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). 


1 comment:

Gail and Jack said...

We ate at Dienners October 2013 on a weekday. They did have meatloaf on the buffet, It was delicious and I tend to be very picky about meatloaf.
I just came across you blog and am enjoying it.