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.

Friday, August 18, 2006

China Buffet City - North Babylon, New York

I past this restaurant on the road several months ago and since it is a distance from my home I did not try it. Tonight I wanted to go somewhere different so we headed to North Babylon and visited the China Buffet City.

From the name you expect something big - after all it is a "City" - and not to be disappointed, big it was. This is a very large restaurant with one of the biggest buffet areas of many restaurants - Chinese or otherwise, that I have been to. The buffet area was almost as big as the seating area and that was big. In addition to the dining room there is a private dining room for parties.

We went on a weeknight. As we entered we were encountered with a board with the prices - $12.99 per adult. For a week night that is expensive for a Chinese buffet, but we were there and we were going to see if it was worth the price. Friday to Sunday the price is $13.99 for dinner. Children's prices are from 2 to ten and under five feet tall and they are $7.99 and $8.99 for dinner respectively. There is a lunch buffet for $7.99 with children $5.29. Sunday is dinner price all day. The sign said nothing about beverages and we ordered two sodas. At that point my wife asked me if they were included. I did not know. She felt that if they were, the dinner price was comparable to other restaurants. They were not. Sodas were $1.25 each and there are free refills. So with a beverage this restaurant gets even more expensive. For a Tuesday night the restaurant was not full but there were a good number of tables filled. They are open to 10 pm on weeknights and 11 on weekends. We got in around 7:30 pm.

The restaurant bills itself as Chinese, Japanese, American, Italian, Mexican International cuisine. I say no Mexican on the buffet - unless fried bananas are Mexican. They claim they have over 300 items daily - and that is possible. There are 8 - yes, that is right EIGHT double sided buffet tables and there is a grill and sushi bar in the rear. The advertising flyer handed out in the front of the restaurant has a photo and speaks of a Mongolian Bar but there was nothing like that to be found - I wonder where the picture came from, because there was nothing that looked like that here. But there were 8 buffet tables so who is to complain.

There were five soups to start with - wonton, egg drop, hot and sour, miso soup, and seafood soup. The grill has meats including skewered beef, skewered pork, Chinese pork chops, grill chicken and peppers, and other meats. The sushi bar had a very large assortment of raw fish and vegetable sashimi, sushi, and rolls. Unfortunately, at 7:30 pm when we were there the sushi chef stopped working and once something was gone on the sushi bar it was not replaced. This was one of several MINOR problems at this restaurant.

There was a salad bar with lettuce, toppings, and dressings. There were prepared salads. All on ice. There was raw clams, muscles, and oysters - not on ice, but in a cold tray in the server. I have a problem trusting raw shell fish that is not opened on the spot and put directly on ice, so I passed on these. Had they been on ice, I might have tried them. There were hot crab leg clusters, hot muscles, and many seafood dishes, mostly shrimp and "crab" (It is not really crab but is an incredible simulation.) There was salmon and some type of white fish. This brings me to the second minor problem - signage. Some items had identifying signs over them but many of these signs were in front of the wrong thing - it said chicken, it was beef. One sign went with an item that was across on the other server. Then many items had NO signs and it was anyone's guess what they were. Some looked good, but was it pork, beef, or chicken- couldn't tell. Does it matter? It might to some! I tried what the sign said was Japanese Chicken - it was not chicken, but (I hope) beef.

There was a large selection of fried appetizers such as egg rolls, spring rolls, cheese wontons, etc. There were only two dumpling choices - pan fried dumplings and dim sum. The dim sum was one of the better that I have had. Most of the entree dishes were meat or seafood - and primarily meat or seafood alone prepared in different ways - not meat or seafood in vegetables, which to me is traditional Chinese restaurant food - and lately hard to find a Chinese buffets. This may be why the price is high - you are getting high priced items in meat and seafood. The ad flyer says no MSG is used - and it seems so. There were some pasta dishes and also Lo Mein and Mei Fun noodles. As I walked around the many buffet tables I actually had a little bit of a hard time picking out entrees to eat. I did not want to eat an entire meal of meats and seafood without mixing in something lighter. I did not go home hungry as I gave in to the meats and seafood.

