Friday, September 29, 2006

Green Olive Buffet and Grill - Arlington, Virginia

Driving to our hotel late at night in Alexandria, Virginia we drove past a restaurant that we had known to be a seafood buffet in the past. A number of years ago we had called the restaurant to find out the price and was told a ridiculously high price – with the reason that lobster was being served. We laughed at the price and never tried the restaurant. When we saw the sign for the restaurant now it still said seafood buffet but it now had a different name. At the hotel there was a local tourism magazine that had an ad for this restaurant. My wife said to me that the ad says that dinner is $12.99 per adult seven days a week. We also discovered that while the restaurant is a seafood buffet, it is also an oriental buffet.

The name of this restaurant is the Green Olive Buffet and Grill and we had dinner there the next evening. The restaurant is located on US1. The address is 7405 Richmond Highway in Alexandria, Virginia. The prices for dinner are $12.99 per adult (every night) with children’s prices based upon height. Children under 36” are free and under 5’4” are half price. My wife is 5’1” but she had to pay full price. There is a lunch buffet for $6.99 Monday to Friday and $8.99 on Saturday and Sunday. Soft drinks are $1.49 and are refillable.

The restaurant is large with two large dining rooms on each side of a large room of buffet servers. One room is smoking; the other is non-smoking. There are five double sided buffet servers, a one sided buffet server, a counter with five soups, and a large grill and sushi bar. There is great variety in this restaurant and you can easily just eat seafood, just eat meat and potatoes, or just eat oriental – OR mix as you like. You enter and you are seated (paying when you leave). The server takes your soft drink order and you start going up for your meal. Silverware is placed on your table and your server brings extra napkins. Knives are available near the grill. Plates are at the end of each buffet server.

There are five soups. The featured soup on the night we went was lobster bisque. There was also New England clam chowder, wonton soup, egg drop soup, and hot and sour soup. The lobster bisque was a light, creamy soup with chunks of lobster meat (and some chunks that seemed to be sealegs and not lobster – but there was definitely a good amount of lobster in there. The wonton soup had a nice broth with good, meat filled wontons.

There was a salad bar with greens, toppings, and dressings, as well as prepared salads including a cold shrimp in a spiced sauce. On this server there was also raw clams, raw oysters, and peel and eat shrimp that were a good size.

There were a variety of steamed dumplings and also pan fried dumplings. There were all the usual Chinese appetizers – egg rolls, fried wontons, cheese and crab wontons, fries crab claws, etc. There was a sushi bar with a sushi chef standing behind it the whole time that we were there and he was preparing sushi. There were many different types including salmon sashimi, tuna sashimi, several fish that I did not recognize (but I am sure those who know sushi would), and California rolls that were big and full.

There were many types of seafood, both fried and “steamed”. There were steamed blue crabs, steamed, spiced shrimp, salmon, stuffed crab shells, crab cakes that were full of crab meat and very good, steamed flounder, crab and cheese casserole, fried shrimp, fried scallops, mixed seafood, fried clam strips, two types of mussels, seafood and noodles alfredo, fried frog legs, steamed clams, and on the chargrill whole shrimps (complete with heads).

Meats include carved prime rib, Peking duck, a variety of Chinese meat dishes including chicken and mushrooms, chicken and broccoli, beef and peppers, roast chicken, and other changing meats. On the chargrill they will grill steak to your order, as well as teriyaki beef sticks. There were barbecue spareribs that were a combination of Chinese spareribs and American bbq spareribs. They had a thick sauce on them that tasted more oriental than barbecue sauce.

There are many vegetables and side dishes, both oriental and American. There were mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheese, sautéed string beans, and corn on the cob. There was rice, fried rice, and lo mein.

For dessert there was banana pudding, chocolate pudding, jello, canned fruit, fresh fruit, and the usual assortment of “Little Debbie”-like cakes. Next to the soup counter is a freezer chest with four flavors of ice cream cups. The ice cream is Hershey’s ice cream and was very good. (Did you know that Hershey’s ice cream has nothing to do with the Hershey’s chocolate company?)

The restaurant was clean and well maintained. The food was good and there were a significant number of Asian diners – which is one of my clues that an Asian restaurant is good. Service was good and dishes were cleared quickly. There was one minor thing regarding the service that was certainly just a mistake, but could have caused a serious problem. We were drinking Diet Coke (coke products are served here) and when the server came with a pitcher to refill the glasses, she said, “Diet Coke” and poured. When I drank the soda, I am certain that it was real Coke – as a Diabetic this is a problem. Now my wife insists that it was Diet Coke – but it had that sugar jolt that only a Diabetic who does not get real Coke often can taste. I could have gotten the server over right away to change the soda to change it. That aside, the service was great. They even kept coming over to make sure that all was well.

