Friday, December 30, 2011

The BEST BUFFET of 2011

I have thought long and hard about the choice for the best buffet for 2011. I have been to several really good buffets for the first time this year. I always think when I walk into a new buffet, perhaps this will be the one to top them all. As those of you know who have been reading this site for several years, the choice of best buffet has gone year after year to Shady Maple Smorgasbord in East Earl, Pennsylvania. It has troubled me that this continues to be the choice - year after year. Was I being fair to the others that have been so good? I have even thought that perhaps I should just skip naming a Best Buffet for this year. Yet, it keeps coming back to me that when something is really good and consistent, and meets the criteria that this site has set for what really constitutes the best, was it fair not to name that buffet that remains untopable.

In making my decision I decided to go to Shady Maple Smorgasbord during the month of December, mid-week for lunch. I have been there for lunch in the past but not nearly as much as I have been there for dinner. I was pretty certain that it would remain as good at lunch as it has at dinner, but I was going to put it to the test once again.

Lunch, of course, is less expensive than dinner - $12.99, but keep in mind that this includes Pennsylvania sales tax plus and included 8% tip. This brings the price for the meal to about $11. Yes, this is similar in price to dinner at the chain buffets - and this is for lunch, but what you are getting for lunch goes way beyond what the chain buffets are giving you for dinner - and this includes the beverage that you will pay $2 more for at the chain buffets.

The food was abundant and very much included almost everything that is included on the overflowing Shady Maple dinner buffets. What was different were the grill stations and rather than steak, they were serving burgers, but the marinated chicken breasts, the full oriental saute grill, and two grills grilling fish, veal Parmesan, and more were all serving at lunch. The buffet servers had the same and similar offerings as they have at night. And perhaps it was the season, or the day of the week but there were also some very Pennsylvania Dutch dishes including chicken bot boi (chicken with vegetables and broad noodle dumplings), snitz and knep (apples and dumplings), and pig stomach (you would be surprised how good this is!). Nothing at this meal disappointed.

When I speak with local people in this area in Pennsylvania, without my mentioning Shady Maple at all or any buffets for that matter, when the topic of food comes up, they always tell me about Shady Maple Smorgasbord. I have been in stores and farmers markets, and have passed people talking about Shady Maple. I never hear talk like this about any other restaurant in this region - and there are many fine restaurants in Lancaster County. Everyone seems to know and love Shady Maple. And there is a reason - it really is the best.

So if your reaction to this is, "Oh, not again!", I am sorry. But proper due needs to be given where it is deserved. No other buffet comes even close including the large casino buffets that are the only ones that approach the abundance, but too often fail in the consistency. I know of no other buffet that is larger, offers as much to eat (at a very reasonable price), and maintains a consistent quality and value. Everything is here - great soups, an extensive salad bar, a wide assortment of meats and vegetables, a mix of plain and fancy, and an extensive dessert area where you really can get just about anything that you would like for dessert.

It is for all of this and more that the Art of the Buffet names, once again, Shady Maple Smorgasbord as Buffet of the Year - 2011.

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. (Put the name in your GPS and it will know it.) The phone numbers are 1-800-238-7363 and 717-354-8222. They are closed on Sundays and certain holidays. There is a website and it is listed at the side of this page.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Old Country Buffet

Believe it or not, I have been eating at Old Country Buffet a lot lately. No, I have not been going to what I and others have called the "worst OCB in the Country" which is the nearest location to me but we have been traveling the twenty or so miles out to their other location in our area - the one with the "good" manager. Actually, we have been going at least once a week and some weeks more. It is really the only buffet "in town" so to speak. With the exception of a very few remaining Chinese buffets, there are no other chains or buffet restaurants near here.

My wife likes OCB. She prefers it over the other chains buffets. As everyone who reads this site regularly knows by now, she is a picky eater. And at OCB she can pick and choose things that are relatively plain and not overly seasoned. This is a good thing for many who do not want the heavily sauced and hot spiced items that have become popular at the other chains. She likes the carvings - especially the turkey, and the vegetables which can vary by recipe but can be found most nights to be served plain. She also likes that the salad bar is extensive and it is always possible to pick vegetables from the salad bar.

I have found several dishes of theirs to my liking and have enjoyed most of the meals that I have had there. I have written so many times about Old Country Buffet, both good and bad, that I won't go into the overall set up again, but I will tell you about some of the things that I find are good. One thing that I must note for you all, is that OCB varies by location in many regards and that includes how things are cooked, how things taste, how clean the restaurant is, and how the employees are. I have been to Old Country Buffets in several states and it is rare to find two alike in the things that I have just noted. Consistency in a chain is important - but there is little consistency from one OCB to the next and that is not good. But I don't want this to be a negative article about OCB, because I have been enjoying my meals there lately.

I am finding little change from night to night at OCB. There was a time when Monday night featured one set of dishes, Tuesday another, and so on. There is now no set menu that varies night to night. Some different dishes are added in, but more often than not the dishes served one night are the same as another. This is something that I miss from the old days. There were things on the old offerings that were very good and are now gone. Their barbecue beef ribs on Thursday nights were well known, and those have been gone now for several years. They also took away the plain spaghetti with sauce on the side and now have premixed pastas or spaghetti, often containing meat which does not help any vegetarians who might eat here.

So what do I like. I very much like their Caesar salad. They mix the Romaine lettuce with creamy Caesar dressing and croutons. It is good. It would be better if they put out the lettuce and the dressing on the side, but the mixed Caesar salad is one of the better Caesar salads that I have had served at buffets - even the more expensive buffets. It goes quickly also. The location that I am going to is attentive to empty serving trays and a new tray of salad is brought out as quickly as possible.

I cannot eat it, but the Split Pea soup found on Thursday nights is good. It is a thick and rich soup. We often take the chicken noodle which is there every night. It varies depending on how long it has been out - when it is freshest it is thinner and after it has been out for a while it thickens. It is actually not bad, either way. OCB could take something from their Ryan's chain and use thick, doughy, country noodles instead of pasta noodles which would make this soup even better. The soup has good size chunks of chicken, carrots, and celery.

The turkey is good - carved on Sundays and Wednesdays. The roast beef is just fair. The ham is good. There is steak on Friday and Saturday nights. I have written about the steak before - it comes from a char grill in the kitchen, but it is brought out to the carving area and placed in a steam table where it continues to cook to become way over done. Something funny happened with the steak recently. We went on a stormy night to the closer (and bad) location because there was no place else to go. I went up for some steak and the young man, who was carving, took a steak out of the steam table and cut a piece off to place in my plate. Before putting it in the plate he suddenly stopped, put the piece onto the cutting board and cut into it exposing the grey middle. "How is that?" He asked. I laughed. I said, "It is the same as always, over done." He did not offer to find my a rarer piece but instead was going to inform me of the timing for steak. He said that what I said was not true and that there are often rare steaks that come out. These had just come from the kitchen. He then said, that it was overdone because of the time - it was about 8 o'clock and the restaurant was still open until 10. If I was there earlier, the steak would be rarer. He was playing with the wrong guy and I came back at him. I explained to him that no matter how the steak came from the kitchen once it went into the steam table, it would continue to cook to well done. He became indignant - "OH, the steaks are not steamed! They are cooked on a grill." I had to explain to him that the tray that he placed the steaks in under the cutting board was in a steamer and the heat in there would continue to cook the steak. He was amazed by this and pointed down at the cutting board and the tray underneath. "You mean here?", he asked. Yep, that is exactly where. I took the steak and went back to my table chuckling. Here at this location, they just don't get it. While the steak is not much different at our usual OCB, they do understand that the system they have to hold the steaks until served will continue to cook them. This is the one big problem with steak at OCB. Some locations, I am told, have a grill at the serving area, like Ryans or Golden Corral. I would love to find one of those and try it.

The Fall has brought out pot roast on Sunday nights. This varies and can be very good, if it has good down until tender. It sometimes looks like the left over roast beef, but other times it has cooked to the point that it falls apart and melts as you eat it. It is served with carrots, celery, and potatoes in a brown gravy.

My favorite thing at OCB - and something that they do not put out often enough - is smoked sausage. I love smoked sausage, and others must also because any night that it is out, it goes quickly. They serve it in several ways - grilled with sauerkraut, cooked in barbecue sauce, cooked into a jambalaya, and it has even shown up in beans and rice. It is good. It would be better if is showed up more often. I think sometimes that it is brought out to replace other meat dishes that have run out.

Recently we got a coupon that required that a survey be taken to validate the coupon. The survey on the website spoke of an Italian Station, a Chinese Station, and a Mexican Station of foods. The taco bar is standard, but I have never seen an Italian Station or a Chinese Station. There are Italian and Chinese dishes mixed in at times - always Italian with two pastas on the buffet, but no separate "station". A recent sign on the tables talks about "going around the world" at OCB and selecting Italian dishes, Chinese dishes, and Mexican dishes. I am wondering if this is happening in other parts of the country or perhaps it is something that is coming. It will be interesting to wait and see.

Deserts at OCB are basic and not really worth the calories. The ice cream is the best of the desserts offered and you can make a nice sundae with the toppings offered.

Drinks at OCB, as most know by now, are extra - no longer included in the price of the meal, and rather expensive, though in line almost with the other chains, at $1.99 each for the "beverage bar". Drinks are included in the children's prices. Dinner locally to me at OCB is $10.99. I understand that in some areas it is only $9.99. There are often coupons sent out to those who have signed up for the email list - and lately the restaurant itself has been giving out coupons to use on a next visit. The price is right - and depending on the OCB that you go to, the food is not bad either.

It is hard to just make a blanket recommendation for OCB because they do vary so much from restaurant to restaurant. But if you try a bad one, don't let that stop you from trying another. There are good ones out there.

