sadly, this restaurant is not close by to us and we are not often in the area to dine there.

A few times in the past few weeks we have been back to the Old Country Buffet. I am very pleased to announce that Shrimp, Shrimp, Shrimp is GONE, GONE, GONE. That was one of the worst OCB specials that they have ever offered. The worst part was that it took the place of all of the regular offerings each night - despite the claim that it did not. The new special at OCB is Steak House Steak. This was something that Golden Corral did,and did well. I have not had the OCB special yet, but from the description on the signs and posters, it is not going to be great, why? - because the main center of attraction is OCB's poorly cooked steak. The other two major buffet chains cooked the steak to order on a flame grill. OCB's steak is broiled in an oven and served one way - tough and well done. There are a few things going along with the steak. There will be Outback-style blooming onions and peel and eat shrimp. The shrimp - if it is kept properly chilled - will be a nice feature. The steak is advertised in two styles - with garlic mushrooms or peppercorn. I will not comment until I try it - but..

One Saturday afternoon we needed a substantial lunch, anticipating a not so substantial dinner. We went to the OCB at about 3:00 pm. We were there in the midst of seniors having early dinners and Disabled group homes out for a meal field trip. There were a few odd guests - none of them part of the Disabled. There was one lady in flamboyant Sixties pants and top with hair to match. This was defiantly an aging hippy who was never told that the Sixties have been long gone. This was not someone in a fashion coming back - this was a lady who should not have been wearing this if it was 1968.

One good thing to know about showing up for lunch at OCB at about 3:00 pm. You pay lunch prices and for about 30 minutes the lunch menu is out on the buffet tables, but at 3:30 the buffet begins to change and the dinner features come out as the lunch features are taken away. So for less money you get both menus, lunch and dinner. Not bad. All of the carvings come out, as well as all of the dinner menu items.

One night at OCB we saw the largest man we have ever seen - not so much tall but round. I am not sure how he sat on the chair (but he did) or how he fit into a car. On another night we saw a family with two children - middle school age. The kids were eating ice cream and french fries - together on their plates. And they were dipping. Humm... Mom and Dad just watched without commenting. This is only topped by the lady that I told you about months ago at a Ryan's who had steak and shrimp on her plate topped with vanilla ice cream.

Enough rambling for now. If you have been to the OCB and had the new steakhouse special, let us know in the comments area how it is.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Green Olive Buffet and Grill - Arlington, Virginia

Driving to our hotel late at night in Alexandria, Virginia we drove past a restaurant that we had known to be a seafood buffet in the past. A number of years ago we had called the restaurant to find out the price and was told a ridiculously high price – with the reason that lobster was being served. We laughed at the price and never tried the restaurant. When we saw the sign for the restaurant now it still said seafood buffet but it now had a different name. At the hotel there was a local tourism magazine that had an ad for this restaurant. My wife said to me that the ad says that dinner is $12.99 per adult seven days a week. We also discovered that while the restaurant is a seafood buffet, it is also an oriental buffet.

The name of this restaurant is the Green Olive Buffet and Grill and we had dinner there the next evening. The restaurant is located on US1. The address is 7405 Richmond Highway in Alexandria, Virginia. The prices for dinner are $12.99 per adult (every night) with children’s prices based upon height. Children under 36” are free and under 5’4” are half price. My wife is 5’1” but she had to pay full price. There is a lunch buffet for $6.99 Monday to Friday and $8.99 on Saturday and Sunday. Soft drinks are $1.49 and are refillable.

The restaurant is large with two large dining rooms on each side of a large room of buffet servers. One room is smoking; the other is non-smoking. There are five double sided buffet servers, a one sided buffet server, a counter with five soups, and a large grill and sushi bar. There is great variety in this restaurant and you can easily just eat seafood, just eat meat and potatoes, or just eat oriental – OR mix as you like. You enter and you are seated (paying when you leave). The server takes your soft drink order and you start going up for your meal. Silverware is placed on your table and your server brings extra napkins. Knives are available near the grill. Plates are at the end of each buffet server.

There are five soups. The featured soup on the night we went was lobster bisque. There was also New England clam chowder, wonton soup, egg drop soup, and hot and sour soup. The lobster bisque was a light, creamy soup with chunks of lobster meat (and some chunks that seemed to be sealegs and not lobster – but there was definitely a good amount of lobster in there. The wonton soup had a nice broth with good, meat filled wontons.

There was a salad bar with greens, toppings, and dressings, as well as prepared salads including a cold shrimp in a spiced sauce. On this server there was also raw clams, raw oysters, and peel and eat shrimp that were a good size.

