Friday, November 09, 2007

OREGON DAIRY COUNTRY RESTAURANT AND BUFFET, LITITZ, PA

Buffets connected to supermarkets are becoming a common find in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. Since my article last month about Yoders Restaurant and Buffet I have found two more. I just dined at one of those – Oregon Dairy Country Restaurant and Buffet in Lititz, PA

Now, finding this restaurant was bit of a challenge – first because I set out to get to it without the address and thought by the town name – Lititz, it would be located in or at least around the town district of Lititz. It is not. With the address and location finally pinpointed thanks to our laptop computer GPS system – conveniently carried in the car for jus these occasions – we discovered that this restaurant is located near the town of Oregon, PA - Gee! How about that – Oregon Dairy is near Oregon, Pennsylvania – and following a near argument with my wife who questioned where did I ever come up with Lititz we managed to get to the sign and turn off the road for the restaurant. We followed the entrance where the sign was glowing in the dark and shortly found ourselves in a dark and deserted parking lot with a boarded up building. A little exploring and we found the restaurant and adjoining supermarket to be up at the top of the hill that sat behind and above this deserted lot. Back onto the road that we turned into we followed up a dark curve and up the hill. Finally – there it was!

As I have said this is another buffet restaurant that is part of a supermarket. There is a separate entrance from the large parking lot to the restaurant and there is a larger supermarket entrance to the left. There is an adjoining door inside between the two. From the name I expected to find a dairy. There are restaurants in this area connected to dairies and they feature VERY FRESH dairy products and ice cream on their menu. This is not one of them – at least, if it is it is not evident. The location features in its brochures and on its website that this a supermarket, a restaurant and buffet, and a country gift shoppe. (Love that extra pe on the end of shop – makes it sound special!)

Walk inside the entrance to the restaurant and you will see a counter with counter service on the right and a dining room on the left. You wait to be seated near the cashier and you are brought to your table. You are handed a menu because this is more than a buffet. There is also menu dining as well. You can mix the orders at your table – some having buffet and some ordering from the menu – but if anyone not ordering the buffet eats something from the buffet they will be charged for an additional buffet dinner.

Once you enter the dining room you will see that this is actually a very small restaurant. There are thirteen booths on one side of the room and maybe fifteen to twenty tables in the center. There are two private dining rooms for parties in another room at the far side. The buffet servers are located at the rear of the dining room and are separated from the dining area.

We were seated at the back corner of the front of the restaurant in a booth. This was not a good thing because it took quite some time for a server to come to the table to take our order. Several servers came by and never looked in our direction. Eventually – but it was a while, a young man came over and apologized for the delay and took our simple order – two buffets and two soft drinks. He did apologize but the room was far from crowded. We dined at this restaurant on a Thursday night in the Fall and entered about 6:40 pm. We were not really late coming in and others came in at the same time. We were told to help ourselves to the buffet and away we went.

The restaurant is opened from 7 am to 8:00 pm, Monday to Saturday. It is closed on Sundays, as are many local restaurants in this area. Let’s take note here that when they say they close at 8:00 pm they really mean that – they don’t just stop seating at 8:00 pm, they are closing. At 7:50 pm we were asked if we were going to get any more hot food because the hot food section was about to close and be taken away. As we were about to get dessert that was not a problem – and, actually, the only reason for it being that late in the course of our meal was because we waited for the server to come to take our order when we arrived.

The price of the buffet for dinner from Monday to Thursday nights is $10.95. Soft drinks are $1.75 per order and they are refillable as long as they are fountain drinks and not bottled soft drinks which are also available. Friday nights and all day Saturday the buffet is $11.95. The prices are not bad, especially with the rising prices of buffets in this area (another article for the future). There is a lunch buffet also on weekdays and that is $8.95 from Monday to Thursday and $9.95 for Friday lunch. There is a Friday and Saturday Breakfast Buffet from 7 am to 11 am – I do not know the price. We could not find any listing for children’s prices, but seniors get a 10% discount. We observed a mother and her three year old child ordering dinner and the waiter told her that if the child shared her buffet there would be no charge – that is very nice. She was about to order from the menu for the child and it was kind of him to stop her as what she was ordering was on the buffet for the little girl. There must be children’s prices and if I can find them I will post them when I do in a comment to this article.

