Friday, October 08, 2010

Something New At Shady Maple

It is not often that something changes at Shady Maple Smorgasbord in East Earl, Lancaster County, PA. There are specials from time to time but recently there is a new, and seemingly permanent addition to the offerings at this great buffet. Shady Maple has added an Asian Food Station.

On a recent trip I had the opportunity to check this out. This new grill station takes up the "rear" grill area. On the night that we were there (a Thursday night in September). This may be only found on Thursday nights as it is listed on the website as one of the Thursday night features. The grill was manned by an Asian man and an Asian woman who were doing the cooking. They were cooking made to order teriaki dishes - chicken, beef, or shrimp and vegetables in teriaki sauce. This was served with your choice of Fried Rice, white rice, or lo mein noodles. On the sign boards over the grill there were also two other dishes offered. One was an oriental chicken dish with a spicy sauce and vegetables. The other was a bit odd - it was a mixture of shrimp and smoked beef sausage (the sausage was being featured on one of the other grills) in an oriental sauce with vegetables. I say odd because one does not generally see smoked beef sausage in an Oriental entree.

The teriaki looked very good. A great smell was coming from the grill as the chicken sizzled. I must say that I did not try the Oriental food - there was so much else offered on the buffet that I wanted to have that I just could not eat this much.

During this meal I had some very good "other" items that I have not had a Shady Maple before though they may have been served before. I mentioned the smoked beef sausage above and I did have that plain off the grill. It was nicely flavored - not overpowering and the sausage had a snap to it. There was also turkey sausage being cooked on the grill and I very much enjoyed that. I eat a lot of turkey sausage at home. It is lower in fat than pork sausage, a little milder in flavor, and seasons just like pork. I have had Italian turkey sausage but here at Shady Maple the sausage that I had was seasoned like German sausage. Very good! It was, for me, different and I very much enjoyed it.

Also that night I had barbecue ribs which were very meaty. They were served in sections of about four ribs each serving and were covered in a red, mild barbecue sauce. The ribs, while I am sure, were not smoked. They were fall off the bone ribs. The meat just pulled away leaving a clean bone. These were very good and I went back for more.

There was also something different on the buffet this night - open pit chicken bbq. In Lancaster County a lot of groups as a fund raiser have Chicken BBQ's for people to come to and buy and take barbecued chickens. Now, when I say barbecue in this context I am talking about chicken cooked on a charcoal grill and not smoked or covered in sauce. This is plain, char-broiled chicken over coals. And this is exactly what Shady Maple was serving - charcoal grilled chicken. There were drumsticks and thighs. The chicken had a hickory charcoal grill flavor and made me think of bbq chicken made in the backyard. This too was very good and I also went back for more.

There were a couple of other things that I had that I have not had at Shady Maple before. Starting with the soup, there was butternut squash soup in with a variety of other soups (including the Maryland Crab Soup that I have written about in a past article and is one of my favorites). The butternut squash soup was thick and creamy. It had a slightly sweet taste but not really sugary sweet and was very velvet-like in texture. I took a small portion to try (along with a larger portion of the crab soup) and I was very glad that I did. It was very good.

The last "new" thing {new to me at least) was a grill station devoted to wings. There were hot wings, mild wings, and barbecue wings. I tried the barbecue wings. I asked for just a couple and was given half a plate full. They were meaty and had a great taste. I am not a frequent "wing-eater" but these were good. For those who like the traditional hot wings I am certain that those were just as good.

I do have to report two not so good things that I have never observed at Shady Maple before - and if management is reading this please take note because, frankly, I was shocked. As we were eating our soiled plates started to stack up on the table and no one was coming to take them away. This has NEVER happened at Shady Maple to me for the very long time that I have been going there regularly. There seemed to be only one woman clearing plates and cleaning tables - short-staffed for the Fall or just this night? - but she was clearing the tables on teh center aisle and never came near the middle or end of the rows. We went through soup, salad, and two entree plates before a woman came over who is one of the supervisors who usually is at one of the cash registers. We said nothing but she saw what was happening at all of the tables on that end and she started clearing the dishes away. We thanked her when she got to us. She stayed around for a while longer and continued to clear dishes from tables. Eventually, and this was almost when we were ready for desert did the young woman who had been working only in the middle come over and start clearing the tables in the area that we were in. She just came and acted as if she had been doing the correct thing all along. When our plates started stacking up I was about to take a photo to make sure that someone in charge saw what had happened. Knowing Shady Maple's management they would take notice.

