Friday, August 31, 2007

Fire Mountain - Ryans Alter Ego

Ryans Buffet chain has several locations named Fire Mountain. They are scattered all over - some in the same state and can be found listed as Ryans with Fire Mountain included in the name. I am not sure why. There may have been another buffet chain that Ryans took over some time ago - or there was a conflict of some kind in using the Ryans name at that location. I have heard that Ryans is changing these Fire Mountain locations over to the Ryans name, but not all have been changed over yet. Never the less, I have always wanted to try a Fire Mountain just to see if there was any difference. I finally got and took the opportunity.

Searching for a buffet in the Hershey, Pennsylvania area (yes, the town where the chocolate comes from) I could only find Chinese buffets. I was looking for something different and knew that there is a Ryans in the Carlisle, PA area just about thirty miles away. Finding a hot spot we fired up the laptop and checked the Ryans site for the address. Yes, there was a Ryans listed in Mechanicsburg, PA just outside of Carlisle. We plugged the address into the GPS and off we went. As we arrived in the general locale we started looking for the Ryans' sign. My wife thought that she saw it up ahead but when we got close we did not see a sign that said Ryans but, rather, a sign that said Fire Mountain.

The outside of the restaurant was basically the same as Ryans. We entered and the lobby area and cashiers were basically the same, but as we got into the dining room there was a definite difference. Instead of the usual Ryans layout, there were two dining rooms, one on each side of the entrance. The buffet servers were differently arranged and split between both sides - cold and desserts on one side and hot on the other - with the grill in the middle. Another immediate difference was that we were told to seat ourselves - something that we have never been told in the many Ryans that we have been in. The decor was basically the same and at first glance the food was basically the same. Oh, and there were signs all over for "Steak, Steak, Shrimp, Shrimp, Shrimp" with Fire Mountain and the Ryans name small at the bottom. So, the Old Country Buffet owners of this corporation had spread their influence here- and, sadly, were featuring the "why bother?" feature. Here the feature is seven nights a week - at OCB it is only six nights.

We sat ourselves and the server came over to collect our receipt, see what soft drinks we ordered, and ask if we would like a basket of the same rolls that are served on the buffet table - just like at Ryans.

The layout of the buffet servers was different - as I said, but it was also smaller. Where at Ryans there are servers that are three trays deep and double-sized, here (at this location at least) the servers were two trays deep and single-sized. Hmm, less serving space - less to serve? Actually, yes. As we began to select entrees and sides we noticed that many of the items that are standard on the buffet at other Ryans (and we have been to these at all different nights of the week) were missing. Where the taco bar at Ryans is always next to the grill - here it was on an end of one of the hot servers taking space that would have been filled with more food items at Ryans. There is usually a baked potato bar with toppings - none here (there were baked potatoes and you could certainly find toppings at the salad bar - but there was a definite difference. I rarely have a problem finding a large selection to choose from of meats and prepared hot dishes, but here at Fire Mountain, while there was a generous assortment, it was not Ryans assortment given the missing items. A minor example - usually there are French fries - here none. Usually, there are garlic mashed potatoes - here just regular mashed potatoes. Usually, at the grill there is smoked sausage - not here. All that was on the grill was steak. Now, the steak was up to Ryans standard and very good. Both pieces that I had were properly cooked and very tasty. There is usually a noodles dish - or several, here none, with the exception of spaghetti.

The salad bar and soups were the same and there was the same good assortment as is found at Ryans.

The bakery/dessert area had less as well. Ryans usually has two different chocolate cakes - here none. There were several cakes, hot desserts, cookies, fruit, soft serve and the same candy toppings that Ryans puts next to the ice cream section. There are more cakes and pies at Ryans.

This all seemed to be a mini-Ryans or a pseudo-Ryans. It was good, but it needed more on the hot buffet. So is the difference between the two names a difference of what is offered - or how much is offered. The price seemed the same - though this varies by Ryans locations - though this restaurant may have been a dollar less. I would rather pay the extra dollar and get the larger assortment.

As to the layout of the restaurant, my wife wondered if this had once been a Golden Corral because the dining room layout was very similar, The grill area was distinctly Ryans, though, and I feel that this was Ryans or Fire Mountain built. Looking at a Golden Corral since dining at this Fire Mountain, I am still not sure.

