Friday, April 25, 2008


Mama Mia! I actually found a real Italian buffet! Many readers ask me where there is an Italain buffet. Other than restaurants and buffets that may have an Italian buffet menu night and other than pizza buffets (which are more American than Italian) I have never come across a full time Italian Buffet - until now! Right off, I must thank who connected me to this buffet. It is a great young man by the name of David, who just happens to be my nephew. We don't often get to see him but we had the wonderful opportunity to get together with him recently and I was telling him about this site and asking him if he knew of any buffets. He went on a teen tour last summer and on the tour he went to Frankie Tomatto's All You Can Eat Italian Feast. He told me about it and I then found the restaurant's website - which by the way is quite an experience in itself! Now, as I always make clear if I am writing an article about a restaurant that I have not personally been to, what I am writing here is based upon all of the information that I have been able to learn, BUT I have not actually dined there. In this case, David did eat there and I can, through him, comment on the food.

So - Frankie Tomatto's All You Can Eat Italian Feast is in Canada. It is located in Markham, Ontario which is very near, if not in, Toronto. The restaurant's building looks on the outside like the Coliseum in Rome. The website has a virtual tour of the entire restaurant so I feel like I have actually been inside. When you enter you are in a lobby area that looks like an Italian area in a theme park. You are transported to rustic Italy - but more of a fun fantasy Italy than the real thing. The dining rooms are similar in decor with walls that are made to look like exterior ancient building walls - all of it looks like a lot of fun! Different rooms have different Italian fun themes. There are ten different dining rooms. The buffet serving areas in this restaurant are set up to be a marketplace. This was the first thing that came to mind when David was telling me about it. You go up to different sections for different types of foods.

Pricing at Frankie Tomatto's is on the mid-level of the buffets that we usually talk about it. It is not a buffet where you will eat dinner for $10 or $11 - though few are any more. All prices are in Canadian Dollars. With the recent currency exchange they are more in US Dollars. Dinner here Monday to Thursday is $14.99. Lunch on weekdays is $10.99. Friday dinner is $17.99. Saturday dinner is $18.99. Sunday dinner is $17.99. Holidays dinner is $18.99. There is lunch on Saturday for $12.99. There is no lunch on Sunday but there is Brunch and that is $14.99. They also list late night prices - weeknights $10.99, Friday/Saturday $13.99, and Early bird Fridays for $12.99. There are reasonable children's prices - half price for three to eleven, two and under are $1.99. Seniors over 65 get a 15% discount at all times. While I am sure a variety of beverages are served, there is no mention of beverage prices on the website.

The buffet is scattered along "Main Street" where there are fourteen different food stations. Oh yes, fourteen! They state that the food is made in small quantities and right in front of you at each food station so that everything is always hot and fresh. You are encouraged to try a little of this and a little of that and eat all that you care to eat.

Let's start with the Seafood Station. Here you will find mussels marinara, calamari, seafood pasta, baked salmon, seafood polenta, and Atlantic sole. Next door you come to the Rotisserie. Here you may have spit chicken, cacciatore, roast potatoes, chicken and veal Parmesan, roast veal, and Italian sausage with peppers and onions. The next station is called Ortaggi - get ready for fresh grilled vegetables, eggplant Paresan, rice Italiano, potato rosti, seasonal vegetables, and frittata. (I have to stop for a moment and tell you that I am only at the first three of the fourteen stations and I already want to make arrangements to get to this restaurant as fast as I can - my mouth is watering as I write!) Ok - moving on. The stations are grouped in threes - three "stalls" in a building - and they all look like buildings on an Italian alley way. You come to the next building and find the Carvery at the corner. Here the meat selection that is being carved appears to change and one of these items will be available - roast sirloin, turkey, baked stuffed salmon, roast lamb, glazed ham, or roast veal. Next door - pasta! Pasta specialties are made in front of you and the selections vary. Of course, if you have pasta there has got to be meatballs - and the Meatballs Station follows with linguine, Italian Meatballs, alfredo sauce, and vongole (clam sauce) and tomato sauce. Across the way is the Zuppa Station with homemade soups and their special Minestrone soup. Next to the soup is the Antipasti Station with peel and eat shrimp, Italian salads, marinated olives, and more. The order of these shops are not in the order of eating (at least as they are presented on the website). Dessert stations come up next with Spumoni's Gelato Bar with 16 flavors of ice cream, gelato, and Italian ices. Next door is Maria's Pasticceria with sweets, cakes, pies, puddings and all types of Italian specialties. Across the way from here is Pizza with all types of fresh made pizzas. Across the aisle again is Frutta with fresh fruits in season. Next door from the fruit is the Bakery. In the Bakery you will find fresh baked Italian breads, rolls, buns, focaccia, and calabrese rolls. Just in case you wanted salad other than the antipasti, there is a station called Insalada that makes the specialty Caesar salad along with other fresh salads. The Caesar salad is made in front of you. Yes - fourteen stations! Oh my!

