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.

No comments: