Friday, June 15, 2007

Sweet Tomatoes

There are a number of buffet chains across the United States other than Old Country Buffet (and its various incarnations), Ryans, and Golden Corral. I have made a search to find some of these chains and tell you about them. This week I am going to tell you about Sweet Tomatoes. Interesting name - interesting buffet concept.

Sweet Tomatoes is located across the western United States to the mid-west. There are also locations in North Carolina, Georgia, and Florida. The company, which started in California, operates restaurants under the names of Souplantation and Sweet Tomatoes. Both are the same. The name Souplantation is much more descriptive of this buffet, because its main offerings are soup, salad, pasta, and dessert.

This is a health conscious buffet, though there is plenty on the menu for anyone to be satisfied. The menu offers an extensive selection of both non-vegetarian and vegetarian dishes. Let me start by saying that I have not yet had the pleasure of dining in a Sweet Tomatoes or Souplantation buffet. What I know I have learned second hand, but I think that you will find out enough to decide if you would like to try this buffet.

When you dine at a Sweet Tomatoes you will find a variety of soups and stews, pre-made tossed salads, prepared salads, hot pastas in a variety of sauces and combinations, breads (Focaccia) and muffins, and desserts. The tossed salads include such interesting offerings as Buffalo chicken salad, chicken tortilla, pesto orzo with pine nuts, spiced pecan & roasted vegetables with bacon, and many others. There are the more common Greek salad, Caesar salad, Cobb salad, and more. There are a number of salad dressings to make your own salad concoction.

There are also prepared salads - though the pre-made salads would seem to come under that same category - though I suppose that the difference is one features greens or lettuce and the other does not. Prepared salads include a selection from a variety (menus seem to change every day) including Ambrosia with Coconut, Chinese Krab, Field Corn & Very Wild Rice, JalapeƱo Potato, Old Fashioned Macaroni with Ham, Poppyseed Coleslaw, Southwestern Rice & Beans, Tuna Tarragon, Turkey Chutney Pasta, and Zesty Tortellini. There are many others as well. All very different and not the usual buffet salad bar offerings.

While most buffets offer two or maybe three soups, Sweet Tomatoes offers eight at each meal. Soups also include stews, but you may not find stews included every day - as I said, the menus change daily by location. You may find Albondigas Locas (A Meatball Soup), Beef & Barley Stew, Cheese Stuffed Cappelletti Soup, Chesapeake Corn Chowder, Chicken Pot Pie Stew, Classical Shrimp Bisque, Cream of Mushroom (served every Monday), 8 Vegetable Chicken Stew, Arizona Chili, Creamy Herbed Turkey, Lemon Chicken Orzo, Mulligatawny, Ratatouille Provencale, and many more! There is also the simple (though nothing here seems simple) - chicken noodle, tomato, cream of broccoli, minestrone, vegetable (actual several vegetables), a variety of chili aside from the one included above, French Onion, cream of chicken and more. I am a soup fan and my mouth is watering just listing these! There are soups and stews with meat and there are vegetarian soups and chowders.

There are no entrees or side dishes but there is a variety of pasta dishes. There are eight at every meal. Some of the offerings are as good as entrees such as Beefy Meatball Stroganoff, Linguini with Clam Sauce, Spicy Italian Sausage & Peppers, Smoked Salmon & Dill, Tuscany Sausage with Capers & Olives, among others. Then there are pastas with sauces - Vegetarian Marinara with Basil, Southwestern Alfredo Pasta, Curried Pineapple & Ginger, Fire-Roasted Tomato Basil Alfredo, Cilantro Lime Pesto, Carbonara Pasta with Bacon, and many more. For the non-adventurous there is macaroni and cheese. All sound great!

To go with the soup and pasta you need bread! Here the bread is in the form of muffins and Focaccia (pizza-like breads). There si a long list of unusual muffins - all sweet and different. There is also an assortment of Focaccia - some sweet and some with meats or cheese or vegetables - or a mixture of all three. The muffins and "breads" could easily take the place of dessert - but there are desserts here too!

Desserts are an assortment of fruit cobblers, puddings, cakes, jello, fat free and sugar free desserts, cookies, chocolate frozen yogurt, and vanilla soft-serve. In addition there are sundae toppings to add to your ice cream or yogurt - or anything else that you like.

Hours for each restaurant may vary by location - as may price. I actually have not been able to find the price of the meal listed (but that is not unusual as most of the chains do not list prices except at the restaurant). The restaurants all offer lunch and dinner. Most open at 11am and close at 9:00 pm on Sundays through Thursdays and at 10:00 pm on Fridays and Saturdays. There is also a take out menu. You can get large portions of all that is offered or this combo -
a reate your own single-serving salad from the salad bar, plus two 8-oz. cups for either soup,
hot pasta, or loaded baked potato, and a bakery bag for your choice of muffins, foccacia and bread - all for the lunch price.