There were a variety of steamed dumplings and also pan fried dumplings. There were all the usual Chinese appetizers – egg rolls, fried wontons, cheese and crab wontons, fries crab claws, etc. There was a sushi bar with a sushi chef standing behind it the whole time that we were there and he was preparing sushi. There were many different types including salmon sashimi, tuna sashimi, several fish that I did not recognize (but I am sure those who know sushi would), and California rolls that were big and full.

There were many types of seafood, both fried and “steamed”. There were steamed blue crabs, steamed, spiced shrimp, salmon, stuffed crab shells, crab cakes that were full of crab meat and very good, steamed flounder, crab and cheese casserole, fried shrimp, fried scallops, mixed seafood, fried clam strips, two types of mussels, seafood and noodles alfredo, fried frog legs, steamed clams, and on the chargrill whole shrimps (complete with heads).

Meats include carved prime rib, Peking duck, a variety of Chinese meat dishes including chicken and mushrooms, chicken and broccoli, beef and peppers, roast chicken, and other changing meats. On the chargrill they will grill steak to your order, as well as teriyaki beef sticks. There were barbecue spareribs that were a combination of Chinese spareribs and American bbq spareribs. They had a thick sauce on them that tasted more oriental than barbecue sauce.

There are many vegetables and side dishes, both oriental and American. There were mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheese, sautéed string beans, and corn on the cob. There was rice, fried rice, and lo mein.

For dessert there was banana pudding, chocolate pudding, jello, canned fruit, fresh fruit, and the usual assortment of “Little Debbie”-like cakes. Next to the soup counter is a freezer chest with four flavors of ice cream cups. The ice cream is Hershey’s ice cream and was very good. (Did you know that Hershey’s ice cream has nothing to do with the Hershey’s chocolate company?)

The restaurant was clean and well maintained. The food was good and there were a significant number of Asian diners – which is one of my clues that an Asian restaurant is good. Service was good and dishes were cleared quickly. There was one minor thing regarding the service that was certainly just a mistake, but could have caused a serious problem. We were drinking Diet Coke (coke products are served here) and when the server came with a pitcher to refill the glasses, she said, “Diet Coke” and poured. When I drank the soda, I am certain that it was real Coke – as a Diabetic this is a problem. Now my wife insists that it was Diet Coke – but it had that sugar jolt that only a Diabetic who does not get real Coke often can taste. I could have gotten the server over right away to change the soda to change it. That aside, the service was great. They even kept coming over to make sure that all was well.

There are a few buffet choices in the Arlington area. This one is definitely worth a visit. If you are just looking for seafood this one has more than most seafood buffets. If you want Chinese, Sushi, or American – this one has it all. The inside décor is very nice – nicer than you might expect from the road house look of the outside. There is also a liquor bar in the buffet room with seats at the bar and large screen TVs with sports. I recommend the Green Olive Buffet and Grill. The phone number is 703-765-5899. There is a website which is listed at the side of the page.

Try this one!

Friday, September 22, 2006

Grand Shanghai Restaurant – Williamsburg, Virginia

The Grand Shanghai Restaurant is a new Chinese buffet in Williamsburg, Virginia. The restaurant is in the location of the former Peking II buffet. That restaurant closed to become the larger Peking Buffet that I reviewed one year ago. The site remained vacant for a while and now the Grand Shanghai has opened. Many of the dishes used here still say Peking on them as used at the other restaurant.

This restaurant has a lot of competition in the Peking Restaurant that is just down the road. Reading my review of the Peking you will know that I consider that restaurant the best Chinese buffet that I have been to. We went into this new restaurant with a comparison in the back of our minds which is really not fair to the Grand Shanghai – yet, with the proximity of this competition comparisons cannot be overlooked. If you have a choice of the two, you need to know which one to choose.

The price of this restaurant is excellent at $8.99 per adult dinner. Soft drinks were $1.20 and there are free refills. There were no prices posted or in any literature so I cannot tell you what the children’s price is or what the lunch buffet costs. This restaurant is smaller than Peking. It has two dining areas - one with all booths at the side of the restaurant and one with a mix of both tables and booths. The décor is expectedly oriental and very nice. It is evident right at the door that this is a family run restaurant as even a young child was working seating guests and also working at the cash register – for an elementary age young lady she did an excellent job. Father and mother were working as was older sister (it seemed).

There are three short double-sided buffet servers at the side of a Mongolian grill (which is actually a small fry grill and not the large round griddle that is usually found). At each side of this grill was a mix of salad and toppings and Mongolian BBQ items on one side and grill items on the other side along with pan fried dumplings and dim sum. There was also a tray of “sushi” which is featured in the advertising but was nothing more than avocado rolls and cold shrimp on top of rice. This is really not sushi = there was no raw fish and no variety.

