Friday, March 14, 2008

A Good Old Country Buffet

A number of those who read my articles think that I do not like Old Country Buffet. That is not true. I have been to a number of Old Country Buffets that I have enjoyed. Unfortunately - for me - my local OCB is not good and it is this location that gets much of my attention. I have recently been contacted by a reader who had a great experience at an Old Country Buffet and he has given me permission to pass his experience along to all of you.

Before I begin his tale, I would like to make some OCB news known. It is not relevant to the review of this restaurant but it is important to know about OCB. The parent company of Old Country Buffets (and Hometown Buffets, Ryans, and Fire Mountain) has filed Chapter 11 for bankruptcy. It is just about a year or so since the take over by this company of the Ryans restaurants group and now has filed bankruptcy. I am told that the move has been to avoid debts to its creditors and that the chains will not go out of business. I have been told that some local restaurants have held back on payment to vendors and creditors. It has also been said that over 50 restaurants will be closed in the reorganization. I am told that some have closed already. I have been told that effects have already been seen on changes in middle management and restaurant management. Locations that do good business will remain open. All of this is hearsay and I do not claim these statements as fact - with the exception of the fact that Buffets, Inc. has filed for bankruptcy. Some readers have spoken to their local restaurants and have told me that those restaurants are expected to remain in business because they do good busines for the company. All Old Country Buffets are company owned. The Hometown Buffet restaurants are franchised.

Now, let me let one of our readers, Brett, tell you about a great experience that he had at an Old Country Buffet in Erie, Pennsylvania -

"We normally buffet for lunch (opposite for you) but tonight I found myself at OCB around 8:15pm for dinner.

I was expecting to pay the $12.49 for dinner as I had seen on the blog as the new weekend price, but it was only $10.59, the normal dinner price,which was a pleasant surprise.

Throughout the evening, items were constantly replenished with the same item, with nothing running out. There was lots of seafood, and the fried
popcorn shrimp were nothing short of delicious.

Tonight at the grill they had steak, plus the usual carved ham, beef roast, and the BBQ beef ribs. The grill chef, who constantly grills steak and cuts and serves them to order a la Golden Corral, was (as always)
attentive with the carved items.

The steak I had was medium rare, thick, and juicy. I enjoy the spices of the Ranchers Select steak, and the Erie OCB steak always pleases.

They also had a feature I had never seen, which was the standard baked fish with a breadcrumb crust on top - very tasty.

Even as I departed at 9:15, everything was still hot and fresh. Half-sized batches of items began appearing, which I appreciate as it avoids
unnecessary waste. But, as always, the food was fresh and tasty, and the staff was great. Without a doubt, this is one of the, if not the best OCB out there."

Not too long after Brett went back to the Erie OCB and had this to say -

"Ended up going back to OCB tonight on my way home from work. I do not
remember the last time I visited OCB on a Sunday, it has been several
years, and I have never visited the Erie OCB on a Sunday. I remember
the Sunday horrors of the Hometown Buffet back in Ohio I used to
frequent, but the Erie location has blown me away so many times with
excellence, I figured I was safe.

Sure enough - the Erie PA OCB still delivers on an overflowing Sunday
dinner crowd! Not once was any item empty, save for one of the soups
which was replenished within 5 minutes. Contrary to your location,
our OCB serves steak on Sunday evenings, as well as several specials
from the week. Not sure if it was leftovers or if they purposely do
it for Sundays, but there were specials from several weeknights
available this evening."

As I told Brett, I am envious. I would love to try an OCB with a grill out on the serving floor. My local OCB recently got a grill but it is in the kitchen and nothing is cooked to order. The steak still comes out over done and then is plopped inside a steamer tray in the server, covered, to continue to cook. I am not near Erie, but if I ever get there I will certainly give this OCB a try. I recall a comment from a reader that there is an OCB in or near Alexandria, VA or Fairfax, VA with a grill in the serving area. I am going to find that OCB. (If anyone has the exact location, comment or email me.)

So you see, there are good OCBs. I have always like the OCB in Fredericksburg, Va. I was at a nice OCB near Monmouth, New Jersey. I know that there are many of them that are good. IN Erie there is a very good one!


steve said...

Hey. I would just like to start out saying that I LOVE your blog. I am a 25 year old law student and grew up on the Jersey shore. Its not that I have ever had fond memories of a buffet, but, I am more just truthfully and totally interested in your accounts. I am kind of adicted. . .

Anyways, as an objective reader. The individual describing the Erie, Pa Hometown sounds kind of fake. Now, I fully understand the amazement when you can continually go to the same establishment over and over, and always be given the same standard of care. But, at the same time, I dont udnerstand the gratuitious mentioning of the location. As someone who owns a 30 percent interest in a Manhattan restaurant, it truly smells corporate to me; shilling at its best. Even to the point of highlighting all positives and then bringing one negative (the soup) and making it a positive a few words later (and it was refilled within five minutes later.)

I am just trying to be honest with you. I truly love your blog and take most of your ny/nj suggestions and have been amazingly enriched by said suggestions. But. I think you may have been had and and a corporate entity may be using your good-natured and well-intended and respected efforts as a crutch against you.

I just want to say, this blogs is one of the best I have ever been addicted too and thank you so much for all your effort. You are the Frank Bruni of buffets.


Robert A said...

Steve -

I am pretty certain that Brett is sincere and not connected with OCB. I have been contacted by him several times about buffets and not just about OCB. I feel that this positive presentation of an OCB location - and the location deserves to be mentioned - is important to this site as it presents a different point of view to the OCB experience. I left Brett's review intact and placed it in quotes so that readers would know that this was one other individual's point of view to be accepted or not - as my own writing is.

In the weeks to come one more article will mention one of Brett's observations at a buffet. As always, I welcome reader's buffet experiences and will include them with permission when they are appropriate to an article.

Thank you for reading and your comments and observations regarding this article are appreciated.

David in Gary Indiana said...

Let me correct you on the part of corporate & franchise. Most of the Old Country Buffet & Hometown Buffets are corporate owned. Buffet Inc. only has 16 franchises under both names. All Ryans & Fire Mountain Grill locations are corporate owned. Also, one franchise, an Old Country Buffet in Nogales Arizona runs completely separate promotions from other franchises & corporate locations. One, they have a completely different menu from other locations, and 2, this is the only location where the drink is not included in the price. Also, this location doesn't serve breakfast, and Saturday is all-day dinner (besides Sunday). But other than that, OBC from one location to the next is usually run the same way.

Robert A said...

According to the Buffets, Inc. website, Hometown Buffets is the company's franchise division.

You know a lot about the company. Are you from corporate? We have been dying for someone from Buffets, Inc. corporate to make themselves known and dialog with us. We know from comments a few have posted anonymously.

Zachary said... here is the article about takeout the other article is about the president Vowing to HAve Display Grills in all their Locations!