Is that enough? Yes... but there is more! There are specials on certain days and they are offered ALL day. Tuesdays bring all you can eat crab legs! Thursdays they are grilling steaks! Fridays are special Seafood selections! Kids eat free on Mondays. On Wednesdays Seniors get a buy one adult dinner and get one FREE. There are specials on birthdays but appears that you pay for these - either $4.99 or $6.99 (it is not clear) for birthday packages. This seems to include spinning a large tomato wheel and winning a prize and getting a number of extras including photographs, hats, and a special chocolate cake that looks like a pizza slice. The whole birthday explanation is on two pages and I am still not certain what it is all about. (It does not look like you are getting a discount or a free meal - but perhaps I am wrong. It does appear that you are paying for a birthday package.)

Frankie Tomatto's does take reservations and can accommodate large parties - with reservations. Reservations are accepted for parties of two to two hundred.

So how is the food? I am reporting on the the food based upon the report that I have from my nephew, David. Now, David is sixteen years old but for his age he has dined with his parents in many very fine restaurants. I feel that we can trust his opinion on the food and he said that it was very good. If any of my readers have been to Frankie Tomatto's I ask that you leave a comment with this article.

I am not only intrigued by this buffet, I am dying to go! It sounds terrific! And the report to me (from David) is that it is terrific. So if you live in Canada near Toronto you are all set! If you are in the US, go now and check that your passport is current and head north over the border. This is a destination buffet! Mangia! Mangia!

Frankie Tomatto's All You Can Eat Feast is located at 7225 Woodbine Avenue in Markham, Ontario L3RIA3. Directions on their site say that from 401 take exit 404 North to the Steeles/Woodbine exit - or from 407 exit Woodbine South and they are two lights north from Steeles. The phone number is 905-940-1900. There is a website - that is an experience all on its own - and the link is at the side of this page.

Friday, April 18, 2008

How To Review a Buffet

Most of the articles that I post on this site are buffet reviews. Along with all the rest of the buffet fun that I write about, those are the most important articles that I write and the heart of this site. I thought that I would share the process that goes into those articles and and in the process give you an little more understanding of what I am looking for and why I may say what I say about a particular restaurant.

I sometimes get a comment a comment from a reader - generally an anonymous comment - telling me that if I do not like restaurnt X then don't go there. First off, let me say, that if I only told you about the good buffets and hid the not so good (or outright bad) buffets I would be doing you a disservice. I don't go into a buffet expecting it to be or hoping that it will be bad - in fact, just the opposite. I am always expecting to find the next best buffet. I want to find it so that you will know about another great meal to go have adn I will have another place to go again and enjoy. More often than not, that is the case. But, sometimes, as you all know - oh boy! And when that happens I tell it like it is. I am not going to hold back from you so that you might get stuck there too. I do not want anyone to waste good money on a poor meal or a bad experience. And, you know what, if it is a restaurant near by and if was not good, I usually go back again - in time - and see if it got any better or if it has stayed just as bad. If it is better I let you know. If it is the same - I may or may not depending on the experience.

So what happens when I review a restaurant? Well, first I have to find a new restaurant to review. This is getting more and more difficult because sometimes it seems that I have found them all in the places that I go. Traveling helps and I enjoy sightseeing and history so we travel by car several times a year. When we are going to a new area I start researching in advance to find the buffets that are there. We will sometimes even plan a stop around a buffet - as long as it does not take us too far from where we need to be. This was easier when gas was cheaper. Lately, I have been getting great suggestions from readers who use the email link at the side of the site or the comments section on articles to tell me about a buffet that they have been to or know of. This is great and I have been seeking some of these out when I can.

