Friday, May 10, 2013

Return to Mountain Gate Family Restaurant, Thurmont, MD

We recently went back to the Mountain Gate Family Restaurant in Thurmont, Maryland for their buffet. This was our second visit to this location and as I wrote last week, the Pennsylvania location has closed. Our first visit to the Mountain Gate in Thurmont was one year ago and that article appears here.

We came again on a Saturday night at just about the same time - 6:30 pm for dinner. The restaurant was busy and there was a short wait of about five minutes to be seated. There is a small gift shop to walk around in while you wait.

We were seated in the large dining room which is in a room behind the buffet serving room. The dining room was busy but there was a very large group of teens from a bus tour or school group that filled most of the rear of the dining room. They were well behaved and this caused no concern. Our server came over and saw that the table that we were seated at had not been wiped down or reset from the last guests, so she told us to go up to the buffet while she cleaned and set the table for us. We went to the buffet and she set the table.

Reading my review from last year, I see that that everything then is just about the same now. The same impression that I had then - that there is less being served on this buffet from what there had always been at the Waynesboro, PA restaurant. There is one long buffet server with entrees and side dishes. There is another with salad. The desserts, breads, and soup go around part of two walls, and at the end there is a carving station. While we were there I discussed this with my wife, in case I was recalling the offerings at Waynesboro incorrectly. She felt as I did and commented to me that where there would have been two trays of different items in the space of one double tray with one item at the other location, here there was only the one item in the larger tray. This comes down to the same amount of food out but less variety. Because of this selection is limited.

I always start with soup and there were two soups out - one was a red crab soup and the other was cheese and broccoli soup. My wife does not eat either of these soups so she moved right on the the salad bar. I had the crab soup and it was excellent. I thought about going back for more of it but decided to move forward with the meal.

The salad bar had a variety of types of lettuce to choose from, a number of prepared salads, and a large variety of toppings for the lettuce. The chicken salad that was on the salad bar was exceptional. I made myself a salad with romaine lettuce and chose the ranch dressing. There was no Caesar dressing. Everything was there to make a Caesar salad BUT the dressing.  There had been a year ago. There was no ham salad as there had been last year. Too bad!

Getting to the entrees, there was not that great a choice. There was fried chicken, pork with sauerkraut, and what is called here - "slippery chicken". "Slippery chicken" is the chicken stew with dumplings dish that would be called "Chicken Bot Bie" in the PA Dutch areas. At the carving area there were three carvings - roast beef, turkey breast, and ham. On the end of the hot buffet server was a hot table with a clear cover over it with an opening in the front of the cover and inside was thinly sliced salt ham - what one would consider "Smithfield" ham in Virginia. Mixed in with the entrees were macaroni and cheese, carrots, string beans with ham, mashed potatoes, stuffing, and scalloped potatoes with cheese. There was no stewed tomatoes as there were last year. As before, there were turkey gravy and beef gravy.

I walked around the hot serving table several times to see if I was missing something to choose from. I wasn't. I did try an assortment of what they had but it was a small assortment. I had read on their website that they are known for their fried chicken so I had to try that. It was nice, but nothing special. The chicken was a bit dry and the pieces to take all were split backs. It was fine. I was drawn to the salt ham. This is something that I rarely get to have as it is rarely served in most places I dine at including at buffets in Virginia. I took some of this ham and it was - as anticipated - very good. It is an acquired taste if you do not often eat very salty things. The "Slippery Chicken" was good - perhaps more potato than dumplings, but good. The pork with sauerkraut was good. I had a slice of roast beef and put gravy over it. It was fine. The green beans and ham was good. The macaroni and cheese was excellent. My wife had the turkey breast and regular ham. She liked both. She also took some of the "Slippery Chicken" and liked that. She then made herself a vegetable plate not wanting to repeat what she already had and the rest were things she does not eat. It was all good. We had enough to eat. We did not have the variety we would have liked to have.

Now dessert. I will say this again - the Waynesboro, PA Mountain Gate had the best dessert buffet I have encountered - and that is saying A LOT. The Thurmont Mountain Gate does not come close. There were a variety of pies, a few types of slices of cake, and some hot and cold prepared desserts. I wanted to try a dessert. There were some half donuts on the side in a covered serving dish. There were two halves left. I went to take one of those and felt through the serving tongs that it was hard. I passed on that. I decided to take a small scoop of bread pudding. My wife likes bread pudding. This was was more custard that bread and she decided she would not have any of the desserts and took a slice of cinnamon bread for dessert. The bread pudding was very good and very much the consistency and taste of a very thick egg custard. The cinnamon bread that my wife took was dry and she said the baked breads were very disappointing.  Gone forever is that wonderful dessert buffet that only was in Waynesboro!

Service was very good. The server cleared plates away fairly promptly - more promptly once the large teen group had left. Drink refills were offered several times and brought right away. 

The food was good. Some was excellent. I liked the food. I recommend the food.  Choices are more limited than they should be compared to other buffets and compared to their former location. This was a Saturday night. I expect that a buffet will offer the most and best of their dishes on a Saturday at dinner.

The location is very much out of the way - unless you are local to this area. To get here when I am in Maryland I have to drive out of my way to go here. What is odd is that the closed PA location was closer and easier to get to from the Hagerstown area of Maryland than this is. Do not be fooled by the shorter route through the mountainous Catoctin Mountain Park. Anything but a small car will be on the edge of cliff drops driving through that park to the town of Thurmont. Once again this year my GPS wanted to take us through this and we routed the trip ourselves with a map.

Should you go? - If you are near here, you should go. You will like the food. You know what the choices are from reading here and if that is fine with you, try it.

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