Friday, June 01, 2012

Mountain Gate Family Restaurant, Thurmont, Maryland

The Mountain Gate Family Restaurant has two locations owned and managed by the same family. The location in Thurmont, Maryland is the original location and restaurant and began as a truck stop. It evolved into a full restaurant serving both menu and buffet meals and has a gift shop. I had never been to the Thurmont location until recently and I went the night after I had dined at the Waynesboro, PA location - which is reviewed in the last article.

Thurmont, Maryland is one of those famous, but unknown places. It is at the foot of the Catoctin Mountain and on that mountain, hidden away, is Camp David, the retreat for Presidents of the United States since Eisenhower. I have written about another buffet in this area - Cozy Restaurant - that has a hotel where the White House Press Corp would stay and dine when the President was at Camp David. The Mountain Gate Family Restaurant is just down the street from that restaurant.

Getting here can be quite an experience depending upon the direction that you come from. If you come west from Pennsylvania, you are not far from Gettysburg. If you come north from Maryland your GPS will likely route you through the Catoctin Mountain Park which is a roller coaster ride of narrow roads that wind around the mountain and in some places come very close to the edge. I went that way once, and I will never go that way again. We actually drove south and then east to travel on interstate highways to get to Thurmont to have dinner at the Mountain Gate. This was out of the way and longer in miles but actually about the same time as going the more direct but daunting route.

We arrived at the Mountain Gate Family Restaurant on a Saturday night at about 6:30 pm. There was no line to get in when we arrived but shortly after a line began to form. It is evident right away that this is the older of the two restaurants. I have spoken about the Christian decor that had been at the Waynesboro location and it is evident here. This is not any problem for us. I have read reviews where some people were troubled by it.

We were seated at a booth in what seemed to be the smaller dining room. There are three dining rooms with the buffet area located in the middle. Prices are the same at both locations. There is a noticeable difference in the tax - one restaurant is in Maryland and the other is in Pennsylvania.

I have been to the Pennsylvania location on a Saturday night and anticipated the same menu on the buffet. The buffet serving area is large - larger than in Pennsylvania, but as we went through the meal I had the impression that there were less choices being offered. The food here is, as expected, American Country and Pennsylvania Dutch. There are two soups - beef vegetable and chicken with dumplings, and a salad bar with an assortment of prepared salads, lettuce and romaine lettuce, and a large array of toppings for your salad. There were the makings for a Caesar Salad, and unlike the night before in Pennsylvania, the Caesar salad dressing was the creamy type. I tried the chicken with dumplings soup and it was very good. I made myself a Caesar salad and enjoyed that. I also took some chicken salad and some ham salad on my salad plate to taste. Both were excellent. Ham salad may be common in some areas but it is not common near us. I have had it in Pennsylvania Dutch restaurants and some (but rarely) buffets. If you have an opportunity to try it, do. It is little more than chopped ham with seasonings and mayonnaise, but it is good.

There were four carvings being sliced. The night before there had been only three. There was turkey, ham, pork, and roast beef. This roast beef was not like the beef that I had the night before in their other location. This was pretty much sliced roast beef. See my last article for my description of the one the night before. I did try the turkey and the ham. The turkey, while a turkey breast was pure turkey meat and not a turkey breast with fillers that is sometimes served. The ham was a basic sliced ham and it was good.

Looking around at the entree choices I was not seeing as much as I expected - and this surprised me. There were so many choices the night before - yes, they were seafood and it was seafood night, but I would have expected other entrees to take their place on a Saturday night. There was fried chicken, pork and sauerkraut, and chicken bot bie - a PA Dutch stew of chicken and large dumpling noodles with potatoes, carrots, and celery in a thick chicken stock. All of these are excellent. The vegetables and side dishes were very much the same as there had been at the other location - kernel corn, green beans and ham, beets, sweet peas, mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheese, carrots, stewed tomatoes, and stuffing. There was gravy for the turkey and gravy for the roast beef. There was cranberry sauce also. All of the food was good. I just expected there to be more - though there was the fourth carving. The chicken bot bie was just as good as I expected. The fried chicken is home sytle. The stewed tomatoes are very good. The macaroni and cheese - like the one the night before - is thick with cheese and crusted with a heavy layer of melted cheddar on top. I have said it before and I will say it again - wonderful!

The dessert selection equaled the Pennsylvania selection and this was also a dessert feast with a large assortment of cakes, different fruit pies, nut pies, cream pies, pudding pies, prepared desserts, puddings, fruit, jello and on. Here it was spread out more around two serving counters that went around a wall so the presentation is not as overwhelming as it is in the smaller area at their other restaurant, but it is all here. I wanted to take something and chose a small piece of chocolate cake with white frosting. It was good.

Your meal includes soft drinks and they serve Pepsi products. They have fresh brewed ice tea and this is very good!

Our server was very good and she took the soiled plates off our table each time we got up to get more and came around with drink refills. She also came by at dessert to offer some of their in-house made ice cream.

The food was good. The service was good. I like the Pennsylvania location better. I am not really certain why that is - perhaps atmosphere. Perhaps that coming to this location is really out of the way - at least from the area that we visit when we are close enough by to come here or to the Pennsylvania location. If I were in Gettysburg, I might make the trip over to this location.

I certainly recommend that you come here. But do so only if you are already coming to this area or are very nearby. As I say, it is not easy to get to and very much out of the way. If you happen to be on the White House staff, of course, you are right near by when the President is at Camp David so you certainly should come down the mountain for a good meal.

There was a time that this restaurant was not opened on Sundays. It is now. This Mountain Gate Family Restaurant is located at 133 Frederick Road, Thurmont, Maryland 21788. The phone number is 301-271-4373. There is a website and that is linked at the side of this page.

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