There were the three usual soups – wonton, egg drop, and hot and sour. The wonton soup had a light, good broth and the wontons were full, well cooked and had a light, but solidly good skin. There were two types of dumplings offered- pan fried and steamed. Both were good and full. There also was dim sum with a nice flavor.

We went into this restaurant on a Tuesday night at about 6:30 pm which is definitely dinner time. The restaurant was not crowded, but filled more as we sat there dining. When we went up to the servers there were several trays that were empty. No one seemed to be paying attention and they remained empty for a while. A short time later the owners and the little girl went around and took note of what was empty. Things started to be refilled in a short time after that. So my first impression of “hmm, who is watching these tables?” was proved wrong by mid-meal.

The food was all good. There were a number of entrees and vegetable dishes. Some of the offerings were Beef and Zucchini, grilled shrimp on a skewer, fried spicy shrimp, popcorn shrimp, General Tso’s chicken, Chicken and Broccoli, Hong Kong Beef, mussels, a wide variety of chicken dishes,and duck. All of the usual were there including peel and eat shrimp, fried wontons, egg rolls, fried rice (with both shrimp and pork), lo mein, spare ribs (with overly sweet sauce cooked on), chicken on a stick (though this was much lighter than the usual),etc.

To all of this there was also the Mongolian barbecue. The offerings for this are limited. There are three meats – chicken, pork, and slices of beef ribs. The vegetables were next to and mixed into the salad bar. There was some confusion here as to what went with what – and for the most part did not matter. My wife and I both took what we saw as zucchini and it turned out to be cucumbers. It did not go well on the grill – well, it was ok, but it was not zucchini. All of the hot entrees were well labeled. The Mongolian BBQ items were not labeled except for the several sauce choices. These sauces were a bit unusal with red wine, a lo mein sauce, and then the usual hot sauce, Mongolian sauce, and garlic. I tried a mix of the wine and the lo mein sauce and it was good. There is a bell to ring to get the cook to come out and put your choices on the grill. He was there when we went up and did a good job including cleaning the grill (scraping it down) between each dish that he cooked.

There is a limited selection of desserts. There were fried dough balls, little éclairs, and sugar flaky dough pretzel shaped cookies. There was also fresh and canned fruit, pudding, and jello. At the side of the grill area there was a freezer case with scoop yourself hard ice cream.

By now you have heard me refer to “cookie cutter” Chinese buffets where one is almost a total duplicate of another. This was only a partial cookie cutter restaurant. Some dishes were the same as at other buffets, but many were different and had a distinct flavor at this restaurant.

The service was excellent. Dishes were removed promptly by one of two young ladies working the dining room. Soda was refilled promptly – once while we were up at the buffet table. We were continually asked if we would like more. The check was put on the table mid-meal but I do not think thatthere was anything intended by it and the young lady kept coming back and asking if we wanted more soda as we continued to go to the servers and return to the table to eat.

There is great value here. If we must go back to the comparison, then I must say that the choices here are much more limited than at the Peking Restaurant. Then again, the price here is a about two dollars less per adult and for what you are paying you are not going to leave hungry or unhappy. If I could only go to one, I would still pick Peking first, but this is a nice alternative. I recommend it.

The restaurant is located at 5601-12 Richmond Road in the Ewell Station Shopping Center (strip mall) in Williamsburg, Virginia. The shopping center is adjacent to the Prime Outlets. There is no website. The phone number is (757) 565-1212. There are ads in the local tourist magazines but no discount coupons.

Try it!

Friday, September 15, 2006

Wood Grill Buffet, Charlottesville, Virginia

Whenever I am in Charlottesville and there at dinner I go to the Wood Grill Buffet. This was one of the first large scale buffet restaurants that I ever went to. It was found by accident and we went to it because of the huge crowd at the door to get in. Since our first visit it has moved down the road to a larger location. The first time we were very impressed and we have not been disappointed since. We had an unintentionally memorable experience and we still laugh about it years later. When we were seated our server came over - a large man with a heavy German accent. He introduced himself to us as our "Servant" Hans. I am sure that he meant to say "server", but we still remember that night when for about an hour and a half we had a "servant". Well, Hans has since gone, but we still enjoy this restaurant each time that we can manage to get there. We found out on that first visit that folks travel over a hundred miles one way from North Carolina to get to this restaurant.

