Monday, March 27, 2023


 Covid took its toll on buffet restaurants.  Many did not survive the pandemic. 

I will start with Golden Corral. Golden Corral has closed a number of its locations. Some were the result of Corporate's decsions. Others were the result of franchise holders who decided to close and never re-open their Golden Corral buffets. This is not to say that all Golden Corrals have closed. There are still Golden Corral buffets but they are much fewer and further between than they had been. 

One of the Golden Corral's we had been to many times is confirmed, gone forever. This was the Golden Corral in Freehold, New Jersey. It was closed by its franchise owner. It had been listed by Golden Corral on their website as "temporarily" closed.  I just learned that the building was sold and is being turned into a medical office facility. (As you will see as you read on this fate of buffet buildings is not that unusual.) 

This has all has effected the Pennsylvania Dutch buffets in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. While a few are closed, those that have remained open have cut their hours and some have cut the days that they are open. 

One of the buffets I have written the most about in Lancaster over the years is Shady Maple Smorgasbord. They remain open for business but they now close every night at 7:00 pm. During the pandemic when they re-opened, they were open until 8:00 pm as always before but only on Friday and Saturday nights.  Other weeknights were 7:00 pm closing.  Not too long ago they changed the hours for Friday and Saturday to a 7:00 pm closing. They state on their website that they remain open after the last dinner sold at 7:00 pm for 45 more minutes.  In the past, the buffet was out until almost 9:00 pm before they removed the food from the buffet servers. 

Yoders Family Restaurant and Buffet in New Holland, PA remains open 6 nights a week but closes at 7:00 pm Monday to Thursday and at 8:00 pm on Fridays and Saturdays.  This buffet has always  started to remove the food from the buffet tables right at 8:00 pm in the past. It seems that now with the nights it closes at 7:00 pm - it is really closing at 7:00 pm and you have to be ready to go. 

One of our favorite buffets in Lancaster has been the buffet at the Dutch Way supermarket in Gap, PA.  The restaurant is still open BUT the buffet is gone. It is menu dining only. The restaurant is still open until 8:00 pm - just no buffet. 

Dutch Way now has four locations with a new supermarket location in Ephrata, PA. This location does not have a full restaurant. It has a cafe with a limited menu. The only other of their locations that has had a buffet has been Dutch Way in Meyerstown, PA.  Meyerstown is not in Lancaster County. It is further northwest and a considerable drive from Lancaster. They still offer a buffet in their restaurant. They have maintained their regular hours with an 8:00 pm closing time Monday to Saturday. On Friday and Saturday dinner you can add an all you can eat prime rib buffet upgrade for an additional $3.99. If it was not so far out of the way, this would be pretty good. 

Bird-In-Hand Family Restaurant and Smorgasbord is closed on Mondays and the restaurant closes at 7:00 pm. In the past, when 8 pm was approaching the server would come to your table and announce that the buffet would be closing soon and if you wanted anything more you needed to go up to get it now.  I assume this still takes place. 

 Miller's Smorgasbord - a buffet that at one time was a favorite and then decided it would get "fancy" and attracted a lot of tourists. They are also the most expensive of the PA Dutch buffets. Many of the buffets we prefer have more local people than they have tourists (perhaps with the exception of Shady Maple - but Shady Maple will often have Amish families dining there). Miller's is closed Monday and Tuesday and is open until 7:00 pm Wednesday and Thursday with Friday and Saturday until 8:00 pm. They are open Sundays to 7:00 pm (the only PA Dutch buffet open on Sunday). 

Dienner's Country Restaurant has always had early closing hours for their restaurant and buffet. This very much a restaurant frequented by Amish and Mennonite local people. It is in Ronks, PA. As in the past, Monday through Thursday plus Saturday they close at 6:00 pm. Fridays they now close at 7:00 pm (in the past on Fridays the hours were until 8:00 pm). Other than Fridays in the past this was always just too early to get for dinner. 

