Friday, July 31, 2015

Oregon Dairy Country Restaurant and Buffet, Lititz, PA

It has been a year since we have been at Oregon Dairy Country Restaurant and Buffet and this was only our fourth visit to dine there. When we get to Lancaster County that likely hosts more buffet restaurants than anyplace else in the U.S., it is always a challenge to decide which buffet to go to - and you know we have been to most, if not all of them. We were recently there and would be there for six dinners and my first thought was to go to Oregon Dairy's buffet. In case you wonder about the "Dairy" in the name - the restaurant is part of a complex that includes a dairy and ice cream stand, a supermarket, and this restaurant. The location is off away from where the tourists will notice it and it is up on the top of a hill from the route that runs in front. From the road you can not even see what is above and you may pass the sign at the entrance road without even noticing. This does not seem to bother the people who own this complex as it is a very popular place with the local people in this area.

This was a Thursday evening - and as it happens the last time that we were here was on a Thursday evening. The complex has a new website and the restaurant's page has been changed. It used to be possible to see what the featured dishes were on the buffet for each night. That is now gone. As it was some dishes were the same as last year and some were different - which was fine. The restaurant is not small but the buffet is smaller than some of the others that we have shared with you. There are two small double sided buffets that comprise the salad bar and two small single sided buffets - one with the desserts and the other with all hot foods. They do fit a lot on these buffet servers, despite their size. The price for dinner has gone up since last year - not much - thirty cents. Dinner on Monday to Thursday is $13.29 and on Friday and Saturday is $14.29. Soft drinks are extra and are unlimited. There is both menu dining and the buffet and there is no need for everyone to have the buffet if one at the table is having it.

We usually start with soup and the soups here have always been out of the ordinary. On this night it was Cheesy Broccoli (same as last year on a Thursday night) and also Chicken Enchilada. I did not want to eat spicy chicken enchilada soup so I took some of the Cheesy Broccoli.  Of course, the picky eater wife passed on both. The soup was good. It would be nice if one of the soups here would be a little more standard - chicken corn or chicken noodle might be nice - but if you are open to trying something you did not expect, you may find that you like it.

The salad bar is extensive and there is a lot to create a salad and then there are the prepared salads. There were three different macaroni salads - I guess one would be considered a pasta salad. They were all good.

I was eager to get to the main course and there were some good things to take. By now you know that I like turkey, but not just sliced, carved turkey (especially not the carved turkey breast that is commonly found) but I guess what is Pennsylvania Dutch turkey - fresh turkey - light and dark - shredded and also pulled into pieces and served in gravy or with the gravy on the side to be added. Here it was served in the gravy and next to the tray of turkey was a tray of filling - or stuffing. This turkey was excellent! As I am writing about it I am craving it. There are only a few buffets in Lancaster where turkey like this can be found.

I have written about Chicken Bot Bie many times and I am not going to go into detail about this specifically PA Dutch dish other than to say it is chicken, square dumpling noodles, vegetables and a chicken based sauce or perhaps a better word than sauce is stew. Excellent here. This dish can vary from restaurant to restaurant; it is excellent here.

I am going to use excellent to describe one other dish that we had here on this night - fresh mashed red potatoes - exceptionally excellent. These were the BEST mashed potatoes that I have ever had and I have had a lot of mashed potatoes over my years. They were perfect.

Everything that we tried was good. The restaurant is known for fried smoked sausage and that was good - and done nicely - not over fried. These are chunks of smoked sausage deep fried. This has the potential to become overdone but on this night they were just right. While some of what we had was good, it was also sweet. Sweet is not a bad thing. The meatloaf with a red sauce - not so much catsup but a thick tomato sauce was good but slightly sweet. The ham balls are supposed to be sweet as they are glazed in pineapple sauce, but these were sweeter than some that we have had in this area. Other entrees out that we did not try were barbecue chicken, baked fish, and stuffed peppers. There was scalloped potatoes and also macaroni and cheese. There were three vegetables - mixed vegetables, carrots, and stewed tomatoes.

