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.

Friday, February 21, 2014


We have announced a Top Buffet and a Best Buffet for 2013 and we will start here telling you about the Top Buffet. A top buffet is a buffet that is on list of must go to when traveling through where the buffet is. This is a buffet that we think frequently about returning to. It is a buffet that when we are not traveling in the area, we miss going to.

The TOP BUFFET for 2013 is Dutch-Way Family Restaurant located in Gap, PA. There are three Dutch-Way Restaurants in Pennsylvania. Two have buffets and we have been to both. The Gap Dutch-Way is the one that is TOP. (Not to say that the other Dutch-Way locations are not good - the other buffet location is just not as good as Gap.)

Some who visit this area - Lancaster County - Home of the Pennsylvania Dutch, a popular tourist region, may ask why they have not heard about this restaurant other than here.This restaurant is not on one of the more popularly traveled tourist routes. This restaurant is off the beaten path and most will drive right by and not even realize that there is a restaurant there at all. What you see is a supermarket from this road not often traveled by tourists. While it is off the main roads, it is just less than 3 miles from Route 30 - one of the major routes crossing Lancaster County. 

Dutch-Way Family Restaurant is one of several buffet restaurants located within or adjacent to a supermarket. I have spoken about this many times in the past and this seems to be something that happens in Pennsylvania. Dutch-Way Family Restaurant in Gap, PA shares a building with Durch-Way Farm Market, a large supermarket that is part of the Dutch-Way chain. There is a long hallway and doors separating the supermarket from the restaurant's lobby. Each have their own entrances, as well.  Inside either the restaurant or the market, one is not aware of the other. The restaurant features both buffet and menu dining.

You can enter from the market hall or the restaurant's own entrance doors, and you come into a lobby area with restrooms and another set of large glass and wood doors that go into another lobby just for the restaurant. There is a host there to greet you and take you to your table. The dining room is very nicely decorated. It holds it own with any nice restaurant in decor and styling. There are tables and booths, two dining rooms (in addition to private dining rooms for parties) and a large buffet area with an extensive grill. 

We have never had a disappointing meal at Dutch-Way, Gap. We have not eaten anything there that was not good. The food here is a combination of local Pennsylvania Dutch/Amish country dishes and continental dishes. There are theme features that change with the day of the week. Friday and Saturdays focus on carvings - Ham and Prime Rib Roast. Thursday is Seafood Night with an extensive array of fish and seafood including crab legs. There is a build your own burger plus hot wings night. There is a western night. There is an Italian night. You will also find the PA Dutch and other dishes regardless of the theme.

The price is extremely reasonable - $11.99 for an adult buffet with an additional $1.99 for unlimited refill soft drinks. There is also a discount for seniors over 60. These prices are better than many buffets including chain buffets and the food that you are being served is quality. This is all made from scratch foods. This buffet more than meets our criteria of value and quality for a Top Buffet.

The foods do vary. The PA Dutch dishes - entrees like Chicken Bot Boi, Pork and Sauerkraut, Dutch Loaf are excellent, but you may not find these every night. The foods are rotated and we have found some dishes only once - though we are not there every night and cannot say that those dishes were not served again on a night that we were not there. One of the fun things about Dutch-Way is to be surprised by new dishes and to find favorites,

There is an extensive salad bar that one could make a meal of all on its own. Prepared salads, meats to top salads, a variety of lettuce varieties, and toppings and dressings fill a two sided server holding the salad bar. There is a soup bar with four soups. There is a dessert bar that extends from a selection of slices of cakes and pies, to soft serve ice cream (from Turkey Hill - a local dairy and popular commercial ice cream manufacturer), and a cold server with a variety of prepared desserts, pudding, fruits, etc. Then on the hot server with some of the entrees there are hot desserts. There is a bread station with a large variety of "gourmet" breads - such as fruit breads, pumpkin bread, rolls, muffins, and sometimes donuts. The grill changes with the theme night. There will be a chef behind the grill ready to carve for you on nights with carvings or cook for you on nights with cook to order foods on the grill. On build a burger night you choose the toppings for the burger that are cooked there on the grill with your hamburger. Add cheese of your choice and you are given a large burger piled high with toppings on a bun. This is a lot more than I can handle and eat everything else that I want on the buffet - but I have seen others do just that. I don't miss out- I have the burger built this way and just leave off the bun. (It is still a lot of food.)

As I write this I am wishing that I could get to Pennsylvania again soon! My mouth is watering for a Dutch-Way meal. I enjoy eating at a lot of buffets - but this one has stood out for us since the first time we went there a few years ago.

