Friday, February 15, 2013

Top Buffet of 2012 - Shady Maple Smorgasbord, East Earl, PA

Shady Maple Smorgasbord has been our "Best Buffet" in the last four years. It is one of our Top Buffets of 2012 - not because it is not as great as it has been in the last four years, but as explained in our article naming the Top Buffets for 2012, no buffet really competes with Shady Maple Smorgasbord. We would be naming Shady Maple as best year after year after year until a giant killer came along - and I do not see that happening any time soon. Now, is this fair to Shady Maple? I believe so and it is important to let our readers know that there are other buffets out there that excel to the top. With that stated, let me tell you about Shady Maple - if you have not already read one of our many, many articles about this buffet.

Shady Maple Smorgasbord is in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania where there are many other buffet restaurants. Shady Maple is family owned and operated. It is also the largest buffet restaurant that we have ever been in or seen. It fills a large building built by and for Shady Maple. The single building is two floors and contains the smorgasbord and several connected very large dining rooms, catering rooms and a gift shop - and another restaurant - that takes up the entire lower level.This building is part of the Shady Maple complex which also includes a large supermarket that also has its own restaurant (though not a buffet).

When you walk into the doors you are in a restaurant that is beyond what you would expect in this Amish/Mennonite community of Plain People. Shady Maple, inside, is anything but plain. There is a large and lavishly decorated lobby and sitting area with a fireplace and large crystal chandeliers. The large crystal chandeliers carry into the dining rooms which are also well decorated and not at all "country". The dining rooms are enormous and so is the buffet serving area. In fact the buffet area goes in two directions the length of the building.There are some items on each "end" that are the same but there are always items that will be different from one "end" or half to the other. In addition to the long, long, long row of buffet servers, there are three grilling and carving stations in the middle.

The food that is served is a combination of local dishes of the Pennsylvania Dutch and Continental/American fare. There is something here for everyone and no one should ever leave Shady Maple feeling hungry. In fact, just the opposite happens. It is too easy to leave Shady Maple after a meal and feel that you ate too much. It is all tempting and it is all good. It is hard to pass something by and there are so many choices.

This is a restaurant that seems to be known by everyone for counties around this area. I have heard Shady Maple mentioned in overheard conversations in Philadelphia. I have heard Shady Maple mentioned in conversations between Amish at Farmers Markets. And the comments are always positive. Out of Pennsylvania, someone mentions Lancaster County and the next thing I hear is "Shady Maple". This is a family restaurant that everyone comes to - locals and tourists.

What makes Shady Maple stand out? The food is great! The service is consistently good. The prices are in the moderate range and vary each night by what the night's feature is - but there is value for your money. They do include a reasonable gratuity with the price and the sales tax so the price you see listed is the price that you pay in total. The beverages are included with the meal. They make accommodations for people who have had a stomach staple - as long as a current doctor's note is presented. They have a senior price. And they give you a free meal on your birthday.There are buffets for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Each night there is a different theme with set featured items. Dishes change by season. And in the colder months of January and February when things are slower, there are special one weekend features  such as Prime Rib Weekend, Hawaiian Luau Weekend, Pork Bonanza Weekend and a very special Valentines Day smorgasbord. Each year there is also an anniversary feature in March.

I have written so many good reviews about Shady Maple I don't want to keep repeating myself. This is my first choice in this area - and as I have written there are many good choices in this area when it comes to buffets including two other Top Buffets for 2012. I particularly enjoy the Pennsylvania Dutch dishes that are served occasionally such as Chicken Bot Boi, Apples and Dumplings, and Pig Stomach, but there are steaks of several cuts, carved roast beef, carved ham, lasagna, oriental stir fry on the grill, there own Philly Cheese Steaks - here called Smorgy Steaks, country sausage, smoked sausage, Polish sausage, pork loin, ham, chicken in many varieties, smoked pork chops, seafood, catfish, Prime Rib, ribs, beef brisket, veal patties, pizza, and on and on. If I named everything that I ever saw and/or tried at Shady Maple this article would go on for weeks.There are generally eight different soups. There is a salad bar that has anything you would like to create a salad plus local prepared salads. And then, of course, there is the desserts. There are hot desserts. There are apple dumplings. There are cakes and pies. There are prepared desserts and puddings. There is fruit. There is soft serve ice cream and all that you want to make a sundae. The dessert selection here is extensive - and good! Maybe too good - because after you have eaten yourself full during dinner, those desserts will call and tempt you to eat more than you had intended.

Top Buffet of 2012 is most deserved by Shady Maple Smorgasbord. Coming here is an experience and it should not be missed. This restaurant is not located in the middle of the common tourist area of Lancaster County. It is off to the edge of the area in the northeast of the county. It is not far from the Pennsylvania Turnpike and is easy to find and to get to. Expect a crowd and a wait during the summer months on a weekend - and even during the week. Expect a crowd during the Fall and before the holidays. It is quietest during the week during the winter. It is always good.

Congratulations to Shady Maple for consistently coming up at the top of our list - and for its award of Top Buffet of 2012!

Just to note - I just learned that Shady Maple just added a Charbroiler Grill and this makes for something to look forward to on my next trip in 2013! Char-grilled steaks are the perfect addition to this buffet!

Shady Maple Smorgasbord is located at 129 Toddy Drive in East Earl, PA. Take Route 23 East from Lancaster or Route 322 South to get to the restaurant. (Put the name in your GPS and it will know it.) The phone numbers are 1-800-238-7363 and 717-354-8222. They are closed on Sundays and certain holidays. There is a website and it is listed at the side of this page.There is also a very active Facebook page!

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