Friday, February 19, 2010

Breakfast Buffets

Regular readers will know that I do not write about breakfast buffets. Just about every buffet chain and many independent buffets offer a breakfast buffet - some daily and some just on the weekends. In addition, it seems like every hotel/motel around the world has a free breakfast buffet every morning for their guests. Breakfast buffets are everywhere. So how come I don't write about them. Simple answer I don't eat breakfast.

We are night people. If there are three meals in my day they start at lunch and end with a breakfast like "snack" late at night (or perhaps I should say very early in the morning). I have stayed in many, many hotels over the years since the first hotel had the idea of giving a breakfast buffet free each morning. I have never been to one - they are generally closed up and put away by the time we are out of the room in the morning and on our way for the day. (An aside - my opinion about hotel "free" breakfasts - lower the price for the room $10 and forget the so called "free" breakfast.)

Now I cannot say that I have never been to a breakfast buffet. I have had a number of restaurant buffet breakfasts in years past, but it has been so far back that it would not be fair to write about the breakfast buffets in those restaurants as I have no idea if they are still the same as when I was there. But I do know about breakfast buffets and what is offered. And some of them sound pretty good.

The ever-popular Shady Maple Smorgasbord serves a breakfast buffet every morning when they are open starting at 5 am(Five a.m.!) until 10 am. Old Country Buffet has a Saturday and Sunday morning buffet ending at 10:30 am. As I say, there are many breakfast buffets to be found.

One of my favorite breakfast buffets is long gone. It was at a truck stop in Lancaster County, PA. What made it my favorite - and why I went there - was that the breakfast buffet started at Midnight. This had been a regular Friday night thing when we were in that area. We would have a very light dinner - a sandwich perhaps - and then at Midnight we would head on over to this restaurant/truck stop for a breakfast buffet dinner. Now, a thing to know about breakfast buffets is that if you are going to eat what will tempt you, they are a heart attack waiting to happen. Close your eyes and think about a large buffet server tray of crisp, hot bacon. Now, move along the server to see another tray full of breakfast sausages - not those little frozen ones that they sell in the grocery store - but real sausages, spiced for breakfast, with a well done skin that snaps when you bite into it. Move down a little further and there would be another tray of slices of breakfast ham - nicely griddled. This was what we would find at this little single buffet server buffet - that doubled as the salad bar for the restauant during the day. In those early days of breakfast buffets, things were not cooked to order as they are in the breakfast buffets that you will find today - so there would be a tray full of scrambled eggs, another tray full of pancakes, and still another tray full of hot waffles. Add to this a tray of home fried potatoes. But that was not all - this buffet was in the heart of PA Dutch cooking and while not a restaurant that generally featured that style of cooking, they had to include some of the local items on the menu and for that they included scrapple and creamed chipped beef. Scrapple is a loaf of liver and grain, finely chopped and mashed together into a loaf which is sliced and then fried on a griddle until crisp and brown. I do not like liver but I like scrapple. Creamed Chipped Beef is a dish that your father or grandfather will make a face at as it was a common food served to soldiers by the Army during World War II - there it gained the not-so-affectionate name of "Sh_t on a Shingle", as the creamed, beef, dripping mixture was poured over a piece of toast. I had never had this dish before this little breakfast buffet and I reluctantly tried it - recalling my father's tales of how terrible it is - and loved it. Get past the association of that historic name (and there is good reason for this name once you see the dish), try it, and you will find that it is a pleasant mix of cream and very thin sliced dried beef. Of course, there were "healthy" breakfast offerings on the buffet as well - a variety of hot and cold cereal and fresh fruits. But you and I know that the fruit and cereal is not what you are there for. Yes, eat this - and eat all you care to eat of this - too often and you will soon find yourself with very clogged arteries and a surgeon standing over you.

Don't go looking for this breakfast buffet as it is long gone - the truck stop restauant is still there but it is years since the breakfast buffet there. Most breakfast buffets are not too different. Others that I have been to were pretty much the same. In recent years, breakfast buffets offer "made to order" omelets, eggs, pancakes, crepes, and such. I am sure many will want to tell you that they enjoy so many healthy things at breakfast buffets - fresh fruit like melon, strawberries, oranges - and of course, oatmeal and hot grains - and dry toast, don't forget the dry toast as it is roughage and it is good for you. But those trays of breakfast meats are constantly calling to you. Bacon has that distinct and addictive smell that will fill the room and it knows your name... "Here, come over here, Bill, Mary, Tom, Jane, all the bacon you have ever seen in one place and it is yours for the taking."