There are a few buffet choices in the Arlington area. This one is definitely worth a visit. If you are just looking for seafood this one has more than most seafood buffets. If you want Chinese, Sushi, or American – this one has it all. The inside décor is very nice – nicer than you might expect from the road house look of the outside. There is also a liquor bar in the buffet room with seats at the bar and large screen TVs with sports. I recommend the Green Olive Buffet and Grill. The phone number is 703-765-5899. There is a website which is listed at the side of the page.

Try this one!

Friday, September 22, 2006

Grand Shanghai Restaurant – Williamsburg, Virginia

The Grand Shanghai Restaurant is a new Chinese buffet in Williamsburg, Virginia. The restaurant is in the location of the former Peking II buffet. That restaurant closed to become the larger Peking Buffet that I reviewed one year ago. The site remained vacant for a while and now the Grand Shanghai has opened. Many of the dishes used here still say Peking on them as used at the other restaurant.

This restaurant has a lot of competition in the Peking Restaurant that is just down the road. Reading my review of the Peking you will know that I consider that restaurant the best Chinese buffet that I have been to. We went into this new restaurant with a comparison in the back of our minds which is really not fair to the Grand Shanghai – yet, with the proximity of this competition comparisons cannot be overlooked. If you have a choice of the two, you need to know which one to choose.

The price of this restaurant is excellent at $8.99 per adult dinner. Soft drinks were $1.20 and there are free refills. There were no prices posted or in any literature so I cannot tell you what the children’s price is or what the lunch buffet costs. This restaurant is smaller than Peking. It has two dining areas - one with all booths at the side of the restaurant and one with a mix of both tables and booths. The décor is expectedly oriental and very nice. It is evident right at the door that this is a family run restaurant as even a young child was working seating guests and also working at the cash register – for an elementary age young lady she did an excellent job. Father and mother were working as was older sister (it seemed).

There are three short double-sided buffet servers at the side of a Mongolian grill (which is actually a small fry grill and not the large round griddle that is usually found). At each side of this grill was a mix of salad and toppings and Mongolian BBQ items on one side and grill items on the other side along with pan fried dumplings and dim sum. There was also a tray of “sushi” which is featured in the advertising but was nothing more than avocado rolls and cold shrimp on top of rice. This is really not sushi = there was no raw fish and no variety.

There were the three usual soups – wonton, egg drop, and hot and sour. The wonton soup had a light, good broth and the wontons were full, well cooked and had a light, but solidly good skin. There were two types of dumplings offered- pan fried and steamed. Both were good and full. There also was dim sum with a nice flavor.

We went into this restaurant on a Tuesday night at about 6:30 pm which is definitely dinner time. The restaurant was not crowded, but filled more as we sat there dining. When we went up to the servers there were several trays that were empty. No one seemed to be paying attention and they remained empty for a while. A short time later the owners and the little girl went around and took note of what was empty. Things started to be refilled in a short time after that. So my first impression of “hmm, who is watching these tables?” was proved wrong by mid-meal.

The food was all good. There were a number of entrees and vegetable dishes. Some of the offerings were Beef and Zucchini, grilled shrimp on a skewer, fried spicy shrimp, popcorn shrimp, General Tso’s chicken, Chicken and Broccoli, Hong Kong Beef, mussels, a wide variety of chicken dishes,and duck. All of the usual were there including peel and eat shrimp, fried wontons, egg rolls, fried rice (with both shrimp and pork), lo mein, spare ribs (with overly sweet sauce cooked on), chicken on a stick (though this was much lighter than the usual),etc.

To all of this there was also the Mongolian barbecue. The offerings for this are limited. There are three meats – chicken, pork, and slices of beef ribs. The vegetables were next to and mixed into the salad bar. There was some confusion here as to what went with what – and for the most part did not matter. My wife and I both took what we saw as zucchini and it turned out to be cucumbers. It did not go well on the grill – well, it was ok, but it was not zucchini. All of the hot entrees were well labeled. The Mongolian BBQ items were not labeled except for the several sauce choices. These sauces were a bit unusal with red wine, a lo mein sauce, and then the usual hot sauce, Mongolian sauce, and garlic. I tried a mix of the wine and the lo mein sauce and it was good. There is a bell to ring to get the cook to come out and put your choices on the grill. He was there when we went up and did a good job including cleaning the grill (scraping it down) between each dish that he cooked.