So, The Wood Grill Buffet is located at 576 Branch Lands Blvd. off Route 29 in Charlottesville, Virginia. This is in the corner of the parking lot of part of a shopping center that also has a Courtyard Marriott hotel. The sign for the Courtyard Marriott is the most noticeable landmark for the turn off of Route 29. This is north of the City of Charlottesville. The restaurant is affiliated with the Western Sizzlin chain and the Western Sizzlin name appears with Wood Grill Buffet. I must say right here that THIS restaurant is NOTHING like the terrible Western Sizzlin buffet restaurants - we had one of our worst buffet experiences at a Western Sizzlin in Hagerstown, Maryland two years ago. It is a good thing that we had been here before because if it had been the other way we never would have gone to the Wood Grill Buffet in Charlottesville. This restaurant is great - NOTHING like the Western Sizzlin.

There is always a crowd to get in, but the wait is just ten minutes or so and you give your name to be seated so you are not standing on line. The price is comparable with the other chains when you add the soda and meal together. The price every night is $9.29 for adults and $8.29 for seniors. The children's price is $0.50 per year of age for children 4 to 12. There is a lunch buffet priced at $7.29 per adult and $6.79 for seniors. Children pay he same as at dinner. Soft drinks are $1.59 for unlimited refills. You pay after the meal. When your table is ready you are called and seated.

Our server came over immediately and introduced himself and took our soft drink orders. This time he was just our server and not our "servant". The restaurant seating area is very large and there are tables and booths. The buffet serving area consists of four double-sided serving tables, a large, long grill area with grills behind and trays of grilled food set out, and a large three sided baked goods area including all of the desserts, breads, and pizza.

At the middle of the grill are two soup choices. One was New England Clam Chowder (the white cream kind) and chicken noodle soup with thick broth and thick, soft noodles. The chicken noodle soup was excellent. I did not try the clam chowder, but it looked good and there were little oysterette crackers to put in it.

Two of the double-sided buffets were salads. One was mixed green salad with two types of lettuce greens to choose and a large variety of toppings and many dressings including Caesar. The other salad buffet table had many prepared, cold salads. The chicken salad was excellent with large chunks of chicken.

The other two double-sided buffet servers are hot entrees and vegetables. There was fried chicken, two types of fried shrimp, fried fish, hot wings, spaghetti, mac and cheese, meat balls in gravy, mashed potatoes, french fries, lima beans with ham, butter beans, collard greens (that did not look washed out and had big chunks of fatback), a spaghetti casserole, scalloped potatoes, kernel corn, mashed sweet potatoes, onion rings, fried apples, cabbage, hush puppies, and many other choices of vegetables and hot entrees.

There is a large three-sided area in the center that has desserts and baked goods. There is corn bread, rolls, and two choices of pizza - with meat and with just cheese. The pizza was over flowing with cheese and the crust was thick. It is good. For dessert there is a large assortment of baked goods, puddings, and ice cream. There were eight pies, six cakes and six different types of cookies. There were rice krispy treats. There were two ice cream machines with soft serve and sundae toppings. There was fresh fruit and canned fruit. There were excellent cherry fruit bars. The were two hot fruit cobblers.

At the grill there was peppers and sausage, broiled fish, pot roast, great spare ribs, steak (pre-cooked), meat loaf, chicken cordon blu, carved roast beef, carved ham, pork chops, pulled pork (with sauce on the side), cheeseburgers, hot dogs, taco meat and toppings with both corn and flour tortillas, chicken with bbq sauce, plain grilled chicken, and other grilled meats. There were also grilled mixed vegetables, corn on the cob, mushrooms, and grilled string beans that were really, really good.

Anyone should have no problem finding something to enjoy. When the meat is carved for you, the portion is large - ask for a small piece. If the roast beef looks too rare, tell the man carving and he will put it on the grill until it is done to your liking. The steak is the only disappointment as it is not grilled to order (though I have seen people ask for a piece off the grill and cooked to their liking). I took a piece from the tray, and while tasty, it was well done and a bit dry. There were so many other meats to choose from that the steak is not a problem - and it seemed that I could have just waited for one that was cooked rare. There are many who love well done beef - I am not one of them. The pulled pork was excellent and since it is served with the red sauce on the side it appeals to all - even my wife who has never tried pulled pork before because she does not like barbecue sauce. The sausage and peppers was good and was gone when I went back for a second serving. (It was replaced by a second type of broiled fish.) The pork ribs were very good and the meat fell off the bone as good barbecue should. They were cut along several ribs so that the strip had a lot of meat. They were served in barbecue sauce.

