Friday, December 19, 2014

New Golden Corral in Freehold, NJ

One of our readers who has let me know about a number of buffet restaurants in New Jersey over the years let me know this past year that a new Golden Corral was being built in Freehold, New Jersey. This may be the closest Golden Corral to where we are though it is still quite a distance and a great expense in tolls to get to. I heard from this good friend of this site when the restaurant opened and he gave me a mixed review - mostly mixed because of the crowds that were there during the opening week. I have been looking for an opportunity to go to New Jersey and try this new Golden Corral and recently that opportunity presented itself.

We went on a Saturday night. I had expected that the "newness" had worn off and there would not be an overwhelming crowd when we arrived at about 7 pm that night, but I was wrong. The line was out the door and outside the restaurant. We got on the line and waited. Some who were behind us left. It was just a few minutes before we were inside the door and the line inside twisted around before getting to the two cash registers to pay at to go in. There was a large sign on the front door and also inside that said that no $50 or $100 bills are accepted. This sign could not be missed. The couple in front of us saw the sign and decided that they had to use a credit card. The people behind us noticed the sign but when we all got to the registers the people behind us pulled out a fifty and tried to pay and when stopped protested to the point of having to complain to two managers. It was explained that there have been problems with counterfeit bills but these people were not going to accept that and insisted on paying with their big bills. This is in no way a problem with this Golden Corral but if you go there be prepared with twenties if you are going to pay cash. No, this was not a problem, but what was a problem was that despite the advertising that has been recently put out on television, the website, and emails by Golden Corral that they now have an expanded buffet with a new price of $11.99 - an increase of a dollar since my last visit to a Golden Corral several months ago, this Golden Corral had a sign that on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday nights (all day Saturday and Sunday) there is a "Premium Dinner Buffet" at a price of $12.99. This is not an option - you pay $12.99 on these days - plus $2.19 for a drink. OK. I was there. I was not going any place else. I was very annoyed that they advertise one price - $11.99 and suddenly it is a dollar more on certain nights. Had they said this in the advertising it would have been fine, but they didn't. With this new price they are actually $0.18 more for dinner on the weekends than OCB's new price of $13.99 which includes the beverage. Though Monday to Thursday, this Golden Corral is still less. I do not know if the $12.99 is only at this location, or just some locations, or at all locations.

We paid and waited a few minutes to be taken to a table. The inside of this restaurant on this night was a madhouse. There were children running everywhere. There were tables for six with eight people squeezing into them. This resulted in blocked aisles. There were also several birthday parties going on - in the middle of all of the other tables of diners - with people who brought there own cakes, and had kids sitting on the floor opening presents. There was a mob around the food counters - and for some reason at Golden Corrals people have to walk around in a line along the counters as if they are in a cafeteria even if the one thing that they want is at the opposite end of the counters - and it was just like that here. People were upset if you walked up to the tray you wanted and helped yourself. Too bad, this is exactly what I do. It is a buffet and not a cafeteria! Anyway, to say it was crowded is an understatement.

We went up for soup. I love the chicken noodle soup with its thick, doughy noodles that Golden Corral serves. They had the soup and we both took it. I found that the noodles in the soup were undercooked. They were tough - and what would be considered in pasta "al dente". I did not care for the noodles this way, though my wife liked them better this way. It was not really how soup noodles should be - and if they were undercooked what else would be.

Next was the salad bar and it was well stocked and what was out was fresh. This can be a problem at some Golden Corrals but here the salad bar was properly maintained. My wife wants me to make a point of saying that this was one of the best maintained salad bars she has seen at a Golden Corral. She says that everything was fresh and kept refilled. Since as the meal went along she wound up mostly eating the cold chicken from the salad bar, that was very important.

Now came the advertised, new, and expanded food selections on the buffet. I would still like to know what those new and expanded selections are supposed to be because I saw nothing different from before. In fact, I found less than I have found before at Golden Corrals. The buffet is arranged in sections with signs overhead identifying the section. There was a sign over the Asian section and there was Asian food there. There was a sign over a small section of seafood that was identified as Seafood on the sign overhead - "seafood" being their usual (and good) fried fish, broiled fish, and fried shrimp. I went right to the grill. I wanted a cooked to order steak - the usual at Golden Corral but now the steak is supposed to be "Founder's Select", a five ounce cut of steak that is "supposed to be better than before - at least according to the sign near the cash register. I asked for my usual "steak - rare" and was given a steak off the grill. It was more medium rare than rare but that was OK. It was moist and pink in the middle with a slight grill on the outside. It lacked fat for flavor. It was not tough - big plus over OCB steak, and it was not over seasoned - another big plus over OCB steak. This particular steak was good. I wanted to put some mashed potatoes on my plate to have with the steak and I walked all around the buffet looking for them and did not see any. There were baked potatoes and no other potatoes. I went back around and saw a crowd around an empty tray of what should have been the mashed potatoes. I waited a short while for them to come out. they didn't and I gave up the wait, took two hush puppies, added some green beans and went back to our table to eat the steak. I could see the counter where the mashed potatoes were supposed to be and watched to see when they came out. It took a long time for them to come out and when they did the crowd descended on the tray emptying almost as soon as it was put down.

My picky eater wife who does not enjoy eating at Golden Corral as I usually do, was having a hard time finding other than vegetables. When we came in there had been a ham being carved. That was gone. She went to the salad bar and took cold chicken pieces to eat with the vegetables. She has not had this much trouble at a Golden Corral before. Usually there is turkey - not here on this night. (So much for the "premium buffet" and expanded offerings as advertised.)

I next decided to try the ribs that were at the grill. There was a rack of ribs out for the person at the grill to carve and next to that there were riblets for him to serve to you. I asked for ribs and he cut ONE rib off the rack and put it on my plate. I asked for one more and he said NO. I asked again and he said there were too many people - one rib! And rude. He had an entire rack out and more in a tray next to him. I asked then for some riblets and he put one small section of those on my plate.  I should not have bothered with either. THE rib was tough, dry, and the meat did not come close to coming off the bone. The riblets were better - moist, at least, but overly sweet. I also tried the meat loaf which turned out to crumble even as I took it from the tray. It was mealy and tasteless. I also tried the beef pot pie which was lacking in beef and had a too thin gravy with the top pie crust, chunks of carrots, celery, and potatoes.

By this point the ham was back out to be carved. At first look I thought that they brought out a turkey breast as the ham looked white. It was ham and my wife got a slice finally.

For my final trip up to the hot buffet I went back for another steak as this had been the best so far that night of what I had eaten (aside from the hush puppies). Again, I asked for a rare steak - figuring that if I asked for medium rare, given what the first rare steak was to start with - it would be well done. What I was given was a raw steak with the outside cooked.  Talk about punch it bloody and put it on a plate! I ate it. I have eaten steaks like this before. It all depends on whether the grill chef knows how to cook and this one knew how to only cook well done and when it came to anything else he was guessing.

Now. The sign with the announcement of the new expanded buffet also said - new, expanded desserts. In fact. it said Las Vegas style desserts! I never figured that this meant sparse like a desert. Half of what was out was sugar free. The other half were small pieces of carrot cake, small pieces of chocolate cake, what looked like small pieces of white cake (but then I saw the sign on that said sugar free), cookies - the chocolate chip were gone leaving only the oatmeal, pre-measured puddings in cups (mostly sugar free), apple cobbler, and bread pudding. There was a sign for pumpkin pie but there was none. There were brownies but those were gone and did not come out until we were leaving, and there were chunks of fudge. Of course, there is the chocolate fountain (only chocolate here), cotton candy, and the soft serve sundae section. I watched the ice cream come from the machine and it looked icy. There was also scooped hard ice cream. This was certainly not a selection of lavish Las Vegas desserts. I did try a table spoon size piece of the bread pudding and it was good.

On the buffet throughout the night if something went empty it was a long time before it ever came back out again - and some things never came back out and the trays remained empty - or scraped out. I have been to many Golden Corrals and things have tasted better and have been prepared better elsewhere. The place was full of people who have never been to a buffet before. They walk around with dazed eyes, form lines where there should not be lines, or just stand around.

The service was pretty good and the server did get our plates away regularly, and though I had to ask her to bring refills for our drinks as she stood looking at empty glasses she did get them. In fact, my wife thought that she was one of the better servers that we have had at a Golden Corral.

Was it the night? Was it the crowd? Is it the newness of the place? (Well it is not so new that the lights on the sign out front have not burned out already "Golden") I don't know. It was a disappointment on this night. Will I go back? When we are in New Jersey again we may go back just to see. That will be some time. I did submit a survey to corporate about this experience and asked to be contacted back but so far no call.  Should you go? Go or not. Be forewarned - there will be crowds. The experience may or may not be better than I have described.

This Golden Corral is located at 3520 US Highway 9 in Freehold, New Jersey 07728. The phone number is 732-400-8600.

Friday, December 05, 2014

Yummy China Buffet, East Meadow, New York

I have written about Yummy China buffet a couple of times in the past year. They have changed their price again - for the better. The dinner price is now $13.99. They started this restaurant a little over a year ago at $19.99, then went to $15.99 (including soda), and now it has dropped to $13.99 with unlimited soda additional.

This little Asian buffet seems to always be struggling and I am not really sure why. I could understand when they first opened that $19.99 was not going to go well here where very few Asian buffets are at that price level and they are much larger restaurants. The change in price to $15.99 was a step in the right direction - especially that they included the soft drinks. Now, at $13.99 they are at the same price as the local Old Country Buffet (though plus the drink at $1.50), but when we walked in on a Friday night at about 7 pm there were only four tables of people dining aside from us. Other local Asian buffets are jammed for the most part at that time.

I always feel sad for the owner who has been trying very hard to get this restaurant/buffet off the ground since purchasing what had been a bad Asian buffet in this location that had been there for many years and finally went out of business. The new owner is very friendly and has been there every night that we have gone. He greets us like we are there every week when in reality it is months between our visits. We wondered if he just greets people this way but observing while we are there it seems to actually be sincere and he recognizes us. This is not to say that he does not greet everyone well- he goes out of his way to greet and make people feel welcome.

