Friday, October 21, 2016

Return to Epic Buffet, Hollywood Casino, Grantville, PA

In August 2015 we reported on our visit to the Epic Buffet in the Hollywood Casino which is in Grantville, PA just outside of Hershey. This is a casino and racetrack with table games, slot machines and the racetrack. The casino is off limits to children - naturally - but the buffet is inside the casino and there is no way to the buffet but walking through the casino - so if you are planning to visit with children or anyone under 21, don't make the trip. I had mixed feelings about our dinner there a year ago - this visit I was happier.

We went on a Wednesday night in August and there was racing scheduled that night - not that this impacts on the buffet, but the dining room we were seating in had a television on the wall that showed the races that were in progress on the track. Perhaps this needs repeating as I have said this with other casinos that we have gone to for the buffet - we are not gamblers - we go to dine at the buffet and don't bet. We did enjoy watching the horse races last year and we were looking forward to that again after dinner - and while we don't generally like a television on in any restaurant while we are eating, watching the races that we would have otherwise missed was nice. The price for dinner on Wednesday and Thursday nights is $14.99. The buffet is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays. Dinner on Friday nights now includes Crab Legs in addition to the Saturday night features of Prime Rib and Seafood. The two nights are priced accordingly with the Friday night dinner now at $32.99 and the Saturday night dinner now $26.99. The Sunday night dinner buffet is $16.99.  Hours are important to take note of - Sunday, Wednesday, and Thursday the buffet closes at 8:00 pm. The Saturday and Friday night buffets close at 9:00 pm.  The Wednesday and Thursday price of $14.99 includes beverages - and this is a very good price for a buffet these days. I have paid that much on weekends - PLUS paid for soda - at two Golden Corrals on their weekend "special" at Golden Corrals that have a weekday price of $13.99.

I will not go through all of the dishes on the buffet on this Wednesday night - there was quiet a selection from seafood entrees - both broiled and fried, to Asian, to Continental, to Italian which included "gourmet" type pizzas. The carving was Roast Turkey Breast and this was very good. There was also ham. There was not a great deal of difference from the weekend buffet that we had here a year ago for a lot more money. There was no Prime Rib but I was not impressed with then. Some of the "appetizer" style dishes that were there last year were not there on this Wednesday, so I would say that those go along with the weekend diner. There was no peel and eat shrimp. The salad bar on this trip was very basic - make a salad with a limited number of toppings and not much in the way of prepared salads. The "grape" tomatoes on the salad bar were dried out and not edible. Those were the only thing on the buffet that night that I took objection to.  There are several small pizza's out cut into slices. For some reason there is a need to make pizzas with a very thin crust and this is supposed to make them "gourmet" - this is my description, they were not calling their pizzas that. They were tasty little slices and if you like a cracker like crust you will love these. I am not complaining - we had a good and satisfying dinner

Desserts are just as I had described last year. They are in small portions but that is a plus as you can try several or take more than one of the one you want. There is also fruit and two hot desserts.

It was a fluke that we were in this area on a Wednesday night. I am glad that we were because I am not sure I would have been as happy paying $32.99 had be been there on a Friday night. Will we go back again? Yes. Would I even try it on a Friday night again if that is how our itinerary takes us to this area next year - likely, but I will think twice.

The Epic Buffet at the Hollywood Casino is located at the Penn National Race Course at 777 Hollywood Blvd, Grantville, PA 17028. There is plenty of free parking. The phone number is 717-469-2211. There is a website for the casino and buffet and that is linked at the side of this page. Take note of the hours and days open as noted above. Also - your GPS may not take you to the entrance of the complex. For some reason our GPS sent us to the entrance to the stables on the opposite side of the grounds.

Friday, October 07, 2016

Is Sweet Tomatoes Going the Way of OCB?

Sweet Tomatoes, also know in some areas as Souplantation, is a chain of salad and soup buffets in several parts of the US from California to the East Coast. On Tuesday evening, October 4, 2016 and Wednesday morning, October 5, 2016, the corporation closed all of the Sweet Tomatoes restaurants in the state of Illinois.

Garden Fresh Restaurant Corporation, the owner of Sweet Tomatoes, filed for bankruptcy on Monday. The corporation confirmed that the restaurants in Schaumburg, St. Charles, Waukegan, Lombard, Aurora and Glenview, Illinois are closed for business. The company reports that they plan to restructure, close more restaurants, and put the corporation up for sale. What will remain - for the moment - are approximately 100 restaurants with the Souplantation name that are located in the western US. The corporate headquarters are in San Diego, California. Sales are reported to have dropped by 5.2 million dollars in the last year.

Our source is the Daily Herald, a suburban Chicago information source. 
We have also learned that the Sweet Tomatoes restaurant in Forth Worth, Texas, as well as the Irving, Texas location were closed at the same time. The two locations in Jacksonville, Florida were closed.

Nation's Restaurant News also has reported the story and has confirmed with Garden Fresh that locations will close nationwide. The restaurant chain website is still active and still shows locations in Florida and in North Carolina as still in operation. The other states with locations shown are all in the West and and up and down the coast.

I have only been to a Sweet Tomatoes once and that was in Cary, North Carolina. We liked it very much and have always hoped that they would open restaurants further up the East Coast. That hope is now gone.  We are on the restaurant chain's email list and a discount coupon email came this past week.

If any of our readers know of other Sweet Tomatoes or Souplantation closings please contact us with the email link and let us know so that we can inform our readers.  Thank you!