There was a dish that they called "smoke pork ribs". These were little rib ends that were served in a dark brown sauce that tasted like American barbecue sauce. They were very tasty but there was very little meat on each one. At the grill the grilled chicken and peppers was good. Like the sushi bar, there was no chef at the grill - everything was cooked and out on trays with the grill in the back, but no one cooking. Once it was gone it was gone. (This may be different on the weekends, but hey, the price was no discount for a weeknight, regardless of the time!) My last complaint was that there were no knives anywhere to be found. I did not ask for one, and perhaps one would have been brought but many of the meat dishes had pieces too big not to cut with a knife to eat easily.

There was a large dessert assortment including hot apple pie that looked like turnovers. There was an ice cream machine. There was fresh and canned fruit. There were four colors of jello. There were puddings, fruits in syrup, hot cherries, hot apples, cookies, and the typical little Debbie-like cakes that are the mainstay of Chinese buffets across the country. (I would love to go to the Chinese Buffet Trade Show- there must be one - that presents all these same items that are found from Chinese buffet to Chinese buffet.)

Now, the restaurant was clean and the food was good. The service was good. Dishes were taken away and drinks were refilled.

Was the restaurant worth the price? Well... Let's say that if you like a lot of meat and seafood, as well as Chinese appetizers, you will be happy. For a few dollars more on mid-Long Island on a weeknight there is better value - see my review of International Buffet. On a weekend, this may be the better choice, as the price rises more at International from Friday to Sunday. Actually the weekend price here is just fifty cents above some of the others and below others too. Weeknights at other Chinese Buffets come in around $11.99 with the drink. Here with the drink on a Tuesday night we paid $14.24 plus sales tax.

There is no website for this restaurant. The address is 1114-1116 Deer Park Avenue in North Babylon (just north of the Southern Parkway) The restaurant shares a building with a Bennigans and the buffet is toward the back. The telephone number is 631-274-0888. They also do buffet and menu takeout.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

One Year Ago Today

This site was started one year ago today. For our anniversary I thought that I would go back to the beginning and relist all of the "Rules of the Buffet". We are even going to add one new one - about cell phones. Remember what we have said all along - these are common sense suggestions that will make your buffet or "all you can eat experience" much, much more pleasurable - and everyone else's too!

1. All you can eat is not a challenge. It is an offer!
2. There is no limit to the number of times that you can go up and get food.
3. Take your food in courses - as you would be served if ordering from a menu.
4.Everyone must pay!
5. No food is permitted to be taken out of the restaurant. (Saw a guy stuff a dozen cookies in his pocket just tonight!)
6. Take only what you will eat - do not waste food.
7.For a more social meal, it is polite to wait for the others at the table to finish their plates and then go up together to get more.
8. Take a clean plate every time that you go up to the buffet tables.
9. If you put it on your plate, leave it there. Never return food to the serving tray.
10. Never eat at the buffet tables!
11. Children under 12 should not be going up to the buffet tables alone.
12. The buffet table is not a cafeteria line.
13. Tip the server.
14. Never take a serving piece from one item and use it for another item.
15. Never place your dirty plates on someone else's table.
16. Never use your silverware to serve yourself from the buffet trays.
17. Once you have gotten what you want, don't stand around the buffet tables. Move on back to your table.
18. Children should remain seated through the meal.
19. Do not fill community plates for the "table". Each should take their own plate of what they wish to eat.
20. If you cough or sneeze into your hand, please do not use that hand to pick up the serving utensils.
21. In th buffet, as in any restaurant, children (and adults) should use their inside voices.


22. Don't talk on your cell phone while you are getting your food at the buffet tables.

Please call back and pay attention to getting what you want to eat. More and more lately someone is up at the serving table with a phone at the ear and the plate in the other hand - leaving no hand for serving. So the guy or gal is first, distracted by the conversation and is just bumping around the serving table and second, trying to manuever the plate and the serving spoons without dropping the phone. It is bad enough having to listen to people's most intimate details while they carry on a cell phone conversation throughout the meal, but to continue the conversation when at the serving tables is just too much. We once were in a restaurant when a woman answered her cell and was told that the child of a very close friend had just been killed. Tragic - but then she spent the next hour having a breakdown at her table with the phone still pressed to her ear. Now, we did not know this woman - she was at her own table away from us, but the conversation became so vocal that everyone in the restaurant knew what happened, when and how.

