Friday, June 15, 2012

Back to Cactus Willies Steak Buffet and Bakery - Lancaster, PA

I have not been to Cactus Willies since 2009. We have been to Lancaster, of course, since that time but not on a Sunday night when just about all of the buffets that I have recommended in this area are closed. We were leaving Lancaster on a Sunday and our choices for a buffet meal were Old Country Buffet, a Chinese buffet, Cici's Pizza (which would have been great if I could eat that much pizza any longer) or Cactus Willies. There was no question that it would be Cactus Willies.

Cactus Willies is a two state chain of restaurants that is now down to only two locations. One is in Essex, Maryland and the other is in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

My last visit to Cactus Willies was fine but as I look back on what I wrote in 2009, it could have been better. This visit was definitely better. The hours on Sundays have gone back to closing at 8:30 pm. They are open until 9:30 on Friday and Saturday nights. Monday to Thursday they are open until 8:30 pm.

At Cactus Willies, like the other chain buffets of this type, you pay as you enter. We were told to sit anywhere. You choose your soft drinks which are $1.69 with refills. You are given a slip with your drink order on it to give to your server at your table. There were a good number of people dining in the restaurant for a Sunday night in at the end of April. We sat down.

The prices at Cactus Willies are very good. Weekdays dinner is $10.29. Weekends, including Sundays, dinner is $10.79. There is a senior discount of a dollar off, and of course there are children's prices.

Our server came over to us and took the slip with our drinks and went off to get them. We went up to the buffet and went over to the soups. There have always been - and there still are - three soups to select from. One soup was missing. It did come out later. There was vegetable beef and Maryland crab. Maryland crab is a red stock crab soup that is seasoned with Old Bay seasoning. My wife took the vegetable beef. When we got back to the table I looked at her soup and asked what she had taken as it looked exactly like my Maryland crab soup. Since I know she does not eat crab, I knew that this could not be. She told me it was vegetable beef. Again, it looked exactly like my crab soup - so much so that I got up and went back to the soups to look that I did not take the beef soup. In the serving pot they did look the same. This was odd. There in my crab soup I was certain that there were the same chunks of beef as in the beef vegetable. I tasted the soup. It was definitely seasoned as Maryland crab. I could also feel the strings of crab meat slurried through the soup. But there were cubes of beef. It made me wonder if the two soups had been accidentally mixed together. It tasted good and I enjoyed it. Why it had beef in it I don't know and this really could be a problem for someone who has any reason not to eat beef. My wife's vegetable beef soup was exactly that - no taste of crab or crab seasoning at all.

We were up next to the salad bar and there are the fixings for regular salad with a variety of dressings and toppings. There is also an assortment of local-styled prepared salads. The prepared salads are "home-style" and several are Pennsylvania Dutch area salads.

Cactus Willies has a large, char-flame grill off to the side of the buffet area. There they are char-grilling steaks. There is a carving. On this night it was ham. There has been turkey and Roast Beef. There are also barbecue ribs. I went up to the grill and asked for a steak rare. The chef picked a steak - not a full steak, but a good size piece - cut into it and showed it tome. It was rare and not raw - which is good. I also took a three rib piece of ribs. The ribs are covered in barbecue sauce. The steak was very tasty and I enjoyed it. The ribs were almost fall off the bone which is what I look for in ribs. This piece was meaty and while I would have preferred less sauce, many would say the sauce was just right.

On the hot buffet servers there was my wife's favorite Cactus Willies dish, Turkey Pot Roast. This is a pot roast made from turkey thigh meat in a rich brown/red gravy with potatoes, carrots, and celery. She loves this dish here and has looked for recipes to make it. Locally to us, we have not been able to find turkey thigh meat and for the texture of this dish to resemble its beef counterpart turkey thigh meat is necessary - it gets stringy like a well cooked beef pot roast. I took some on another trip up to the buffet servers and it is very good. Also on this night on the hot buffet servers there was meat loaf, fried chicken, fried shrimp, baked fish, fried fish, lasagna, spaghetti, pork chops, and pizza. There is also a taco station where you can make both tacos and nachos. Vegetables were the usual- string beans, corn, cabbage, sweet potatoes, a baked potato bar, french fries, brussel sprouts, rice, mashed potatoes, and stewed tomatoes. There is plenty to eat here.

Desserts are not elaborate but there is a nice selection of baked goods. There are puddings, jello, prepared desserts. There are cakes and pies. There are hot fruit cobblers. I did try the soft serve and this was a little disappointing as it was icy. A lot of soft serves are icy. It would have been better if it was creamy. There is a sundae bar and ice cream cones for the ice cream. There were some nice looking cupcakes that were out.

The food is good. It is not one of the best buffet meals you will ever have but it is satisfying. This last visit made me feel that this was a place to come back to more often - and with future trips to the area that will involve Sunday nights, I am pretty sure that I will be back here soon. If it is not a Sunday, in Lancaster there are so many other buffets. Reserve this one for when those are closed.

There is one funny problem with Cactus Willies. When I want to recall what the name of the restaurant is I always come up with Wild Willies and then cannot find it - of course, since the name is CACTUS Willies. Even as I sat down to write this article I stared out with Wild Willies. So remember "C A C T U S Willies".

Cactus Willies is located in a strip mall not far from the city of Lancaster. It is located at the Regency Mall, 101 Rohrerstown Rd, Lancaster, Pennsylvania. The phone number is (717) 390-7060. There is a website (for both locations) and that is linked at the side of this page.

1 comment:

Writer said...

This buffet closed in 2013.