Friday, September 10, 2010

Golden Corral -Bensalem, PA

It has been a while since I have been to a Golden Corral. With Ryans now fast becoming an OCB clone, I consider Golden Corral to be the best of the major chain buffet restaurants. We were in an area of Pennsylvania that was far enough off from Lancaster - world of buffets - that we could not get to one of the usuals in time for dinner. There were two possiblilities that were not close but not impossible to get to enough before closing - one I will talk about in next week's article and the other was Golden Corral in Bensalem, Pennsylvania - just east of Philadelphia. We ate at Golden Corral.

The restaurant is located in a shopping center with several stores and a Sonic fast food restaurant next door in the parking lot. We went on a Saturday night and the restaurant was packed. A line ran out side the door and along the sidewalk. Interestingly, we had passed an Old Country Buffet on the way just about a mile down the road and there was no such line out the door. We had a forty minute wait on the line until we got up to the cashier's counter to pay. At Golden Corral your drinks are given to you on a tray when you pay for your meal along with a plate for you to start off with. Refills of your drink and more clean plates are brought to you by your server. A number of Golden Corrals have switched over to a much better system of taking your own plates when you need them from a stack out by the buffet - as is pretty standard at buffet restaurants. This Golden Corral has not made that switch and you rely upon your server to get you clean plates. It is for this reason that a good server at a Golden Corral is essential because if you don't have a good server your meal will be a disaster without clean plates. This night, we had the best server that we ever have had at a Golden Corral!

The price of the meal was $9.99 per adult and the drinks were $2.00 each. Yes, $2.00! That is the most I have paid at a buffet for drinks. With the dinner price so low, it is not too bad. The drinks served are Pepsi products. I will talk more about my drink later.

I was excited to go to a Golden Corral because I have been looking forward to the Ribs Special Feature - unfortunately, I missed that and the feature is now - Oceans of Shrimp. I am not sure why these chain buffets think that the shrimp that they server regularly on the buffet should be a feature - but they do. This feature was disappointing, but there is a lot more available that the feature does not really matter - but I sure was looking forward to trying those ribs! Sad to say, no ribs.

We started, as we generally do with soup and there were several choices - the best of which at Golden Corral is always the Chicken Noodle soup with its big, doughy broad noodles. There is an extensive salad bar with a combination of make your own salads including salads with cold meats to create a chef's salad or a chicken Caesar and prepared salads. One of the prepared salads was shrimp salad that is part of the feature - but it was off to the side and not even noticed. When I did see it, it did not tempt me - and I love shrimp salad. The lettuce put out for the Caesar salad should have been romaine but it was a mixture of chopped lettuces.

I should say right here that not everything was wonderful about this Golden Corral. I was sure when I went in that I would be coming back to an old friend and I would be able to write an article about a totally great experience. Well... I am going to start getting a reputation for reporting not so good things about buffets but I have to be honest and tell it like it is. This is not to say that there were not good things here - there were many!

Let's get some of this out of the way. I will start with my drink. I paid two dollars for an unsweetened ice tea. What I received was a glass of what that with a slightly brown tint that faintly tasted like tea. My first thought was that the tea was being served before it was ready and that this would be corrected in the refill. The refill came - from a different tea dispenser and was lighter in color and had less of a taste of tea. I might as well have saved my two dollars and been drinking water with lemon and sweet and low. Eventually, the tea did come looking and tasting like brewed ice tea should - dark and well - tea. That was the first thing that happened - as it was right at the start. Now, after our soup and before our salad, my wife looked at one of the plates that we were given and it was dirty. There was encrusted food across the plate. We looked for our server and she was no place to be seen - I said we had the best server that we have ever had at a Golden Corral - he was the second server we had that night - the first, this young lady left shortly after we started eating. Good too! Anyway. The plate. My wife picked up the plate and walked over to the cash register counter and went up to the woman who seated us. My wife explained that she got a dirty plate when we paid and please give her another clean one. Reasonable and simple request. Well, this woman - management level - took the plate and started examining it - and kept examining it. It took her several minutes to walk over and get a clean plate - and she never said a word. It was as if we were returning something for credit at a no refund policy store. There was no, let me take that right away and get you a new one - and we are so sorry that this happened. No, it was like my wife was asking for something monumental. Come now! Give a new plate and apologize! This was not the only dirty plate for the meal. We were given several dirty plates by our server - but he was fast to take them away and bring clean ones once we pointed out the problem. The one other problem during the night was the temperature in the restaurant. It is sometimes better too cold in the summer than too hot, but this restaurant was freezing inside.

That out of the way - the food was for the most part good. The carved ham should have been hot but was cold and the cold chicken pieces on the salad bar were frozen. I must tell you right away that I had one of the best pieces of steak that I have ever had at a buffet. The steak is cooked on a flame grill and this cook knew his stuff. He could tell and produce rare and medium rare without a problem - not raw but real rare. I got a steak that was perfectly charred and crispy on the outside and red and juicy inside. And he did this more than once.

The fried chicken was very nice too! The pieces were nicely breaded and very crispy with moist chicken inside. At the grill they were carving ham and roast beef. The shrimp feature was scattered all around the buffet with shrimp in pasta, shrimp scampi, every form of fried shrimp that you can imagine including fried coconut shrimp. I like shrimp, but to me it does not matter much if it is little shrimps fried in batter or large fried shrimp. They are all the same.

The offerings were not much different from what I have had at Golden Corral before. I did miss the nice fried fish that they have had in the past and I guess some of the shrimp took the place of that. There was also a section of Asian cooked dishes - there was Mongolian beef and sauteed mixed string beans. Both were OK.

Overall, for the crowd, the restaurant was clean and the service was great. All dishes were picked up right away - and clean dishes brought to the table. Eventually, the tea got corrected and this server was bringing refills before we even asked.

The crowd that was there when we were coming in was still there just about to the time that we were leaving. This was a very busy night. The dishwasher was pressed to keep up and did not do as good a job as there should have been but other than that the crowd inside did not make much of a difference - except for a few times that people kept lining up cafeteria style and were upset if you just moved in to the buffet to take something in the middle. I suspect that there were a number of people new to buffets that night.

Would I go back? Yes, with no question. Would I recommend this Golden Corral. Yes, I would. I am pretty sure that the few problems encountered this night were the result of the crowd.

The Golden Corral in Bensalem, Pennsylvania (one of the most eastern Golden Corrals in the Northeast that there is) is located at 1465 Street Road in Bensalem, PA 19020 and their phone number is (215) 245-5301. There is a link at the side of this page to the Golden Corral chain.

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