Friday, July 03, 2009

Another Old Country Buffet - What a difference!

About twenty or more miles from me is another Old Country Buffet. We have been to this other location only once years ago, because it always seemed silly to make the trip when there is an OCB just a short way from our home. We have often talked about just going out there and finding out if the problems that we often find with Old Country Buffet is because of the particular one that we frequent or that which is general to all Old Country Buffets. Now, we have been to other Old Country Buffets in several other states over the years - but not since I have been writing this site. These other OCBs seemed in memory to be so much better than our local restaurant. On a recent holiday, we decided to make the trip east and find out what the other Old Country Buffet here is like.

The location that we visited is in Bay Shore, New York on Long Island. The restaurant is attached to a large, indoor shopping mall. The entrance to the restaurant is outside the mall. When we arrived for dinner there was a carnival going on just outside the restaurant in the parking lot. This really has nothing to do with the restaurant but I was interested to see how the crowds from the carnival plus the holiday shoppers from the mall would effect the operation, etc. of the restaurant. Going inside, the entrance and the layout of the restaurant was a bit different from the OCB that I usually go to. While this reataurant is slightly smaller in size, it appears much more open and bright. At the cash register the young lady took our money and asked if we had any coupons to redeem. No one ever asked me if I had coupons at the other OCB. We went into the dining room which was quite busy.

It was immediately obvious that this restaurant is much, much cleaner over all than the OCB in Levittown, NY. Remember that this is dinner on a holiday night. There are a number of people dining here this night as there had been all day. The floors were CLEAN. The open tables were all cleared and clean. Wow!

We started with soup and had the usual chicken noodle soup - and guess what? There were noodles in the chicken noodle soup. Why is that a surprise? Because in our usual OCB there is chicken noodle soup without noodles on a regular basis. The soup also was not salty. Generally, the chicken noodle soup that is served at that other OCB is so salty that it is barely palitable.

We went on to the salad bar and found that here it is spread across one whole double buffet server and half of another. There were several lettuce choices., prepared Ceasar salad that actually had dressing on it, and several items that we have not seen on that other OCB's salad bar.

When we returned to our table with our salads, the soup bowls were gone. How different! This remained throughout our meal. No dishes stacking up on the tables here!

Moving on to the entrees would be the real test. Would empty trays be refilled? Would main items be replaced with rolls? Would it be possible to communicate with the staff? Let me start with the communication question. The staff who operate the buffet tables and the carving station at that other OCB do not speak English. They all seem very nice and pleasant, but there is no way to communicate with them - they have no idea what you are asking or what you need. (Let's just say that I make a hopefull assumption that this is not intentional to ignor anyone's request.) Here at the Bay Shore OCB everyone clearly spoke and understood English.

Were empty trays refilled? Absolutely. And they were refilled with what they started out to be. Sausages ran out and in a few minutes new sausages came out. Chicken terriaki ran out - and it too was brought back out in a proper time frame. Everything went just as is expected.

There was a special holiday "picnic" addition to the menu - hot dogs and cheeseburgers. They were out on a half hot/half cold table next to the condiments which were nicely spread out, clean all around, and easy to reach. I have had hotdogs at the other OCB when they have been served at lunch. They were not as good as these.

Overall, the food was good. I had hoped that this OCB had an open grill area on the buffet floor. It did not. I have been told that at OCB's that do steak is grilled to order. Here they have the same set up as the OCB that we usually go to - a hot tray at the carving area where the person who carves takes the steaks out one at a time and cuts pieces off as people come up and ask for steak. The problem with this - as I have said before - is that the steak continues to cook in that hot tray and in a short time all steaks inside become well done. Unfortunately, here it was no different. What was different was that I was given - both times that I asked for steak - a small whole steak - and not the two inch square that I have gotten before. Yes, it was over done. If you like well done steak you would be very happy. The second time that I went up for steak there was no one at the carving station. I decided to stand there and see what would happen. At that other OCB you could stand there for an hour and never be noticed by staff. After a moment or two the manager walked passed and saw that I was standing there. He did not come over or say anything to me - he really should have acknowledge me to say that he could get the person who should be there. He did go right into the kitchen seeming to be looking for that person. A few minutes later he game out - saw I was still there and still no employee and went back into the kitchen again. This happened four times. The gentleman who should have been at the carving station did come back and served me a steak. Now, if I were the manager, after the second time I would have come over myself and start serving the customers. I did not wait forever - so as it was, it was, it was considerably better.

