Friday, May 02, 2008


This restaurant was referred to me by one of my readers, Brian. If you have been reading this site for some time I have mentioned that I travel to Hagerstown, Maryland once each year and when I come I am always looking for buffets to try. This restaurant is just across the Maryland border into Pennsylvania about 30 miles from Hagerstown – and is right along the route that I take traveling south. I was so happy when Brian emailed and told me not only about this buffet but also another that I hope to also try this trip.

The Family Traditions Lighthouse is a large restaurant in a rural area. The restaurant has both menu and buffet dining and the building also accommodates a banquet facility separate from the restaurant. The restaurant was easy to find and the outside is unmistakable because there is a large lighthouse on the entrance end of the building. We arrived on a Thursday night at the end of April and the parking lot was almost empty. We wondered for a moment if the restaurant was open. Another car parked and went inside. We followed. The building and the entrance way are very plain outside and the lobby followed suit. A sign next to the cashier station said “Seat Yourself” and we did. There is a large dining room and another dining room off to the side that is down a few steps. There were people dining inside and while we were there business was steady with people coming in.

There is a blackboard in the lobby with the buffet prices. Monday to Thursday and Saturdays this is a very reasonably priced restaurant. Fridays are another story. The dinner price Monday to Thursday is $9.95. Saturday dinner is $10.95. Sundays the restaurant closes at 3:00 pm and dinner is served for $10.95. Friday is seafood night and the price is $18.95! If you would like to add unlimited crab legs to the Friday night buffet the price is $29.95! Wow! I am sure that you will be getting a lot of fish but this is more than the best seafood buffets that I have been to in large metro areas. And basically, here we are inland and a distance from the sea. Soft drinks with refills are $1.59. Lunch on Monday to Thursday is $7.95. Saturday breakfast buffet is $5.95. There are children’s prices – under three is free but the sign was erased where it listed ages four to ten.

When we sat a very nice waitress came over and asked what we liked to drink. She did not offer menus – though a sign mentioned menu dining – and she told us to go up and help ourselves. There are signs scattered around the buffet servers that say to take a clean plate each time and to help all children at the buffet.

The buffet servers were situated at the front end of the dining room. There were two sets of half sized servers – one set hot and one set cold. There was a dessert counter along one wall and at the opposite side was a large, double, hot buffet server. As usual I started with the soup choices – there were two – one was cheeseburger soup and the other vegetable beef. I did not try the cheeseburger – a thick cheese soup with chopped meat (a cardiologist’s nightmare). I did try the vegetable beef. The soup was full of vegetables and well cooked beef. The soup was VERY spicy – not the usual vegetable beef soup that I expected. It was not bad, but if you do not like hot and spicy it is not for you. (Many of the meat items in sauces were spicy.) The soup shares a server with the two hot dessert items.

There is a salad bar with a nice assortment of salad toppings and dressings. There were also several prepared salads – the basics – cole slaw, potato salad, and macaroni salad. There was a bean salad and several fresh and canned fruits. There was also apple sauce and apple butter. Dessert puddings were here too.

There was a good assortment of entrees and side dishes on the hot entrée server. Next to the soup and hot desserts there is another half server with more hot entrees. There were meat dishes and fish. Entree dishes included grilled chicken medallions in a sauce, medallions of beef, sausage and peppers in tomato sauce, a large ham on the bone that was being carved, broiled scrod, good and crunchy fried chicken, stuffed chicken breasts, fried shrimp, and white meat turkey that was shredded. There were two types of potatoes – mashed and boiled potatoes. There was kernel corn, string beans, baked beans, macaroni and cheese, spaghetti in tomato sauce, deep fried onion pieces, corn fritters, stuffing, and both beef and turkey gravy among other selections. There was plenty to choose from. The fried chicken was better than most. The sausage was good and I wished they had more of it to bring out when it was gone – obviously others thought it was good as well. The ham was very good. The mashed potatoes were fresh and creamy. The macaroni and cheese was nicely thick. They claim that their selections change daily and that they introduce new items to the buffet every week. On their website they say to give them suggestions for dishes to add to the buffet.

Trays were checked by staff, stirred, refilled, replaced, and checked for temperature continually. This is probably the best tended buffet that I have been to. The staff took well care of that buffet! When the sausage and peppers were empty they took the tray away and replaced it with fried clams. When anything else emptied or was low it was replaced with the same item. Remember that I said that there were no many dining here this evening – but they kept replacing trays of food. Even twenty minutes before closing they were still stirring and tending the hot server.

Desserts were not extensive but there it was not hard to find something. There was a hot berry cobbler and hot French toast sticks – deep fried sticks of French toast. There was an assortment of pies, cookies, and very large chocolate brownies. There is no ice cream (not necessary, but their website claims “soft ice cream”). There is also the fruit and puddings at the salad bar.

The décor of the restaurant is pleasant – a nautical theme on all of the walls. The lighting fixtures hanging throughout the dining room all had bulbs out – not missing, but out. At first we thought this might be to conserve electricity or for mood, but they were too erratically out. The room was lit enough. The tables and chairs are plain and adequate – nothing fancy. This is a family restaurant and not a fancy restaurant (which is why the Friday prices surprise me so much). The entire restaurant was clean.

The Family Tradition Lighthouse restaurant was good. It was not spectacular but sometimes you do no need spectacular as long as you get a nice meal and we certainly had a nice meal. Would I drive out of my way to come back – maybe not, but I certainly would come back if I were in the area. I can recommend that you try this buffet, but unless you want to spend a lot of money do not come on a Friday night. Every other night the value is excellent and the quality of the food is as well.

A history of the restaurant says that the Lighthouse restaurant has been opened for thirty years but has been taken over by a husband and wife who have reopened it as the Family Traditions Lighthouse. No date is given as to when this happened. They state that they are making many changes for the better. As I do not know what it was like before I cannot comment. What they are doingm from my experience, is working.

The Family Traditions Lighthouse Restaurant is located at 4301 Philadelphia Avenue, Route 11 North, Chambersburg, Pennsylvania. The phone number is 717-263-4878. There is a website and there is a link at the side of this page. If you look on the website you will also see that Gospel concerts are given by locally known groups in the banquet hall on scheduled nights. This should not interfere with the restaurant as that area is well separated.

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