Friday, April 24, 2015

Lititz Family Cupboard, Lititz, PA

We very much miss the Family Cupboard Restaurant and Buffet that was located in Bird-In-Hand, PA. That restaurant is now a Colman Store and the owner has gone to help run his parent's restaurant in Lancaster, Dienners.  Dienners is nice but it is not open past 6:30 pm on any night but Fridays. Several years back we found another restaurant that had been in this family - and sold to the Fisher family that retained the name and much of the buffet menu that it had when owned by the Dienner family. The Fishers are from Amish and Mennonite backgrounds and well know local cooking. That restaurant is the Litiz Family Cupboard.

We had not been back there in a number of years. I thought that it was worth a try to see how it is now and we actually went back twice over the course of two trips to this area. Both meals were good but we lost the notes that we took on that first trip and went back for a second experience to be able to write this article.

The restaurant serves both menu and buffet meals. The restaurant is located off a main route and is not obvious unless you are looking for it. The building is only this restaurant and they have a bakery on one end of the building and their restaurant that is the rest of the building. You enter though a small lobby and there is a cashier and reception area where you will be taken to your table. The restaurant has been redecorated since our visit years ago. The decor is very nice and very much a family restaurant in appearance.  There are two dining rooms and on the side is the buffet area. The buffet is small with one double long buffet server, one dessert buffet server, and one salad buffet server with soups on the front end.

The buffet is not big but it has a good assortment of foods and everything that we tried was good. There are two soups. On the second night that we were there the soups were Creamy Chicken Soup and Chili. When the chili ran low, it was replaced by ham chowder. The salad bar was small but everything that was on it was very fresh. This is important to note because too often buffet salad bars sit and the vegetables become dried out or limp. The salad bar here - again - was very fresh.

One of the features at the other Family Cupboard and also at Dienners as well as here is Rotisserie Chicken, cut up on the bone and served in prices. This is very good. It is nice and moist and flavor full. It is one of the things that I was missing and I had it here on both visits. One of this restaurant's menu features is a dish that many will think is not something to run to have but I like it very much - stuffed pig's stomach. I had this at this buffet on our first visit and since it is a feature on their regular menu, I assumed it was on the buffet every night. I discovered on our second visit that it is not. Stuffed pig's stomach is a popular dish in this area. It is pig's stomach stuffed with chunks of cut up sausage and bread stuffing. The sausage and stuffing are cooked first and then stuffed into a well cleaned pig's stomach and baked. It is then chopped up into small pieces and served. If you did not know what this is and if there was no sign identifying it, it just looks like stuffing mixed with chopped sausage. It is actually hard to tell the stomach meat from the sausage and only by a slightly sharp taste of the pig's stomach do you know it is something different. It really is good and I recommend that you try it if you come to this buffet and it is being served that night. I was a bit disappointed not to find it on that second visit.

There were lots of other good things to eat on the buffet on that second night as well. There was Ham with Pineapple Sauce, Beef and Gravy, Dark meat Turkey, Pork with Sauerkraut, and the Rotisserie Chicken. Side dishes included Rice, fresh made Mashed Potatoes, Brussels Sprouts,Potato Filling, Green Beans, Corn, Cheesy Potatoes, Stewed Tomatoes, Macaroni and Cheese, Baked Beans, and Buttered Noodles. There was beef and turkey gravies and also potato rolls. The entrees are all Pennsylvania Dutch dishes cooked in the Amish/Mennonite way. The turkey was very good. The pork and sauerkraut was traditional. Beef and gravy in this area is not slices of roast beef but chunks of slow cooked beef cooked in beef gravy. This is not a large buffet with many offerings but what is here is good.

What is very important at any buffet is that what is out on the buffet is well maintained - this means that nothing is allowed to dry out, that food is stirred when needed to keep it hot and moist, and that there is attention to anything that needs to be removed. All of that happens properly here. When any dish runs low it was quickly replaced. As we saw with the soup, when something is gone and there is no more of it, something equal takes its place.

Dessert was mostly puddings and prepared desserts. There are also pies and there was one type of cake. There is soft serve ice cream. I would have expected more baked goods on the dessert buffet with the bakery on the premises.  The dessert that we had was good. The dessert was an adequate end to a good meal but you will not be overwhelmed by the assortment of desserts - but that is OK because what is here is good.

We had excellent service on both of our visits. The servers that we had took good care of us. All used dishes were taken away promptly and our soft drinks were kept refilled.

Friday night is Seafood Buffet. Saturday night is BBQ Buffet. I have not mentioned prices because prices are always changing at all of the buffet restaurants, but prices were very reasonable- lower than the chains. There is also a senior discount and, of course, kid's prices.