There are not many Fire Mountain restaurants - and they are listed interchangably with Ryans on the same Ryans website. We were in South Carolina and found a Fire Mountain listed and went there only to find that it is now named Ryans -and it was very much like other Ryans that we have been to. If you have a choice head for Ryans. If Fire Mountain is what there is where you are at the moment then it is the next best thing - just a smaller good thing.

Friday, August 24, 2007


One of our readers asked me if I had ever heard of this restaurant chain. I had not, but the question came at a very opportune time as when I searched the chain on the Internet I discovered a location in Spartanburg, South Carolina. Now while South Carolina is about 1500 miles from my home, I happened to be on the road heading for that very city to visit two nearby Revolutionary War historic battlefield sites. On Saturday night in Spartanburg we decided that we would give Souper! Salad! a try, and we are VERY GLAD that we did.

This is a chain of restaurants located in the Southeast Untied States and the Western United States from Texas to Las Vegas, Nevada. Souper! Salad! features just what the name states - soup and salad served on an all you care to eat buffet. In addition to the soup and salad, there is pizza, pasta, baked potatoes, breads, and dessert. This is very similar to Soup Plantations.

The Spartanburg, SC location is in a shopping center. It is a relatively small restaurant filling the space of three store fronts. The restaurant has large windows that look out onto the parking lot. You enter at the cash register and pay as you go in. This is an EXTREMELY REASONABLE restaurant. The adult price at all times is $6.29. The children's price from ages 5 to 12 is $2.99 and children to age 4 are free. The soft drink price is high at $1.69 with children's drinks for $0.99. Regular soft drinks are refillable. There are "special" flavored lemonades that cost $1.99 and are not refillable.

After you pay you come right to the beginning of the salad bar which is a long double sided cold buffet server that runs most of the length of the restaurant. You take a tray, your silverware, and napkins and start to assemble your salad - if you wish to start with that. There were two different salad greens plus a "featured" mixed salad. This night the featured mixed salad was a mango cranberry salad which was very good. There is every imaginable topping and dressing for your tossed salad and when I got to the croutons and dry toppings there were even small cookies to put on the salad. That was a first for me to see. You then come to several prepared salads that change by the day. There was California chicken salad, a pasta seafood salad, a fetticine pasta salad, tuna salad, a special pasta and tuna salad, edame (soy beans) salad, mustard potato salad and a few others. At the end of this bar was the dessert bar, which we will get to later.

As you pass through the salad bar you are into the dining room for the first time and you seat yourself at tables and booths. We were there on a Saturday night and the restaurant was not crowded but there were a number of people and families dining. I suspect that this is most crowded at lunch time when the shopping center is busy. The atmosphere in the restaurant is informal and the decor is very pleasant. The room was bright and clean. We chose a booth and sat down with our salads. A few moments later a waitress came over and asked what we ordered to drink. She brought large, full drink glasses to our table. Looking around most people had their receipts out on their tables to signal that the table was still occupied - but no one said to do this. We did (as we have had our table cleaned and reset in mid-meal when we went up to the server several times in other buffets recently - this was NOT a problem here!).

After our salad we went up to try the soups. There are five soups served and these also change every day. This night there was chicken noodle, vegetable beef, Santa Fe chicken soup, tomato basil, and double baked potato soup. I am a SOUP LOVER! I had to try each one. All of the soups were good, but I liked the double baked potato soup the best. It was thick and seasoned just right with pieces of potato and bits of potato skins in this hearty soup. The Santa Fe chicken was thick and spicy - it had a mild chili flavor. The tomato basil was a semi-thick soup with chunks of tomato. This had a bit of an acid taste - but it was good. The vegetable beef was a thin broth with vegetables and tiny meatballs. The chicken soup was good but it had too many herbs that overpowered the broth. The noodles were not the thick dumpling like noodles but more like pasta noodles. All of the soups are made from scratch at the restaurant.