Now for dessert - every buffet dinner included a scoop - big scoop - of any of the homemade ice creams from the dairy. All of the flavors at the ice cream stand outside are there to choose from for dessert. In addition there are an assortment of pies, slices of cake, whole whoopie pies (yes full size whole whoopie pies), and a variety of different prepared desserts, fruit, jello, and puddings. We both chose the ice cream and I will talk about that in a moment.

The service was excellent. Used dishes were taken away and drinks were refilled. The server was very pleasant.

Food on the buffet was replenished regularly. As a tray became low, a full tray came out to replace it of the same food. What was necessary on some of the dishes that had not been taken from as much is that they needed stirring and this was not being done by the staff who seemed so attentive to refilling the trays. All they needed was a stir and they were fine - and I did this myself when I took something that needed it. Because of the nature of the hot table food can dry out if it is not stirred. All that they needed was someone assigned to give a stir when they walked by.

We both took notice right through the meal that the food was high in carbs - everything was starch or had starch in it or sugar. All of it was tasty. If you are concerned about carbs, it was something to careful about. We don't usually feel this way in a buffet, but for some reason with the combination of what was on the buffet on this night - it was something to temper how much and what you took. It was possible to go "no carb or low carb", but you were not going to have all of the really good things to take.

Now the ice cream. I have had the ice cream from this dairy before and it is wonderful. I have always in the past chosen one of the many different flavors of ice cream which are a combination of a flavor ice cream chunk full of sweet bits of candies, or nuts or swirls of syrups, etc. Because we both decided that we had topped over the meal in carbs, we chose vanilla and chocolate. Both were nice but not spectacular. These plain flavors should have been better for dairy made ice cream where you were sitting next to the dairy eating them. As I say, the fancy flavors have always been much better. If you are going with the ice cream, get a fancy flavor. Here is a list of the flavors - why did we pick Vanilla and Chocolate? Well we were trying to be sensible. And by the way, the big single scoop that you get with the buffet is almost $3.00 on the menu alone.

This meal was a very satisfying meal. This was a meal that I wanted to be able to try more of the items on the buffet and go up and get more and more, but there was just too much to be able to eat that was good and tempting - and as I said at the start, this is a small buffet. I don't feel this way about some of the large buffets.  I am very much looking forward to coming back to Oregon Dairy Country Restaurant and Buffet. The thought occurred to me several times on this trip that I should go to the small out of the way buffets that are so good more than some of the more popular ones. Not that the popular ones are not good, but buffets like this one are really good as well. And being off the tourist beat can be so much better than dealing with the large crowds of tourists.

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. In season there is a corn maze for the kids.


Friday, July 17, 2015

Lunch at Old Country Buffet

I do not often write about lunch at a buffet. We have been to OCB for lunch in the past a few times but that was a long time ago. One of the problems that I see with lunch at a buffet is that it is far too much to eat for lunch - unless you are not planning on having dinner afterward. Well, we had an event to be at that was going to go from early evening until after 10 pm and we decided that we would go to OCB for lunch and this would be a meal to keep us for the day until this event was over late that night.

I was a bit disappointed when I saw what was offered on the buffet at lunch. Much of the lighter fare items that we remembered on the buffet were gone. Perhaps some might see this as a good thing, but I really was not interested in repeating a dinner that we had a few nights before at OCB for lunch - minus the carvings. Lunch is $10.99 including beverage, of course. There is a senior price and there has also been a senior feature price of $7.99 which is one of the reasons why most of the people who you will find eating at OCB on a weekday at lunch are seniors.

