Saturday, February 25, 2006

Family Cupboard at their New Location

On September 8, 2005 I reviewed a buffet restaurant in Lancaster County, PA called the Family Cupboard. At the time I knew that they were moving location after the first of the new year. I have just gotten back to them at their new location. The restaurant is still located in Lancaster County at the former site of The Amish Barn Restaurant on Route 340, east of Lancaster between Bird In Hand and Intercourse, PA.

Before the move was made the former Amish Barn came under the management of the Family Cupboard. Despite the ownership and the similar menu the Amish Barn was not so good. Now that the actual move has been made the "new" Family Cupboard at the new location is still as good as it was at it's former location. The size of the new location is smaller than the old location by at least half the size. Many of the employees moved with the restaurant - mostly women who were waitresses and some of the front end and back end people. There was one recognizable face - a man - from the Amish Barn - who was not so good before - perhaps he is better now. He was not our server so I cannot pass judgment. The service staff were always friendly at the old location and they still are here. In fact, there is a sign outside looking for service staff and it says "Wanted Friendly Employees".

The new location is on a main tourist road and there will be a strong tourist trade here once the season starts. The former location catered to a local clientele including the Amish. There were Amish dining here tonight, but this is way off season, and they may not come once the tourists appear.

All of the same entrees and sides were offered that were there at the old location. The feature is, as it was, spit roasted chicken. There was also meatloaf, beef in gravy, fried chicken, and broiled cod. The salad bar and desert bars are smaller but the same items are out in smaller serving dishes. There is now a soft serve ice cream machine, but you may also ask your server to bring you the same hand dipped ice creams that were available before. The food is still good. I tend to like the non-tourist locations in this area but this one now is touristy in decor - old timey things on the walls. There is a view of the farmlands out the back windows.

The price is still right - $11.75 per person and $1.25 for unlimited soft drinks. Ask for a frequent diner card and you will get a $10 gift certificate for every $100 in meals spent. If you are in this area, this is a good dinner. The restaurant is open Monday to Saturday until 8:00 pm. It is closed on Sundays. There is a full menu in addition to the buffet. ON the upper floor there is a gift shop and in the lobby there is a bakery counter. There is now a website which is linked at the side of the articles.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Having Valentine's Day Dinner at the Old Country Buffet

I took my wife to dinner to the Old Country Buffet for Valentine's Day. Now, you are thinking, what a romantic - he brings his wife to the OCB for Valentine's Day when there are such good restaurants out there for an evening of love. Well, she did not mind. We don't go in much for the pomp and overexpense of "fancy" restaurants. Believe me, we have been to them - we have been to some of the best. But, when I want to enjoy myself I want basic and comfort. I have some health - eating - concerns and I find that at a buffet I can pick and choose a little of what I like, and then I can eat an enjoyable variety..

We did not go early. We arrived at the restaurant at about 7:45 pm. There was a small line and some confusion about seating. There was no sign, "Wait to be Seated", so it was assumed to seat yourself, but there was a seemingly confused hostess/manager who was sending groups to specific tables - without much thought as to how to fit the groups that were there with the available open tables.

There were advertised promotions for Valentine's Day. There were to be photos taken of couples or families and your would take the photo home with you. Well, the only thing that made this Tuesday night different from all other Tuesday nights were three heart shaped balloons near the cashier. Other than that, nothing. No photographs. No special dishes except for a pink cake where the chocolate cake should have been. What there was, was a crowd bigger than usual for a Tuesday night -with, as usual at the OCB - no pre-planning to deal with a large group. This is a continual problem here on nights that one would expect and anticipate the needs of a larger crowd - school holidays, for example. They never seem to get the idea that more folks will be coming so let's make sure we have more food available and get it out to the buffet tables quickly. Not at the Old Country Buffet. They always seem surprised to have more diners than usual on a "special" day.

The confused hostess seated us a table with no sugar bowl. She then tried to seat a group of six at a table for four next to us. She could have seated us two rows back at an open table and then pushed our table and the next table together to make a table for the six. They decided to move off on their own to find two tables together. Smart move on their part. I had to solve the sugar bowl problem myself by taking one from an empty (YES, I made sure it was EMPTY) table.

Dinner was the usual Tuesday night Italian entrees. They were fine. It is now the Steak and Shrimp every night (but Sunday) and that took the place of the usual assortment of carvings - there was steak and there was ham. In a short while when we were there, suddenly, there was no more steak. It had to be cooked and everyone was turned away with the promise of three minutes - it was more like ten or fifteen minutes (which by then no one came back for it - except me). I should not have bothered because the steak that is made in a broiler is tough and overdone. This is nothing like the steak found in Ryan's or Golden Corral which is flame broiled to order. It is hardly worth the effort. To start the meal I felt like a Caesar salad - but the two trays of that salad were empty. It took almost forty minutes before they were filled again - another example of not keeping up with an anticipated big crowd.