Litiz Family Cupboard is in northwest Lancaster, County. Up until two days ago this restaurant and buffet was going out of business. They were not able to re-negotiate their lease with the property owners and they were having problems hiring staff for the restaurant. They had announced their closing  a month or so ago. They are a nice buffet with some very authentic PA Dutch items on tier menu and buffet including pig's stomach on one night a week.  They have been able to renegotiate their lease and are currently hiring - they are not going to close down as announced.  They are closed on Mondays and open until 8:00 pm as they have always been. The buffet is available on al open nights. The menu dining is only on certain days and this may change as they get themselves settled again. 

The restaurant and buffet at Oregon Dairy is open but closed on Mondays.  Tuesday through Thursday they close at 7:00 pm BUT prior to the winter they were closing at 8:00 pm. That may go back to 8:00 as the summer approaches. They are open until 9:00 pm on Fridays and Saturdays.  They are open Sundays until 2:00 pm with a breakfast buffet and a soup and salad bar buffet. 

Now - the sad news.   Good N' Plenty Family Style Restaurant is one of the very long operating PA Dutch restaurants in Lancaster. County. This was all you can eat served in platters to a long table where you sat with others.  The platters were passed around the table and when they were empty they would be refilled. This was a restaurant that I went to with my parents on trips to Lancaster many years ago. Due to the pandemic the owners decided to retire. They were not able to hire staff as the pandemic wound down and could not keep running the restaurant on their own. They had hoped to sell the restaurant as a going business to new owners who would continue the restaurant as it has always been. They received no offers to buy the business and they sold the building at auction. The building will no longer be a restaurant - and will become a community health and medical center (as noted with Freehold Golden Corral - all you can eat restaurant becomes a medical facility).  This medical center will be a not for profit organization focused on the local community and it is in the heart of an Amish and Mennonite area. 

Another buffet lost is the  Hershey Farm Restaurant (and Hotel). This was located south of Ronks and north of Strasburg.  A fire destroyed the restaurant and the complete complex that included a hotel and gift shop. The fire was the result of a torch setting the roof of the restaurant on fire during repairs.  All buildings burned to the ground. News crews recorded the event and a number of fire companies responded to fight the fire including Amish men who were in some of the fire companies.  This was not a favorite buffet but it is sad to see it go! 

Going on to other areas where there have always been a lot of buffets. I have recently learned that there are no longer any buffets at the Las Vegas casinos.  With slow business during the pandemic and what one report claimed - they were not making the casinos' money, they have closed. 

Some of the Atlantic City casinos still have buffets. Prices are high. 

The two casinos in Connecticut - Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun - no longer have their buffets open. Whether this is permanent or will change is unknown to me. 

 What buffets seem to have been able to remain. For the most part, the Asian buffets are still in business and reopened back to their regular hours. Prices have gone up - but prices of everything have gone up.  We still go to a few of these- one fairly regularly. 

So what is going on and why are all of these buffets closing or cutting back open hours and open days?  The common answer each gives (and I have asked several with them not knowing who was asking) is that they cannot get employees to come back and work now that the pandemic is winding down. This makes no sense to me - but it is a reality.  

I keep hoping - in particular with the Lancaster buffets that they will see as this coming Summer gets near that they will see that they need to go back to the usual 8:00 pm closing and reopen the days they are closing.  This is a busy tourist area and they will get busy again and local people will be coming back as well this year. When visiting this area, with the number of people who typically dined at these restaurants - just two to three years ago - when you got there at 6:45 or 7:00 there were lines and you might not get seated until after 7:00 pm. With a 7:00 pm closing I see the need to be at the restaurant no later than between 5:00 to 5:30 pm. Local people who work don't get out of work until 5 - so if they want to go to the restaurant on a weeknight they rush home to get the family to travel then to the restaurant - it just does not work. And it will not work with visitors to the area either. The non-buffet restaurants are open. They have their regular hours. It is not like the buffets and all other restaurants are closing early.  If they don't go back to their usual hours and days it is going to hurt them even more than the pandemic hurt them. 