This is the buffet not to miss in Lancaster, PA. There will be two must go to's - as we have chosen for 2013 when in Lancaster County. This is one. We have come to the area for several days and gone back for dinner at Dutch-Way, Gap more than once on that trip. Do not miss it! Remember that it is not open on Sundays and a number of national holidays. There is a breakfast buffet Monday to Saturday, as well as a lunch and dinner buffet. When you go tell them that you read all about them on this site - Art of the Buffet!

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, February 14, 2014

LOBSTER At Golden Corral!

I have never seen lobster offered at a chain buffet. Usually only Asian buffets will offer lobster and then at only higher priced buffets. Golden Corral has announced that for a limited time, they will serve lobster. This seems to be a first for a buffet chain!

Now, don't go running to Golden Corral expecting all the lobster that you can eat. They will be serving ONE lobster tail to you at your table and it will cost $3.99 per lobster tail. This is at dinner only after 4pm (Sundays after 11 am). You must order the dinner buffet to be able to order the lobster tail. The lobster is, as described, a "premium, steamed lobster tail" served with melted butter on the side. From the photo that accompanies the offer, the lobster tail looks substantially large - at least it fills the plate end to end - though we don't know how large a plate was used in the photo. The photo shows the lobster meat coming up from a split tail middle. This is usually indicative of a broiled lobster tail but they are stating that you are being served a steamed lobster tail and closely looking at the photo it does look steamed.

If you would like more than one lobster tail, you will have to pay $3.99 more for each one that you order.Considering the price for lobster tails at most restaurants, including the Asian buffets that charge extra and give you one lobster similar to this offer generally charge $5 to $10 extra for the lobster with their buffets, $3.99 is not a bad price if the lobster tail served is actually as pictured. Golden Corral has not said so, but they often bring back things like this if they get good acceptance from their customers and they see an increase in business as a result.

So, if you like lobster - and I know that many of our readers do - here is an opportunity to get affordable lobster along with a good buffet. Get yourself some steak from the grill and make a Surf and Turf platter!

Because this is a limited time offer, I have published this article ahead of others that were announced. It is unlikely that I will be able to get to Golden Corral before this offer has ended, so if any of you go and have the lobster tail at Golden Corral, please leave a comment here and let us all know how it is. 

Friday, February 07, 2014


This is the latest that we have ever taken to naming the Best Buffet for the year. This year was difficult. I go to a lot of really good buffets. A number of those stand out and just a few are ones that I think often about going to. All of those are not local and when I can get to them they are must go tos - even at the expense of trying something new. I went to a number of buffets in 2013. Some were first time for me and others were ones that I have been to before.

When we pick a Best Buffet - and last year we picked several and named them all Top Buffets for 2012, we start with certain criteria. They must give excellent value. They must serve quality food. The food must be prepared properly. The restaurant must be managed properly. The service must be good. And all of this must be consistent - meal to meal, visit to visit.Then it must be a buffet that comes to mind to go back to whenever possible.

When the process gets narrowed down to a few choices, they get ordered in priority of the criteria - and what starts to be examined is how consistent were they. A few favorites every so often disappoint. Some never disappoint. In the year 2013, there were two that did not disappoint and they are the choices for this year. This year there is a Best Buffet and a Top Buffet. Best and Top are not the same thing and in our decision for this year neither one of the other is considered higher. In other words, Top Buffet is not Number Two or the runner up.

Let me explain. There can be a best - the restaurant that pleases every time. There can also be a top - the restaurant that is at the top of the list to go to. It has appeal, it pleases, but it is not share in characteristics that can be compared to the other - things that it may not be able to compete against but that should not be held against it. If this is confusing, you now know why it has taken this long for this decision to be made this year.

So without further ado, the Best Buffet for 2013 is Shady Maple Smorgasbord in East Earle, Pennsylvania. The Top Buffet of 2013 is Dutch-Way Family Restaurant in Gap, PA. I am sure it is no surprise to any of our readers who have been to Shady Maple that it is again named as Best Buffet. It has been for as long as this site has been giving this award. Dutch-Way in Gap was one of our Top Buffets in 2012. It really is the buffet at the top of the list to go to when possible.

There will be articles about both of these buffets coming in the next weeks. We will be sending a Best Buffet certificate to Shady Maple. They have consistently from the start honored our award by displaying it in a glass case in their lobby, and we hope that they will place the new certificate there as well. If you go there please go and see it. It has been displayed in the case next to the last cash register on the left in the glass case on the column. When you see it tell them that you have read about them on this site. If you agree that it is the best, let them know.  They appreciate the recognition.

Congratulations to Shady Maple Smorgasbord and to Dutch-Way Family Restaurant, Gap!