Friday, December 16, 2011


We were near the Philadelphia area and decided to have dinner at the Golden Corral in Bensalem,Pennsylvania. It was a Wednesday night and it was at the beginning of November. When we arrived at the restaurant it was not overly crowded but there were a good number of people there for dinner.I have written about this particular Golden Corral in the past. It is a fair location - not the best Golden Corral that I have been to. It is not the worst, but it has had its share of problems in the past. I was hoping that this trip would be good - and that my wife would find something to eat, as she does have difficulty finding things at Golden Corral and tends to eat mostly from the salad bar mixing salad with some of the cold, grilled, plain chicken that is out for the salads. I am always reluctant to suggest going to Golden Corral for this reason but she was actually the one who suggested it to me - so that we could get to see the Chocolate Wonderfall in person, after recently writing about it to inform all of you of this new feature.

This Golden Corral is about a mile or so from the PARX racetrack casino and I had to wonder as we sat down at our table if the odd assortment of people - mostly men around us were gamblers who came over here for a cheap meal. This was a much different crowd that I have seen here before, but I had not been here at this time of the year before. The casino has no buffet - much to my chagrin or you all would have heard about it from me by now. When these various tables emptied they were refilled by families - so I think my suspicions are correct. Anyway...

When we paid for our dinner and drinks my wife was handed her soda, but I was told that the server would bring my ice tea to our table. When we sat down it took a few minutes for the server to come and when I mentioned the ice tea he said that he would bring it right away. Fine. Just a bit odd - and we have been here before. He went off to get the tea and we went up to the buffet for soup.

I won’t go into the foods as they are so much the same as at all of the other Golden Corrals that I have written about in the past year. I was surprised to see that the poorly thought out seafood saute was still being featured - though now it has dropped the scallops and added crab cakes. This Golden Corral seems to have partly abandoned the cook to order idea and the chef who was also tending the steak grill, had two saute pans continually cooking shrimp and talapia (fish). On the side of the chargrill was a flat iron fry grill and on that he was scooping crab cake mixture and setting it down on the grill and flattening it out. All of the pasta, rice and grilled vegetables, and all of the sauces for the feature were at the side, now facing out for anyone to take and make their own plate of seafood. You still had to ask the chef for the shrimp, fish, or crab cakes. With this set up, it was not the fish or shrimp that were causing a long line,but the crab cakes. He was making just so many at time - not really filling the grill, and handing them out one at a time to each person on the line. And the line only moved, when that batch of crab cakes were ready. They needed to wake up to this and just keep crab cakes cooking at the back and bring them out - but no, this was a new hold up at the saute seafood fiasco. I had gone up three times just to try one crab cake and it was not until just before we were about to finish dinner was I able to get close enough so that I only waited about four minutes to get a crab cake. I wish that I could tell you it was a great crab cake. It was a bit mushy in the middle. I could not really tell if it was real crab. It did not have the texture of real crab - but there did seem to be something mixed in that could have been shell which would say then that it was real crab. Maybe yes and maybe no.

I should say that the first thing that I did once we headed up to the buffet was to walk over to the dessert area and see the chocolate fountain. And there it was. Several levels high (just like in the picture on the commercial) flowing from top to bottom with some type of chocolate substance. This is not real milk chocolate - it may taste like it but it does not have the consistency of melted real milk chocolate and it does not harden when as it cools, as real milk chocolate would. That is not a terrible thing, but it is something to be aware of. The chocolate fountain sat on the counter at anyone’s height including small children and was unattended. Next to the fountain were trays of what should have been the items to dip. All that were there were chunks of pineapple and a plate with rice krispy treat bars. There was a cup full of skewers that you are “supposed to” use to skewer FIRST what you are going to dip. There were no strawberries and no macaroons as stated on the sign on our table. I checked back several times during the night and when the rice krispy bars were gone all that was out was the pineapple. Let me get back to the meal and I will come back to the chocolate fountain shortly.

After soup, we went up for salad, and a number of the salad serving dishes were empty - many of the usual items that should have been out to create a salad needed to be refilled. There was one woman behind the counter who spent the entire night cutting lettuce - and talking to any employee that passed by. Despite requests, she never refilled those empty serving dishes. And as a result, there was no cold grilled chicken for my wife - nor were there most of the things that she eats when she eats salad. (Don’t comment that we should have said something - we did.)

To follow suit, at one point in the meal I went up to the hot buffet and many trays were empty - all at the same time. I sat back down and waited because I was not going to eat things that I did not want because they were not refilling food. It took about ten minutes and trays started to be refilled. Eventually, the hot foods were back out - but this should not happen and it is a sign of a poor kitchen manager and a poor buffet manager - not to mention the staff when this happens. The salad bar, however, was never replenished - but they had heaps of cut up lettuce - that I suppose they were keeping until the next day because that much lettuce would not be needed for that night - given the state of the rest of the salad bar.

So let’s return to the chocolate fountain. It was time for dessert and I was going to try it. My wife made a comment about chocolate fountains, in general, that had not occurred to me. If one is allergic to, let’s say,strawberries, and strawberries are dipped into the chocolate fountain (or dropped into the hot chocolate and lost below - then all of that fountain can cause a problem for that strawberry allergic person. With the pineapple chunks that were out, overly dripping with juice, that pineapple would certainly be mixed into the chocolate. So if you are allergic to any one of the items that are being dipped, beware! I had been keeping an eye on the fountain all night when I was up at the buffet to see what was going on there. What was interesting, is that there pretty much was no one dipping. Perhaps, that is because all that was left to dip was pineapple, but even when the rice krispy treat bars remained, no one was paying the Chocolate Wonderfall any attention!

Now, I titled this article “VISITED THE CHOCOLATE WONDERFALL AT GOLDEN CORRAL”.Notice that I did not say “tried” the Chocolate Wonderfall? That is because I could not try it. We were ready for dessert an hour and a half before this Golden Corral closes. There were still people on line to come in to eat. Tables were just starting their meal. And there was a young woman behind the dessert counter who was taking the chocolate fountain apart. She removed each layer, poured away the chocolate in a waste can next to her, and set the piece of the fountain in a bucket to be taken away. When she got to the bottom level, she started scooping out all of the things that had fallen into the fountain from what was lost at some time during the day and night during dips. So the final laugh - and I did laugh out loud - was that when it was time to try the Chocolate Wonderfall they were taking it away! When I got back to the table, my wife asked where was the whatever dipped in chocolate. I told her, that’s the laugh the whole fountain is gone. Lots of luck to all of those who came to have some - and in fact one of our readers commented on the article in November that they went to Golden Corral just for the chocolate fountain and there was none to be found!

By the way - there was not much in the way of dessert at this point that was being put out either. It could not have been that busy a day - and if it had been, management needed to anticipate what to do in that regard to keeping food out on the buffet.

Service from our server was overall fine. It is a good thing now that you get your own plates and you no longer need to rely upon the server to bring you clean plates each time you want to go up to the buffet. He did come by several times to bring drinks and ask about bringing drinks.
So there you have it. I tried to get a taste of that chocolate. I will say that it is A WONDER and it FALLS flat. Come on, Golden Corral - two losing ideas in a row. Perhaps they have brought you business, but you have to deliver when the people get there. And this time - like with the saute seafood - you did not deliver both at all and in any reasonable manner.

And it was another buffet meal that I felt real bad for my wife...

Now, allow me to apologize to you all as when this article was posted for some reason Blogspot put this post on the site blank. All of the text was there to be posted BUT nothing was posted. I still do not understand why. Anyway - the article is here now - formatted as best as I can get blogger to format it. Let's all hope this is not going to happen again.

Until next week...

Friday, December 09, 2011

Hershey Farm Restaurant, Strasburg, Pennsylvania

I have not been to the Hershey Farm Restaurant, another buffet in Lancaster County, in over three years. I wrote then about why I had not been there on that occasion since 1995, and the reason is has been the same since then - the price - and the price now is even higher than it had been then. I am not going to repeat what I had written before - though a great deal has changed, but if you would like to read that article this is the link.

We were on a trip to Lancaster County and before we went I found a coupon for $3 off the price of the buffet at this restaurant. I thought that even though it would still be expensive, we would try this buffet again, as three years ago it was not bad. I was also intrigued by the description of the buffet that said that it included soft pretzels. I really like soft pretzels and because of diet restrictions I do not have them often. Somehow, the idea of those pretzels were drawing me to come back to Hershey Farm restaurant's Grand Smorgasbord - which is what they call their buffet. I also thought that I should just go and buy a pretzel and save a lot of money.

We went on a weeknight in early November. The days and hours of this restaurant vary by the season and starting in November they are closed Mondays. We went on a Tuesday. A large sign at the entrance of the driveway announces what the daily special is on the buffet - and it said Steak Gyro. OK - not exactly what I would have expected in this area, but we would see.

We went in and there is a lobby with a large reception desk. From there you are escorted to your table. This is both a buffet and menu restaurant. The price of the buffet is Monday to Friday, dinner is $22.99. On Saturdays it is $25.99. This buffet is open on Sundays and the price then is $22.99. There are children's prices and these apply every day. For ages 4 to 8, the price is $7.99; 9 to 12 year olds, the price is $9.99. The children's prices includes beverages. Adults pay an additional $1.99 for beverages with refills. I told you this is expensive. If only it was worth the money - if only it was worth half the money...

Right away entering the dining room we could see that there were major changes since we were there just three years ago. Gone are the buffet servers. In their place there are free standing counters, each with several built in chaffing dishes with large dome lids on hinges - which proved to be near impossible to open and close easily. At the side of the room was a grill and near the entrance was a dessert area. In the back was a small salad bar, a soup area, and in a corner was a table with peel and eat spiced cold shrimp.

We waited some time for a server to come over to us and take our order - there were no more than ten tables in the two dining rooms with people at them and in our room there were three servers handling four tables. Finally, a server came and took our beverage orders and invited us up to the buffet - or should I say, Grand Smorgasbord.