The closest Sweet Tomatoes to the Northeast US is in North Carolina. There is one in Raleigh, and the next time I am in that area I am going to try Sweet Tomatoes. If anyone has eaten at a Sweet Tomatoes please post a comment and tell us all about it. Is it as good as it sounds?

There is a web site and a link will be found at the side of this site. The web site includes extensive nutritional information for all of the menu items and there is a restaurant locater to find a Sweet Tomatoes or Souplantation near you or near where you are traveling.

10 comments:

FLA USA said...

I am a Sweet Tomatoes super fan. My husband was forced to go on a diabetic diet and it really limited the places we could go out and eat. Sweet Tomatoes is our favorite. I actually found your post while trying to look for an idea on how to prepare the Chocolate sugar free dessert they serve at Sweet Tomatoes.

JTan said...

I used to frequent the one in Altamonte Springs, FL near SR-436 and I-4 when I had business in the area. The baked goods are as good as they advertise. Not just simple rolls here. The soups are great, but I -loved- their pastas and salads. I would fill up on just these when I went for lunch. I cannot emphasize the word "atypical" enough.

Considering that this place's menu pretty much centers around salads, soups, and pastas, they would need to stretch the variety and boost the quality of the offerings as much as they can. I was skeptical at first, but Sweet Tomatoes came out as a plus on my list. It's too bad they don't have any around VA.

Anonymous said...

Sweet tomatoes is great, I've eaten at several in FL and KS.

Ever hear of this - its like year round thanksgiving and reasonable, about 11$ pp. Syracuse, NY

http://www.plainvillefarms.com/restaurant/

Anonymous said...

I Love Sweet Tomatoes. Have only tried the one on 436 in Altamonte Springs near Orlando.

I drive almost 25 miles to eat here. I usually get carried away on the multiple types of Caesar Salands....adding goat cheese and croutons and I'm head of heels. My spouse loves the soup selections.
Never hesitate to take friends as the quality control is top notch.

Robert A said...

This must be a wonderful chain! We are getting only GOOD comments. I can't wait to try one!

Anonymous said...

Soup varities vary due to location. Standardize.
Some locations need to vary varieties more than they do.
Too difficult to determine value of additional menu items as you ask.
I like Sweet Tomatoes as it is.
Value is a big part of my frequency of visits, but I'm a really big fan, and variety of establishments means little versus solid nutrition and incredible value offered by Sweet Tomatoes.
I'd come even if you did not offer coupons.
Value of "Two additional soup choices"? Depends on the soups. Sometimes your offerings are not appealing.
Butternut squash - outstanding.
Traditional (Old-fashioned) vegetable - incredible.
I never see these soups anymore.

"Grilled" "steamed" vegetables - I prefer raw. More nutrition.
"Romaine lettuce" - I prefer baby spinach. More nutritious.
"Eight additional salad toppings" "condiment bars(s)" adds too many calories and fat.

"Chicken" "steak as salad toppings". You already have that. $1.25 extra.

"Housemade salad dressings." Depends. Quality?

Go upscale and add eclectic salad bar items? I wonder how that demographic goes for the buffet syle of dining.

Low-carb. Maybe a niche you need to further exploit. Nutrition, nutrition, nutrition.

Thank you for reading my essay on why I love Sweet Tomatoes. I hope management can use this sincere feedback to ensure the best product possible for the consumers and for Sweet Tomatoes competitiveness in this fierce marketplace.

Gary said...

As a New Englander I have to praise the Clam Chowder here. Surprised? There were a lot more clams in their chowder than most of the chowders in Portland, ME.

Veggies always fresh and yummy breads. Plenty of coffee, too. We use the ones near Fort Myers and Tampa.

Anonymous said...

I love Sweet Tomatoes. I live in South Georgia, so the only time I get to eat there is when I have my car repaired in Jacksonville, FL. They offer salad bar items that no one else has, such as jicama. I also like the way that all the fresh produce is sliced-most of it is julienned. I'm a picky eater, but I always leave there satisfied with the offerings and a full stomach! I have also eaten at the Atlanta location-same great quality.

Anonymous said...

There are 4 in the Atlanta, GA area. We've eaten at 2 here and at 1 in Jacksonville, Fl.

I have also signed up for their email and get coupons, lately buy one get one free meal, and newest menu information. Also 'seniors', 60+, get a 20% discount. They do change menus about twice a month so it's nice to know if something special is coming. The menus are themed--Greek, Asian, etc and have several choices of special soups and salads to match.

They usually offer a vegetarian (not vegan) soup or chili which are just as tasty as the regular choices.

It's on of our favorite places to eat. Love the Cream of Mushroom soup and the Creamy Turkey soup with Stuffing/Dressing.

Robert A said...

Yes, they are one of the better chains regarding coupons. They send many and they are good deals!

Wish they would move north further than South Carolina!