Friday, December 07, 2007

Lunch at Shady Maple Smorgasbord, East Earl, PA

I generally save my buffet dining for dinner but, while in PA for the day on my way back home the weather turned to snow and my original plan to drive back at night after dinner was quickly changing as the light snow turned to ice on the roads. It was not going to chance the 150 plus miles in the dark on icy roads so we decided to have our buffet dinner for lunch.

I have written here many times about Shady Maple Smorgasbord in East Earl, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. It is one of the best - wait - not one of the best - THE BEST buffet. I have had dinner there many, many times. I have had lunch there only once before, and that was on a Saturday. Saturday lunch buffets are often set to be the same as Saturday dinner buffet. At Shady Maple the Saturday lunch buffet is just one dollar less than the dinner buffet price - $15.99 instead of $16.99. BUT during the week at Shady Maple, the lunch buffet is just $9.99 and that includes the beverage! This is from $4 to $9 less than the evening dinner buffet prices. So if you are paying that much less you must be getting a lot less - right? Wrong!

Our lunch at Shady Maple was on a Wednesday afternoon. Lunch buffet is served until 3:15 pm. We were seated immediately. The restaurant was far from empty. Many of the diners were seniors. There were also a few tour bus groups seated in a separate dining room. Shady Maple is a very large buffet restaurant - and that is all that it is - buffet. There are two very long buffet servers that spread out to each side of the center of the serving area with four separate grills to the front. At dinner there are two to four grills running with several different items on each. On this Wednesday afternoon there were two grills running.

We went up to the buffet servers to find that both sides were completely full of food - and all of the serving trays had items that would usually be found at dinner. Nothing was missing. This $9.99 lunch buffet was offering us everything that we would find had we been there on Wednesday night for $15.99 with the only exception being found at the grill area. Wednesday night is Prime Rib Night with full Prime Ribs of Beef cut to your order. The Prime Rib is featured on two of the grill areas. On Wednesday afternoon at lunch you are not going to get Prime Rib, however, there was a lot to be found on the two grills. There was beef brisket being carved, there were hot dogs, Angus beef burgers and cheeseburgers, and marinated chicken breasts all being grilled, along with pizza at the grill station.

Now you might say that those grill items sound like lunch menu items, but when you get to the hot servers you will find all of the same hot meats and dishes that are found at dinner. There are four different soups. There is the extensive salad bar and prepared salads on the cold servers. Also found at the salad bar were small, cold shrimp. Meats included fried , really "broasted", chicken - if you can tell the difference from "fried", sliced beef in gravy, turkey, roast pork, bbq ribs, chicken croquettes, and fried shrimp along with a number of others. Then there are the area specialty dishes - pigs stomach (ok, I always had an aversion toward this too until I tried it recently - it is made into a sausage and served in bread stuffing (here called "filling") - it is really good), pork with sauerkraut, and chicken bot pie (pot pie with dumplings and no crust - Wonderful!). Of course, you can't have meat with out great side dishes and there are many, many side dishes of vegetables, potatoes, and noodles to choose from. There were very crispy french fries, au gratin potatoes, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, plus dishes with potatoes in them. There are buttered noodles and macaroni and cheese. There were so many different types of vegetables and side dishes that I can't remember them all. There are local specialty side dishes as well including something locally called "Snitz and Knepp" which means in German - Dried Apples and Dumplings - which is simply what this is, a hot dish of dried apples cooked to a preserve-like consistency with large flour dumplings. Sweet and hearty! And remember this is the weekday lunch buffet!

Soft drinks are included in the price of the meal and there are both Coke and Pepsi sodas, three types of ice tea, flavored coffees, icys, coffee, tea, milk, chocolate milk, fruit juices, and fruit drinks. After all of this to eat and drink, would you like dessert?

The dessert areas have both hot and cold desserts, ice cream, cakes, puddings, pies, sugar free pies, and sugar free desserts. There were also several donuts left from the breakfast buffet earlier that morning - and I took a jelly donut at the same time that I took my salad - just to make sure that I had one. (There are lots of things that I don't usually eat - and should not eat. Well, jelly donuts are on that list - but I could not resist!). I have to tell you that this jelly donut was not just filled with a bit of jelly but the entire donut was overflowing with cherry jelly filling that you could eat from the center with a spoon. Oh my!

There is nothing negative to say in any way. Everything is clean. The food is excellent. The service staff are friendly and do their jobs well.

One thing to remember at Shady Maple is to look down both directions of the buffet servers - while there are many items repeated on both sides there are also many items that are only found on one side or the other - increasing your selections!

So, if you can't get to Shady Maple for dinner, try lunch! And if it is your birthday - lunch or dinner - your meal is FREE! (If you go there for breakfast, lunch, and dinner on your birthday - all three would be free!) If you can manage to move about after this meal, go downstairs to the huge gift shop for some interesting and fun finds.

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. Shady Maple is always closed on Sundays and it closes for a few holidays including Memorial Day and Labor Day. Closing is 8:00 pm - and the restaurant opens at 5:00 am (this is farm country!).


Adrian said...

Wow! Sounds like you had a great meal. I always go there for lunch because it is such a better value. My favorite dessert is a blueberry pudding with whipped cream, cream cheese and a graham cracker crust- sort of a Blueberry Yum Yum. I really like their creamed onions and fried oysters as well-those oysters are enormous.

Colin said...

I click on this blog for the first time and what do I see but a review for my favorite buffet spot of all time. By far my favorite feature of this smorgasbord is the ICEE bar where you can get unlimited glasses (they ARE small though...) of the slushy substance in a vast array of flavors.

FatHer said...

Australian buffet site:

Robert A said...

The above link does not work but this is the correction -