Friday, August 31, 2012

Dutch Way Family Restaurant, Myerstown, PA

I have been writing about a buffet that has been new to me for less than a year. It is the Dutch Way Family Restaurant in Gap, Pennsylvania. The three Dutch Way Markets in Pennsylvania each have a restaurant but only two of those restaurants have a buffet - Gap and Myerstown. Since being so happy with the buffet in Gap, I have been looking forward to an opportunity to try the buffet in Myerstown.

Myerstown is north of Lancaster. It is just south of Route 78 which cuts across Pennsylvania in the north to Route 80. I am not often in this part of Pennsylvania and while a trip up to this area is not out of the question if I am in Lancaster, I have been waiting for an event that we attend that is not far from Myerstown. The day of this event arrived and I looked forward to dinner with great anticipation.

The restaurant, like the restaurant in Gap, is part of a supermarket - located off to the side in a connected building. We went on a stormy Saturday night at the end of July. There were forecasts of severe but scattered thunderstorms and we drove in and out of heavy downpours as we headed south from Route 78. We arrived as rain was just stopping at about 6:45 that night.

The restaurant is to the left of the supermarket entrance. On first impression the look of the restaurant was that it was smaller than the restaurant in Gap and for lack of a better way of describing it, less formal (more casual?) than the interior in Gap. Here there are rows of tables and booths down the length of the restaurant. At the back there are two private dining rooms that are there for parties but likely would be opened if there was a crowd in the main dining. There were a number of tables filled when we went in, but through the course of our dinner the restaurant emptied out. The feature menu nights at both restaurants are the same and as this was Saturday night the feature is Prime Rib and Ham - which is the feature also on Friday nights.

The serving staff here and pretty much all of the staff here was made up of young women - some in high school. I know this because I overheard a conversation about one about to start college in the Fall but would still be working there on Saturdays. Our server was a mature woman but the people at the buffet and the carving counter and the cash register were all young women. This was also different at Gap where the staff were more mature. I will speak on this more as I go along.

The decor is very nice. The prices are the same as they are at Gap. Dinner on Friday and Saturday are $12.99. Soft drinks are $1.39. Weeknights except for Thursdays are $10.99. Thursdays are a special seafood buffet and the price is $18.99.

The buffet was almost the same. There is a much smaller serving area at this location. There is not a large grill/carvings counter but a small setup in the corner that seemed to be able to be moved away. There were fewer and smaller buffet servers and there was not the selection that I found at Gap. Let me say this right off- had I come to this location first, I would not be as enamored with Dutch Way as I was and am about the Gap restaurant. This would have been a pleasant buffet that was not much different than some other nice buffets that I have been to. It would not be in contention for best buffet of the year this year. The food was fine - so read on.

I can only make direct comparisons to describe what I am talking about. There are four soups at Gap and there are four soups here. The soups at Gap are in hot soup tureens along a counter top set up for soup. Here in Myerstown, there were still four soups - chicken rivel, ham and bean, chile, and beef vegetable. The soups were served from trays in one of the hot buffet server - not soup tureens set in, as are at other buffets - but in the usual serving trays. The chile had pretty much dried out and needed tending- stirring, moistening - or just taken away as it did not look very nice. The other three soups looked and were fine. But tending is something that was lacking and not just at this buffet server. I had the chicken rivel and this was very good. Rivels are long, narrow dumplings. My wife had the vegetable and that was fine.

We went up after soup to the salad bar. The salad bar had the basics - two types of lettuce, standard toppings, a nice selection of dressings. There were also some prepared salads. There were items missing from the salad bar that were out at Gap - and there was just no room to have added these in. Some of the prepared salads were not there. There were no chunks of Lebanon bologna - interesting as we were just north of Lebanon. Would you miss these items if you did not know they were offered at the other location? No. The salad bar was plenty adequate for a salad bar. But all being equal- price the same - things should be close to the same. Again, the salad was great and I enjoyed it very much. There were chunks of real, fried bacon and I made myself a Caesar Salad with bacon.

In the Gap restaurant there was a large selection of fancy breads. Here there was just one fancy bread and a limited selection of plain breads and rolls. The one it did have - raisin bread - was dry.

There was one and a half small but double hot buffet servers with entrees and side dishes. Again, less than at Gap. My wife felt that there were just as many dishes out but in smaller serving trays - which is sometimes better. What struck me- as we had been to Gap recently on a Friday night when the same buffet menu should have been served was the lack of local dishes here. We are north of the heart of the Pennsylvania Dutch Country here though we did pass horse and buggies along the rode on the drive here - and there were Mennonite ladies sitting at a table nearby us. Since the Gap restaurant does not gear toward tourists, those dishes are served there for the local diners, as I would think, would be done here too. The only local dish here was pork and sauerkraut - which was very close to the very good one that I have had at Gap. Here is what was on the hot buffet - meatloaf, fried chicken (which was not labeled "Henny Penny", pork and kraut, sausage stew, corn pie, turkey in gravy, fish sticks, baked chicken, barbecue ribs (no bone formed ribs), ham balls, chicken croquet, corn, green beans, harvard beets, carrots, broccoli casserole, stewed tomatoes, macaroni and cheese, potato filling, mashed potatoes, scalloped potatoes with ham, and mixed vegetables. There were two carvings which are the Saturday and Friday night feature, Prime Rib and ham. There was chicken gravy and beef gravy.