So, there are the rules to date, all together in one place. If you want to read some of the explanations and details go back on the site's archives and check out the "rules" articles. There are two - with two other's each adding one additional rule.

After last week's article, I had hoped one of you might have left a comment of congratulations... ah, well. Still a chance now. Thank you all for reading and keeping coming back.

Next week we are heading off on the road hoping to fing new buffets to tell you about.

Happy Anniversary to US!

Friday, August 04, 2006

One Year Anniversary

We are a week away from the First Year Anniversary of this site. We started on August 13, 2005. The anniversary of this site just happens to coincide within a few days of my wedding anniversary (no, not my first wedding anniversary - actually my 27th wedding anniversary). Looking back at the posts at the beginning I see that I was quite ambitious posting new articles every few days. I later realized that to keep a quality article coming every week I needed to spread the posts to once each week - which now takes place late Friday nights (or later in the weekend if I have a new buffet stop planned).

Since registering this site with BlogTopSites in October 2005 we have had over 39,000 hits. That really impresses me. There is a link to that site on the side panel - if you search our site there you can add to our rating - which also is pretty good. On one of the tracking lists we are ranked 169 among food blogs with a five "star" rating. Considering that there are thousands that really impressed me.

Finding new buffets has gotten harder and harder. Searching for buffets on the Internet is not an easy task - Google "buffet" and you will get a multitude of returns for "Jimmy Buffet" and not so many, if any, for restaurants. I greatly appreciate finds from readers - and if I can get to them, I will write about them. If I can't get to them and I can find out information about them I will pass that along too.

When there are not new buffets to go to and there has not been anything significant at any of the restaurants that I frequent, writing gets harder and harder. I never want to skip a week and at the same time I do not want to get out the shovel and just put anything down (I am getting the feeling that I am doing that now). I try to find something interesting or strange at my most recent visits to the same places that I have reported on before - or find a topic that I have not covered or not covered enough. With this blog my writing has taken on an off the cuff style that I feel is what keeps my readers coming back. I tell it like I see it and get it down like I am talking to a friend. (So, if it sounds like I am going to milk this anniversary thing for two weeks of articles - well, you have to come back next week and see.)

The "rules" got started as a hope to spread the word on making the "all you can eat" experience more enjoyable for all. They are merely common sense and most come from observations at a variety of buffet experiences. The greatest thing to take away from the rules is that the buffet style restaurant is NOT A CHALLENGE to stuff as much as you can into your mouth at a meal. The art of the buffet is that you can taste a variety, eat what you care to, and know that you can always go back up for more of what you like.

We have had some great comments from readers. Every time that I review a buffet that has a website I email that restaurant to view the article and post a comment. In the year I have only had direct responses from three restaurants - all appreciative of the review. (One of these even invited me to introduce myself the next time I came in - I have been back several times and I have not let on as to who I am.) None of the big chains have responded. OCB does not seem to respond to anyone - even when a customer fills out their comment section on their website.

About mid-way through the year I added the Google ads to the side panel. I am supposed to get pennies for each time someone clicks on one of the boxes. (No, I cannot click on them myself and make a bundle - they follow where the click comes from and I would be kicked off the ad service.) The pennies are supposed to add up and originally when it got to $25.00 I would get a check. It was near that recently and I found out that they upped the minimum to over $100.00. Lots of luck before I get to that. Maybe someday... I have no control over who advertises - it is supposed to coincide with the theme of the site and other than the buffet table furniture ads that have shown up the sites are usually related. OCB has been there frequently. If you are so inclined click on a button and support this site, maybe the hundred bucks could become a reality. How nice.

Well, I want to thank everyone for visiting this site and reading my rambles. I really like when I get a comment - pro or con. (It shows that someone is paying attention.) Please keep coming back and I will try my best to keep you entertained. As always I invite suggestions, salutations, and comments.