Friday, May 01, 2009

Happy Birthday to You!

Celebrating your birthday at a buffet is a treat in itself, but to have your birthday buffet for free is a party and a present. Recently, it was my birthday - I will not say which one. I am on the email lists (in one of my identities) of several of the buffet chains and buffet restaurants. A couple of weeks before the big day, emails started to arrive with birthday offers of free meals.

I was able to use three of these offers. There were several to choose from. Some are offered just on the date of your birthday, but others are offered for your birthday month or a couple of weeks around your birthday. Here are the offers that I received:

Old Country Buffet - Free Meal with one meal purchased, good for two weeks.

Ponderosa - $5 off adult meal and beverage, good for two weeks

Shady Maple Smorgasbord (Lancaster, PA) - Free Meal with the purchase of another meal, good only on your birthday

Yoders Restaurant (Lancaster, PA) - Free Meal with the purchase of another meal, good only on your birthday

Souplantation & Sweet Tomatoes - Free neal with one meal and beverages purchased, good for two weeks

The Family Cupboard (Lancaster, PA) - Free Meal - no other purchase required, good once during your birthday month

I had the opportunity to be in Pennsylvania during my birthday so I had a nice selection of any of these but Souplantation which is only located as far north on the East Coast as North Carolina. I actually started my birthday buffets before I left New York. On the evening before our trip we went to OCB to use my birthday offer. This was the least of all of the meals that I enjoyed celebrating my birthday. It was a Wednesday night - TexMex Night - which would have been fine had there actually been anything that was supposed to be on the menu out. As is typical of my local OCB, most of the entrees were out and never came out the entire time that we were there. We asked for the chicken fajitas. We were told they were coming out - an hour later the tray was still empty, the serving spoon in the same position it had been when we first entered. I suppose many wonder why we bother with this restaurant. Simply, the answer is that it is the only buffet game in town for a hundred or more miles. Well, I knew that there were more birthday buffets to come over the next several days.

My next free birthday buffet was at Family Cupboard in Lancaster, PA. I have written about Family Cupboard several times and have noted the homey feel and attitude of this restaurant and buffet which features country and Pennsylvania Dutch cooking. They send a postcard that is good for one free meal during your birthday month. The nicest part of this offer is that for a single there is no need to bring someone with you to receive your free meal. The food was as good as always. The rotisserie chicken is exceptionally tasty and good. The fried chicken is equally good. There was meatloaf, ham balls, broiled cod, ham, and beef in gravy as well. This was so much better than the birthday buffet that I had at OCB. And I had another birthday meal to come - on my actual birthday!

So with the year's best buffet on the list of birthday meal choices, is it any wonder that I spent my actual birthday having a free birthday buffet meal at Shady Maple Smorgasbord in East Earle, PA. It was a Saturday and the restaurant was crowded. It is really too early for the tourist trade, but this restaurant gets a crowd all year. There were long lines at the cashiers and once paid, there were long lines to wait for a table. The lines moved along fairly well and soon it was our turn to be seated. I most enjoy the main dining room here and I like sitting at a table rather than a booth - this is all just my preference as it really makes no difference. Things just seemed to be going well for me this evening as it was difficult to find a vacant table (as opposed to a booth) and several hostesses were searching for them for several guests. I never said a word that I really, really wanted to be at a table in the main dining room. The young lady who was searching for a table was obviously new, but she persevered even asking two other hostesses for help in the course of the search. It was not too long before she found one, cleaned it herself, and signaled to us across the room to come. This was just the beginning of good things to come.

I should tell you what you get at Shady Maple with your free birthday meal. When your guest pays at the cashier and you identify that it is your birthday you are handed a stack of coupons. These coupons include free cakes at the Farm Market, a 25% discount at the buffet gift shop, a 20% discount at Family Farm Quilts - a separate section located in the buffet gift shop featuring locally made gifts and quilts from the Amish, and a 20% discount at Good's Store - a small department store located adjacent to Shady Maple. All of that is the most that any buffet gives as part of its birthday offer.

So back to my free birthday meal. If I had called ahead and said have my favorites on the buffet, its my birthday, I could not have done any better at this meal. The first thing that caught my eye were the Philly Cheesesteaks. These show up every so often and are a must try if they are there when you go to Shady Maple. Here they are called Smorgy Cheese teaks. Shady Maple is about 60 miles from Philadelphia so people know cheesesteaks here. Now, I am sure that these are not exactly what one might get at one of the big two masters of cheesesteak - Pat's or Ginos, the rival cheesesteak stands in the heart of Philadelphia, but people line up at Shady Maple for their cheesesteaks. For the uninitiated, a cheesesteak is thinly sliced steak cooked on a fry grill with or without onions, covered in cheese, and served on a soft, long roll. At Shady Maple that is how they are served as well with the addition of tomato sauce on request. When the experienced order a cheesesteak they order it "WIT" or "WITOWT" - with onions or without onions - and you can hear this as you stand in line for your cheesesteak at Shady Maple. I had never had tomato sauce on a cheesesteak until Shady Maple and it makes an interesting taste addition to the sandwich. Needless to say I had a cheesesteak - and would have had a second later on in the meal if I was not already stuffed.

Grilled steak is another of my Shady Maple favorites, but these are served on Monday nights so I had no expectation of finding them at this Saturday birthday buffet meal. I never would have anticipated fillet mignon, but that is exactly what I found. Thin fillets grilling to order at one of the grill stations. Ordered and served to me just as I requested. Perfect!

It was all great and truly a birthday celebration meal! And it was free.

At Shady Maple as well as at Yoders you do not need a special coupon or email to redeem to get your free birthday buffet. All you need is to show proof that it is your birthday - and must do this on your actual birthday. Since Shady Maple is closed on Sundays, if your birthday is on a Sunday or any day that they are closed they will honor your birthday on the very next day that they are open.

To make sure that you can get a free buffet meal for your birthday, you need to sign up on the buffet restaurants' email lists. It is worth the few emails that you will get that do not contain offers - but most do. Not only will you get buffet meals for your birthday but you will get buffet coupons throughout the year.

Go celebrate your buffet at a buffet, too - for free!


Adrian said...

You can also get a free meal at Bird-in-Hand Family Restaurant if you spend $150 in any one quarter the preceding year if you are in their frequent diner program.

Pa-Dutch-Travel said...

Now I know where to go for my Birthday Thanks!

GDS said...

Just found your blog - very good stuff! I've been getting my birthday meal at Shady pretty much every year for 25 years running.
BTW, a traditional Philly cheese steak is actually served on a crusty roll, not a soft one. But, of course, it's all a matter of opinion as Shady has excellent bread products no matter what you do with them.

Robert A said...

I know that the "Smorgisteaks" at Shady Maple are not exactly like the originals at Pats or Ginos in Philly but they are so good on their own!