Friday, September 24, 2010


I have been hoping to eat at a buffet that I can really rave about, and finally I did! The Foxwoods Resort and Casino in Mashantucket, CT is a large complex of four casinos, two hotels, and what amounts to an amusement park for adults. This is a casino that is owned and operated by a Native American tribe. There is a Native American museum as part of the complex. The entire complex has many, many restaurants but just one buffet - the Festival Buffet.

I had been to the Festival Buffet many years ago - before I had started writing this site - and I was not very impressed. In all this time I had not gone back when in this area and that is too bad because over time there has been a great improvement and I was missing a wonderful buffet experience.

We went on a Friday night and Friday's feature is seafood (what else?). The cost on Friday and Saturday nights is three dollars more than Sunday through Thursday nights when the price is $16.95 per person which includes your soft drinks. On Friday and Saturday the price for dinner is $19.95. Lunch prices all of the time are $16.95. If you have a casino "comp" card - easily obtained for several booths around the complex for free (though you may encounter long lines to get one) the price is $1.00 less at all meal times.

There was a long line to get into the buffet. We waited over forty-five minutes on the line. The system to get people in and out when it is busy is not the best. First you wait on line to pay and once you pay, you are held to the side of the front of that same line to be let in to go and wait on another line from which you will be seated. Once on that second line there is a host/hostess with a walkie-talkie announcing what the size of the parties are that need to be seated and answers come in from around the dining room to send the party of 2, 3 or whatever over to a particular area to be met by someone who seats you.

The buffet is located along a very long wall that extends from where the cashiers end into the dining room and even around into another dining room. In the center of the dining room is a large salad/cold buffet server. The decor is very nice with walnut color partitions along the tables and sections of tables. Around the dining room is a "patio" dining room that is actually on the floor of the concourse leading to the casinos and entertainment. The outside was very noisy and smokey from cigarettes. Sitting in that patio area - and it is extensive exposes you to all of the noise and the smoke. Part of the noise is a night club that is located just opposite the buffet and if you like loud music you can enjoy the buffet and be entertained at the same time. I was happy to get a table in the main dining room, away from the noise and the cigarettes (the smoke would have spoiled this great meal for me).

We were seated by a very pleasant woman who directed to go up and start to get out meal while she finished setting the table. We went up first for soup - as we always do. The soup is located on the end of the salad server and there were two soups. One was New England Clam Chowder and the other Tuscan Soup. Both were white cream soups. I took a cup of the New England Clam Chowder first. It was thick and rich, full of potatoes and clams. It was very good. When I finished that I went back for the Tuscan soup to see just what Tuscan soup is. It was a thin white cream soup with pieces of sausage, a green leaf vegetable of some variety cut up into the soup, and sliced potatoes. The soup was mildly spicy and very good. Two winning soups, though I would have paired a cream soup with a broth soup for more variety. Since my wife does not eat cream soups she was off right away to the salad bar.

I headed to the salad bar next. When I looked up the buffet before my visit I read about the special "grilled" Caesar Salad. I went right over to see what that was. There were two bowls of Caesar salad - one that was labeled Caesar Salad and the other labeled Chicken Caesar Salad. I had read about grilled shrimp Caesar salad but that was not there. So the "grilled" part was whatever they added in - of course. I took the regular and skipped the chicken figuring there would be enough meats later on in the meal. The Caesar salad was excellent. There was additional cheese to add in, if you like. It was thick and creamy. There were a large variety of prepared salads, many that were unusual or perhaps I should say "gourmet". Along the other side there were the standards - potato salad, cole slaw, pasta salads, etc. And there was a large assortment of greens and toppings to make just about any salad that you like. Everything was very fresh.


This article got so long that I have split it in two - if I am tired of writing, then you must be tired of reading. So come back next week for the rest! See ya then!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Sadie's Buffet - Perkasie, Telford and Vernfield, PA

Last week I told you about the buffet that I did go to on a recent trip to Pennsylvania. This week I am going to tell you about a buffet that I "almost" went to. Well, I actually went there but I did not eat there. I need to say right up front that there was nothing wrong with it - it just was not the night to try this buffet.

