Friday, September 26, 2014

Back to Oregon Dairy Country Restaurant and Buffet, Lititz, PA

This is the third time that we have been to Oregon Dairy Country Restaurant and Buffet in the six years when we first found it. This is a small buffet that shares a building with a supermarket in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. Since our second trip there a year ago, it has been in the back of my mind to go back again and since we were in the area for several days we could go here and go to the "favorite" buffets that we usually go to. I was looking forward to coming back for a meal here and I was not disappointed.

This is a menu restaurant with a small buffet section consisting of a short wall with hot foods and entrees, two short buffet servers with salad and cold items - one with hot soup on one end, and one more short buffet server with dessert. The restaurant is connected on the side to a large ice cream stand that serves dairy made ice cream from the dairy on this property. The ice cream stand is popular and this alone draws a big crowd on warm nights.

While the restaurant/supermarket complex with ice cream stand is on a main road it is up on the top of a hill not easily visible from the road below. If one was not looking for this or did not know that there was a restaurant up there in addition to the supermarket, one would not know to stop. The customers here are very much local people who know this is here - and some dine here regularly.

We went on a Thursday night. There is a website with a menu for the buffet of featured foods for each night and I knew that there were certain nights that we would like more than others and Thursday was one of them. Like all of the other buffets in Lancaster this one closes at 8:00 pm and is not open on Sundays for lunch or dinner but is open for a breakfast buffet in the morning. When we got there, there was a line to get in. I had thought we were late - the evening was stormy and we drove into a short storm on our way which slowed down our arrival. We waited about ten minutes to be seated. This is not a tourist restaurant. As I say, this is very much a place for local families to go. The dining room is pleasant - there is a large model train that rides around a track just under the ceiling on one side of the dining room nearest the buffet. The decor is typically local family restaurant. The price for dinner was $12.99. Soft drinks are extra but are unlimited. The price for Friday and Saturday dinner is $13.99. There is a senior discount over age 65 of 10%.

The soups on this night were Cheese and Broccoli soup and New England Clam Chowder.  The Clam Chowder had chunks of clams in a white cream broth with potatoes. It was very good. The salad bar is an assortment of salad toppings and lettuce to put it on, a variety of dressings, and some prepared salads. Our waitress made a comment when we ordered the buffet that if we started on the soup and salad and then decided that we only wanted that for dinner and not the whole buffet, we should just let her know and she would change the price on our check down to the $7.99 Soup, Salad, Dessert Bar. Obviously, she did not know us and our eating at buffets - but apparently many start and feel that they are happy just with that and don't wish to go for the entrees and side dishes.
We finished our salads and we straight for the hot foods.

The menu on the buffet on this night reflects what was on the list on the website but they always add other dishes to that as well. Chicken dominated the dishes with Chicken Bot Bie, Creamed Chicken, and Seasoned, Baked Chicken. One of the restaurants well know dishes is Fried Smoked Sausage - deep fried. This was on the buffet. There was also Pork and Sauerkraut, Ham Balls with Pineapple Sauce, and Hawaiian Meatballs. The Ham Balls in Pineapple Sauce and the Hawaiian Meatballs seemed redundant, but they were different in taste. There was also broiled Talapia, Sliced Ham, and Stuffed Peppers - stuffed with chopped meat and rice. There were mashed red potatoes, boiled potatoes, carrots, and mixed vegetables. There are no carvings on this buffet. Much of this is typical Pennsylvania Dutch local specialties - common to find in this Amish and Mennonite Pennsylvania German region. (OK - an aside - Pennsylvania Dutch - Pennsylvania German - so which is it? Pennsylvania Dutch is an Americanization of "Pennsylvania Deutsch" - Deutsch is German for German.)

The Chicken Bot Bie - a local dish that you have read about here many, many times - and one of both our favorites was very good. This is a dish of chicken meat pieces in a thickened broth with potatoes, thick and large dumplings, and carrots. The Creamed Chicken was also good - what some restaurants would call Chicken Ala King - chicken meat in cream sauce with carrots, etc.. The Seasoned Baked Chicken went fast and once it was gone, it was replaced with seasoned corn. I never had corn called seasoned before and had to try it. It had Italian seasonings on it. It was interesting and unusual. The Pork and Sauerkraut was bland and was the only disappointing dish on the buffet. The Fried Smoked Sausage is a bit of an acquired taste and the first time that I had them three years ago, I did not care for them - as I did not really understand what they were. On our second trip here a year ago, I learned what it is and tried it again and liked it - and it was one of the foods that I was looking forward to having here - thus the preplanned specific nights we might come and Thursday is one of them that has the sausage.