I came expecting what I remembered at OCB for lunch - hamburgers, hot dogs, country fried steak, grilled cheese sandwiches, along with fried chicken and a few other entrees and the usual sides. Gone were most of these, other than the fried chicken and the grilled cheese sandwiches. Grilled cheese sandwiches are a rather odd thing to find at a buffet but they seem to have remained even after the long time since we had been in for lunch. What was there was most of what is on the buffet for dinner but, again, no carvings, and none of the little pots that they persist in serving.  There was meatloaf - but perhaps I should say meat crumble. I thought that the meatloaf had just been picked through to the point that what was left just fell apart, but shortly later another tray of it came out and it was just the same - crumbled chopped meat with ketchup over it - sitting in grease. I passed on that. There was chicken and dumpling which is found on the dinner buffets on and off, but the dumplings were huge - large balls of flour that were the equivalent of two, and perhaps three, of the usual OCB dumplings in chicken and dumplings (think of these "dumplings" as more Bisquick biscuits that have been dropped into the creamed chicken mixture with vegetables to cook). There was "BBQ" chicken that was dried out and did not look very appetizing. I had seen this when we had been there prior for dinner and at that time I could not tell what it was and had to ask - when I heard that it was bbq chicken, I responded, "you're kidding me".  There was fried chicken, there was baked chicken, and there was orange chicken. There was a small tray of smoked sausage in sauerkraut. I actually had a bit of a problem finding what to take to eat. Had the meatloaf been normal, I likely would have made most of my meal with that. I ate chicken and dumplings - trying to find the little amount of chicken that was in the tray and cutting the dumplings in half before taking them. I also had a little of the smoked sausage and a bit of the orange chicken which I should not have been eating as it is covered in sweet sauce. I even took a half of grilled cheese sandwich. All in all I would have been happier had I come in and found the burgers and hot dogs. Even though this was to be a meal to keep us going late into the night, what was on the buffet was just too heavy to have mid-day.

One thing about lunch at OCB is that trays are not emptied and not replaced. Another is that it is early enough in the day for the floors to remain clean (though that has not been as much of a problem as it had been in the past). Another plus, at least not when the kids are off for the summer, is that there are no, or at least very few, kids running around or up at the buffet with their hands in trays.

I have been to better buffets at lunch over the years (the few times we have done a lunch buffet) - the best being Shady Maple in PA which combines some of dinner with lunch items at a much reduced price from dinner, followed by Sweet Tomatoes/Soup Plantation which was very nice for lunch. OCB is just OK at lunch - at least as it was on this experience. One other thing that did not happen on this visit that has happened on those past lunch visits for us - the dinner buffet starts at 3:00 pm and during the last forty-five minutes to a half hour before that, dinner items would begin to be brought out, replacing lunch items. Well, since it was mostly dinner items to start with, that did not happen. Nothing on the buffet changed past 3 - they even brought out more grilled cheese sandwiches.

Breakfast buffet is not served at OCB during the week and that ends about 11 am. That would likely have been more exciting.

Friday, July 03, 2015

Bird-In-Hand Restaurant and Smorgasbord, Bird-In-Hand, PA

The Bird-In-Hand Restaurant and Smorgasbord in Bird-In-Hand, PA is a restaurant and buffet that has been around for many years. It is a buffet that we go to perhaps once a year just to see how it is again - and also when it is the only buffet worth going to that is open when others are closed. This past Memorial Day this was the buffet we had dinner at. It was one of the few that was not closed at dinner time for the holiday. Another buffet that is one of the top on our list of buffets in this area was also open (which we learned by surprise) but we had been there two nights before and decided to give Bird-In-Hand a try again and I was happy that we did.

One thing about this buffet is the price tends to vary a lot from season to season and year to year. The current price is $16.99 for dinner and this includes the beverage which makes it the equivalent of other buffets priced at $14.70 that don't include the beverage.At this price it is not bad. It has been as high as $19.99 (maybe even more) in the past and as low as $14.99 with coupons offered for money off. There was no coupon available for the buffet when we just went there for dinner.  *** Note: The price for this buffet went up three dollars to $19.99 for Summer 2015! We dined here on Memorial Day 2015 and the price was $16.99. This is typical of this buffet - the price goes high in the summer and that price is every day.

A year ago the meal here disappointed me, especially at the $19.99 that they charged then. The food was inconsistent from previous visits - with some of it not up to par and others good as usual. This year it was all good.

The night that we were there, as I said, was Memorial Day Monday at dinner. At this point the tourists are on their way home and the restaurant was not crowded and those who were there were mostly locals. You can order from the menu or the buffet. You can also order the soup and salad bar alone and you can order the dessert bar alone. We, of course, ordered the full smorgasbord that includes all of that plus the hot entrees and side dishes.