Anyway, I heard about Sadie's Buffet two years ago. I have been actually waiting for an opportunity to be close enough to one of the three to try it. While we were at a nice little history festival called Goshenhoppen in central, eastern Pennsylvania, I decided that at the end of the day we would go to Sadie's Buffet which I saw on a map looked near by. When I put the location into my GPS as we were leaving the festival, the screen told me that it was about 50 minutes away and then a red warning screen flashed telling me that the route included "Unpaved Roads"- and did I want to take those. OK. Unpaved roads, really? I was in the mountains in a rural area but come on - unpaved roads? How was this thing routing me? I will stop here for a moment and tell you about my GPS - which will go un-named. Recently, particularly in the state of Pennsylvania it has been routing me north to go south and also routing me through parking lots - really - parking lots. All in a round about way to take me where one road would have lead to another road and then a simple left turn was all that would have been necessary to get me to the same spot that the parking lot led me to. Never the less, I told the silly thing that I did not want to drive on "unpaved roads", it seemed satisfied and we were on our way - with by the way one parking lot included in the route.

Back to Sadies. There are three Sadie's Buffets and each one is located in a Landis Supermarket. There is one in the towns of Perkasie, Telford and Vernfield, PA. I have written about buffets located in supermarkets before - the best of which is Yoders which I have written about many times and recently at that, and several others. Each was an actual restaurant located in the supermarket - seemingly unique (at least to me) to Pennsylvania. So we were headed by way of my GPS to Perkasie to the Landis Supermarket to have dinner on a Saturday night in mid-August. We arrived - with about an hour and a half ti spare before closing at 8. We went into the supermarket and I started looking for the restaurant. There was a sign in the supermarket window talking about the Sunday Brunch buffet - so this was the right place. But unlike all of the other supermarket buffets, separated off from the supermarket in an actual restaurant with servers, etc., Sadie's is part of a small food court in the middle of the produce department of the restaurant. Off to the side there was a sectioned off area with small booths and between the two there was a woman at a cashier. There were was a buffet server with cold on one side and hot on the other. Along one wall - an extension of the produce wall was a sandwich bar. There was also a small area of desserts - pies, cakes, and such. This was one of the most unusual buffets that I have ever seen. Let me clarify that - I have seen such set ups before in supermarkets always designed so that you package hot and cold foods, weigh them, pay for them by weight, and take them home to eat. I have not seen ones that are set up to eat there and with an all you care to eat option. The all you care to eat price is $9.95 per adult. Drinks were extra. You could also have made up a single plate of an item or taken things in a container to take home.

I live in an area in NY where some of these supermarket serve yourself food counters to make up containers to take home have become suspect. Because they are relatively unsupervised, they have been known to have had not very nice people slip things into the food, etc. NOW - this is just where I am and because of this I have avoided eating from these types of set ups. I am sure that not all are a problem and I am NOT saying that there was anything wrong with the buffet servers at Sadie's. But the idea gave me some pause. But I decided that we had come all that way, let's look and see what there was - it was right out there in the open so it is easy to see exactly what you would be eating. We walked around and I took stock of what was in store.

The selections were very limited. The most interesting thing and something not on any buffet that I have ever seen is a sandwich bar. There was an assortment of breads and a variety of sliced cold cuts and also bacon, along with a variety of sandwich toppings. Yes, very interesting. Along the hot foods there were individual small meat loaves, what had been a tray of fish but just one piece remained, some type of chicken that I could not tell if it was baked or fried, and a couple of other hot foods. There were also potatoes and a couple of vegetables. Some items seemed to need "tending" and were starting to look dry. Several items all around the servers needed replacing. There was no one visible that was maintaining the food bars or replacing anything. There was a small salad area with a few tossed salad fixings and prepared salads. The food did not look bad but was this going to make me happy for my dinner that Saturday night? (Since you got last week's story first - obviously, not.)

It is not just me who is eating at these buffets but my wife is with me at each meal. And as you know, if you read this site regularly, is a bit of a picky eater and likes things basic and plain. Well, basic and plain was not going to be a problem BUT the assortment of what was there for her was going to be - and me too. It was not for her that we left - it was my decision.

I had been looking forward to Sadie's Buffet. I was hoping for another Yoders. It was far from that or any supermarket buffet that I have been to - and written about. Had the selection been greater and had everything been out that was being offered in fuller trays and being watched over and refilled we probably would have stayed and tried it. I very hesitantly and reluctantly decided to leave. And off we went hoping that the additional almost hour's drive would get us in time to the Golden Corral that I told you about last week.

