Friday, February 22, 2013

Ruby Buffet, Massapequa, New York

During the early summer of 2012 we saw signs in an indoor shopping mall not too far from our home about a new Chinese buffet "coming soon". The sign was posted next to the food court and we wondered where they would fit a buffet restaurant - and we were not sure if this would be a real sit down buffet restaurant or a counter buffet in the food court with per pound prices. Months and months went by with no sign of any buffet and no indication where it would be in the mall.  In late October we saw the first signs of the buffet - construction outside the mall building but attached to it - next to the food court. There was a sign - "Ruby Buffet Coming Soon". It would be attached to the mall but not in the mall.

In late December we saw an advertisement in the newspaper for Ruby Buffet and a coupon for 20% off. We finally got to try the restaurant in mid-January. The day we were going to go, I did an internet search for Ruby Buffet and found a webpage and also discovered that this buffet was part of a chain of Ruby Buffets with three locations in Pennsylvania, one in New Jersey, one in Maryland, and this one in New York. Each location had a webpage and I went to see what I could find out about Ruby Buffet. The first thing that struck me was the price - $14.99 which is on the upper mid-range of buffet prices in this area. Children are $8.99 (6-10 - over 10 pay adult price) and $6.99 (2-5). Under two are free. Soda with refills is $1.99. For a family this meal can get expensive. Looking at the website, I was taken with the photos of the food being served. Platters of sushi and sashimi, whole prawns with the heads (which are common in other areas, but not in New York), large crab leg clusters, a nice looking carved steak, and a tray of wonderful looking spare ribs were featured in the photos. They described themselves as international in one spot, as a Japanese and Chinese seafood buffet in another spot, and under their name on the sign it says "Asian Buffet". From the photos on the website I was eager to go and try this buffet. I had been thinking prior to that day that I would love to have good Chinese spare ribs. Not the type that most buffets serve - small ribs with no meat covered in thick red sweet sauce - but rather real Chinese restaurant ribs which I know only one Chinese buffet serves - Good Taste Buffet in Commack,NY (which I have written about several times on this site and you can find the articles in the archives). When I saw the photo of the ribs at Ruby Buffet they looked just like those. I thought that if we go instead for the first time to Ruby Buffet I could have those ribs and also try a new buffet that we have been meaning to try. I also saw a photo of a very appealing steak that caught my eye as well. It was with much anticipation that we headed out to Ruby Buffet.

The buffet is located outside the food court in the rear of the mall, right off the parking lot and has its own entrance outside. There is no entrance to the restaurant from inside the mall - and this buffet is open much later than the mall is - to 10 pm on weeknights and to 11 pm on Fridays and Saturdays. We went on a Friday night. There were a lot of cars outside the entrance in the parking lot. It turns out that these were shoppers at the mall. When we went into the restaurant on a Friday evening it was almost empty. There were several tables tables filled out of many. This was a big surprise. Asian buffets in this area on a Friday night are packed. The weather was good. There were people in the mall. There was hardly anyone in the restaurant. My first thought was that at $14.99 this buffet was priced way too high for the location. This management was hoping that this buffet would hold its own as a stand alone restaurant without connection to the mall, but from appearances, that was not happening. Not far away is a larger Chinese buffet with a lower dinner price that has had lines to get in most nights - especailly on Friday and Saturday night - for the past year since it opened. 

We went in and were seated. The dining room is very nicely decorated. There are booths around the walls and there are tables in the middle of the dining room. Along the walls there are four other small dining rooms. These rooms had about sic to eight tables along the walls in each. The rooms seemed too small for party rooms and they had no doors to separate them for a private party. It was just odd that such small rooms would be scattered about. A server came right over and asked for our beverage order and we went right up to the buffet. I looked quickly around the buffet servers and I was not seeing what I had seen in the photos - well, let me put it this way - similar items were there, but they did not look anyway near prepared as they were in the photos. There were three, double sided hot buffet servers in the middle of the buffet area which takes up the rear of the restaurant. We went up first for soup. There were Oriental in design, square soup bowls. There were four soups. One was the standard wonton soup, another was hot and sour, the third was Seafood Soup - a white thin soup with a mixture of egg and pieces of seafood (not uncommon at some buffets), and the fourth soup was Seafood Bisque - a thick, orange color soup with what appeared to be flat noodles but I believe more to be pieces of Krab broken up into the soup, chunks of potato, carrot, and a few small lumps of what could be real crab,shrimp, or other seafood (it was hard to tell). I took the Seafood Bisque. My wife took the wonton soup.