When I write an buffet review article on a buffet I am assembling all of my observations and experience of a visit to the restaurant. While I am at the restaurant I am taking mental notes. I am not writing while I am eating. I tried once using a digital recorder during a meal and it was a bother to have to listen to the meal all over again later in the hotel room to write the article. Oh yes, not all of my articles are written at home. Articles are written the night of the meal or the next day and if I am traveling that means writing with the laptop. This at times happens very late at night and after a long day of travel or sightseeing- and that accounts for some of the off spelling or grammar that I may miss when I proofread before posting that same night. So, as I am in the restaurant I am committing everything to memory. We do write down the hours and the prices just to make sure that I have it right.

I am always at the buffets that I write about with my wife so I have her opinions to compare my findings with and we can sample more than one of us could taste on our own. If I am finding something - let's say - not right, I immediately ask her about it and in a way that does not reveal what I am thinking. Most of the time she is finding the same - if she isn't I will go back and re-sample or re-examine what it is. It may be that what ever it is appeals to different tastes or different points of view. And I will take note of this later. We recently went to a nice looking buffet that I felt was terrible from the moment we started eating. I kept asking her and she agreed but though she thought it was not so good, she was not as put off as I was. The entire meal went that way. I came back and wrote the article and decided not to run it until I go back there. Everyone and every place has an off night - maybe that was mine or theres. To be fair I will try it again and re-write that article - if necessary - before I post it.

When we walk into a buffet I am looking at the attitude of the staff from the moment that we walk through the front door. Is everyone smiling? Are we welcomed courteously? Are we taken to a nice table or pushed into a corner?

I am also looking at who is also eating at the restaurant. While we are walking to our table I am sizing up the crowd and also getting my first glimpse at the buffet server set up. I want to see if the restaurant is crowded? Are the people eating there working people, business people, seniors, families, the elite, or a pleasant mix? This tells me who the restaurant appeals to and who feel they can afford eating there. In a restaurant that specializes in a particular national cuisine, I look to see if there are people of that nationality dining there. One of the best things to find in an Asian buffet is a room full of Asian people eating there. So all of this happens in the first few minutes walking into the restaurant and sitting down.

Up to the buffet servers and I start taking in how many and what type of servers there are. Why do I tell you in every article how many double buffet servers, single sided buffet servers, etc there are? This will give you an idea of how much there is being served. I cannot name every dish - though sometimes I try to. A few servers or small servers hold less offerings. A large expansive system of buffet servers that are full tells more than a restaurant's claim of 100 dishes every day.

Looking at the buffet servers I take note of what is on each one. Which are cold and which are hot? There are things that I may not care to eat that night but I want to make sure to tell you that they were there for the taking. I don't eat squid or octopus, but if it is there and you like it you should expect to find it after you read my review.

All through the meal I am watching the staff and I am still watching the people who are dining. Are children running around the room? Are children up to the buffet by themselves? I am also looking for the odd things that I see almost every time I go to a buffet. The lady who put ice cream on her plate next to her steak. The boy who filled a taco shell with macaroni and cheese. These make great articles on their own. I am also taking note of the staff around the buffet servers. Are they keeping the counter clean? Are they making sure that serving utensils are not mixed from one tray to another? When they refill are they taking the food from the old tray and putting it on top of the new tray or do they take it way - or at worse- are they putting the new on top of the old? If there is a carving station is there someone there?

Looking all around the dining room and the serving area I want to see that the restaurant looks clean. I understand that there is a high traffic volume throughout the day in the restaurant but spills need to be cleaned up quickly, dropped food - even under tables - should be taken away when the table is set for the next guests. Restrooms need to be clean as well and one of us, if not both, will check out at least one of them. Most buffets do an excellent job keeping their restaurant looking clean. There is no reason why others cannot if some can.

