Saturday, July 28, 2007

New Feature at Old Country Buffet - Whoopie!

Well, Old Country Buffet has done it again. They have come up with another "Why Bother?" dinner feature. This time they have brought back the worst dinner feature that they have ever had and combined it with the same bad steak that they serve all of the time. Introducing..."Steak, Steak, Shrimp, Shrimp, Shrimp"! I find it amusing that they have taken the mocking description that I gave to their last shrimp feature and used it to name this one- "Shrimp, Shrimp, Shrimp". Their website calls it Steak and Shrimp Feast, but the printed signs in the restaurant all say Steak, Steak, Shrimp, Shrimp, Shrimp.

So how is Steak, Steak, Shrimp, Shrimp, Shrimp. I ate it and I am actually not sure that I can say that it was even served. The steak and the two special sauces that are advertised with the feature is the same steak and the same two sauces that are always served (of course, the steak is now, "Rancher's Select" which it has been for the past several months - and just as overdone, tough, and dried out). The shrimp dishes seemed to get lost on the buffet. There are supposed to be three shrimp dishes (Shrimp, Shrimp, Shrimp)- fried shrimp, fried butterfly shrimp, and shrimp Alfredo. There was fried shrimp, but that is usually there any way. There was butterfly shrimp - smallish shrimp split open and fried, but there was no shrimp in pasta of any kind. Not even a spot for it - in case it ran out and was to be refilled. On another night there again was no shrimp Alfredo but there seemed to be a second tray of spaghetti. On close look there were a few small shrimp thrown into the pasta - no Alfredo sauce, it just seemed to be mixed in oil and parsley.

So again I ask, "Why do they bother?" A dinner feature is supposed to bring customers back and entice new customer in. One sampling of this and you will say, "so what!"

Other chains seem to get it right and they tend to rotate full featured menus through the week - one each night. Steak, Steak, Shrimp, Shrimp, Shrimp is offered every night, Monday to Saturday. For some reason Old Country Buffet feels that Sunday diners do not need specials. If the Sunday menu was special in itself,that would be understandable, but it is not.

In the past Old Country Buffet had some good features. Last year's barbecue feature with really good Kansas City style ribs was great! A few years back there was a Tex-Mex feature that was very good. This summer they have not had a winning feature yet!

Friday, July 20, 2007

Plainville Farms Restaurant, Cicero, New York

One of our readers suggested this buffet and while I am in New York, this restaurant is located near Syracuse at the top of the state, while I am down at the bottom of the state a good eight to nine hours away. While other state's interstate roadways and turnpikes can get you through most of the state directly, a trip "upstate" New York is a tiring journey from highway to side roads to streets and hopefully back to highways (but not always). From my home it is easier and quicker to get to and through three other states than it is to get to "upstate" New York - not to mention the high tolls. Anyway - back to the Plainville Farms Restaurant. If I ever have a need to head up to this part of New York, I definately want to try this buffet restaurant.

This restaurant is "Thanksgiving Dinner" everyday! They serve a full, real Thanksgiving dinner with all of the traditional American trimmings in their buffet daily and they serve the buffet in different ways. There is a regular, "all you care to eat" buffet dinner (and lunch) of the full turkey dinner that includes hand carved turkey, real mashed potatoes, a variety of vegetables including hubbard squash, stuffing, gravy, homemade soups, salad bar and all of the rest that you might expect. The lunch price until 4, Mondays through Saturday is $9.39. After 4:00 pm until closing at 9:00 pm the dinner costs $12.99 with as senior price of $11.29. Children six to twelve pay $5.99. For those who do not care for turkey you can enjoy the salad and soup bar (there is going to be homemade turkey soup - they are know for this and I will explain more about the turkey later). This is $7.59 all of the time. Maybe you want the Thanksgiving dinner but you don't care to eat a lot. You can get a one plate buffet - one trip and one plate up to the buffet to take what you can fill the plate with - and this costs just $8.39 Lunch and $10.39 Dinner. This is not available on Sundays or holidays. There is also a Sunday Breakfast buffet with all of your breakfast favorites until Noon on Sundays for $8.99. For those who want to have a menu meal instead, there is also menu service and you can add the salad and soup bar to the entree for just $2.99 extra.

Soft drinks and coffee are extra. Soft drink prices are high at a $1.89 and coffee is $1.39. Both are refillable.

The restaurant can seat 300 and looks very pleasant and welcoming. It is on the road and appears to be backed by farm fields - yes, there are farms in NY.

To understand why the emphasis on TURKEY here, you need to know about who owns and operates this restaurant (which is a single location and not a chain). Plainville Farms Restaurant is owned and operated by Plainville Farms, a family owned business that grows turkeys and produces several commercial turkey products including roasting turkeys, delicatessen slicing turkey breast in a variety of plain and seasoned selections, deli ham, bologna, and fresh turkey meat (chopped, cutlet, etc.). These products are available in stores across the country. People rave about these turkeys as the "best"! So it is not hard to understand why this turkey company would serve their finest in their own restaurant - and make Thanksgiving Dinner a daily occurrence. By the way, this is no small outfit - they also own a large feed company.