Sunday, July 25, 2021


What I thought of most in terms of restaurants and buffets during the past over a year and a half remaining at home during Covid-19 were the buffets in Lancaster, PA.  A number of the Lancaster buffets had reopened in a modified basis mid-2020 and I published an article on this site at the time about what they were doing to keep their customers and employees safe.  At the current time the only Lancaster buffet that has resumed full operation with their regular hours and buffet menu is Shady Maple Smorgasbord.  They are open until 8:00 pm Monday to Saturday. As always they are closed on Sunday.  The others close early at 7 or earlier. We have been looking to return to Lancaster and see for ourselves what is happening and we chose Shady Maple as the one we would go to first. 

At the end of June, Pennsylvania's Governor ended all requirements in the state to wear a mask. How wide this was in terms of the active numbers remaining and increasing in Pennsylvania remains for someone else to judge, but I will say that it made us very cautious about going to Pennsylvania and into a buffet. From what I was able to research before we went, we were not certain that there were any precautions being taken at Shady Maple - while just a month ago, masks were required when walking around the restaurant - they could be removed, of course, at your table, and gloves were required to be worn - provided by the restaurant when going up to the buffet to handle plates, cups, glasses, and serving utensils.  It appeared that none of this was still being required.  We were apprehensive but we went making the three hour one way trip plus return, for the day to Lancaster and dinner at Shady Maple. We went on a Friday night.  We arrived at the restaurant at about 6:15 pm and the parking lot was crowded. In addition there were buses of people coming to the buffet for dinner.

 The entrances and exits at the lobby are marked in large letters. One set of doors are Entrance Only and the other set of doors are Exit Only.  Walking to the restaurant from the parking lot we saw very few wearing masks.  Entering the lobby, we saw two cashiers open and two moderately long lines of people waiting to pay and have dinner.  Few wore masks. There was a standing sign at the back of each line - "This is a TOUCHLESS buffet" and it went on to say that gloves were provided but optional to use when going up to the buffet to serve yourself. It also said that everyone must take a clean plate, clean drinking glass, and clean cup each time they went up to the buffet.  We were very pleased to see this and it made us much more comfortable going in. Social distancing is something that some did and some did not while waiting to go in.

We waited on the line and the process was the same as it always has been. There was a plexiglass screen between the cashier and the customers. Once you pay, you can go to a line that seats you in the front, booths only dining room, or you can go around to the middle of the restaurant following the aisle - as there always have been.  We went to the middle of the restaurant - as is always our preference and waited on the line there that moved fairly quickly. The prices are about or just slightly higher than what they have been in the past. The tip - as it always has been - is included in the price. Soft drinks and coffee/tea are included in the price. We were escorted to a table near the buffet and were asked if we had ever dined at Shady Maple before. I never like to seem to be a tourist -and we have dined there hundreds of times, but I my reply was "Not since Covid - but many times before." We were told that everything is the same. She pointed to a small table at the entrance of the buffet and showed us where the gloves were if we wanted them and that they were optional.  On that same table was a pump bottle of disinfectant and behind the table was a tall square trash can for the disposal of the gloves. A new set of gloves should be taken each time you go up - if you are using gloves. It surprised me that more were taking and using gloves than not using them. But those wearing a face mask were in the minority (as was true in places we had visited during the day). We do and we were going to use the gloves. The tables in the dining room were widely spread apart. You were not sitting right next to the tables around you.

We went up to the buffet. The gloves are extra large and thin clear plastic. There is a tub of gloves and you reach in and take them yourself. We got glove, managed to get them on as they were hard to peel open at the bottom, and went up to the buffet. The buffet was fairly crowded. Social distancing was just about non-existent.  We started with soup, brought our handled bowls of soup to the table and then went back in to get our soft drinks. The chicken corn noodle soup was as good as always. There were fewer soups than are usually out - but part of the soup serving area was take up with hot wings which have not been there in the past.  This might be part of the Friday dinner features.  While some of  the night to night features are the same they also do vary night to night. There is also a large variety of meats, side dishes, etc. on the buffet in addition to the features - that you are not seeing listed when you look at the menus on their website. Both sides of of the very long buffet tables were full - every section tray was filled with food to take.  All of the grills were also working with featured items on them. A feature each night is New York Strip Steak and it is served at one of the grill stations to order while other grill stations have a wide assortment of other fish and meats. 