So there you have the soup of the Souper! and the salad of the "Salad" but that is not all! At the rear of the restaurant is a wall of hot spots including the soup bar. There is pasta that changes by the day to either ziti or spagetti and two sauces of meat marinara and alfredo. As an Italian-American on both sides of my family I grew up with very high expectations of tomato sauces. I can be very critical of tomato sauce - called "gravy"in my family. Well, I usually have low expectations of tomato sauce in most buffets, but I must say that the meaty marinara sauce here is very good. It is not acidy and it is not sweet. It is not overloaded with meat or greasy. For a buffet restaurant it passed my test with a B+. Following the pasta on the server are two types of pizza - cheese and pepperoni. The pizza was odd compared to most buffet pizzas (and most pizzas). The pizza is more like cheese and sauce on a cracker. The crust is as thinner than a cracker, flat, and cooked hard and crispy. The taste was pleasant - the cheese and tomato sauce were standard but it was like eating a pizza cracker. I would not hold this against the restaurant but if you are looking for "real" pizza you are going to be disappointed. If you think of this as a unique pizza-like treat you will be more satisfied. Further along on the hot server are whole baked potatoes wrapped in foil. There are several toppings for the potatoes including hot cheese, hot chili, cold cheese, bacon, sour cream, butter, and chives. There is also everything on the salad bar to put on your potato if you wish. It did not seem like it from the descriptions that I read of this restaurant but there is a lot of filling food here. I went in thinking that just eating salad and soup for dinner I would be hungry - but I was stuffed when I walked out!

As if all of this is not enough there is fresh baked breads which also change by the day. There were garlic bread sticks, cheese biscuits, corn bread, and wonderful blueberry bread. The blueberry bread looked like a pan of corn bread but it had pure blueberry taste in every bite!

Had enough? You did not save room for dessert? There is lots of good things for dessert. There were the fixing to make a strawberry cream dessert - a try of cake to top with strawberries in sauce and whipped cream. There were peaches in syrup. There was fruit salad. There was pudding. There were fresh grapes and oranges plus cantelope, watermelon, and honeydue melon. And, of course, there is the ice cream sundae bar - soft serve vanilla ice cream with toppings and cones.

Those who wish to eat vegetarian can easily do so here as all vegetarian dishes are clearly labeled as such. Labeling was excellent all around - there was no guessing. The prepared salads and the soups were not only labeled but the ingredients were clearly listed below the name on each label. No guessing and no surprises.

The service was excellent. Your server comes and takes dirty plates away - and there are a lot of plate changes here and just about every item gets its own plate - salad plates, soup bowls, pasta plates, bread plates, dessert plates. The server also refills your drinks and there was no waiting for a refill.

Tables when empty are cleaned quickly and this restaurant was very clean - tables, seats, walls, and floors. The room was bright and restrooms were clean and well supplied.

This is a great restaurant for families. The food is inexpensive (actually, cheaper than eating at home) and there is something for everyone unless you have someone who wants lots of meat. There were several families enjoying the restaurant. There are signs saying that children under 12 must be accompanied at the food servers - which is great. On Sunday there is a family special and all kids over 5 are $1.99.

All of the food was good. The experience was nice and very pleasant. The staff were friendly and welcoming. I would highly recommend this particular restaurant and if it is a good example of the others I would highly recommend this chain. There is a website that is linked at the side of this page. The website will give you the locations and each location has a way to see the menu for any particular day on the calendar. As I have said many dishes change by the day and there are many, many dishes listed on the website for each restaurant to put on the menu. If you are lucky enough to be in a state with a Souper!Salad! give it a try for dinner or lunch. You should be as satisfied as I am. If you have been to one of these restaurants leave a comment and tell us about your experience.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Changes at Ryans

We were recently at a Ryans in Virginia and just at a Ryans in South Carolina and noticed several changes that are definitely Old Country Buffet ownership influences. I had hoped that the influence would go the other way and the superior chain of Ryans would influence their new owner's, not quite up to par chain, Old Country Buffet. But it seems to be going the opposite way.

There have been some changes at the salad bar and not for the better. In the past the Ceasar salad at Ryans was a make it yourself salad. There was Romaine lettuce, dressing to top it with, cheese, and croƻtons. Now, the Caesar salad is pre-made - just like at OCB, premixed and tossed with dressing (actually too much dressing in this case). Also on the salad bar they have now added the Greek salad that is served at OCB. Just the same.

As was mentioned in a previous article, the special features at Ryans are just the same as OCB - they had the rancher steak, riblets, and ribs - with the exact same sign on the table promoting it and now there is the same Steak Steak Shrimp Shrimp Shrimp. I did have an opportunity this time to taste the Rancher Steak at Ryans - which is also served at OCB. What a difference! The steak at Ryans is very good! The Rancher Steak at OCB is tough, over-cooked, greasy, and generally one to avoid. Steak is still served at Ryans seven days a week - not the six days at OCB. With the end of the barbecue feature, Ryans has taken on Steak, Steak, Shrimp, Shrimp, Shrimp, the why bother feature from OCB. Here at least the steak is decent, but again, all of these so called "feature" items are on the buffet anyway.

