Friday, May 30, 2014


Recently we have been encountering people in buffets who seem to have never been to a buffet before. It is entirely possible that they haven't. They seem so lost and confused. We hear them asking each other what to do and neither seems to have any idea. I started thinking then about this article, an article on how to buffet. If you are new to buffet dining then this is for you. If you have been around buffets for years and years, read anyway for fun.

Let's start at the beginning - walking through the door. There are two basic types of buffets. One type is where you are seated, have your meal, and at the end are given a check, just like in a menu restaurant. You then take the check up to the cash register - or your server will bring your check with a cash "tray" under it or in a cash folder and you put your money on the tray, the server takes it up to the register for you and returns with your change or charge receipt. The other type is where you will walk into a cashier's desk where you are going to pay before going in and eating. You may or may not, depending on the buffet, be asked to select your beverage at this time also.

What is included in the price of a buffet varies by the individual buffet or the buffet chain. At some the price is just for the food and drinks are a separate charge. At most, the soft drinks are unlimited meaning you can have all that you care to drink. At others though, you may be paying per drink. At some buffets the tip is included in the price. At other buffets the tip is not included and it is up to you to leave a tip of an amount that you decide. Yes, you are expected to leave a tip at a buffet even though your are primarily serving yourself. The server that is taking care of your table is often actually working harder than some servers in menu restaurants. He or she will be at your table to take away your finished plates (promptly, hopefully) and at many buffets bring you your drinks and refill your drinks when you desire. Tip accordingly based on the level of service you are receiving, but tip.

Now you have either been seated after having paid or just seated at your table. Your server will usually come up to your table shortly and introduce him/herself. Some will ask if you have ever dined at this buffet before and if not, will explain where everything is. If your drinks will be brought to our by the server - and the buffet did not ask you to name the drink you will be having - the server will ask what you wish to drink (seeing on your receipt which will be placed on your table that you have paid for drinks - if drinks are not included) or if this is a pay when you leave buffet will ask you if you would like to have a drink which will be placed on your bill when you are finished with your meal. Some get to their table and are in such a hurry that they don't sit down but go right to the buffet server. It is better - in my opinion - to sit down, let the server see that you are there, and come over to go through what you just read above. A buffet is no a fast food restaurant unless you make it one. Sit down, get settled, meet your server, and then go up to the buffet.

OK! Now you go up to the buffet to start your meal. No one has to invite you to do this. You are on your own. In fact, during the course of your meal you can go up as many times as you like to take what you like. Remember that this is a meal and not a marathon or a food eating contest. Take your time to enjoy your food and the company that you are with. So, yes, now you go up. I am amazed at how many times I have heard people get to their table and ask each other, "Do we just go up?" Yes, you just go up. No one is going to bring your food to you. You are going to select your entire meal and bring it back to your table yourself (including drinks if this is a self-serve drink buffet such as Old Country Buffets and their affiliates do).

So now you are up at the buffet servers. One suggestion that I have is to walk around the entire buffet serving section and look at everything that there is to eat BEFORE you take anything. Discover what they have. Find out for yourself where things are. In this way you will not miss anything and you will not have any regrets when you have eaten yourself full that you missed your favorite whatever that you did not know was there - until it was too late. Once have have seen it all it is time to start taking what you would like to start with. I say "start with" because you do not have to take everything that you want for the entire meal at one time. This is NOT a cafeteria. Again, you may go back as many times are you wish. Take a plate or a bowl and make a plate of food for yourself. Each person in your party will do the same. If you have children under 12, make their plate for them - asking them what they would like - guiding them is this is what you do.

If you went to a menu restaurant meals are served in courses. A meal at a buffet should be no different. If you start other meals with soup first, take soup. If you start meals with salad first, take salad. If you never eat soup or salad then go right to the entrees and side dishes. If you like it all, take soup, then salad (or the two reversed) and then take your entree and sides, and finally dessert. All with separate plates.

