Friday, April 05, 2013

A Trip to Shady Maple

Shady Maple Smorgasbord in East Earl, PA celebrated its anniversary again this year during the second week in March. We had an opportunity to make a trip into PA and without a doubt we were headed to Shady Maple for dinner that night.

When Shady Maple has its anniversary week it has contests and special menu items each night. We were there on a Wednesday night and the feature that night was Prime Rib which is the usual Wednesday night feature. As part of the celebration there was a special additional dessert area set up in the middle of the dining room floor with scooped hard ice cream and a supervised chocolate fountain. It had been several months since we had been to Shady Maple - weather and such preventing our travel. No matter what was on the menu, I was eager to get there for dinner.

Shady Maple, as I have written so many times before, has an overwhelmingly large amount of good  food offered on the buffet. For the anniversary dinners, there was even more, with what may be duplicate items on both sides of the long buffet serving area replaced with additional items. There were eight soups on the buffet on this night. All were tempting and I could not resist trying two of them that I had not seen at Shady Maple before. One was a vegetable tortellini soup and the other was scallop chowder. The vegetable tortellini was a thick tomato based soup with garden vegetables and large cheese filled tortellini pastas. There was a lot of tortellini in the soup. It was very good. The scallop chowder was like a thin New England (white) clam chowder but instead of clams there was scallops - whole, large scallops. This soup had a excellent taste of the sea with a buttery flavor as well. There were a lot more scallops in the soup than there appeared to be just looking, as the white scallops were masked by the white broth. This also was a good soup. My wife tried the beef barley soup which is a favorite soup of hers and she liked it here.

When Shady Maple serves Prime Rib they don't just put out one Prime Rib - cooked however it came from the kitchen. They put out several Prime Ribs - cooked rare, medium, and well. They slice a thick slice of Prime Rib for you - as it would be served at a menu restaurant - which fills your plate. There is au jus gravy to ladle on top there at the carving counter. There is no bone - you are getting all meat. The Prime Rib was tender and juicy. I chose the rare cut and it was perfect. As I say, if you wanted a medium or well done cut it was there for you.

At the carving station they were also carving ham. I got to see the new chargrill, though there was nothing cooking on it this night. This was the one thing missing from Shady Maple and it is now there on the end grill station nearest the entrance from the lobby. Now, when there are steaks, they will be chargrilled - to order. I can't wait to get there on a steak night to try this!  The steaks served this night were "Smorgy Cheesesteaks" on of Shady Maples signature items served on certain nights and special occasions. These are made on a fry grill as they should be - thin sliced steak is grilled with onions and covered with cheese. steaks without cheese are also available. I take mine without the hoagy roll (long bread roll) so that I not fill up on bread. There is tomato sauce that can be added on request on top. These are good - Shady Maple's version of the Philly Cheesesteak and they are very popular. In this area, they know cheesesteaks.

On this night there were several fish entrees on the buffet. The cod cakes were excellent - think broiled crab cakes substituting the crab with cod. There was also fried pollock - fried in a batter coating. There was also a  shrimp Alfredo. There was really so much that it can't all be named here.

I always look for the PA Dutch dishes when I am at Shady Maple. There always is dried corn - a sweet and nutty tasting dried corned kernals cooked moist and delicious. There are also always buttered noodles which here are thin, flat short noodles cooked in browned butter. Another regular PA Dutch dish at Shady Maple is Pork and Sauerkraut - shredded pork cooked with sauerkraut - and is locally served on New Years Day.  My attention immediately went to the Chicken Bot Bie - an Amish/PA Dutch specialty - that is often but not always found on Shady Maple's buffet. This is large, doughy flat noodle dumplings stewed with chicken, carrots, potatoes, and celery in a thickened chicken stock. This is a filling dish and those that know it usually cannot resist it.  With a smorgasbord or buffet meal, it is best to limit what you take or feel that you ate way too much at the end of the meal. I know some people who make this the centerpiece of their meal.

Dessert is extensive and it is always worthwhile looking on both sides of the buffet area at both dessert sections to see more. There are always an extensive selection of cakes and pies, hot desserts, cold desserts, fruit, puddings, etc. As I mentioned at the beginning of this article in addition for their anniversary celebration meals there was also name brand, hard scooped ice cream (in addition to the usual name brand soft serve ice cream) and a chocolate fountain that was supervised by employees - a must for any chocolate fountain and rarely if ever done elsewhere.

I could go on and on. The Shady Maple meal never disappoints. We named them one of our Top Buffets for 2012 - and previously had been Best Buffet year after year. I was happy to see our Top Buffet certificate posted in the lobby with other commendation certificates awarded to this restaurant. The anniversary celebration is now passed but the meal will be wonderful here on any night.

Shady Maple is open from Monday to Saturday until 8:00 pm. The dining room is not shut down until 9:00 pm but do not arrive too close to 8:00 or you will not have time to really enjoy this buffet. They are closed on Sundays and certain holidays. 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.  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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