Here is the thing about Yummy China Buffet. The food is EXCELLENT. This is probably the best Chinese buffet food we have ever had - and we have been to some pretty good Chinese/Asian buffets. Everything tastes fresh and the cooking surpasses menu Chinese restaurants. For a small buffet - one long double sided, hot buffet server with a cold server along side, a sushi bar with a sushi chef who is making sushi to your order (in addition to some rolls prepared and out) and when he makes your sushi order he is serving you full rolls of whatever you order, a small hibachi grill with chicken and beef and assorted vegetables and noodles, and entrees that are not all the usual Chinese buffet finds. Let me say something here about the sushi and the buffet - when we in the restaurant the sign says Sushi included on the buffet and the chef was making sushi for people who were asking for specific rolls, etc. The website and the recent ad seems to say that any sushi that is out in the "sushi serving boat" - a boat like serving tray - is what is included and not made to order requests - but that was not happening. This may be something that will happen at some point - I don't know. I did not have the sushi on this night - so I did not ask. As to the entrees on the buffet, some things are the usual - over-sweet sauced spareribs, chicken and broccoli (though extremely light and fresh tasting), egg rolls, fried dumplings, etc. Then they go into specialty items.

I have mentioned the "Yummy Pork" in the past. This is an entire section of pork cooked whole with an interesting sauce - the sign says "ancient recipe" and I am sure it is. I have never had anything like this pork and it is the first thing that I go for when I start on entrees here. As you take it from the serving pan - off the whole - it breaks away in sections and pulls away. It is very tender. There is also the skin and the fat that comes away with the meat - eat it or not - it is very good if you are so inclined.

There are small Chinese meatballs - yes, Chinese meatballs show up at other buffets - but none like these. The beef is so finely ground that the texture of the meatball inside is creamy. There is egg foo young - again standard - but the sauce that they have on the side for you to put on yourself is unlike any sauce I have had on egg foo young. This is not the thick, light in color brown sauce usually served (which I do enjoy when I have it). This is a delicate almost sweet sauce that is very good.

There was a very good dish that combined chicken, beef, and shrimp in a light brown sauce with red peppers - not spicy or "hot" peppers. If you like spicy there are spicy dishes - and two bottles of different types of hot sauce on the tables. There were more dishes to please just about anyone including hot snow crab legs (small individual legs) and then there is the hibachi grill to make whatever you like if you decide you want something that you don't see.

Everything is also replaced promptly when it runs out and everything is kept at the proper temperatures and nothing is left to dry out. On this night there were sauteed mushrooms and when those ran out they were replaced with sauteed string beans - both good. The owner is watching over everything and the people working for him - which I believe are family - are making sure that everything is right.

The service was excellent also. We did not order soft drinks - just water. We have found that at some Asian buffets that if you just order water, no one ever comes to ask if you would like the glass refilled and freshened with more ice. Not here. The young lady kept an eye on our glasses and made sure to ask as they got past half full if we would like more water. All dishes were promptly removed from the table as well.

 So what is going on here? Where are the customers? While we were dining on this night at one point we were the only ones in the restaurant -but then in a short while people started coming in and several tables filled.  Perhaps this is just a restaurant that gets people in spurts. I suspect that people don't know about the change in price - perhaps even from the $19.99 price when they opened. AND unless someone has come in and tried the food, they don't know how good the food is. The owner has been trying. He has run newspaper ads with coupons. The $2 off coupon is what motivated us to come in and see what the change to $13.99 would change on the buffet - and the answer to that was nothing was missing - and perhaps more different things were out to try. We ate for $11.99 each. You cannot beat that easily around here for food this good. (Yes, there are Chinese/Asian buffets within easy driving distance that are actually $10.99 and they are good - but don't equal the cooking here.

This little buffet reminds me of another exceptional little buffet - the European buffet in New Jersey that struggled and never seemed to have many people eating there when we would go. That was an exceptional buffet! It too was excellent! It could not survive and went out of business in a few years. I am very much hoping that this great little buffet will keep going! Selfishly, I would hate to see a line going out the front door but it that keeps him open that would be great for him and I will wait.

If you are on Long Island, New York and come to East Meadow which is about mid-Nassau County, please try the Yummy China Buffet. I believe you will be pleased that you did. Don't go in expecting a lavishly large buffet. Do go in expecting great cooking and food.

The Yummy China Buffet and Sushi Restaurant is located at 398 Merrick Avenue, East Meadow, New York 11554. The telephone number is 516-486-2525. There is now a website that is linked at the side of this page.  (By the way that website right now  has a coupon for $5 off dinner on Mondays to Thursdays.) The restaurant is NOW open seven days a week from 11:30 am to 10:00 pm. The lunch price is less.

Friday, November 21, 2014

General Pickett's Buffet, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania

It has been six years since I have been to General Pickett's Buffet in Gettysburg, Pa. We do not get to Gettysburg very often anymore. We were there and there was no doubt where we would be dining. We went on a Wednesday night and while there was not a large crowd in the restaurant there were people coming in the whole time we were having dinner including close to closing time. This buffet closes at 7:30 pm every night. It is open seven days a week. Yes, it is open on Sundays.

This is a Southern-style buffet. It is located across from the parking entrance to the OLD National Park Visitor's Center in Gettysburg on Steinwehr Avenue.You enter the restaurant from the rear of the building from the parking lot. The first thing I noticed when we walked in was that the music was gone. This buffet used to play the soundtrack from the motion picture, Gettysburg, over and over again. I often wondered how the people who worked there could tolerate hearing it so often, but I have to admit, as a fan of the movie, it was exactly right for this restaurant given its proximity to the battlefield. We were seated promptly and the waiter who came to greet us was the same gentleman who has waited on us at other visits going years back to before our last visit here six years ago. I am sure that he did not recognize us but we recognized him.

Going up to the buffet servers - there are three - one long double server that takes up the back wall of the restaurant's buffet area, a smaller buffet server that has soup, salad, and a taco/nacho bar, and a table set to serve cakes and pies - we saw just about everything that we remembered being served here. In all of these years, the menu has varied little. The price, of course, has gone up a few dollars in six years but still very reasonable and affordable.

We started with soup - as usual. I had the chicken noodle soup which was excellent. It had thick dough noodles and a good broth with pieces of chicken. My wife tried the vegetable beef soup which she said was very tasty but the broth was thin. They also had ham and bean soup. The chicken noodle soup was good enough to go back for another bowl but I resisted that temptation and went for salad.

The salad bar here is basic. There is lettuce and toppings to make a good salad with an assortment of dressings. There are a few prepared salads - the macaroni salad and potato salad were fair. There was apple butter and also cottage cheese which is a PA Dutch treat when you put them together.  There is also nacho fixings here as well as a taco bar. Also with the salads are fruits and puddings for dessert and warm Southern corn bread which was very good.

The entrees and side dishes are plentiful and there are also carvings. The first thing I went for were the barbecue pork spare ribs. These are ribs with a lot of meat on the bones. For the most part the meat came right off the bones. They are cooked in a red barbecue sauce which is more of a vinegar based sauce than a sweet sauce - though it was sweet enough. Some of the ribs were a bit chewy and they were somewhat greasy. They were, however, very tasty and I took them on more than one trip up to the buffet. There were two carvings - roast beef and ham. The carvings are put out whole and then someone from the kitchen comes out and carves slices off to be left to be taken. As those slices are gone, more is carved. The roast beef was very tough and really was not worth fighting with to cut or chew. the ham, however, was good.

In the hot serving trays there was sliced turkey breast in a thin gravy. I felt that the turkey was a little dry but my wife liked it. There were pieces of fried catfish, fried in a batter that made it almost like chips. The catfish was good. There was an unidentified broiled fish that was also good. Nothing was labeled so some things were a guess. When we started there was a tray of ham and green beans and this was very good. I am glad that I took this on the first time up as this tray emptied and was never refilled. This was the only tray that was not refilled while we were there. There was shrimp creole - spicy in a red sauce with white rice served on the side. There was chicken with black beans and rice. There was pork and sauerkraut that was very good. There were both chicken nuggets and chicken chunks - the difference that the chicken chunks were pieces of chicken batter fried and the chicken nuggets were what are usually served to kids. There was baked chicken, but no fried chicken. There was penne with tomato sauce on the side and also meatballs. The penne was good but the tomato sauce was not good. It was watery and had no taste.

The side dishes included very good macaroni and cheese, mashed potatoes that had a nice, fresh taste, kernel corn that was very good with a fresh off the cob taste fried apples which were very good, plain carrots, plain sting beans, and plain broccoli. There was also summer squash cooked with mushrooms that was not good. It had a very vinegary taste and we were not sure if had gone bad. For the roast beef and the chicken there was beef gravy and chicken gravy.

Of course, everyone wants to know about desserts, and while there is not an overwhelming selection, the baking here is good and they are putting out whole layer cakes and pies to cut slices from yourself. There was chocolate layer cake, vanilla layer cake, banana cake, apple cake with walnuts, carrot cake, chocolate brownies, apple pie, peach pie, Boston cream pie, pecan pie, lemon meringue pie, and cherry pie. I tried the apple cake with walnuts. It was almost 7:30 and closing time and I took the last piece of apple cake on the plate. Had I waited about two more minutes a whole new apple cake was brought out. The apple cake was good and I am glad that I tried that. Following that more cakes were brought out to replace ones almost gone. We were very impressed that they kept refilling serving trays and desserts past closing time.

Other than the squash and the tough roast beef the food is good and tasty. There is plenty to choose from and a good assortment.  Soft drinks are not included but refillable and cost no more than what the chain buffets are charging for soda.

The service was excellent. He made sure our plates were removed each time that we went up for more and he refilled our beverages.

The only suggestion that I have for General Pickett's Buffet is that they get steak knives to put out instead of the table knives that could barely cut anything. This surprised me but we made do.

I will definitely go back when we are in Gettysburg. This buffet is well known by repeat visitors to Gettysburg and when trips to this area are talked about this buffet is often mentioned as a "go to when you are there". So yes, if you are in Gettysburg, go to General Pickett's Buffet. If you are there at lunch time there is a lunch buffet with a different menu. There is a frequent diners card that is still honored. Ours is quite old, and we did not think to bring it with us, but they would have taken it and so many dinners get you a free meal. 