Should you go to Sadie's Buffet? Maybe. If you are in for a different buffet experience or like sandwiches for dinner (this might be a good lunch stop - and there is Sunday brunch with the usual brunch/ breakfast items), this could be very good. I am sure there are many who have enjoyed any or all of the three in this part of Pennsylvania. There were a few people eating there that night - but just a few. If I am back in this area, I may come back to Sadie's Buffet for lunch - it is a ten dollar lunch but I really would like to try it.

I have included a link at the side of this page with Sadie's buffet and you can get directions to all three locations from the website (which is also the Landis Supermarket website). It is hard to see in the photos what these buffets are like - I really did not know what to expect before going except for my miss-led assumptions. Each buffet is open from 11 am to 2 pm for lunch, closed for two hours and then opens again from 4 pm to 8 pm. every day. If you are up for something a little different in manner of eating at a buffet, please give it a try. If you have been to anyone of the Sadie's Buffets please leave a comment and tell us about it. You may just be able to entice me back sooner than later - and for dinner too.

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.

Friday, September 03, 2010

FRENCH QUARTER BUFFET- Showboat Casino, Atlantic City, NJ - PART 2

Part 2

As I had said in Part 1, the entrees and side dishes were scattered all along the various stations and mixed into each other without much regard for type of cuisine. I went for the crab legs next. These were located, not with the seafood but at the far end of the buffet next to the fried chicken. Ok. There was a large tray of crab legs and these were full clusters. I took two large clusters and went back to the table. I need to comment here about the climate in the room. This was not a very hot day despite the month of July - and we had been having some scorchers at that time. But this was a fairly pleasant day in temperature. The air conditioning in the restaurant was cranked up all the way to high. It was not uncomfortable to sit there but it made everything on one's plate cold in no time at all. The crab legs may have been hot or at least warm when I took them but by the time I got back to the table and started on the first leg of a cluster they were rapidly cooling down to cold. Perhaps they were not hot enough to start with. The problem is that when crab legs get cold they become a struggle to get the meat out of the shell. A properly hot crab leg only requires a snap in the middle and the section of crab meat slides out whole. Once the crab cools off, that same piece of meat breaks with the shell and the pieces need to be dug out - if they come out at all. So what should have been very nice crab legs were not worth the struggle. The tops of the clusters that should have nuggets of meat in them were pretty much empty too. So that was enough for the crab legs to not bother going back for more.

My wife - as those of you who read this site regularly know - does not eat seafood except for shrimp and while there was a variety of shrimp she was having a problem finding anything else to take. She resorted to eating salad and string beans (one of the vegetables for the night) and not much else. Besides the money, I felt bad that she was not finding much to eat. She had tried several dishes that she said were too highly spiced for her - and indeed, just about everything served had some seasoning and spice. There really was nothing plain. I thought that I would not have the same problem but I too was walking back and forth trying to find something that was worth eating.

One of the things that I had heard about being served at this buffet was good steak. I had been led to believe that it was cooked to order but it was not. There was steak - flat iron steak. It was served in a serving tray pre-cooked. I picked around the steaks until I found one that appeared that it might be at least medium rare - and it was when I cut into it. The steak had a crust of seasonings on it. I have had flat iron steak before but it had not been like this. This was nicely charred outside and then as I say crusted with seasoning. Inside the steak was red to pink which is how I like it. So what was wrong? The side of the steak was grizzle from end to end. You had to be careful cutting around it or you were chewing and chewing on something that was not going down easily. The taste was fine but for this money compared to other Atlantic City casino buffet steaks I have had (at less money) it should have been a better cut of meat.

In addition to the steak there was beef tri tip at the carving station. Tri tip is a cut of meat used for smoking barbecue but this not smoked. It looked like it had been baked or broiled and was not very inviting. It looked more like roast beef sliced at a deli counter than a fine beef meant for carving. It may be a fancy cut of meat but they did not do it justice here. I passed on that and I passed on the baked salmon that was also at the carving station.

