Friday, November 22, 2013

Bird-In-Hand Family Restaurant and Smorgasbord, Bird-In-Hand, PA

It has been about a year and a half since I have been to the Bird-In-Hand Family Restaurant and Smorgasbord in Lancaster County in the town of Bird-in-Hand, Pennsylvania. This buffet has not been one of the buffets in this area on my short list of where to go because it has been higher priced and at times has been inconsistent. We were in Pennsylvania recently and we discovered a coupon for $2.00 each off the dinner and decided to go back. As it turns out, the last time that we had been there was on a Wednesday night and this night there was also a Wednesday. 

I was happily surprised to see that the price was only $15.99 and with the coupon it would be $13.99. The dinner smorgasbord price also includes the beverage which brings this meal to within a dollar of what I pay at OCB near home. The $15.99 is two dollars less than what this buffet was a year and a half ago - and I have found in the past that the price here does increase during the summer months. The price now on Friday and Saturday is $18.99.

The buffet menu here changes by the day and each day's menu may be found on the restaurant's website. The weekend buffet adds carvings and also a children's buffet section with "kid food" selections.

What struck me most on this visit - and something that I had not realized before - was that on Wednesday night here (providing they don't change the items offered) you are getting some of the most authentically traditionally cooked Pennsylvania Dutch food found at any of the area's buffets. Every Pennsylvania Dutch dish that I had on this night was just as I remembered it should be in taste, texture, and appearance. Now, all of these same dishes are served at many of the buffets that I have told you about - and they have all been good when I have indicated them as such at those other buffets - but here there were just a bit different - the best way to describe this is "more traditional".

These are all foods that you are most likely not going to find if you are not in this area of Amish and Mennonite Pennsylvania Dutch. I am talking about Chicken Bot Bie, Pork and Sauerkraut, Baked Country Sausage, Ham Balls, Chicken Corn Soup, string beans and ham, and the like. I have described Chicken Bot Bie before. It is a local version of Chicken Pot Pie but there is no pie and it does not have a cream sauce as Chicken Pot Pie has. It is pieced of boiled chicken with potatoes, carrots, and celery with squares of thick dough noodle dumplings in a broth. Often this is served at other local buffets in a thin broth. Here the broth is thick and richly amber in color. The noodles are properly thick and kitchen-made. The taste is exactly as it should be - just as I remember it from so many years ago when I first sampled it in this part of Pennsylvania. The Ham Balls are meatballs made of chopped ham and here are not overly sweet yet still served in the traditional pineapple sauce, but the sauce does not overwhelm the ham. The Pork and Sauerkraut is neither too sour or sweet. This dish is traditionally served on New Year's Day in this area. The Baked Sausage is Country Sausage - not Italian sausage. It is local and is seasoned to the taste of this area. Chicken Corn Soup is served at many restaurants around here but this one is, in my opinion, the best. It is often no more than a thin chicken stock with chicken and corn. Sometimes this soup will include chopped hard boiled eggs. Here this is not a thin soup but a thick soup with plenty of chicken, corn, and hard boiled eggs. I have tried to duplicate this soup at home and have tried various ways of getting it as thick as it is here. It is not a cream soup. The thickness is found in its texture which has slight grain feel to it. I believe that what is thickening this soup is a blended creamed corn. I don't know for sure, but what I do know is that it is exceptional. I could easily make a meal of just this soup alone.

At the end of this meal, I said to my wife that if we want a traditional Pennsylvania Dutch meal we have to come back here on a Wednesday night and she agreed. But these PA Dutch dishes were not all that was served to us on the buffet. I have written about this restaurant's turkey before. It is the best turkey that I have had and I have had a lot of turkey. This is not a carved turkey breast. This is both white and dark meat taken from the bones and placed in the serving tray in a turkey broth. This turkey is tender and juicily moist.  There was also roast beef, Swedish meatballs, sliced ham, and broasted chicken. 

There is a salad bar that has a nice selection of salad items to create a salad. It seemed lacking to me as it had not been in past visits. There were few prepared salads and no longer were there any of the meat salads that I have had here. There is a nice selection of bread and rolls on another server where you will also find a selection of cheeses. There is also apple butter to try with your bread - or put on top of a dollop of cottage cheese from the salad bar - another traditional Pennsylvania Dutch treat.

There is a large dessert bar. There are some cakes and assorted pies, a few prepared desserts including two hot cobblers, cookies, small pieces of whoopie pies (chocolate cake cookies with cream in the middle), and soft serve ice cream. For the size of this dessert bar there should be a lot more. The baking does come from the Bird-in-Hand Bakery which is part of the Bird-in-Hand complex and is good. There is a better variety of dessert selections at other area buffets. That is not to say that you will be disappointed with what you decide to take here.

Service was good. On the off-season, you are dining with local people at this restaurant including Old Order Amish and Mennonites. During the tourist season, the restuarant will be filled with tourists and you may have to wait on line to get in.

We had a great Pennsylvania Dutch meal - as I say - traditionally cooked. Would I be as pleased on another night when there were not as many PA Dutch dishes featured? Maybe not as pleased. The price, however, off-season and with the coupon which is only found in one of the local area tourist papers handed out free at many gift shops and tourist spots - and right at the restaurant in the Lobby before you go in for dinner, can't really be beat, at least on a weeknight. I will go back again if we are in the area on a Wednesday night - and the price remains the same.

As this article will appear right before Thanksgiving, there is Thanksgiving Dinner served both on the Smorgasbord and at your table family-style. Reservations for this, however, are needed months before, as it does sell out.

Bird-in-Hand Family Restaurant is located at 2760 Old Philadelphia Pike, Bird-in-Hand, PA 17505. The phone number is 1-800-665-8780. There is a website located at the side of this page.The restaurant closes at 8:00 pm and is not open on Sundays. You will not be seated for the Smorgasbord after 7:30 pm.

1 comment:

Nancy said...

I also love their chicken corn soup.We visited this restaurant a few years ago and it was at least 10 years before that when we were last there.I always remembered how much I loved their chicken corn soup.I went online and bought their anniversary cookbook just for the chicken corn soup recipe.What gives it that unique flavor is saffron.They also add in a cup of uncooked noodles.I am thinking that helps to thicken it.Hard boiled eggs are optional.
I really enjoy your blog and look forward to each new entry.