An aside - as we were driving into the town of Gettysburg my wife said to me, "Look there is General Lee's buffet!" and laughed. I looked to where she was pointing and it was General Li's Buffet - a Chinese buffet. The owner had a good sense of humor - or was it just a coincidence.

 The restaurant is located at is located at 571 Steinwehr Avenue. Their phone number is 717-334-7580. The restaurant has a website which you will find linked at the side of this page.

Friday, November 07, 2014

Dutch-Way Family Restaurant, Myerstown, PA Once More

I want to start right off saying that this article is about the Dutch-Way Family Restaurant in Myerstown, PA which is NOT the Dutch-Way Family Restaurant in Gap, PA which I have written so complimentary about many times now. Myerstown is not in Lancaster County. It is north of Lancaster County nearer to I-78. We are in this area once a year and for the past three years we have gone to this location of Dutch-Way. There are three Dutch-Way restaurants in Pennsylvania but only Myerstown and Gap have buffets. Now, one would think that with the same owners, basically the same recipes, but different locations and staffs things would not be that different but this is just not the case.

We had not planned on going to this restaurant on this particular trip. I was going to the Hollywood Casino near Hershey, PA to try the buffet there. I was willing to pay almost three times the price of Dutch-Way to try this casino buffet. On the way there, we had some problems and we could not go - reasons unnecessary, but we made most of the way there and we still had to eat and Dutch-Way could be gotten to in enough time to have dinner - and there really was no other buffet to head for. So we went. It was a Friday evening. So we turned around and headed to Myerstown. I was hopeful. We were not very happy the first time there. Last year was better - I had some nice things to say about it. So we got there - walked in and surprisingly had a five minute wait to get seated.

As I think about that meal, I come up with negative thoughts. I checked with my wife who was there with me and she agreed. Let's talk about what was served - there was one nice surprise on the buffet that I never had before. I have talked ofen about the Pennsylvania Dutch dish, Chicken Bot Bie, well on this night at Myerstown Dutch-Way they had Beef Bot Bie. Instead of chunks of chicken there were chunks of beef in a brown thick broth with flat dumplings, carrots, and celery. This was very good and the best thing of the night. On Friday and Saturday nights, just like at Gap they have carved Prime Rib and carved ham but on this night there was no ham - it was roast loin of pork. I had a slice of the Prime Rib and it was very dry - even with au jus poured on top. My wife had the roast loin of pork and said it was good. They had a dish that they called Cheesesteak Casserole - sounds promising, but it was overly doughy, more like bread filling than a casserole, lacked a taste of cheese and not very good. There was potato filling - stuffing made from potatoes - that was too loose. Not good. (This was a big surprise as the potato filling in Gap is wonderful.) There was a tray of sausage - made like Italian sausage and peppers but the sausage was nondescript in taste. It was not Italian sausage, nor Country sausage, nor breakfast sausage. It was just OK - but marginally that. There was Pork and Kraut that was very good. This followed the same recipe that I have had at Gap and this was decent. There was Noodles in Browned Butter but there was too much butter - the noodles were drowning in it but at the same time the noodles were hard and dry. There was good kernel corn. There was Meatloaf that was cooked in a tomato sauce that was a cross between tomato sauce and catchup. This was pretty good.

Now, as I have said before about this location - the salad bar is half what it is in Gap. The dessert bar is a quarter - if that - of what it is in Gap. The bread section is one eighth what it is in Gap and there was nothing on it but packaged white bread. There were no rolls though there was a sign for rolls. We were about to ask for rolls when someone else did and only then did rolls appear in the server. The people working had passed that roll tray many times and let it sit empty. While some hot food trays were replaced, some were not. I don't expect that from any buffet in Pennsylvania. This became very evident with dessert. Almost all of the desserts were gone when we went up and there were still people coming in to eat. None were replaced. A few puddings were in a cup - it appeared that these were what was left of these puddings and the cup was rather large. So instead of three people having the last of the cracker pudding had the that amount been split into three cups, no one had it but me - and I really did not want that much. Had I been able to take it from a tray I would have taken much, much less. As it was, it was take this cup or nothing. There were no more cakes or pies or other puddings. There were a few half donuts out on a serving plate - all were hard as a rock.

The service started out good. This was a young woman who was clearing plates away fairly regularly - and then her boyfriend came in for dinner and sat at the table behind us. She then spent the rest of the evening talking to him - paying attention to him - and pretty much forgetting what she was supposed to be doing. She came to the table once and asked my wife if she would like a refill of her soda. She brought that and never asked me if I wanted a refill - and then she was gone - back and forth with her boyfriend. The first time we were there at Myerstown, we had poor service also.

The best thing of the night was the Beef Bot Bie and I say often that Dutch-Way (and I am usually speaking in regard to Gap) always seems to have something different that I have not had before that is good. This was it for this dinner. These dishes seem to also be random. One may not see this Beef Bot Bie here for months - if ever again- or maybe it will show up again in a couple of weeks.

So what is wrong at Myerstown?  For one thing, the people working in the buffet are too young. This includes those responsible for maintaining the buffet and I suspect those cooking as well. I cannot speak about the buffet manager except to say it was not evident if there was one. A strong manager who stays on top of employees to do what needs to be done and provide the customers their money's worth is essential to every buffet. That manager has to be visible to both the customers and employees. Perhaps there was a manager there - and perhaps it was one of the other kids working that night.

Was this an off night? I don't think so. I cannot recommend this buffet to you. There is nothing else close by other than a Golden Corral in Lebanon, PA (and I have not been to that one in years) but I cannot tell you in good conscience to try this buffet - and I did last year. It was better last year. Unfortunately, it is way too far to go from here to Gap. I have said in the past that it was not fair to compare this location to the Gap location, but just in comparison to many other buffets, skip this one. I wish that I could say differently.

Just so that you know where this all took place - 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 once in the parking lot the restaurant is on the right side of the same building as you face it from the road in the same parking lot.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Golden Corral, Whitehall, Pennsylvania

The Golden Corral restaurant in Whitehall, Pennsylvania, just east of Allentown, is just a couple of years old. We were there about a year ago for the first time and in that article I had mixed feelings. We went back again recently and we were quite pleased.

The restaurant in is located in the back of the parking lot for a large shopping mall - Lehigh Valley Mall. We went on a Wednesday night and while the restaurant was busy, there were only a few people on line ahead of us and we got in quickly.  As you come up to the cash register (pay as you enter) you take your own first soft drink from the machines at the counter. Once you get to your table your server brings your refills. As we went in, I looked at both sides of the dining room and chose a table off to the right. As our meal progressed several large groups came in and were seated around us which was fine. The restaurant for a weeknight was busier than I would have expected.

This Golden Corral has the newer setup of continuous long serving counters that stretch across the entire length of one side of the building. These counters start with the salad bar, continuing but moving more to the rear to the soup area, then start the entrees and side dishes with the Asian section first, continue along  and come back forward to the grill, back around toward the rear for more entrees and side dishes, break for a door into the kitchen, take up again with the bread section which moves the counter right into the dessert area which includes now three chocolate fountains - chocolate, caramel, and white chocolate - and ends with the soft serve ice cream machine and sundae bar. For the crowd that was there, the restaurant was clean and the buffet trays were kept well stocked. There were a lot of children always at the dessert section going to the chocolate fountains unescorted. I see this as the parents' lack of supervision rather than a fault of the restaurant. This visit was during the summer and the feature was steak (which they always have), hot wings, and bone in fried catfish. The Golden Corral features seem to change regularly.

I was in the mood for a nicely cooked chargrilled steak and after soup and salad, that is what I went for. There were a number of people standing around the grill waiting for their steaks to be cooked well enough for them. I knew that if I did not just speak up to the grill chef that I wanted a rare steak, what was on the grill would have gone past rare. I got his attention and asked for one and he reached down and picked one up knowing that it was rare. And it was! This steak was just right. It was charred on the outside and red inside. I was very happy.

I saw that there was turkey to be carved and I let my wife know it was there. We got the person behind the counter's attention and he carved a piece of turkey for her. Also at the grill in a tray near the turkey was pulled pork barbecue. I took some of that when I went up later and it was fine - not great but fine. Golden Corral usually has hush puppies - fried balls of corn meal dough - and the ones here were very good. At some other Golden Corrals they have been hard. These were just right.

 Overall the meal was very good. The second steak that I went up for was a disappointment. The chef who was cooking before was there but he was being assisted by another older gentleman who was the one serving while the chef was cooking. I knew that I was in for a disappointment when I asked for a rare steak and the chef had to tell this man how to tell it was rare by feeling it with the tongs. The steak was put on my plate and back at the table when I cut into it, it was beyond medium. Well one great steak in a night is better than the not so good and poorly cooked steak that I get at another chain buffet. There was one other disappointment and that was a teriyaki steak that you served yourself from a tray in the grill section. I did not expect this to be rare - I expected it to be well and charred and that is how it looked. It was tasty but almost impossible to bite and chew. It was full of grizzle and after an attempt at eating it, I gave up on it. Despite these two items, I had a good meal and was very satisfied when we were finished.

Service was very good - I point this out because during our first trip here a year back service started out poor and while it got better during that night, on this night it was good from start to finish. The young lady who had our table whisked the finished plates away and made sure to ask if we wanted refills on our drinks - and brought them promptly.

I know that one of our readers recently commented on this particular Golden Corral not being good and not being clean. He was referring to a breakfast visit and I can not speak to what goes on at breakfast. All I know is that at dinner, the food was good, the service was good, and the restaurant was clean - both in the dining room and at the serving counters. I confirmed my impression of this Golden Corral with my picky wife and she agreed that this is one of the better Golden Corrals that we have been to.

I will definitely go back when I am in this area. Based on this visit, I think you will find it good. Now. if you don't like Golden Corral, this one is not going to be different when it comes to the foods served, the variety, and what is offered.

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, October 10, 2014

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

Less than a year ago we went back to Bird-In-Hand Family Restaurant and Smorgasbord in Bird-In-Hand, Lancaster County, PA. We went then on a Wednesday night and I was impressed with the featured food for that night being very well prepared Pennsylvania Dutch favorites. I was also impressed that the price for this meal was $15.99 which included the beverage.