None of the dishes that appeared to be "regular" dishes were "regular". There were meatballs - but not beef meatballs - they were beef and chicken meatballs. These were in a spiced tomato sauce. There was Italian sausage with peppers and onions. The sausage was off in taste - nothing wrong with it but an unusual seasoning. One of the dishes that people seemed to be lining up for was grilled skewered shrimp. There were four large shrimp with the shell split on a wooden skewer. I did not at first notice what the sign above them said and went back to the table with a skewer to try. The shrimp were not well cooked for grilled shrimp - moist but they could have been grilled more to give that grilled flavor. They tasted like they were seasoned with butter and lemon - which if that was the case would have been fine. But when I went back up to the counter the next time I read the sign and these grilled shrimp were Pineapple Chile grilled shrimp. Ok, but there was no taste of pineapple (or was that the lemon taste) and certainly no taste of chile - so now what should have been seasoned wasn't. Also up by the shrimp was fried codfish. I took a piece and it was fine. Nothing special but it was nicely batter breaded fish.

At the Italian area there was a large selection of pizzas. There was pepperoni, cheese, what looked like sausage, white pizza, and white pizza with broccoli. I took a slice of the cheese. The slice was about half the width of a street slice of NY pizza - thin but also a thin crust. The crust was disappointing. The pizza, itself, was nice. I know for a fact that Atlantic City knows what NY pizza is - the Boardwalk outside the casino is full of pizza stands selling real NY pizza. The crust on this pizza was flat. There was also a thick pizza. And when I went back I took a small square of that to try. This one was very dissappointing and perhaps was what they want to call Foccachia now instead of pizza. There was cheese and sauce on top but the dough was dried out - nothing like thick pizza that I have had anyplace before. I was sorry that I took that and not another slice of the thin pizza. Also at the Italian area was a pasta dish that looked like Penne ala Vodka. It was called penne something else. It tasted like penne ala vodka but without the vodka taste. There was also plain penne with a butter over it to keep it moist and a tray of Italian red sauce. There was another dish at the Italian area. It was macaroni and cheese with lobster and crab. I am not sure what this was doing in the Italian area but maybe because it was macaroni it some how fit. It was basic American mac and cheese with some lobster and crab meat chopped in - enough to stop any kid from taking their favorite mac and cheese.

The Chinese dishes consisted of General Tso's Chicken, Shrimp with Soy Beans, Shrimp Fried Rice, and Lo Mein. I tried the Lo Mein and it was not very good - not anywhere near what is found at every Asian buffet or restaurant. There was a large bowl of steamed dumplings and one sign above this single bowl that said Chicken Dumplings on top and then under that it said Fish Dumplings. All of the dumplings in the bowl looked the same - so which was which - and my wife who takes no chances on eating fish took none because she could not know if they were chicken or fish.

There was a desert bar behind the salad bar in the middle of the buffet area. There was hard ice cream scooped for you with a sundae bar. There was a very nice assortment of cakes and tarts and puddings. There was also a sugar free section at one end.

Our server was quick to take away our dirty plates and empty the shell bowl that was on each table - nicely providing shell crackers and cocktail fish forks along with a good supply of wet-naps. The server brings your drinks and she promptly took our soft drink order when we sat down and brought the drinks right away. But through the meal when my wife had emptied her soda glass, the server came and went and never refilled it. Several times with us sitting there she looked directly at the empty glass and before we could say anything was off somewhere else. It was not until the end of our meal when I finished my ice tea did she come over and ask me if I would like another - still ignoring my wife's empty soda glass. I had to tell her to bring both another soda and an ice tea or my wife would never have gotten a refill. You have to wonder about this and my wife later heard another diner complaining about this server to the manager.

Had this dinner cost the $20 that most other Atlantic City buffets cost would I have been so put off? Probably not, and it is not the extra money as long as you get value and a decent meal for that value. I have had better meals at Golden Corral and for under $10. After dinner we took a walk to a few other casino's to check out the prices of the buffets. All Friday night buffets and this was the highest priced. At what I consider still to be the best AC Casino Buffet - the buffet at Bally's Wild Wild West, the price was $20.99 and they too had a special feature which was Prime Rib. Plus there you get all of the international stations and the steaks. Value and the quality of the food means a lot. This was what was lacking here. With the sales tax and tip you are putting down almost $70 for a meal for two that offered little more than most $14.99 Chinese buffets that offer a raw bar and crab legs and lower priced chain restaurants.

I was so hoping to recommend this buffet to you all. I wish that I could but I can't.

The French Quarter Buffet is located on the Atlantic City Boardwalk in the Showboat/House of Blues Casino Hotel.Their website is listed at the side of this page. Parking at the casino is an additional $10 per day - one price no matter how long you stay in the garage for the day. If you have a casino comp card the parking is $5.00.