Friday, May 08, 2015

Golden Corral, Freehold, NJ - Revisited

In December 2014, I wrote about the new Golden Corral located in Freehold, New Jersey. This is the closest Golden Corral location to the Metro NY area. Our experience there was not the greatest and if this was a first time to any Golden Corral I likely not go back. We found ourselves in that area in April and other than Asian buffets, there are no other buffets in this area. I thought that despite that first visit, we would go back again and see if things were the same or if they have improved.

We were there again on a Saturday night and when we arrived at 6:45 pm for dinner there was - again - a line out the door. We waited about fifteen minutes to get in and up to the cashier. We were seated about five minutes later. The restaurant was crowded but the crowd did not seem as maddening as it had the first time that we were there. In December I talked about the price at this Golden Corral being more expensive than other Golden Corrals that we have been to and they have raised that price. The weekend dinner price is now $13.99 with another $2.29 added to that if you want a beverage. The weekend dinner is called "Premium" but like the first time there it is "premium" only in price. What is on the buffet is exactly the same as is there at any other Golden Corral on any night. There was a sign advertising Mother's Day dinner for $14.99 - plus the price of the beverage which would make this buffet dinner for Mom $17.28 plus tax and tip. That is a lot for a meal at Golden Corral. (As an aside, OCB's local price of $13.99 includes the beverage and their Mother's Day meal is also $14.99 but includes the beverage - and OCB has a current coupon for $2.00 of Mom's dinner on Mother's Day.) This Golden Corral remains the most expensive Golden Corral that we are aware of. 

The current feature was (perhaps still is if you are reading this currently) baby back ribs made with a variety of KC Masterpiece BBQ sauces. One sauce is daily after 4 and after 11 am on Sundays. I tried the ribs with the basic sauce. The other ribs that were out had chipotle sauce. These were the only two being served that night. I found the ribs to be dry and not as good as I had hoped that they would be. I have had Golden Corral baby back ribs before and they have never really been very special. Since this was a big feature with a promotion for the BBQ sauce, I had hoped that they would be better. The ribs, however, were popular and they were carving ribs all night. These ribs were served at the carving station, about three ribs at a time.

I have not had a decent steak in a long time and I like Golden Corral steak. I decided pretty much going in that it was the steak that I was there for and this is what I mainly would have - and I did. All together I went up three times for steak - now if you wonder how or why anyone would eat three steaks in one meal, understand these are not full steaks but are about three or so inches around in size and about an inch or less thick. The three steaks together were the equivalent of one full steak. The first two that I had were very good. The gentleman cooking and serving steaks at that time new exactly what he was doing and knew what a rare steak looks like before he serves it. I like steak that is rare in the middle and charged on the outside and those steaks were just this way (with the first one perfect and the second close to perfect. This was what led me back for the third and perhaps I should have stopped at those two. When I went up, the same chef was there and I asked for a steak rare and he told me that all of the steaks had to go just a little longer and he then walked away. He did not come back. A while later another chef came up and started asking those standing there all over again. I asked him for a steak rare and what I got was a steak medium well - which he did not recognize even after he cut into it before serving it to make sure it was rare. Well, he made sure it was medium well and that is what I got. The steak was still tasty. The Golden Corral steaks are seasoned and they do tend to be slightly on the salty side - which some would not like but I don't mind as long as it is not overly salty.

My picky eater wife found more choices here than she did the last time we were here and she did not wind up eating the cold salad chicken from the salad bar for the entire meal. She had meatload which she said - this time - was good. She also had a piece of the rotisserie chicken which she usually does not take but this time was not dripping with grease and was not seasoned, as it had been before. I was actually surprised at the variety she found for herself.

As trays emptied they were being replaced - though not always with the same thing. The dessert section was fairly well stocked and the bread pudding is still the best dessert there - which I indulged in though I am not supposed to.

Our server was a "serving trainer" and she was good. She was attentive to our table despite the crowd and she made sure our used plates were taken away and our drinks were refilled. She was one of the better servers that we have had at a Golden Corral.

The buffet was crowded but getting around the buffet and to the serving counters was manageable. The continuing problem that occurs in many Golden Corrals - especially ones where people have never been to a buffet before - is that people think that they are at a cafeteria and insist on starting a line at one end of the long winding counter and moving along. We heard one woman at a table nearby ask the server for a tray so that she could get on the line. A buffet is not a cafeteria and you go up to whatever tray you want, wait politely for the person there to take what they want, and then you take some. This cafeteria mentality is what results in plates piled so high that one cannot recognize what is at the bottom with the entire meal layered over it! I just go up and go to what I want. I am not walking the entire buffet to get what I want that is at the other end of the room.

We had anticipated another disappointing experience but had quite the opposite. We were both complimentary of the meal and the restaurant when we were finished. The wait outside to get in seems like it will never go away. I am curious if this also happens on weeknights.

So, other than the price, if you are in or near Freehold, New Jersey this Golden Corral is worth a try. This Golden Corral is located at 3520 US Highway 9 in Freehold, New Jersey 07728. The phone number is 732-400-8600.

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