We went up for soup. There was chicken corn soup, beef vegetable, chili, and cream of potato. The chicken corn soup tasted correct, but was thin when it looked like it should have been thick. The beef vegetable was excessively salty and the vegetables were just small pieces and these were over cooked. There were chunks of beef, but it was so salty that it really did not matter.

We followed soup with the salad bar and this is a very small and basic salad bar. There was mixed greens, toppings, and a several dressings. There were few prepared salads. The lettuce was wilting and browning in the serving bowl. We also noticed - after taking salad that there were many little flies around the salad serving tubs - some were crawling with these flies. This put an end to eating any more salad - and this was a problem as my wife tends to take vegetables from the salad bar at buffets to eat instead of the prepared, hot vegetables served. I don't know if the flies followed us back to our table - which was some distance from the salad bar, but when we got back to the table there were more of these little flies buzzing around us. I started to realize why the open buffet servers were now replaced by covered serving dishes.

One of the "features" were "gourmet breads". We looked for these and found nothing more than commercial white bread, commercial raisin bread, and commercial honey wheat bread, and white dinner rolls - all cheap bread as found in a supermarket. There was an assortment of spreads for the breads. I had to wonder where the "gourmet breads" were. A woman at another table asked - those were them! Next to the bread was a waffle maker and you could make your own waffles. There were plastic cups of batter sitting next to the waffle maker. I wondered if these don't need to be kept on ice or refrigerated, rather than just sit out - especially with the flies.

The entrees that were out included Swedish meatballs, ham balls, Italian sausage and peppers, sliced ham, chicken pot pie (bot boi), pot roast, meatloaf, fried chicken, honey bbq chicken, baked fish, chicken nuggets, pork and sauerkraut, krab and pasta in cheese sauce. On the grill there was chicken parmigiano that could be served with pasta and also in alfredo sauce, steak gyro (just like the sign said), steak on a stick, grill chicken with a variety of sauces of your choice, and carved loin of pork. Side dishes included mashed potatoes, rice pilaf, buttered noodles, a baked potato bar, french fries, corn, broccoli, winter mix, filling, candied sweet potatoes, stewed tomatoes, macaroni and cheese, cheesy potatoes, and corn nuggets.

I took a sampling of sausage, a Swedish meatball, some of the chicken pot pie, and I found the pretzals on the dessert bar - salty, soft pretzel sticks and cinnamon pretzel sticks. I took one of the salty soft pretzel sticks, it was small. The sausage was good. The meatball was not as good as are served at Ikea Home Store's restaurant for $2.99. The chicken pot pie was disappointing with thin noodles and and and over thick sauce - it had been sitting too long without stirring and some of the noodles were turning brown and hard. The pretzel, however, was very good.

I also tried the chicken parmigiano. The grill chef took a chicken breast and split it in half, and then put it on the fry grill with a lot of grease and a iron weight on top. Eventually, he covered it with tomato sauce and put cheese on top, covered this with a metal dome on the grill to melt the cheese. This was the most unusual chicken parm that I have ever had - and not really good.

I later decided to try the "steak on a stick". I went to the grill and the same chef seemed surprised that I wanted this. He took four chunks of steak from a refrigerator and got out a stick and skewered them. I expected that he would cook this on the chargrill that was next to the fry grill, but no, it went on the fry grill, again with the iron weight on top. He told me that it would take six minutes to cook. Six minutes is a long time to cook steak - even if you like it well done and especially on a fry grill. I waited several minutes. He never asked how I would like it done. There were very few people left by now in the restaurant so there was no distraction, It was just him and me at the grill. He went to turn it over in about three minutes and I said that I would like it medium rare. "Oh," he said, "then you can have it now." The steak was on the edge of over done. It was also tasteless.

The mashed potatoes were overly salty. The stewed tomatoes were more like chunky tomato sauce,than stewed tomatoes. The buttered noodles were drowning in butter. The rice pilaf was just white rice with beans and not real rice pilaf. The sliced ham was more like chunks of ham. The pork and sauerkraut was overdone.

I looked at the fried chicken and it was so overcooked that I did not take any. The honey bbq chicken was also way overdone and sitting far too long. The meatloaf was fair but had too much tomato sauce on top.

This was not a meal of quality. The food was not really good. Nothing that we had was something that we would recommend to anyone. And the buffet trays were not tended properly. Things dried out, overcooked, and some was just unappetizing. And all this for $22.99! I have had far better meals at Old Country Buffet.

Desserts followed along with the rest. There were the pretzels, a few pies, a couple of pieces of cake, jello- both regular and diet, something called java bean pudding - it looked like coffee in a cup, diet chocolate pudding, little whoppie pies (small chocolate soft cookie sandwiches with cream in the middle), cookies, small chocolate cupcakes, something called candy corn dessert, a sundae bar, and slices of cheesecake that looked wet around the sides. There was also a chocolate fountain with tiny pretzels which were far too small to sanitarily go into a chocolate fountain, marshmallows, chunks of pineapple, and tiny animal crackers. Even though it was up on a high counter, I saw several small children trying to dip a treat with their fingers in the chocolate. I tried a small whoppie pie and that was disappointing. It was not worth the calories or carbs.

Service was fair. Dishes stacked up on the table more than once - and again, this server had two tables to take care of. He did offer refills on the beverages.

At about 7:45 pm with several tables still with people eating, the chef starting cleaning behind the grill counter. I have seen this done in other buffets - getting a start on closing, but he was actually closing down with nothing being left on the side if anyone wanted anything else. Now, this buffet like most in this area closes at 8:00 pm but at most of the others, this means that they stop seating at 8:00 pm, and actually keep the buffet going for about another hour. Here as 8:00 approached, the staff came out to start shutting down. At almost all other buffets that I have been to, when a serving section is about to be closed down or food is going to be taken away for the night to close, someone comes to the table and says, "We are about to take away the hot foods (or dessert area), would you like anything else from there before we do?" No one came and said a word that the buffet was being shut down, including the dessert area - while there were still people actively eating. The laugh to all of this was a woman did walk around from table to table and I expected her to say something about the foods being taken down, but instead, she wanted to let us know that she was about to close the gift shop and were we planning on coming into the gift shop after our meal - and if we were she would remain open! So they were eager for us to shop in the gift store, but not finish the dinner that we all were all already paying for. No. It was time to go and the restaurant staff were taking away the food whether people were still eating or not, and not saying anything about it.

Many years ago, we would come to this restaurant for a very nice lunch - before it ever had a buffet. For some reason, they have never been successful with their attempts at buffets. Three years ago was the high point. No longer.

I do not recommend this buffet. There are so many really good buffets to go to in this area. Forget about this one!

The Hershey Farm Restaurant is located on Route 896 just south of Route 30, past the Rockvale Outlet Center. Follow the signs for the Sight and Sound Theater. There is an 800 number - 800-827-8635. They have a website which is linked at the side of this page.

Friday, December 02, 2011


This is a buffet that is new to me. It has apparently been around for quite some time but because it is a bit outside of the usual Lancaster County area, and it does not advertise, I have not come across it before in my fifty years of visiting this county.

Unique to the Pennsylvania seems to be restaurants located within, and associated with supermarkets. We have talked about several of these on this site before - among them Shady Maple Smorgasbord and Yoders Restaurant. There are others - and Dutch-Way Family Restaurant is my newest find among this type of restaurant - and buffet. And what a find it has been.

There are three Dutch-Way Farm Market Supermarkets in this general area of Pennsylvania. All three have restaurants, but only two have buffet restaurants. I have recently visited and dined at the Dutch-Way Family Restaurant in the town of Gap, Pennsylvania. As I started out by saying, Gap is not in the general tourist attraction area of Lancaster County. It is at the southeastern side of the county and very much off the main roads. I learned of this restaurant by accident while I was searching for coupons to restaurants in Lancaster and a list of restaurants came up in my search that included this restaurant - no coupon, but the name of a buffet that I had never heard of before. As it happened, we were traveling to the area and decided that this was a must see.

Getting to the restaurant is a bit tricky - once you actually see the parking lot, as we could only find an entrance if coming from the south, and we were coming in from the main route (Route 30) toward the north. We wound up passing the parking lot and making a U-turn to get in from the direction that the angled lot entrance faced. Once parked in front of the parking lot there is a entrance to the supermarket and an entrance to the restaurant - both connect on a front hallway. If you enter at the supermarket you must walk through a snack bar to get to where the main restaurant is located.

This restaurant impressed from the moment we walked through the door. The room and the entrance way is nicely decorated and nothing that you might expect about a restaurant in a supermarket. Coming in I did not know what the price of this buffet would be or what we would find. Looking into the room we saw a two large dining rooms with the buffet located in the rear. When we walked up to the reception desk, I was asked if we were there for the buffet. I said yes, and we were brought to one side of the dining room. I am not sure why as others around us were not all having the buffet - there is a menu and you can also add parts of the buffet to you menu meal. Since we were having the buffet, we were not handed menus so I had no idea of the price of the meal or beverages. What the heck - take a chance.

The buffet is comprised of three large double sided buffet servers and three walls that have food servers as well. At the end is a large grill area. There is something offered from this grill included with the buffet every night. It turned out, as we discovered when we went up to the buffet that we were there on Italian Night. Monday is Italian Night. Wednesday is Southwestern Night. Thursday is Seafood Night. Friday is Steak Night. Saturday is Prime Rib Night. We asked about Tuesday and were told that it is an assortment that varies. We also learned from the sign that announced that it was Italian Night that the price of the buffet was $10.99! I am going to tell you right now that this is an incredible buffet for just $10.99! The price is not the same each night and I was not able to find out about any of the other prices except Seafood Night which I will tell you about later.