I had to have the steak. After we finished the soup we went right to the entrees. We skipped the extensive salad bar, which is the past we would have gone to. It has been so long since we have been here, we wanted to go right to the good stuff! There were a few people waiting on line for steaks. When I got up to the grill I asked for a steak - rare!  The gentleman behind the grill looked over what he had cooking on the grill - paused to add more raw steaks on the grill and then said to me -  I have this steak that is rare and he cut it open to show me. It was perfect inside and outside. It also was about an inch and a half thick. I am not sure if my eyes popped out of my head or not, as this was the thickest steak that I have ever seen at Shady Maple - and he was giving me the whole thing. He asked if I wanted it and I said yes! The other steaks were a little less than half this thickness. I knew taking that large steak that I would probably not being coming back for a second steak as this was a lot of steak - but this was what I have been waiting a year and a half for. It is as if it was there just for me! (They do not know me there - or at any buffet I write about and I want it that way!) I added to the plate a deep fried crab cake and a couple of serving spoonfuls of dried corn (an Amish dish of sweetened, stewed dried corn). I headed back to the table. 

Each time we came back to the table we put the used gloves in the trash basket intended for them. At the table I started on the steak. It was red and juicy inside - but no raw. It was nicely brown on the outside.  The edges around the steak were seasoned and a bit tough. I just cut that off and ate the meat inside of it - and even with that there was plenty of meat there. The meat itself was not tough. It was very tasty - and just what I wanted. The dried corn was as good as always. The deep fried crab cake was very tasty. 

My wife had chosen ham balls, an Amish dish of ham meat balls that are sweetened with a pineapple glaze. She was happy with what she was eating. As you know, if you are a steady reader of this site, ths is a picky eater.

The problem with not having been here in so long with so many dishes to choose from and so much that is tempting and looks good, is that one can easily get carried away and take too much. While I was aware of this, on my second entree visit to the buffet tables, I was picking things that I had been missing and this second dish was a sampling of some of those - but more than it should have been. I have not had fried chicken on the bone for a long time and I took a piece of fried chicken. I saw that there were also crab cakes that were being cooked on the grill and I got one of those. I took some fall apart beef. I also took a perogie and I took some Amish potato filling.  I also spotted large fried shrimp and took two of those. After the big steak this was overdoing it. This plate was good but was not satisfying me as the first. The chicken part I took was dense. I should have take a leg that was in the tray opposite. The shrimp were the best thing on the plate. The shrimp inside the light breading were very large and very moist. The taste was great and very fresh. It was, in my memory, the best shrimp that I have ever had.  The perogie was deep fried and the center and filling was good and tasty. The crab cake was differently seasoned than the deep fried one I had with the steak and I did not like the grilled crab cake as much. The potato filling was good as always. The beef was tasty.  I suddenly found myself - for no reason related to the food on my plate - leaving some of it over.  I am not used to eating like this after such of long time of eating all meals at home.

I should have stopped with that last plate but my head got the better of me and I went up for a third plate and I went right back to the steak grill. This time I was given a nicely rare steak - not as thick as the first - but thicker than usual. I also went for a second deep fried crab cake and some more dried corn - duplicating my first plate. It was all good but my stomach was letting me know that with a more than three hour drive home - maybe in Friday night traffic - I better not over do it. I ate about half the steak, half of the crab cake and a few forkfuls of the dried corn. Thinking back, I should have skipped the steak and went back for a few more shrimp. I looked down at the plate and pushed it away from me.  This was not a challenge and we can come back again for more - with a lot less time in between from the last time we dined at this buffet. My wife who has more logic in how much she takes and what she takes enjoyed sliced turkey, sliced ham and some nice side dishes. 

While I could not eat much more, I did want to have some desert. I chose a small slice of pie. It was a raspberry pie and it was very good. My wife put together an ice cram and apple cobbler desert for herself.The last seating for the buffet is 8:00 pm and the buffet is shut down at 8:45 pm. We had been there for over an hour and a half eating dinner.