I have written about the different foods served here. This is Pennsylvania Dutch cooking and food. Their website lists what is featured each night on the buffet for dinner and lunch (lunch varies from dinner). There may be substitutions. This restaurant serves the best Chicken Corn Soup in Lancaster County and it can easily be made a meal in itself. It is full of chicken meat, has a consistency unlike any other Chicken Corn Soup, and is delicious. I, of course, had this soup and when I saw that on the salad bar there was chicken salad (which is not always on the salad bar) I realized that I could have ordered just the Soup and Salad Bar at almost half the price of dinner and been happy for dinner just making a meal of Chicken Corn Soup and chicken salad on rolls from the bread selection. While I could have changed my order at that point, I saw what was on the hot foods and decided to stay with the whole deal - taking, of course, the soup and chicken salad as well.

The hot foods that were featured were turkey, roast beef, ham balls, meatloaf, chicken pot pie (PA Dutch chicken Bot Bie), broasted chicken, baked fish, pork and sauerkraut, filling, buttered noodles, mashed potatoes, green beans, baked lima beans (as in bbq baked beans made with limas) corn, carrots, baked corn pudding, and more. The turkey and roast beef are pre-carved and served from a buffet tray. The turkey is served in a tray of dark meat and a tray of light meat and I prefer this turkey to any other - and I like turkey a lot. It is served in its juices and is very moist and dripping when you put it on your plate. There is turkey gravy and beef gravy to put on your meat if you wish. The mashed potatoes are fresh. The vegetables are fresh. The meatloaf was served with a ketchup glaze and was good. The ham balls - as ham balls often are - are served in a sweet sauce. The chicken pot pie - this is like a chicken and dumpling stew and not baked chicken pie - had too many potatoes added and the large flat and thick dumplings were a bit too dense. They should be lighter. It was tasty, never the less. The food was good.

While we were eating we overheard the waitress at the next table tell the people that the dessert of the day was fresh strawberry pie. My ears perked up at hearing this and I expected to find that on the dessert bar which is extensive in selection. When it was time for dessert there was no fresh strawberry pie on the dessert bar and it did not seem as if it had been earlier. Evidently, the featured dessert is for the menu only - at least on this visit. There were all types of pies, some cakes, quartered chocolate whoopie pies, several prepared desserts, fruits, and puddings, including something called pretzel jello that seemed to be jello, whipped cream and pretzels mixed together. There is soft serve ice cream and also "Slurpee" type drinks at the dessert bar. I had a piece of shoo fly pie which sould have been better - and their baking comes from their very popular bakery that has a bake shop all on its own.The crumb topping on the pie was more of a crust that was difficult to bite through. Perhaps it had been out too long. I have had their shoo fly pie before and it has been very good.

Service was excellent. The server was there to take away plates and refill our beverages.

So - will I go back - yes, but when will depend on circumstances and price. If I had only one buffet  meal to have on a visit to this area, it would not be this one - if there were the other buffets that I have written about available - unless I was looking toward having something that only this buffet has. You can get the chicken corn soup at large and they do make good platters and sandwiches so this restaurant can make a good lunch stop - the buffet is available at lunch also. So if I was craving the soup and I had other buffet choices for dinner I might stop in for lunch.

Should you go - yes! You decide if you have been to the others if you will choose this one over anther - cop out on my part - not really. This is a nice buffet. There are better ones and for less money. If the price goes back up to $19.99 and there are other places to go - go to them. If you can find a coupon in one of the tourist magazines for a few dollars off dinner then it gets to be a whole lot easier to decide to go here - under the circumstances of where you can go. Let me put it this way- you should not be disappointed if you come here for dinner for the buffet.  The food is good and fresh.

Bird-In-Hand Family Restaurant is located at 2760 Old Philadelphia Pike, Bird-in-Hand, PA 17505. The phone number is 1-800-665-8780. There is a website located at the side of this page.The restaurant closes at 8:00 pm and is not open on Sundays. You will not be seated for the Smorgasbord after 7:30 pm. There is a dinner theater located in another part of the same building and the dinner is served in the restaurant at the smorgasbord for the theater. Performances at the theater are area related musical comedies.