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.


ML said...

No One Could Disagree!!

Duong Nguyen said...

I love shady maple too and agree it's my favorite buffet. If you had to choose, what would be your 2nd place buffet of the year?