Friday, August 30, 2013

Return to Dutch-Way Family Restaurant, Myerstown, PA

I first tried the "other" Dutch-Way buffet restaurant located in Myerstown, PA a year ago. At that time, I did not enjoy this location as much as I enjoy the Gap restaurant. We were in this area again and we decided that we would go back. We actually decided to come back to give this buffet another chance over trying the buffet at the Hollywood Casino near Hershey, PA.

We went on a Friday night which offers the same buffet features as Saturday night. Like the Dutch-Way restaurant in Gap, Pa, this restaurant is not open on Sundays and the nightly features are the same at each location.

The best way to describe this restaurant in comparison to the Gap restaurant is to say that it is an abbreviated version of the Gap location. I would say from the look of the age of the restaurant that this existed before the other. There is less buffet serving area here and as a result less food is offered - and that with some differences.

I will go through what was being served on the buffet on this night. There were four soups - and they were good ones! There was chicken noodle soup with rivels (rivels are long dumplings), shrimp bisque, creamy vegetable soup, and chili. My wife had the chicken noodle with rivels and told me that it was very good. I had the shrimp bisque and that was exceptional.

Moving to the salad bar there was lettuce and toppings but less so than at Gap and there were a few prepared salads - but nothing like the assortment at Gap. There was Ceasar dressing for the salad and on the hot buffet there is hot bacon dressing - yes, hot bacon dressing which is a local delicacy.

Should I be comparing the two restaurants like this - I am not sure how to describe my reaction to this buffet without that comparison. Let me say that had we never been to the Gap buffet, I would be saying that this is a nice little buffet - and we might go back if we were in the area again. But this is a sister buffet to one that exceeds it and it is only fair to you the reader who may come expecting as we did to find what we found in Gap to know this.

Anyway, let me go on. The hot entrees and side dishes included baked chicken, fried chicken, meatloaf in tomato sauce, ham balls, chicken bot bie, spaghetti and meatballs, baked haddock, turkey in gravy, taco macaroni, pork and kraut, and cold peel and eat shrimp that were spiced with Old Bay seasoning. At the carving station was Prime Rib and pork roast. The side dishes included pineapple filling, green beans, brown butter noodles, potato filling, beets, stewed tomatoes, macaroni and cheese, corn pie, mashed potatoes, kernel corn, scalloped potatoes with ham, Calico Beans (baked lima beans with pieces of what looked like hot dogs but could have been small pieces of smoked sausage) and with the Prime Rib at the carving station there were sauteed mushrooms and sauteed onions. 

There is an area with bread near the soup and instead of the assortment of breads as found at Dutch-Way Gap, there was just raisin bread but this was commercial raisin bread from a bag (distinctly not from a bakery even if just the attached supermarket bakery). Taking up one of the trays on the hot buffet was hot corn bread. There were also wrapped in plastic wrap muffins.

All of the food is good! There is no question about that. There were two Prime Ribs being carved - one rare and one well done. The Prime Rib was good. The meatloaf in tomato sauce was good but the tomato sauce overwhelmed the meatloaf. The ham balls were good. The chicken bot bie was good. The pork and kraut was good. My wife had the corn pie and felt that it was more corn than corn pie (really a corn casserole). We both had a good meal and there was plenty of food. It was the selection - again, compared to Gap (and we were recently at Gap a few weeks before this on a Saturday night with the same feature buffet) was lacking. The selection here - now and a year ago - was a step below, how can I put this without sounding food snobbish, in class. Maybe I should just say that the dishes here are plainer in food style. To be fair, counting the entrees on this night, there were ten and counting the entrees on the recent Saturday night at Gap there were eleven. Not really a significant difference in number but for some reason it just feels as if there is. While I can't wait to go back to Gap, I am very fine with not getting back here for another year when I may be in norther PA again.

Dessert follows suit with the same idea - similar desserts but less of them. There were half donuts (which really do make me happy - and I did have one), little danish, cookies, a few types of pie, a few slices of cake from the supermarket bakery, squares of chocolate peanut butter cake, soft serve ice cream and sundae toppings, and a few drink cups covered in plastic wrap each with a different type of cold prepared dessert pudding inside. This was odd and we could not figure why this was served this way - as if it was left from something else, rather than serving trays of puddings. But dessert space is very limited here though I don't think, for instance, that if I took the cup with the chocolate eclair pudding dessert, there was going to be another put out for someone else to take.