Service was EXCEPTIONAL! The plates were taken away as soon as we went up for more. Drinks were refilled at the same time. The server was always within sight and came over immediately if it even looked like we needed him (which we didn't because he did his job so well). He did something that was odd but quickly explained why he did it - he brought the check to the able just after we started eating. He came quickly over to explain that he did this so that the busboy would not clear the table when we got up for more - he would see the check and know we were coming back. This was great and no other server seemed to be doing this. Many times at buffets we have had our table cleared in mid-meal by an over-eager busperson - everything gone -silverware, drinks, etc. It is less of a problem in the colder months because your coat is on the chair and is a signal that you are still there, but in the summer this can become a problem. Even in the pre-pay restaurants where you get a slip to leave on the table while you are dining this has been a problem because so many people leave without turning over the slip or taking it away when they leave. Well it worked here thanks to this great idea by this server.

So, I highly recommend the Wood Grill Buffet in Charlotteville, Virginia. It is a must stop if you are in that area - hey, it is worth a detour. The phone number for this restaurant is 434-975-5613. There is no website, except for the location listing on the Western Sizzlin site- which I will not post because of my experience with their other restaurant(s). (Some day I will write about that one if I can recall all of the terrible details. Don't go to one of those restaurants thinking that it will be like this one.)

Go to the Wood Grill Buffet.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Almost... And Then The weird Part

My article on January 13, 2006 was about buffets that are now gone, but not forgotten. Well, about four weeks ago when making advanced dinner reservations at the colonial restaurants in the Colonial Williamsburg restoration my wife was told by the reservation clerk that the "special dinner" at Shield's Tavern was once again available. My wife asked if this was the all you can eat dinner served in colonial style. Absolutely - it was! This was the dinner that I wrote about and was discontinued about a year ago. The dinner was brought back as a summer special and was now called the "summer feast". It was only available Friday and Saturday nights. My wife made the reservation for the Friday night of Labor Day weekend at 8:00pm - seating time specified by the reservation clerk.

Oh boy! This was the meal that I wrote about. This was one of the best! No longer gone - definitely not forgotten! We anxiously awaited this meal.

The Friday before Labor Day in southeastern Virginia was the day that Tropical Depression (no longer hurricane) Ernesto hit. Roads were flooded. Electricity went out - including at our hotel and in Colonial Williamsburg. Heavy rains and winds hit the area hard. So badly that we had to move to a different hotel or remain sitting in the dark (which at almost $100 for the night is not the thing to do). We managed to get through the day, carried our luggage down four stories in the dark in a hotel staircase that had no emergency lights, and hoped that electricity would be restored to the restaurant in time to open for the night. At 5:00 pm we called the reservation line for the restaurant. We asked if the restaurant had electricity and would be open for our reservation at 8 and we were told definitely. At 7:20 pm we headed over the mile or so to the restaurant. We walked in the rain from the parking lot and found a large crowd coming out of the restaurant. We went inside and thought it curious that the usual person greeting people coming in and checking in with their reservations was no where to be found. We found a young lady and made our presence known. She was confused and told us that they had served the dinner at 5:30 pm and it was done for the night. "Oh no", I said, "we have 8:00 reservations for tonight - Friday night." She said that she would find a manager and she disappeared down a staircase. We stood waiting wondering where we were going to eat in at such a late hour when most restaurants were closing - especially on a day of a storm.

In a short while a gentlemen wearing an apron came up and greeted us by name. He introduced himself as a manager and explained that the restaurant had been sold out to a party for the night. He said that it had been an error regarding our reservation and that they could not contact us because of the storm. Before smoke started to come out of my ears he said that to make up for the error, he would buy us both dinner at the colonial restaurant next door. I looked at my wife and we followed him out the door into the rain and over to the restaurant next door. Once there we were greeted by name, escorted to our table like VIP's and once seated the waiter came over and also greeted us by name.

While we could order anything on the menu (yes, here we had to order from a menu), we did not take advantage and ordered as we normally would. When the meal was over - it was a great meal - the waiter came over and told us good night and all was taken CARE OF. All right! The meal should have cost about $65.00 plus the 10% tax charged at Virginia restaurants. Of course, I tipped the waiter what I would have if I had paid for the meals.

Alas, though, this was not the anticipated - all you can eat - best meal that I was waiting for. It occurred to me that if the large party that had been booked for the night was leaving when we got there at 7:45, and we had 8:00 reservations, what was going on - really? Could it be that we were the only 8:00 reservations and given the storm, they did not want to serve another "special" meal just to one couple? When we had dined at one of the other colonial restaurants earlier in the week whey didn't they tell us then that our reservations for Friday had a problem? Why didn't they ask if we could come back the next night - it is supposed to be served Friday AND Saturday? No mention was made of Saturday. All good questions - right? But we did eat for free.