As you go around the buffet, understand again that this is not a cafeteria. There are two styles of buffet. One is called a scatter buffet meaning buffet serving tables are scattered around the area. The other is considered a counter buffet with a long counter to go along and take what you like from the many trays along the counter. Some buffets are a combination of the two. Even at a counter buffet, it is acceptable and not rude to walk up to any point in the counter and take what you would like to take without getting on the end of a line at the start of the counter and walking all around the counter until you get to the one thing that you are up there for. People see a counter and decide it means there is a line - and in some buffets form a ridiculous line. Sometimes you will encounter this and no matter what, you get sucked into this line. There was a commercial several years back for a popular pizza buffet chain in which they made fun of this and made it clear that you can walk up to any point of the counter and take what you want - there is no line! It is not rude. It is not impolite.

Please don't fill the plate piled high with one thing on top of the other. There is no reason for that. Make a normal plate. It will be there for you take on the next plate. I never understand how anyone can taste anything sitting under a pile of four, five, more other foods mounded up like a pet bowl. There is no need to pile layer over layer of different foods one on top of each other and then douse the whole thing with gravy. You are not making a casserole, you are serving yourself a plate of food. Each item should be visible and recognizable when the plate is ready to take back to the table. You might consider buffet eating as I do - take a very small portion of a variety of things that appeal to you. And I mean small portions. This gives you an opportunity to taste a lot and if you desire go back for more of what you liked best or for another sampler plate.

So you have taken your first plate and have gone back to your table. I always recommend waiting for the rest of your dining party to return before you start eating. This is a meal to be eaten together. You can not be so hungry that you must devour your plate before your spouse, kids, or whoever is with you comes back to the table. I have seen this many times. In my opinion it is rude and lacking of manners. When you have finished your first plate, you may go back up for more of what you had or whatever else you want. I know that some of my readers disagree with what I am about to say, but I feel that it is only polite to wait for your spouse and, usually, your kids to be ready before you get up from the table to go back for more. I understand that this is not practical when with a large group, and certainly in those situations, go up, perhaps as a couple, without waiting for the rest. When you go back up to the buffet, LEAVE your soiled, finished plate on your table. The server will come to pick it up. NEVER take a used plate back to the buffet tables to be used again!

You are now back at the buffet tables to take more food. Continue your courses - salad after soup, if that is your preference, soup after salad, if that is your preference, or entrees and side dishes. This can be the first of many return trips - if you desire. Again, don't load your plate. Take normal portions of a selection that just fills the surface of the plate or less. YOU CAN GO BACK! So many don't seem to believe that! Every time that you go back, take a clean plate!

There is a dessert section to keep in mind while you are eating. Again, a buffet is all you CARE to eat, and not all that you CAN eat. The idea is not to feel like you need to puke when you leave the buffet because you stuffed yourself so full that you can barely move. Save room for dessert. I know that it is hard sometimes walking away from somethings that you really wish you had taken sooner but it is not the end of the world if you don't get it - and if you can come back to the buffet another time you can always get it then. Again, a reason to walk around at the beginning and see what there is - you will see that favorite then and know to take it before you have eaten too much. Save room for dessert. If you are a dessert fanatic save a lot of room for dessert. And if you are really a dessert fanatic there is nothing saying that you can't just eat a meal of desserts and nothing else.

So now we have gotten you through the entire meal. You still are able to walk and not feel like you never want to look at another bite of food again. If you have paid in advance, put a tip on the table and you then leave the restaurant. There is nothing more necessary - unless you are making a stop at the restroom on the way out. And if you have a long drive home, that is advisable! If this is a pay when you leave buffet your server should be aware that you had just finished with dessert and will bring the check over to you. It may be necessary to beckon to an inattentive or very busy server to indicate that you are ready for your check. Do not be alarmed if when you start dessert your server brings you the check and puts it on your table. This is USUALLY not a way to tell you that you have had enough and you should leave. It is often just a way to give you an opportunity to have the check without waiting when you are through. (I hesitate to say that there are some buffets where the check shows up mid-meal and this is often taken as a way of saying, you had enough already. Sometimes this is true and sometimes this is not. We have had this happen and the server very politely will say that they are bringing the check because their shift is ending or they are going on a break but please eat as much as you care to and stay as long as you like. We have had it happen the other way too - and I get just as annoyed as you would - and when it happens at a particular buffet that I have been to I will let you know about it in my review!) Pay your check, leave your tip - if you are paying by credit card you can leave a tip on the card when you pay at the end. If you pay at the beginning you are going to need cash in your pocket to leave a tip. Do not hesitate to go up to the cashier to break a bill for smaller bills for a tip. They know that this is why you are asking and would rather that you get the bills to give to the server rather than walk out without leaving a tip.