Service this time was much better than it had been. The server was experienced and attended to us well. The people at the buffet servers were also much more attentive than they had been a year ago and every tray was well tended and quickly replenished. 

The price of the dinner here on Friday and Saturday night is $13.99 just like at the Gap restaurant buffet. And there is a discount for seniors over 60.

As I said here a year ago - wonderful buffet but not special as its sister restaurant is. That one is a hidden gem, this one is a nice buffet.  I will go back and if you are in the area you should try it. This is way off the tourist area and this very much is a local restaurant.

The Dutch Way Family Restaurant in Myerstown, PA is located at 649 East Lincoln Avenue, Route 422 East in Myerstown, PA 17067. The phone number is 717-866-5758. There is a website for the three locations (only two are buffets) at the side of this page.My GPS put this address past its location so watch for the supermarket as you drive down Route 422 and the restaurant is on the right side of the same building as you face it from the road in the same parking lot.

An aside - I have not know what the recent feature for Monday nights is at the two Dutch-Way Family restaurants and here there was a sign. On Monday nights it is create your own pizza and a pasta station. Sounds interesting.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Golden Corral, Whitehall, Pennsylvania

We were off Route I-22 in Pennsylvania and found a fairly new Golden Corral in the Lehigh Valley Mall in the town of Whitehall, PA. The restaurant is on the outskirts of the mall in the back. It is necessary to drive around the mall from the mall entrance to the rear to find this Golden Corral. The building looked new outside and in.

We went on a Thursday night in late July and the restaurant was crowded. We were seated in just a few minutes. Like OCB, at Golden Corral you pay as you enter. At other Golden Corrals that I have been to you give your soft drink order at the cash register and someone behind the counter hands you your drinks. Here the soda/drink machines were facing out from the entrance counter and you took your own drinks and paid for them with your meal as you got up to the cashier. I wondered if this meant that there were similar setups in the dining room where you now would get  your own drink refills but it did not. You still ask your server for drink refills.

We were sat at a table with tables around us that had not had their plates picked up. I wondered if this was a bad sign. Until about a quarter of the way into the meal it was.

I am not going to go through everything that was on the buffet. I will talk about the features, but the main offerings at Golden Corral are usually the same and I have written about that many times in the past about various Golden Corral locations. I will focus on the highlights - and lowlights.

The overall arrangement of the food counters were the same as most Golden Corrals but this one had distinct signs over each section - the Hacienda where the taco bar is, the Wok where the Chinese Section is, and so on. Maybe because it was all new here it stood out more than it may be at older Golden Corrals.  

The feature at the time of our visit was Wings and Baby Back Ribs. This was a pleasant surprise as the website was only showing Wings as the feature. The features at Golden Corral are always after 4 pm. An earlier feature of Wings had included Baby Back Ribs and I wanted to try them at Golden Corral. Now I could.

The Baby Back Ribs were in a serving tray at the grill along with a tray of pulled pork barbecue. I took some ribs and some pulled pork. The ribs were a disappointment. They were dry and not tender. it was hard to bite the meat that came off the bones with some coaxing. At one point I thought that I was chewing bone but it was just the stringy overcooked meat. Just in case it was just this batch that was out, I tried a couple of ribs from another batch that came out later. It was not much different. The pulled pork was much better. Too bad. It may be this location. It may be just how these ribs are made at Golden Corral. They are not, of course, coming out of a smoker, but they can be cooked so that they stay moist and tender. Here they were not.

I like the steak that Golden Corral serves and have considered it the best steak of the chain buffets since Ryans was taken over by Buffets, Inc.. The first piece of steak that I got had a bit of a charcoal lighter fluid taste. I order it rare and perhaps it had not cooked over the flames long enough to loose that taste. I had another peice of steak later in the meal and this time I ordered it "medium rare". It was cooked much more medium than rare. It did not have that same taste but it was tough and far too well done for what I ordered. As I have said before the grill at Golden Corral (and any buffet with a grill really) very much depends on the grill chef doing the cooking. Some know exactly how to judge how the meat is cooked - and some do not. This may have just been this chef working that night and another night another chef would have done much better.

