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!


Columbus Foodie said...

Sounds awful. My favorite in the Lancaster area is the Shady Maple. Pricey, but worth every penny. :)

Robert A said...

Shady Maple is the best. Perhaps the best of all buffets. And not so pricey compared to what some of the Lancaster buffets have increased their prices to.

Anonymous said...

I go to this website before I go for any trip with my family. I was in Intercourse, PA and wanted to go to a PA dutch restaurant,on a sunday and as we know not a lot of Restaurants are open on Sunday, a local Lady recomended me to go to Harvest View and I asked how is their food , she replied " Since the new Kitchen Management change it has been one of the best in the area". So I took a chance and went with my family for lunch.
I was very happy with my decision the food was very good , fresh and they had their kitchen staff constantly keep up with the buffet. They has one of the best spread on their salad bar and great meat selection ,I loved the smoked pork and the sausage pepper& onions. We were served by a lady who was so delightful my kids just fell in love with her.
I feel that this is one the must try Buffet Restaurant in lancaster county. I will be visiting them on my next visit. One more thing the View from the Restaurant is just breath taking.

Robert A said...

You are very fortunate to have had a good experience at this restaurant. As I have written, my last two experiences at this restaurant were terrible. It will take a lot to get me to go back and try it a third time.

It is true that this is one of the only "PA Dutch" restaurants open on Sundays in this area, that also indicates that this is not being run or cooked by Amish or Mennonite employees - who do not work on Sundays.

I, too, love the view at this restaurant and miss it. It was formally run by the people who own and operate The Family Cupboard (now located on Rt. 340) and in those days the food was wonderful and the view fantastic.

If the "new kitchen management change" is the change from the Family Cupboard to the new owners, then nothing has changed since I have been there. If by some chance the new owners realized that they had a serious problem and there has been new kitchen management since a year ago, then perhaps there has been some improvements.

There are non-PA Dutch alternatives on Sundays in the area including the Cactus Willies chain, several Chinese buffets, OCB, and now, Cicis.

I advise my readers to be cautious of the Harvest Drive Restaurant - and this type of advice is one that I rarely give.

If the owners of the Harvest Drive read this, please comment or contact me with assurance that the kitchen management change has taken place in the past year. With that I might go back.

Brown-eyed food lover said...

This is the craziest review I have ever read about this restaurant - Robert you obviously haven't gone there in a really long time - I was there with my family 2 weekends ago and we all absolutely loved the food! Since we arrived in Lancaster pretty late on friday,we took a chance to see if they were open. Although the staff was getting ready to clean up, they accomodated us graciously - there was a fantastic seafood buffet along with steak and ham and really tasty vegetables. The owner came out and introduced himself to us, asked us very nicely not to rush and just to take our time. The cook came out later to ask us about the food. We were only there for a short while, but we really felt comfortable and we are so happy that we went there for dinner. We ended up going to Harvest View for the remaining days that we were in Lancaster for atleast one meal. Let me tell you, the staff was friendly and helpful, we absolutely loved our experience there and it was pretty busy. WIth an incredible view - Harvest View family restaurant reallY lives up to it's name

Anonymous said...

I am glad I read the post by anonymous. Because there was one for and one against I decide to give this place a try. I too was told that there had been a management change in the kitchen. Or rather new head chef. We went over a two day period three times as we were staying in the motel next door. The first day we had lunch. Lunch was really good. The meatloaf was very nice. My wife loved it. Myself it was the fried chicken and pork and sauerkraut that had me. I love crispy fried chicken and this was done very well. The kraut I was told was made with smoked pork that they smoke on the premises. I did tell them about this blog and was told that they had a new chef. Even on a thursday lunch we found there to be a large variety of main dishes on the buffet. We had breakfast friday morning. Breakfast was free because we stayed at the motel. They told us the normal price for breakfast is 5 bucks. I do not know how they can do it with all that they had on the buffet. Then we decided to come back for the seafood buffet.OH MY am I glad we did! I have never seen such a spread of seafood in one place. The buffalo shrimp was my favorite and the steamed clams were heavenly. Most places you go for seafood buffet it is 10 kinds of fish and maybe a few shrimp and if you are lucky some crab legs. Well they only had one fish and it was a good battered fish. I suppose it was a store brand as they all looked the same however it was very tasty. The steak served was cut into smaller pieces I figure so less waste but excellent even if a little underdone for me. But it was the crab cakes and fried oysters that really got my attention. Flavors I have not had since I was a younger man growng up in the Chesapeake Bay area. There were shrimp everywhere you looked it seemed and clams, crab legs, and even meatloaf. The chef came out personally to ask if all was well. Not just to my table but all the tables. The food was excellent the service was fantastic and of course the view just is not to be compared. I dont know anything about mennonites and amish not working on Sundays but wether they used recipes from amish or mennonite cookbooks or if they just got some recipes from someoe the food quality was equal to or better than most of the places we ate on our stay and we know they were either amish or mennonites or at least dressed that way.

