Friday, December 18, 2009

Washington D.C. Buffets

I get a lot of requests for buffets in different cities and areas. One of my most frequent areas has been one of the hardest requests that I have to answer and that is Washington, D.C. Washington, D.C., the capitol of our nation, is as one might expect a very expensive city to dine out in. I learned this during my first trip there with my wife. I had been there as a child and on vacation with your family you don't quite pay all that much attention to the prices of things that your parents are paying for - but once you have to go out on your own and pay the bill, well, you certainly take notice. Of course, way back when I was a kid traveling with my parents, there were no buffet restaurants as we have now. On that first trip to D.C., my wife and I were not sure we were going to have much money left for anything else paying what we were in restaurants in the city. In the many years since then, this has not changed and in all of that time with prices going up, this is very true of dining in Washington, D.C. today.

On our second trip to Washington, D.C. we saw an advertisement in one of those explore the city magazines that are free in hotel lobbies. It was for a restaurant that was not only advertising Prime Rib for $6.99 - this was 1980 - but with that there was an all you can eat salad bar. The restaurant was located just across the bridge from the city in Rosslyn, Virginia just across from the Iwo Jima Memorial and it was called Tom Sarris Orleans House. If you search through this site you will find an article about Tom Sarris. But don't get your hopes up - it was knocked down about a year or two ago. We had continued to dine there each trip to the area until it was gone. The food was good and the price - while no where near $6.99 any longer, was still affordable compared to surrounding restaurants.

So my first recommendation when anyone asked about affordable dining in D.C. - much less a buffet - was Tom Sarris. With that gone - well, the search was on. I am know for certain that if you want an Asian/Chinese buffet there are several both in the city and in the not too distant suburbs. In fact there is a Chinese Buffet that I will recommend that I have written about before and I will get to that but what about other types of buffets? There are actually a few.

In Washington, D.C. itself - within the city - there is one that I have not been to myself, but I have been to another location in Maryland and I always enjoy eating at that buffet. The restaurant is Phillips Flagship Seafood Buffet. This location is both menu dining and buffet. The Baltimore, Maryland location that I have eaten at many times is buffet only. Phillips is a restaurant with several locations in Maryland. They are known for their crab and crab cakes and this is the area's specialty, This is the Chesapeake and crabs are king - but not king crabs - blue crabs. If you look in your supermarket fish area you will see Phillip's crab meat in cans and packages. They are are very well known. If you go to any of Phillips menu restaurants you are going to pay quite a bit for crabs, crab cakes or any of the local seafood specialties. Surprisingly, most of that seafood is found on the Phillips seafood buffets. The price when recently checked was around $25 per adult - not bad for what you are getting. When blue crabs are not in season, they replace them with snow crab legs- which they often have in addition to the blue crabs. If you want a buffet to go to in Washington, this is the one to try. It is located down near the Potomac River boat yards, not too far from the U.S. Navy Yard. You can find out more about Phillips Flagship in D.C. here. If you or someone in your party does not like shell fish, there are other selections that are not shellfish or fish - but not much.

I am sure there are probably other non-Asian buffets within the city - most likely in the many hotels, but I suspect they are not going to be very affordable. If any are noteworthy, they have not come up in my research or travels about the city.

Our search of buffets in this area takes us outside the city, primarily into Virginia. For those of you who are not familiar with how Washington, D.C. is located, this small city (actually it is a District) sits surrounded by Maryland and Virginia. Cross a bridge and you cross into one or the other of those states. The Capital Beltway is a parkway that travels in a circle around Washington, in and out of Maryland and Virginia. The roads around are good - except at rush hour when you can sit bumper to bumper for hours. So anyway, back to buffets. The other buffets that I have found are all in Virginia. There is one that I have discovered, but not gone to in Oxon Hill, Maryland which is just outside the District, called Pienza Italian Market Restaurant. It is located inside the Gaylord National Hotel. The price is around $32. So why have I not written about this buffet - after all it is an Italian buffet, and I am always looking for Italian buffets? The reason is that the reviews that I have seen about this restaurant have been mixed - some good, some bad - and not enough one way or the other to make me comfortable about it. Perhaps on a future trip to D.C. I will try it - and hope that the good reviews were the correct reviews. Until then, if you try it, let me know - and I make no recommendation to go or not to go.

So where do I go and where have I been?

I have written several articles about The Green Olive Buffet and there is and has been a link to the restaurant at the side of this page. Despite the Italian sounding name this is an Asian buffet. It is nice and the food has been good the several times that I have been there. It is on Richmond Highway in Alexandria/Arlington (but outside of the city of Alexandria on the highway heading toward Mount Vernon). The choices are not just Asian and there is seafood and American selections here enough to please even those who don't like Chinese/Asian cuisine. I have recommended it and I still would.

There is a chain of steak restaurants called Western Sizzlin' that is very similar to Ponderosa. They used to combine their order off the menu steak restaurants with small buffets (which were terrible for the one I was at many years ago) BUT they have since split their buffets off into their own chain - with few locations. One of those locations is just outside Washington, D.C., also in Alexandria called The Great American Buffet. I have eaten at this buffet. It was a number of years ago - the food was fine. The selections were much like those at Old Country Buffet - basically Southern US-style cooking. As I say, it was a number of years ago and it may have changed - either way, better or not so better. If I was in the area and was not going to any of the others to choose from I would go back again. As the economy has led to a lot of restaurants closing even before company websites are updated I would call first to check it out - (703) 329-1555 You can find it at 5902 Richmond Highway, Alexandria VA.

Beyond those we are left with the usual chains - there is an Old Country Buffet in Alexandria - again on Richmond Road (get a pattern where the action is here). There is a Ryans way down in Fredericksburg - which is my favorite Ryans. This is about forty miles south of D.C. and at least an hour's drive. There is also a Golden Corral in Fredericksburg. And there is another Asian buffet that I have written about in Fredericksburg called Kings Buffet which I can only assume is still open - always call first. I am not sure that I would drive all the way down to Fredericksburg for any of these - and I love this Ryans - but I do always plan a stop at this Ryans when I am traveling south. (Why do I love this Ryans? I am not really sure - and most of my experiences have been pre-Buffets, Inc. takeover - but it has always been good.)

I wish I had more to recommend in the Washington, D.C. area. As I said, throw a dart and you will probably hit a Chinese buffet - a bunch come up on a search. But for the ones that I go to and would recommend, you have them here.

If you know of a buffet in this area, please send me an email and tell me about it! Or leave a comment with this article!


Anonymous said...

We don't consider the Capital Beltway a parkway - it is [in some places] a four to six lane highway.

Richmond Hwy [not Road] is also called Rte. 1 and parallels I95.

Fredericksburg is more like a two hour drive from DC, just so anyone considering driving "an hour" aren't disappointed when it takes longer.

I grew up in Northern VA, attended college in DC and lived for a while in Freds. Thought you would want to know.

Anonymous said...

01/01/11 -- Tom Sarris Orleans House is gone, torn down to make way for redevelopment.