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.

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