A new addition at Ryans is carvings. There was a REAL turkey being carved in the Ryans in Virginia and a turkey breast in South Carolina. In Virginia it was not the turkey breast of unknown origin at OCB, but a whole turkey. It was nicely cooked. This was the only positive OCB influence evident (though there is little if any positive influence that OCB could have over Ryans).

Ryans once had great labeling on their buffet servers. You used to know exactly what you were taking. The signs were clear and usually in place. Now, there are few labels on items - just like OCB.

The general public does not know that there is any connection between these two chains. All they will know is that things are not exactly the same at Ryans - and some of these things are not for the better. I still like Ryans - perhaps it is still the best of the chain buffets. (I have to visit a Golden Corral again to make a new comparison.) I just wish OCB would leave well enough alone.

That all said I want to give some recognition to the young man who was the grill chef at the Ryans in Spartanburg, South Carolina located on Route 29 named Ken. When I went up for some steak Ken told me that there was nothing that was medium rare but if I came back in six minutes he would cook one for me. He did. Later in the evening I went back for another piece and as he saw me coming he told me that if I came back in eight minutes he would have cooked a medium rare for me. And again, he did. I did not mind the wait. As we were having desert he came around the dining room to see if anyone wanted more steak - he approached our table with a smile and asked me if I wanted another one. I told him that he was great and that the steaks were excellent! So here is another outstanding buffet employee that I have come across in my buffet adventures!

Monday, August 13, 2007


This is it! Our two year anniversary of this site! We have grown quite a bit in our US and international readership. We average 1500 readers a week. I would love to multiply that by ten but I am satisfied! Plus we show up toward the top of most search engine searches for buffets.

Thanks to all of you for keeping coming back. Keep reading! Lots of great articles to come!!!

Saturday, August 11, 2007

What Employees Should Not Say...

There are things in business that should not be done in front of the public and that holds for buffet restaurants as well. Recently I observed three episodes in three different buffet restaurants of things that should not have taken place in front of the customers. They all involved conversation involving managers or employees. Now, I am sure that there are a lot of things that happen in all restaurants that the public should not see (I have heard some stories.) but there are things that the public should not hear or unavoidably overhear.

The first story takes place in a Ryans. In one of the sections there are two servers seemingly working together. The usual course in Ryans is that each table has one server who brings drinks, clears away dirty plates, etc. This night at our table two servers introduced themselves working together. One is an experienced employee who has been there for at least the several years that I have gone to this particular Ryans. The other must have been a new employee who was training with this experience server - that is how it appeared, anyway. The trainee is a young lady and the experienced employee is a man (who in my experience is always a bit gruff and annoyed - which is also not a good thing to communicate to the customers in manner and service). The young lady came and introduced herself, very politely, and was very pleasant. About twenty minutes into our meal, as I am walking back to my table, the man is talking to a supervisor - loudly - and saying that he does not want to ever work with this young lady again. He complained that she was "taking" his tips and was not sharing tips equally. He actually then said that she claimed that one customer handed the tip to her and told her that it was for her. He took exception to this with the supervisor. The conversation was loud and clear to anyone nearby, including our table and anyone at the serving bars. The supervisor was pacifying him - but NEVER once said, "Let's take this conversation into the back where no one will hear."

Shortly later, after the discussion had ended, a manager came out and called the young lady over to him - again, in the dining room in front of customers. There in front of everyone he confronted her and then, as all could hear, he told her to leave and not come back. He fired her in front of everyone. Not only is that humiliating to her but also a bit embarrassing for all the customers who listened to it and then watched her leave through the exit crying. What a relaxing meal! I sure hope that there had been other problems with her than this one employee's complaint. That, thankfully, we will never know.

The next story took place in my very own neighborhood's Old Country Buffet (you know the one that I have said is probably the worst OCB in the country). This is actually two stories in one night involving the same Restaurant Manager. We start out on the line to pay on the way in. As the family in front of us get to the cash register the manager comes out from his office and walks up to the cashier. There is some problem with an over-ring and she needs him to help her fix it. He looks at the receipt and listens to her story (in broken English) and then he starts yelling at her about what she did wrong and what does she want him to do about it. She remains calm and meekly tells him again what happened. He begins yelling again. In the meantime there are customers now waiting on line out the door. She has the sense to ring up the family ahead of us standing and waiting to pay. They move on into the dining room and we move up to the register. Now the yelling - him to her- starts again. The same things go back and forth for another five minutes - with all on line listening to every word - and the line getting longer and longer. He finally starts yelling in mockingly, pseudo-Spanish (she is Hispanic, he is not) and then he tells her that she must go into the dining and find the people who had the over ring and get their receipt back from them so that whatever needed to be done finally by him would be done. Off she went to look, and then he had the mind to look up at us and allow us to pay for our meals.