 The salad bar was well stocked and everything was kept stocked and fresh by the people behind the counter. The hot food trays were kept replenished but not promptly and then some items were replaced with duplicates and triplicates of other items already out. My wife tried both the fried rice and the Lo Mein in the Chinese section and both were spicy. These dishes were not labeled as spicy and one does not expect to find hot peppers in either of these Chinese dishes. She did try the chicken meat that was out to create your own chicken fajitas and she was very happy to tell me that it was not spicy at all and she enjoyed that.

Gone is the seafood stir fry and good riddance. It is possible to get close to the grill area again. Sadly gone is the carved whole turkey that was at a Golden Corral that we were at just a couple of months before. That is something that adds a lot to the offerings and if it is now gone from all Golden Corrals, it should be brought back.

When we were ready for dessert we both had a desire for something for dessert. I don't usually take dessert, but my wife will if there is something that tempts her. What tempts me at Golden Corral are the cupcakes and there were vanilla cupcakes out. My wife decided to take one and there was one last one on the tray as we were walking over to the dessert counter. A little girl and her mother got there first and it was gone. I heard a young boy ask the woman behind the counter if she would bring out more and I told my wife that more were coming out. We waited and a few minutes later a tray was put out which was descended upon by several unsupervised children who were touching everyone on the tray. This put my off from taking one. I was going to take ice cream and decided to take one of the remaining cupcakes instead. When I picked it up from the tray I knew that was a mistake as it was ice cold. I ate part of it and had it been fresh it would have been nice - but cold it was not very good. I should have taken the ice cream.

As I started out saying, the server for this section was not good at the beginning but got better as the meal progressed. She did not come to clean the surrounding tables for awhile and our dishes were beginning to stack up. She also had not been around to put her name on our receipt as the servers at Golden Corral do fairly quickly once you are seated. She eventually did come around to put her name on our receipt and after that things started to get better. I did have to ask her for drink refills - she did not offer.

Everything that I took to eat for this meal was fine - but it could have been better and has been better at other Golden Corrals. But I will not judge this buffet negatively on this one visit because it was on the border that night.  This restaurant is located in an area that I can get back to on occasion and I will go back to try it again at some future date.

I will go back to try again. Should you? Try it, but I am not making any promises. It may just have been this night. Many of the standard Golden Corral buffet items were as they are in other Golden Corrals. And by the time you read this the feature will have changed - perhaps twice as Golden Corral features do not stay around very long.

This Golden Corral is located at 900 Lehigh Valley Mall Drive in Whitehall, PA 18052. The phone number is (610) 443-0866. The chain's website is linked on the side of this page. This restaurant is just northeast of Allentown, PA. If coming west on I78 it is easiest to go to past to where I22 and I78 join and come back a short distance to the exit for the mall and this restaurant rather than drive north through the streets of the City of Allentown.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Return to Ruby Buffet, Massapequa, New York

On my first visit to Ruby Buffet - a new buffet that had opened in Massapequa, New York on Long Island in the winter of 2013 I was disappointed. I had decided that I was not going back again. It took a $2.00 off coupon to get us to go back and try all of these months later. Our second experience there was much better than our first.

The buffet dinner here is priced at $14.99 per person with soda at $1.99. As I said in my first article this is in the upper price range of mid-priced buffets in this area and there are larger buffets with lower prices. The big issue last February was taste and value. And when I left I felt that I had gotten neither.

When we saw the coupon in a mailed coupon collection from various local businesses we discussed going back. We both felt that we should give it another chance as they have now had many months to break in, so to speak. This is part of a chain of Ruby Buffets and they are located in various parts of the US. A chain should not need any real break in period as it should be a turn key operation with recipes and selections already established in the other locations. This one has shown that over time it could improve and it did.

We went on a Friday night and it was fairly crowded. There was no wait to come in but the dining room was full and we were seated in a small dining room off to the side that has about six tables. I was not thrilled to be set off from the main dining room as one can often get lost and not receive the attention of the wait staff that you want in a buffet. I have to say that the service on this second visit was fine - it could have been better especially had we ordered soft drinks other than water as while dishes were cleared promptly, no one ever offered to refill our water glasses and I was seeing the same thing happen at tables around us who were paying for soft drinks. Refills are included in the $2 price for the soda.