There is a limited selection of desserts. There were fried dough balls, little éclairs, and sugar flaky dough pretzel shaped cookies. There was also fresh and canned fruit, pudding, and jello. At the side of the grill area there was a freezer case with scoop yourself hard ice cream.

By now you have heard me refer to “cookie cutter” Chinese buffets where one is almost a total duplicate of another. This was only a partial cookie cutter restaurant. Some dishes were the same as at other buffets, but many were different and had a distinct flavor at this restaurant.

The service was excellent. Dishes were removed promptly by one of two young ladies working the dining room. Soda was refilled promptly – once while we were up at the buffet table. We were continually asked if we would like more. The check was put on the table mid-meal but I do not think thatthere was anything intended by it and the young lady kept coming back and asking if we wanted more soda as we continued to go to the servers and return to the table to eat.

There is great value here. If we must go back to the comparison, then I must say that the choices here are much more limited than at the Peking Restaurant. Then again, the price here is a about two dollars less per adult and for what you are paying you are not going to leave hungry or unhappy. If I could only go to one, I would still pick Peking first, but this is a nice alternative. I recommend it.

The restaurant is located at 5601-12 Richmond Road in the Ewell Station Shopping Center (strip mall) in Williamsburg, Virginia. The shopping center is adjacent to the Prime Outlets. There is no website. The phone number is (757) 565-1212. There are ads in the local tourist magazines but no discount coupons.

Try it!

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.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Almost... And Then The weird Part

My article on January 13, 2006 was about buffets that are now gone, but not forgotten. Well, about four weeks ago when making advanced dinner reservations at the colonial restaurants in the Colonial Williamsburg restoration my wife was told by the reservation clerk that the "special dinner" at Shield's Tavern was once again available. My wife asked if this was the all you can eat dinner served in colonial style. Absolutely - it was! This was the dinner that I wrote about and was discontinued about a year ago. The dinner was brought back as a summer special and was now called the "summer feast". It was only available Friday and Saturday nights. My wife made the reservation for the Friday night of Labor Day weekend at 8:00pm - seating time specified by the reservation clerk.

Oh boy! This was the meal that I wrote about. This was one of the best! No longer gone - definitely not forgotten! We anxiously awaited this meal.

The Friday before Labor Day in southeastern Virginia was the day that Tropical Depression (no longer hurricane) Ernesto hit. Roads were flooded. Electricity went out - including at our hotel and in Colonial Williamsburg. Heavy rains and winds hit the area hard. So badly that we had to move to a different hotel or remain sitting in the dark (which at almost $100 for the night is not the thing to do). We managed to get through the day, carried our luggage down four stories in the dark in a hotel staircase that had no emergency lights, and hoped that electricity would be restored to the restaurant in time to open for the night. At 5:00 pm we called the reservation line for the restaurant. We asked if the restaurant had electricity and would be open for our reservation at 8 and we were told definitely. At 7:20 pm we headed over the mile or so to the restaurant. We walked in the rain from the parking lot and found a large crowd coming out of the restaurant. We went inside and thought it curious that the usual person greeting people coming in and checking in with their reservations was no where to be found. We found a young lady and made our presence known. She was confused and told us that they had served the dinner at 5:30 pm and it was done for the night. "Oh no", I said, "we have 8:00 reservations for tonight - Friday night." She said that she would find a manager and she disappeared down a staircase. We stood waiting wondering where we were going to eat in at such a late hour when most restaurants were closing - especially on a day of a storm.

In a short while a gentlemen wearing an apron came up and greeted us by name. He introduced himself as a manager and explained that the restaurant had been sold out to a party for the night. He said that it had been an error regarding our reservation and that they could not contact us because of the storm. Before smoke started to come out of my ears he said that to make up for the error, he would buy us both dinner at the colonial restaurant next door. I looked at my wife and we followed him out the door into the rain and over to the restaurant next door. Once there we were greeted by name, escorted to our table like VIP's and once seated the waiter came over and also greeted us by name.

While we could order anything on the menu (yes, here we had to order from a menu), we did not take advantage and ordered as we normally would. When the meal was over - it was a great meal - the waiter came over and told us good night and all was taken CARE OF. All right! The meal should have cost about $65.00 plus the 10% tax charged at Virginia restaurants. Of course, I tipped the waiter what I would have if I had paid for the meals.