Later that same evening, while we were at our table, this same restaurant manager came over to the soft serve ice cream machine, that needed to be refilled. There was a line of people waiting for ice cream. A few of them impatiently asked what was wrong with the machine and would there be ice cream. His direct answer to them was, "I am just the manager, I am not the technician!" He did this again later on when the machine again needed refilling. "I am JUST the manager, I am NOT the technician!" Well, it does not take a technician to pour ice cream mix into the machine. It does take a manager to apologize for the delay and leave with the customer smiling. This OCB goes through a lot of managers. None but the first one really ever got it right. That first one knew how to keep customers satisfied and did a pretty good job of running the restaurant (probably because he was trained at the home office). An example of what to do - one night, a very long time ago, the pizza ran out and did not come out for quite some time. This original manager spoke to a table who were complaining about the lack of pizza. When the pizza did come out to the buffet table, he made sure another whole pizza was brought to this customer's table. That is how a manager should react.

My final "opps, that shouldn't have been said in front of the customers story" I actually have told in an article before - just a few weeks ago, but it is worth repeating. This took place at the Pennsylvania buffet that I have advised the readers not to go to. There when there were several problems with the food that was being served, the server told the table of customers - who were telling her that there were problems, "I am just the waitress, I don't cook it!" Yes, well that may be true, but that is not something that you say to the customers.

I have a fourth story that is not mine and I am going to relate here word for word as it was posted on this site as a comment -

"I had a very bad experience in Old Country Buffet in Levittown today. It was 2:00 pm on a Sunday afternoon and the restaurant was very crowded.When I went up to take some food, I noticed that there were several empty serving trays.I asked every employee who walked by, to please bring out food.They looked past me as if they did'nt see me. When I went to the manager, Roberto, he told me that they don't speak English. I said this is an American restaurant, and maybe they should have a few associates who do speak English. Roberto got very nasty and abusive and told me that this is a Spanish speaking restaurant and if I didn't like it,too bad.They don't mind taking Americans money, but we are really not welcomed there.I have never been treated so poorly by a manager.There were a few other customers who were also waiting for food to be brought out, and they heard what he said to me.Everyone standing there was horrified. One couple said they wanted their money back and everyone said they would never come back again.If the manager has no respect for the customers, then the employees won't either. This is the worst restaurant I ever ate in.Then I made the mistake of going into the bathroom. It was filthy, and there were 2 backed up toilets. The smell was unbelievable.There were no paper towels and no soap. This restaurant should be sited by the Board of Health.As far as Roberto goes, he should be fired. He is a terrible representative of this restaurant. If they really don't want Americans in their restaurant, they should reconsider OCB as a business."

  • This reader should be outraged! And this manager should be fired! Ths is a second service manager for the Levittown, NY OCB. The other manager is the subject of the ice cream machine incident above. Let me tell you a little bit about the community of Levittown, NY. This is the famous town created when the soldiers came home from World War II so that they could buy affordable housing. The make up of the community is basically the same now as it was then. This is far from being a Spanish community. Recently we have had a few "anonymous" comments from someone who is presenting him/herself to be from Buffets, Inc., the corporate owner of OCB. If there is someone who is reading this from Buffets, Inc. you need to know that you have a serious problem in management and operation in the Levittown, NY OCB - and now it is not just me saying so!

A note to all buffet managers (and employees)- if you have something critical to say to an employee, take the employee into your office. It is bad form to discipline an employee in front of anyone - another employee OR your customers!

Got any stories you have witnessed? Share them with us in a comment.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Old Town Buffet - A Small Buffet Chain in PA and NJ

I found this small buffet chain from a comment made to one of my articles. I had listed the Old Town Buffet as one of the various name incarnations of the Old Country Buffet corporate run restaurants and was corrected that no, this was not one of their restaurants. Hmm. I thought that I had seen this name somewhere, but had no idea where. I did a search and low and behold - there is a chain of four restaurants located in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. The website called these buffets "international" and showed carvings and steaks being charbroiled on a grill in the middle of the restaurant. They also spoke about sushi. I had the feeling that this was a chain of Chinese buffets, but that was not what their website was describing. The feeling that I was getting looking at the photos and reading the description was an all around buffet.