My wife commented to me how good the wonton soup broth was. She described it as light and not salty. (Based on this, I went back toward the end of the meal and took some - by now it was more salty - perhaps because it was added to or perhaps it had cooked down in the hour and became more concentrated.) The Seafood Bisque despite the unknown seafood content was very tasty. Bisque should have a little bite to it and this one was just right. I very much enjoyed the soup! Around the point that we were finishing our soup, the manager who had been hovering around various tables came over to ask how the food was - we said very good - as it this point it certainly was.

We moved on to our next course, and my wife went to the dumplings and I went to the sushi bar. The small platters of sushi somewhat resembled what they had in the photos. There were no labels on anything. There was an assortment of rolls, fish on rice and one small platter of just pieces of fish with seaweed salad on the side. This platter emptied quickly - with the few diners in the restaurant - and did not get replaced until we were leaving, despite the two sushi chefs behind the counter. I am not sure what they were making but it did not seem to be actively replacing what was missing from the platters on the ice covered counter. In fact, later in the meal we observed one moving out empty platters and rearranging those left to look as if nothing was missing. The quality of the fish was just less than average for other buffets or equal or less cost. It was not bad but not full of flavor.

I next went up to try the dumplings and saw on the end of a long cold buffet server on the side that there were peel and eat shrimp, raw clams on the half shell, and raw oysters on ice. I am very careful about raw shellfish at buffets and it must be on hard ice and not look glazed, dry, or waxy in any way. The oysters looked wet and fresh. I took some of those and spooned some cocktail sauce on. (The rest of that buffet server had an extensive salad bar, fresh fruits, canned fruits, and puddings.)

I then went over to the dumplings and took a dim sum and two pan fried dumplings.  There were also bean paste buns and a roll of some type of leaf filled with rice and bean paste, tied with string in a bundle and steamed. The oysters were fresh and good. The dim sum was typical of buffet dim sum. The pan fried dumplings were light and in the style that I have had them at Japanese restaurants. They were good. My wife tried the leaf stuffed with rice and bean paste and she said that it was very good. She commented that the bean paste was not sweet as it is in a bean paste bun.  We should have ended the meal here and this review would come out much better than it will.

I had come for spare ribs and I went next to take some. The spare ribs that were out were nothing like the ribs that were in the photo. These were not Chinese-style spare ribs. These were an attempt at spare ribs from a barbecue restaurant. They had a brown sauce covering them and it looked like they had been baked rather than grilled in a flame broiler. There was little meat on the bones and what was there would not cut off or bite off. I took two ribs and had little meat to eat and what meat that I could get off was hard to chew and not very tasty. The sauce was an attempt at American barbecue sauce but not quite. I was very disappointed. Sometimes a restaurant should leave photos off their site that do not reflect what you will actually find when you get to the restaurant. Later, more ribs came out - replacing the two I took - and I decided I would try again. This time the two ribs I took had slightly more meat come off the bones but it was still hard to hack off and the taste was not worth the effort. (Good Chinese spare ribs are not hard to make - the ribs go under a flame broiler and are turned halfway through. They come out moist, crispy on the edges, and full of flavor. I have watched them made many times at the Chinese take out and they come out wonderful. Why is this so hard for a buffet to do?!?)

I went over to the crab legs. There were no large clusters as there were in the photo. There were small legs - the smaller two legs of a cluster attached. I am not sure where the rest of the cluster went. I took two of these paired crab legs back to my table. When I got there a server came running over with a wooden bowl. The size of the bowl would hold twice what was out in the serving tray on the buffet. Nice gesture, I guess. I broke the larger of the two legs off one of the pair and cracked open the shell with my hands and pulled out the meat - in one piece. I took a bite and my mouth filled with the taste of all of the salt in the ocean. I have had crab legs in buffets and restaurants for many, many years. I have never had crab legs that tasted as much as pure salt as these. Perhaps it was just the one. I tried the other - exactly the same. Not good. Not good at all. If crab legs are naturally very salty, everyone else must do something to rinse that salt off before they are boiled or steamed and served. I have never before had any this salty - even in the cheapest buffet!