Now for the weird part -

It is Saturday night and we have reservations at 7:30pm in one of the other colonial restaurants. We get to the parking lot and notice that the lot is almost empty - just two or three cars. This lot is usually packed on Saturday night of Labor Day weekend. We get out of the car and walk to the front of the building. There are people in front of the restaurant and we go up to the reception desk, give our name - and then... we are told that this restaurant has no electricity (Odd - there were electric lights on behind the restaurant leading the way from the parking lot and in the service building adjacent to the restaurant there were loud fans running.). Then they say... we are having everyone with a reservation go over to Shield's Tavern for dinner tonight at 8:00pm. Did I hear that right? Perhaps I should not get my hopes up and they are serving this restaurant's menu over at Shield's due to the circumstances. She asks if this is ok with us and as a consolation we will receive 10 percent off on our dinner. OK! We head over to Shield's Tavern. Outside there is a menu board and the "special summer dinner" is listed as what is being served. Oh my!

We approach the door and we are seated. A menu is given to us that explains the "Special Summer Dinner". Yes! The dinner is $29.99 per adult and is listed as all you care to eat. The offerings are definitely different than they were when we had been here for the all you care to eat dinner two years ago - the one that was discontinued. There no longer were skewers of grilled shrimp, baby back ribs, and fried chicken. This new meal featured roast turkey, root beer glazed ham, a stew of braised beef, mushrooms, vegetables, and wine, served along with tossed salad, real mashed potatoes with the skin mashed in, turkey dressing, string beans, stewed fruit, and bread rolls. For dessert there was a choice of sweet potato bread pudding with a custard sauce or an apple cobbler (or both if you wanted). A beverage of coffee, hot or iced tea, or lemonade is included in the price. All of the food was good. The stew is exceptionally good and it changes from time to time to a different stew. This stew, again, was great - and I ate two crocks. The beef was in large pieces - not small chunks like usual beef stew. The sauce had just the right hint of red wine. The turkey and ham were not really different from what you would expect. The mashed potatoes were very good. The desserts were excellent. We each tried a different one. There really was no room to want a second - though it was available for the asking.

The way this meal works is that everything is brought to your table for you to share and then asked if you would like any or all items refilled. There is a skillet brought with the turkey in gravy, dressing, and mashed potatoes. To start there was a slice of turkey for each. We asked for more turkey when we had those two slices and three more were brought. Ask for more and you get more. There is a platter also brought with two slices of ham, string beans, and stewed fruit (peaches, pears, and plums). We asked for another whole platter and that was brought. A crock of stew is brought to the table filled to near the top. It is enough for two - I asked for another crock and it was brought. To start the meal a large bowl of tossed salad greens with a vinaigrette dressing is brought to the table tossed and served. The remainder is left for you to take more. The greens were the fussy, fancy varieties. The salad was good, and I had some - but later I thought that if I had skipped the salad I could have eaten more of the good stuff. (If you are not thinking healthy skip the salad and get right to the entrees. I do not say this in particular for this restaurant but in general.)

The service was excellent and there is entertainment in the form of colonial music and a gentleman portraying the 18th Century tavern owner. With the check we each received souvenir pins that sell for $3 each normally.

So after all, I got to eat the all you care to eat special dinner at Shield's Tavern. I believe that now that the summer has almost ended so has this offer, It may be back again. And we heard that the special all you can eat seafood buffet at the Lodge (which is under re-construction) may also return when the Lodge opens again. That was another meal written about in the January article. If you get down to Colonial Williamsburg, ask dining reservations if the Special All You Care to Eat Dinner is available at Shield's. As we found out, you never know!

Now, a little more weird. At different times ghostly things have happened in these restored 18th century taverns to us (actually, mainly my wife) and this night at Shield's was another one. Skeptics will scoff, but these things have happened and one may explain them away as one will. Tonight, my wife put the giblets from the turkey gravy of the end of her large, colonial knife - the type with the large round end. She was about to move them to the side of her plate on her right side. She looked down to place the little bits of meat and they were gone. They were not on her plate and she certainly did not eat them. She does not like them, which is why she was doing this in the first place. When the meal was over and her dinner plate was removed they were under - I say, under - the rim of her plate on the opposite side of where they had ever been. We can't explain it.