Now, finding a buffet chain in New Jersey (other than OCB) was exciting. I am in New Jersey several times during the year on business related trips and have looked for buffets to try. I have not found any - other than one not so good Chinese buffet that I have written about - and usually we just head back to New York at the end of the day and eat locally near home. I have figured that other than the buffets in the casinos in Atlantic City there must be buffets in New Jersey. So now I have found a chain. There are actually two locations in the State of New Jersey and two locations in Pennsylvania. The two in New Jersey are not exactly near the areas that I travel to - but it was encouraging to see on this Internet site that there was something.

On this trip to eastern Pennsylvania I decided to find one of these restaurants. We drove one hour away from where we are staying (with gas at $3.00 per gallon) to eat at The Old Town Buffet in Abington, Pennsylvania. I am going to write this article with the assumption that one location of these four restaurants is the same as any other.

The Old Town Buffet, despite website descriptions, is just another Chinese buffet. It does have an extensive variety of foods, but when all is put together, this is a chain of Chinese buffets. So is it good? It is ok. Not great, not bad, better than some but not as good as many.

This particular restaurant is located in a shopping center. It is part of the ground floor of a Target store that occupies the floor above. The restaurant is under the store. The restaurant is large (not as large as Target) and is entered from a long hallway that runs along the side of the dining room. The door to the hall is from the parking lot and the hall is lined with an odd assortment of chairs and benches - including two bench seats from a van. The implication from this is that at times there is a significant wait to get into this restaurant and this is the seating area for those who are waiting. At the end of the hall, in the hall is a reception desk and this is where you are greeted and get your table. We went on a Thursday night and we got to the restaurant late for a weeknight at 8:00, though the restaurant hours every night are claimed to be to 10:30 pm. We were seated right away and the restaurant was not empty. Other diners came in after we were seated.

The prices are clearly displayed on a sign on the wall over the cashier, but as you come in and brought to your table you may not notice it there. There are lunch and dinner prices. Weekday dinner is $11.95, adult, and $6.25, children. On Friday to Sunday, dinner is $13.75, adult, and $7.25, children. Lunch is $7.45, adult, and $4.25, children - Monday to Friday. On Saturday lunch is $8.45, adult, and $4.95, children. Sunday lunch is $10.95, adult, and $6.25, children - until 3pm. All other lunch hours stop at 3:30pm. The restaurant opens at 11 am. All prices for all meals include soft drinks (making the price a bit more reasonable than it appears). They have very specific definitions of children - children are from 3 years to 10 years and if the child is over four foot ten inches tall, you must prove the child's age. There is also a great rule that children under ten are not to go to the buffet tables unescorted by an adult. (Actually, there were a few children up at the buffet who should have been with an adult and no one said anything.) The website claims that there is a senior discount for 55 and over. There does not seem to be any indication of this in the restaurant.

So, as I said, the restaurant is large inside. There are booths and tables surrounding a large buffet area in the middle and the back of the restaurant. There are the equivalent of six double sided, double buffet tables plus a large island in the middle with a Mongolian barbecue, sushi bar, carving station, and charbroil grill. Yes, everything on the website is here in some form or another. Four of the double double servers are in the middle and two very long servers are along the wall - together, the equivalent of seven servers. When you are seated a large wooden bowl is placed on your table for crab leg shells and inside the bowl are a stack of napkins plus several wet-naps.

The server along one wall has five soup choices - all the usual Chinese soups including seafood soup. There is also clam chowder. There were also two rice steamers here for white and fried rice but these were empty with these items in trays on another table. Across the room was a cold table that was three quarters filled with salads and cold seafood, including raw clams and steamed cocktail shrimp. There was greens and toppings with several dressings along with several prepared salads including chicken salad and a seafood salad. The remainder of the table had fruits and puddings for dessert. Behind this table along the back wall was another cold table full of the usual assortment of Chinese buffet "Little Debbie"-type cakes, cookies, and an ice cream soft serve machine.

