Friday, June 16, 2017

Top Buffet of 2016 - Shady Maple Smorgasbord, East Earl, PA


The one buffet that has been consistently named as a Top Buffet or Best Buffet is Shady Maple! Whenever we are asked by someone who has never been there or who is going to Lancaster County for the first time and wants to know what buffet they should go to, this is the one that we tell them. The reason is that Shady Maple is an experience. It is likely the largest buffet - maybe one of the largest restaurants in the Country - maybe in the world. This is not like any other restaurant or buffet in this area. Located in the middle of the farm lands and surrounded by farms, the restaurant inside is not what one would expect in this area. It is lavishly decorated. It has crystal chandeliers. It is big. The buffet section runs the length of the large restaurant on one side and you enter in the middle and it spreads down each side with buffet serving tables, flanked in the front by four cooking stations serving more foods.  Some will get the impression that if you go down both sides you will just find the same things - but that is only partially true. Many of the dishes on one side are different dishes on the other. This buffet is overwhelming - in a good way. You can easily eat far too much here - and start to get the idea that it is a challenge! Well, we have covered that idea since this site has started. It is not a challenge - it is an offer and one must need to know when to stop - especially if one plans to save room for dessert.

Each night is a featured food night. Monday is steak night. Tuesday is seafood. Wednesday is Prime Rib. Thursday is BBQ night. Friday and Saturday are a combination of the best - Saturday includes New York Strip Steak, Friday includes Beef Brisket. Prices do vary by night. You are not going to pay the same every night. Prices include local tax and a small service fee for the server so there is no tipping. Your beverage is included in the price of the buffet and you serve yourself your beverages from one of the largest assortment of beverages in any buffet. There is a senior discount. There is a free buffet on your birthday with proof and the purchase of a dinner for someone else.

The food has always been and is excellent. The food is prepared properly and kept at correct temperatures. There is an assortment of soups, an extensive salad bar, more entrees and sides than any other buffet including carving stations and grills. Desserts are coming from Shady Maple's Farm Market - on another part of the property - which is known for their baking. Foods include PA Dutch favorites along with a large variety of "American food".

I have said this before - several times - you can be anywhere in Lancaster and overhear people talking about Shady Maple. I have been in other states and have heard people talking about Shady Maple. When you go you will be with locals, tourists, the Amish, and the Mennonites. Everyone goes to Shady Maple.

During the winter, they have special menu weekends - and when I read what is coming, I am so tempted to battle the weather on a winter trip to get there for these.

We went several times in 2016 (and we have been there already in 2017) just to make sure all is the same and good. Of course it is.

Go hungry. Don't go after having a "big" lunch!

There is no question that this is a top buffet!

Shady Maple Smorgasbord is located at 129 Toddy Drive in East Earl, PA. Take Route 23 East or Route 322 South to get to the restaurant. There is lots of parking (free, of course). The phone numbers are 1-800-238-7363 and 717-354-8222. There is a website and it is listed at the side of this page. Like most other local buffets and restaurants in Lancaster County, Shady Maple is closed on Sundays - and some holidays, but not all. Dinner ends at 8:00 pm.

Friday, June 02, 2017

Top Buffet of 2016 - Bird-In-Hand Restaurant and Smorgasbord, Bird-In-Hand, PA


Bird-In-Hand Restaurant and Smorgasbord has been a well known restaurant and buffet in Lancaster County, PA for a very long time. I have had dinner and lunch there many times over many years. We have watched this buffet grow from a small counter along a wall with hot trays to a completely renovated restaurant with a good sized, dedicated smorgasbord section. The restaurant's building continued to grow to what it is today that includes the restaurant with two full sized dining rooms and on a lower level a theater featuring entertainment and local themed plays. With the theater the restaurant/buffet became part of a dinner theater package (which has not (in our experience) interfered with diners who are there for dinner only. The restaurant is owned and operated by the same family for generations and the property across from the restaurant is the family farm.

As prices have increased in a number of the buffets in this area, the price of this buffet has now come more in line with the others. In the past this buffet has offered sporadically offered coupon savings on the price of the buffet. It now has a coupon included in the Visit Lancaster County Guide which is available free all over Lancaster County - and will be sent to you on request from the tourist board. There is a price difference on Friday and Saturday night dinners which add carvings to the buffet. This buffet definitely gives value for what you pay and what you get.

The food here is excellent. This restaurant offers not only a buffet but also menu dining. One can also just opt for the Soup, Salad, and Bread Bar alone or with a menu item. One can also go just for the Desert Buffet. All is included with the full smorgasbord and the price includes a beverage with unlimited refills which is not included at many buffets in this area. Regular readers have read my raves about my favorite items on this buffet. I love, and have always loved, the Chicken Corn Soup prepared and served here - it is the best anywhere - and different from most. There is a secret to this soup that after many years of attempting to duplicate it at home, I cannot figure out. Another of our favorite items here is there turkey - served in a tray in liquid that keeps both white and dark meat moist and full of flavor. Of course, there is a wide assortment of other foods on the buffet. On some nights there will be a local dish called Chicken Bot Bei or Chicken Pot Pie to the tourists - which is not like a chicken pot pie in other areas. This is one of the better Chicken Bot Bei's which is not served often enough at other buffets. It is regularly here on certain nights. Another Lancaster County favorite - which is served at many PA Dutch buffets - is Pork and Sauerkraut. There are other soup choices and also a salad bar and a large dessert section. Deserts are full of choices and you will find whoopie pies - a local favorite of cake rounds with cream in the middle, a variety of pies including shoofly pie, chocolate shoofly pie - and a pie that I discovered two years ago that I have only seen in this area, Lemon Sponge (wonderful!). There is soft serve ice cream and a frozen soft drink machine. There is fruit and a number of prepared deserts as well!  The baking here comes from the well known Bird-In-Hand Bake Shop which is also owned by this family. The food has been consistently good. That does not mean that you will not find something that you don't care for because you just don't like that food or seasoning, but it does mean that you will enjoy here the foods that you like. 

For the children! There is a children's buffet bar that features kid favorites - hot dogs, grilled cheese, chicken nuggets, hamburgers, spaghetti, etc. There this is only available Fridays and Saturdays until 7:30 pm. (The restaurant closes at 8:00 pm.)

If someone at a table does not want the buffet and wants to order of the menu they are welcome here to do that. Some buffets do not allow this. Here they do.

Service is good here. The wait staff are attentive. Dishes are cleared regularly and when it is time for a refill of your beverage, it is easy to spot your table server and ask.

When we come to this area there are so many buffets to choose from. Bird-In-Hand comes to mind often as a top choice to go to. 

One of the things that we like about Bird-In-Hand Restaurant is that you are going to encounter a good number of local people including Amish and Mennonites dining here. Of course, you are going to encounters tourists also - this restaurant is located on a main route - Route 340 - that goes through the heart of Amish and Mennonite farm lands. 

If you have never been this is a must try. If you have not been in awhile go back. If you are a regular then you know what we are talking about.

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.