Friday, September 01, 2006

The Captain's Galley, Williamsburg, Virginia

In August 2005 I wrote about a small buffet located in Williamsburg, Virginia called the Country Harvest Buffet. Returning to that area a year later the restaurant has changed names and focus. It is now called The Captain’s Galley. They say that they feature two buffets in one – in reality they feature a bit of confusion for those who enter to dine. There are now two buffets in this restaurant – one is just a portion of the other and there are two different prices depending on the buffet that you choose. There is a buffet that features seafood and another that closely resembles the buffet that was here before featuring “country food”. The seafood buffet is $19.99 for each adult and the country buffet is $12.99 per adult – two dollars higher than a year ago (and this past December when I dined here last). Before you are seated the two buffets are explained and you chose then which you are going to have. At first we thought that where we were seated would keep them reminded of which buffet we were having, but as others were seated this no longer seemed to be the case. We could hear that many were confused about all of this and one family insisted that they were told that the seafood was $12.99 – I am not sure how that was resolved. I must say that when we were explained what was offered and how much it was, it was explained very definitely. This is a vacation area and a tourist based restaurant so perhaps no one wants to have to think that hard while they are on vacation.

The restaurant is run by the same senior couple. The interior has been slightly remodeled with a little airier appearance. There is now a small double-sided buffet server in one of the dining rooms adjacent to the larger buffet area. This newly added server features crab leg clusters and fried and broiled seafood entrees. If you eat from this buffet server you may also eat from the other as you will pay $19.99 and you are having the seafood buffet. If you chose to have the country buffet you may not go to the seafood server.

The country buffet is very close to how it was before in regard to what is offered and if you read the article found in our August 2005 archive you will find out all about it. The main difference now is that the QUALITY HAS DECREASED and that the buffet tables drastically need tending throughout the night. Many of the entrees – which were chicken of one form or another- had no identification and you really could not tell what they were. Different from before is the absence of all seafood from this serving area with the one exception of fried catfish. Now, when I first took a piece I thought this was chicken nuggets. It looked like fried bits of chicken and when I ate a piece it had the texture and toughness of a well done lump of fried chicken. Later, when more was put out it was very obviously catfish. Many of the meat entrees were drying out in the serving trays. The short ribs which are pork now and no longer beef were so tough that it was difficult to get any meat off of the bone. Pork barbecue was in a tomato sauce that could easily have been used for pasta. The pasta dish resembled lasagna but was so mashed in the serving tray that it was not a choice I wanted to try. Sadly, many things were like this. There was a listing on the table of what was on both buffet servers, but there were several items missing – and several uncertain as to what they were when you looked at them.

I have been to this restaurant a number of times in the past. This time I was disappointed and probably will not return again. It was difficult to find anything appetizing. We had the country buffet because there are much better value seafood buffets in this area for not much more money than $19.99. Things that we selected were tasty, but it was difficult to select things due to there appearance.

One of the points I made about this restaurant last year was the deserts that were offered and those same desserts are offered and on both buffets. (It is not really two buffets as you get the country buffet area along with the seafood area if you have the seafood buffet and on the country buffet only the seafood table is restricted. The dessert area is shared as is the salad bar and the two soups – which seemed to be home made and were still good.

Drinks are self=serve and are included in the total price of the buffet. The soft serve ice cream machine is still in the corner of the room not working – as it was not working a year ago. You take your own plates and silverware. You no longer pay as you enter, but as you leave. They are very trusting (I guess) because we were asked at the cashier which buffet we had and were charged accordingly. So – no one is checking if you take seafood or not. There is a ten percent discount in the local tourist magazine that is free at all of the hotels and tourist spots. They serve a breakfast buffet – but no price was visible. There was also no posting of children’s prices – I hope they had them because there were several kids eating seafood and that would have been some bill.

Service was very good and plates were cleared regularly. This is the one thing that has improved here as they seem to have more clearing staff working. Unfortunately, they did not have enough eyes on the serving trays and, seemingly, no one making sure that the serving trays were keep moist and palatable.

I recommended this restaurant a year ago in its incarnation as The Country Harvest Buffet. As The Captain’s Galley I can no longer recommend this to any of you. There are many other much better buffets in this area to try including the still good Peking Buffet, Golden Corral, and others.

The Captain’s Galley is located at 1425 Richmond Road in Williamsburg, Virginia. They have no website. The phone number is (757) 220-8270.

Final words – skip this one.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Kings Buffet - International Foods - Fredericksburg, Virginia

I am on the road again and am in Virginia. I have found the first of the buffets that I have discovered this trip. It is the Kings Buffet in Fredericksburg, Virginia. The restaurant is located just east of I-95 on Route 3 or Plank Road which is exit 130East from I-95. This is a Chinese buffet, though the sign says International Foods right after the name.