Together we try a variety of the food served. At a buffet that I have never been to before I try to take a small amount of many of the offerings - much like a tasting menu at a fancy restaurant. I recommend this to everyone whenever going to a new buffet. Try a little of a lot, find your favorites and go back for more of those. I want to taste fresh tasting food, food that is not dried out, food that is properly cooked, and food that is so good I want more. When I am selecting foods from the serving trays I look to see that they have been well maintained. This may be my own term for stirring the serving trays, keeping the food moist, and removing food that has dried out while sitting in the steam table. Did you know that is what most buffet servers are? There are large trays of hot water under those serving trays that keep them hot. Sometimes that heat is such that delicate foods will dry out or keep on cooking to the point of becoming overcooked and hard. These need to be removed - whether there is a full tray there or not. Many buffets do this well. When they don't I will say that the serving trays need maintaining.

Serving staff - what would be waitresses and waiters in a regular restaurant - need to be removing plates regularly from tables - and not stacking them on empty tables nearby. They need to make sure that sugar and sweetener packets are on each table along with condiments that may be on the tables. If servers bring your drink refills they need to make sure your glass is full - even if you do not ask them first. They might ask you before they refill it and that is fine. In a buffet in which you pay as you leave, is the server bringing the check to my table before we are finished? Is this a hint? Did everyone keep smiling though the whole time that I am in the buffets? Did I overhear any disputes? I want to let you know all of this.

One of the more important things for me to find out and tell you about is value. I have encountered prices from $5 a meal to $75 and more a meal. You can find value at each level. You can also find meals that are commonly priced less with no less offered at other restaurants. These are the restaurants that lack value. If you are getting a lot of different, good things for a bit more money that is fair. When prices go up for understandable economic reasons that is fair. But when prices go up at Buffet A and stay the same at comparable Buffet B - not so fair. The buffet has the right to raise prices and charge whatever they like but that does not mean that we will just keep going there.

All of this churns around in my head and comes down through my fingers and into my computer. Brevity has never been my writing style. I just start writing and keep going until it is all out. In the process I tell it like it is and try always style it in a way that is interesting and, if possible, amusing. Brevity has never been my writing style. I just start writing and keep going until it is all out.

I post articles, as you know, late Friday nights. This started when I was dining, running home and writing, and then posting. More recently I have been writing in advance and holding articles for weeks to come. This way I can be sure that I always have a new article. So new articles get posted betwen 10:30 pm and 11:30 pm Friday nights so that the weekend starts out fresh. From my thousands of readers I guess I am doing something right. I thank you all for reading and coming back each week. Keep on reading. Have fun at the buffets!

Friday, April 11, 2008

Cici's Pizza Buffets Moves NorthEast

I have written several articles about Cici's Pizza Buffet. I had my first and up until now only opportunity to eat in this famous chain a year ago in Maryland. At the time the Hagerstown, Maryland location was the furthest north east that Cici's had opened. Now to my very pleasant surprise Cici's has opened in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. There are now 11 locations in PA - all but this one in the western portion of the state.

I had heard several months ago that a Cici's was about to open in the Allentown/Lehigh Valley area of Pennsylvania - an area near the New Jersey border. This was causing some exuberance from those that I heard about it from but at the moment there is no mention of it on the Cici's website. On my recent arrival in Lancaster, however, we passed a familiar shopping center to see that since we were there in December, there is now a Cici's! Of course, we had to work a meal in there during the course of this trip.

For those of you who may not be familiar with Cici's and don't want to look back to last April and May to see what I wrote about it - and about what the corporate offices wrote back to me - I will give you a fresh look at Cici's. Cici's is a buffet chain located across the US that offers Salad, Pasta, Pizza, and Dessert - all you care to eat for one SMALL price. Now, I have to give an aside here from my "fresh" description to say that one year ago the price at Cici's was $4.49 per person. Now the price - at least at this new location is $5.49 per person. This is still a bargain - but a one dollar jump is quite a lot. I do not know if this "new, higher" price applies to all locations or this one. I was quite to surprised to see the jump. On the Cici's website it says "All you can eat for under $5*". Note the * - at the bottom of the page it says prices vary by location - so I guess I found one of the above $5 locations. How many others are there? The most recent Cici's television ads no longer mention a price. They just say "at an incredibly low price." Has Cici's now hooked us and will start raising the prices? I hope not. Unlimited soda still remains at $1.59 and the children's price remains at $2.99. These are the prices and they are the same all day and every day.