I am going to list what we found on the main buffet servers - mostly focusing on the main entrees and accompanying dishes. There were the same four soups that we found on our first visit. There was wonton, egg drop, hot and sour, and seafood bisque. I took the seafood bisque and while it had a heavy pepper under taste, it was thick and rich. It was an orange red color and there were pieces of some type of fish, some small pieces of shrimp, and what must have been pieces of Krab legs (not real crab legs but the fish formed into Krab legs type). There were some small bits of shell in the soup and it took some picking out.  The soup was good and throughout the meal I thought about getting more - which I did do at the end of the meal.

On the salad bar there was a seafood salad with lemon olive oil, crabmeat salad (that may have been real crabmeat), edame (soy beans), a cucumber and tomato salad with light Italian dressing on top, and lettuce with dressings. There was cold peel and eat shrimp, raw oysters, raw clams, and raw mussels.

The sushi bar had a good assortment of sushi and this was beyond the usual Chinese buffet sushi bar. Different from our first visit, this time the dishes were full of sushi and they kept replenishing them. If you like sushi and like more than the usual salmon and tuna, you will like this sushi bar. In addition to sushi on the sushi bar there was seaweed salad. My wife likes this and she said it was good. One thing that did concern her was that the tongs that were placed on plates as they are at most sushi bars along the counter, were getting soiled from one item and carrying that into other items on the bar - particularly the seaweed salad. To the credit of the restaurant, when the soiled tongs were seen they were taken away and replaced.

The hot buffet servers are a mix of Chinese appetizers, Chinese side dishes, and entrees. Over on the hot buffet there was steamed dim sum, steamed stuffed buns, steamed red bean buns, egg rolls, spring rolls, fried shrimp, chicken on a stick, ribs, chicken wings, curly fries, pizza, chicken teriyaki, New York Steak with a sauce on the side, crab legs, sweet and sour chicken, vegetable lo mein, vegetable fried rice, white rice, sauteed green beans, cabbage with hot red peppers, shrimp stuffed with crab, crab cakes, chicken with broccoli, pepper steak, fried wonton with cheese and crab, baby clams with black bean sauce, spicy shrimp and scallops with honey, seafood scampi, corn on the cob, stuffed seafood in clam shell with pork, shrimp, and vegetable, sweet cheese pie puffs, garlic bread, steak with teriyaki sauce, General Tso chicken, honey chicken, crispy duck, chicken and shrimp with black bean sauce, Texas fried fish, red snapper with fruit and dill, seafood cheese pasta, plantains, fried donuts, bourbon chicken, and boneless ribs.

I took a small amount of several things to try and some dishes stood out as particularly good. Of all things, the chicken in the chicken with broccoli was very good. It was lightly battered and the sauce for the dish was very light in flavor which made for a delicate taste and texture of this chicken. I did go back for more of this. The red snapper with fruit and dill was very good also. This was a white fish (red snapper) in a light clear sauce that was not sweet. There was no whole fruit of any kind but the fruit was in the sauce. This dish had a good flavor.

Of course, I had to try the ribs again that I had found so disappointing on the first visit. These are not in any way Chinese restaurant spare ribs or even Chinese buffet spare ribs. These are in a type of barbecue spareribs. They are sauced with a brown barbecue sauce. I first took two ribs on my plate. The first was meaty and soft. The taste was pretty good. The second rib that I took was overdone. More ribs came out and I took two more. These both were overdone. Before the end of the meal I took two more and these were like the first rib that I had - meaty and not overdone. So the ribs are hit and miss. The ones that were not so well done that they were almost just bone and char, were not good at all, but trays did come out with ribs that tasted good and ate well. So for pseudo-BBQ ribs they were OK.

Some of the dishes do not appear to be hot and spicy until you look closely for the peppers. The vegetable lo mein was a little on the greasy side. The fried rice was light and very good. I tried the seafood in clam shell with pork, shrimp, and vegetable. This looked like a stuffed baked clam and I am sure that if someone ignored the sign would think that they were taking stuffed baked clams. There was no clam in this other than the shell. The filling was dry and dense with little taste of pork, shrimp, or vegetables. The shrimp stuffed with crab on the other hand was very good - a broiled shrimp wrapped around clam and bread stuffing.