One other not good surprise was the young man who was manning the special feature hard ice cream station and chocolate dipping station. He was properly wearing gloves to keep his hands out of what he was serving (per health code) BUT every so often he would raise his gloved hand up to his nose and - WIPE HIS NOSE on the glove! Oh boy! Again, never before seen by me at Shady Maple by anyone serving.

Overlooking these two negative surprises, the rest of the surprises that I have just told you about were great and I very much enjoyed - as always - my meal at Shady Maple. Now those two negatives - let's just hope that they were one night occurrences and we will never see such there again.

Still the best - Shady Maple Smorgasbord is located at 129 Toddy Drive in East Earl, PA. Take Route 23 East or Route 322 South to get to the restaurant. The phone numbers are 1-800-238-7363 and 717-354-8222. There is a website and it is listed at the side of this page.


Michele said...

Last time I was there in August, I had the opportunity for the first time to eat at the far end dessert table. My usual dessert is the warm cherry cobbler with a dollop of ice cream on it. Of course, I'd prefer much more, but by the time I get to dessert I'm stuffed. The cherry cobbler at that end of the buffet was referred to as 'cherry clobber'...LOL!

brian said...

Wow, I'm reluctant to eat at Shady Maple now despite your review of how good the food is. The food certainly sounds good but it is a health hazard for what the guy did at the ice cream station. I hope in the future you let mgmt know. I haven't tried it but was considering it.

In the summer we went to Family Cupboard and although it wasn't a buffet with a large selection it was decent. There were other Amish people eating there so that wasn't a bad sign. They didn't have many buffet selections like you see at the foxwoods buffet. People were ordering meals off the regular menu there also. I thought they had good fried chicken and vegetable dishes. Have you tried Family Cupboard ?

Robert A said...

Don't let anything hold you back from going to Shady Maple. This was the first time in more than 20 years that I saw anything wrong here and there are unthinking employees in any business and restaurant.

Yes, I have been to Family Cupboard many, many times. It is very good - but nothing compared to Shady Maple. (And again, Family Cupboard is very, very good. Lots of Amish people eat at Shady Maple too - as they do at most of the PA Dutch buffets in Lancaster County. Imagine Family Cupboard x 50 (maybe more) and that is Shady Maple. I cannot think of a larger restaurant or buffet than Shady Maple and it has been consistent time and time again. A bad table server and a thoughtless kid at the ice cream table (this ice cream table is not always out at Shady Maple - it is brought out for special occasions) once in 20 years is still a very excellent record. They are still the best! There are times when it is worth the almost 300 mile round trip drive and the tolls and the gas just to go there to have dinner and come back.

No, I am not an employee of or sponsored by or connected to Shady Maple in any way. It is just that I can't find any buffet that tops it - and I am always looking.

But at the same time when I see something that is not correct - no matter where I am - I will tell you all about it. And hopefully, the restaurant will read it too - many do read this site - and pay closer attention to their employees.

Robert A said...

And, search this site and you will find my several great reviews of Family Cupboard that go back to when they were at their original location at the Harvest View Motel - not to be confused by the buffet that took over that building that is now out of business- and through their move to where they are now - that used to be the Amish Barn - and up to the present. And I love reading their newsletter - see it on their website.

Anonymous said...

A while back I wrote to you that I have be seeing some slight changes at Shady Maple, but I still think they are the best in our area. A couple weeks ago I got a little frustrated at Mountain Gate (Waynesboro) because the fellow serving the meat gave me cold turkey. At Shady Maple I can always find plenty of hot food that I like without even going to the grills. I think it has more to do with the times. For what it is worth, we had a late lunch at Shady Maple about two weeks ago and although I usually prefer a booth they had a corner table in one of the side rooms called the Colonial (?) and it was nice, the service was good and we were only 10 feet from the satellite refreshment station. They had everything I enjoy for a Friday lunch when I am there, starting with the lightly season cod and ending with the hot apple crisp topped with maple brownies/fudge. I only seem to find the cod on Friday afternoons, on of the reasons I like Fridays.

We had to cut back on going to the buffets, my wife and I are getting too big to fit on the motorcycle together. I do want to try the buffet at Dutchway Farm Market restaurant, just east of Myerstown Pa on route 422. A coworker said breakfast was good, but I don't know what he was comparing it to. I know there are some that think the buffets in the Harrisburg area are good but we never seem to hit them at good times.