My wife all of this time who is a picky eater - as you regular readers well know by now- was picking through the few actual entrees that were on the buffet. She tried a little of the beef and peppers. She even tried the steak - which by the way was nothing like the wonderful looking steak in the photo. This was a piece of steak that had been browned on top and only slightly on bottom and looked like it had some type of coating on top - though it was hard to tell what that might be and did not taste coated. In fact, (I tried it too) it did not much taste like anything. Ah, well. She eventually resorted to going back to the beginning items and took appetizer items like chicken on a stick and peel and eat shrimp. She did like the seaweed salad, but as I mentioned, it never came back out until we were leaving and she had taken what little had been on the original platter near the beginning of our meal.

It looked like there were a lot of things to choose to eat -and there were - but there were few stand alone entrees. There was chicken and broccoli and beef and peppers - of course, these are the two Chinese buffet standards. I am not sure how they came to be that but go to any Chinese buffet and there they will be as if these are the pinnacle of Chinese cuisine.  I will say that they were made well and these two dishes had a better taste than many other Chinese buffets. There was General Tso chicken - another buffet staple. There was honey chicken, chicken and shrimp with black pepper sauce, seafood scampi, salt and pepper crab halves that were primarily shell, coconut shrimp,
 I sounds like a lot but as we walked around and looked for what was not hot and spicy and what was not overly sweet, we were walking around looking and looking for what to take.

I tried some basics - an egg roll and lomein noodles. Buffet egg rolls are usually doughy. These were pretty much only the doughy wrapper with hardly anything inside. The not crispy dough wrapper was hard to bite into and next to impossible to chew. I resorted to scooping the little filling out with a fork and that had little flavor. The lomein noodles, themselves, were authentic and long. They were cooked in too much oil, and while they tasted good, they were too greasy. My wife tried the chow mei fun noodles and said that they were not bad. She also tried the fried rice and she said that it was lightly cooked - it did not look brown as most Chinese fried rice looks but more like Japanese fried rice.

I tried a crab cake. It was served with a bowl with what the sign said was honey mustard on the side. the crab cakes were small and thick. They were made with real crab. The first one I tried was tasty. The second one I took later - with a dab of the honey mustard - was more filler than crab and the honey mustard sauce was made with Chinese hot mustard. That ruined whatever taste there was in the crab cake.

There had been a tempting photo of a whole Peking Duck on the website. There was duck on the buffet, but what was out were two half drumsticks and little pieces of duck that were more bone and grizzle than meat. I tried one of the half drumsticks. It was OK. There were no Peking Duck pancakes or the usual vegetables that accompany the duck in the pancake - scallions, cucumber, etc. There was a bowl of the brown sauce to spoon on the duck.

This is a list of what was on the buffet on this night. To be fair there is a lot here, but quantity does not mean anything if the taste does not stand out for the better. Soups - Wonton, Hot and Sour, Seafood, and Seafood Bisque. Dumplings - Fried dumplings, dim sum, bean bun, steamed bun, gluten rice with bean paste. On the cold servers - seaweed salad, sushi, edamame, salad, "French salad", krab salad (not crab salad), pasta salad, shrimp, clams, oysters, seafood salad. Hot foods - chicken on a stick, lo mein, ribs, rib tips, spring rolls, egg rolls, seafood scampi, chicken and broccoli, pepper steak, fried shrimp, chicken fingers, NY steak with teriyaki sauce, garlic bread, spinach, honey chicken, General Tso chicken, crab legs, roast chicken, chicken wings, pasta with krab (not crab) and mozzarella cheese, pizza, string beans, shrimp and chicken in black pepper sauce, cheese wontons, sweet and sour shrimp, cheese puffs, corn on the cob, spiced crabs, salmon with dill sauce, fried Texas fish (catfish), baby clams with black bean sauce, coconut chicken, and french fries. Desserts - soft ice cream with cones and sprinkles, cakes, fruit, fried donuts, puddings, and almond cookies.

Desserts were three trays of the usual Chinese restaurant "Little Debbie" type sheet cakes, some cookies, soft serve ice cream and the fruits and puddings that I mentioned above. There was nothing tempting in the desserts. My wife had fresh melon and we both had a fortune cookie. I had decided that if there was something good I would try a dessert. They were all commercial and nothing was worth the carbs.