Jumping back to the front of the serving area is a large grill island surounded on all sides with hot and cold servers. On the front end is the sushi bar. There was an interesting assortment of sushi - a variety of raw fish and some interesting rolls including an Alaskan Roll that was mashed raw salmon with crab rolled in rice and seaweed with sesame seeds on the outside. These were pretty good. Two sides of the island have the incredients for the Mongolian barbecue - all the usual meats and raw vegetables including shrimp and noodles. There were two sauces to put on the mixture - one hot and spicy and the other mild. There was also chopped garlic to add. I began to spoon the sauce on and the bowl was taken from me for the grill chef to put it on. The grill is a round grill about a yard in diameter - smaller than some, but more than adequate (unless there is a crowd waiting). The grill chef did a good job and moved the mix of ingredients around the grill in a circle as it cooks. The raw mix is handed to the chef in metal or wood bowls and then when cooked are placed into a clean dinner plate. On the other side of the grill is the carving station which offered turkey breast, a very over done roast beef and a tray of spare ribs that were coated in that sweet red sauce that Chinese buffets like to pour ober their spare ribs. There were also trays of raw "New York' steaks, raw salmon steaks, and shrimp on skewers. You select these and give them to the grill chef to be charbroiled. The steak was far from "New York" steaks - they were more like beef round slice to less than half an inch thick. For some reason the steak did not char on the grill and barely browned. There was a layer of fat on the edge which would not cut with the steak when eating. There were no salmon steaks when we arrived and there were no salmon steaks when we left. There were large shrimp in the shell to be grilled.

On the hot buffet tables there was a wide assortment of Chinese appetizers to American side dishes. There were three types of potatoes - mashed, french fries, and potato wedges cooked in butter. There was corn on the cob. There was macaroni and cheese and there was a baked seafood dish covered in cheese. There were crab legs - just single legs and not clusters. There was also hot rock crab - the large hard-shell crabs that seemed baked. To round out the shell fish there were steamed crawfish. There was broiled salmon. There were several Chinese chicken dishes and seafood dishes.

It all sounds great and plentiful - plentiful, yes - tasty - well, it varied. Nothing was bad. BUT nothing stood out as terrific. I did not find anything that I would say that particularly stood out and that I could say I really, really liked of all of the hot foods. I tried the Mongolian barbecue and made a dish of noodles, cabbage, two types of mushrooms, beansprouts , shrimp and beef. It was all good but the beef -which despite the seasoned sauce was bland. The best thing that I had was the soft serve ice cream - which my wife agreed was the best thing that she had in the entire meal. It was creamy and tasty. If only the entrees were equally tasty.

Now, I did "eat my full" and I was more than satisfied after the meal. I just wish that it was better. Would I go back again? Only if I was in the locale of one of the four restaurants in the chain - it was not worth the 120 to 140 mile round trip from and back to my hotel. (Some buffets would be worth the trip!)

Something else that is very important to note - this restaurant hours every night are posted to 10:30 pm. At 9:00 pm with a good number of diners still in the restaurant they started to clean the restaurant to get ready to close. The tile floors in the service areas were washed with ammonia and bleach with an odor so strong that the smell came to our table and I was gagging. The Mongolian grill was washed down at 9:25 with no announcement asking if anyone cared for more. Essentially the restaurant was closing an hour earlier than posted. As we were leaving someone came to the door and asked if they were opened. He was told that he could come in but only what was still out would be available to him. If you post a 10:30 closing and you actually close an hour earlier then it should be posted that the last seating is X time. They do not do this.

The service was good. Plates were cleared from the tables quickly and drinks were offered without asking. At one point my soda glass was empty and I thought that the server was ignoring me as I tried to get his attention to let him know I wanted more. When I finally caught his eye as he was walking across the dining room he actually had another soda for me in his hand - before I asked. The restaurant was clean. The floors were clean. The room was pleasantly decorated. The logo for this restaurant is OTB and is on the servers shirts. (OTB - OCB?)

There are four locations - Abington, PA; Philadelphia, PA; Morristown, NJ; and Eatontown, NJ (near Monmouth). A fifth location is coming soon to New Brunswick, NJ. If you are near one of these towns or traveling through NEAR BY then try Old Town Buffet. It is a lot of different food for a reasonable price. You will not come out saying that it was the best buffet that you have ever eaten at, but you will be satisfied with the amount you are offered. If you are looking for great taste, keep going. There is a website for the chain and that is listed at the side of the page. If you have been to one of these Old Town Buffets, please share your opinion with us in the comments.