Fast forward to this year and we decide to go back to this buffet on a Wednesday night. We walk though the door, go up to the hostess counter and see a sign that dinner is now $19.99! Wow! One of the things that in the past had kept us infrequently going to this buffet was it's high price. At $15.99 the price last year had gone down. Now, at $19.99 it has soared back up. Even with the two dollar coupon compared to many of the buffets in this area, the price is high. Now, one can just walk right out the door again when seeing the high price and not feeling it is worth paying, but with Lancaster buffets, if you want to go then to another buffet, you had better gotten to the first one early. Buffet restaurants close here at 8:00 pm. We were set for a good buffet meal and we would not have made it any place else before it would have been too late to go in. We went on in.

The best thing at this restaurant in my opinion is the Chicken Corn Soup and they just about always serve this on the buffet. They make it very differently from other restaurants and in my opinion their thick and grainy version of this soup made of chicken and creamed corn is the best. It is not a thin chicken noodle soup with corn added that is served at the other restaurants in the area - whether buffets or menu restaurants. It is possible at this restaurant to have the soup and salad bar only. I still go for the full buffet - even though I could easily be happy with multiple bowls of this soup here. So, of course, my meal started with the chicken corn soup and my wife's meal started with the beef vegetable soup which is also very good.

The salad bar here is one full double sided buffet server with greens and salad toppings and prepared salads. At one time at this buffet the salad bar also had chicken salad or ham salad and then you actually could make a decent meal with just the soup and salad bar without the rest, but there are no meat salads now. The salad bar is good - not spectacular but decent as salad bars go.

The entrees and hot foods were some of the Pennsylvania Dutch specialties that I had a year back here and enjoyed so much then - but they were lacking some on this night. The Chicken Bot Bie was just OK. There were country sausages but when I cut into one, it did appear pink inside - a sign that the pork was not cooked through enough. I left that piece of sausage aside and the rest were better - but the sausage was lacking. Still good, but lacking. The Pork and Sauerkraut was good but not spectacular. I do like their turkey - which most people would probably not like. It is served - white meat and dark meat - cut up in a tray full of liquid. This keeps the turkey very moist and topped with gravy, if you choose to add it, this turkey is very good. They did have the turkey and I did have more than one serving.

There is a large dessert bar and one can order that alone. There are pies and cakes and puddings but, you know, we were in the mood for dessert and had trouble finding something - even with what was there - and some of what was there was the only piece left and was not replaced. There was a nice looking apple cake. We hesitated too long to take it and someone took it first while we were standing there deciding. It was not replaced. If you like whoopee pies - chocolate cake on top and bottom of thick, sweet whipped cream - they do have whoopee pies cut into pieces at the side of the dessert counter. There is soft serve ice cream and icees.

I remember - and wrote about - spectacular last year - and now, I was not feeling that. I have to wonder if that is because of the big price increase. I was feeling that night that it should have been better. Well, it always should be the best - and don't get me wrong, the food here is good but on this visit not memorable. Maybe the Amish cooks were off on this night? Who knows. Some restaurants do vary by who is cooking that night.  I may be spoiled by finding the exceptional buffets in this area. And then again, if this one was spectacular we would have been going much more often over the years.  There was a time that there were few buffets, more family style restaurants instead of buffets, and this one was one of our regular stops. That was long ago. We have been coming to this area for many, many years. It was also before this restaurant's owners built what seems now to be an empire. If you look on their website you will not only find this restaurant but also more than one hotel, a bakery complex, a campground, catering, and now dinner theater that uses this restaurant for the dinner and a stage auditorium on the lower level. And a lot of the focus in the restaurant - particularly the buffet - is on the theater guests. We did not leave hungry. There have been a few buffets that we have been to in our time that we did leave hungry. There is plenty of food here - it just should have been better than good.

Aside from the tourists who dine here - it is prominent on a major tourist route - Rt. 340 - there are many locals that do dine here - mostly from the menu that is an option if you don't wish the buffet or some members at your table do not want the buffet. They have no problem with the table mixing menu and buffet - just don't give buffet food to someone at your table who has ordered from the menu. This is a family restaurant - as are most of the restaurants in this area. It is not uncommon to be sitting next to a family of Amish or Mennonites at this restaurant. (Don't stare, be polite. This is there home and we are just visitors - perhaps more intruders.)

The price really got to me on this visit. I hope that they see a reason to put the price back down. As I say, they have done this before. Jack up the price, then the next year lower the price, and then jack it up again. There seems to be no pattern - it is not seasonal or holiday related. With the price back down, I would go back again. Is this the most expensive buffet in this area? No. I admit that Shady Maple has nights that are more than this in price - but Shady Maple includes the tax and tip in that price - and the drinks. Here you are adding the tax and tip on top of $19.99. Millers Smorgasbord is much more expensive - but I do not go there and you can look for my article as to why that is. Yes, there are coupons for Bird-In-Hand - only found in one tourist "magazine" that is free at most of the tourist sites - including the lobby of this restaurant and that will save you two dollars, but still it is expensive for what is here.

Should you not go here? I would not tell you not to go here but I will tell you that there is better for less money. If I had not place else that I was able to get to for whatever reason, I would go here. I put a lot on value - the value was missing the most at this price.

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.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Back to Oregon Dairy Country Restaurant and Buffet, Lititz, PA

This is the third time that we have been to Oregon Dairy Country Restaurant and Buffet in the six years when we first found it. This is a small buffet that shares a building with a supermarket in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. Since our second trip there a year ago, it has been in the back of my mind to go back again and since we were in the area for several days we could go here and go to the "favorite" buffets that we usually go to. I was looking forward to coming back for a meal here and I was not disappointed.

This is a menu restaurant with a small buffet section consisting of a short wall with hot foods and entrees, two short buffet servers with salad and cold items - one with hot soup on one end, and one more short buffet server with dessert. The restaurant is connected on the side to a large ice cream stand that serves dairy made ice cream from the dairy on this property. The ice cream stand is popular and this alone draws a big crowd on warm nights.

While the restaurant/supermarket complex with ice cream stand is on a main road it is up on the top of a hill not easily visible from the road below. If one was not looking for this or did not know that there was a restaurant up there in addition to the supermarket, one would not know to stop. The customers here are very much local people who know this is here - and some dine here regularly.

We went on a Thursday night. There is a website with a menu for the buffet of featured foods for each night and I knew that there were certain nights that we would like more than others and Thursday was one of them. Like all of the other buffets in Lancaster this one closes at 8:00 pm and is not open on Sundays for lunch or dinner but is open for a breakfast buffet in the morning. When we got there, there was a line to get in. I had thought we were late - the evening was stormy and we drove into a short storm on our way which slowed down our arrival. We waited about ten minutes to be seated. This is not a tourist restaurant. As I say, this is very much a place for local families to go. The dining room is pleasant - there is a large model train that rides around a track just under the ceiling on one side of the dining room nearest the buffet. The decor is typically local family restaurant. The price for dinner was $12.99. Soft drinks are extra but are unlimited. The price for Friday and Saturday dinner is $13.99. There is a senior discount over age 65 of 10%.

The soups on this night were Cheese and Broccoli soup and New England Clam Chowder.  The Clam Chowder had chunks of clams in a white cream broth with potatoes. It was very good. The salad bar is an assortment of salad toppings and lettuce to put it on, a variety of dressings, and some prepared salads. Our waitress made a comment when we ordered the buffet that if we started on the soup and salad and then decided that we only wanted that for dinner and not the whole buffet, we should just let her know and she would change the price on our check down to the $7.99 Soup, Salad, Dessert Bar. Obviously, she did not know us and our eating at buffets - but apparently many start and feel that they are happy just with that and don't wish to go for the entrees and side dishes.
We finished our salads and we straight for the hot foods.

The menu on the buffet on this night reflects what was on the list on the website but they always add other dishes to that as well. Chicken dominated the dishes with Chicken Bot Bie, Creamed Chicken, and Seasoned, Baked Chicken. One of the restaurants well know dishes is Fried Smoked Sausage - deep fried. This was on the buffet. There was also Pork and Sauerkraut, Ham Balls with Pineapple Sauce, and Hawaiian Meatballs. The Ham Balls in Pineapple Sauce and the Hawaiian Meatballs seemed redundant, but they were different in taste. There was also broiled Talapia, Sliced Ham, and Stuffed Peppers - stuffed with chopped meat and rice. There were mashed red potatoes, boiled potatoes, carrots, and mixed vegetables. There are no carvings on this buffet. Much of this is typical Pennsylvania Dutch local specialties - common to find in this Amish and Mennonite Pennsylvania German region. (OK - an aside - Pennsylvania Dutch - Pennsylvania German - so which is it? Pennsylvania Dutch is an Americanization of "Pennsylvania Deutsch" - Deutsch is German for German.)

The Chicken Bot Bie - a local dish that you have read about here many, many times - and one of both our favorites was very good. This is a dish of chicken meat pieces in a thickened broth with potatoes, thick and large dumplings, and carrots. The Creamed Chicken was also good - what some restaurants would call Chicken Ala King - chicken meat in cream sauce with carrots, etc.. The Seasoned Baked Chicken went fast and once it was gone, it was replaced with seasoned corn. I never had corn called seasoned before and had to try it. It had Italian seasonings on it. It was interesting and unusual. The Pork and Sauerkraut was bland and was the only disappointing dish on the buffet. The Fried Smoked Sausage is a bit of an acquired taste and the first time that I had them three years ago, I did not care for them - as I did not really understand what they were. On our second trip here a year ago, I learned what it is and tried it again and liked it - and it was one of the foods that I was looking forward to having here - thus the preplanned specific nights we might come and Thursday is one of them that has the sausage.

While some other buffets have many more dishes to offer in one night, this small buffet satisfies with what it has - providing you like what is on the buffet on the night that you go. The food is good. It is fresh and the buffet was well tended - meaning someone was out making sure nothing dried out and all that should remain hot was hot.  Service was also very good and the waitress kept coming around to take away used plates, check on drink refills, and reminding us that a scoop of their diary ice cream is included in the buffet along with the other desserts.