There you have "How To Buffet"! It does not end there and next week we will post a return of our "Rules of the Buffet". What you have just read are the basics. What you will read in the Rules are the finer points and, sadly to say that they must be stated, the manners of buffet dining.

If you have any questions, leave a comment or send me an email using the contact link at the side of this page. Happy buffeting!

Friday, May 23, 2014

Island Buffet. Baldwin, NY

Last week I wrote about a new Asian buffet that opened in Baldwin and I mentioned that I had set out for another buffet thinking that it was the buffet that I wrote the article about. I said in that article that I would go to that other buffet at some point and we did.

This may be one of my strangest articles because we did go to this buffet and we walked out. Here is why.

We went on a Friday night and arrived at about 7:40 pm which for some buffets is late but this buffet is open to 11:00 pm. The parking lot behind the buffet was not very crowded. We walked into the restaurant through the parking lot entrance in the rear of the restaurant. We walked down a long hallway to the front of the restaurant. This hall was clearly recently redecorated which all of the restaurant was when it opened after the long closure of a previous Chinese buffet that had been in this location some time back. There was an odd odor in the hall - I really don't know what but it was not a food smell and while not overwhelming, it was not pleasant. Once out of the hallway you are in the front of the restaurant and walk right up to the host's station from where you will be seated. Unlike the buffet I wrote about last week, you do not pay here when you enter.

There was a young woman at the desk - I really hesitate to call her a woman as she could not have been more than 18 - perhaps younger. She was not Asian. I looked around for a sign with the prices for the buffet and there was none. I was not taking any chances and I politely asked what the dinner price is. She hesitated and and "ummed", and eventually said very uncertainly - "for tonight it is $10.99". There was a great deal of noise in the restaurant - mostly very loud music that was o loud I could barely hear what she was saying. Anyway, that price was what I had expected and I said fine. I told her that there were two of us - as there were two of us standing there - and I expected her to walk us to a table. But she just stood there behind the desk and started mumbling something about it being crowded and pointed at an area behind us in the front open window with several empty tables and saying something about sitting there - again, the noise and music was so loud I was not sure if she was telling us to sit there or to wait there until she had a table in the dining room was appeared to be off somewhere to the side of what looked like a large buffet room - which I noted was absent of people walking around getting food - which I expected being this young woman was telling us how crowded they were. Because I could not really hear what she was saying, I asked her what she was trying to tell us. She then said, "Do you want to sit over there?" and pointed to the window. (The window is wide open to a very busy avenue with people walking on the sidewalk and sitting in the window one is fully in view of all that pass by. I said, "No, we don't want to sit in front of the window." Now she mumbled some more and said something about a small table against the back wall in the dining room." I had to be sure of what she said and I repeated that to her. She mumbled some more and said something about this small table in the corner against a wall - somewhere. And she just looked at us with a dazed look. I started to feel that if this meal is starting out this way, perhaps it would be better to avoid all together. I have never really encountered anything like this before. There seemed to be an Asian gentleman behind a cashier's desk about ten feet from where this was all taking place and he just ignored what was happening with this young woman (I so much want to say "this kid" because she acted and looked so much more as a kid than a young woman - yet this was not someone a restaurant should have as the first person meeting and seating their guests.) She was not saying anything that she should have been saying such as "If you don't mind waiting a few minutes, a table should clear shortly." She was not saying anything - and she spoke perfect English - well as perfect as today's "kids" speak. I just felt that we should go - and I looked at her, and politely told her to forget it and that we were leaving. She did not seemed surprised. She did not offer to look for a table in the dining room or ask us to stay for her to do so. She just stood there and we turned and walked back to the long hall with the odd smell and left.

This is not what a restaurant should be doing when big competition has opened practically across the street just weeks ago. We got in the car and went back to the Flaming grill Buffet that I wrote about last week, which by the way was truly crowded and bustling and yet we were seated in the main dining room with no wait. We had another excellent dinner and had no regrets leaving the Island Buffet.