The Lancaster Cici's was exactly like the Hagerstown Cici's inside. You enter the same way, the counter and dining rooms are identical. When I was at Hagerstown they did not take charge cards - here they did. I was told by corporate after my Hagerstown visit that that had just been a temporary situation in Hagerstown. For Cici's newbies, you pay as you enter and you are given a plastic cup for your soft drink. No hot drinks here so be ready for soda or ice tea. You pick up a tray if you want one and move along a long counter to pick up your selections. You seat yourself and serve your drinks yourself from the soda fountain.

The first area is a salad bar with lettuce, toppings, cold vegetables, and a few prepared salads like pasta salad. You next come to a server with chicken pasta soup and then a tray of pasta follows with two sauces - tomato sauce and alfredo sauce. You next encounter a long row of pizzas. The pizza's are quite different from what you will usually find. Their signature pizza is Mac and Cheese Pizza. They also have the likes of Taco pizza, Barbecue Chicken Pizza, Barbecue Pizza, spinach pizza, white pizza, jalapeƱos pepper pizza, and many others. As was true of my first Cici's experience, the pizza's are not labeled as to what they are. I am told that this is because new and different pizzas are constantly brought out and take the place of something else. They could not keep up with labeling. I was also told not to be shy and ask one of the many people setting out pizzas what anyone is. And, indeed, on this visit I asked and was promptly told with a smile. One thing that was happening in Lancaster - perhaps because they are so knew and still doing things the way things are supposed to be done was when a pizza was put out it was loudly announced by name. Some pizzas - the taco pizza for one had a little song that several employees performed- "Ole!" Each pizza is about 12 inches in diameter and is cut into ten or so small slices - these are not large NY style pies that you fold and eat. Each piece is big enough so that you can enjoy a number of slices and take as many of the many selections that you would like to try. Each pizza is fresh and kept hot. There is cheesy garlic toast as well.

Once you have had your fill of pizza there are three desserts - an apple crumb pizza, hot cinnamon buns, and chocolate brownies. Wash it all down with Coke products, "sweet tea" and unsweet iced tea.

So how was the new Lancaster location? Good. The staff were extremely friendly, greeting everyone as they entered and left. The bus staff were very polite. The counters and the tables were kept very clean. The staff kept stirring the pasta and the sauces, mixing the salads to stay fresh, and continually put out pizzas.

My wife had some criticisms - which I will share - but these are with the chain in general and not specific to this location. I have been told several things about Cici's by readers which I will share here. If you do not see a pizza out that you would like, ask for it and it will be made and you will be brought slices. I witnessed this at Lancaster. I was also told that if you would like something special you should ask for it and if they have the ingredients they will make it just for you. My wife's feelings about this are these - and she kept commenting this to me through out the meal. "How does anyone know this and how do they know what the pizzas are to ask for one?" She feels that somewhere on the counter or on the wall there should be a list of all of the pizzas. In this way if you see a pizza on the list that you would like to try you can ask for it. She says that it all should not be a secret. She, of course, is right. I could understand that there could be chaos with everyone reading the list and asking for something different - but if it is truly the case that you can ask for something that you do not see, then everyone should know what to ask for - and that they may ask.

Now, she wanted something special - a vegetable pizza without cheese, but she would not ask for it and did not want me to ask for it. They do have "zesty" vegetable cheese pizza, so all the ingredients are right there - and pizzas are made in a matter of minutes. But there is nothing indicating that you can just up and ask for your own combination - and her concern was that she only want a slice or two, so what would happen if they brought her an entire pizza. If, indeed, all of this request stuff is true, then it should not be a secret and there should be some sign about it. When we entered the cashier asked if I had ever been to Cici's before and would I like to know all about it. Interested in hearing what a new person is told, I told her to give me the pitch - all she told me (very friendly) was the prices and that you get all the salad, pasta, pizza, and dessert that you want - and that soda was extra. No mention about special requests.

I have had more positive comments about Cicis to my articles than any other buffet. Everyone loves these buffets. They are great for kids - there is a game room in the back, pleasant classic rock music playing, and two large screen television sets at the ceiling. Adults love them. Kids love them.