Not just tonight but every night now, OCB has eliminated the taco bar - not that it was much more than tack meat, some shells, maybe some flour tortillas, and melted cheese. It is now gone. When the taco meat was not oozing with grease it was quite tasty. I heard several diners make comments that it was gone. In its place are puddings (as it used to be located at the end of the dessert section). When you had a taste for a taco it used to be good - and the fixings were there on the salad bar and condiments bar to make it good.

So, the next promotion holiday at the OCB is St. Patrick's Day. The green signs proclaim corned beef and cabbage. Nice if you like it. But don't expect much more than a green baleen. And you can expect that they will not anticipate any extra guests so things will run out.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Variety at the Golden Corral

The Golden Corral is featuring a different theme every night of the week. This is a special promotion and may or may not be continued, but it is worth a visit while it lasts. Each day of the week is a different theme feature.

Sunday is Carver's Night and the feature is carved meats - turkey, ham, chicken, roast beef, and then they add seafood, ribs, and smoked sausage. Monday is Shrimp Night with shrimp prepared in many ways. Tuesday is Family Night and the menu is hotdogs, steakburgers, three kids of pizza, meatballs, and Italian sausage. Wednesday night is Mexican Favorites Night and that means tacos, enchiladas, tomalles, fajitas, and chipolte chicken. Thursday night is BBQ Night with pork and beef ribs, brisket or pulled pork, smoked sausage, pork chops, and BBQ chicken. Friday is Fish Fry Night. There is breaded and fried fish, shrimp, and clams. Saturday ends out the week with Steak and Steak Night. Of course, there is steak, but there is also pork steak, chopped steak, and chicken fried steak. If you don't like steak there is also turkey.

Old Country Buffet and Ryan's both vary their menus nightly, but not with this theme idea. When OCB has a featured theme it is usually for a month or two with the season - and that means summer at OCB. They have had barbecue themes and tex-mex themes. This new promotion at Golden Corral is putting it all together in the week - every week. It may not last long, but it does look good right now. (Too bad the nearest Golden Corral is about 400 miles away from me.)


Old Country Buffet is having special promotions for Valentines Day. There will be photos taken of you and your Valentine (or your whole family). There is a special vacation drawing and a free lunch for married couples of 50 years or more (not so out of the ordinary if you have ever had lunch at an OCB and seen who is eating then.)

Ryan's website also mentions Valentine's Day but specifies nothing special or any promotion.

All of the web sites for these restaurants are located at the side of this article.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Nutrition at the Buffets

Well, I wrote a very extensive article on Nutrition at the Buffets last Friday night and thought that I had posted it successfully. Apparently not! It does not seem to be here. I shall try to recreate it now.

The large buffet chains are now posting their nutrition facts on their websites. Each has a different method of conveying these facts - with the easiest to use at the Golden Coral site with a simple pop up window when you click on a menu item. The other two place their menu items in categories and when you click on the category you get a web page with the results at the Ryan's site and a PDF plug in file at the Old Country Buffet site. This new addition to the websites may be the result of new Federal regulations requiring nutrition information for restaurant chains.

When you see some of these numbers for the various menu items it may make you think twice about eating at the restaurant, but I am certain that if you saw the nutrition information for any restaurant you might have second thoughts about eating out anywhere. So if you like going out to eat and you do not want to stay home and cook everything from scratch you might as well go out and eat.

The numbers can be scary and there are some menu items to steer clear of. At the OCB the worse offenders are the Beef Ribs, the Spinach Marie, and a killer of a soup - the New England Clam Chowder. The fat counts on these items are way over the top when it comes to health. Many of the other entrees are significantly lower, but still near ten grams of fat per serving. At Ryan's 16 oz of steak is very high in fat. Trimming the visible fat will lower this somewhat, but not a lot. Golden Coral and Ryan's have some better health choices in entrees than OCB.

It is possible to eat healthy at the buffets and OCB and Ryan's both have web pages that address how. The most significant thing to note, looking at the counts, is that the vegetables are the best choices. If you eat like a vegetarian at the buffets you will eat healthy (EXCEPT FOR THE SPINACH MARIE AT OCB). Tossed salads are always a good choice, but watch out for the salad dressings. The fat counts on those make eating the meat entrees an equal alternative. I was really blown away seeing the salad dressing counts at these restaurants.

The web sites for all three chains are at the side of the articles. I really wish the original article was not lost as I had so much more detail then. Ah well.