Monday, July 10, 2006

Harvest View Family Restaurant and Buffet

When the Family Cupboard Restaurant moved from Harvest Drive to the main route of Route 340 in Lancaster, PA the building remained empty for about five months – then there was an announcement in one of the tourist newspapers that a new restaurant was coming to that location very soon – a new buffet restaurant. The story is that a man in Philadelphia had heard about the empty restaurant and the spectacular view that it had of the farm fields from it’s windows. He came to see the building and decided that he would open a new buffet restaurant there and feature not only local food but also the view. The restaurant is now open, It is the Harvest View Family Restaurant and Buffet. The advertising highlights that it is a “Meal with a View”. It is located on Harvest Drive adjacent to the Harvest View Motel. To find this restaurant you take Route 340 to Clearview Road (there is a large sign on 340 at the turn. You take this road to the end at Harvest Drive and turn right. The restaurant (and motel) is just ahead on the left.

We went to this restaurant with great anticipation of a new buffet. We already knew the location from the former occupant, so the view was not what we were going for; it was the food. We went on a Sunday night – oh yes, this restaurant is open on Sundays – very few local restaurants in this area are. We arrived a normal dinner time – about 6:oo pm. The parking lot had two cars – the motel lot had a few more. Entering the lobby, there is a sort of gift shop with a few items on the counters and display tables left over from the former restaurant. In the corner still trickles the fountain from the other restaurant. There was no one in the lobby and no one at the cash registers. As we approached the dining room entrance, a young lady came out from the restaurant and seated us. The first impression of a desserted room was not a good first impression. The dining rooms are just as they were before, as are the buffet tables in the upper dining room – the room with the VIEW. This is July and this is the beginning of tourist vacation season. The restaurant was empty with a few tables occupied – each with a window to the view. I generally do not sit with my back to the dining room but here the view is the thing and we were seated facing the window, I enjoy the view and that is enough to put my back to the open room. Our waiter came over promptly. He told us that they feature the buffet and, of course, that was what we were having. Soft drinks are extra at $1.50. The meal is $12.99. Young children seemed to be free for the buffet. There is also a soup and salad bar option – as well as menu dining.

Silverware and napkins are on the table with placemats. The beverages are brought to your table by your server and they are refilled regularly with no hesitation. The soup cups and soup spoons along with the desert plates are up at the buffet tables, as are the dinner plates. At first there were no soup cups. We asked for them and they were brought immediately.

We went up to the buffet. It was obvious that an effort has been made to keep much of the look and the buffet close to the former restaurant that was here, and is still in business just a few miles down the road on Route 340. The room has been repainted to a pleasant orange with red trim.

We started with soup. There were two soups offered – located where they always had been at the end of the salad bar. One soup was chicken corn soup and the other soup was potato and bacon cream soup. We thought that the chicken corn soup was tomato vegetable soup because when we looked into the tureen, the soup was red. Chicken corn soup usually looks like chicken soup. We stirred the soup with the ladle to find that there was a layer of red spice on the top and once mixed, the appearance was more of what was expected. I am a chicken corn soup fan. I filled my cup. There was plenty of chicken pieces and corn. There is often a dumpling like noodle (called rivels) or a fresh noodle in this type of soup. There was neither in this soup.

Back at the table I tasted the soup. It was not like any other chicken corn soup that I have ever had. The red spice must have been paprika or chili powder. The soup was spicy and disappointing. Uh oh, Not a good start. At least not what I had expected and I have been eating the local food in this area for over 45 years (I travel to this area a lot.) Beyond the spice and the expectation – as a soup all on its own it was ok, but overly spiced.

We next went to the salad bar. There is chopped lettuce and vegetable toppings. There were a few prepared salads, but nothing local = no chow chow, no apple butter, no cottage cheese. There were a number of dressings that were a good assortment. There were chopped hot peppers and again I wondered if this new restaurant owner thought that he was in a area that likes hot and spicy, rather than “plain and fancy”. The salad was fine. Nothing special but it was fine.

Next came the main course and the selection of entrees and vegetables. The main buffet table starts off with a selection of vegetables. In fact the almost half of the large buffet table was vegetables. There was corn and corn on the cob, string beans, carrots, lima beans, lima beans in barbecue sauce to make baked beans, and broccoli. There also was noodles, stuffing, and mashed potatoes with brown gravy on the side. Moving along to the meats, there was “rotisserie” chicken. It was not rotisserie chicken as it was named but rather more like broiled chicken. It did not look good – it may have been but it did not look it. I passed. There was liver and onions that was a brown liquid in appearance. I don’t eat liver so I passed, but someone who eats liver would also probably pass. There was chicken bot bie (which they called chicken pot pie and later I heard a waitress describe to a diner that it is not like the one most expect at home - a pie shell full of chicken and vegetables. Had it been named properly – bot bie – as it is called locally, that might not have been a problem to have to explain. There was also fried flounder with fried shrimp. There was fried chicken. There was chicken stew (a yellow liquid with chicken floating in it). There were meatballs in a tomato sauce. There were also chunks of ham with a pineapple sauce. At the end of the hot buffet was meat loaf. Next to the hot buffet were rolls and a sweet bread that we think was zucchini bread. It was very good – whatever it was. Wrapped pats of butter could be found here,

Ok – how was the food? It varied. The assortment was great, but the recipes need attention. The vegetables were good, but they were frozen vegetables. Perhaps this is early in the growing season, but we are in farm country and surrounded by corn fields. Perhaps there is no corn on the stalks yet, They are definitely the next best thing to fresh. While spice seemed to dominate some of the dishes, the meat loaf was basically tasteless. Even with brown gravy poured over the top, the meat loaf had no taste. My wife, who likes everything plain, put pepper on the meat loaf in an attempt to give it some flavor. The chicken pot pie was lacking in vegetables that would have given it some flavor - and there was an underlying spice taste, that is not usually in this dish. The recipe usually calls for carrots and celery to be cooked into this stew-like dish. There were neither. The dish was chicken, which was hard to find, with potatoes and dumplings. The chicken stew had an odd tasting spiced sauce with large pieces of chicken and nothing else – stew? I took some of the noodles with my first plate. They were thin and yellow. Eating them, they were like rubber. Later, fresh noodles were put out and I took them because these looked like they should. They tasted fine and were properly cooked. The stuffing tasted like boxed stuffing mix – it was not bad, but it was not what I expected in a restaurant in this area where stuffing is called filling and a significant part of local meals.