For dessert aside from fruits on the salad bar, there are pies, cakes, prepared desserts, and hot cobbler  - on this night it was hot cherry cobbler. And there is one large scoop of any of the many flavors of ice cream that comes to you direct from the ice cream stand outside. There were so many flavors it was hard to decide and I was set on having a scoop. I finally decided on coconut almond fudge ice cream. My wife was not having any ice cream and the waitress offered me my wife's scoop as well. I passed on the second scoop - not because I did not want it - I wanted it, but that would have been pushing how much of what I should not eat too far. The waitress goes through a door on the side of the restaurant that leads into the ice cream stand and then comes back with a single scoop that overflows the bowl and is well above the top. The coconut almond fudge is a flavor that I have never had before - it was vanilla ice cream full of shredded coconut with almonds and chocolate fudge swirled through. It was good!

Do not go expecting a gala buffet. This is a simple buffet with simple farm food in a simple but very nice restaurant. I will be going back. Will I choose this buffet over some of the other buffets that I have written so much about in Lancaster County? It will depend on my mood. I like this buffet, I like the local atmosphere, I like being away from the tourists - especially in the "season", and I like the food. 

The Oregon Dairy Country Restaurant and Buffet is located at 2900 Oregon Pike (Route 272) in Lititz, PA 17543. The phone number is (717) 661-6804. There is a website and that is listed on this page at the side of the articles.While this is the town of Lititz it is not near the center of what is thought of as the town of Lititz (where the old pretzel bakery and the Moravian settlement is located). It is also on the top of a hill with a large up hill driveway from Route 272. As you get up into the parking lot, the restaurant is on the left, the supermarket part of the building is on the right, and the dairy/ice cream stand is on the far left. There is a little playground and "park" near the ice cream stand.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Another Visit to Yoders

After my previous visit to Yoders, we made another trip to the area several weeks later. We had several nights that we could go to buffets and the last night was open - we had not gone back to Yoders yet. I was not sure that I wanted to so soon after the last somewhat disappointing visit. We could go to Yoders or go for a second dinner in the week to Dutch-Way. I was feeling that after so many good meals at Yoders I should give it the benefit of the doubt and go back and see if it was an off night that last night.

We went on a Saturday night and this was a Saturday night of a holiday weekend. This really would put the restaurant to the test. We arrived before 6:30 pm and there was no line. This does not surprise me as this is a local restaurant for local diners. While I am sure a tourist or two must wander in - it is advertised in some of the free tourist visitor publications - the vast majority of people who come to this restaurant/buffet are local people. The feature nights changed in the past year at Yoders. In the past, the feature for both Friday night and Saturday night buffets was Land and Sea with the emphasis on seafood. The Friday night buffet has now changed to a seafood buffet - at a higher price than other nights - and the Saturday night buffet is now "Dutch Night". Way back when Dutch Night was in the middle of the week and the food on the buffet consisted of local specialties - Pennsylvania Dutch specialties. This helped in the decision to go back, especially on a Saturday night.

As we start our meals with soup, we went up to see what the two soups were. This was a hard decision for me - there was chicken corn noodle soup (a soup particularly local to this area) and there was shrimp bisque. We had been to Shady Maple a few nights before and they had lobster bisque as one of the soup choices. It had a good taste but was much thinner than bisque should be and had not visible lobster in it. I looked into the tureen of shrimp bisque here at Yoders and it was thick, pinkish orange, and full of shrimp. I love chicken corn noodle soup. My wife took the chicken corn noodle and I took a half cup of the shrimp bisque thinking that I would go back when I was done with the half cup for another half cup of chicken corn noodle. My first taste of that shrimp bisque and I knew that I had to go back for more of it- and I did. The soup was rich, thick, creamy with just the right taste and, as I said, lots of small shrimp in it. This was far better than the lobster bisque that I had a few nights before at Shady Maple. An excellent start to getting back together with an old friend.

I will skip the salad - it was good as always here. You can make just about any type of greens salad you want and the prepared salads are good. I walked around the buffet to look at what is offered on "Dutch" Night. According to the menu description of Dutch Night there is mention of ham balls and other favorites. Yes, there were ham balls - they often are ham balls on the buffet at Yoders and they are good. What I did not see where things like Chicken Bot Bie or Pork and Kraut, etc. There were a number of dishes that are Pennsylvania Dutch. There was a dish made of ham, green beans and large chunks of potatoes. That was good. There were cubes of stewed beef in a rich brown gravy that are good over browned butter noodles. The noodles are generally found on Yoder's buffet and they were there. There were pork ribs - not sure how PA Dutch they are, but they were good - nice large ribs with a lot of meat and served in a not too sweet but sweet enough barbecue sauce. The meat pulled off the bones except where it had charred on - and that part was good too.  There was potato filling and that was good. Yoders is not a large, overwhelming buffet but when added to the grill it is an adequately sized buffet.

At the grill there were several items, the best of which was marinated steak grilled over coals. I went up to the grill and asked for a steak - RARE. This is how I like it and also a test. Either the person cooking does not know what rare means and hands you a basically raw steak, the cook it to the point that it is beyond medium, or they know what they are doing and give you a steak that is nicely charred on the outside and red and bloody on the inside. This young man knew what he was doing. When I asked for the steak this way he looked at the grill. There were three steaks done on one side of the fire and there were three recently put on steaks on the other side of the grill. He looked at the done steaks and told me that he had none that were rare. I expected him to say that he would put one on for me and then he looked at the steaks that he had recently put on the grill. He picked up one that had been cooking a bit longer than the others and cut into it - it was just right - not raw, but rare. He showed it to me and asked if it was OK - I said "perfect". He put the steak on my plate and I was happy. I added some browned butter noodles and some potato filling to my plate and returned to the table to enjoy the steak. It was cooked right. The meat was a little tough on the ends - likely the cut of steak - but this was a tasty steak with a not overwhelming marinade.

My wife was happy. They have a favorite of hers here - mostly she has only had it here - baked oatmeal. It makes an interesting side dish and it is served hot. They usually have plain and a flavored variety. This night the flavored baked oatmeal was banana nut. I had never had baked oatmeal either until I had it at Yoders and it is good. I am not usually a fan of oatmeal but this is nothing like the breakfast cereal.

While I was up at the buffet, one of the women came out of the kitchen with a tray full of hot cinnamon buns covered with thick white frosting. It caught my eye immediately. Now, they may always have cinnamon buns where the breads - and baked oatmeal is but I have never noticed it. Perhaps that means that they don't usually have this. Or perhaps I am too distracted by everything else to notice. I actually did not see where this tray wound up but when it was time for dessert - and there are a lot of desserts here to chose from including cakes, pies, a number of different prepared desserts, soft serve ice cream with a load of toppings including hot toppings - I went looking for those cinnamon rolls. There they were next to the baked oatmeal and there were two trays - one the frosted ones that I saw come out and the other were glazed sticky buns. I took one of those thickly frosted ones on my plate - decided that this was all the desert that I wanted - and went back to the table and enjoyed it.

It was a good meal. My old friend and I are back together again.

This meal cost $13.99 per person. Soft drinks - refillable - are $1.99. There is a senior discount of 10% and you need to let the server know that you qualify. There is a children's price. They serve buffet breakfast, lunch, and dinner. You can also order off the menu. If you order something off the menu that is on the buffet, your server will go to the buffet table and take your portion from there. We started figuring out the cost of a dinner off the menu with dessert compared to the buffet. If your dinner choice is something on the buffet you will do far better with the buffet at the price. You will get soup, salad, entree and sides, and dessert - all you care to eat - for less than you would pay ordering one of those items off the menu.

So, not wonderful on the last visit - but now I know that was just an off night. Every restaurant - I don't care how high and mighty a restaurant - will have its off nights. While we are still expected to pay for the meal on those off nights as we are on the great nights, they happen.  As I always say when I recommend Yoders - expect to walk into a room full of rows of wood booths that is far from fancy. This is a family restaurant at its most typical. Lots of local families dine here - if you are city folk looking for city food you are in the wrong place. This is a country restaurant in the heart of where  the Plain People.

There is a website for Yoders listed at the side of this article. The restaurant is located at Yoder's Supermarket or perhaps, more properly, Yoder's Country Market, Route 23, New Holland, Pennsylvania. The phone number is (717) 354-4748.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Shady Maple Smorgasbord, East Earl, Pennsylvania

Eight months has been too long to not have had dinner at Shady Maple. The snow this winter and the rain this Spring has kept us from traveling but we finally managed to get a passable weekend to make the trip. We went on a Saturday night in the beginning of June.

Arriving at the parking lot I said a loud, "Oh Boy!". The lots were jammed. I do not remember seeing the parking lots - yes, lots - there are three - this crowded. I wondered what we would find inside. We wound up parking in the lot adjacent to the supermarket - below Shady Maple at the entrance to the gift shop and cafe. This is also a tour bus entry area and there were two buses there - one dropping off and one picking up and I even more expected to find a mob inside. We entered through the gift shop and made our way upstairs to Shady Maple's lobby. Where were all of the people?

Where were all of the people really is a mystery because there were no lines in the lobby for the cash registers - there were two registers open and each had a family paying - but we walked up, were next, paid and went down the hall expecting a long line there. At that end there was one large group waiting to be seated, a family of four ahead of us and tables open scattered throughout. We were seated shortly.

There were people in all of the dining rooms and the rooms were busy but not full. For just the very start of tourist season and not officially summer yet, there were more people than I had expected but it still did not explain the jammed parking lots. My wife suggested that perhaps there was a very large catering function which is possible, but so many cars for one catering function seemed unusual too. Anyway, enough dwelling on the parking lot.

There were no weekend specials on this Saturday night. Shady Maple through the winter and Spring will have special feature weekends. It was a usual assortment of items on the buffet servers and multiple grill stations for a Saturday night.

Lately I am finding that I get full sooner than I have in the past and decided that to make sure that I would be able to enjoy an assortment of items - there were several grill features that were catching my eye - that I would cut back on the usual salad that I make to start dinner at Shady Maple. I took a small sampling of macaroni salad and a small sample of Amish potato salad along with a small scoop of chopped tomatoes topped with a few green olives and Ranch dressing.

Where one of the soups should be on both halves of the buffet was trays of melted cheese sauce. This was there for french fries that were near by. As a result there was one - or two - soups missing from the usual assortment. I took a very different split pea and ham soup. It was not a thick soup as expected but a thin cream soup (very pale green in color) full of split peas and pieces of ham. I have not had it made this way before and it was good - the thick version of this soup (the standard version) is one of my favorites. This had the taste but lacked the body of the standard. I would actually consider it a soup all onto itself and not to be compared to the thick green version. There were other soups - some spicy - and there is always excellent chili.