This is a buffet that primarily is catering to local people rather than tourists and is located in a non-tourist oriented area of this very tourist oriented county. It may be more crowed on a Saturday or during the summer, but mid-week in very early November it was active but not very busy. One thing that was obvious from the other diners is that while this is an all you can eat buffet, most dinner are up once or twice and that is it. Of course, my wife and I are well experienced buffet diners and we were up far more times that anyone else – now, don’t get me wrong – NO ONE SAID ANYTHING – THERE WAS NO PROBLEM, but the locals here – many seniors were happy after a plate or two.

The buffet server area had two double sided buffets with salad bar items in the middle. There as a wall buffet on the back wall with the hot foods and on the front partition of the buffet area were the desserts.

We started with soup and there were two choices – beef vegetable and chicken corn chowder. Our start was a bit of a disappointment as both soups were bland. They were not what I would expect of these particular soups which are common in this region. I added some salt to the chicken corn chowder – I hardly ever add salt to anything – and that helped it a bit. My wife who likes very plain things comment to me after the first taste that the beef vegetable soup was bland – and for her to say something like that is highly unusual. She restrained herself from adding any salt and just ate it as it was. I wondered if this was an indication of how the rest of the meal would be – and in part, I was right in my concern.

We followed the soup with the salad bar – or perhaps I should say bars. One had tossed greens and salad toppings and dressings. The other had prepared salads. Here is where the relationship with the supermarket was evident. Many of the prepared salads were those that you find at the local supermarkets in this area. All were good and there was a very large assortment to choose from.

The hot food selections change each day and the restaurants website has a buffet menu that details what you will find each night and afternoon (which are different). The advertising says there are 80 different items on the whole buffet and I would say that is correct - if not an undercount. We were at the restaurant on a Thursday night – as I have said – and the hot foods included baked chicken, tilapia, Salisbury steak, ham balls (meat balls made with chopped ham), pork and sauerkraut – a local dish, stuffed cabbage, corned beef and cabbage, chicken pot pie – another local dish and not the chicken pie that you think, turkey, fried shrimp, and smoked sausage. Other nights you might find meat loaf, pot roast, BBQ chicken, shrimp and rice, and creamed chicken. On Fridays there is fried chicken, baked ham, fried shrimp, chicken pot pie, meat loaf, tilapia, cod, meat loaf, shrimp and rice, and chili macaroni bake. Saturdays bring a variety of the dishes found during the week. There are more hot choices on Friday and Saturday nights which justify the extra dollar for dinner.

There were a number of side dishes including mashed red potatoes that were real mashed potatoes with lumps of potato and the skins mixed in. There is mac and cheese, stewed tomatoes, a variety of vegetables, and potato filling – stuffing made with potatoes.

So how were the hot dishes? The honest answer is mixed. Many were very good. And some, like the soup, were bland. Nothing was bad – just not properly seasoned or perhaps water logged. Any of the meats that were in liquid were bland. The corned beef and cabbage had no taste – neither the corned beef nor the cabbage. The pork and sauerkraut – a dish I have had many, many times in this area lacked the vinegar taste of the sauerkraut. Highly unusual for this particular dish. It is the bite of the sauerkraut that makes this dish of shredded pork mixed into sauerkraut. After those I did not bother to try the turkey that was also in liquid in the serving tray. My wife did, however, and says that it was good. The smoked sausage was baked and despite being a little overdone was very good. The Salisbury steak was very good. The ham balls were very good. The tilapia was tasty but dry. The chicken pot pie was a bit thick but good. The vegetables were good. The stewed tomatoes served sweet in this area were right on and very good. The mac and cheese was good. There were little broiled and seasoned potatoes and they were properly seasoned and good. The mashed potatoes were very good.

In some of my articles I have spoken about buffets needing tending – having a server come out and stir the serving trays and moistening the entrees if they start to get dry in the pan. This hot buffet was on the edge of needing tending. That is not to say that things were not refilled. Late into the night the Salisbury steak tray was refilled to the top. No tray was ever empty and nothing was ever missing on the hot buffet or salad bar.