Will the same happen to you if you go to Island Buffet in Baldwin, New York? Frankly, I don't know. I can't figure what was going on. If the restaurant was so crowded why was there no one - and I mean no one - at the buffet tables? If there was a wait for a table in the dining room, why not just say so and ask if we minded waiting? (I probably would have waited.) It was just bizarre. Will I go back again after this? Highly unlikely. Do I suggest that you go to the Island Buffet? Simply - no.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Flaming Grill and Supreme Buffet, Baldwin, New York

This is a new buffet that we found in a way by happy accident. One of our regular readers emailed to let me know of the reopening of an Asian buffet in Baldwin, New York. The buffet that he told me about was renamed Island Buffet. I put that tip in the back of my head. A short time later in the local newspaper there were coupons for the grand opening of a new Asian buffet in Baldwin, NY. I just assumed that this was the buffet that our reader had told me about and we clipped the coupon and decided that we would give it a try when we had the opportunity. That opportunity came and with coupon in hand we went out on a Friday evening for dinner at the new buffet. We arrived at the location of the buffet that we knew and it seemed that the address on the restaurant that we passed quickly driving down a busy road to get to the parking lot on the next street that was behind the restaurant was wrong. We parked and walked around to the front and the address did not match the coupon that we had. The name of the restaurant that we could now clearly see did not match either. We were standing in front of Island Buffet. The ad and coupons were for Flaming Grill Buffet. At the time I did not remember the name that our reader had told me and we decided that this unknown buffet might be fine, we had no idea about the price and we set out looking for the address on the ad for Flaming Grill Buffet.  As it turned out we had passed that about two streets down in a strip shopping center.

When we arrived at the parking lot for Flaming Grill Buffet there were large banners announcing its grand opening. We walked up to the restaurant and the windows in the front were blacked out. We could not see inside. There were people coming out and we went in. Inside was far more impressive than the plain storefront appearance of the outside. There was a very large and nicely decorated restaurant behind those blacked out windows. There was a short line to get in. Like the chain buffets you pay as you enter this buffet. The price is $10.99. There are two children's prices according to age. The lunch buffet is $7.99. Soft drinks (Pepsi products) with unlimited refills are $1.69. We had a coupon for $9.49 each. We paid at one of the two cash registers. When you pay you are asked what drink you are having and that is put down on your receipt. You then walk a few feet down to the host who you show your receipt to and you are seated. Everyone was extremely pleasant.

The buffet was crowded and at this excellent price it is no wonder. I am always skeptical in this area if a price seems too low, but this buffet proved to be both good in value and food. There is a dining room along the right side of the building with a view of the buffet and a narrower dining room on the left side of the building walled off from the buffet. There is also a party room in the rear. We were asked if we preferred a table or a booth and I asked for a table. We were escorted to the dining room on the right side. As we entered the dining room and were shown to our table I was uncertain. The room was on the dark side - though very nicely decorated but not as bright as the larger dining room on the other side. It looked as if the kitchen was located in the middle of this dining room but as it turned out it was just a large service area for drinks and a place for the servers to bring the used dishes. As I saw later on the rear side of that service area was another section of this same dining room. We went right up to the buffet to get started.

The buffet servers are numerous. There are eight large buffet servers all together in addition to a hibachi grill area and a large rectangle buffet server open in the middle with one side with sushi, a short side with oriental cold prepared salads, and the other long side with a large dessert buffet including full size layer cakes and a chocolate fountain. This chocolate fountain was encircled in a see through plexiglass case with a door that was open for access to the hot, flowing chocolate. There were employees in the middle, some preparing sushi and others putting out the cakes. The other short side had plates. We counted five hot buffet servers and three cold buffet servers in addition to the grill and sushi/dessert island. Almost a third of this large restaurant is the buffet. I should add that not only were the hot buffet tables steam tables but over each tray was a heating lamp. This kept everything at just the correct temperature.

We walked around the entire buffet before we found the soup which shared a hot server with other hot foods. There were four soups - wonton with the wontons in the soup and not in a steam server on their own, egg drop, hot and sour, and miso. I scooped a wonton out of the wonton soup, put it in my bowl and filled my bowl with egg drop soup. The soup was very good and the wonton was what a wonton should be - light, full of meat and tasting just like the wontons taste in a menu Chinese restaurant. This was the best wonton that I have had at a buffet. I bit into it and smiled. It was not what I expected. It was - in my opinion - a properly cooked, real Chinese restaurant wonton. This meal started off well!