Service was good. There was a server at our table regularly to take our plates away - sometimes just as we finished with them. We were offered to refill our drinks. I was given the bowl for the crab shells. Everyone was pleasant and said hello when we came in and said good bye as we were leaving. 

Overall - the meal was a big disappointment. There were a few good things to eat. The Seafood Bisque was the best thing that I had in the whole meal. There were too many things that were just OK or not good. Nothing was bad. It was just not good. Had everything been cooked as it should have been and tasted as it should have - with all of the seafood, etc. the meal would certainly be worth the $14.99 ($16.96 with soda). But in the end - with how it all was - it just is not worth the price - and even at less of a price, it was not a place that I would go back to. It was just too disappointing. Perhaps this was why there were so few people in the restaurant. Perhaps those who would come here had already come and found what I did.

I cannot really recommend this buffet. I would love to be able to. Maybe they will improve. At some distant point in the future, I may go back - just to see if it gets better. But until then, this one was a big disappointment. (I have said that several times, haven't I? Hmm - must be how I truly feel.)

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.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Top Buffet of 2012 - Shady Maple Smorgasbord, East Earl, PA

Shady Maple Smorgasbord has been our "Best Buffet" in the last four years. It is one of our Top Buffets of 2012 - not because it is not as great as it has been in the last four years, but as explained in our article naming the Top Buffets for 2012, no buffet really competes with Shady Maple Smorgasbord. We would be naming Shady Maple as best year after year after year until a giant killer came along - and I do not see that happening any time soon. Now, is this fair to Shady Maple? I believe so and it is important to let our readers know that there are other buffets out there that excel to the top. With that stated, let me tell you about Shady Maple - if you have not already read one of our many, many articles about this buffet.

Shady Maple Smorgasbord is in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania where there are many other buffet restaurants. Shady Maple is family owned and operated. It is also the largest buffet restaurant that we have ever been in or seen. It fills a large building built by and for Shady Maple. The single building is two floors and contains the smorgasbord and several connected very large dining rooms, catering rooms and a gift shop - and another restaurant - that takes up the entire lower level.This building is part of the Shady Maple complex which also includes a large supermarket that also has its own restaurant (though not a buffet).

When you walk into the doors you are in a restaurant that is beyond what you would expect in this Amish/Mennonite community of Plain People. Shady Maple, inside, is anything but plain. There is a large and lavishly decorated lobby and sitting area with a fireplace and large crystal chandeliers. The large crystal chandeliers carry into the dining rooms which are also well decorated and not at all "country". The dining rooms are enormous and so is the buffet serving area. In fact the buffet area goes in two directions the length of the building.There are some items on each "end" that are the same but there are always items that will be different from one "end" or half to the other. In addition to the long, long, long row of buffet servers, there are three grilling and carving stations in the middle.

The food that is served is a combination of local dishes of the Pennsylvania Dutch and Continental/American fare. There is something here for everyone and no one should ever leave Shady Maple feeling hungry. In fact, just the opposite happens. It is too easy to leave Shady Maple after a meal and feel that you ate too much. It is all tempting and it is all good. It is hard to pass something by and there are so many choices.

This is a restaurant that seems to be known by everyone for counties around this area. I have heard Shady Maple mentioned in overheard conversations in Philadelphia. I have heard Shady Maple mentioned in conversations between Amish at Farmers Markets. And the comments are always positive. Out of Pennsylvania, someone mentions Lancaster County and the next thing I hear is "Shady Maple". This is a family restaurant that everyone comes to - locals and tourists.

What makes Shady Maple stand out? The food is great! The service is consistently good. The prices are in the moderate range and vary each night by what the night's feature is - but there is value for your money. They do include a reasonable gratuity with the price and the sales tax so the price you see listed is the price that you pay in total. The beverages are included with the meal. They make accommodations for people who have had a stomach staple - as long as a current doctor's note is presented. They have a senior price. And they give you a free meal on your birthday.There are buffets for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Each night there is a different theme with set featured items. Dishes change by season. And in the colder months of January and February when things are slower, there are special one weekend features  such as Prime Rib Weekend, Hawaiian Luau Weekend, Pork Bonanza Weekend and a very special Valentines Day smorgasbord. Each year there is also an anniversary feature in March.