This is a large restaurant and as I entered it looked remarkably like the restaurant on Long Island, NY that I reported on one week ago – China Buffet City. There were the many buffet tables in the center, the sushi bar, the Mongolian bbq, and the private party room at the side – just like at the other restaurant. When you enter this restaurant you are greeted at the door and seated. Prices here are remarkably low and for what you are getting they are really good. Dinner is $9.99 per adult every day and all day on the weekend. The children’s prices are $3.99 for ages 3 to 6 and 5.50 for ages 7 to 11. There is a lunch buffet during the week and the prices are $6.49 for adults and $2.95 and $4.25 for children. Soft drinks are $1.25 and are unlimited. There is an extra charge for crab legs with the buffet for $2.99 per pound served to your table. There is not much crab in a pound of legs so skip this – you won’t miss it. The hours of the restaurant are Sunday to Thursday from 11am to 9:30pm and n Friday to Saturday until 10:30pm. We visited on a Monday night at 7:00pm. The restaurant was not empty.

There is a sushi bar at the side next to a Mongolian BBQ grill with a counter in front of it with raw vegetables and meats. The entire time that we were in the restaurant no one went to the Mongolian BBQ and there was no chef at the grill – perhaps which was why no one went to it. The first buffet table is a double long table and it was double-sided, It had salad greens and toppings, fresh fruits cut up, prepared salads including a crab salad and a seafood salad, caned fruits, puddings, in fact all of the cold dessert selections, and at the end sushi. The sushi was not served from the sushi bar. It was a good assortment of sushi. The fish was on rice, not rolls, and there were several types of fish including tuna and salmon. There were several vegetable rolls and California rolls.

Behind this long bar were four more regular-sized serving bars. Three were double-sided. Finally, there was a dessert bar with 8 types of cakes and pastry, nuts, and soft serve ice cream with sundae toppings. This night the ice cream machine was only working with vanilla. The ice cream was not as icy as some buffet soft serves can be. Of course, the cakes were the Little Debbie type.

There was a great assortment to be found. There were the usual three soups – wonton, egg drop, and hot and sour. The wontons were served next to the broth in a steam server. The wontons were a yellow in color and were doughy (perhaps undercooked). The broth was salty. It was good though. There were the usual Chinese fried appetizers. There were spare ribs that were not overly sweet, but they were fatty with little meat. There were boneless spareribs also. There was only one type of dumpling – pan fried, and they were good. The American part of the menu included carved roast beef, mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheese, pieces of hot dogs wrapped in dough, and pizza. There was a great deal of seafood, cold to hot. There were raw oysters that were served on ice. They were tasty but gritty – a sign that the sand was not rinsed from them very well. There was good peel and eat shrimp. There were raw mussels also. There were hot mussels, steamed crayfish, half crabs with a lot of meat in them, salmon, flounder (that was full of bones and hard), frogs legs, mixed seafood, octopus, a variety of shrimp dishes, something called fried pomfeti (don’t know what that is), crabmeat and cheese, mussels with cheese on top, mixed seafood, and fried scallops (these were too tough to cut into and eat). Meat dishes included honey chicken, roast chicken pieces, chicken on a stick, Gen. Taos chicken, pineapple chicken, chicken and broccoli, pepper steak, chunks of pork prepared like a Peking pork chop (spicy and good), sweet and sour chicken, little meat balls, and others. The vegetable dishes included lo mein, chow mei fun noodles, fried rice, mixed stir fry vegetables, string beans, and excellent mushrooms. There was corn on the cob, but it was sitting in butter and it looked dried out,

The desserts were a good variety of the desserts that are found at Chinese buffets. There was something that looked like whipped cream in a dish with sprinkles on top. There was no lacking of desserts.

The service was excellent. The dishes were cleared regularly and refills of drinks were offered several times during the meal. The restaurant was clean. The one odd thing is that they bring the check mid=way through the meal. I do not think that it was intended as a message or a hint to leave – they seemed to do this to every table and they kept coming back to clear dishes and refill drinks.

Mainly the food was very good. There were a few not so good items, as I have noted, but the majority of what was served was good, especially for the price. There are several buffet choices in this area including Ryans, OCB, and Golden Corral, along with other Chinese buffets. I would definitely recommend this as a “try it”. This is one of the better Chinese buffets that I have been too. Interestingly, the other best Chinese buffet is also in Virginia (Peking in Williamsburg). If you are in Fredericksburg, which is just 40 miles south of Washington, D.C., come to the Kings Buffet. The address is 2388 Plank Road, Fredericksburg, Virginia. The phone number is 540-374-1322. There is no website.