As usual we started with soup and there were four soups out. There was vegetable beef, chicken corn noodle, chili, and pasta fagioli (macaroni with beans). I tried the chicken corn and my wife took the vegetable beef. I am a chicken corn soup fan. I prefer it made thick. This one is thin - chicken broth, noodles, chicken and corn. The soup was very good. My wife loved the vegetable beef. The soup was nicely seasoned. The vegetables were nicely cooked without being too soft. Neither soup was greasy. They make a point to let you know that they are homemade.

The soup was a hit. We finished it and moved on to the salad bar. The salad bar is extensive. There are two types of lettuce - iceberg and romaine. There was raw spinach as well. There were a nice assortment of toppings. They had chunks of local Lebanon Bologna - more a salami than a bologna - to add to your salad. There were also chunks of ham and two types of cheese. There was a nice assortment of dressings in serving bottles and next to that there was a basket filled with Ken's Dressings packets including several fat free dressings. In addition to the salad fixings bar, there was another server with prepared salads. These were a broad assortment of local salads like pepper cabbage and chow chow, along with the usual deli salads. There was also a wonderful chicken salad. The vegetables on the salad bar were extremely fresh and there was none of the typical dripping from one serving tray to another. There was also the traditional PA Dutch cottage cheese and apple butter. We both enjoyed the salad very much.

The entrees were an interesting mixture of Pennsylvania Dutch cooking with Italian dishes - as this was Italian Night. The feature at the grill on Italian Night is a Pasta Saute Station. A chef is there waiting for you to pick your pasta, your sauce, and what you would like sauteed with that. There was sausage, bacon, chicken, a wide variety of vegetables, mushrooms, and more. On the buffet the Italian dishes included eggplant parmigiana, sausage and peppers "rustica", baked stuffed manicotti with mozzarella melted on top in tomato sauce, shrimp scampi on spaghetti, spinach stuffed rigatoni with mushroom Alfredo sauce, and chicken ravioli with three cheese sauce. There were garlic bread sticks at the grill. The "regular" entrees included fried chicken, roast turkey served in gravy, roast beef served in gravy, pork and sauerkraut, dutch loaf (meat loaf in a nice gravy), and ham balls in pineapple sauce. The rest of two servers were filled with side dishes - potato filling, mashed potatoes, roast potatoes, macaroni and cheese, glazed carrots, harvard beets, mixed vegetables, baked lima beans, and stewed tomatoes.

I had a tasting selection - a little of most things so that I can tell you how the food is. I liked it all. The turkey was turkey breast sliced thick and served in turkey gravy. It was good. The sausage and peppers were tasty but if you are Italian you will say that this sausage is "Italian-style" as it did not have the heavy traditional sausage seasons found in Italian sausage in Italian areas. The Dutch Loaf was a nicely lightly seasoned meat loaf in what must have been an onion gravy. This was the dish that I went back for more of. The fried chicken breasts that were out were HUGE. I dug deep into the serving tray to find a small piece. The mixed vegetables were nicely plain - not swimming in butter or seasoned in a way to not fully taste the broccoli, carrots, and zucchini that made up this mixture. The potato filling - stuffing made from potatoes - was light and not sweet so that you could taste the potato. The macaroni and cheese was not thick and gloppy but with a thin, mild cheese sauce that nicely covered the elbow macaroni. The pork and saurekraut was loaded with large chunks of pork. Break up the chunks on your plate into small pieces and you will enjoy this more. The stewed tomatoes were not overly sweet as some can be. The ham balls were also good. The pineapple sauce was sweet but not overly sweet.

I liked the Italian dishes as well. The chicken ravioli was better than the stuffed spinach rigatoni but both were good. The manicotti was as good as any that I have had when growing up. Even without the fennel sides the sausage was enjoyable, and the peppers were a mix of green, red, and yellow and were nicely cooked in the chunky tomato sauce.

There was a section on the side with breads. There were several specialty breads including raisin bread, slices of corn bread, pumpkin bread ('tis the season), cranberry bread, banana nut bread, and blueberry bread. There were also muffins - blueberry and cranberry. There were also white and whole wheat rolls. At the soup section there was an assortment of crackers. There was a lot of temptation. The corn bread was not sweet, but it wasn't not sweet - if you know what I mean. The raisin bread that was more like spiced raisin bread. It was dark and tasted like the "holidays", not at all like typical raisin bread - so good!

Desserts were as plentiful as everything else. There was a vast assortment of pies, some cakes, donuts, sticky buns, Danish pastry, and cookies. There was no sugar added apple pie and cherry pie. Of course, there was shoo fly pie. There was a large selection of puddings, fruits in syrup, containers of yogurt with granola to put in it. In this area prepared desserts are popular such as angel food cake at the bottom with pineapple on top covered in whipped cream in a tray, a tray of eclair "pudding", etc. There was also no sugar pumpkin cheesecake in a tray and no sugar tapioca. I love donuts. I over did my carb intake on this meal and had to reluctantly pass them by. Again, so much temptation. There was also a sundae bar with soft serve ice cream (that was good) and toppings. The sundae bar can be ordered separately as can the whole dessert bar.

This whole meal cost $10.99. The refillable soft drinks were $1.39. The quality was far beyond any chain buffet with a similar price- heck the quality was beyond many buffets that I have been to.

Service was very good. All plates were promptly taken away and refills of beverages were offered. Everyone was very pleasant too.

I was able to find out about the Seafood Night on Thursday nights. This meal is $17.99 - so you see that not all nights are $10.99. I suspect that many weeknights are. The Seafood Night includes Maryland Crab Cakes, coconut encrusted tilapia with pineapple butter, creamy mushroom/onion whiting, tomato basil catfish, mussels Provencal, steamed clams, New England Clam Chowder, snow crab bisque, peel and eat shrimp, Krab salad, coconut shrimp, breaded cod, breaded scallops, and southern hush puppies. At the grill there is grilled haddock with fruit salsa, and snow crab legs. This is well worth the $17.99. Selections may vary week to week.

I highly recommend this buffet. I am going back. It will be on a different night to see what other treats I will find. I cannot believe that this has been right under my taste buds and I never knew about it. I was almost reluctant to write this article because it was so good - and very much a local restaurant and not one frequented by tourists, that I did not want to spoil it. But heck, they need to make money just like everyone else. This was a great find. It was the best $10.99 buffet that I have ever had. Maybe it was the best at even a higher price too. Is it the best buffet I have been to - no, But with this one meal, it was way up there. If you are in this area, this is a must stop and eat!

The Dutch-Way Family Restaurant is located at the Dutch-Way Farm Market Supermarket at 365 Gap Newport Pike (Route 41), Gap, Pennsylvania 17527. The buffet is served from 4 pm to 8 pm Monday to Saturday. The restaurant is closed on Sundays. This is about two and a half miles south of Route 30. There is a web site and that is linked at the side of this page. The phone number is 610-593-6080.

Friday, November 25, 2011

All You Can Eat One Night Only Special Dinner at IKEA Stores Restaurants

IKEA is an international chain of home furniture stores. They are located across the United States. They are known for their "knock-down" furniture - furniture that you build yourself. Each store has a restaurant and while these restaurants are not buffets, they do have at different times of the year one night dinners that are All You Can Eat. One of those dinners will take place in two weeks and I wanted to get this out out all of our readers in time. This is something that is quite different and for what it is very inexpensive. On December 9, 2011, IKEA Store restaurants will be serving the all you can eat Swedish Christmas Julbord, a traditional holiday meal from Sweden.

The price of this meal is $9.99 per adult and just $2.49 per child under 12 and it requires tickets purchased in advance. Tickets can be obtained at the IKEA Store at the restaurant. Seating is very limited and there will be two seatings at each store, 4:00 pm to 6 pm and 7:00 pm to 9:00 pm. Times may vary from store to store.

The menu that will be served includes: Assorted Herrings, Graved Lax with Mustard Sauce, Smoked Salmon with Horseradish Sauce, Whole Poached Salmon, Hard Boiled Eggs with Shrimp, Swedish Cucumber Salad, Red Beet Salad, Christmas Ham, Liverwurst Pate, Assorted Cheeses, Meatballs and Ligonberries, Prinskov Sausage, Red Cabbage, Boiled Potatoes with Dill, Gratang Jansson, Lussekatter, Crispbread, Thinbread, Dinner Rolls, Swedish Rice Pudding with Almonds, Assorted Desserts, Glogg (non-alcoholic), and Beverages - coffee, tea, and fountain drinks.

I have eaten at the IKEA restaurants from their usual daily menu and the food is good. This dinner sounds fabulous and it is an opportunity to try things that you have likely not had before - unless you are Swedish or have a Swedish restaurant nearby - and it is all you care to eat! The price is unbelievable - they will be losing money on the smoked salmon alone. Their usual desserts look great so the chance to have them like this makes this a meal that is not to be missed.

If you cannot make it to this year's Julbord at IKEA, there is another chance to have a similar meal at the IKEA restaurants in March 2012 for their Swedish Easter Smorgasbord. I, unfortunately, have to wait for the Spring dinner, but if you are able to attend this meal on December 9th, get over to your local IKEA store and buy your tickets now. Don't miss out!

There is a store locator on their website linked here. Enjoy!

Friday, November 18, 2011

A Buffet for the Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving dinner is a sumptuous feast and some of the most sumtuous feasts that I know of are at buffets. Not everyone wants to cook a large meal and not everyone has family enough to invite for a meal that consists of a groaning board loaded with the makings of a traditional Thanksgiving meal. Singles and those without family at all don't have to eat alone. Of course, there are many menu restaurants that are open on Thanksgiving and will serve from their menu what most expect to have on Thanksgiving, but what you are getting is a plate with a few slices of turkey, barely a scoop full of stuffing, some mashed potatoes, and some vegetable in a little plate on the side. And for this you will pay three times what this same dish would cost on any other day.