If you are on a diet and can resist the pizza and be happy with the small salad bar and pasta then you too will enjoy this buffet - but it is really hard to resist. If you do not eat cheese for any reason you are in the same dilemma, and perhaps should seek out someplace else. But if you do not care about carbs or your cholesterol this is heaven. (I ate many and too much of things that I should not eat - but love.)

I come to this area of Pennsylvania a number of times a year and I am very happy that Cici's has come to Lancaster -and is moving north east. (BUT I am not sure that I want one in NY because most chains are changed for the worse when they come to NY.) I could also never maintain my health with a Cici's too close by.

Cici's Lancaster is located at 2405 Covered Bridge Road in Lancaster.Pennsylvania which is on Route 30 in the shopping center with Target. Cici's has a website for all of its chain and that link is at the side of this page. There is a location finder on the website with links to maps. The Lancaster phone number is 717-392-2740.

Enjoy pizza? Enjoy a filling and good meal for little money? Enjoy Cici's Pizza Buffet!

Friday, April 04, 2008

Arments Family Restaurant and Buffet, Adamstown, Pennsylvania

I have written about several buffet restaurants located in the Lancaster area of Pennsylvania that are located in or adjacent to supermarkets. Arments Family Restaurant and Buffet fits into that same category, though the restaurant is located in a separate building - behind the supermarket. The supermarket is Weavers Market - a large local chain. When I first learned about this restaurant - about six months ago - the restaurant's connection to the supermarket seemed to be only one of proximity. Now, the restaurant shares the supermarket's website and the restaurant's banquet room is advertised on the supermarket's roadside billboards.

Arments is a family restaurant. In many parts of the country there are diners. In other parts there are family restaurants. In some parts there are both. The family restaurant is just as the name states - a nice place that you can bring your family with a home-like atmosphere. The dining room of Arments was designed around a buffet serving area in the center - a small buffet serving area.

We went to Arments on a Friday night. We arrived at 6:30 pm and the restaurant was busy. An hour later it was almost empty. Despite its location on the fringe of a tourist area this is a restaurant for locals. In the height of tourist season this may be different - but in early Spring everyone here appeared to be local. The restaurant is open until 8:00 pm Monday to Saturday. Closed on Sunday- as are most local restaurants in this area. The dinner buffet is served from 4:00 pm to 7:30 pm. As the waitress explained, no one may order the buffet after 7:30 pm. If y0u have ordered before that time the buffet remains open until everyone in the restaurant who has ordered the buffet has left. From 11:30 am until 4:00 pm a Brunch Buffet is served. From 6 am until 10:30 a Breakfast Buffet is served. I do not know what makes the Brunch Buffet different from the Breakfast Buffet - but note that there is no Lunch Buffet. Prices are on the high side for dinner and about average at the other meals. Breakfast Buffet is $5.99. Brunch Buffet is $7.99. Dinner varies by night. Friday, Saturday, and Monday nights are $13.99. Other nights are $11.99. I did not see any evidence of children's prices, but everyone can save $1 if you have the Breakfast Buffet from 6 am to 7 am - if you want to eat a buffet that early. There is a children's menu to order from with excellent prices. Drinks are separately priced at $1.35 for soft drinks. The menu does not say refillable - but I was pleasantly surprised when the waitress offered to refill our drinks. Pepsi products are served.

The entrance to the restaurant leads you to the left to the banquet room or to the right to the restaurant. Going through a glass inside door you enter right into the dining room. It appeared a bit awkward at first as we we nose to nose with a waitress and the table of diners that she was serving. There was a sign right there that said to wait to be seated and a hostess rushed over to us and brought us to a table.

The dining room is very pleasant and nicely decorated with a modern touch and lots of flower arrangements (artificial flowers that were quite nice). There are booths and tables but everything seemed to seat only four and a large family was seated at two tables across from each other with the aisle in between. You are handed a menu with an extensive selection of items - and the menu lists the dinner buffet - with no price. This apparently because of the change in price by night. Friday night is seafood. Saturday is prime rib. Monday is steak. Tuesday is Pennsylvania Dutch. Wednesday is Italian and Thursday is barbecue.