While some other buffets have many more dishes to offer in one night, this small buffet satisfies with what it has - providing you like what is on the buffet on the night that you go. The food is good. It is fresh and the buffet was well tended - meaning someone was out making sure nothing dried out and all that should remain hot was hot.  Service was also very good and the waitress kept coming around to take away used plates, check on drink refills, and reminding us that a scoop of their diary ice cream is included in the buffet along with the other desserts.

For dessert aside from fruits on the salad bar, there are pies, cakes, prepared desserts, and hot cobbler  - on this night it was hot cherry cobbler. And there is one large scoop of any of the many flavors of ice cream that comes to you direct from the ice cream stand outside. There were so many flavors it was hard to decide and I was set on having a scoop. I finally decided on coconut almond fudge ice cream. My wife was not having any ice cream and the waitress offered me my wife's scoop as well. I passed on the second scoop - not because I did not want it - I wanted it, but that would have been pushing how much of what I should not eat too far. The waitress goes through a door on the side of the restaurant that leads into the ice cream stand and then comes back with a single scoop that overflows the bowl and is well above the top. The coconut almond fudge is a flavor that I have never had before - it was vanilla ice cream full of shredded coconut with almonds and chocolate fudge swirled through. It was good!

Do not go expecting a gala buffet. This is a simple buffet with simple farm food in a simple but very nice restaurant. I will be going back. Will I choose this buffet over some of the other buffets that I have written so much about in Lancaster County? It will depend on my mood. I like this buffet, I like the local atmosphere, I like being away from the tourists - especially in the "season", and I like the food. 

The Oregon Dairy Country Restaurant and Buffet is located at 2900 Oregon Pike (Route 272) in Lititz, PA 17543. The phone number is (717) 661-6804. There is a website and that is listed on this page at the side of the articles.While this is the town of Lititz it is not near the center of what is thought of as the town of Lititz (where the old pretzel bakery and the Moravian settlement is located). It is also on the top of a hill with a large up hill driveway from Route 272. As you get up into the parking lot, the restaurant is on the left, the supermarket part of the building is on the right, and the dairy/ice cream stand is on the far left. There is a little playground and "park" near the ice cream stand.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Another Visit to Yoders

After my previous visit to Yoders, we made another trip to the area several weeks later. We had several nights that we could go to buffets and the last night was open - we had not gone back to Yoders yet. I was not sure that I wanted to so soon after the last somewhat disappointing visit. We could go to Yoders or go for a second dinner in the week to Dutch-Way. I was feeling that after so many good meals at Yoders I should give it the benefit of the doubt and go back and see if it was an off night that last night.

We went on a Saturday night and this was a Saturday night of a holiday weekend. This really would put the restaurant to the test. We arrived before 6:30 pm and there was no line. This does not surprise me as this is a local restaurant for local diners. While I am sure a tourist or two must wander in - it is advertised in some of the free tourist visitor publications - the vast majority of people who come to this restaurant/buffet are local people. The feature nights changed in the past year at Yoders. In the past, the feature for both Friday night and Saturday night buffets was Land and Sea with the emphasis on seafood. The Friday night buffet has now changed to a seafood buffet - at a higher price than other nights - and the Saturday night buffet is now "Dutch Night". Way back when Dutch Night was in the middle of the week and the food on the buffet consisted of local specialties - Pennsylvania Dutch specialties. This helped in the decision to go back, especially on a Saturday night.

As we start our meals with soup, we went up to see what the two soups were. This was a hard decision for me - there was chicken corn noodle soup (a soup particularly local to this area) and there was shrimp bisque. We had been to Shady Maple a few nights before and they had lobster bisque as one of the soup choices. It had a good taste but was much thinner than bisque should be and had not visible lobster in it. I looked into the tureen of shrimp bisque here at Yoders and it was thick, pinkish orange, and full of shrimp. I love chicken corn noodle soup. My wife took the chicken corn noodle and I took a half cup of the shrimp bisque thinking that I would go back when I was done with the half cup for another half cup of chicken corn noodle. My first taste of that shrimp bisque and I knew that I had to go back for more of it- and I did. The soup was rich, thick, creamy with just the right taste and, as I said, lots of small shrimp in it. This was far better than the lobster bisque that I had a few nights before at Shady Maple. An excellent start to getting back together with an old friend.