I next went up for sushi - and my picky eater wife went up for dumplings. There were many different types of sushi rolls and there were four types of nigiri - raw fish on rice. I took salmon nigiri and tuna nigiri. There were two other types of fish - one with the skin on - that I did not recognize. The sushi bar did not have labels. Everything else in the buffet did. I went over to where there were other cold fish items and I saw that the cold, raw oysters were being refilled. A woman was emptying a tray of oysters onto a bed of ice. I am hesitant about eating raw oysters at a buffet unless I see that they are moist and fresh looking, that they have not been sitting, and that they are on a good layer of ice. These looked just that way and I took three. At the side was a server with cocktail sauce and I added a dollop to each. The sashimi was good - not fancy Japanese buffet good but fresh and good. The oysters were cold, wet, and fresh but each had some remnants of shell - not what a well opened oyster should have. I had to be very careful as I scooped the oyster into my mouth to find the bits of shell and not chew or swallow them. The oysters tasted good, but beware of the shell. Despite the shell this buffet was still going strong!

My wife had chosen a selection of the dumplings that they had, and on my next plate that is what I went for. There was a meat filled shu mai, a pan fried mixed meat and vegetable dumpling, and a steamed pork bun. There was dumpling sauce next to the pan fried dumplings. Shu mai is my least favorite dumpling and I usually do not take it. I wanted to see how this one stacked up against the dry ones I have often had at Chinese buffets. This one was light and moist. The meat may have been chicken, perhaps mixed with pork. The meat was light in color and very nice tasting. I was glad that I tried it. I then tasted the pan fried dumpling which had a mixture of pork and chopped greens inside. The dumping was light, thin and not doughy or chewy. It had a nice flavor. I saved the pork bun for last. This is a steamed round mound of light dough filled with chopped pork in the center. The dough was thick but properly cooked in the steamer and the pork center was tasty. Another very pleasing course!

I am not going to try to list all that was on the buffet. Things will certainly change from night to night. There was a lot of dishes. There were many hot appetizers, Asian entrees, vegetable dishes, seafood dishes, and  side dishes. I will share what I had.

On my trip around the buffet looking at all that there was to choose from, I spotted a tray of spare ribs. These were not Chinese spareribs but more country spareribs. They were covered in a brown barbecue sauce that was not overly sweet or overwhelming. They were laid out on the tray in sections of three meaty ribs and there was a carving knife out to cut less if you did not want three. The ribs were moist and meaty. These are similar to other "country" style ribs that I have had at SOME other Asian buffets. They were good. Do not expect smoker ribs or real country ribs. But they tasted good, the meat came off the bone with little effort, and there was a lot of meat on each rib.

I tried stuffed scallops which were scallop shells halves filled with fresh tasting chopped scallops, some mayonnaise, and melted cheese cooked under a broiler. The taste was distinctly scallops - which is good. They were a pleasant change from the usual stuffed clams which in other buffets are all breading. There was little - if any breading in these. (They had stuffed clams as well but I did not try those.) I also tried half a stuffed blue crab. This was a half blue crab cooked in its shell with legs and claw. There was a very light breaded coating on the outside of the shell. There was little meat in the half crab but it was tasty. (There are on crab legs here.) There were also small, fried crab cakes which they called crab pastries. These were deep fried with a light crab and breadcrumb mixture inside. They were tasty. There was also fried talapia - thick chunks of talapia deep fried and breaded. That was tasty as well. I also tried shrimp and vegetables which was shrimp in a light white sauce with slices of carrots and chunks of zucchini. It was very good - the zucchini tasted very fresh. There was a light buttery taste to the sauce. My wife liked this also and took more when she went back.

In addition to egg rolls and spring rolls, they had a "house special" roll. This was a long thin rolled wrapper around chopped pork and vegetable and deep fried. This was a cross between a spring roll and an egg roll but longer than either of those. It was a little greasy but good.