Other points about the food here. The pizza was brought out moist and with the cheese nicely melted. This was not the overcooked pizza that I am used to seeing and need to add tomato sauce to in order to make it moist enough to eat. My wife likes the chicken terriaki that is part of new additions that have appeared recently. The pieces were nice, large pieces of chicken and not the small bits that are served at that other OCB. Actually, these were much more like the pieces served in the same dish at the Ryans that we visited recently.

The restaurant went up twenty points in my esteem when I witnessed the following. At the top of the stack of clean dishes there was a dish covered in salad dressing. The dishes are stacked face down and this was across the exposed bottom of the plate. A customer came past and went right over to one of the young ladies tending the buffet area. The woman told her that there was a dirty plate on the stack. The employee stopped what she was doing, said, "oh, yes!", went to the stack of plates and immediately removed the dirty plate and took it away. Of course, you would say! Well, at that other OCB I have witnessed similar and when told of a problem the employees have starred at the customer and walked in the other direction. That dirty plate would have remained there all night.

Dinner at this Old Country Buffet was very enjoyable. We had a very nice dinner and a very nice time. I must say that all of my negative experiences at Old Country Buffet are truly the cause of the one OCB that I live near. How sad that this one really bad "apple" in the chain has to be near me. How sad that it is allowed to continue this way at all! When I wrote that the Levittown, NY OCB is the worst OCB in the country I was right on the button!

If you are on Long Island in New York and you want to go to Old Country Buffet, forget Levittown and make the trip east to the Bay Shore Old Country Buffet. It is located at 1701 Sunrise Highway, Bay Shore, NY 11706. The phone number is (631) 969-3943. One thing to know - this OCB has shorter hours than many. It closes on Monday to Thursday and Sunday at 8:30 pm instead of 9:00 pm and 9:00 pm on Friday and Saturday. For the summer these hours are extended from 8:30 to 9:00 and from 9:00 to 10:00 respectively. Perhaps the times coincide with the mall hours, but since there is no entrance from inside the mall, this should not make a difference.

Anyway, when I want to go to Old Country Buffet and I have the time and the gas to make the drive, this is the OCB that I am going to!


Anonymous said...

We've been to two OCB/Hometown Buffets in NJ (sadly the only two now) - Edison and Watchung. Edison was always top notch. Watchung was not good and once we complained to OCB management about it. (We had actually been to several Hometown Buffets in different states and had much basis to compare). We got a discount coupon or free dinner (I forget) out of it - and saw improvement in Watchung that has been kept up. (We were also pleased management agreed with our assessment of Edison as the best.)

dave1973 said...

When I go to my local Old Country Buffet resturant, I go to the Highland Indiana location the most. Service is usually the best, along with the food. The Hobart/Merrillville Indiana location has a new manager, but service got worse at that one, and food isn't replenished as well.

Regardless of other locations, I've never been asked about any discount coupons.

As for grilled steaks to order; is this a new concept for their restaurants? I wouldn't mind seeing that. However, the locations near my home are older locations, which opened in 1995, and have the look from that time frame. At least it isn't as outdated as Ponderosa was at their Gary Indiana location, which had a 70's look, had just the buffet added in 1987 or 1988, and a complete makeover in the look in 2008.

Robert A said...

Some OCBs have grills out on the buffet floor and I am told that one can order steaks cooked as you like them at these. There had been a plan to put this in all of the locations but that has yet to happen.

John said...

Salutations !

The Old Country Buffet on Laskin Rd in Virginia Beach was exceptionaly good (though I haven't been there in a couple of years - my parents (RIP) moved to VaB when they retired, I haven't been back since finishing up their estates.)

The OCB in Upper Darbyw Pa - now closed - was absymal.