Friday, October 12, 2012

Return to Wood Grill Buffet, Charlottesville, Virginia

It has been six years since I have been to the Wood Grill Buffet in Charlottesville, Virginia. The only reason for this long absence is my schedule when I travel. This is one of my favorite buffets and has been since we first found it many years ago when it was in a different location.  Wood Grill Buffet is still part of the Western Sizzln' chain but appears to be run as a separate entity with only four locations - all in Virginia. There are locations in Harrisonburg, Norwalk, Hesperia, and this one in Charlottesville.

The layout is just as it was when I described it six years ago, so I am not going to repeat that here. You can read the link above to get an impression what the buffet looks like. The decor is western and pleasant. We returned this August and were there on a weeknight. There was a small group at the door coming in before us but we really had no wait. The restaurant inside was crowded. We were taken to our table and our server actually took some time to come over to our table and take our drink orders. I will put that up to the crowded dining room. The price of the buffet is now $10.59 for dinner Monday to Thursday and $10.99 for dinner Friday to Sunday. There is a $1.00 discount for seniors. Soft drinks with refills are $2.09 for adults and $1.39 for children up to age 12. The children's price is based on age and they charge $0.60 per year of age from age 4 to 12. Over 12 pays adult price. Soda price is a bit high compared to most similar buffets, but only by a dime. Compared to other chain American food buffets, the value here is exception for what the buffet offers.

We started as usual with soup. There were two soups and they are located on the counter that sits directly in front of the grill. The soups this night were Chicken Gumbo and New England Clam Chowder. Both soups are soups that my picky eater wife does not care for so she went on to the extensive salad bar and I took the Chicken Gumbo. The soup was hot, good and tasty though it was slightly spicy. If you only know Chicken Gumbo from Campbell's in a can the taste is similar but there is more heat in the real thing.

The salad bar is split between two cold servers at opposite sides of the buffet area. One has a variety of lettuce and greens and a lot of toppings and dressing. There were also cold meats to add to your salad. There was also everything you would want to make a Caesar salad. On the other there was a variety of prepared salads including the usual potato salad with large pieces of potato, macaroni salad, pasta salad, and coleslaw, but there was more. There were deviled eggs, chicken salad with large chunks of chicken, tuna salad, cucumber salad, and three bean salad among others. There was also a crab salad with real crab (not the fake stuff). The chicken salad was very good and I could not resist the crab salad. There was so much more to come, but it would have been easy to stay with the salad bar.

The hot entrees and side dishes are extensive and they are served both from hot buffet servers and from the counter that is in front of the grill which takes up just about all of the back wall. There are chefs cooking on the grill and continually replenishing the serving trays on the counter. This buffet serves steak and while it is not cooked to order, it is cooked in various stages of doneness and  placed out on a hot tray on the counter. There is rare, medium, and well done for the taking. In my last review six years ago I had found the steak that I took to be dry - but not this time. The steak was nicely medium rare, juicy, and tasty. At another end of the grill counter there is a taco and burrito bar with soft flour tortillas, fried corn tortillas, nacho chips, and all of the makings for tacos and burritos. Next to the steak were ribs- real, fall off the bone, barbecue ribs. These were excellent and close to what I had at a smoker pit barbecue non-buffet place several nights later in another part of Virginia. They were moist and properly sauced.

There was so much on the hot servers and at the counter I will just list what there was for you. There were in addition to what I have already told you about - meatballs, riblets, fried chicken (very good fried chicken and better and more Southern than any other chain buffet), pot roast, ham, roast beef, hot dogs, chicken teriyaki, fried shrimp, fried fish, grilled chicken pieces, grilled chicken breasts off the grill, two types of wings, chicken livers, meatloaf, cheeseburgers, crab cakes, lasagna, baked spaghetti and cheese (something local to Virginia perhaps because we encountered this in other buffets) and pizza that was at the bakery counter.