I will skip the salad - it was good as always here. You can make just about any type of greens salad you want and the prepared salads are good. I walked around the buffet to look at what is offered on "Dutch" Night. According to the menu description of Dutch Night there is mention of ham balls and other favorites. Yes, there were ham balls - they often are ham balls on the buffet at Yoders and they are good. What I did not see where things like Chicken Bot Bie or Pork and Kraut, etc. There were a number of dishes that are Pennsylvania Dutch. There was a dish made of ham, green beans and large chunks of potatoes. That was good. There were cubes of stewed beef in a rich brown gravy that are good over browned butter noodles. The noodles are generally found on Yoder's buffet and they were there. There were pork ribs - not sure how PA Dutch they are, but they were good - nice large ribs with a lot of meat and served in a not too sweet but sweet enough barbecue sauce. The meat pulled off the bones except where it had charred on - and that part was good too.  There was potato filling and that was good. Yoders is not a large, overwhelming buffet but when added to the grill it is an adequately sized buffet.

At the grill there were several items, the best of which was marinated steak grilled over coals. I went up to the grill and asked for a steak - RARE. This is how I like it and also a test. Either the person cooking does not know what rare means and hands you a basically raw steak, the cook it to the point that it is beyond medium, or they know what they are doing and give you a steak that is nicely charred on the outside and red and bloody on the inside. This young man knew what he was doing. When I asked for the steak this way he looked at the grill. There were three steaks done on one side of the fire and there were three recently put on steaks on the other side of the grill. He looked at the done steaks and told me that he had none that were rare. I expected him to say that he would put one on for me and then he looked at the steaks that he had recently put on the grill. He picked up one that had been cooking a bit longer than the others and cut into it - it was just right - not raw, but rare. He showed it to me and asked if it was OK - I said "perfect". He put the steak on my plate and I was happy. I added some browned butter noodles and some potato filling to my plate and returned to the table to enjoy the steak. It was cooked right. The meat was a little tough on the ends - likely the cut of steak - but this was a tasty steak with a not overwhelming marinade.

My wife was happy. They have a favorite of hers here - mostly she has only had it here - baked oatmeal. It makes an interesting side dish and it is served hot. They usually have plain and a flavored variety. This night the flavored baked oatmeal was banana nut. I had never had baked oatmeal either until I had it at Yoders and it is good. I am not usually a fan of oatmeal but this is nothing like the breakfast cereal.

While I was up at the buffet, one of the women came out of the kitchen with a tray full of hot cinnamon buns covered with thick white frosting. It caught my eye immediately. Now, they may always have cinnamon buns where the breads - and baked oatmeal is but I have never noticed it. Perhaps that means that they don't usually have this. Or perhaps I am too distracted by everything else to notice. I actually did not see where this tray wound up but when it was time for dessert - and there are a lot of desserts here to chose from including cakes, pies, a number of different prepared desserts, soft serve ice cream with a load of toppings including hot toppings - I went looking for those cinnamon rolls. There they were next to the baked oatmeal and there were two trays - one the frosted ones that I saw come out and the other were glazed sticky buns. I took one of those thickly frosted ones on my plate - decided that this was all the desert that I wanted - and went back to the table and enjoyed it.

It was a good meal. My old friend and I are back together again.

This meal cost $13.99 per person. Soft drinks - refillable - are $1.99. There is a senior discount of 10% and you need to let the server know that you qualify. There is a children's price. They serve buffet breakfast, lunch, and dinner. You can also order off the menu. If you order something off the menu that is on the buffet, your server will go to the buffet table and take your portion from there. We started figuring out the cost of a dinner off the menu with dessert compared to the buffet. If your dinner choice is something on the buffet you will do far better with the buffet at the price. You will get soup, salad, entree and sides, and dessert - all you care to eat - for less than you would pay ordering one of those items off the menu.

So, not wonderful on the last visit - but now I know that was just an off night. Every restaurant - I don't care how high and mighty a restaurant - will have its off nights. While we are still expected to pay for the meal on those off nights as we are on the great nights, they happen.  As I always say when I recommend Yoders - expect to walk into a room full of rows of wood booths that is far from fancy. This is a family restaurant at its most typical. Lots of local families dine here - if you are city folk looking for city food you are in the wrong place. This is a country restaurant in the heart of where  the Plain People.

There is a website for Yoders listed at the side of this article. The restaurant is located at Yoder's Supermarket or perhaps, more properly, Yoder's Country Market, Route 23, New Holland, Pennsylvania. The phone number is (717) 354-4748.