There were many meat dishes all over the buffet. I tried chicken with black pepper which was good. I tried hibachi beef - not from the grill but from the buffet - which was very good. On one buffet there was a tray of a whole baked ham in pineapple sauce. Next to that was a tray of slices of roast beef. There was also steamed whole talapia in ginger sauce that was cut into pieces including the whole head if you cared to take that. I have never seen a whole talapia fish before. I like talapia, but talapia is a fish that gets bad write ups as far as being one of the least healthy fishes. I will not go into that here and if you want to learn more just Google talapia.

It was easy to find something to eat on any one of the five hot buffet servers. There is also the hibachi grill - with a line of about eight or so people most of this night. I was not sure if I wanted to keep sampling the buffet selections or go to the hibachi grill and create a plate. If I did I knew that there would be no room for anything else. I saved this for the end and before I was too full to enjoy it. There are a number of things on the hibachi cold selection to put on your plate to give to the chef at the grill to cook for you. There were some things that you don't often see - at least at buffets here - one of those was whole eggs in the shell. I have only seen this in Asian buffets in Virginia and at one of those I tried it. The egg is cracked and mixed into all the rest that you select when it goes on the grill. No one here that I saw tried this. I did not either - I might on a return trip as I liked it when I had it in Virginia. Anyway, there was also white rice to add to your mix. This made hibachi rice on the grill mixed into your other selections. (There is also ready made hibachi rice on the buffet.)  There were peeled raw shrimp and Krab (not real crab). All of the meats were frozen - as they are at many Asian buffets. The chicken was in big pieces not thin slices. There were pieces of pork. There were also fairly large, but not thick steaks. As usual, you fill your plate with cold items and when it is your turn the grill chef takes it and cooks it on the solid grill. People were getting up to the chef who was asking them for their plate. As they handed it him they were giving him very detailed instructions - make it medium well, I want a lot of teriyaki sauce, do this, do that. He seemed to be half listening and cooking things as he wanted to. I purposely did not give him any instructions and he cooked everything just about the same. Some asked directly as they were watching theirs cooked to put more sauce on or add garlic or add hot pepper - which he did. But for the most part he cooked the meat well and added teriyaki sauce unless you told him not to. He cooked mine and scooped it onto a clean plate when it was ready and handed it to me. I choose a steak, bean sprouts, mushrooms, and zucchini. It tasted good. The steak was very tough. As in most of the Chinese buffets with hibachi grills in this price range what looks like steak is usually thick sliced beef cut into steaks (which is what steaks are) but these are not steak cuts of meat. The steak was cooked on the grill and laid whole over the vegetables when it was all done. I cut it up myself when I got back to the table and mixed it together. It was fine.

Dessert. There was an excellent assortment of desserts here - and not the little sheet cakes cut into squares. There were three whole layer cakes - slice yourself a slice - big or small. My wife tried the chocolate cake - all chocolate and it was good. There were a number of puddings, etc. and a lot of types of fresh fruits, as well as canned fruits. There was a freezer chest with ice cream bars, cups, and the like. There were lots of desserts here - and they looked and were good. Enough said.

The service was excellent. Everyone who worked here was Asian - they all spoke perfect English. Everyone was pleasant. Our server took dishes away as soon as they were finished. She came over several times to ask if we wanted drink refills - and got them quickly. She was at a nearby table talking to a couple and answering questions about dishes - and suggesting things to try. She was concerned that an older man was OK when he seemed a little unsteady. She also was taking pictures of the people at the table next to us with their phone - making sure to take two to get a good shot. This was way beyond any server at an Asian buffet that I have experienced. When she sees that you are done with the meal - and never rushed us or anyone - she came with a tip tray and fortune cookies. This is a gentle reminder that the tip is not included in the price - a problem often encountered by servers when one pays when entering. She deserved a tip and got one!

We will definitely go back. I have been getting tired of the local Asian buffets and we go often. This buffet will be on our list of go tos! I recommend that you try it.

The Flaming Grill and Supreme Buffet is located at 1773 Grand Avenue, Baldwin, New York 11510. The phone number is 516-544-2222. When I went looking for a website I found another buffet with the same name and an identical website located in East Rutherford, New Jersey. I assume - but do not know for certain that they are owned together. The website for the Baldwin buffet is linked at the side of this page. The hours are Sunday to Thursday from 11 am to 10 pm. On Friday and Saturday the hours are from 11 am to 10:30 pm. The price is the same for dinner every night. Sunday is dinner price all day.