When we left I was stuffed.  The gift shop that fills the lower level is open until 9:00 pm and we walked around in there to walk off some of the too much I had eaten. I broke one of my own rules - a buffet is not a challenge. It should not be - and I have to regain the control I had two years ago. 

We will definitely go back again. I hope very much that they continue the Covid precautions they currently have in having the gloves available.  We are not out of it yet and we don't want to return to where we were a year and a half ago. It was not long ago that it was said by many media sources that buffets were dead and will never return after Covid-19. They are not dead - and if they proceed with caution they will be fully back and thriving again. 

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 25, 2021


It has been one year since I wrote my previous post on this site. It has been almost two years since I ate last at a buffet.  This all changed earlier tonight. We went to the Flaming Grill Buffet in Baldwin, New York, the last buffet we ate at when Covid was just starting and cautions had to increase.  

We are both fully vaccinated but we have been very cautious. We have slowly started to do things out of the house that we have not done for a very long time. We have been a couple of times to a fast food restaurant for lunch.  We are planning a summer trip to Pennsylvania and we do plan to eat at the buffets there that we had always enjoyed before. I decided that before we do that we need to try eating at a buffet locally.

Flaming Grill in Baldwin, NY during the height of Covid had reopened as a take out or delivery Cajun seafood menu restaurant. A new location that had opened recently then in Brooklyn, NY also became a Cajun seafood menu restaurant. The Facebook page for the Baldwin Flaming Grill still to this day describes the restaurant as Cajun seafood, but their website talks about it as the buffet it had always been in the past. I had tried contacting them through the Facebook page to ask about whether they were a buffet again or still a Cajun seafood restaurant but never got any response.  Finally it was time to call and yes, we learned that they are once again the Asian buffet that they had been pre-Covid. 

We were not certain what protective measures they would be taking and were a little hesitant even though many restrictions have been removed in this state - and other states, but it is no uncommon here to still find many people wearing masks but inside and outdoors, and many are still approaching the "new normal" with caution, as we are.  When we got there we were very pleasantly surprised! The sign on the entrance door says that "masks must be worn at all times when in the restaurant" (only exception being when eating at your table). To us that was excellent.  There were many people in the restaurant especially for a Thursday night but it was not jammed and you were not nose to now (or mask to mask) going around the buffet.

The prices have gone up by one dollar each adult meal. Where Friday dinner in the past was priced the same as Monday to Thursday, now Friday is in the price group with Saturday and Sunday - so Friday dinner has gone up two dollars. The website has a coupon for dinner maximum two to get $1.00 off on dinner. 

During the past two years without going to any buffet there were several dishes from specific buffets that I was missing A LOT. Two of those dishes were from Flaming Grill. One was their seafood soup. This is a thick broth soup with shrimp, fish, and egg whites. The other was Flaming Grills barbecue spare ribs. I was looking forward to those and hoping I would find them on the buffet.

After we paid - you pay here in advance of being seated - we went up to the person who seats you and he handed us four clear gloves - two for each of us and then he brought us to our table - a table, by chance that we had sat at multiple times in the past. The gloves are to be worn any time one goes up to serve themself at the buffet tables. In this way the serving utensils are only touched by gloved hands. (Another EXCELLENT!). This was something that had concerned us before going. This is something that was being done at the Lancaster, PA buffets when they reopened when they were allowed to - and something that from what I have been reading about those buffets, may not be being done still (we shall see when we finally get there).  The difference, however, was that at the Lancaster buffets you received a new pair of gloves every time you went up to the buffet. Here you get one pair each and use the same ones each time you go up to get food.  We were glad to see that all in the restaurant were complying with putting their masks back on and putting their gloves on each time they left their table to go up to get food. The buffet tables were no different in their protection than they had been in the past. Each has the usual cough glass in angled down over the serving trays. Each serving tray has a pair of tongs. 