To enjoy a full and abundant Thanksgiving dinner, try a buffet. There are a number of buffet restaurants open on Thanksgiving from the major chains to as ritzy as the Waldorf Astoria's Thanksgiving buffet dinner. Each is putting out all of what goes into a traditional Thanksgiving dinner and it is all there for you to have all you care to eat.

Old Country Buffet, Golden Corral, and Ryans are serving Thanksgiving dinner at their buffets. Ponderosa - a buffet that I have not much considered a buffet but rather a supplement to their menu - is advertising a full Thanksgiving buffet that looks quite good - and for just $9.99 a person. None of these require reservations in advance, but they do have different hours than their regular weekday hours. For example, Old Country Buffet closes at 7:00 pm on Thanksgiving. It is a good idea to check the hours in advance.

Some buffets like Souplantations/Sweet Tomatoes are offering all of their specialties for purchase in advance to take out to your home.

In the Lancaster County, Pennsylvania area several of the buffets are opening for Thanksgiving and will be serving special buffets for the holiday. These include Bird-in-Hand Family Restaurant and Family Cupboard Restaurant. Both have wonderful buffets on regular days and their Thanksgiving buffets look to be extra special and close as you can get to having cooked all of this at home and dining in a family atmosphere. These buffets do require reservations - and by now are likely fully booked. (But call anyway if you are interested, as you never know!)

I recently learned that the famous and elegant Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City serves a Thanksgiving buffet in one of their restaurants. I am certain that this is quite expensive - a salad at the restaurants at this hotel costs over $25 on their usual menus. The restaurants at the Waldorf are well known, and the cooking is supposed to be fabulous. So if you are the type that turns your nose up when the word "buffet" is mentioned - even you will be impressed with a Thanksgiving buffet at the Waldorf. Here, of course, reservations are a must and there is a dress code. Men should not show up without a jacket and tie.

Last year, tired of cooking for two days in a row, we decided to try a buffet for Thanksgiving. Did we go to the Waldorf? Certainly not! We went to Old Country Buffet. And it was very nice! We had a great time and were surrounded by other guests having nice times. This all gave a much more holiday atmosphere and feeling than just the two of us sitting at home. And dinner did not cost any more than the usual dinner buffet at OCB. We intend to do this again this year! In fact, even though OCB is not my most favorite buffet, and we eat there quite often - I am looking forward to the Thanksgiving Buffet there. It consists of what is basically served on their Sunday dinner buffet - carved roast turkey, roast beef, and ham, served with a selection of vegetables, potatoes, and the addition of whole sweet potatoes, candied sweet potatoes, pumpkin pie, and most of what you would expect to have for Thanksgiving. And the staff - at least at the one that we went to - were not unhappy to be working on the holiday and all had a smile and did their jobs well.

So, if you don't have plans for Thanksgiving, check out a buffet. Remember to check the times in advance, and find out if you need a reservation.

Happy Thanksgiving to all of my readers! Enjoy!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Chocolate Wonderfall at Golden Corral

Just when I thought that the made to order sauteed seafood at Golden Corral was one of the worst ideas that they could come up with, they follow this with a new dessert feature - Chocolate Wonderfall.

The Chocolate Wonderfall is a chocolate dipping area complete with a tiered fountain that pours down melted chocolate. With this you dip fresh fruit wedges, cookies, pretzels, macaroons, ricekrispy treats and more. The items are out for you on a wooden skewer and you hold the skewer at the end and dip into the chocolate. Sounds great, right? Yes, it sound great but I can imagine what will happen with this when left unsupervised.

I must be fair and say that I have not been to a Golden Corral yet to see this for myself. I have seen the commercials on television showing this. There is a YouTube video here. But I know buffets and I know what can happen if there is not a diligent employee supervising something like this.

So what could be wrong with this -

1. Sticking ones fingers in for a lick.
2. Double dipping.
3. Standing in front and eating one after the other piece dipped in.
4. Dropping things into the chocolate.
5. Children putting their hands in.
6. I could go on and on...

Shady Maple Smorgasbord in Pennsylvania has had a chocolate fountain like this on special occasions. There is always an employee at the table keeping a close eye on those dipping. And more than once I have observed the employee stopping someone from doing just what I have listed above. I cannot see Golden Corral assigning an employee to supervise this chocolate fountain constantly. They often do not have the staff to properly supervise the buffet.

I like Golden Corral. It is up at the top in my opinion in many ways - BUT they have had some dumb ideas this year. I have to wonder if there has been a change in management in the home office who is coming up with these poor ideas. My message to Golden Corral is stick to what you do best - a good, serve yourself buffet with simple and easy to take items.

If anyone has been to the Chocolate Wonderfall, please leave a comment about how it was and how well supervised it is. As soon as I can get to a Golden Corral, I will let you know what I see.

Friday, November 04, 2011

Rules of the Buffet

Since I just wrote about rules for those that work at buffets, it is time that we brought out our list of rules for those who dine at buffets. This list started with this site and has been added to over the years - here is the currently, complete list of Rules of the Buffet:


1. All you can eat is not a challenge. It is an offer!

2. There is no limit to the number of times that you can go up and get food.

3. Take your food in courses - as you would be served if ordering from a menu.

4. Everyone must pay!

5. No food is permitted to be taken out of the restaurant.

6. Take only what you will eat - do not waste food.

7. For a more social meal, it is polite to wait for the others at the table to finish their plates and then go up together to get more.

8. Take a clean plate every time that you go up to the buffet tables.

9. If you put it on your plate, leave it there. Never return food to the serving tray.

10. Never eat at the buffet tables!

11. Children under 12 should not be going up to the buffet tables alone.

12. The buffet table is not a cafeteria line.

13. Tip the server.

14. Never take a serving piece from one item and use it for another item.

15. Never place your dirty plates on someone else's table.

16. Never use your silverware to serve yourself from the buffet trays.

17. Once you have gotten what you want, don't stand around the buffet tables. Move on back to your table.

18. Children should remain seated through the meal.

19. Do not fill community plates for the "table". Each should take their own plate of what they wish to eat.

20. If you cough or sneeze into your hand, please do not use that hand to pick up the serving utensils.

21. In the buffet, as in any restaurant, children (and adults) should use their inside voices.

22. Don't talk on your cell phone while you are getting your food at the buffet tables.

23. Never bring an animal into the buffet. (this is not referring to medical guide dogs)

24. Never put your hands into a serving tray.

25. Tell your children not to put their hands into a serving tray - and make sure that they do not!

26. Do not carry on a conversation throughout dinner with the people at the tables around you.

27. Do not put anything back into a serving tray that has dropped onto the serving counter - and never put anything back into a serving tray (whether from the counter or your dish) with your fingers.

28. Never put the serving utensil, whether it a spoon, fork, or tongs, up to your nose to smell the food that you have taken out of the serving tray.

29. Do not eat while walking with your plate back to your table.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Rules for Buffet Staff and Management

We have looked at buffets from the start of this site primarily from the view point of the people who dine at them. I want to turn that attention now toward the people who manage them and work at them. After a few collective not so great experiences, I feel that it is time for a set of rules for those who serve the public at a buffet. It seems odd to me that such a list is necessary, as these people are doing a job and at some level - whether it is self-pride in doing a job well or a manager making sure that everyone does their job well - people who are paid to do a job would do it in a way that would benefit the business and in turn keep their job. At some buffet restaurants, there is no question that this is how things are, but there are some - and I am not going to name them now - that need perhaps to have it spelled out for them - the basic expectations of the people who come to the restaurant and pay for a meal.

So - you will find some of these just plain common sense, but as with the Rules of the Buffet for diners, sometimes plain common sense is just overlooked. This will be a continuing list - this is by far not complete and will be added to as we go along. Also, this list is not in any specific order. Just because one rule comes before another does not make it any more important. They are all of prime importance.


1. Everything on this list of rules is the responsibility of every employee of a buffet restaurant. If you are not authorized to do what is necessary, immediately get someone who is.

2. Make sure that there are plates and silverware always available. When the number of plates or any particular utensil starts to get low, bring out more immediately. Do not wait for them all to be gone.

3. The temperature of food must be kept at a specified level - hot foods must remain hot and cold foods must remain properly gold. Check the serving trays regularly with a food thermometer to make sure temperatures are correct. (This is a Board of Health regulation, but it seems that some buffets don't pay much attention to it.)

4. When a tray of food is half full, alert the kitchen that more is needed. Do not allow any tray to become empty.

5. Stir the trays of food regularly around the entire buffet. Do not allow any tray to become dry.

6. At least one employee needs to be assigned the job of walking around all serving bars and inspecting the food.

7. Any item that does not appear presentable to eat should be removed immediately.

8. Parents with children should be told when entering that children under 12 must be accompanied to the food bars and may not go up alone. Signs of reminder need to be posted at the food bars.

9. If there is a carving station, a carver must be present at all times and within sight of the carving station - ready to serve the next person who steps up without delay.

10. A manager or supervisor should always be visible in the restaurant - and keeping an eye on employees in both the dining room and at the buffet.

11. Finished plates need to be picked up from a table promptly. Plates should never have to be stacked up on a table before they are picked up.

12. If beverages are served at the table, table staff should ask diners if they would like a refill as soon as the glasses are just a quarter full.

13. Table staff should introduce themselves to the diners at their table when the diners first sit down.

14. Every serving tray must have its own serving piece.

15. When an employee sees that a serving piece has been placed in the wrong tray, it should be picked out immediately and replaces with a clean serving piece.

16. Items that will drip should be placed at the front of the buffet server and not behind other items that they will drip into when served.

17. The dining room needs to be kept clean throughout the day. Serving area counters need to be wiped down and floors need to be kept clean of food items dropped including around and under tables.