I have written so many good reviews about Shady Maple I don't want to keep repeating myself. This is my first choice in this area - and as I have written there are many good choices in this area when it comes to buffets including two other Top Buffets for 2012. I particularly enjoy the Pennsylvania Dutch dishes that are served occasionally such as Chicken Bot Boi, Apples and Dumplings, and Pig Stomach, but there are steaks of several cuts, carved roast beef, carved ham, lasagna, oriental stir fry on the grill, there own Philly Cheese Steaks - here called Smorgy Steaks, country sausage, smoked sausage, Polish sausage, pork loin, ham, chicken in many varieties, smoked pork chops, seafood, catfish, Prime Rib, ribs, beef brisket, veal patties, pizza, and on and on. If I named everything that I ever saw and/or tried at Shady Maple this article would go on for weeks.There are generally eight different soups. There is a salad bar that has anything you would like to create a salad plus local prepared salads. And then, of course, there is the desserts. There are hot desserts. There are apple dumplings. There are cakes and pies. There are prepared desserts and puddings. There is fruit. There is soft serve ice cream and all that you want to make a sundae. The dessert selection here is extensive - and good! Maybe too good - because after you have eaten yourself full during dinner, those desserts will call and tempt you to eat more than you had intended.

Top Buffet of 2012 is most deserved by Shady Maple Smorgasbord. Coming here is an experience and it should not be missed. This restaurant is not located in the middle of the common tourist area of Lancaster County. It is off to the edge of the area in the northeast of the county. It is not far from the Pennsylvania Turnpike and is easy to find and to get to. Expect a crowd and a wait during the summer months on a weekend - and even during the week. Expect a crowd during the Fall and before the holidays. It is quietest during the week during the winter. It is always good.

Congratulations to Shady Maple for consistently coming up at the top of our list - and for its award of Top Buffet of 2012!

Just to note - I just learned that Shady Maple just added a Charbroiler Grill and this makes for something to look forward to on my next trip in 2013! Char-grilled steaks are the perfect addition to this buffet!

Shady Maple Smorgasbord is located at 129 Toddy Drive in East Earl, PA. Take Route 23 East from Lancaster or Route 322 South to get to the restaurant. (Put the name in your GPS and it will know it.) The phone numbers are 1-800-238-7363 and 717-354-8222. They are closed on Sundays and certain holidays. There is a website and it is listed at the side of this page.There is also a very active Facebook page!

Friday, February 08, 2013

Top Buffet of 2012 - Festival Buffet at Foxwood's Casino and Resort

The Festival Buffet is the buffet at the Foxwood's Resort and Casino in Connecticut and is names as one of our Top Buffets of 2012. I have been to this buffet a number of times and have reviewed and written about it several times - and each time that I have written about I need two weeks to say everything that needs to be said - and all good too! That alone tells you that there is something special about this buffet.

Foxwoods is a very large complex and consists of two hotels, several casinos, shops, night clubs and lounges, and a lot of restaurants. The Festival Buffet is the only buffet in the complex. When you come to dine at this buffet, it will be different on Monday to Thursday nights from Friday to Sunday nights. On Friday to Sunday they feature what they call an enhanced menu. Both weeknight and weekend buffets are great. The enhanced menu on the weekend adds steak, crab clusters, and more - at a slightly higher dinner price.

The buffet is located in what is called Rainmaker's Square in the complex. There are three dining areas for this buffet. One of these dining areas is actually outside the restaurant on the promenade separated by a low wall from those walking by. If you like the feel of a "sidewalk restaurant" this is what you will get outside. Be aware that this section is a smoking section. Of course, this areas has open access into the main dining room and the buffet area.

The food is set up in "stations" that follow the wall around the room and each station has a theme with food coordinating with that theme. The first thing you will see as you come in through the entrance is the dessert station and this is long and extensive. You are tempted as soon as you enter!

Following along the wall, there will be a station with seafood, a station with continental foods including entrees, carvings, and side dishes, a station with Italian food, a station with Asian food, and a station with both Tex-Mex and Barbecue. When the enhanced menu is in effect there is a station with crab clusters. The salad bar and the soups are on an island in the middle of the dining area.