We are at the restaurant on seafood night. Now, those of you who have read these articles know that my good wife does not like fish. In the seafood category all that she will eat is shrimp. This has never been a problem when we go to buffets on seafood night because there are always some meat choices on the buffet. In this region there is always fried chicken. NOT HERE. Everything on the buffet was seafood. Thankfully, there was fried shrimp. Now, she could have gone up to the buffet, seen this, and go to the waitress and order from the menu - but she is a "trooper" and stuck with the shrimp.

The buffet is in the center of the dining room and is a single, double-sided buffet server. Half of this server is the salad and soup bar and the remainder is the buffet. Offerings on the buffet were few.

I will start as I always do and tell you about the soup choices. There were just two soups. On this Friday night there was seafood chowder - a specialty of this restaurant according to the menu. The other soup was chili. Where I live chili is an entree. Everywhere else in the country it is a soup. I tried the seafood chowder. It was cream-based and thick. It was full of potatoes and you could taste and see the fish including shrimp. IT was very good.

The small salad bar offerings included lettuce, tomatoes, toppings, and a small variety of prepared salads including a pasta salad with sliced pepperoni, local macaroni salad with chopped egg, and other salad items. There were also cold, steamed, spiced shrimp.

The hot side of the server had seven entrees (as I said, on this night all fish) and two vegetables and garlic mashed potatoes. The entrees included tiny steamed clams, baked tilapia, coconut grouper, chipped pollack, pasta in seafood cream sauce, fried shrimp, and crab cakes. I tried a bit of each - just so that I may tell you about them. Each was good - but everything was salty. The crab cakes were full of crab meat - they were made flat (almost looking like the seafood patties at OCB but much, much better). Had these crab cakes been more of a lump than flat it would have been better - they were pan fried and a little overcooked. They were too salty to take more than one. The coconut grouper was grouper fried in a batter that was full of coconut flakes. It was crispy and interesting. The chipped pollock was just baked pollack. I am not sure what was chipped. I looked to see if it was chopped and reformed, but it was not. The seafood pasta was good, but the seafood must have been mixed well into the sauce because you could mildly taste the fish but you could not see it.

The two vegetables were canned string beans and stewed tomatoes. Both were good. The garlic mashed potatoes had the potato skin mashed in so you know that it was made with real potatoes and not dried flakes or canned.

When it came to dessert, at first, we thought that all that was offered were brownies and cookies, which sat above the salad bar with a tray of bread rolls, but then we noticed that there wsa a counter at the rear wall - with stools in front that singles might eat at. On that counter there were dessert items. There were pieces of chocolate cake and several slices of different pies - all on little plastic plates and wrapped in plastic wrap. There was a chocolate fountain flowing with melted chocolate and fresh strawberries to dip in. There was a cone made up of little cream puffs. There was also a bowl of chocolate covered pretzels. At this point in the evening once one of the desserts was taken it was not replaced. I think I dissppointed the man behind me who let out a groan when I took the last piece of blueberry pie. My wife had the last piece of chocolate cake.

The service was excellent. The waitress was very friendly and spoke with us about the buffet prices on each night and the various menus (no signs about this). The restaurant was very clean - the dining room, the buffet server, and the restrooms. Spills on the buffet counter were cleaned up immediately. Dishes were taken away from the table immediately. The waitress did come over an offer drink refills. Items on the buffet were continually refilled and were well maintained. Everything was moist and appetizing.

This is unlike most other buffets that I have been too. Many will be disappointed here at the limited offerings - at the price that it is offered. The food, however, was very good. I also observed some of the menu items on other tables and they looked good with decent sized portions. You can add the soup and salad bar to entrees on the menu for $2.50.

I am rarely in and out of a buffet in less than 90 minutes to two hours. We were finished with dinner here within one hour. I was not hungry when I left. Had there been a greater variety I may have selected my choices differently spreading them out for a longer meal.

I am not NOT recommending Arments Family Restaurant and Buffet. I might try it again on a different night to see what is offered - there cannot be more items offered as there is no other serving room on the server. I do have to say that in this area there are other buffet restaurants that are better in what is offered and in value.

Arments Family Restaurant and Buffet is located at the junction of Rt. 272 and Rt. 897 BEHIND Weavers Market in Adamstown, PA 19501. The phone number is 717-484-1500. There is a web page on the Weavers Market website and that is listed on the side of this article.