18. Correctly label every item out on the buffet. If an item changes in a location, change the label at the same time.

19. If beverages are not included in the buffet price - and drinks are self-service - if a dinner is seen taking a beverage or there is a beverage on the table that has not been paid for, report this to a manager immediately and the manager should speak with the customer.

20. Smile at all times. At least look like you enjoy your job.

21. Managers need to anticipate a busy night and prepare accordingly with food on hand, food being cooked, and an adequate number of employees on duty to handle the business.

22. Managers need to make sure the kitchen staff is keeping up with the demand at the serving bars and make sure they are keeping ahead of need.


As I said, I am sure there will be more coming. If you would like to contribute to this list, please email me through the link at the side of the page or leave a comment. If you leave a comment please understand that I will take your suggestion from the comment and not publish the comment. If you would like credit for the "rule", let me know and I will include a screen name of your choice with the rule.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Peking Restaurant - Revisited, Williamsburg, Virginia

I wish that I was saving the best for the last of the restaurants that I recently dined at during my trip to Williamsburg, Virginia, but my trip to the Peking Restaurant - the Asian Buffet that this site named as the best in 2007 - was a bit disappointing. I have been there since that article was written, but there have been some changes - and sometimes change is not good.

Let me tell you a little about this buffet in general. It is located in a shopping center next to a K-Mart on one of the main routes in Williamsburg, Virginia. It is well known by the locals and we have had many dinners there sitting near employees from both Colonial Williamsburg and Busch Gardens. This has been for a long time, a must stop and dine for us - and often we will have more than one meal there during our trip. We planned the same for this recent trip and we went there the first night that we arrived in town.

From the outside all looked the same. I had read before we went that they have added a "sushi train" and also a Thai food section to the buffet. I have not really had Thai food before other than a dish or two included at Asian buffets so this would be something different to try. I wondered how a buffet would incorporate a "sushi train" but I will talk more about that as we go along here. We went inside. The room to the right of the entrance which was once a gift shop is now an additional dining room. The rest of the dining room was pretty much as it had been. The large flat screen TVs were still around the room at the ceiling playing Oriental videos, though there seemed to be less of them. They are not loud and interesting to glance up at during the meal for what they are playing. What I did notice was that the layout of the buffet was different. The serving stations were changed to now line two walls (one of those walls, the divider to the dining room). The large round Mongolian grill was still where it had always been. There has always been another grill area at the opposite end of the buffet and that was there as well, but the sushi bar that had once been at the end of that was now a dessert station and the "sushi train" was now taking up a section that had once been table space (apparently why they needed the dining space now where the gift shop had once been).

The price for the meal is still good. With the tax and the tip, the dinner came to $17 per person including unlimited soft drinks which is not bad for a large Asian buffet meal. Again, remember this is with tax and tip. This is more than the $10.99 that it was five years ago - but not much and think how much everything else has gone up in price in five years!

There is a large section of soups - several different soups beyond the usual wonton, egg drop, hot and sour selection. Clam Chowder, Vegetable Chicken, Seaweed, and Miso soup were there among the usual. There is also a noodle soup station in the middle of the grill area on the left side of the restaurant. Here you can get one of the several types of noodles cooked with broth and vegetables to order. We love Vietnamese Pho and they will make that for you here. While the pho broth is not seasoned as it would be in a Vietnamese restaurant, this soup is good here. We both enjoyed a bowl of that.

Let me now tell you about the "sushi train". This is something that is popular in Tokyo and has come to some Japanese restaurants in the United States. The idea in one of those other restaurants is that you sit at a long counter and a moving line of sushi dishes travel past you. There you take what you like and you are charged per plate at the end. HERE - there is a section on the side rear of the restaurant that has a U-shaped, tall counter covered with plexiglass that has doors every so many feet. Inside there is a track upon which single pieces of sushi travel along on plates. There was all types of sushi - far beyond what Peking Restaurant had in the past. Many were spicy. Each plate has one piece of sushi on it. Now, here is the problem. This is a buffet. How many small plates are you going to pick up and take back to your table? You are not eating here at the counter as is done at a "sushi train" restaurant. So you take a couple - maybe three -and you go back and you are up again a few minutes later for more. Some were taking larger plates and emptying the smaller plates into the larger plate - but this area is not set up for this and there is no place to put these empty little plates. You also need a hand free to open the door to reach inside the moving conveyor belt to take a plate. Knowing what each plate had on it was also a problem. There was some attempt to place a name on a crystal block in front of the plates of each type of sushi as it went along - but some of these were obviously not correct, and if you missed the name as it moved past, you were guessing what was on each plate. There was also some attempt at color coding each plate color for the type of sushi that was on it - roll, spicy, fish, raw, vegetable - but the chart got complex - fast! This was a good idea but not for a buffet. I wound up taking things that looked like what they were not. I love sushi - I moved on from this quickly. It was not worth the effort that it took - and it was almost impossible to go back and find the same thing (even basic things) that I had taken and wanted again. Put this in a buffet situation where you sit down at this moving line of sushi and it would be something special. Here it was a gimmick gone wrong.

The Thai dishes were laid out along a counter all together. There was Thai Dumplings, Pad Thai, Sweet Coconut Rice Cakes, Fish Cake, Sticky Rice with Tropical fruit, Green Curry Shrimp, Thin Rice Roll, and Thai Fried Rice. Things were labeled that they were spicy - and they absolutely were. I tried what appeared to be the milder of what was there and it was beyond what I enjoy in spicy/hot dishes. If you are a Thai food eater, this all may be great. To the uninitiated, this was not for the beginner.

On the grill there is terriaki beef and terriaki chicken. There were also dumplings here. There used to be hibachi beef and chicken here right off the grill, but that is gone, much to my wife's disappointment.

The assortment of hot dishes also seems to have changed and there seemed to be less of them and what was there was more on the spicy and sweet side of Chinese dishes than a broad assortment. In the past there had been more of the simpler and less common on a buffet Chinese dishes, as simple as chow mein or moo shu. Those were not there as they once had been. There is a large variety of rice with three types of fried rice and also brown rice.

The Mongolian barbecue is there to make up for what may be missing on the rest of the buffet. Here you can make what you like by taking raw meat (chicken, beef, pork, shrimp) and mixing it with raw vegetables, adding a sauce on top and having the chef cook it for you while you watch. This was as it had been. You make what you like and season it to taste. Here you can be as simple or as complex as you want. Choose only vegetables, if you like, or choose only meat. It is all up to you.

Desserts are now more of the typical Chinese buffet fare - little pieces of pastry/cake, fruit, pudding, and soft serve ice cream. Nothing really to talk about.

Service is still good. Dishes were picked up right away, soft drinks were refilled, and the staff is friendly.

We had more than enough to eat. There was no question that there was not a variety nor was it hard to find something that you would like. It was not the same though. If walking in here for the first time ever, it would not strike me that this would rank as a "best" and that is how I have always felt about this restaurant in the past.

After the meal was another story, and something(s?) that I chose to eat did not sit well. This happens rarely to me at a buffet. Perhaps it was the small taste of one of the Thai dishes that I tried or the spicy sushi. But it was something, and I did not enjoy how I felt and what happened later that evening. My wife was fine, however, but she does not eat the unusual. She picks the simple and the things that she knows. After this, I had decided that we would go back to Peking Restaurant another night and see what happens. However, with the choice of the other nice, new buffets that I have written about in the past several weeks that we could go to, and the memory of how I felt after this meal, we did not go back. There will be another trip and I am sure that we will try Peking Restaurant again - but I know that I will be cautious in what I select. And you know what? At a buffet like this you should not have to feel that you need to be cautious.

So, my conclusions about Peking Restaurant? Frankly, it will be wait and see the next time. Two months ago I would tell you that you MUST go here for a wonderful meal. Now, I will tell you that it has been great in the past. Maybe I will say that again in the future - I just did not have a good experience this night - after the meal. Others who live close by tell me it is still great. Maybe I picked up the wrong thing to put in my mouth. I don't know...

The Peking Restaurant in Williamsburg, Virginia is located at 120 Waller Mill Road in the Big Kmart Shopping Center. (Kingsgate Green Shopping Center – Bypass Road (Rt.60)). There is a website and that is listed at this side of the page.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Wasabi Oriental Buffet, Williamsburg, Virginia

Wasabi Oriental Buffet was a pleasant find in Williamsburg, Virginia. Our trip to Williamsburg, Virginia included a buffet meal every night with the idea of bringing our readers some new buffets to visit in their travels. Three of those meals were at Asian buffets. We almost did not eat at this one. In fact, the first night that we went to eat there the parking lot to the right side of the restaurant was full. On a second night's successful attempt, we saw that the parking lot to the left of the restaurant is not just for the motel that is right behind, but there is a large section next to the restaurant that is just for this restaurant. I am glad that we saw this because we had a very pleasant meal.

The Wasabi buffet advertises itself as having a Mongolian Grill (in this area all of the Asian buffets include a Mongolian Grill), having Hawaiian BBQ, and having a sushi bar. I was very curious to discover what Hawaiian BBQ was. When we entered what we found was the usual Asian buffet setup with hot and cold buffet servers and a section behind a counter with a grill and sushi bar. We were pleasantly greeted and brought to our table which was in one of the two dining rooms that this restaurant has. One dining room is just off the buffet area and is very traditionally decorated. There is another dining room through an alcove that is much larger and is much more modernly decorated. Each room has a distinct look - both very nice. The other dining room is used for catering as well as an additional dining room and they have had weddings and parties in this room.

We paid just $29 and change for the two of us for dinner on a weeknight and this included the price of the meal, unlimited soft drinks, the tax, and the tip. Compared to prices at home at a comparable Asian buffet this is very good.

