Friday, May 05, 2006

Buffets in Hagerstown, Maryland

We take an annual trip down to the Hagerstown, Maryland area. This is in northwestern Maryland near the Pennsylvania border and interestingly, an hour from Washington, D.C. and an hour in a different direction to Baltimore. It is also near the point where Maryland, Virginia, and West Virginia meet. Lots of history in the area - which is why we go. Anyway - as you near the Pennsylvania border into Maryland there is a billboard that is two sided - seen from both directions on the road (Route Interstate 81)- for a restaurant called the Antrim House. It is a huge billboard with buffet very prominently displayed. It is about 20 minutes from our destination in Hagerstown, Maryland. It has caught our attention for three years now, and this year I decided that it was time to check it out. So why isn't this review called The Antrim House - because we did not go. Here's why.

We first decided to do an Internet search to find the exact location and see what it has to offer. The restaurant is in the town of Greencastle, PA. We found a website that featured The Antrim House - Restaurant and Coffee Shop. For anyone out of the US - when something here is a "coffee shop" it usually denotes a small restaurant with a counter at which you have lunch. The website had a small photo of a portion of a dining room. It looked like a nice "little" restaurant. BUT nowhere on the website did it ever mention buffet. Nothing in the photo looked like a buffet table would fit in to both the size of the room and the decor - as it appears. Now, as I have said, the billboard is HUGE and the word BUFFET is prominent. So why doesn't the website which had a restaurant menu even mention buffet - or salad bar for that matter - which also was on the billboard. It was all too odd to chance dinner on. With the price of gasoline, even the drive back twenty minutes up to PA was not worth the chance. We did not go. If anyone has ever eaten at the Antrim House Restaurant in Greencastle, PA and knows about the buffet - please share it with us! I am still intrigued.

So with the Antrim House out of the running for dinner last Friday night, we needed to find something else. We looked in the phonebook and found Richardsons Restaurant in Hagerstown,which also has a buffet. I have passed this on the road and it never looked like a fancy restaurant on the outside. We started our Internet search for this restaurant and found not only a website, but some reviews on other sites. The reviews were mixed. Some liked it and some said it was just fair. There is a featured buffet on Friday and Saturday nights - Friday is Seafood and Saturday is Prime Rib. One of the reviews raved about the prime rib. I asked my good wife to call and find out the price. (it was Friday night - my wife is not found of seafood. I enjoy it. She will only eat shrimp.) If we were going on Friday night I wanted to find out a little more - there was no price for the buffet on the website. She asked how much the buffet was this night - $24 - she then asked how much, she called it roast beef and not prime rib,was on Saturday night (perhaps a better choice if she was not going to eat the seafood for $24) and she was told that the "roast beef" buffet was that night - not Saturday night. Now we were confused - and my wife hung up the phone without clarifying what that meant - no seafood, seafood with a roast beef choice, or a very confused restaurant - or perhaps due to my wife's not stating PRIME RIB, this led to the confusion. Never the less - we did not go! Oh why? you ask. Because $24 is a very high price to pay for a buffet. Some of the most complete buffets that I have been to are around that price - but I know that I am going to get great value for that cost. Let's face it, your humble author is not getting paid to eat in these buffet restaurants nor is the check picked up by blogger. I have to pay out of my pocket - times two (can't leave the wife at McDonald's) and I am not taking too many chances past $12 to $15 per person. ESPECIALLY, when one of my FAVORITE buffet chains is just down the road.

We went to Ryan's! There is a Ryan's in Hagerstown. There is also a Ryan's in Chambersburg, PA which is just off I81 on the way to Hagerstown - and we ate there on the way down the night before. Ryan's two nights in a row? you may question. There are no Ryan's near where I live. In fact, the Chambersburg Ryan's is the closest Ryan's to my home - and that is about 200 miles each way.

Ryan's seem to vary a bit from restaurant to restaurant - not in the menu but in how they are maintained and how the layout of the restaurant is. Some are larger. Some have different, but similar decor. Some are great. Some are not kept well.(There is a recent comment on the Ryan's article on this site that talks about a bad experience in a Ryan's in Michigan - Sorry about that!) My wife finds the Ryan's in Hagerstown nicer and better than the one in Chambersburg. The decor is different - the metal work railing that decorate the room are black in Chambersburg and my wife feels that the restaurant is dark as a result - not bright and cheery. The railing are brass in Hagerstown. She likes this one because it is brighter. She also commented to me that the food was better kept at Hagerstown - I found nothing wrong with the food at Chambersburg, but she noticed that things at Hagerstown were a bit moister and fresher. (Have I ever shared that my wife is ALWAYS right? - and she reminds me of this often. As a matter of fact, with a few small exceptions, she is. I will not tell you now how she once got us lost in the woods in our car. She blames the map.)

I like Ryan's. I like the steak. At Chambersburg, I hit it lucky perhaps, but my rare steak was perfect and tasty. The inside was not raw and the outside was charred. This is just the way I like it. In Hagerstown, the steak was also good, but not as properly cooked as that first piece the night before. I will not go into a description of Ryan's again - read the previous article. But, we ate in Ryan's two nights in a row. It will be August before I get to one again - in Virginia (stay tuned!)

The third night we ate in the restaurant that I reviewed in last week's article. Read about that one - I still say it has the BEST dessert bar anywhere!

So if you are heading toward Hagerstown, you know now what your buffet choices are. If you get to any of the ones we did not go to, please share it with us. I am going back to the area in a year and I will go to one of those if I know more about them.


Robert A said...

Allow me to add one more thing about Buffets in Hagerstown. There is a Western Sizzlin there with a "buffet". We went a year ago. Stay away! Perhaps one of these weeks I will tell you about it.

Your Humble Author

Anonymous said...

It has been 6 years since I left Hagerstown and have continousely missed Ryans. I have failed to find one in Southern California. Another buffet of interest is The Cozy in Thurmont, Maryland, near Camp David.

JIM said...


Robert A said...

Richardsons Restaurant closed in January 2009 - due to the economy.