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.


ML said...

Why did Golden Coral leave NY? They were always way better than OCB

Writer said...

Golden Corral is in upstate NY. One is near Albany and the other is near Glens Falls.