We started with soup, as always. There was the usual assortment of wonton, egg drop, and hot and sour. Lately, I have been mixing egg drop with hot and sour to tone down the hot in the hot and sour. It is an unusual combination but I like hot and sour and don't like it spicy, so while this may not tell you how the hot and sour soup is on its own, the combination was good. My wife had the wonton soup and liked it.

There is a small salad area and as is typical of Asian buffets it is really just an afterthought. Few go to this type of buffet to make a salad, but if you are inclined, the lettuce, the dressings, and the toppings were there for you to do so. There was cold, peel and eat shrimp at the salad bar. Clams and mussels were also on ice.

There was a large sushi bar and there was a broad variety of sushi rolls - but it was all rolls. There was no plain fish or just fish on a bed of rice. If you enjoy, sushi rolls you will be very satisfied with what you find. If you like the fish and don't want the rice, then you will be picking it out of the rolls.

There are hot crab legs but they do cost $5 extra with the buffet. If you take crab legs, you will be charged the additional $5.00. Again, this is not unusual in Asian buffets that I have been to in the South. Frankly, I prefer it this way. If you are not going to eat the crab legs why should you pay for extra that is added to the buffet price. This way the crab legs are there for you and given the price of the buffet meal, an extra $5 for the crab legs is not unreasonable.

Hot dishes abound on this buffet along with a nice variety of appetizers. On the hot buffet, there were three types of dumplings - fried pork dumplings, steamed shrimp dumplings and peach buns - a doughy, steamed dumpling that looks like a peach filled with sweet bean paste. Entrees included General Tso's chicken, baby clams in a red sauce, spicy chicken, beef with broccoli, egg foo young, crab and cheese casserole, scallops, teryaki chicken, salmon, sauteed green beans, shrimp and seafood legs combination, bourbon chicken, ribs, boneless ribs, sweet and sour chicken, mussels with cheese, lo mein, and others. There were egg rolls, fried cheese filled wontons, "sea" balls, fried shrimp, and sesame bread. The buffet also had a lot of side dishes - consider some "international" - and these included fried rice, mashed sweet potatoes with marshmallows, fries, cabbage, broccoli, red potatoes, rice noodles, corn, and garlic spinach. Dishes may change by the night as there are other dishes shown on their website that I did not see the night that we were there.

Now, what about the Hawaiian BBQ? On the hot buffet there was a tray with a Hawaiian BBQ chicken and Hawaiian BBQ pork. Both were the meat in a slightly sweet sauce. Not bad, but not what I imagined as Hawaiian BBQ - perhaps I was thinking roast suckling pig...

The Mongolian BBQ was the usual selection of raw beef, pork, chicken, and shrimp available to mix with an assortment of raw strips of vegetables. You place what you want on a plate - add a sauce for it to cook in and hand it to the chef behind the counter who cooks this all for you on a large, very hot, flat griddle. This is always a good addition to an Asian buffet because if you don't see what you like on the buffet you can create it yourself at the grill.

Dessert was the usual Asian buffet assortment - small pieces of cake, fried dough balls in sugar, chocolate pudding, and fresh fruit. This is standard oriental buffet desert fare and one does not go to an Asian buffet for the desserts.

So how was it all. At first, I had my concerns. The first of the hot foods that we took, after the soup, were warm but not hot. They should have been hotter. As the meal progressed and more was put out, however, the temperature of the foods increased to proper temperatures. This was not a concern into the meal. The taste of the food was good. It was an enjoyable meal. There was plenty to choose from and plenty to eat. We certainly were not hungry after the meal and we both said that this was a restaurant that we wanted to come back to again. When we were leaving the Oriental gentleman at the front cashier's desk (perhaps the owner) bowed to us. This was the first time anyone at a buffet bowed to me.

We both were pleased - remember my picky eater wife - she was pleased. I think that you will be too. If you are in Williamsburg, Virginia try Wasabi Oriental Buffet.

Wasabi Oriental Buffet is located at 1203 Richmond Road, Williamsburg, Virginia. This is right near Colonial Williamsburg and William and Mary University. Their phone number is 757-645-3988. There is a website and there is a link to that website at the side of this page.

If you look in the free tourist magazines that are at all of the hotels, you should find a coupon to save money on your meal at Wasabi. This makes it an even better deal!

Friday, October 07, 2011

Captain George's Seafood Buffet (Revisited) - Williamsburg, VA

In my last article I wrote about a very disappointing return to a seafood buffet. In this article I want to tell you about an excellent return to Captain George's Seafood Buffet. I can't believe that my last (and first) article on this buffet was in 2005, as I certainly have been there since, but it has been at least three years since my last visit. There has been a change to the decor, but the buffet and its abundance pretty much remains as it was - and the price in all of this time has not increased too much.

Captain George's has several locations in Virginia and North and South Carolina. I have only been to the one in Williamsburg, Virginia, but I have been told that the rest are very similar. Captain George's is primarily a buffet restaurant but there is a menu also, though I have rarely seen anyone order from it rather than ordering the buffet, but I am sure some do. If you are set on having lobster, then you are ordering from the menu, as there is no lobster on the buffet. There is so much other than lobster that unless you are really set on having lobster, you will not be unhappy with the buffet.

This location is a few miles outside of the historic area of Colonial Williamsburg toward the direction of the several outlet malls. There is a large parking lot just for this restaurant. The restaurant is large and there are several dining rooms. This buffet also has a dinner theater type production murder mystery that takes place in a dining room well separated from the dining room in which the general public is seated, though the diners from the dinner theater do come in at intervals to the same buffet serving area. There are also private dining rooms for parties.

The decor in the main dining room has been changed since we were last there about three years ago. The walls in the past were made to look like a little village of shops. Now those facades were gone and the room has been decorated to look more elegant with chandeliers and a more colonial ballroom appearance. It is very nice, though my wife missed the quaint village look of the past. The buffet is set into a facade of a clipper ship complete with masts with sail rigging.

Price for the buffet is now $31 per adult. Children from 5 to 12 are half price and children four and under are free. There is an early bird special on Sundays from Noon to 4 pm at $27.00 per adult. They are open every day except Christmas. Soft drinks are charged separately and you get free refills. With soft drinks, tax, and tip the meal, for me, was expensive at over $70 for two. For many others, it would be considered an average dinner out. For the money spent, there is value here in what you are offered and what you get, especailly compared to other restaurants in this area.

I started my meal with one of the two soups that are always found on the buffet. There is She Crab Soup and there is New England Clam Chowder. I have had both. Both are very good. I have always enjoyed the She Crab Soup and that is what I choose again on this trip. This is a thick, white cream soup with pieces of crab and tiny pieces of potatoes, peppers, and vegetables. It has a velvety texture and tastes great. They say it is a secret recipe. This is not like the red, thin Maryland crab soup. It is more like a bisque than a chowder. The New England Clam Chowder is a thick white cream chowder full of clams and potatoes.

There is a salad bar that is a mix of lettuce and salad fixings with a variety of salad vegetables to add to the lettuce and then top your salad with a variety of dressings. There are also seafood salads to enjoy like crab salad and shrimp salad.

I am not sure if one would consider crab legs and steamed shrimp as appetizers or entrees, but they are in abundance. There are both hot and cold steamed crab legs and shrimp. Since hot tends to be what is preferred I will focus on those. Large snow crab clusters are continually brought out to the buffet server replenishing what is being taken. These are whole clusters that are of significant size. There is butter sauce and there is cocktail sauce. There is also hot steamed shrimp. There are also steamed crayfish and there are steamed hard shell blue crabs. All of this is found on a second clipper ship buffet server off to the side of the main server. There are also oysters Rockefeller - baked oysters stuffed with spinach and cheese. The crab legs and shrimp are good. I find the crayfish - everywhere that I have had them - not just here - to be very fishy in flavor and I now tend to pass them by. Others love them! I took one of the blue crabs but I have never mastered the art of getting the meat out of them and there was little to be found after I got through with opening the shell that I was sad that the poor crab gave his life for so little. I would much rather pick the loads of meat out of the snow crab legs and joints. If you like mussels you will also find steamed mussels and you will also find small steamed clams.

There is a lot more here than just shellfish - in fact there is more here than just seafood. After the soup, and the salad, and then the shellfish, I moved on to the main buffet server where the entrees and the side dishes are. Now, note that I said, "I", my wife who does not eat seafood other than shrimp had moved on before me. The entrees vary from pre-sliced prime rib of beef to local seafood specialties. Just about all that I remember from past meals were here still. Of special note is the Norfolk Special which is a mixture of crab, shrimp, and scallops in a lightly seasoned butter sauce. You get all the goodness of the crab and other shellfish without the work of getting it out of the shell. Another local dish is Crab Imperial which is a casserole full of crab meat. There is no skimping on the crab here - and it is the real thing - no sea legs are used here when it is supposed to be crab. I also enjoyed the fried scallops and the fried clams. The clams were nicely and naturally sweet.

There is much more seafood. There is broiled salmon, mahi mahi, fried pollack, fried shrimp, a changing broiled catch of the day, baked clams, stuffed mushrooms, and more. If you want other than seafood there is fried chicken, slices of prime rib, Italian manicotti, fall off the bone barbecue ribs in sauce, and broiled chicken. Of course, there has to be side dishes (well, in most places there have to be side dishes - see last week's article). There is corn on the cob, string beans, steamed rice, sauteed mushrooms, broccoli, potato salad and cole slaw. You will find baked rolls, fried hushpuppies (fried cornmeal dumplings), and cornbread muffins. It is all good. And there is far more than anyone can eat at one meal, so if you want to try it all, take a little taste.

I know my readers want to hear about desserts and there is a nice assortment of desserts at Captain George's. Several of the desserts are Greek and they are famous for their rice pudding and their honey oozing Baklava. There is also Chocolate cake, Strawberry shortcake, carrot cake, and cookies - all fine bakery quality. There are also hot fruit cobblers (apple, cherry, and peach), flan, and seasonal fresh fruits. These desserts are worth saving room for, so keep the dessert area in mind as you go back for just one more plate full of seafood.