On the grills were a broad variety of foods. There was NY strip steak being cooked to order on two grills. There were Smorgy Cheesesteaks, kielbasi, country sausage, several types of fish, carved smoked brisket, carved ham, and something that I have not seen here before - marinated prime rib. The marinated prime rib was one of the things that caught my eye and I knew that if I started with that I would not be eating much else as they were carving thick, juicy slices of it. When Shady Maple has Prime Rib as a feature and they usually have this on Wednesday nights, there are several Prime Ribs being carved - each done to a different wellness from rare to well done - at the grill so well done can be made even more well done if one prefers. This was just one prime rib being carved and it was done well. There was always a short line to get a slice. It had been so long since my last Shady Maple dinner that I was drawn more to the usual and started with a New York Strip Steak cooked rare the way I like it and some country sausage. I then took the plate to the buffet servers and walked the full length of the restaurant to see what was being offered. To my surprise Dried Corn was back no the buffet. This has been missing for over a year - though having been absent for eight months I don't really know when it was brought back. Last year the sign where the Dried Corn should be on the buffet said that since the Copes company changed hands the dried corn that they were supplying was not to the satisfaction of Shady Maple. Apparently, the corn got better because it is there where it always had been before - at the first corner of the right side buffet server. I had to have Dried Corn and took some and added some buttered noodles to my plate and happy, headed back to our table.

I don't understand what goes on with the chargrill that Shady Maple installed at the first carving/grill station. It seems to never be in use. It is covered over and is used as a flat griddle. This was where steaks were to be made. They are still made there but are made - as they had always been made at Shady Maple from the beginning - flat on the griddle. A charbroiled steak can be so much better but I have not had one here since the new grill was put in. The steak was still good and so was the country sausage. The sausage here is made in-house. It is popular at Shady Maple and I found as the night went on and I decided to go for more that it does run out.

I love the Smorgy Cheesesteaks - a Philly Cheesesteak by another name. You can have it served to use the standard way - on a thick, hard roll - or if you are like me and don't want to fill up on bread when there is so much more to enjoy, have them scoop it off the grill covered in melted cheese and mixed with chopped onions right onto your plate. There is also tomato sauce to go on top if you like - something that seems to be local - and they are cooking the meat without onions and without cheese. I got some cheesesteak - on the plate, not roll - and also got a piece of kielbasi. To this plate I added a pirogi that were on the buffet server. There were also a few small items scattered around the right half buffet servers on top of the center other trays - one was small hor d'oeuvres sized kiesch.I tried one of those too. The kielbasi was nice. I like smoked sausage and this was good. The pirogi was good as well.

I picked at a little of this and that for the rest of the meal. I took a fried crab cake and a piece of marinated turkey. This was very unusual. It was a small piece - I suppose it could be described as a thin medallion. It was blackened on the outside, moist and flavorful inside. This seem to be the night for marinated meats as there was also marinated chicken on the buffet servers that I did not try.

The marinated Prime Rib kept calling to me from the carving station to our table but I resisted. I wanted it but I knew that I would not be comfortable if I went for it - a plate too far. As we say it is not all that you can eat but all that you care to eat - all that you care to eat needs to be tempered by common sense. My common sense won out and I skipped the marinated Prime Rib - maybe it will be there next time!

Dessert at Shady Maple is always an overwhelming assortment of choices. I saw squares of apple cake and was going to take that until I saw that the sign said "Gluten Free Apple Cake" this means something other than flour has been used and I need to know what that "other" is for my own dietary concerns. I skipped the apple cake. Then I saw a half of an apple fritter on a plate. I was about to take that and a scoop of my favorite - egg custard. Again, my common sense won out and I left the apple fritter and took the egg custard. Later thinking about that apple fritter I was tempted to go back for it as I finished the custard, but decided that I was at the point of full and just stay right there in my chair. And I did.

While we were dining Meryl spotted Mr. Weaver, Shady Maple's owner. He was talking with the main buffet manager. This is a buffet restaurant (and complex of so much more) that is well supervised and managed. 

Was it all good? Of course. Was I away too long? Absolutely. This is still THE Best Buffet! There is no question about it and everyone local to this area knows it. My next visit will be A LOT SOONER than eight months.

Oh and by the way, our Best Buffet 2013 certificate is hanging in a glass case on the piller next to the last cashier to the left in the lobby.

Shady Maple Smorgasbord is located at 129 Toddy Drive in East Earl, PA. Take Route 23 East or Route 322 South to get to the restaurant. The phone numbers are 1-800-238-7363 and 717-354-8222. There is a website and it is listed at the side of this page. You can also keep up to date with Shady Maple by liking them on their page on Facebook!

Friday, August 15, 2014

Dutch-Way Family Restaurant, Gap, PA

Dutch-Way Family Restaurant's buffet in Gap, Pa was our "Top Buffet" for 2013 and I explained then that a top buffet is one that is a must go to whenever in the area of that restaurant. On our recent return to Pennsylvania in June, there was no question that we would be dining at Dutch-Way.

What I like about Dutch-Way aside from good quality food at a very reasonable price, is the many different things that Dutch-Way serves on their buffet. Whenever we go to this buffet, there will be some items on the buffet that will be consistent time after time - these usually Pennsylvania Dutch foods made from local recipes, but there will also be a number of items that are just different. This is great as it gives a chance for the chefs to show off and provide a variety to every meal served. The only drawback to this can be hoping that something that you had once like this, will be there again. Sometimes it is, but often it isn't. But that new selection that you encounter makes up for it. (Thought I do hope that their wonderful ribs show up on the buffet again on some future visit!)

This time we had some interesting dishes. Bacon is very popular lately and two side dishes on the buffet on this Friday night featured bacon. One was string beans and bacon. This was just what it says strips of bacon and string beans cooked together. This is very much like a local dish often served in this area - string beans and ham - with the bacon put in place of the ham. It was good. If you are a bacon lover this was a treat. The other bacon dish was another variation of a common dish and again involved string beans. Most are familiar with string bean casserole - a popular Thanksgiving side dish of string beans in mushroom sauce (often cream of mushroom soup) cooked with french fried onion rings. Take that dish and bake it with strips of bacon on top and that was what was served at Dutch-Way. Again, good and a nice surprise added to a dish many have had before but not this way.

Fillings are a common Pennsylvania Dutch dish. Fillings are like stuffing but made with other than bread cubes. Dutch-Way has one of the best potato fillings in this area, and that is one of the dishes generally found here on most nights. I had that - and enjoyed it as I always do here. On this night they also had an Apple and Sausage Filling - a bread based filling chock full of apples and local country sausage baked together. This, too, was very good!

Another interesting and different dish served on this night that we were there was Crab Covered  Broiled Catfish. Take REAL crabmeat lightly mixed with breadcrumbs just slightly seasoned and spread it on top of catfish and broil it and this is the dish that they had. It was good!

Of course as always there were four soups. The beef vegetable with fresh garden vegetables, beef in a thick tomato stock was an excellent soup. The salad bar is wonderfully stocked with so much to both create a salad and try many local prepared salads, and the chicken salad is exceptional. I could easily make the meal center around the chicken salad but there is so much more that I take some chicken salad and go on to the entrees.

Friday and Saturday night are Prime Rib and Ham at the grill. The Prime Rib was well done but the slice that I had was moist and tender. It was very tasty. The ham looked as good but I passed on the ham for several other meats on the buffet including an excellent meatloaf and ham balls. I also took some of the Pork and Kraut that is excellent here with very large pieces of pork mixed into the sauerkraut.

As I have described in the past there is a large assortment of desserts including cakes, pies, soft-serve name brand ice cream (Turkey Hill), and prepared desserts. There was also hot shoefly cake. I took some of the cracker pudding. Cracker pudding is a local dessert made like rice pudding using saltine crackers and coconut. No rice - crackers! It is wonderful and here it is excellent.

The price for dinner on Friday and Saturday night is $13.99. It is less Monday to Wednesday. Thursdays is the most expensive dinner night and the reason is it is all seafood. Seafood night is $19.99 and a great deal of seafood is served including snow crab legs.   Unlimited soft drinks are extra.

I have to acknowledge someone at this restaurant and that is our server/waitress. Her name is Marie and she has been our waitress here several times before. She is the MOST FRIENDLY waitress of any restaurant - buffet or menu - that we have ever been to - and that is a lot of restaurants over many years. She is delightful in her manner and in how friendly she is. There is always a quick and sincere thank you!  She really stands out. She does her job well and is very attentive to her tables and guests. She is prompt and makes sure that dishes are cleared regularly. She truly stands out! Thank you, Marie!!!

Should you go to Dutch-Way if you are near Gap in Lancaster County, PA? Absolutely! Don't expect a large, lavish restaurant or an overwhelming buffet - it is big enough and there is plenty enough. It has pleasant decor and is one of the supermarket restaurants that seem to only be found in this area of Pennsylvania. The restaurant is in the same building as the supermarket - completely separated. This is Lancaster farm cooking with a a bit of continental added in on the side.

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.

Friday, August 08, 2014

Even in the Best Basket You May Find a Rotten Apple

Here is another article put in the middle of the every other week schedule - as it is a bit out of the ordinary. You will be reading an article in a few weeks about another previous to this dinner at Shady Maple in East Earle, Lancaster, PA, but this is about a more recent dinner there. And something happened that has never happened to me there before and I hope to think rarely if ever to anyone there.

We went on a Saturday night in late July for dinner at Shady Maple - just search this site to see all about this exceptional buffet. It is always crowded on Saturday nights in the summer and I often avoid that night because of the tourists, the bus trippers, and the chaos of those overwhelmed by the expanse of this buffet. It was crowded. We waited on line to get in and again waited for a table. We were seated and the tourists were everywhere in mass. But it was not the tourists that this article is about - it is about an employee. One such, that shocked the heck out of me!