Alas, though, this was not the anticipated - all you can eat - best meal that I was waiting for. It occurred to me that if the large party that had been booked for the night was leaving when we got there at 7:45, and we had 8:00 reservations, what was going on - really? Could it be that we were the only 8:00 reservations and given the storm, they did not want to serve another "special" meal just to one couple? When we had dined at one of the other colonial restaurants earlier in the week whey didn't they tell us then that our reservations for Friday had a problem? Why didn't they ask if we could come back the next night - it is supposed to be served Friday AND Saturday? No mention was made of Saturday. All good questions - right? But we did eat for free.

Now for the weird part -

It is Saturday night and we have reservations at 7:30pm in one of the other colonial restaurants. We get to the parking lot and notice that the lot is almost empty - just two or three cars. This lot is usually packed on Saturday night of Labor Day weekend. We get out of the car and walk to the front of the building. There are people in front of the restaurant and we go up to the reception desk, give our name - and then... we are told that this restaurant has no electricity (Odd - there were electric lights on behind the restaurant leading the way from the parking lot and in the service building adjacent to the restaurant there were loud fans running.). Then they say... we are having everyone with a reservation go over to Shield's Tavern for dinner tonight at 8:00pm. Did I hear that right? Perhaps I should not get my hopes up and they are serving this restaurant's menu over at Shield's due to the circumstances. She asks if this is ok with us and as a consolation we will receive 10 percent off on our dinner. OK! We head over to Shield's Tavern. Outside there is a menu board and the "special summer dinner" is listed as what is being served. Oh my!

We approach the door and we are seated. A menu is given to us that explains the "Special Summer Dinner". Yes! The dinner is $29.99 per adult and is listed as all you care to eat. The offerings are definitely different than they were when we had been here for the all you care to eat dinner two years ago - the one that was discontinued. There no longer were skewers of grilled shrimp, baby back ribs, and fried chicken. This new meal featured roast turkey, root beer glazed ham, a stew of braised beef, mushrooms, vegetables, and wine, served along with tossed salad, real mashed potatoes with the skin mashed in, turkey dressing, string beans, stewed fruit, and bread rolls. For dessert there was a choice of sweet potato bread pudding with a custard sauce or an apple cobbler (or both if you wanted). A beverage of coffee, hot or iced tea, or lemonade is included in the price. All of the food was good. The stew is exceptionally good and it changes from time to time to a different stew. This stew, again, was great - and I ate two crocks. The beef was in large pieces - not small chunks like usual beef stew. The sauce had just the right hint of red wine. The turkey and ham were not really different from what you would expect. The mashed potatoes were very good. The desserts were excellent. We each tried a different one. There really was no room to want a second - though it was available for the asking.

The way this meal works is that everything is brought to your table for you to share and then asked if you would like any or all items refilled. There is a skillet brought with the turkey in gravy, dressing, and mashed potatoes. To start there was a slice of turkey for each. We asked for more turkey when we had those two slices and three more were brought. Ask for more and you get more. There is a platter also brought with two slices of ham, string beans, and stewed fruit (peaches, pears, and plums). We asked for another whole platter and that was brought. A crock of stew is brought to the table filled to near the top. It is enough for two - I asked for another crock and it was brought. To start the meal a large bowl of tossed salad greens with a vinaigrette dressing is brought to the table tossed and served. The remainder is left for you to take more. The greens were the fussy, fancy varieties. The salad was good, and I had some - but later I thought that if I had skipped the salad I could have eaten more of the good stuff. (If you are not thinking healthy skip the salad and get right to the entrees. I do not say this in particular for this restaurant but in general.)

The service was excellent and there is entertainment in the form of colonial music and a gentleman portraying the 18th Century tavern owner. With the check we each received souvenir pins that sell for $3 each normally.

So after all, I got to eat the all you care to eat special dinner at Shield's Tavern. I believe that now that the summer has almost ended so has this offer, It may be back again. And we heard that the special all you can eat seafood buffet at the Lodge (which is under re-construction) may also return when the Lodge opens again. That was another meal written about in the January article. If you get down to Colonial Williamsburg, ask dining reservations if the Special All You Care to Eat Dinner is available at Shield's. As we found out, you never know!

Now, a little more weird. At different times ghostly things have happened in these restored 18th century taverns to us (actually, mainly my wife) and this night at Shield's was another one. Skeptics will scoff, but these things have happened and one may explain them away as one will. Tonight, my wife put the giblets from the turkey gravy of the end of her large, colonial knife - the type with the large round end. She was about to move them to the side of her plate on her right side. She looked down to place the little bits of meat and they were gone. They were not on her plate and she certainly did not eat them. She does not like them, which is why she was doing this in the first place. When the meal was over and her dinner plate was removed they were under - I say, under - the rim of her plate on the opposite side of where they had ever been. We can't explain it.