Friday, May 09, 2014

Golden Corral Now Has Nightly Features

Gone is the buy a lobster with your buffet feature at Golden Corral buffet restaurants. The new feature is a feature that changes every night of the week and they are calling this Weeknight Dinner Spotlights.

Every night of the week will have a different feature - Monday nights are Shrimp and Seafood, Tuesday nights are $2.99 Kids Nights, Wednesday nights are Wing Fest, Thursday night is Best of BBQ, Friday night is Fish Fry, Saturday night is Hot Off the Grill, and Sunday Night is Carvers Buffet. Mondays you will find Golden Shrimp, Crab Cakes, Stuffed Crab Shells, and Shrimp topped Baked Fish. Tuesdays your kids will eat for $2.99 - the foods that are featured are always on the buffet such as fried chicken, though they are adding mini corn dogs. Wednesdays you will find Teriyaki Honey Wings, Spicy Garlic Wings, Mild Buffalo Wings, and Hot Buffalo Wings. Thursdays you will find Baby Back Ribs, Boneless Beef Ribs, Bone-in Barbecue Chicken and Pulled Pork Barbecue. Friday nights you will find Tempura Fried Fish, Bone-in Catfish, Catfish Fillets, and Salt & Vinegar Fried Fish. Saturday nights you will find Founder's Five Ounce Sirloin Filet, Mini Steakburgers, Grilled Pork Chops, and Grilled Chicken Breast. On Sundays you will find Carved Glazed Ham, Carved Whole Turkey, Carved Roast Beef, and Carved Cajun Sausage.

As it just happened, right after I learned about this, we were in an area with a Golden Corral and we went there for dinner. It was a Wednesday Night - Wing Fest. I would have much rather have been there on a Thursday for the Best of BBQ but that could not be. I went to see how prominently this feature was being - featured. If it was not for the sign in the window showing Weeknight Dinner Spotlights, one would not have known that this was any night special or different from any other. There were three half trays of chicken wings - I am not sure which of the four were missing but each that was there was described as either hot or spicy. I don't eat hot wings so I did not try any of these. No one seemed to be paying any attention to the wings and if the wings were being taken it was not evident while we were there by the looks of the trays. At one point during the evening I was passing the grill and a guest was talking to the manager asking for something that is usually on the grill. I guessed that it was ribs as the manager was telling him that tonight was the special hot wings feature and he had to come the next night on Thursday if he wanted what he was asking for as it is part of the  Best of BBQ night.  I had been hoping that they had the ribs also - despite the features as there were other foods on the feature nights that are often out on most nights - perhaps not prepared the same way but the same food.

While you are reading I will say that the meal without the wings was OK. I like Golden Corral. I have felt that it is now the best of the chain buffets. This particular Golden Corral in Bensalem, PA is not one of the better Golden Corrals that I have been to on the East Coast and I have written about this specific Golden Corral before. Service started out good and then slowed down for awhile. When she made herself visible she was one of the better Golden Corral servers that we have had. The restaurant was busy for a Wednesday night. The items on the salad bar were not being replenished, the same two dried out pieced of watermelon that were there in the beginning were there - almost - to the end of our meal - when someone decided behind the counter that it needed to be replaced and filled. There were duplicate items on the hot buffet which is not usual for Golden Corral and some things just did not get replenished. Like other chain buffets, a Golden Corral location is very much dependent upon the manager and the employees - and this one needs better of both.

I am not sure how long this feature of nightly features will be run. All Golden Corral features run a limited time. I am hoping that this one runs for a few months. Perhaps I will be able to get to one on a Thursday and maybe a Saturday or Sunday. Those are the feature nights that seem worth going for - at least to me.

Friday, May 02, 2014

OCB's Two Day Easter Feast

Old Country Buffet this year had a two day Easter "Feast". It started on Easter Saturday and went though Easter Sunday. The meal featured carved ham and carved Prime Rib and the price was raised to $13.99 for this buffet meal.