Ok – let me get to what was GOOD, There were some very good dishes to be found here. The fried flounder was very good and the fried shrimp that were mixed in were excellent. These shrimp were huge. The breading was tasty – perhaps a corn meal breading on the shrimp and fish. The fried chicken was also excellent. It was perhaps one of the best of the fried chicken that I have had at a buffet restaurant. When I went back for more I went back for shrimp, flounder, and fried chicken. The mashed potatoes were fresh and real. I mentioned the sweet bread earlier and this was very good (and not usually found at a buffet). I did not try the ham, but my wife did and she says that it was good.

The dessert selection is fair. There were pies including shoe fly pie. There were some puddings. What I thought was egg custard was actually rice pudding. It was ok. There were watermelon and orange wedges. There were two cakes. There was also a shoe fly cake that I tried. It was dry and lacked the taste that would have come had it been moister. The ice cream freezer case from the former restaurant was still there and it was filled with Turkey Hill ice cream, which is locally made (the same is found at many supermarkets). It is scooped to your request,

The service was excellent. The servers were attentive and available. They were equally friendly. The restaurant was clean. The view is terrific – as long as you like farms – and, after all, that is what you are in this area for,

Most of the business – on this night – seemed to be coming from the motel. There were few tables filled, but they did keep turning over while we dined, so people were coming in. This restaurant could corner the market on Sunday night dinner for the tourist trade, as very few restaurants with local food are open. Where was everyone?

As I have said the recipes need some attention and the buffet tables need some regular tending. The noodles should never have been allowed to dry out. The liquid liver and onions needed to be stirred up so perhaps it might have looked like liver and onions – which is not a stew, but appeared to be here. The chicken corn soup should never have looked red. The recipes need also to be brought into line with the local tastes – this is supposed to be Pennsylvania Dutch home cooking – not tex mex. Perhaps the local chef does not work on Sunday nights and the cooking was not as usual. At some time in the future I will try it on another night.

I was not unhappy hear – but it did not meet my great anticipation. The food was ok – some of it was excellent, but some disappointing. There is promise here. It is only open a short while and I will hope that it remains open to attract a local and tourist clientele AND better recipes. I would recommend this on a Sunday when there is not much else, I might not recommend this yet on any other night (yet) when you can find better very close by. One other advantage here is that is open until 9:00 pm every night. Most local restaurants here close at 8:00 pm – so if it is getting too late for the other restaurants, you will be able to get a decent meal here.

There is a breakfast buffet until 11 am at $4.99 from Friday to Sunday only. There is a lunch buffet on weekdays for $8.95 and Saturday and Sunday for $10.95. The lunch buffet is available every day until 4:00 pm. There are coupons with $1.00 off each dinner up to 4. These are in the local tourist papers – I found one in the Amish Country News, a free paper found in hotels and tourist locations. I did not see one in the other tourist free papers.

There is a website – www.harvestviewpa.com. There will be a link found in out links listing. The phone number is 717-768-7953. Hmm, just tried the website and got a message that the account for this domain has been suspended - what does that mean? Well, the restaurant is open, so perhaps the website will someday work.

8 comments:

Robert A said...

Ah yes... almost forgot - this was a warm July night. The room has air conditioning, but the temperature must have been over 80 in the room. Too warm to enjoy a meal.

Robert A said...

The website for this restaurant is now up and running.

Anonymous said...

Hi, I am a local and I have eaten there several times. First when they opened which was in May they were not very much up with the local Amish cooking. But last time I ate was on August 18th on my daughters birthday, I really loved there food, they had made some drastic change. I also spoke with one of the managers who said that they hired local chefs who have made a lot of changes since the last couple weeks. My favourite thing on the buffet was the meatloaf , fried chicken, chicken corn soup and the chicken pot pie.

Robert A said...

I have not been back since this review. Too many better choices in the area. I may try it again.

Chief Student Meteorologist Tyler said...

We were there in March 2008. Don't know if it is still the same owner but the food was pathetic. Will never set foot in that place again. Bird in Hand family restaurant blew them away. Was 1000 times better.

Robert A said...

I was there in July 2008 (see article July 8, 2008) and there were great improvements in the food since I had been there in 2007. On this recent visit the food was pretty good for the most part.

I hope that this remains consistent. The manager seems to really want to make an effort.

Anonymous said...

This restaurant isn't open any more and the building should be condemed.The motel is just as bad.The motel is being falsley avertised.It us to be a very nice restauantand motel.but nothing has been fixed up in it in about three or more years .

Robert A said...

To the last comment - there are several other reviews of this restaurant through the following years until it closed sometime in 2008. The most recent news is that a new restaurant is to be open in the building that this restaurant once occupied. It was undergoing renovation but it has been two years that it has remained empty with the "promise" to be opening "soon".

I have never stayed in the hotel. It has been there a long time. I cannot comment on it as I have no basis for comment.