I went right to the sausage stew. It was made with smoked sausage slices in a thin broth with potatoes and shredded celery and carrots. It was fine but the sausages stewed like this lost most of their taste. The The pork and kraut was good and as I mentioned earlier was much like that at Gap. I later went up for a slice of Prime Rib and the prime rib was tender and nice. I tried the chicken croquet and these breaded and fried balls of chicken and filling had a good amount of chicken in them and clearly, you knew these were chicken. This is not always so in some other buffets. I had not noticed the sign over the barbecue ribs when I first went up and when I saw them I had to try them. I did not notice also until I took a section from the pan that these were formed, boneless ribs - much like is served at McDonald's - and which I complained about at another, much fancier buffet. At that fancy, high-priced buffet these were inappropriate to serve - on the adult buffet. Here in a much less expensive and more casual buffet, they were not out of place. They did have too much sauce on them, and frankly at this point I was filling up and I left some of this over. There are better choices here than these - unless you really love these.

My wife tried the meatloaf and said it was good. It was in a thin tomato sauce. She also tried the ham balls - served in a pineapple sauce - and these too were good. She also had some of the turkey in gravy and she liked that as well. Remember, she is a picky eater. She had no problem eating here and enjoying it.

We both tried the corn pie and found it missing something. It was corn cooked with a pie shell topping mixed with potatoes. It was a bit bland and both of us commented that it should have been been for how it looked.

The dessert area is much abbreviated from the one at Gap. There was a small counter with some pies and cake slices. There was a soft serve machine with two flavors of ice cream. There was a section with fixings to make sundaes. There was also a small hot section with hot desserts in cups - similar to what there is a Gap, but less so. There was a cold section on the salad bar with a small selection of prepared desserts. Over by the breads, there had been donuts and pastries out the entire time we were there along with small wrapped muffins and little square pieces of what looked like cake with chocolate icing. When we went for dessert, I went past the donuts to see what was on the dessert area. When I walked back - in a very short time - all of the donut halves and pastries were gone. The trays had been taken away for the night. I did try the chocolate cake squares which turned out to be chocolate peanut butter cake squares. Pennsylvania loves things with chocolate and peanut butter together.

For the most part the food was good - and there was plenty to eat. It just did not come up to the selection, the tending, or the service around the buffet tables that the much better location of this same restaurant in Gap came to.

Our table server was good and she cleared our dishes promptly and refilled our beverages. As I had noted above, she was a mature woman. There were times around the buffet server that two young women working were more involved talking to each other than to get out of the way of the customers who were trying to get to the serving trays that they were standing in front of.

The restaurant closes at 8:00 pm - as do most Pennsylvania buffets that I write about. From some time after 7:00 pm the young women started cleaning. Nothing was being taken away but they were clearly shutting down the buffet. As I mentioned - the donuts were taken away -well usually before doing this - especially with only a few guests in the dining room you make an announcement - "anyone wish to have XYZ should come get it because we are taking it away." Here is was clear that they wanted to close this buffet down as soon as possible to go home. Many buffets - including Gap - say "we close at 8" but keep things going at the buffet tables until 8:30 or later. They may not seat anyone but they never take anything away.

Will I go back? Yes, if I am in this area I would go back. This is an area with not many buffet choices. There is a Golden Corral in Lebanon, but I would prefer this over Golden Corral. Had I never been to Gap - same restaurant, owner, etc. - I would be writing about the nice buffet we went to in Myerstown. It was nice. It was just nothing special. Dutch Way Gap is special.

I do recommend the Dutch Way Family Restaurant in Myerstown, PA. Just take note of some of the things I have commented on. Again- nothing was wrong. Nothing was not worth going for. The food was good. I enjoyed my meal and so did my wife. I just had expected more from this buffet based on its sister restaurant. My wife thinks that this is the original and Gap is a newer location and designed for greater ambiance and a larger dining room. This very well could be. I had that impression also. I had this same impression of another pair of sister restaurants that I wrote about recently that did not match.

The Dutch Way Family Restaurant in Myerstown, PA is located at 649 East Lincoln Avenue, \
Route 422 East in Myerstown, PA 17067. The phone number is 717-866-5758. There is a website for the three locations (only two are buffets) at the side of this page.

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