I went over to the raw shell fish and looked at the oysters. I hesitated because the oysters look slightly dry on the surface. With raw shell fish you want it to be continually being taken and replenished right there on the spot - so that it is absolutely fresh when you eat it. When it is stacked in advance on a bed of ice you have no idea how long it may have been sitting out. I found three small oysters that looked the freshest and that were moist all around. The first two had a good taste, the last was slightly off from the rest. I started to wonder if I had made a mistake that I was going to regret. I was fine later on - but I am not sure I would take the oysters again under the same conditions. The oyster was also not cut all the way from the shell which is not how they should be served. The shucking knife should go all around and break the muscle that holds the oyster to the shell. The raw shell fish is off to one end of the salad bar and it would have been much better if they were at the sushi bar where they could have been shucked on the spot.

There were two steak dishes - teriyaki steak and steak with teriyaki sauce on the side. Both dishes seemed to be using the same cut of steak and it was very, very tough - to the point of hard to chew. The sauce that was on the side was A1 sauce.  The crab cakes has more crab in them this time and they were much better. The crab legs depended on how fast you got to the tray when they were brought out. People just fill their plates with crab legs and what is left are the small broken legs that are left behind. The crab legs were properly served at the correct temperature. They came out of the shells easily. What they are serving are two leg clusters with parts of the tops.

Desserts were your standard Chinese buffet desserts with the little squares cakes, almond cookies, soft serve ice cream with a few toppings and cones, assorted puddings, jellos, fresh fruit, and banana pudding.I tried the soft serve ice cream and it was not bad. It was not icy in texture though it was the type of soft serve that one would usually get icy. This may not have had a chance to get icy as it was popularly being taken by many on this hot night.

Items on the buffet never went empty. As soon as a tray was getting down to the bottom a new tray was brought out to replace it. The food was also served at all of the correct temperatures which is very important.

Service was just OK. All of our plates were gone almost each time that we went up for another plate and returned.  It would have been nice if we were offered to refill our water glasses. They put a large wood bowl on the table for your crab leg shells and also a nut cracker. This bowl was never emptied and my shells remained with us for the rest of the meal in the bowl.

We had no problem in finding things to eat here on this visit and a lot has improved. I am glad that they put out this coupon as it enticed me to come back and try this buffet again. If another coupon comes we will go back again. At $14.99 I have to decide to come here or go to another $14.99 Chinese buffet that is further east on Long Island but has some particularly good selections. This buffet is not out of the running however - and it is likely we will come back.

I can recommend this buffet now. If you are on or are visiting Long Island, come and try Ruby Buffet in Massapequa on the outside of the mall building next to the food court of the Sunrise Mall shopping center.

Ruby Buffet is located at Westfield's Sunrise Mall in Massapequa, New York off of Sunrise Highway. The address is 1 Sunrise Mall Suite 2152, Massapequa, NY 11758. The phone number is (516) 882 - 0300. There is a website and it is linked at the side of this page. I have no idea if my meal at this location is any indication of the food at the other Ruby Buffet locations.


We went back to Ruby a couple of weeks later (again with a coupon) and the experience was the same. This time we were seated in the main dining room and the service was better. They have also given the seaweed salad its own set of tongs. The same items that were good the first time were good the next and those that were not so good have not changed - the two steak dishes are still extremely tough and I did not finish either of the two because it was not worth the chewing. I would still go back again. I am sure there will be more mailers with coupons.

Friday, August 09, 2013

A Second Visit During the Same Week to Dutch-Way Family Restaurant, Gap, PA

Of all of the Lancaster, PA buffets that we could have gone to or gone back to within a week's visit to the area, we decided to go back to Dutch-Way Family Restaurant in Gap, PA. We like this buffet that much! This was a Saturday night.

The feature on Friday and Saturday nights is Carved Roast Beef and Carved Ham. The price on Friday and Saturday is one dollar more ($12.99)  than the Monday to Wednesday dinners which are $11.99. Thursdays is Seafood Night and the price increases a few more dollars. If you are over 60, tell them at the cashier when you are paying your check and you will get a discount.