Here is what happened. When we finished soup and then salad, I went up to start on entrees. There was New York Strip Steak being grilled at two grill stations. I went to one of those grills and there was an older man and woman behind the grill. I asked for a rare New York Strip Steak. The man had a scowl on his face for whatever reason and looked at the woman with him behind the counter and pointed at a steak for her to take off the grill and serve to me. She took my empty plate from me and placed this steak on the plate and as her and and mine were on the plate I saw that the steak looked on the outside to be very red and raw looking. I made a comment to her that the steak looked more raw than rare. Now, I have to add here that this has happened to me at Shady Maple before. The a rare steak will often be raw inside and I was trying to avoid that before I took it and got back to the able - now you may wonder, why not just ask for medium rare and I have done that but medium rare often comes off the grill more than well done. So here we are - both hands on the plate and I make the comment.

What happens next shocked both the woman and me. The man reaches over and yanks the steak off the plate with his bare hands, (no gloves) and using both bare hands rips the steak in half shoves it up to my face (on his side of the grill) and angrily says, "Raw! It is not even rare!" He then throws the steak back onto the plate and looks at her to hand it to me. She handed it to me as he grumbled angrily under his breath. I was so taken back and in shock, I took the plate and I just stood there - still surprised, I looked at him and I said, "Be polite!" It is not in my nature, especially here, to make trouble and I certainly was not going to cause a scene - "Be polite" got my point across - though I doubt he saw any point but his - but my point was this is not a way to treat a customer. Now, I did not call for a manager and I just went back to my table with the steak - still in shock. I explained to my wife what just went on because she could not understand why I looked the way I did. Her first comment was - "He touched it with no gloves - that is illegal!" Well I don't think he is supposed to ever touch the meat once it is cooked with anything but the tongs or spatula and it is perhaps legal to cook with gloves on, but the point was how he acted. I thought to myself - he touched this steak with his bare hands, perhaps I should not even eat it - I did eat it. This spoiled the dinner and if I did not know what my experiences have been with the employees here for so many, many years, it could have kept me from ever coming back to what has been the BEST buffet anywhere. I still cannot believe this happened.

Perhaps he was as overwhelmed with the tourists here this night as I was. I passed him several times after that and he continued to have the same sour scowl on his face. Perhaps this was a bad night for him - maybe there was bad news of some sought - but why am I coming up with excuses for this employee's actions. They are inexcusable - in fact grounds for dismissal. The old maxim - "the customer is always right" may not be really true but if you want to keep customers you treat them properly and no matter how much of a pain in the butt they may be, you treat them with respect.

Now what could he have done - he could have taken the steak, put it down and with a knife, cut it open and shown me what it looked like inside - not essentially this with ripping it apart with his hands and literally throwing it back across to the other employee onto the plate. He could have said - fine, take it back and select another steak. As it happens I passed the other grill later in the meal and there was someone that was asking the same thing about how done a steak was and the young man employee behind the grill picked up a steak with a fork, cut it open and showed it to her and asked if that one would be alright. I really still am in shock. I thought about this the two hundred mile drive home.

Will I go back? Absolutely! Let's just put this up to a one time thing. Hopefully the owner of Shady Maple Smorgasbord will read this and have a meeting with his employees about how to treat customers - he seems to be a reasonable man and a good businessman. He knows what is right and what not to do when it comes to his customers.  I had to share this. This was so over the top that I could not share it with all of you.

Now back to our every other week schedule and there will be the next article next week.

Friday, August 01, 2014

Yoders Restaurant, New Holland, Pennsylvania

Two years ago, Yoders Restaurant in New Holland, PA was one of our Top Buffets. It was not in 2013 because of a visit in that year in which the buffet was a bit inconsistent with past great visits.  On a recent visit to Yoders for dinner, I experienced another inconsistency at Yoders. I have to say that all of the food is still great. The overall service is great. This time it was the grill that disappointed.

We went to Yoders on a Thursday night. Some nights at Yoders seem to follow themes. This night there was really no identifiable theme but smoked brisket on the grill and pulled pork barbecue on the buffet suggested that this night may have been a barbecue theme - that is just a guess. Anyway, at the grill there is a large TV monitor at the ceiling with the grill features and at the top of the list was smoked brisket. After a good bowl of vegetable beef soup and a salad of greens and dressing and some very good Amish style prepared salads, I went up to the grill for a slice of brisket. A friendly young man behind the counter greeted me and I asked for a slice of smoked brisket. His answer was that they had just run out. This was before 7 o'clock and the buffet is open until 8.I asked if more was coming out. He hemmed some and then said no. I asked if something was coming out to replace it. He hemmed some more and then said that some barbecue pork was supposed to be coming out but he had no idea when. I never did come out. He continued behind the grill serving liver and onions which was also a grill feature that night. As there was already pulled pork barbecue out on the buffet table, this could not have been what he meant - or was it - and if it was, it was there before and certainly not a substitute for a featured grill item this early. This is not the type of thing that has happened at Yoders in the past and it was very disappointing. Not that I was craving smoked brisket -it would have been nice to have - but if a grill feature runs out, something should come out to substitute for it. I expect what happened to happen in some chain buffets - but not at Yoders.

There were other main dishes to eat out on the buffet. There were ham balls, Salisbury steak, ham, broasted chicken, broiled chicken, baked cod, and stewed beef chunks made to be served over rice. There were plenty of Yoders wonderful side dishes - and one - perhaps an entree/side dish in one - chicken corn noodle casserole. This was a thick cream sauce with large pieces of chicken meat, corn, and broad noodles all baked together in a casserole. It was tasty - more heavy on noodles than chicken. There were whole baby potatoes in browned butter - anything in browned butter is good. Browned butter is burned butter and has a sweet/salt nut like taste. There were also noodles in browned butter. Then there are hot baked oatmeal dishes located off on a side hot counter where the soups and breads are. These are good and the plain baked oatmeal is one of my wife's favorites. I actually felt that the entree selection was weak and perhaps would not have been had the brisket been at the grill. 

Of course, there are always a lot of desserts including pies, cakes, puddings, prepared desserts, and hot shoo fly cake and hot cobbler. Having had more carbs in this meal than I was planning to have, I went with the egg custard - which is a favorite dessert of mine anyway. It was good as always.

Again, all of the food was excellent. The disappointment was in the selection and what was missing.

Of course, I will go back again, and that may be soon. I will let you all know what happens then.

Yoders menu noted that the Friday night feature is now Seafood Night and no longer the Sea and Land feature that used to be the standard for Friday and Saturday nights. Friday night now costs $18.99 which is the highest price night at Yoders. The usual weeknight dinners are $13.99. Saturday's feature is now Dutch Night. That used to mean an assortment of Pennsylvania Dutch foods. Until I am there on a Saturday night to see for myself, I will not guess at what it might be.

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. There is also a Facebook page that you can "Like" and get updates on specials.This is another of Lancaster County's buffet restaurants connected to supermarket buildings and when you pull into the parking lot what you will see is a supermarket. Enter at the entrance at the far right or middle and you will enter nearest the restaurant. This is not a fancy restaurant and looks like much less when you enter than it actually is. The food is good. The buffet is good. You are not coming here for the atmosphere. You are coming for the buffet. One may order buffet and other members of your party at the table may order from the menu. Order the buffet for the best deal unless you are a light eater. Often if you order from the menu they are taking it from the buffet and putting it on your plate and serving it to you if it is an item on the buffet.  Unlimited soft drinks are at an extra charge.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Drinks Now Back to Being Included at Old Country Buffet

This article is timely and I am putting it in right now in the middle of the two week span of articles. We received an email yesterday that soft drinks were back to being included in the meal price at OCB. The claim is that We listened to you and you want this! in so many words. We went tonight to see if my suspicions were correct about this. We walked in and yes, there is a sign that drinks are now included - and then I looked at the dinner price on the board at the register and the price was increased by more than two dollars and the senior price was increased even more as it is less of a discount now that it was two weeks ago when we were there last. Dinner at OCB for the two of us - with DRINKS INCLUDED - was $30! That does not include the tip I left for the server. She is good and there is no reason to take this out on her. It does include sales tax. Price here now for dinner at OCB is $13.99! Senior price is $13.49. And if you don't want the beverage - many did not spend the two plus dollars on the soda before because it made the price too high - too bad! There is no option any longer.

Right before the soda stopped being included in the price at OCB they raised the dinner price. Then they dropped the soda out - and, of course, did not lower the price. Now, the soda is back in the price and the price went up a little more than the price of the soda that one paid a week ago. It was not surprising that on a summer Sunday evening when this OCB is usually packed with a line to the door, there was no line and the dining room was noticeably empty. For many, $13.99 is just too much to pay at OCB - especially for a family with kids (the kid's price went up too). This increase is going to hurt this OCB location even more as there are three big chain restaurants about to open in the parking lot of this shopping mall - and compared to OCB for the same money people will be going to those restaurants instead.

I recently got an email survey from OCB that was focused on OCB seeing their competition as chain restaurants such as Applebees, Olive Garden, Fridays, etc. It surprised me to see that OCB was focusing on these and not Golden Corral and other buffet chains. And then in this survey they wanted to know if OCB would be more attractive to coming to IF they offered some special pay extra additions to the buffet! I could not believe this - and even more so now with this price increase! The survey went on to say that a new promotion WILL BE coming soon that offers a "Special Premium Steak" for an extra charge - one steak - not unlimited "special premium steak"! "Would you be more likely to go to OCB for this feature?" they asked - NO! I answered. They have got to be kidding! First they are all but admitting that the current steak is inedible which in the way it is cooked and allowed to sit in a steam pan until served more than well done it is, and then in expecting us to believe that this special premium steak is going to be prepared properly - which here in the two local OCBs and most of the others that I have been to - it won't be. So is the new over priced dinner at OCB another step toward self-belief by Ovation Brands that they are just like Applebees, Olive Garden, etc.?

