Friday, May 22, 2009

Golden Corral - Hagerstown, Maryland

A new Golden Corral restaurant recently opened in Hagerstown, Maryland. This Golden Corral has several changes that I am not certain will yet be found at all Golden Corrals, but I must say right up front that this was the best Golden Corral I have been to.

The restaurant is located outside the Valley Mall, one of the larger shopping centers in the area. It has opened in the past 12 or less months and many who were there commented on being there for the first time. I went on a Friday night for dinner and the restaurant was very busy.

The first thing that we noticed as we were on the line to pay was there were no trays and no stacks of dishes at the cashier. You still order your drinks and then move along to pay at the cashier. Generally, at this point you would be handed two plates each to start your meal. No plates were given. As we walked through the cashier we noticed large signs over several food stations that we had never seen before at other Golden Corrals - "The Pagoda" and "Chocolate Station" were what caught our attention the most. Other signs - "The Greenhouse", "The Grill, and "The Bread Shop" may have been at others but these seemed like new labeling to both of us as well. The last time that I have been to a Golden Corral was last July and that was at the "Mystery" Golden Corral which had been no different from the last time it had appeared out of the myst - you really have to go back to last summer's posts to know what this is all about. Anyway - some things were different at this new Golden Corral.

As we were escorted to our table we past another major change - plates stacked in a large rack next to the silverware. Golden Corral has always relied upon the server to bring you clean plates to continue your meal past the two plates that you are given at the cashier. In the past articles I have commented that a meal at Golden Corral can only be as good as your server is - because you rely upon your server to bring you clean plates and if you have a server that disappears then your meal comes to a halt. This was never a good thing and more than once at numerous Golden Corrals we would somehow get the server that would disappear. (Actually, this visit to this new Golden Corral was not different but more about that later.) Never the less, with this new plate system - much as every other buffet employs - you get your own plates and no longer have to rely upon your server.

Several weeks ago I wrote an article about Golden Corral's limited time seafood fest special. I was eager to try this special on this visit and I was not dissapppointed.

Golden Corral always has a nice assortment of several soups and their home-style chicken noodle is one of the best. Nice thick, doughy noodles in a semi-thickened chicken broth makes this soup stand out from other buffet chicken noodle soups (Ryans similar chicken noodle often comes close.) There were three other soups including New England clam chowder which is part of the every night seafood feature. I like their chicken noodle and that is what I had.

The salad bar - or should I say "The Greenhouse" is very extensive. There are several types of greens and lettuce. There is a ceasar salad section to create your own ceasar salad. There are cold meats to create an extensive chefs salad and these included large pieces of chicken, strips of ham, pieves of roast beef, and cold, peeled , mini-shrimp. In addition there are cheeses and just about everything that you can think of to add to a salad. There are several prepared salds including a very nice tuna salad and a seafood salad - served from a giant clam shell that was shreds of seafood and very tasty.

The buffet servers are laid out in a long and continuous line with areas behind for refilling and maintaining and it was all kept full and was all well maintained. There was nothing that was not moist and nothing was left to sit too long. This long buffet counter does lead some to feel that it is like a cafeteria and need to stay in line as they move along the counter - upset when someone comes up to the middle to take what they want - without even considering to go wait at the end of the line (which they should not have to do). The other thing that this encourages is to over fill multiple plates at one time. This may all go into its own article on silly ideas at buffets. Anyway - there was a bit of all of that observed here - no fault of the restaurant .

This Golden Corral had a large grill area and a chef that was cooking several steaks at one time each at a different level of cooking. If you wanted rare, it was there for you. If you wanted well done that was there to along with everything in between. The steak here is very good. It is now the best of the chain buffet steaks. It is a good, tasty cut and is cooked on a flame grill. Next to the grill was a griddle and another chef who was griddle frying crab cakes - another of the seafoods on the feature. Next to the crab cakes was broiled salmon. The crab cakes were very good and seemed to indeed be real crabmeat.

I have had a yen for good fried fish with good tartare sauce for awhile. I found the cornmeal breaded fried fish - which were next to the batter dipped fried fish. The breaded fish looked exactly like what I have been craving. I took the fish and headed over to "The Greenhouse" where the tartare sauce was. Some tartare sauces can be oddly seasoned, have too much, onion, or just not a good compliment to the fish they are intended for. This tartare sauce looked right and I scooped some on my plate. I headed back to my table with the odd assortment of steak, crab cake, a bit of mashed potatoes which were fresh and not from a mix, and some fried corn breaded fish with tartare sauce. The fish was just what I was hoping for and the tartare sauce was just right. Sounds like I am making a bit much about the sauce? It really was good.

Rounding out the seafood special was supposed to be fried coconut shrimp. These were a bit of a disappointment as there was no coconut. The shrimp were good as butterflied fried shrimp but we had to go back and look at the sign to verify that these were supposed to be the coconut shrimp.