This was the Saturday of a holiday weekend. The dining room was busy but not packed. As I have said many times before, this is a local restaurant and not a tourist restaurant and is way off out of the tourist area. We were seated at a table not far from a large group of Amish people who were also having the buffet.

The buffet not only varies day to day but also dishes vary week to week. There is generally something that we have not had before here each time that we come.  Some dishes are found almost every night.

Starting with soup we had a choice of four - generally there are always four to choose from here. The soups included Beef Vegetable, Chili, Chicken Corn, and Corn Chowder. I chose the Chicken Corn and my wife chose the Beef Vegetable. The Chicken Corn soup was one of the thin varieties of this local soup that there seem to be many recipes for. It was a light chicken stock and loaded with noodles, corn, and chicken. This was a very satisfying soup. My wife chose the Beef Vegetable and she compared it favorably to one that she makes at home for holidays from a PA Dutch recipe.

The salad bar is just as I have described before, but I should say that the arrangement of the items on the salad bar were back to their normal places as they have always been in the past except for the last night we were here this week on Tuesday - when not only we were surprised that items had been moved around. Perhaps it was an experiment and someone finally said, "Put it back the way it was!"

The entrees on this Saturday night in addition to a large roast of Beef and a large baked Ham at the carving counter were Turkey in Gravy, Slices of Roast Beef in Gravy, Ham Balls, Dutch-Loaf, Barbecue Ribs, Pork and Kraut, Cajun Catfish, Chicken Cordon Bleu Casserole, what the sign said was Tortellini with Tomato and Basil but was actually Ravioli and not Tortellini, and Henny Penny Chicken.  The side dishes included Dried Corn, Clam Filling, Potato Filling, Baked Lima Beans, Creamy Brussels Sprouts, Mashed Potatoes, Macaroni and Cheese, Herb Roasted Potatoes with Cheese, Stewed Tomatoes, Honey Carrots, and Beets.

I have to take talk about the Barbecue Ribs. I had ribs on at another buffet on this trip and they did not hit the spot to satisfy my rib craving. They were good but much too meaty. These ribs looked like they were going to make me happy - and they did. I am sure these were not ribs cooked in a smoker but they were tender, enough meat per rib and not too much, had a sauce that was tomato based but not overly sweet and not overwhelming - just right, and when I was eating them, the meat just fell right off the bones. These ribs were wonderful! I almost concentrated my whole meal on those ribs. I don't think that I have had ribs here before - maybe - but on this night these ribs were just right!

I did try other things. I had a small slice of carved beef and while it was more done than I might have liked it had great taste and was very tender. The Chicken Cordon Bleu Casserole was just what it is called - chicken with ham covered in a cream sauce and melted cheese. It was gooey to scoop out of the tray and it was very good. The Ravioli was also good and there were chunks of tomatoes in the light tomato sauce and leaves of fresh basil. The Cajun Catfish looked good but looked spicy (as it should be if it is Cajun) and I did not try it. Henny Penny chicken is like Broasted Chicken and since the Broasted name is copyrighted it seems that the Henny Penny company also has a process like Broasting (frying under pressure) and this is their copyrighted name for what looks like and is very much like fried chicken. The Dried Corn was very good. The Clam Filling was very different and good. In this area filling is another name for "stuffing" and it is baked in a pan and served as a side dish. This filling was a bread filling and it was flavored with clams. The clams were in there - not obvious (in other words you were not chewing on clams as you ate this) but you could taste the clams. Similarly, potato filling uses potato for the filling instead of bread and here, as I have said before, you can taste the potatoes. The Herb Roasted Potatoes with Cheese were small whole white potatoes that were roasted and seasoned with herbs and the whole tray was layered with cheese which made a great addition to what was already a good dish.

For dessert there were slices of chocolate and vanilla cakes, fruit and cream pies, Shoo Fly pie, fresh fruits, and a number of prepared desserts. There was Hawaiian Wedding Cake in one of the prepared dessert pans - a whipped cream covered, pineapple cake.  There is also Turkey Hill (a large East Coast brand of Ice Cream which is located in this area) soft serve ice cream and sundae bar.