SO - the meal!!! Donning out masks and gloves, we went up for soup. The seafood soup was not there. There was wontons in broth, egg drop soup, and hot and sour soup. I took two wontons and broth.  We have been taking in Chinese take out from a local take out store front over the past several months - I have had wonton soup almost weekly since we started doing that. The soup here was as good as always. After the soup I was off to see what sushi there would be out. 

Half the sushi counter was empty. The other half had salmon and avocado rolls with shrimp, tuna and avocado rolls, shrimp and cream cheese rolls, and some vegetable sushi rolls. That was it. This is much less than they had in the past BUT I have not had sushi of any kind for two years so I took half a plate of salmon roll pieces and tuna roll pieces. I took a small condiment cup and filled it from the dispenser with soy sauce that was on the counter where it has always been. Before I headed back to the table I took a piece of cold tofu with a sauce on top from the end counter that has had Asian salads.  My wife looked there for seaweed salad which she has liked here - sweet and not spicy - but there was none. That was brought out later. I enjoyed that sushi! Was it the best sushi I have ever had?  I don't care! It was a delightful texture in my mouth and a taste I have missed for too long! Walking back to the table I looked for the spare ribs. OH YES! They were there! 

There was no question about what I was going for next. The tray was completely full - just having been refilled. I chose three ribs that looked to have the most meat on them.  All I added to that plate to go with the ribs was hibachi rice.  I looked at those ribs on my plate all the way back to the table. Off came my glove, off came my mask, and I started on those ribs. I could feel the smile that my mouth was forming as I chewed that first bite.  They were just as I had been thinking about for so long a time.  There had been nights that I could not fall asleep and I cleared my head by thinking about these ribs - and a few other favorites from other buffets. I was not disappointed! They were what I was hoping for and have been waiting for.  I, suppose, that I could have just gone back up and gotten more, but I wanted to get more of the things I liked at this buffet. 

Something that I have not had in two years has been steak. Regular readers will know that I really like steak. There is steak here on the hibachi grill. You can combine it with shrimp or meats, and vegetables and noodles from the raw foods selection leading up to the grill to give to the chef behind the grill to mix together into a dish of your design. I just wanted the steak. I knew that the steak here has always been very tough and so thin that it cooks to well done in a few minutes. What was there were steaks cut to over a 1/4" thick that were semi-frozen and I was encouraged to the idea that if timed correctly it might come off the grill with some semblance of rare. I took two pieces. They filled a little more than half the plate. The grill was very busy and I waited with others for a time for what was on the grill to be cooked and come off to those waiting, and for my steak, and the others around me food selections, to go on the griddle top. There is no flame grill here despite the name of the restaurant. The chef (cook) behind the grill took each plate and briefly listened for any instructions from the person handing it to him. I said, "RARE!" - he acknowledged that and before I could say "Nothing on it!", he was taking the next plate. I stood close by watching my steaks cooking. He had five plates of food on the grill at the same time and kept going back and forth. After he turned my steaks over I knew that if they were to be actually rare they would have to come off the grill very soon. As he came back toward the end of the grill where my steaks were cooking I got his eye and indicated for him to give me the steaks then.  He went over to my steaks and picked up a squeeze bottle of teriyaki sauce and started to squeeze some on my plate. Through my mask, and shaking my head, I said "NO! No sauce - plain. I will take them now." He understood and scooped them up with a spatula and put them on a plate and handed it to me. Through the glass and my mask, as I took them I thanked him clear enough so that he could hear me. With a mask on, you can smile all you want and know one knows. This has been a time to speak up and extend one's pleasure verbally.  I took the plate with the steak to the buffet table and took some mushrooms in a brown sauce and put that next to the steak. I added some more hibachi rice - which is very good here. 

The steak was tough - as I expected it would be - but the taste of it in my mouth was STEAK! That really satisfied what I was looking for.  If one has been in the desert and finally drinks water the water tastes like nectar. The steak was medium done, but that too was OK. It was steak!