We decided to go on Easter Sunday. The meal was being served all day until closing and we arrived at about 6:30 pm. There was a short line to get in and once we paid we waited about three minutes to be seated. The restaurant was crowded but not much more so than a usual Sunday at this time. Before we went I wondered if OCB was really serving Prime Rib or if they were cutting their usual Roast Beef to appear to be Prime Rib. I hoped for real Prime Rib as it is a favorite. When we were seated the first thing that I did was go past the carving station and saw what looked from the distance to be Prime Rib - boneless, but most Prime Rib served at buffets are. I also looked around to see what else might be special for this Easter dinner that I just paid $13.99 each for along with $2.29 each for soft drinks. This was the most expensive meal price that I have ever paid at an OCB and add tax and tip on top it gets even more expensive. There did not appear to be anything else being served that was any different from any other Sunday at OCB - later, I did find that they had an Easter sheet cake out for dessert - a single layer yellow cake with green frosting with green colored coconut on top and a few jelly beans on each piece. The usual price at this OCB for Sunday dinner is $11.99 and for seniors, $10.49. Were we paying $2 or $3.50 more just for Prime Rib or for the privilege of their being open on Easter Sunday?

We dine at OCB fairly regularly for Sunday dinner. Everything that is usually there on Sundays was there for this "Feast". The Prime Rib - and that cake - were the only additions. After soup and salad, it was time to go up for Prime Rib. As I was waiting on the short line while the carver was slicing Prime Rib, turkey, ham, and steak for those in front of me, I saw that he was shaving off thin slices of Prime Rib. He was carving less than he usually does when he carves Roast Beef. No, this would never do! When I got up to him, I asked for a "thick" slice. He obliged and cut off a piece about three eights of an inch thick, not as thick as a usual slice of Prime Rib even at a buffet, but more than anyone else was getting. He put it on my plate and I saw that it looked a bit odd in the middle and at the bottom.The top looked as expected but not the rest.  I added a baked potato to my plate along with some green beans and headed back to the table.

Back at the table, I looked more closely at the bottom and middle of the slice. It was slightly pink in color with grey but it did not really look like beef. It was smooth on both sides and seemed dense. The top was just right. There was a coating of way too much salt, pepper and what seemed to be the seasoning used on OCB steaks. Below that charred coating was a layer of fat - again, as expected with Prime Rib and below that fat meat that looked as it should with the appearance and texture of beef. I wondered if the top looked like this, what the heck was going on with the rest.  The texture of the middle and bottom of the slice - the entire slice - was more like ham than beef. It chewed like ham and was dense like ham. The taste was fairly neutral - beef-like is the best way to describe it. The top - which as I say looked right (and good) tasted just like Prime Rib. What type of cut of beef was this? The only way to describe what this is like is to say that it was very similar to a certain roast beef fast food chain's roast beef used on their sandwiches - not exactly beef but a beef formed together, not looking like roast beef, not having the same texture as roast beef, and not having the same taste as roast beef. Could this be like that? I have no idea, but it was unlike any Prime Rib that I have ever had and I have had Prime Rib from fine restaurants and every day buffets. Never before had any have the texture of what this had below the top eighth of the meat. I very much enjoyed the top, but the rest was chewy and a great disappointment - and it raised the price of dinner!  Just in case it was this one roast that was out when I first went up, I did go back for a second piece. I asked the carver again for a "thick" slice of Prime Rib and he carved a slice about as thick as the first. Again, it looked just like the first - and when I ate it, this piece was exactly like the first - some odd cut of Prime Rib - if Prime Rib REALLY was what it was.

There was no rush for Prime Rib at the carving area. Most people were taking ham, turkey, or steak - getting just what they would have gotten on any Sunday for dinner for less money. Those that got the Prime Rib had slivers of it put on their plates. Real Prime Rib could not be sliced that thin. This one slices smoothly into paper thin slices.

I seem to be having a run of disappointing buffet meals lately. It happens sometimes and when it does I have to discuss it with my wife who shares these meals with me to see if it is me being too critical or is what I am experiencing exactly as it is. With this - and the rest of the recently disappointing buffet meals, she agreed that they were, indeed, disappointing. I was looking forward to Prime Rib. I was ready to find just Roast Beef, but what I found - well you know what I found.

So what is the story Old Country Buffet? What was this meat that you called Prime Rib? Where is the new quality that Ovation Brands, Inc - parent company of OCB - and its president James Weedo are promising now at OCB in the foods that they serve. It was not here for this special Easter "Feast" - at least as far as the Prime Rib that raised the price of dinner is concerned.