I looked at all of the desserts and decided that I had indulged enough in desserts over this past week and went over to the bread bar. There I took a slice of pumpkin bread and it was delicious. It was dense and tasted like pumpkin and spice. It was just like some excellent pumpkin muffins that I have had in the past in a non-buffet restaurant in Virginia. This was as good as any dessert I could have taken.

Service was excellent as always. Every dish was cleared away whenever we went up for more, and drinks were refilled promptly. 

We did not regret going back a second time just four nights after our visit earlier. This restaurant/buffet is one that I cannot resist.

I obviously recommend Dutch-Way Family Restaurant in Gap, PA. As I have said, this is a local restaurant for the local community. If you decide to go there - and you should - just don't act like a tourist.

The Dutch-Way Family Restaurant is located at the Dutch-Way Farm Market Supermarket at 365 Gap Newport Pike (Route 41), Gap, Pennsylvania 17527. The buffet is served from 4 pm to 8 pm Monday to Saturday. The restaurant is closed on Sundays. This is about two and a half miles south of Route 30. There is a web site and that is linked at the side of this page. The phone number is 610-593-6080.Yes, you are out of the Lancaster area code here - that is how far off it is.

Friday, August 02, 2013

A Return to Dienners Country Restaurant Since Family Cupboard Has Closed

I have written about Dienners before and in November 2012 wrote here about the Family Cupboard Restaurant in Lancaster County, PA closing (actually being up for sale but it has closed and the bulding is about to become a store).  Family Cupboard was owned and operated by John Dienner and his wife, and he is the son of the owner of Dienners Country Restauant on Route 30 in East Ronks, PA in Lancaster County. John decided to sell and eventually close his restaurant so that he could go to help his father run Dienners. I like Dienners, but we (my wife and I) liked Family Cupboard more. The buffet menus were similar but Family Cupboard in our dining experience always topped Dienners.

I had two hopes for Dienners with John Dienner's move there. One was that he would change the hours that Dienners is open. This restaurant closes at 6 pm every night except Friday nights when it is open until 8 pm. (The restaurant like most local buffets and restaurants here is closed on Sundays.) My other hope was that John would bring his recipes and also some of the variations to the buffet menu that he had at Family Cupboard. Neither of these has happened.  Dienners still closes at 6 except for Friday's at 8. What is on the buffet at Dienners has not changed.

We went on a Friday night recently. We waited about 45 minutes to get in. The restaurant is small and there always seems to be a line to get in. While you wait you are given a beeper that allows you to walk into the neighboring shops to spend time and get out of the summer heat. We had arrived at the restaurant just after 6 and it was almost 7 when we went in. I have to say here that someone was seated at just about 8 pm and there was no problem - though this may be because the family had been waiting outside the 45 minutes that seemed to be told to everyone that came up to the hostess inside.

Dinner price was $11.99 and this was the Friday/Saturday buffet price. It is about a dollar less from Monday to Thursday. This is an excellent price for a buffet considering what the chains are now charging. The food here is quality and most, if not all is made from scratch. The people in the kitchen including the chefs appear to be primarily Amish and Mennonites and this is really home cooking.

When I reviewed Dienners a year ago, fair or not, I based my review on a comparison between this restaurant and Family Cupboard. Family Cupboard is now gone so that review is based on Dienners merits alone.

The Friday night buffet - which is the same on Saturday - includes some items that are not on the Monday to Thursday buffet. As I describe what we found to eat, I will point out what seems to be different.

We started with soup, as we always do, and there were two soups - Chicken Corn soup and Clam Chowder. Clam Chowder is not a surprise as it is standard in this area to find that or a similar seafood based soup on a Friday night. It was New England Clam Chowder, a white cream soup with clams and potatoes. We both took the Chicken Corn soup. The Chicken Corn soup was a thick chicken soup with loads of corn and hard boiled egg with noodles. The soup is thickened with might be a thickened creamed corn. There texture was smooth and not grainy which it would be had a grain or starch been used to thicken it. It was very good. I have my favorite Chicken Corn soups - this is close. Both of the soups are the same from my last visits here.

The salad bar is large and takes up a full buffet server. There is lettuce and an assortment of toppings and also prepared salads - some made with local recipes.

