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.