Friday, December 28, 2007


This site has chosen THE BEST BUFFET for the year 2007. This buffet surpasses all others. It has been chosen on the basis of consistency over repeated visits, the quality of food, the quantity of food, the quality of service, the quality of cleanliness, the friendliness of staff, and the value received for the money paid for a meal. To be sure that the buffet to be chosen continues to this day to meet the criteria applied I have dined at the restaurant again as recently as this month of December 2007.

The BEST buffet for 2007 is SHADY MAPLE SMORGASBORD located in East Earl, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.

I have written about Shady Maple many times on this site. We have had a number of comments written that have agreed with my praise for this restaurant. This is a well known restaurant in an area with a strong tourist trade. It is as much a favorite with local patrons as it is with tourists.

For the benefit of our readers who may not have read the other articles about this buffet and in keeping with this fine distinction as THE BEST, I will describe and review the restaurant and point out what makes this buffet stand out so far beyond the rest.

Shady Maple Smörgåsbord has been in business for many, many years. The current location is just feet away from its origins as a farm stand and then a restaurant. The smaller (yet quite large) original building was closed several years back and a newly built much, much larger building was opened on the same property. The facility that you dine at now is very elegant. It is far beyond what one would expect to find in the middle of a farming and Amish/Old Order Mennonite community. The restaurant is huge with a very large building, a circular drive and more than ample parking for the large crowds that dine here regularly. Enter through the several front entrance doors and you are greeted with a lobby with crystal chandeliers, a large brick fire place, and elegant furnishings that include sofas and side chairs that you would expect to find in the finest furnished home or fanciest hotel. In front of the dining room, separated from the lobby by a half wall partition, there are several cashiers who easily handle the lines of people coming in. At Shady Maple you pay as you enter and your meal and beverage is all inclusive for the price. Shady Maple removes the question of what should I tip by adding a small gratuity to the price when you pay. You leave the cashier and go to a second line to be seated. You are always seated by a hostess - your choice, table or booth (if available).

The dining rooms are spacious. There is a large dining room with two large sections of booths and a large section between with tables. There are private dining rooms along the rear wall for private parties or they are opened when there is a large crowd. There is a second very large dining room beyond the first that is opened whenever needed and not only can this dining room accommodate many more diners, it is also the area that bus groups are seated in. Yes, people come here by the bus load and the restaurant can accommodate a number of buses along with the other diners and you would never know it. The decor of the dining rooms rivals the fanciest of ballrooms. More huge crystal chandeliers light the rooms. In addition to the buffet dining rooms, there are also banquet facilities completely separate from the buffet. Weddings and special occasions are catered here.

Shady Maple serves buffet breakfast, buffet lunch, and buffet dinner. This is only a buffet (though there is menu breakfast Monday to Friday during certain times of the year). If you would like a cafeteria-style dining experience go down to the lower level where you will find a complete and large cafeteria restaurant at the back of the gift shop. Shady Maple opens at 5:00 AM. It closes at 8:00 pm - though the dining room and buffet servers remain open until 9:00 pm. The restaurant is always closed on Sundays and it is also closed on Christmas, New Year's Day, Thanksgiving, Memorial Day, and Labor Day. These last two days are unusual for a restaurant in the middle of a tourist area which attracts many visitors on those two Monday holidays.

I am going to concentrate on dinner. I have also been here for lunch - see my article earlier this month. It is equally as good as dinner. Lunch ends at 3:15 pm and is cheaper than dinner by several dollars. Dinner is the main attraction here and each day has a different feature. These features have remained consistent over time and you can be pretty certain to know what to expect on each night of the week and Saturday. Monday night is Steak Night and on the fry grills are Delmonico steaks and New York strip steaks. All of the prices that I will quote include tax and the charged gratuity. All children's prices for ages 4 to 10 years are half of the adult price. Seniors over 60 get a ten percent discount. If it is your birthday, just prove it, and you will eat for FREE. Monday night's price is $14.29. Tuesday night the feature is assorted seafood. This is the most expensive night of the week at $21.65 but the seafood is plentiful! Wednesday night is prime rib and it is cut to your order - rare, medium, or well. The price on Wednesday night is $17.43. Thursday once was called Family Value Night. Now they have dropped that name but it remains the most inexpensive night of the week at $15.99. The feature Thursdays includes grilled, boneless, chicken breasts and breaded shrimp. The feature on Friday includes fried shrimp, salmon, Cajun catfish, and a selection of grilled meats on the grills. The Friday night price is $16.75. Saturday night brings crab cakes, salmon, Cajun catfish, and a selection of grilled meats. From many visits, I know that you will also find other fish being grilled and smoked sausage. The price on Saturday night is $19.03. Now, remember, I said that all of these prices include the sales tax and tip. Take about $2.00 off each price for the actual price of the dinners.

When you go up to the buffet serving area which runs the length of this huge building at the front of the dining rooms you will find four grill areas, two very long double sided salad bars, and then more very long double sided buffet servers that stretch in two directions with the salad bars at the middle. There are five long, double sided buffet servers times two plus two dessert sections at the ends and around the side walls. Each wall in front of the servers holds beverages. You can look at this as two complete buffet service areas next to each other. Many think at first glance that the two sides each have the same items, but that is not correct. While many items are duplicated and the same, there are just as many different items on each side which multiplies the offerings.

When you look for the featured items you are going to find most of them on the four grills - and those grills are cooking several different items each. When you move on to the hot and cold buffet servers you are going to find much, much more. There are a number of more meats, entrees, many vegetables, real mashed potatoes, four soups, chili, a large assortment of salads, both prepared and greens with every imaginable topping. There are carvings - even at lunch including ham and beef briscuit. As this restaurant is located in the heart of the "Pennsylvania Dutch Country" there are a number of local specialties that will change each night. There is always something for everyone to like. If you do not care for the local dishes move on to the many selections of country and American fare. We have never been disappointed at Shady Maple. Even buffet pizza - always on one at of the grill areas - is great here. (Take a half slice - the slices are huge and thick with cheese.) We have never had any difficulty finding several things to fill up on. This is the one buffet that you have to keep remembering that you must not eat so much that you will not be able to walk out comfortably. It is very easy to over indulge here.

Dessert here is no exception to the bounty of everything else. There is always an assortment of cakes, pies, sugar-free fruit pies (that actually taste really good), puddings, cream dessert concoctions, fruit, jello, apple dumplings, other sugar-free desserts, soft serve ice cream, whipped cream topping for what ever you like, and more.

Beverages are self-serve and there is no soft drink that I can think of that is not here. Both Coke and Pepsi products, Icees, iced tea, hot tea, iced mint tea, iced tea drink with lemonade (real good), orange juice, apple juice, fruit drinks, coffee, flavored coffees, cappuccino, milk and chocolate milk. If I have left something out, it is there - just look for it.

Shady Maple Smörgåsbord was the first buffet that I went to that had a system to reserve your table effectively -this was years ago but a variation still exists. They used to put a plastic plaque on your table that said "reserved". When you were finished you turn that plaque over to the opposite side that said "open". The service staff then knew to clear away the table and prepare it for the next guests. The hostess then knew the table was available to seat at. The plastic plaques were replaced by paper slips that work the same way when they opened this "new" building. You turn the slip over to the back when you leave.

Service is excellent. Dishes are cleared away very quickly by the abundant service staff in the dining rooms. The dining rooms and the serving areas are spotless. Even the restrooms are ultra-fancy and kept very clean. There are little anterooms in both the ladies room and the mens room that are carpeted and furnished with plush chairs and sofas.

In the Spring and Fall there are special nights with some specialty served. I have been there for a buffalo night with buffalo served in many different ways. I have been there for an Angus beef night and I have been there for a Philly Cheese steak night. The Friday before Christmas there is always a special event going on with late night dining and discounts in the gift shop for "last minute" shoppers. A grand staircase in the middle of the lobby takes you down to a gift shop that is the size of the restaurant.

This is a destination buffet. I have traveled here, out of my way, when I am in other areas of Pennsylvania just so that I could dine here. I have routed trips home past this restaurant from other states just to include a meal here. I know that others have as well. This is the one. This is truly the best. You must go to this buffet.

Shady Maple Smorgasbord is located at 129 Toddy Drive in East Earl, PA. Take Route 23 East or Route 322 South to get to the restaurant. The phone numbers are 1-800-238-7363 and 717-354-8222. There is a website and it is listed at the side of this page.

The Art of the Buffet names Shady Maple Smorgasbord as THE BEST BUFFET for 2007. Shady Maple Smorgasbord will be receiving a certificate naming them as the BEST which we hope they will proudly display in their lobby. When you go there look for it and let them know that you read about them here!

1 comment:

R said...

I am very pleased to share that the certificate sent to Shady Maple from Art of the Buffet is prominently displayed in the lobby of the restaurant. If you go to Shady Maple look for it - it is in the display case on the pillar next to the last cashier on the left (as you enter). It is in the case facing that cashier.

Take a look and let them know that you read Art of the Buffet!