I also have to comment about another change at the OCB that we go to that we discovered tonight. Part of the carving buffet server has been tiled over where food serving trays once went. On this tile under heat lamps were small tin pans. One was "Steak Tips over Loaded Mashed Potatoes" and the other was "Pulled Pork BBQ over Cowboy Potatoes". You don't take what you want of what you want like the rest of the food at OCB, you take the pan. I had heard about this on discussions - negative discussions - on the OCB Facebook page. Our OCB has never served Pulled Pork BBQ before in any way, nor has it served steak tips. It seems that other OCBs in other parts of the country had served the pork - and served it like everything else. Now you get the potatoes and less than a spoonful of pork with too much spiced BBQ sauce covering it. I tried both pans. The steak was crunchy and charred, the loaded mashed potatoes had some bacon bits and shredded orange cheese sprinkled on top along with scallions- both pans were covered with scallions. I did not want the potatoes in either pan - I tasted them. They were OK but I did not want these potatoes. The potatoes in both pans had one taste and were taken away by the server to the trash. Really a terrible waste. I wanted Pork BBQ - not potatoes. Any other buffet, I would have taken the pork and decided on my own what potatoes to have - if any.  The only acceptable thing about all of this was that the items that should have been where these are now were put in half trays and scattered around the buffet, resulting in some usual foods going missing. What is even more ridiculous is that the man who is carving is responsible - at least here - for going into the kitchen (leaving the carving to no one) to make more pans which were being taken and were gone no more than ten minutes after being put out.

Ovation Brands, someone in your offices is very miss-directed in what OCB - and I am sure Ryans, Hometown, and Fire Mountain - needs and you need to get people out into the restaurants and see (unknown to those working) what goes on day to day and how your "ideas" make things worse than better. Right here - three strikes for OCB!  And no, I am not down on OCB. If you follow all of my articles you know that we go to OCB more than any other buffet - though at this change in price that may be changing. I am hoping for more coupons to start being emailed now to all to make up for this. We shall see...

And now back our every other week schedule and the next article will be this coming Friday...

Friday, July 18, 2014

Father's Day Brunch at IKEA

For several months we have been seeing signs for holiday brunches at Ikea's store restaurant. The first we saw - just a few days before its date - was not a brunch but a Valentine's Day dinner presented much as the brunches are described. Unfortunately, Valentine's Day was a large snow storm so any idea of attending - even if there were tickets available was snowed out. We then saw a sign for an Easter brunch and then for a Mother's Day brunch and and then one for Father's Day. While we were at the Midsummer Smorgasbord I asked the manager about what happens at brunch. He told me that it is served at the regular restaurant counter and is served to you. It does require an advance ticket but they were undersold and coming on Father's Day - two days later - we could buy tickets when we got there for the brunch. I asked what the hours were and he told me 9:30 am to 3 or 4 pm. He told us that with a ticket you can go back to the serving counter as many times as you liked. These meals are served in every Ikea store at the same times on the same day no matter where the Ikea store (at least in the US - I don't know about international stores) is located.

We usually don't go for brunch. This one was intriguing because many of the good regular items served at the Ikea restaurant were included on the brunch. While we don't eat breakfast, the hours of this one were set so that we would really be eating lunch. I considered if I wanted to eat such a heavy meal for lunch but we decided that we would reverse lunch and dinner - especially since the local Asian buffets and Old Country Buffet were increasing their prices to $13.99 because it is Father's Day. What the heck! We decided to go.

I am going to list the items that were on the table card describing what is included in the brunch -

Salad Bar
Seasonal Fruit Display
Mini Bagels with cream cheese
Gravad Lax
Scrambled Eggs
Swedish Pancakes
Turkey Sausage or Bacon
Swedish Meatballs with cream sauce and lingonberries
Barbecue Baby Back Ribs
Penne Pasta with Marinara Sauce
Chicken Fingers
Mashed Potatoes
Macaroni and Cheese
Grilled Cheese
Seaonal steamed vegetables
Assorted Swedish Deserts and cookies
Fountain beverage, coffee, and tea

The price for any and all of this is $12.99 OR $9.99 with the free store discount "family" card. Children pay $4.99 OR $2.49 with the discount card. Wow! I have had these barbecue baby back ribs before and they are good. I have often thought,"wouldn't it be great if the ribs were served at one of the special Smorgasbord dinners at Ikea!" They never are but they are served at these brunches.

We arrived a few minutes after Noon. The dining room was not crowded and there was a short line at the serving counter. We went up to the cashier and purchased two tickets - first, confirming all that we had heard was included. Yes, just get what you want from anything - EXCEPT - the prepared salad plates and wraps as those are not included and then come through the cashier line and show your ticket.

Everything on the list was there to have with one small exception. There were no grilled cheese sandwiches so if one had come for grilled cheese one would have been disappointed but everything else was there plus soup - chicken soup with orzo and also chunk home fried potatoes. Not everyone was having the brunch and a number of people were just ordering off the menu boards as they went along the counter - and paying for each item. Some realized as they were going along that buying a ticket would save them money and some did that when they got to the cash register. Most of the items included on the brunch were also on the menu boards as platters and with the brunch you could have the platter as it is usually served or pick and choose what you wanted the servers to put on a plate for you.

I decided to go with the breakfast items first and I asked for Swedish Pancakes and sausages. I was going to start slow and easy. I have never had Ikea's Swedish Pancakes before but they have always looked good on the signs. I was given three folded pancakes and two breakfast sausages. There was no bacon - apparently it was sausage or bacon - whichever was being served at that restaurant. These special meals happen at all Ikea stores at the same time. There was a basket out of bagels - they were far from mini - these were big bagels. I decided to pass just not to fill up on bread. As I came past a display of desserts, there were mini Ikea cinnamon rolls - these as full size pastries are sold in their cafe and are wonderful. These did not have the white icing on top.

The pancakes were great. Swedish pancakes are very thin and roll or fold. There was lingonberry jam to put on them. There was also hot maple syrup and packets of butter. The sausages could have been hotter and for turkey sausages were not bad. There is a reason that these were turkey sausages as there were people asking who could not eat pork for religious reasons. This plate was an excellent start and I was soon ready to go back for more. The cinnamon rolls despite their size were as good as the large ones that they sell in the cafe. Since the restaurant was not closed off for the brunch and people were continually coming in, we decided to each go back one at a time - where at a buffet we never hesitate unless there is some reason to be concerned - about going back together each time.

This next plate was for barbecue baby back ribs and another pancake. I could not resist the chunk home fried potatoes and the lady put a large helping of that on the plate also.  Then I asked for Macaroni and Cheese and I received two large scoops in a bowl - the usual side serving (which would normally cost $2.29). As I got to the salad bar I took two large rolled up sliced of Gravad lax and put them on a dessert plate. At the salad bar there was also cups of coleslaw, cucumber salad, a large tray of cut fresh fruit, rolls, butter, creme cheese packets, the maple syrup, and the soup. The one disadvantage of being served this way is portion size control. I would normally take much less than I was being given and you don't know how much you will get until you get it - and it was always more than less.Each time we went up to the counter, wall we had to do was go past the cashier and wave the ticket and receive a "thank you!" and a "go right through".

The baby back ribs served here - and included on the brunch - are what would be considered a half rack of ribs - six to eight meaty ribs. These ribs are cooked to fall off the bone. They are moist and tasty. For me - and likely just for me - I would prefer less barbecue sauce because it is increasing the sugar that I am eating and with this meal I was above maximum carbs (I took an increase in medication in anticipation of this.) I like these ribs when I have them just at their restaurant and I very much enjoyed them at this brunch - perhaps more so knowing that the $7.99 ribs were included in an all you care to eat of them meal for $9.99 total. These ribs are good! And these are not Swedish barbecue ribs - these are American barbecue ribs. The macaroni and cheese is Wonderful with a capital W. This is among the best mac and cheese I have had. These are close and even surpass some of the PA Dutch buffet mac and cheese served. It is thick and full of cheese. It is not runny at all. This is the way mac and cheese should be. The potatoes were good! The Gravad Lax was the same I have had at their smorgasbords. And all of this with another pancake - this time with butter spread on.

Now, my picky eater wife was doing fine. She was enjoying pancakes, sausage, soup, some of my mac and cheese, meatballs and more. She was trying to save the carbs for dessert.

Less you think two plates was it - there was a third trip back - before dessert. At about 1:00 pm the restaurant and the line at the serving counter started to get crowded. We each wound up waiting near the end of the barricades the line snakes through after 1 pm - and this continued this way until about 2:00 pm when things got empty again. As I say, there are regular diners and brunch diners mixed together in the restaurant - some are coming for lunch while shopping and some are coming to the Father's Day Brunch. The third plate was a mix of what I liked the best - more ribs, more sausage, more Gravad Lax this time with a packet of cream cheese for each roll of salmon that I took, and I still had unfinished mac and cheese waiting for me at table - and I could not resist another mini cinnamon roll. Now, we eat leisurely. We don't gulp down a plate in minutes. We eat, talk, and take our time - there will be more when and if we are ready to go and get some more. This third plate was it for me. I have to note a little more about the value of this - in this area a bagel and lox sandwich with cream cheese - usually a single to a single and a half layer of lox (here Gravad Lax - locally just called Lox) will cost you in a diner or bagel bakery/restaurant somewhere from $10 to $12. This entire brunch was $9.99!

OK - dessert. In the cold case along the serving counter there was chocolate sheet cake, banana sheet cake, and carrot sheet cake - each frosted accordingly. At the end of the salad counter there were Elderflower cupcakes, chocolate cupcakes, cookies, cinnamon rolls, and red and green whole apples. We each were attracted to the cupcakes. I took a chocolate one and she took an Elderflower one. The Elderflower tasted like a sweet flower - both the cake and the frosting. It was very good. The chocolate cupcake was also very good - a well made chocolate cupcake. At that point we quit.

It is perhaps a good thing that these brunches are only served for special holidays. And I wish they would do this in the evening for dinner but I can understand why they don't. I am looking way forward to seeing if they do this again for Valentine's Day dinner. And maybe we will try another brunch at some point for one of the holidays they do this for. These are not usually as well advertised in the store or the website as the Smorgasbord special dinners, but if it is a holiday approaching look and see if they are having one. Get your free IKEA Family discount card in the store at a computer kiosk  - it is one of the few store discount cards we have actually gotten something back with  - free coffee or tea in the restaurant or cafe, special meal prices in the restaurant, and a discount on these special all you care to eat meals!

If you don't like Ikea food - and for some reason some people get wild about this, don't go. (I don't understand why but I get more general complaints about the store with nothing to do with the food or the restaurant whenever I write about special buffet meals at Ikea. 

If you want a great and abundant meal - all you care to eat - for ten bucks go!