As I have said, I have not been to this restaurant and I have never tried one of their products. One of our readers wrote and told me that this is a MUST TRY. I take that readers word for it - and based upon the website, this buffet looks great, especially for a turkey lover which I am.

The address of the restaurant is 8450 Brewerton Road, Cicero, New York and their
phone number is (315) 699-3852. They have a website, which is included at the side of our site.

If you have been there or you try it, please post a comment and tell us all about it!

Friday, July 13, 2007

Old Country Buffets To Get Grills

Through a comment to one of our articles I have been informed that all of the Old Country Buffet restaurants will eventually have grills in the buffet serving area. This would allow steaks and other features to be cooked (hopefully) to order. If you have been a regular reader you know that this is one of my major complaints about the steak at OCB and why I rank Ryans and Golden Corral above Old Country Buffet in the buffet chain hierarchy.

This sounds great but then I started thinking while dining at the local OCB how this would work. Presently there is supposed to be always someone carving at the carving area. Well, that is not always so. It is not uncommon to have to find someone to come over to carve - and often who you may find has never done this before and does not carve very well. What will happen when there needs to always be a cook behind that new grill? Will he/she be there? Will it be another case of find someone?

Of course, the other chains manage this and do not have a problem. And as I have admitted in the past - perhaps the problems that I often see are the consequence of the particular management or the employees that they are able to hire - and perhaps, it is a New York thing - as things always seem to go differently in New York at restaurant chains and stores - and not for the better. A number of years ago we actually had a Golden Corral on Long Island in New York. That Golden Corral went out of business because it was poorly maintained, poorly kept clean, and most knew after one or two visits not to go back. Now, Golden Corrals seem to flourish everywhere else - in fact on financial criteria it is considered by business reporting sources to be the number one buffet chain. Not so here! (I am born and raised - and have lived all of my life in NY - so no criticism please that I am down on NY.)

Well, I actually cannot wait to see this new grill come to OCB. I am not sure how it will be fit in without a complete renovation - and the local OCB was renovated on a year or two ago. Since steak seems to be on the menu now (except Sundays), it can only get better on a grill.

Anniversary Coming!

One month to the day and we will be celebrating our SECOND YEAR anniversary of this site! We have grown to over a thousand readers each week. We come up near the top of most searches for buffets on most search engines. We certainly have something to celebrate.

Special thanks to all of our readers!

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Harvest View Family Restaurant - REVISITED




A year ago in July 2006 I reviewed a restaurant in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania called the Harvest View Family Restaurant. The restaurant opened in the location of a former buffet restaurant that had the same name. At the time my review of this new restaurant was not great. Following the posting of my article, a comment was left by one of out readers stating that the restaurant had improved. I always meant to go back and find out and this night we decided to do so.

Man, did we make the wrong decision! The restaurant did not improve - it got worse. As we drove to the restaurant we passed two other buffets that we know and the parking lots were packed. We got to the restaurant parking lot and there were just a few cars. This is the day after the Fourth of July and this tourist area is buzzing. We walked into the restaurant and the reception area was deserted. There is a paper sign that says to enter the upper dining room and seat yourself. I look ahead toward the dining room and it looks empty. I asked my wife if we should even bother to go in. We were there so we went on. In the dining room a waitress approached us and told us to sit anywhere. There were four other tables occupied in the large room. We picked a table and realized that there was a large table fan behind us blowing. We moved to another table and saw one more similar fan blowing in the room. There was no air conditioning running - just these fans - on July 5th!

Once seated we were told by the same waitress to go and help ourselves and what did we want to drink. No menus - this has been and is advertised as having both buffet and menu dining. What is more - no prices visible anywhere for the buffet. Ok. We ordered our soft drinks and then went up to the serving bar for soup. There was one soup - beef vegetable and there was little of it in the serving tureen. I place soup in a cup and felt no heat coming through to my hand holding the cup. I knew right away that this soup was not hot. I also glanced over to the entrees and see a very washed out looking single piece of fried chicken and two pieces of pale barbecued chicken. All very unappetizing. Back at the table I tasted the soup and I was right - it was just room temperature - not a very healthy thing for soup that will grow bacteria if it is not kept hot (as any health inspector will tell you). Beyond the temperature, the soup was thin, weak, and watery with little, if any flavor of vegetable soup.

I now overhear a conversation between a woman at another table and the waitress. The woman ordered hot tea. She was brought a tea bag for decaffeinated tea. She told the waitress that she wanted regular tea and the waitress told her that they only have decaf tea. Odd. Usually you can only get regular tea and not decaf tea. This was presented as though all that is served here is decaf tea. The woman was not happy.

