Friday, February 28, 2014


We have yet to find any buffet restaurant in the US that tops Shady Maple Smorgasbord. I don't think that anyone can find another buffet that does when it comes to quality of food, quantity of offerings, value, consistency, size of the restaurant, and price. It is just that good and try as we can to find another buffet that even comes close, year after year, we always come back to Shady Maple as truly the best buffet.

It is not just this site that feels this way. I have said this before, people from all over know Shady Maple and will tell you how good it is. Not just people from Pennsylvania but I have been far, far away from Pennsylvania and have overheard people talking about Shady Maple and saying how wonderful it is. I have recommended many to go to dine at Shady Maple - not just on this site but face to face. Someone will say that they will be in Lancaster County and I will say then you must go to Shady Maple Smorgasbord and tell them where it is. The next time that I see these people they will rave about Shady Maple and thank me for sending them there! This happens over and over again. While it is common now for restaurants to have a Facebook page, the Shady Maple Facebook page is always busy and full of comments on how good the food is and how so many wish they could be there when a new feature is announced or a special is talked about.

So what makes this buffet so good and our choice for Best Buffet for 2013? When you walk into Shady Maple which is located surrounded in just about all sides by rolling farmland on the edge of what is called the Pennsylvania Dutch Country - populated by Amish and Mennonites who have settled this area for almost three hundred years - you see a huge and lavish lobby. This is not what you expect in an area where the people are known as the "Plain People". Shady Maple is far from plain. What you see you might expect in a big hotel in a big city or at a lavish casino. This is how the owner of Shady Maple - the same owner since it started - decided to build and decorate his buffet building when it moved from another corner of the property years ago. The old building is still there housing a furniture store. The original was much simpler in design and decoration and smaller. The old Shady Maple is more of what you might expect to find, but the new building was made grand and fitting what this famous restaurant should be to showcase its fine cooking and wonderful meals. The chandeliers follow into the dining rooms - there are many dining rooms. Some are private rooms that are opened to everyone when the crowds get too large for just the other immense dining rooms - and this is a regular occurrence in the summer months - and this happens then not just on Saturday nights. There is often a wait to get in - no matter what the season or the night of the week. (Except Sunday when Shady Maple is closed all day.) Along one entire side of the huge restaurant is a buffet area that goes the full length and curves around to add more room for desserts and beverages. (I have been in a restaurant that claims to be the largest restaurant in the world. I am certain that Shady Maple is larger.) But it is not just size that makes this buffet what it is. The food is as grand in quantity as the restaurant is large.

The food at Shady Maple varies from night to night. There are featured foods on different nights of the week, but other than the features you never know what you might find on the buffet. Yes, there are some things that you can just about to expect to always find, but there is so much here that just what changes every night is more in selection than other buffets have as all of their selections. There are four grills - one of which now has a chargrill in addition to a grill top. There are carvings, there are cooked to order items, and there are features filling these grills - every night (and day as they are open for lunch and breakfast too). Each grill is not cooking just one food but several different foods. When you walk to the buffet servers you approach from the middle of the length of the buffet serving area. The buffet servers go in both directions. Now, at first glance it will look like one side is a duplication of the other, and for some items that is true, but both sides have many different foods offered to you to select from than the other and this includes the salad bar, the soups, and the dessert area.

The foods served are not just Pennsylvania Dutch but many are local Pennsylvania Dutch favorites. But you will also find continental dishes, Italian dishes, Oriental stir-fry on one of the grills on some nights, and local favorites that are not PA Dutch. Smorgy Cheesesteaks are made to order at one of the grills. These are wonderful! The country sausage - made at the restaurant - and cooked on one of the grills is a favorite of mine (and many others). The steaks that are featured on Monday nights but show up on other nights are great! On Prime Rib Wednesday at dinner they are not just carving one Prime Rib - cooked just one way - but several Prime Ribs cooked to please those who enjoy rare up to well done. What is put on your plate is in size what you would expect to get in a menu restaurant when you order Prime Rib. You begin to wonder how you are going to fit everything else that you cannot resist into your stomach!

There is so much of everything. There are a number of soups to choose from and some are soups that I have only seen and had at Shady Maple. Wonderful seasonal soups along with more common soups but there just is not anything common here as basic gets a little extra which makes it only better.

I know our readers like to hear about desserts. Shady Maple has the widest assortment of dessert choices now than any other buffet that I have been to that is still in business. There are slices of layer cakes, all types of pies, Shoofly pie is always available as are apple dumplings and so much more! There is fruit, puddings, prepared desserts, sugarfree desserts, soft serve ice cream, sundae toppings, cookies, hot desserts... There are just too many to name. If you have a sweet tooth then moderate how much you take to eat during the meal because you will have so much dessert to choose from that you will not be able to resist. It is very easy to stuff yourself here - even if you don't take any dessert! This is the buffet that our slogan and sub-title was made for  - "All you can eat is not a challenge!"  It is very easy to forget that here. (Don't forget it, however, and you will enjoy your meal here so much more!)

The off season in this area are the months of January, February, and March and during those months, Shady Maple features very special weekend (Friday and Saturday night) features. Our article about the 2014 "off season specials" is here.

Now, with all of this food there must be a real big price for the meal, right? Well, no. The price is in line with most of the other buffets in this area and when you see the price, it includes the sales tax, an included gratuity (tip), and all meals include unlimited beverages which have a selection that also seems unlimited. The price of the meal varies by the night and the features with Tuesday's Seafood Night being the highest priced of the six nights that they are serving. The seafood on that night is plentiful - just like everything else at Shady Maple. Thursday nights are the lowest priced nights for dinner. At one time, Thursday was called "Family Value Night".  The other nights vary in between. I am not going to give specific prices because in today's economy prices may change - though Shady Maple's prices have held where they are for some time now.

This is the one and only Shady Maple Smorgasbord. There is none better. This is the BEST! And once again is our BEST BUFFET OF THE YEAR!

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.

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