Robert A said...

It is very possible that they have gotten their act together in the past year. We gave them two tries under the new ownership and both were terrible.

I hesitate to try it again, but I will give it another try and let everyone know what I find.

Everything I write is factual and without prejudice - believe me, I wanted this restaurant to be good under the new owner, because I love the layout of this restaurant and the view. It saddened me as to how it was being run a year ago. It will delight me to find that it has become good.

Robert A said...

I am also a little suspicious of two raving reviews on this restaurant within an hour of each other. I have had restaurants present themselves as customers before - BUT I will give in to the benefit of the doubt. All comments have been posted and I will go back and see for myself.

Robert A said...

Readers please note - I have just been contacted by the management of this restaurant who has stated that they have made big changes. I have assured them that at some point I will come back and share with you what I find.

You should also be aware that the management of this restaurant has recently begun asking their patrons to come to this site and comment on this restaurant. All comments are welcome, but be aware that these comments have been prompted.

Anonymous said...

In March 2008, my 3 teenage sons and I took a trip to the Dutch Country. I brought them to the Harvest View Restaurant for dinner. Here's a tip>there is no view from the restaurant windows at night. lol. So, if it's a view that you are after, don't go there for dinner! It's pitch black outside. Inside,the whole place could use a new look. It's rundown with old 60's decor and when we walked in,there was only one table of people dining there.That should have been my first clue to go somewhere else.(other restaurants had waits and lines for tables)I had 3 hungry boys with me,and coupons for 2.00 off, so I decided we'd stay. The waitress was lovely, and she's the only person that I saw working there! The Buffet was nothing to write home about.Some of the food looked very dry and untended to. My guess is that it was sitting for too long. There was a small selection of food compared to other buffets that I've been to. I was extremely disappointed, but my boys loved the broasted chicken even though I thought it was very dry, almost overcooked, and they loved the mashed potatoes. There was not much for dessert,I noticed puddings, jellos,but no favorites such as Shoo fly pie. I wouldn't chance going back,when there are so many better buffets out there.
Here's my brief rundown on the buffets i've been to
>Dienners, it's small homey, Mennonite-run and the food is absolutely terrific. Lovely little desert selection, like a bakery. Lowest prices I've seen, and their lunch buffet is even less expensive! A real gem of a place. Call for reservation,or you may have a wait.They aren't opened on Sunday

Bird in Hand Family Inn. This cannot be beat.Nice size buffet,great desserts,reasonable price,ambiance, well worth every penny. Good place to bring kids,and equally nice for couples!(Next door to miniature golf)

A little gem in Lititz>The Lititz Family Cupboard. Small homey quiet atmosphere, medium selection of food, all delicious, reasonable prices, but alittle out of the way if you're coming from Bird in Hand area as we were.

#5>Millers Smorgasboard>large restaurant, huge buffet,prices are not low. Loud cafeteria atmosphere but the food was indeed excellent! Make a reservation or you will be waiting for a table.
Shady Maple >HUGE selection of buffet food, almost too much. Gigantic restaurant. Price was highest of the buffets I've been to, cafeteria type atmosphere,with chandeliers. May not be the best choice for elderly>it's a long walk to the buffet tables as well as to the rest rooms.There's a huge tourist-trap gift shop on the second floor. Lots of walking.

Robert A said...

Thanks to the last comment for a recent and honest assessment of Harvest View. As I have said I have been asked to go back because it is claimed to have gotten better - this comment leads me to think that perhaps it has not.

Deinners that is mentioned in that comment is very nice - but closes VERY early. If you like to eat dinner early - 4:00 to 5:00 then this is for you. The food is good and there is always a crowd of locals.

The Litiz Family Cupboard, also mentioned, by the commenter is the same owner as the Family Cupboard that I have written about and should be just as good.