There was a multitude of side dishes as well. These included mashed potatoes, kernel corn, corn on the cob, Lima beans with ham, wild rice, white rice, sauteed green beans, mushrooms, zucchini, yellow squash, turnip greens with ham and onions, green beans with bacon, onion rings, fries, hot carrots, fried apples (so good!), fried green tomatoes, macaroni and cheese, cabbage, broccoli casserole, potato casserole, broccoli, and sweet potato souffle.There was also a baked and sweet potato bar with toppings.

You are in the South and a lot of what is on this buffet is southern cooking with dishes that you will rarely see anywhere but the South. Yes, fried green tomatoes is not just the name of a book and a movie made from the book. You can eat them here.

I tried little bits of things and took more of what I know that I enjoy and I was stuffed at the end of the meal. Everything that I tried was good with one exception. The pizza looked good but it had been sitting too long and the crust had dried out and I ate only a taste. The steak was good and better than many. The ribs, as I have said, were exceptional. There was no pork barbecue as there had been six years ago but that may appear on another night. Selections do change from night to night at some buffets. My wife was just as happy with her plainer selections. There was more than enough to please most.

There is a large bakery counter which is a large half circle with bakers inside replenishing desserts, bread, and pizza. There were several breads including corn muffins, large rolls, and cheese rolls. I know that many of my readers want to hear about the dessert selection and they have a very good selection of sweets. There was fresh pineapple, fresh oranges, melon, and fresh grapes, and mandarin oranges over on the cold buffet server. There was carrot cake, several types of cream pies, chocolate cake cupcakes with vanilla icing and yellow cake cupcakes with chocolate icing, a variety of cookies,coconut cake, banana pudding, strawberry shortcake, pecan pie, Oreo pie, apple pie, pumpkin pie (in August!), lemon meringue pie, and three different cobblers including blackberry. There was soft serve ice cream and a sundae bar with ice cream toppings, There was also a chocolate fountain right in the middle of the bakery counter within view of the people working behind the counter. I will not get into my feelings about chocolate fountains at buffets again, but this one was subject to the same problems as all of them are.

I am getting hungry and wanting to go back again just writing about all of this.

Service was OK - she could have paid a little more attention to our table, but it was not bad.

I want to talk about the people eating here. I have been to many buffets as you know and all types of people come to eat at buffets. It has been primarily in New York, however, that I have seen the most immensely large people eating at buffets. What surprised me here - and different from other buffets that I have been to an went to recently in Virginia - that there were a good number of immensely large people eating here. No problem - everyone is welcome everywhere and I don't care who is sitting at the table next to me, but it just struck me as interesting here seeing this. I only share it because it is interesting.

Well, I am sorry that it took me six years to get back here and I will be sure to schedule more time in this area when I return so that I am in Charlottesville at dinner time. They are open on weekends to 11:30 pm. I recommend this buffet. Go there! There is a lot to see and do in this city including the University of Virginia and you can eat at this great buffet!

The Wood Grill Buffet in Charlottesville is located at 576 Branch Lands Boulevard, Charlottesville, VA 22901 and their phone number is (434) 975-5613. They now have a website and that is linked at the side of this page in our listing of buffet links.


Rick said...

Could you please define "immensely large" in regard to the other diners at this buffet? I have lived in several areas of the country due to military affiliation, and what is large in one area is different in another. Thank you. Love your website.

Writer said...

This was not intended to offend. It was merely an observation. "Immensely large" is not in terms of height but in terms of girth. Let's just say beyond sizes one would find in the most men's and women's clothing departments and at a point where one must wonder how someone medically can get along.

Carole said...

I see those size people at the OCB's on Long Island, NY. They used to be at the Sizzlers, but they have closed. Hard to imagine how the restaurants make money on that clientele. We went to Best Buffet last year and the asian lady manager was fighting with a VERY immense customer, scolding him and saying "No more" in heavily accented English. A very uncomfortable situation for all to watch. We will not go back there for that reason.

Writer said...

I was hesitant to mention my observation because I had a feeling that it would draw attention away from the main point of telling everyone about a really nice buffet. So, let's focus on the Wood Grill Buffet and not the people who eat there. Again, it was just an observation and everyone there was very nice and polite to everyone else. If this focus continues I may just delete that paragraph from the article and the comments. For now I shall leave it as is - and see what comes next.