There is a vast amount of food to choose from here and that makes wanting to try everything difficult. There is a lot to tempt you and there is way to much to be able to try - even taking small tasting portions. Starting with the salad bar, there are two sides to the salad bar with the soups on an end. On one side there are the makings for a Caesar Salad plus a pre-mixed special salad. On the other side is everything necessary to make an great tossed salad plus a variety of prepared salads. The salad is great but there is so much more to eat and I sometimes wonder why I did not just skip the salad and move on to all the rest. There were four soups to choose from when we went this past year - increased on the buffet from two soups before that. And if you go to the Asian station you may also find an Asian soup there as well. The New England Clam Chowder is excellent. Even the chicken rice soup tasted homemade!

As you go past the various stations and look at the entrees and side dishes you can be overwhelmed by all you see. At the seafood station there is mounds of fried cod, broiled seafood entrees, fried shrimp, fried clams, peel and eat cold shrimp, french fries, and more. I will come back to the continental station with its carvings and move you along to the Italian station. Behind the counter there are chefs preparing the dishes that you see laid out in front of you and these include not only hot entrees, but cold antipasto items as well. The dishes change here but I have had lasagna of various types, tortellini, pasta and a variety of sauces to put on, sausage and peppers, meatballs in tomato sauce, and more. At the Asian station there are also chefs behind the counter preparing and woking the dishes that are put out on the buffet counter.These have included dumplings, chow mien, various Chinese entrees, fried rice, noodles of various types - hot and cold, egg rolls and more. The barbecue/Tex-Mex station changes from weeknight to weekend and is more barbecue than Tex-Mex on the weekend. On the weekend they are charbroiling steaks here along with everything else. There have been very good ribs served, taco and burrito fixings, pulled pork, chili, riblets, BBQ chicken, beef brisket, beans both barbecue beans and Mexican beans, and more. Again, at each station, items change night by night and there is more on the weekend "enhanced" buffet at the stations. It is almost impossible to say what you will find on a visit - or the next visit after that.

Now, let's go back to the Continental station in the middle. I call this "Continental" as that seems to me the best way to describe it. Here there are a variety of entrees, side dishes, and vegetables. There have been Swedish meatballs, beef strognaoff, chicken with mushrooms, fried chicken, macaroni and cheese, potatoes of various types, and various vegetables. The carvings may include several among which may be an excellent Prime Rib, pork loin, ham, tritip beef, turkey, and others. Portions are carved large.

As I have said, more than once - you cannot possibly try it all in one meal. But you want to!  

Still want dessert. The dessert counters are almost as long as the food stations. There are hot desserts. Cold desserts. Pies, cakes, pastries, diet desserts, crepes, cookies, cupcakes, soft ice cream. I will repeat what I wrote in my last article about the Festival Buffet's desserts -

"There was a lot of very tempting desserts and a wide variety from hot cobblers, hot bread pudding, an assortment of puddings including tapioca, rice pudding, etc. There were many different cakes. The apple cake caught my eye. It was a large slice of brown cake with apples very visible in the slice. There was coconut cake - yellow cake with white frosting super-filled with coconut. As I stood next to the serving counter, I could smell the sweet coconut call to me. There were brownies, chocolate mousse, soft serve ice cream, sundae fixings, and an area where crepes were cooked and filled to order. There is also a section of sugar-free desserts - mostly cakes."

Service has been excellent. The table staff are attentive and make sure your plates are picked up and your drinks are refilled (soft drinks are included in the price of the buffet).

I have been to casino buffets in Atlantic City and casino buffets at another resort/casino in Connecticut. This has consistently been the best. Others have been good. This is the one that I think about going back to - and do when I make the trip to Connecticut. There is no question that by the standards that has been set by this site, this is a Top Buffet. There is value for your money. The food is of excellent quality. It is prepared well and tastes great. Plus the staff are equally good. If you are in Connecticut, go to Foxwoods and have a great meal at the Festival Buffet. 

 The Festival Buffet is at Foxwoods Resort Casino. The address is 350 Trolley Line Boulevard,
Mashantucket, CT 06338-3777. The phone number is 1-800-369-9663. There is a website with directions, etc. and that is listed at the side of this page.

