Friday, May 27, 2011

Yoders - New Holland, PA

I was recently in Pennsylvania. When I am there in the Lancaster area for the day, I find it hard to resist going back to Shady Maple - so that is where I usually wind up. But there is another great buffet nearby and this time, as I had been to Shady Maple on my last three trips, I decided that Yodors was due a visit. I have written about Yoders many times. Yoders is a restaurant/buffet located in a building with Yoders Supermarket. Yes, this is a buffet in (really adjacent to) a supermarket - which in the PA Dutch area is not so unusual. I consider Yoders as one of the best buffets - it is smaller and simpler but the food is good and it is plentiful. And it is geared to local food specialties.

We went on a Tuesday night for dinner. The a number of tables were full but the restaurant was not a busy as we have seen it in the past. Of course, this is early week dinner before the tourist season - though Yoders tends to attract local diners more than tourists due to its location and that tourists would not understand how a restaurant in a supermarket can be so good. We arrived a little later than usual - after 7 pm and they close at 8 pm - so there may have been much more of a crowd earlier. Never the less, the food was fresh on the buffet servers and kept properly so at Yoders I am not concerned when there is not a crowd. It should be noted that Yoders is not a JUST a buffet but also has menu dining. The buffet was $13.99 which is about a dollar more than it had been - but every price seems to be going up everywhere these days. Soft drinks are an additional $1.49 and these are refillable. These prices cannot be compared to chain buffet prices - the food here is a cut above the chains. We also came across a 20% off coupon in a local tourist publication - so we had a great meal at an even better price.

There were two soups on the buffet on this night that we were there. An unusual cheesy vegetable soup - a thick cheese soup with mixed vegetables - and beef vegetable soup were offered. Soups change from visit to visit. I tried the cheesy vegetable. It was interestingly good. This was not a soup I would have on a regular basis - cream and cheese based soups are a cardiologist's sports car in waiting. Once in a while though, it is something to try.

There is a full cold buffet server with a salad bar and prepared salads - local Pennsylvania Dutch prepared salads. The salad bar has the fixings to make a Caesar salad and I assembled one of those. There were several choices of salad greens and a wide variety of toppings including real bacon bits (which seem to be replacing the dried bacon bits at a number of buffets lately). There are a number of things to try on the salad bar that will be just a bit different from what you expect - unless you are from this area and are familiar with Pennsylvania Dutch style cooking. Try the pepper cabbage - a sweet and sour mixture of chopped peppers and cabbage. Even the macaroni salad and the potato salad will be different from what you may be used to - it is all good. On the salad bar you will also find cottage cheese - no big deal, right? But take a spoon of this and then add on top a spoonful of apple butter - a sweet, thin apple puree that is brown in color. This is an old and traditional PA Dutch combination and it is very, very good.

On this night - and I believe on Tuesday nights in general - at the grill area there was Prime Rib. It was sliced to order and a nice large slice was sliced for me by the chef. The meat was moist and not overdone. It had a very nice flavor and I enjoyed it. The problem with Prime Rib at most buffets is that you get so much that you barely want to have much more of anything else. But I managed to fit in several more tastes of entrees.

I know that you have heard of pork barbecue but how about ham barbecue. There was hot pulled chunks of ham in a thick barbecue sauce. It was a bit sweet (for me) but good. Ham balls (or ham loaf - same but sliced) are a local specialty. These are meat balls made with ham (or meat loaf made with ham) and covered in a thick pineapple hot sauce. I prefer it without the sauce but it is good.

On the grill with the prime rib there was also stir-fry shrimp terriaki and a few other items. The grill is always attended by a chef and there are two sides to accommodate lines of guests. On busy nights that I have been at Yoders it is a good thing that there are two serving lines.

There was sliced turkey and sliced ham out on the hot buffet. While the turkey was pre-sliced there was both white and dark meat mixed in - which to me indicates that it is "real" turkey and not a commercial turkey breast.

Broasted chicken is served here instead of fried chicken. I have written an entire article about broasted chicken. It looks like fried chicken but it is moister. It is fried under pressure and while in appearance could be fried chicken it is much better. There was also broiled chicken.

Side dishes are local specialties here and they have a terrific macaroni and cheese with a thick crust on top. There is buttered noodles, mashed potatoes, and potato filling - potato filling is stuffing made with potatoes. Along the side there were two types of baked oatmeal. Of course, there are string beans, baked lima beans, carrots, and mixed vegetables. All are good. The baked oatmeal is a favorite here for my wife. If you are looking for "plain" vegetables, it is not hard to find them here - and I say this in a good way. This is all "honest" farm food with a country slant.

There is so much that I am having a hard time remembering it all - and as I have written about this before you will find more possibilities of what you will find on the buffet at Yoders in my other articles. The buffet serving area here is substantial for what looks at first to be a small restaurant.

For dessert there is an assortment of pies and cakes including shoofly pie and shoofly cake - both molasses based. There is fresh fruit cut up, puddings, and prepared desserts. There is also soft serve ice cream which is excellent and is complemented with a full sundae bar. Yoders also owns and operates a dairy and the fresh cream must be what makes this ice cream so good. You will also find some PA Dutch specialties in the dessert area including something called Cracker Pudding. Cracker pudding is a little like bread pudding and a little like rice pudding. It is made with crackers - the usual, boxed saltine-type crackers - and these are cooked with an egg mixture, milk and coconut shreds. This is something that you will not find at many buffets in this area. It is a common Amish dessert. It is excellent. They also make a very good egg custard and there is both tapioca pudding and sugar-free tapioca pudding. (There are just as many carbs in most things labeled "sugar-free" as the sugar originals - no matter where you get them - so do not think that you can eat more of these - you will still gain weight and your blood sugar will be just as effected.) One thing to know about Yoders is that the earlier you go, the more you will find when it comes to cakes and pies, so if dessert is the highlight of your meal, don't get there late. They will still have things out but you will not see the variety that you might see at the earlier dinner hours.

We were there until closing time. One of the servers came to our table toward the end of the evening and asked if we would like any more hot foods. Had we said yes, they would have stopped closing the hot buffet down. As it was we had "eaten ourselves full". See if that would happen at one of the chain buffets. There when it is time to close, they close. Here, they ask your permission.

I always enjoy the meals that I have at Yoders. I really should go back there more often. I highly recommend it. Don't expect anything fancy. The restaurant is all booths and looks just like what it is - a restaurant in a supermarket complex. It is the food and the selection of food that makes Yoders special.

There is a website for Yoders listed at the side of this article. The restaurant is located at Yoder's Supermarket or perhaps, more properly, Yoder's Country Market, Route 23, New Holland, Pennsylvania. The phone number is (717) 354-4748.


Parsimonious Papa said...

Dear Writer,

I love the use of "...cream and cheese based soups are a cardiologist's sports car in waiting." Nice metaphoric touch. Yoders has always been an interesting mystery to my family and me. After 12 years of vacationing in Lancaster, PA, we are very partial to Shady Maple and have yet to try Yoders. Your reviews, however, have again piqued my Yoderian interest. But with Shady Maple only a short distance away, choosing Yoders is a difficult task. Maybe we should eat at Yoders on a Sunday, since the Maple is closed then.

The Parismonious Papa

Writer said...

Yoders is "sought of" open on Sunday - I get the feeling it is primarily brunch. I have never tried it on a Sunday, but I have learned that in this area unless the buffet is in full operation on a Sunday as only Millers is, it is best to not go on Sunday if you want the full experience.

Yoders is a tough choice when Shady Maple is around the corner. If we are there for two nights then Shady Maple is one and Yoders is the other. Lots of other good buffets in Lancaster too!