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.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hello Robert,
I am a server at Woodgrill Buffet and have been for a very long time. Your server was probably Chris or Costa(brazilian). I have to let the owner know about the blog he'll be interested. We appreciate your business. In reference to our motto I hope it is always the best it can be!