Friday, February 01, 2013

Top Buffet of 2012 - Yoders Restauarant, New Holland, PA

There was no question that any list of top buffets had to include Yoder's Restaurant. I have been writing about Yoder's for years and those of my readers who have taken my suggestion to go and try Yoder's have written back to me to say - "Yes!".

Yoder's may not have the ambiance of some of the other buffets but it has what counts - great food, service, and value. Yoder's is one of the supermarket buffets that I have written about in Lancaster County, Pa - something that you don't generally see in other areas. Yoder's is located within a building that is Yoder's Farm Market which is a supermarket. The restaurant is separated from the food store and is located down a hallway. The facilities of this building also include a few shops and a catering hall.

When you go into Yoder's you will find laminated booths in rows across the room. At the rear is the buffet serving area. There is a room at the rear that has tables to accommodate groups of larger guests but for the most part, the restaurant is as you see it through the doors. Do not let this put you off. Go in, be seated, order the buffet and your beverage from one of the very friendly wait staff and then head up to the buffet.

You will encounter three, long, double sided, buffet servers in the middle. A full grill area at the rear. A dessert bar on the right wall of the room and a soup, bread, and hot servers on the left wall. In front of the grill there is a small server sticking out and inside you will find condiments and also when it is seafood night, peel and eat shrimp kept cold. You are in Lancaster County and you are surrounded by Amish and Mennonite farms. The food that is cooked from scratch at Yoder's is prepared to appeal to the local people who live in this area. This is Pennsylvania Dutch cooking. While I am sure you will find tourists here as well, this restaurant is a local restaurant and the food on the buffet very much follows local recipes. You will find good plain, country cooking and often something a little fancier as well.

There are always two soups and they tend to be out of the ordinary varieties - though you will also find old favorites as well. The salad bar has a nice selection to create a salad and also has a number of local prepared salads. Some of these will be similar to what you are familiar with but in Lancaster they are made a little bit differently and better.

What is served from the grill varies by night. There are nights with steak on the grill, nights with fish and seafood on the grill, and nights with carvings such as Prime Rib. When there is steak you are asked how you would like it cooked and it is cooked to your order. What you get off the grill will fill your plate. Portions at Yoder's are large - whether from the grill or portioned servings in the hot buffet trays. It is very easy to find yourself eating more than you may have intended. That is a good thing because it is all so good it is hard to resist going back for something else that caught your eye on your way back to your table. Use a little discipline though and try to take smaller servings because there will be things that you will want to go back and try.

One of our favorite's here is the Baked Oatmeal and it is served from trays set into the counter on the left wall. At one time there was just one type of Baked Oatmeal served here. Now there are several. They are all good but the plain is still the one we go for. I don't know any other buffet that includes Baked Oatmeal as one of the items during dinner - and it makes for a great side dish. There are many other dishes that we love here and they often vary night by night - week by week. Among other greats are ham loaf, BBQ ribs, stuffed flounder, marinated Delmonico steak, potato filling, sliced turkey, Prime Rib, fried chicken, and so many more. You will find different things and you may find some of these - it depends on the night.

Desserts are found on their own double buffet server as well as along the wall and in a revolving glass enclosed case that contains pies. There are plenty of desserts to choose from. There are cakes, pies, soft serve ice cream and a sundae bar, fresh fruit, canned fruit, puddings and prepared desserts. This is one of the few buffets in this area that still serves Cracker Pudding - cracker pudding is like rice or bread pudding but is made with saltine crackers - and shredded coconut. It is a local dessert and is very good!

What sets this buffet apart? The food is consistently extremely good. The quality of what is served is high. There is value for your money. The service has never been bad. There are no disappointments. These are the marks of a top buffet.

Yoder's well deserves to be among the 2012 awardees for  Top Buffet. It is highly recommended that you should dine there - and remember - you are going for the food not to sit under chandeliers - which you will not find here. Simple surroundings in a country restaurant is what you will find along with great food!

Yoders is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. They open very early in the morning and close at 8:00 pm at night - as most other buffets in this area do. They recently started opening for Sunday brunch but other than that they are not open on Sunday's for lunch or dinner. If you are coming for the buffet that you have just read about come at dinner from Monday to Saturday. 

The restaurant is located at Yoder's Country Market, Route 23, New Holland, Pennsylvania. The phone number is (717) 354-4748. There is a website and that is linked at the side of this page.