We were very happy to have gone back - on both times. It was busy on both nights but we were seated right away. My picky eater wife had no problem finding things to eat which is not always the case at some of the buffets we have gone to. I will eat a broader selection of things than her and I rarely have a problem finding plenty. This is not always the case with her - she had NO problem here. We will certainly be putting this into our selection of "go back to" buffets in Lancaster - and if you are a regular reader you know that there are many buffets already on that list. This one is a trip out of the main tourist area, but worth a trip and Lititz has a lot of history and things to see, not to forget the Wilbur Chocolate Factory. This restaurant is located north of the actual "town section" of Litiz and as I say it needs to be looked for.

We recommend Lititz Family Cupboard. Try it!

Lititz Family Cupboard is located at 12 West Newport Road in Lititz, Pennsylvania 17543. The phone number is 717-626-9102. There is a website and it is linked on the side of this page. They are open until 8:00 pm. They are closed on Sundays.  To get there take Rt. 501 North to West Newport Road and turn left then make a left on Toll Gate Road and then a left into the parking lot of the restaurant.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Many Improvements at the Levittown, NY Old Country Buffet

I have said many times on this site that the manager and employees can make or break a buffet restaurant and that has been so true at the Levittown, New York Old Country Buffet since it opened many years ago. I have written many times about this buffet - mainly in the negative - but there have been some significant changes over this past winter and they coincide with a change in the general manager.

The general manager who is now at the Levittown OCB had been one of the secondary managers of the Bay Shore, New York Old Country Buffet. He had been there since at least when one of the best buffet managers we have ever encountered (I have written about that manager referring to him as "Mr. Smiley" in past articles) and it is my opinion that under that tutelage this manager, himself, became an excellent manager. He is now at Levittown OCB with his name on the front door as General Manager and he has taken what had been what has been referred to as the "worst OCB" to one that is improvingly good. 

I have said in the past that I would never go back to the Levittown OCB, but this rough Long Island winter made traveling to the Bay Shore OCB too difficult and I found myself one night deciding to go back to Levittown. What a surprise when we went inside - first seeing who was the manager and then seeing how things had changed. We have been back numerous times since then and have noted continued improvement. Now, I am not talking about the food selections as that is completely in the hands of Corporate that seems now to completely dictate the menu - and we spoke about this in our last article.

So what is different. For one thing there is a change in the cleanliness of the dining room. The floors (carpets) that were rarely kept clean in the past are now clean. Of course, a busy day can take its toll on the floors around and under the tables of the best buffet restaurants, but an effort is being made to keep these floors now clean.

In the past, food trays would sit empty for hours - and when something came out to replace the empty tray, it would often have a very dis-similar item, for example, rolls for a meat entree. We have seen fairly consistently that if a meat entree runs out, a different meat entree is brought out if the original is not available. We have seen ongoing supervision of the buffet tables and orders sent into the kitchen that items were about to run out and needed replacing. Some items still take a long time to come out, but eventually they do come out - and a few times we have seen another item that is ready come out quickly to that spot while the item to be replaced is being cooked and eventually is back out. This is a big improvement here.

One thing that we immediately noticed when we first came back was that many of the people who had been working here in the past were gone and replaced with workers that actually seemed to care about what they are doing - and made an effort to get their jobs done and communicate clearly with the customers (which had been a big problem here in the past). I often observed in the past that what the Levittown OCB needed was a clean sweep of staff and that is almost what has taken place here. One other thing is that one of the better table staff from Bay Shore was brought here and appears to be (though I do not know this for sure) to be overseeing the rest of the table staff while he is also taking care of tables. Good manager plus good employees equal good buffet.

A good manager needs to be seen in the dining room and around the buffet and that is now happening here. He talks with the guests. He pays attention to what is going on. All so very much needed here and happening now. 

Now, is all of this consistent? It is fairly consistent, but I have also observed that it is still somewhat dependent upon this manager being on duty - and, of course, the guy has to have a day or night off sometime. When he is not there, some things slip back - though not completely back. Also when new table people are starting, clearing of tables can get lax - but that now seems to be the exception and not the norm - as it once was. We have been here on extremely busy nights - and while it was an effort for the kitchen to keep up with getting more food out - the table was taken care of as it should be. But there has been the occasional night - our most recent, as a mater of fact was one - when the buffet was not crowded and a new table server was letting the dishes pile up on the table (ours and others) much too high - getting there eventually to clear what had become a tall stack way - but it should never have gotten to that point, especially given the few tables in this section with diners. We had never seen this server working here before - hopefully this server gets the idea, and if not, is gone. I rather hope this employee gets the idea, improves, and stays.

Things are definitely better at the Levittown OCB. We decided one night to go back to Bay Shore and were very disappointed that the food was not being replaced and the selections were less than what we have been experiencing in Levittown.While one time we would have felt going to Levittown was a mistake, on this return to Bay Shore we felt that going there was a mistake.

My hope is that Corporate recognizes how well improved this location is BUT does not take this great manager away and move him elsewhere - which has happened in the past. And secondary management here needs to learn from this man and follow both his manner with customers and attention to what is going on.

Congratulations to the new manager and his staff! Keep up the good work! (And I'll bet there are a lot of our readers who thought that they would never read that here about the Levittown OCB!)