Friday, April 18, 2014

Disappointing Dinner at Foxwoods Casino's Festival Buffet, CT

As I wrote a week ago, we delayed our day trip to Connecticutt a day because of the weather to go to dinner at the Festival Buffet at Foxwoods Casino. This has been one of my favorite buffets and it was given a Top Buffet award for 2012. I have always liked this buffet best on its extended menu night on Fridays and Saturdays and while the weeknight buffet has been good, it has always been better on the weekend.

Well we drove north to Connecticut, getting stuck in traffic on the Connecticut Turnpike as usual, made a stop during the afternoon at Cabellas Outdoors store - a destination store, and then drove east to Foxwoods for dinner. We don't gamble, but we do go to casinos for the buffets.  We arrived for dinner at about 7:00 and there was a long twisting line of people waiting to get into the buffet. We decided to walk around for a half hour and when we returned the line was longer. We got on the line and waited about twenty five minutes to get up to the register to pay for dinner and go in. Once you pay you get on another line to be seated. We were offered a table in the "patio" area which is a dining area outside the buffet room that is supposed to be like sidewalk cafe seating in the space where people are walking to go through the casino building to the various casino rooms, restaurants, shops, etc. There is a bar across from this with music. The music is loud and outside the buffet room smoking is permitted. We did not want to eat with cigarette smoke all around so we waited for a table in the buffet dining room. It was not a long wait.

We were seated and the hostess looked at the table for two that she was seating us at and told us that she had to get a cloth to clean the table. She said it first before I did. She came back a few minutes later while we stood next to the table and cleaned it. As we sat down she told us to go right up to the buffet as it would be some time before the waiter would get to our table. This was a concern right off though it did not prove to be a problem as dinner progressed.

This buffet is divided into serving counters with different theme foods - seafood, international, Italian, Chinese, and BBQ. In the center there is a soup and salad island. I always look around the counters before going to the soup section because there are often other soups at the theme counters. The only soup like that on this night was wonton soup, so I headed over to the soup bar. I chose what turned out to be the best thing that I had at this meal - sausage and broccoli rabe soup. My wife took chicken rice soup. There were two other soups - both cream soups - one was New England clam chowder and the other was corn chowder.  The sausage soup was excellent. It was crumbled sausage meat in a broth with broccoli rabe all cooked down together. It had a pleasant taste and was not greasy at all. My wife's chicken rice soup was terrible. It was very dark yellow in color - and she had commented about that to me when she took it.  It tastes as if someone took a box of salt and emptied it into the bowl. It really was inedible - and she did not eat it - could not eat it.

Soup was followed by salad and they have a very nice and extensive salad bar. They have one section to create Cesar salad and another section to create a tossed salad with various choices in greens, many toppings and dressings. Also at the salad bar were salad/meat wraps as well as pickles and marinated olives - both green and black.

We set out then to the buffet counters. I went first to the BBQ counter. There I found pork barbecue, St. Louis ribs, and steak. They also had tacos, taco chopped meat, and toppings. I took some pork barbecue, two St. Louis ribs, and a piece of steak. The steak is being cooked on a flame grill behind the counter but not to order. It was strip steak and small pieces were out on a warming tray to take. There was no way to tell how it was cooked and, as usual, it was all well done. The steak was tough - tough enough not to want to go to the trouble of trying to chew it. The pork barbecue was good though on the sweet side. The St Louis ribs were so over done that they were difficult to eat and for the most part had little meat to try to get off to eat. The steak is part of the weekend appeal - the steak was not good. The St. Louis ribs were consistently burnt, small ribs.

I went over to the Italian counter next and there was a sign that said sausage and peppers but in their place were meatballs. The meatballs here have been and were good. There was a chicken dish served on individual small plates. Each had a piece of broiled chicken cutlet on it with tomato sauce, and overabundance of garlic cloves, and pieces of eggplant hidden under the mozzarella cheese and tomato sauce on top. The little plates of chicken were sitting on a hot plate and while the sides when picking them up with your fingers off of that hotplate were not very hot, the bottom of each plate was and I remembered how hot a similar chicken served in a dish here last year was.  I came close to burning my fingers until I got that small plate onto the dinner plate I had in my other hand. The chicken was dry underneath what was on top and not very tasty.