I speculated that with the majority of diners here seniors, perhaps, the some of the dishes that should have been saltier were prepared with less or no salt to accommodate that clientele, but that did not hold through all of the dishes. Some of the dishes were seasoned just as they should be and some had all the salt that they needed. It is possible that these meats in liquid were in that liquid too long or water was added to them through their time in the server. That would account for the taste – or lack of it. But that would not account for the bland soups, especially the chicken corn chowder that had a cream base.

The dessert bar had many more cake choices when we first started dining but there was a lot of choices in the prepared desserts and puddings. The desserts come from the supermarket bakery and I would also say from the supermarket cold counter where puddings and prepared desserts are sold by the pound. There were several local puddings one of which was cracker pudding, a sweet local favorite that is like rice pudding made with crackers instead of rice. There was rice pudding as well, along with tapioca, two types of bread pudding – one with no sugar added. There were several other sweet puddings. On the cake counter was apple pie and cherry pie – that was what was left ten minutes before closing. Had we realized the time earlier we might have taken a piece of cake in advance. There was also hot blueberry cobbler which was very good. With dessert you are also entitled on the buffet to one dip of hand-dipped ice cream. I kept wondering if this would be fresh made ice cream form the dairy that I still hoped was somewhere to be found on the property. The server brings the ice cream of your choice and it is one scoop as described. There were a variety of flavors. I like chocolate basic ice cream and that is what I ordered, hoping there was still room in my stomach because I was full. This is hard ice cream and not the usual buffet soft serve. The ice cream was good but not, should I say, farm fresh. It was packed ice cream and reminiscent to the hard ice cream that one often gets in a non-buffet Chinese restaurant. If this was farm fresh, then I have had better from ice cream stands from dairies. For ice cream in general it was good. Dessert was good over all.

All of the buffet servers were properly labeled on the glass at the top –every item was correctly labeled. This is great and there was no guessing what you were taking or eating. All buffets need to follow that and frequently now few do or if they do have labels that actually match what they are above. This buffet told you exactly what you were taking. Wonderful!

As is said in this locale, I ate myself full. I should have stopped at the second plate of entrees, but I didn’t and went back for more sausage – and I took too much because I like sausage, some more mashed potatoes, and a little more chicken pot pie (more properly called chicken bot bie in this area). I broke my own rule and ate more than I should have to leave feeling comfortable. So most of had to be good, right?

After the initial wait for our server, the service was good. I had to ask for a soft drink refill toward the end of the dinner, but it was brought right away. My empty glass should have been noticed and I should have been asked right away if I wanted more to drink. Ok. The dishes were cleaned from the table regularly. There was another server who was around the room taking used dishes off the tables and she did a fine job of it. Everyone was very friendly.

The decor was country and nice. There was a large electric train on a track hanging from the ceiling in a part of the dining room and that was running. The room was well maintained and very clean. It reminded my wife of the look and atmosphere of restaurants in the area a number of years ago before the restaurants started adding glitz to impress the tourists. The d├ęcor was not in any way dated but had that comfortable feeling – which is good and what you want.

The whole restaurant was clean. The buffet area was well cleaned and there were no spills anywhere. The restrooms were clean. The restroom were located off to the side of the entrance doors and though they had good signage more than one of us had to ask where they were – I guess that it is good that they are not that obvious.

I would definitely go back to Oregon Dairy Restaurant and Buffet – especially now that I know where it is and I can now easily find it. I would recommend this to anyone in this area who wants to try another buffet. I must say that there are better buffets in this general area. The buffet at Yoders supermarket (the most like this buffet to compare to) which I have recently written about is much better – but a distance from here. There are other buffets in this general area that are better but they are a few dollars more for a dinner buffet.

The address for Oregon Dairy Country Restaurant and Buffet is 2900 Oregon Pike (Route 272) in Lititz, PA 17543. The phone number is (717) 661-6804. There is a website and that is listed on this page at the side of the articles.

If you have been to Oregon Dairy Country Restaurant and Buffet, please leave us a comment about your dining experience there!

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

If you would like to go to the mother of all buffets check out Shady Maple. Breakfast is my favorite and the food is excellent.

Robert A said...

Shady Maple is our Buffet of the Year 2007 - see my article in January 2008.

Robert A said...

This restaurant was re-reviewed in JULY 2008 following a second visit.