We followed the soup with the salad bar which had basic lettuce and toppings with a poor variety of dressings. Beyond its lack of variety the salad bar was ok - salads are supposed to be cold so they had no problem here.

We went up for our main course. There were seven vegetables - corn, wax beans, carrots, lima beans, and peas PLUS a mixture of the corn and limas to make succotash and all of the vegetables together to make mixed vegetables. Why mix what is already there? There were two types of potatoes - lumpy, pasty mashed potatoes (that were probably fresh and not from a mix, but not very well made) and small roasted potatoes. Meats came next and while what they were supposed to be, would be good - they were not. There was meatloaf that had to have been commercially made and they covered it in tomato sauce. It was much too dense and formed for a homemade or even restaurant made meatloaf and resembled what I have seen sold pre-cooked at local meat counters. There was a local dish called pork and kraut. This is supposed to be pieces of pork loin cooked and served with sauerkraut. This was not pork loin but chunks of sausage meat - not sausage, but the chopped meat inside, mixed with the sauerkraut. I have eaten this local favorite many times in many local restaurants and have never had one like this. Then there was turkey and roast beef. The turkey was a deli turkey breast - the formed, composite turkey ball found at some deli counters. It had been heated and put out in thick slices in a broth. The roast beef was paper thin slices of tasteless delicatessen roast beef - right from the deli counter and thrown in a beef broth. There were also barbecue meatballs - little meatballs in barbecue sauce. By now two new trays of chicken had been brought out - fried chicken and chicken covered in barbecue sauce. (I will get to these later.) Also in the meats was pieces of grilled steak sitting in a broth. I must say, that of everything these little pieces of steak were actually tasty.

Despite steam coming from the serving tables, NOTHING was hot. Everything was just warm or near cold. Now, about the chicken. At the table next to us the gentleman called the waitress over. He told her that the barbecue chicken was raw - bloody inside. She offered to get him another piece from the same serving tray and he told her that this was the second piece that he took and both were equally RAW. She offered to get the cook, who came out. He listened to the man's comment about the chicken and politely thanked him for telling him that the chicken was raw. The man was very well mannered and not angry. Yet, all he got was a thank you from the chef. No offer to cook it more. (No offer to make it right with dinner on the house or even a discount.) These people at the table next to us barely ate anything. The waitresses comment to them was that she doesn't do the cooking. Hearing all of this I was about to cut into my fried chicken drumstick. I did so cautiously and, yes, it was undercooked as well. Undercooked and bloody chicken can make you very, very sick! The cook did not take the tray of raw barbecue chicken away right off. He came back a short while later and whisked the tray back to the kitchen, perhaps finally realizing that he was about to poison everyone.

The vegetables were watery and there was an odd taste to the wax beans. I want to say it was some type of a cleanser taste - bleach??? I am not sure, but it was not good.

Taste and temperature aside, the variety was poor. Restaurants in this area often have noodles - none here - and some type of fish dish - again, none here. Yet, does that really matter with everything else so poor.

There is a dessert table that had three of the same chocolate cake, a few other cakes that were partially left, some fruit, puddings, and jello. There is a cold server with slices of pie and there is an ice cream freezer with Turkey Hill (name brand) ice cream. Other than the variety the dessert was ok.

Service was marginal. With practically no one in the room, this single waitress for the whole restaurant took a long time to clear the dirty plates off the table. She never offered refills of drinks and we never got any.

It seemed that there were four or five people working in the entire restaurant. They did come out and refill trays, but it never was hot. Most buffets have someone come around the serving trays with a thermometer and make sure the temperatures are properly hot. Someone needs to let this restaurant know about the practice. (Perhaps, I just did.) My wife kept saying to me that it is as if amateurs decided to try to run a restaurant - and not do it too well.

This restaurant location was always known for its farmland view and it still has that - that is all that it has. I am not sure how they are remaining in business. The couple at the table next to us left in disgust. When the waitress asked us how everything was I told her- and I, too, got an apology with a shrug.

I must say that the restaurant seemed clean. There were candle type electric chandeliers lighting the room and at least two were missing bulbs - not that there were burned out light bulbs - there were missing light bulbs. And there were the large fans blowing around the room.

DO NOT GO TO THE HARVEST VIEW FAMILY RESTAURANT. There are many other great buffets in this area. This was the second worst buffet meal that I have ever had. I am going to be specific about where this is so you will know what to avoid. The Harvest View Family Restaurant is located on Harvest Road in Intercourse, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. It is off Route 340 where you will see signs at the road to turn down. There are many ads in local tourist publications that would lead you to believe that this restaurant is many nice things that IT IS NOT!

I wanted to like this restaurant - I like the view. Too bad!