Friday, September 01, 2006

The Captain's Galley, Williamsburg, Virginia

In August 2005 I wrote about a small buffet located in Williamsburg, Virginia called the Country Harvest Buffet. Returning to that area a year later the restaurant has changed names and focus. It is now called The Captain’s Galley. They say that they feature two buffets in one – in reality they feature a bit of confusion for those who enter to dine. There are now two buffets in this restaurant – one is just a portion of the other and there are two different prices depending on the buffet that you choose. There is a buffet that features seafood and another that closely resembles the buffet that was here before featuring “country food”. The seafood buffet is $19.99 for each adult and the country buffet is $12.99 per adult – two dollars higher than a year ago (and this past December when I dined here last). Before you are seated the two buffets are explained and you chose then which you are going to have. At first we thought that where we were seated would keep them reminded of which buffet we were having, but as others were seated this no longer seemed to be the case. We could hear that many were confused about all of this and one family insisted that they were told that the seafood was $12.99 – I am not sure how that was resolved. I must say that when we were explained what was offered and how much it was, it was explained very definitely. This is a vacation area and a tourist based restaurant so perhaps no one wants to have to think that hard while they are on vacation.

The restaurant is run by the same senior couple. The interior has been slightly remodeled with a little airier appearance. There is now a small double-sided buffet server in one of the dining rooms adjacent to the larger buffet area. This newly added server features crab leg clusters and fried and broiled seafood entrees. If you eat from this buffet server you may also eat from the other as you will pay $19.99 and you are having the seafood buffet. If you chose to have the country buffet you may not go to the seafood server.

The country buffet is very close to how it was before in regard to what is offered and if you read the article found in our August 2005 archive you will find out all about it. The main difference now is that the QUALITY HAS DECREASED and that the buffet tables drastically need tending throughout the night. Many of the entrees – which were chicken of one form or another- had no identification and you really could not tell what they were. Different from before is the absence of all seafood from this serving area with the one exception of fried catfish. Now, when I first took a piece I thought this was chicken nuggets. It looked like fried bits of chicken and when I ate a piece it had the texture and toughness of a well done lump of fried chicken. Later, when more was put out it was very obviously catfish. Many of the meat entrees were drying out in the serving trays. The short ribs which are pork now and no longer beef were so tough that it was difficult to get any meat off of the bone. Pork barbecue was in a tomato sauce that could easily have been used for pasta. The pasta dish resembled lasagna but was so mashed in the serving tray that it was not a choice I wanted to try. Sadly, many things were like this. There was a listing on the table of what was on both buffet servers, but there were several items missing – and several uncertain as to what they were when you looked at them.

I have been to this restaurant a number of times in the past. This time I was disappointed and probably will not return again. It was difficult to find anything appetizing. We had the country buffet because there are much better value seafood buffets in this area for not much more money than $19.99. Things that we selected were tasty, but it was difficult to select things due to there appearance.

One of the points I made about this restaurant last year was the deserts that were offered and those same desserts are offered and on both buffets. (It is not really two buffets as you get the country buffet area along with the seafood area if you have the seafood buffet and on the country buffet only the seafood table is restricted. The dessert area is shared as is the salad bar and the two soups – which seemed to be home made and were still good.

Drinks are self=serve and are included in the total price of the buffet. The soft serve ice cream machine is still in the corner of the room not working – as it was not working a year ago. You take your own plates and silverware. You no longer pay as you enter, but as you leave. They are very trusting (I guess) because we were asked at the cashier which buffet we had and were charged accordingly. So – no one is checking if you take seafood or not. There is a ten percent discount in the local tourist magazine that is free at all of the hotels and tourist spots. They serve a breakfast buffet – but no price was visible. There was also no posting of children’s prices – I hope they had them because there were several kids eating seafood and that would have been some bill.

Service was very good and plates were cleared regularly. This is the one thing that has improved here as they seem to have more clearing staff working. Unfortunately, they did not have enough eyes on the serving trays and, seemingly, no one making sure that the serving trays were keep moist and palatable.

I recommended this restaurant a year ago in its incarnation as The Country Harvest Buffet. As The Captain’s Galley I can no longer recommend this to any of you. There are many other much better buffets in this area to try including the still good Peking Buffet, Golden Corral, and others.

The Captain’s Galley is located at 1425 Richmond Road in Williamsburg, Virginia. They have no website. The phone number is (757) 220-8270.

Final words – skip this one.