Friday, September 28, 2012

Ryan's Buffet - Fredericksburg, Virginia

I wrote in the Spring about a Ryan's that we were at in Hagerstown, Maryland. That Ryan's had made a significant change since I had been there previously (before the takeover by Buffets Inc.) to become much more an Old Country Buffet with little left from its former Ryan's identity.

In August we returned to a Ryan's that we have been to probably more than any other Ryan's. This is the Ryan's Buffet in Fredericksburg, Virginia. This Ryan's also has become much more like Old Country Buffet, but it has retained many of the things that made the original Ryan's chain the best of the buffet chains. For those reading who are not aware, several years ago the parent company of Old Country Buffet bought out the Ryan's chain and quickly thereafter started to close Ryan's restaurants in mass - in the usual way that Buffets, Inc. does business - they arrive in the morning as the doors are opening for business for the day and announce to everyone, including the management - that this restaurant is closed and you do not have a job anymore - go home. The company then started to make those remaining Ryan's restaurants into clones of Old Country Buffet restaurants and, rather than taking the best of Ryan's and introducing that to OCBs, they took the worst of OCBs and introduced that into the Ryan's restaurants. Some Ryan's have managed to still maintain what made them good - and the Ryan's in Fredericksburg, VA is one of those.

One major difference from OCB, and what was always good at Ryan's, is the salad bar. In Fredericksburg they still have the large salad bar with its extensive selection that Ryan's was known for. Here there is a make-your-own Caesar salad with all everything there for you to put together and the salad dressing at the side for you to add to your liking. This is not the pre-made Caesar salad that is found at OCB, and the dressing here is much better. The seafood salad was very different from that at OCB as well. While it was not using real crab meat but what is called "Krab" meat, it was using large chunks of that made into a salad and not the shredded "seafood" and macaroni salad found at OCB. There were also three types of lettuce to choose from and (perhaps because of the location) there was nothing spilled from one serving tray to the next.

On the hot buffet server there were many more selections than you find at OCB. There were large pieces of smoked sausage that were not served in the sweet sauce that OCB puts smoked sausage in. There were whole sides of catfish - not the little chunks that are served at OCB. Many of the dishes that Ryan's was known for were still on the buffet. I recently wrote about the Mandarin Stir Fry that Buffets, Inc. introduced this year. This was here at the grill area and took up the griddle next to the char-flame grill. I actually did see one person walk up and have it, but as I have said this is not very popular at any OCB or Ryan's that I have been in that have it. This was the only time that I have seen anyone have it. (This opposed to Golden Corral where there are still lines after a year and a half for their seafood stir fry.)

Now, the steaks! The steaks here are made on a char-flame grill and they are made to order - if they already do not have a steak that is cooked to your request. And what is given to you is a significantly sized piece of steak and not a small two inch chunk as is often served to you at OCB. More than once, I have been to this particular Ryan's, where a rare steak was not there when I asked, and the grill chef put one on just for me and then came to my table with the steak or call me over to get it when it was ready. So different from any other buffet! And I must say, this is something particular to the very good employees at this particular Ryan's. They actually seem happy to be working. The steaks are being seasoned to Buffet's Inc.'s idea of steak seasoning which contains way too much pepper, but they are cooked on the grill properly and much of this seasoning can be scraped off. I smile when I eat the steak here. I can't say that often.

Now, over to the dessert section. You know the little squares of sheet cake that you find at Old Country Buffet. How would you like a large wedge of a round, double-layer, chocolate cake? Well, that is exactly what was being served here. It looked great and was so tempting!

Well, I have to say that this is the best Ryan's we have ever been to and my picky eater wife agrees. When coming to this area, I always check before to make sure that this Ryan's has not fallen victim to Buffets, Inc.'s axe, because they have no idea what a good thing is. If you are near Fredericksburg, Virginia - and there is a lot of history to be found there, as well as a huge shopping center which this Ryan's is located at - try this Ryan's.

This Ryan's Buffet is located in the Central Park Shopping Center/Complex off of I-95 in Fredericksburg, VA. Its address is 1780 Carl D Silver Parkway, Fredericksburg, VA 22401 and the phone number is (540) 548-0051. There is a link at the side of this page to Ryan's chain webpage.Link

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