There was a lot besides seafood. Most of what you would generally expect to find as entrees and side dishes at Golden Corral was there - and in addition, there was "The Pagoda". There inside Golden Corral was an Asian buffet station . Here there was another chef who had another flame grill and he was cooking terriaki chicken thieghs over the flames. He was also cooking Mandarin beef - small strips of beef sauted with mushrooms in a tasty brown sauce, fried rice, General Taos chicken, and sauteed green and wax beans in an overly spicy sauce.

Back along the regular entree and sides sections were two types of pot roast - both beef and pork, rotisserie chicken, fried chicken, three more types of rice, baked sweet potatoes, griddled sliced potatoes with onions and many other things. There were two types of pizza out - both looked moist and nice.

Further along was "The Bread Shop". This was a section in the wall with a number of types of rolls. There was skillet corn bread. There was focaccia.

This Golden Corral - and perhaps all of them now, had one of the best dessert areas at a chain buffet - and perhaps at many of the buffets. There were real caked - n0t little pieces of sheet cakes. There were four hot desserts. This area is called the "Chocolate Station" and keeping with the name there were fresh dipped chocolate strawberries, several chocolate cakes, chocolate fudge, chocolate brownies, various balls of chocolate, and so much more. My picky wife can even get picky about desserts and generally she will look to decide what of anything she will try. Here she told me that she had to decide what of several things she would try. There were many "sugar-free" dessert choices also (which I do not recommend unless you know what they have been sweetened with - often a sugar alcohol is used and sugar alcohols are laxatives - I am not saying any is used here but I do not know what they are using and for that I avoid it).

Way back at the beginning of this article I said that your server can make or break your experience at Golden Corral. Well, that was the case this night. In our section there was a great server who was running around making sure that every dirty plate was removed and every drink remained full. Our server on the other hand seemed to disappear right at the beginning of our meal. Plates were stacking high and our glasses were empty. My good wife went over to the woman who was working so well and asked what happened to our server. Apparently she was leaving early and had not asked anyone to take over her tables - of which there were several. The "good" server said she would take over our table and she was wonderful - definitely the best we have ever had at any Golden Corral.

This Golden Corral was very clean. The restrooms were clean - they had the new superblow hand dryers that actually blow so hard that the skin on your hands is moved by the force - and are dried very quickly. Then on the door was a "sanitary opener", a hook with a diagram showing how you put your harm into the hook and pull the door open without your hand touching the door handle - something that many do not like to do (you might wash your hands but did the person before you and then you both grab the door handle to get out).

There were signs all over the buffet servers that no child 10 and under should be at the buffet server without an adult supervising. At one point an announcement was made saying this also. This is very good. Children should never be sent around the buffet server alone. Not only can they get hurt but they often do not understand not to put their fingers into the food.

If you go to a Golden Corral let us know if you find plates to take yourself or if you find these new stations. If you are in Maryland be sure to try the Golden Corral located at the Valley Mall in Haggerstown.


dave1973 said...

I went to a Golden Corral similar to the one you talk about in this blog. This one is a corporate restaurant in Lafayette Indiana. They had the trays up front and you ordered your drinks, but the plates & silverware were self serve. This one had the bread in one area, the salad bar next to it, and the dessert bar (they didn't call theirs "Chocolate Station" at the time of my visit). They didn't have an Asian buffet station at the time (not sure about now).

Other than that, I experienced this type of Golden Corral a yeart ago in Lafayette Indiana. My local Golden Corral locations have only been open 2 years, and one location still has bad service by not keeping the place clean, rude staff (including managers), and not replenishing plates & drinks.

The other location has changed quite a bit by getting rid of bad workers, making sure service is good to get the customers to come back, and they even advertise in one of the local free TV guides found in local supermarkets, offering coupons for breakfast, lunch, & dinner for less than their regular price. This one has the Greenhouse, but still has the older style resturants, plus servers still provide refills, plates, and bread (regular dinner rolls). I would like to see this Golden Corral update themselves to the newer setup, as I like it better, but service at this location is still good enough to keep going back to that one.

Big Guy said...

This past Saturday night, January 30th, 2010, I went to the Golden Corral next to a Super Walmart in Boynton Beach, FL. I was there about 7:30 PM and was pleased.

It was nearly full. Nothing stayed out untouched for long because of the high traffic. The hot food was hot and the cold food was cold. It was only $10.99 plus soda and tax.

Golden Corral is doing a lot with Applewood branded bacon. Bacon wrapped scallops, boneless chicken breasts, beef shoulder steak pieces, and pork fillets were all tasty.

Some very expensive, high quality items were scattered into the buffet like the scallops among the hot items, and fancy lettuces in the cold. Also, there were fresh hot green vegies like sugar snap peas with Mongolian Beef in sauce, broccoli, fresh steamed spinach, and mixed Italian spiced vegetables.

The baked desserts were superior to what's served at most buffets and in most fancy restaurants. There were cobblers, sheet cake, peanut butter pie, warm crisp chocolate chip cookies, and banana pudding.