Our service was very good. Our server took our soft drink orders when we sat down. I asked for an unsweetened ice tea. The ice tea that I was brought was sweet. When I called her over and told her I expected an automatic, of course, let me bring you another - but she was so certain that she had it right. She went off to get another and had to ask if this one was the same as the other - it wasn't. She was still surprised, but that was the only glitch in the entire meal with service. She was very pleasant the whole time and she was prompt at clearing away plates, bringing refills on drinks, and leaving a plate to pile empty crab shells on.

Is it good? Yes. Will it cost you more than the usual OCB meal? Yes, a lot more (3 times more). Is it worth it? Yes. Will I go back? Absolutely. I have been back many times before.

As I said when I started this article, there are three locations of Captain George's in several places besides Williamsburg, Va in Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina. These are all popular vacation spots and you can be sure that the other locations are in vacation areas as this one is Virginia Beach, Myrtle Beach, and Outer Banks. (There are actually fewer locations now than there were six years ago.)

I very much recommend that you try Captain George's. If you go to one of the other locations, let me know how it is.

This Captain George's is located at 5363 Richmond Road, Williamsburg, VA 23188. The phone number is 757-565-2323. Large parties should make reservations in advance during the summer. There is a link to the main webpage for all locations at the side of this page.

Friday, September 30, 2011


For many years until several years ago, the Williamsburg Lodge, a hotel owned and operated by Colonial Williamsburg in Williamsburg, Virginia served a spectacular seafood buffet in its restaurant on Friday and Saturday nights. I wrote about missing this buffet once it was gone way back in 2006. I was very excited to learn that this buffet was brought back to the Lodge this year on Friday nights. When I made plans to return to this area after my own three year absence I was very excited to have this meal once again - and I looked forward to it with great anticipation. Sometimes, anticipation is much better than the actual event, and perhaps this one time spectacular meal should have been left as a memory.

The Williamsburg Lodge in the past few years was completely renovated. It appears as if the old building was taken down and a new building put up - but in actuality the renovations were done around the former building and some of the original building is there. We made reservations for the Seafood Feast when we arrived in the area. There was little that I was able to learn about it in advance other than the price and that it was "back". We arrived for dinner and searched through the "new" hotel looking for the restaurant. What we found was very different from the large dining room that we remembered.

Over the years everything changes. The room was certainly not the same. The once brightly lit, ballroom type dining room was now a dark, wood paneled room - still very fancy but in a more masculine style - I guess, this is the "Lodge" and woodsy lodge comes to mind to describe this new dining room. Instead of a large room at the rear hosting a buffet laid out in chaffing dishes and serving pieces on tables, there was now a counter built for serving that went around the rear of the dining room and along one side. We were seated at a table near the serving area and the woman who would be our server came over to greet us. She was quick to hand us two wine lists and describe the specials - which were wines and beers being served. She then left and did not return for awhile, never asking if we would like to order a beverage of any kind. We each had a small glass tumbler of ice water that was brought to the table as we sat down. I had intended to order an ice tea, but that never happened.

We went up to the serving area and over to the soup tureen. There was just one soup - the sign said it was Sweet Corn Chowder. This was a thin soup that was more like a broth than a chowder with corn in it. The soup was tasty, but not at all what I would have expected for corn chowder. One of Colonial Williamsburg's historic tavern restaurants serves a corn chowder that is nothing like this. That corn chowder is a thick cream corn chowder. I had expected when I saw the sign that this would be that -as way back in the past - this seafood buffet would serve several dishes that were featured in the Colonial Williamsburg tavern restaurants - but no, that is not so any longer, and this was a very different corn chowder. The soup was good - but not what was anticipated. It was also a surprise that this was not a fish soup to go along with the seafood theme of the buffet.

Anticipation played a very large role in my feelings for this meal. Yes, things change - but some things should not be presented as if they are the same - there are reasons that I say this - and then be very different.

Since my good wife does not eat corn for her own reasons, she passed the soup and went to the salad first - and then walked away from the salad area with an empty plate. She is the first to admit that she is a picky eater and she likes things plain. She does not like dressings and eats her salad plain. This should not be a problem as generally, salad greens and lettuce are put out for you to create a salad of your liking. Not here. There were two "green salads" - Caesar salad (which I had and it was very good) and a salad of mixed greens covered in balsamic vinegar dressing. There was also a black bean salad and an asparagus salad, both with dressing. No plain salad. There was nothing wrong with any of this - if you care for it. The problem is in a world full of allergies and preferences, there needs to be plain included with the fancy.

If I may return to the past for a moment, this buffet would feature an elaborate selection of appetizers including caviar, various pates, cold crab legs, and seafood. I had been able to try things that I would never have been able to try. There was a cold section along the line - actually, past the hot entrees and side dishes - and I went there to find cold shrimp which were already de-veined (which is a step above the usual), raw oysters on the half shell, cheese cubes of Swiss, cheddar and blue cheese, and grapes and strawberries. The shrimp were fine - but nothing special. The oysters were gritty with sand that had not been properly flushed out when they were shucked. Over next to the carving area there was also a small selection of sushi that was a bit odd in assortment and one could barely see a dot of fish in the middle of the rolls of rice. There certainly was no pate or caviar, not even the cold, thin slices of Virginia salt ham that I remembered from past buffet meals here. There was also a basket of dinner rolls that were oily, not buttery, but oily.

OK - maybe the entrees would make up for what has been lacking up to this point in the meal. There were several hot entrees and a single side dish that were on the counter between the salad and the cold shrimp. There was an unusual crab cake au gratin. This was a crab cake mixture with cheese and covered in bread crumbs in a casserole. It was baked into a pan rather than formed into crab cakes. There was broiled talapia in a vegetable mix and covered in a sauce. There was marinated chicken sliced thin with lemon and thyme with a mixture of green beans, bacon, onions, and cherry tomatoes sauteed together. There was "Five Spice" salmon cooked with roasted potatoes, both white and dark purple potatoes. There was sliced loin of pork with mustard sauce. The only side dish was garlic mashed potatoes. There were no other side dishes. The only vegetables were mixed into the entrees. If you wanted a vegetable you were scooping them out from around the entrees. There were also shot glasses sitting out with a hot yellow liquid in them. I could not figure what this was until I realized later that it was melted butter for

Remember my picky eater wife that does not eat things with sauces and likes things plain. So far she was not eating anything other than cold shrimp and some string beans that she managed to get out of the chicken dish as plain as she could.

There was a carving area also and they were carving a small round of prime rib of beef. The beef was very rare which was great for me but many people coming up to the carving station were asking for well done and that meant that the beef had to be taken to the kitchen where it would be cooked more. Those that I observed were not happy with that. There were three horseradish sauces on the table for the beef and the carver kept having to explain them. One was hot and spicy, one was just grated horseradish, and the other was pretty much oil. There was also a saute pan where scallops were being seared and served to order. (I had to wonder if they had been over to Golden Corral to get this idea.)

Now, there was this large ice display next to the carving station that had crab legs on the ice. There was no serving piece. I asked the carver for a serving piece and she said that she served the crab legs hot from a pot that was next to the ice display. She put a cluster on my plate. Crab legs cannot just be kept cooking. The crab shell was mushy and just crumbled when I tried to crack it. This was what those shot glasses of butter were for. If one had not noticed it over on the other serving table, you would not have had butter with your crab if you are so inclined. The crab was overcooked and not worth the effort to get it away from the rubbery shell - and it tasted water logged.

I tried a variety of thing. The beef was good, but I like rare beef. The loin of pork was dry. The chicken was OK. I do not like garlic mashed potatoes so I pulled the white and purple roast potatoes out of the salmon dish. I have never had purple potatoes before and they were interesting. The crab cake casserole was unusual and did not exactly taste like crab cakes but was differently nice. The talapia was fine - why do so many restaurants (and not just buffets) use talapia so often? (Guess - it is a lot cheaper than flounder. And an aside, as I have written before, it is NOT a heart healthy fish.)

Overall the food was good. If you found things that you like to eat. My wife did not. She ate very little. This was another of those infrequent meals that I felt very bad that she was not able to eat. Any picky eater would be in this same spot - and there was no kid-friendly food AT ALL here.

There was a dessert table that was laid out very finely with plates of very small pieces of cake and what can only be described as petite fours. There was traditional southern pecan pie, key lime pie, and small slices of cheesecake. The was a hot server with hot bread pudding. There was also the only colonial dish on the buffet here on the dessert table - Tipsy Triffle. This is a bowl of cake, strawberry syrup, and cream with liquor flavoring. I tried the key lime pie. It was good. If you like sweets there were good things to sample here. With the size of each thing out, you would be putting several on your plate to equal a usual sized dessert.

Service was fair. The server did show up when we were away from the table to take away the plates. She did come by a few times to ask if we wanted more water and with the small tumbler glasses that we had she filled them numerous times. Eventually, my glass accumulated so much ice from her pitcher that there was no more room for water.

We were both very disappointed. My wife was miserable. At least I was not hungry when we left. She barely ate anything.

This meal cost $32.00 per person. With the tax and tip this meal experience cost over $80 for the two of us. This meal - even if you like everything being served is NOT WORTH IT. There is no value here for what you are getting. I have had better meals at chain buffets at a third the price.

As I said, some memories are better left as memories. We will be back again - many times - to Colonial Williamsburg. We will not be going back to the Lodge for the Seafood Feast. I so much wish that I was writing otherwise. I so much miss that buffet that no longer exists.

The Williamsburg Lodge is located in Colonial Williamsburg at 310 South England Street
Williamsburg, Virginia. For details to to and look at dining and lodging.