No, I don't do breakfast buffets. But you might like to try one some time if you have never indulged. Just don't make a regular thing of it, because this is way beyond a "hearty" breakfast.


Eating The Road said...

You know you bring up an excellent point. I too don't frequent breakfast buffets (although I have occasionally) but for a slightly different reason. I just can't eat all that much food that early in the morning especially with a whole day staring you in the face. It's just not worth the price of admission (although they are normally much cheaper at those hours).

The point I think you bring up with your tale of the midnight start time, is why don't other buffets think about doing this. If there was a buffet that served breakfast items (mainly pancakes, waffles, crepes, French toast) I would be a HUGE fan and probably become HUGE. I think that's a great idea. I hope someone is out there listening.

dave1973 said...

The only breakfast buffet I go to is at Old Country Buffet. That's mainly because locally to me, their breakfast is $5.99. It still offers a lot of food, but they eliminated some items. They eliminated the salad bar, desserts (my local OCB doesn't even have bowls by the soft serve machine for breakfast), eggs benedict, cowboy potatoes, and poached eggs. They reduced the fruit offering, but added toaster for bagels & toast. The toasters sit on top of the salad bar during breakfast (with boards on top of the salad bar to support the toasters).

The only other breakfast buffet I would go to is Golden Corral. I don't remember how much their buffet is local to me, but it's more than OCB, but juice is included, but not soft drinks & tea. They have salads & deserts available in their buffet. Both OCB & GC have made to order omelettes, but GC also offers made to order waffles & made to order eggs (besides omelettes).

There are only 2 Ponderosa locations left in my area, and only the franchise offers breakfast. They're the most expensive and the skimpiest of the 3 buffets. It's close to $9.00 a person for their buffet. I have since stopped going to their breakfast buffet due to not being able to choose how much topping I want for my omelettes & can't get my own waffles either. Since I don't like the guy who prepares the omelettes, I've decided to not go to Ponderosa for breakfast anymore.

The only breakfast buffet I went to that wasn't at a buffet was back in 2001 or 2002 in Wisconsin. I stayed overnight in Milwaukee and was looking for a place to eat while waiting for an outlet store to open. I came across Country Kitchen in Menomonee Falls Wisconsin (location now closed) had a mini buffet with pancakes, scrambled eggs, hash browns, grits, white & wheat toast, sausage, & bacon. It was a mini buffet. It was around $6.00 back in 2002 (drink not included). That was a great restaurant, but sad that they're no longer in the Milwaukee market. I would go there today even without a buffet.

SkippyMom said...

I don't know where you received your info that scrapple is liver and grain [unless that is the way that particular restaurant makes their scrapple] but scrapple is actually all the "scrap" parts of the pig that are leftover once the cuts are portioned out [including the liver - too valuable to use in scrapple] but it is mixed with grains. [I grew up helping my grandmother make scrapple on slaughter day. It is so good fried crispy with a hint of real maple syrup on it. YUM]

It might be the reason you like scrapple, but not liver since it isn't liver. :)

The greatest downfall to breakfast buffets for me is watching the other folks go up to the bacon or sausage trays after they are refilled and take a dinner plate full of breakfast meat. I have seen some people take 20 -30 pieces of bacon at a time and then proceed to eat it. It grosses me out and I find it incredibly greedy - for this I have a tendency to avoid them.

Robert A said...

I have not had scrapple in a while, but the first time that I had it, there was a strong taste of liver and I asked what was in it. And I was told it was finely ground liver and grains. Perhaps they did not want to tell me the rest. I know that there are different variations in different parts of the country.I would not doubt that there is a mixture of the parts no one wants to buy on their own in it - but it is good no matter what.

Anonymous said...

Golden Coral, Lebanon Pennsylvania:

Although our favorite breakfast buffet is Shady Maple we have also tried the Golden Coral in Lebanon Pa. recently. Golden Coral has breakfast Friday ,Saturday and Sunday. We went on a Sunday and there were not too many people which made it very nice getting in and getting food. Unfortunately, most of the food was overdone, my guess is they prepared for more people and it was in the warmers too long.

Lunch and evening meals have always been good under the new management, we only recognized one server that worked there under the previous management. They have changed since they reopened, they now have the plates, knives and forks etc out for you to get, you only need the server for your drink refills. My guess is they do it that way to rely on tips to help pay the servers.

The servers seem nice , overall I do recommend it for any meal other than breakfast - and even breakfast may be OK as time goes on. They have only been open a couple months, we have been there about 4 or 5 times since they reopened.

Robert A said...

It is great to learn that the Lebanon, PA Golden Corral has reopened.