The main attraction on the weekend buffet and what is the reason for the increased price is the snow crab legs. There is a sign outside the buffet that says add a portion of crab legs to your buffet - $10. On the weekend buffet all you care to eat snow crab legs are included. On this night the crab legs on the buffet were not snow crab legs. At best I can identify the crab as dungeonese crab, as that is the closest crab that looks like the half steamed crabs that were being served. I took one of the halves to try. I had seen people with nut crackers and looked around for them at the counter with the crab. There were none. Asking the man behind the counter for some came back with an answer sending us to the salad bar for crackers - the eating kind. There was no nut cracker to be had and our waiter never came around to ask him for one. I attempted to break this rock hard crab shell with my fingers. I was only able to obtain some of the meat in the claw this way. It tasted bitter and that was the end of my finding a way to break open the crab shells - I did not like the taste of what was inside. So this was another disappointment of the night. There has been in the past a long line to get to the snow crab legs. On this night there was no line.

I tried little bits of things looking for one thing that I would settle on and make the meal. There was the usual Prime Rib being carved and a ham. I always take the Prime Rib, get a slice that fills the plate, and then regret later that it was far too much to have with the rest of the buffet - so I did not go for any on this night. I should have. There was a meat dish called "Hunters Stew" that was very tasty but I am uncertain what the dense cubes of meat in the stew were. Most likely they were pork. The dense meat did not allow the stew sauce to soak through so while the stew liquid, potatoes, carrots, etc. were very tasty, the meat was bland.  I went to the seafood counter and took some fried clam strips and a piece of batter fried fish. The fried clams were good - as they have been. The fish was very greasy and I wound up pulling the coating off of it and just eating the fish inside. Some side dishes were duplicated from one counter to another.

There is a large assortment of desserts and as it was my birthday celebration buffet I took a piece of cheesecake. The cheesecake was swirled with chocolate syrup. It was good but far to sweet for my palate that is no longer used to eating very sweet things.

This was not the meal I had anticipated - and I have been here to dine many times before. I felt very let down by this meal as my "birthday" buffet diner. I regretted not driving the additional distance to Shady Maple in Pennsylvania instead for the day where the meal would have been better and free for my birthday. 

Looking back at my "birthday dinner" here in 2013 I had much the same disappointing experience though then for other reasons. Perhaps I should have read back before we went, but sometimes a restaurant - any restaurant has a bad night so I tend not to rule out going back unless that happens more than once. This was that more than once.  More than likely we will not be coming back for my next birthday dinner.

I can't say that I recommend this buffet any longer. If you are at Foxwoods it is the best deal as far as dinner is concerned even with the over $20 price. It was better in the past. Maybe it will get better again.

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

1 comment:

Roy said...

I was inspired to post this comment because I celebrated my last birthday at a buffet.

THANK YOU for this blog. Your posts never fail to entertain, even as I work my way through "old" posts in the archives. You've also helped change my attitude toward the buffet. You posts teach (as I said) entertainingly, but they *do* teach. It really is not a challenge---but it took more than hearing the words and reading the rules to understand that. What it took was reading your posts, and---consciously or unconsciously---noting how you and your wife are always respectful at the buffet, always fair in your judgments thereof, uninfluenced by the "challenge" to get your "money's worth". I grew up in a past where it *WAS* always necessary to get one's money's worth, to the point where I felt I was letting my family down if I e.g. ordered an expensive dish at a restaurant, or bought something in a grocery store I wanted but wasn't on sale, or failed to fast/starve myself before going to a buffet. It was NOT a good relationship with food, and (to reiterate) you and your blog and your real-world actions at the buffet are helping me. It's hard to describe more specifically than that, but if I could, I would.

So, again, thank you. Keep up the good work.

PS: It just so happened that I was in Hungary on my birthday last year. If you're ever in Budapest for some reason, I highly recommend checking out the Rakoczi Grillhaz. The pork knuckle is not to be missed!