The entrees are what are most important. There were not many entrees and compared to other local buffets this may be surprising. There were Rotisserie Chicken, Beef Tips in Gravy, Sliced Ham, Fried Fish, Fried Shrimp, and there should have been Ham Loaf, as it was marked on a sign on the buffet, but they were out of it and it was not brought out. (In its place was a second tray of Rotisserie Chicken.) Someone walking around the buffet server commented that there was no fried chicken. I thought that she must be mistaken and went back and looked and this woman was right - there was no fried chicken which is a standard at just about every buffet.There is no fried chicken on the regular menu.

The side dishes were more plentiful and included Broccoli, Browned Butter Noodles, Mashed Potatoes, fresh Carrots, Corn, fresh String Beans, Bread Filling, Beets, White Rice, Baked Lima Beans, Macaroni and Cheese, and Stewed Tomatoes. There was chicken gravy and brown gravy.

Rotisserie Chicken is one of the things that this restaurant (and formerly, Family Cupboard) is known for. It is moist and extremely tasty chicken on the bone cooked with the skin on. Add some chicken gravy on top and it is a treat. The Beef Tips in Gravy is  a dish of braised beef chunks that are then almost stewed in brown gravy. This becomes very tender and the meat falls apart on your fork. This too is very tasty. The Ham is served pre-sliced from a tray on the buffet server and is fine. I like the Fried Fish here and there is a very nice tartar sauce to add to it. These are large strip chunks of filleted fish (no bones). The Fried Shrimp is very nice. There is also cocktail sauce for the shrimp on the side of the buffet. I wish that they had not run out of the Ham Loaf as this can be very good - and is a favorite of my wife.

The side dishes are all fresh vegetables and freshly made. There were strings in the string beans and a few stems too - fresh. The carrots were not sweetened and were good on their own. The Baked Lima Beans are cooked in a mild sauce like baked beans. The Stewed Tomatoes are good but slightly sweet - as they usually are. You can tell that the mashed potatoes were mashed in the kitchen and the Browned Butter Noodles had the correct nutty flavor and is good!
There is a buffet server full of desserts. There are custard and fruit pies in a separate refrigerated case, on the buffet table there were puddings, prepared desserts, hot chocolate fudge cake, hot peach tart compote, chocolate cake, carrot cake, and there is soft serve ice cream with sundae toppings. There was egg custard among the prepared desserts and I love egg custard and that was what I had for dessert.

Our service was excellent and the young lady came regularly to refill soft drinks and clear away plates. She was very pleasant and very nice. 

The food is very good. The choices are limited. We did not leave hungry. This place is always busy and both the locals and the tourists come here. The restaurant is right in the middle of the tourist area. This can lead to tourists who have never been to a buffet before who think it is a cafeteria and not only have to follow along as if the buffet tables have lines but also get upset if anyone in the know jumps in to get something from a tray and move off. The restaurant cannot be faulted for this. There will be times - particularly off season - not in the summer - when you will see almost exclusively local people here including Amish and Mennonites. 

I was hoping to find a Dienners mixed with Family Cupboard and did not find that. Dienners can stand on its own just the way it is. The selections that I have named above is what you are going to find - perhaps meatloaf instead of shrimp on a Monday to Thursday - or perhaps not - and perhaps no shrimp or fish.  The atmosphere is country restaurant and as I said it is small.  There are tables along both sides of the buffet area and there is another small room off to the side. Come here for home Amish cooking but without some of the standard Amish dishes that you will find at other buffets. 

There is menu dining also and the menu is  just about the same in choices as the buffet with the addition of burgers and sandwiches. You can order from the menu if someone at the table is having the buffet.

Will I come back to Dienners? I suppose so, if I am feeling reminiscent for Family Cupboard because what is here is what was there, but here minus a few more dishes. I certainly liked the food here. Should you come here? I will say try it at least once for the cooking. The price is certainly right and you are getting quality food.

Dienners is located at 2855 Lincoln Highway East in East Ronks, Pennsylvania (This is US Route 30). It is next to the big windmill so you cannot miss it. I have told you the hours, remember that like the rest of the local buffets it is closed on Sundays. Their phone number is 717-687-9571. There is a sparse website and that is listed at the side of this page.  You can see a menu there but not for the buffet (but that you have here).