Friday, March 19, 2010

THEY ARE TRYING HARD TO ENTICE YOU AT BUFFT EUROPA

Our pick for Best Small Buffet for 2009 was Buffet Europa, located in North Brunswick, NJ. (See article) As I have said many times before, this is a buffet experience unlike most others. The food! The Food! THE FOOD!

I had an opportunity to be there again recently. I was very surprised to see that they are in need of customers and support. The restaurant is still wonderful. The food is still excellent. The atmosphere is unlike the chain buffets. The cuisine in European with a leaning toward Polish on Friday nights and a leaning toward Italian on Saturday nights. The owners - who as I have mentioned in my other articles, work the whole place themselves - are trying extremely hard to get customers in the door. They have lowered the weeknight buffet price - Tuesday to Thursday to $8.99! This is unbelievable. This is the FULL buffet from soup to salad to hot entrees and sides to wonderful desserts and it even includes the soft drinks. Why have they done this? It is obvious. They need to increase their business.

They have cut their weeknight - Tuesday to Thursday - hours to close at 7:00 pm. Friday and Saturday nights are still until 9:00 pm. They no longer are opened at all on Mondays. They had been closed for dinner on Mondays - now they are closed. They are still closed on Sundays, but do catering on Sundays in the restaurant. They have also added teen and adult dances on some Friday and Saturday nights after 10:00 pm.

We went in this time on a Friday night. When we entered there was just one other diner in the whole restaurant. We were warmly and personally welcomed by the owner and offered any table we wished. My heart sank a bit as I had hoped to find the place jumping. I have had readers contact me to say that they are going there and have been there - and each has has wonderful things to say about the restaurant. To find really no one in the restaurant at a little after 6:00 pm - dinner time - on a Friday night - I sigh when I think of it. I want so much for this restaurant to succeed because it is THAT GOOD and that different.

If this were a buffet that I had never been to before I might have hesitated to go in seeing no one inside. My concern always is if the food is out on the buffet server and no one is taking it, it may be sitting too long. I had no reluctance to go in and sit down here. I knew that with the personal attention that the food here gets it would be fresh and wonderful as always - AND IT WAS! Everything was moist, stirred, and hot.

As we dined other tables filled but there never really were more than three tables occupied the whole time we were there. This is not as it had been on previous visits - and my first visit had been at this same time of the year. Before while the small restaurant was never full, there were a number of tables occupied.

The price on Friday and Saturday nights for the buffet is $15.99. This includes unlimited soft drinks that you take yourself. This is the price that all nights had once been. At this price you are getting excellent value for the quality and taste of the food served. At the new lower price of $8.99 you are practically eating for free. There are fast food restaurants that you cannot eat at for this low a price.

Let me try to entice you with my meal and maybe you will say I have to go there. Now, I know that many of you are no where near the state of New Jersey, but maybe you know someone there or near there that you can call and say - Go right now to Buffet Europa! So, anyway, I started with the seafood bisque - chunks of fresh fish in a pink thin/thick cream broth. Just as I remembered it was very good. My wife had the chicken noodle soup which you might say is no big deal, but this one does not taste like buffet chicken noodle soup or diner chicken noodle soup. It tastes like fine restaurant chicken noodle soup. I know I am repeating myself from other articles about this buffet, but there is a point to be made here about the food. It is not buffet food. It is fine restaurant food.

I followed the soup with a plate of assorted cold vegetables from the salad bar. I am not a lettuce salad eater, but all of the fixings were there for one. I had a bit of Italian vegetable salad - pieces of carrot, cauliflower, red peppers, etc. in white vinegar. I also had some pickles and olives. Just a small bit to taste. I added a dinner roll - because they looked good.

Entrees on this evening were similar to the first night that I had been to this restaurant. There were Polish Perigees - a ravioli-like dumpling of pasta folded around mashed potato and skillet fried with onions. They are served with sour creme on the side. There were sweet cheese blintzes - folds of sweet, thin pancakes (crepes) folded flat around a sweetened cheese mixture and dusted with powdered sugar. There was something different this evening - fried potato pancakes - ground potatoes and onions formed into flat patties and deep fried - served with apple sauce on the side. There was also a different entree added to the selection - fried veal cutlets. This is something that I have not had since I was a child growing up in my Italian-American home.

Other entrees were as they had been - Polish kielbasa in sauerkraut, barbecue ribs, Swedish meatballs, small pieces of fried pollack, stuffed cabbage, Penne ala Vodka, chicken Francais, roasted and sauteed vegetables, mashed potatoes, and I am sure that I am forgetting some other things. All were as I remembered. All were wonderful. Long, long ago, I had a Polish girlfriend - and the kielbasa here reminded me of what her mother made. In addition to this all, there was a roast of beef to carve that was nicely crispy on the outside.

I had to stop eating entrees when I realized that I was getting too full to enjoy dessert. Oh the deserts! This night there was something that I have never seen in any buffet- and rarely is it found in restaurants. They had Sfogliatelle! I had at first been disappointed that I did not see Tiramisu out on the counter, but my wife pointed out to me that the sfogliatelle was there and something really unusual. So what is Sfogliatelle? It is a pastry of crispy layers of thin sweet dough in the shape of a seashell. The dough is such that it breaks apart as you eat it in thin strips - just hard enough to give it a crunch and the need to chew. Inside this seashell of layers of pastry dough is sweetened, baked ricotta cheese mixed with sugar and tiny pieces of candied dried fruits to give a hint of citrus to the taste. This is a pastry that I have, maybe once a year, with family at Christmas dinner. At an Italian bakery this is an expensive pastry - at a minimum $3.00 and often more a piece. Here at Buffet Europa there was a tray full out on the dessert counter, each covered in powdered sugar. The taste was spot on to what it should be! Whether they made them here or brought them in, I don't know, but if they brought them in, they paid quite a bit for them to just have them out as a buffet dessert! In addition, for those who want just the ordinary - but here the ordinary is extraordinary - there was sections of coffee cake, muffins, brownies with chocolate chunks inside, chocolate chip cookies, and cheesecake. Of course, I had to have a piece of the cheesecake! I was happy - Sfogliatelle and cheesecake at a buffet!

We left happy and full. There is not more that you can ask of any restaurant.

Have I enticed you? These people are trying hard to do that! They need your business. I don't know how else that I can say that this restaurant must continue because it sets a new and higher standard for buffets - family friendly and affordable buffets - with food that does not originate in some chain restaurant warehouse with directions to cook it exactly this way and serve so that it will be the same at any of the chain's locations.

I was delighted to see our Best Buffet Certificate professionally matted and framed on hung prominently on the wall to the right of the cashier's desk! It looked like they were proud to receive this award and they certainly went out of their way to display it! When you go in, mention it, and tell them that you heard about them right here!

So, go to Buffet Europa! If you are nearby, keep going back! I wish I could but I am more than 90 miles and $20 in tolls away. If I was nearby I would be a regular.

Buffet Europa is located at 1000 Arron Road, North Brunswick, New Jersey 08902. Their telephone number is 732-940-1122. They do have a website and the link is listed at the side of this page. Please take note of their new hours listed above in this article.

2 comments:

Jeff said...

Buffet Europa is indeed a wonderful place with high quality food run by very nice people. We live 40 minutes away and still try to go once or twice a month. The food is really good.

Robert A said...

Recently Buffet Europa was closed for "renovations" - discovered by one of our readers who traveled some distance there for dinner with family only to find it closed on a Saturday.

The restaurant was contacted through their website and -

Buffet Europa will REOPEN on May 4, Tuesday.

It is always a good idea to call ahead to any buffet before making the trip if you have a distance to get there.