After the steak - I went around for some of the dishes I would get in the past. I did not take much. I was eating a lot more, already, than I have eaten in awhile. At some points during Covid at its height - and we are in an area that was hit very hard - leading some areas within this state and other states in case totals and deaths - we were conserving the food we had and we could get. We ate half portions. While some gained weight during Covid we both lost weight to the point of needing to take in some waistbands. But I took some broiled talapia (fish), an egg roll, a large deep fried and breaded slice of zucchini, and, one pan fried dumpling,  some fried rice.  While we could have gotten egg rolls while we were taking in meals in the past several month, we hadn't.  The egg roll I took was just fine! It was small, but it was filled with a nice mixture of vegetables and pork and it hit the spot (that I have been thinking of egg rolls lately helped at that moment of enjoying this one).  There was a lot more that I could have gone back for. I did not take the cold cocktail shrimp or the crab in the shell, or any of the chicken dishes that they did have, or other things that I might have gone for in the past. This was enough for our long awaited return to buffet dining. As this site has in its name, "All you can eat is NOT a challenge!"

There were some dishes that we expected to see from the past that were not there. There is a chicken dish with strips of chicken fried in a light breading with a peanut sauce that were missing. There was no seafood soup as I have already mentioned. My picky eater wife was looking for a few things and not seeing them - one of which was that chicken dish.  We wondered if what was not there is what makes the difference now between the Monday to Thursday dinner buffet and the Friday/Weekend buffet for a dollar more. We know that when Friday was the same price as the weekdays before it in the past these dishes were there - and there were other dishes that we knew were only on the weekend buffet back then. We don't really know. 

There was not much in the way of cakes for dessert. The large layer cakes they had in the past were not there. The lemon meringue pie was not there. What I call the "Little Debbie" squared of cakes that are cut from a sheet cake - which are not "Little Debbie" at all - were out. There were full trays of both fresh and canned fruits. puddings, a small cheesecake, and a freezer full of ice cream bars, ice cream sandwiches, and ice cream cups. My wife decided not to have dessert. I was thinking about mandarin oranges when my wife pointed out to me that two new pizza's were just put out. That I could not resist and I took some pizza and that was the pie I ate for dessert. Some might question Chinese restaurant pizza - but the pizza here, especailly when it first comes out is soft and full of cheese that just pulls away in long strands - and tasty.  

When we were done, I pushed the plate away from me and just opened my eyes wide and smiled! My wife said to me, "Happy? !". "OH YES!" was my answer.  I just sat there like that for awhile. I realized that I have not used or carried much cash with me in almost two years and, of course, we had to leave a tip. Between us we had the right amount. We had a larger bill that we could have asked the cashier to break for us, but we had a good tip to leave on the table.  I put the tip down on the table. We put on our masks and left. 

Will we go back! Yes we will. Eventually we will try a Friday or Sunday night. Our concern is only that the restaurant generally on the weekend and Fridays was always much more crowded. 

Now, I know that some of our readers go to buffets that I write about their dinner buffets for lunch. I cannot say how the lunch buffet will differ. It is lower in price and there is also a one dollar coupon for lunch on the website.  We rarely have eaten at a buffet for lunch - unless the circumstances required that we leave an area that we wanted to try a buffet before it was time for dinner, but those occurrences are few and far between. 

Some people and news reporters said that Covid killed buffets. Many are coming back! Many are already back. They found ways to make buffets safe and reopened and people are going again!  There is one  local buffet that we thought was closed forever and it just reopened. 

And we are back! Keep an eye on this site and have patience. There will be more articles coming over the summer about the "new normal" at other buffets - some that we and many readers have loved for a long time! And all the time we were in the house, I spent a lot of time watching great looking things to eat being enjoyed by hosts of shows on The Food Channel! It was great to be back in a restaurant again!


Two weeks later we went back to Flaming Grill Buffet, Baldwin on a Friday night.  When we were her two weeks ago, Friday nights were included on the weekend price of 14.99. Prior to Covid, the Friday night price was the same as the weekday dinner price. When we got there we were surprised to see that once again, Friday nights are priced at the weekday price of $13.99.

There was nothing different or added to the buffet from what was there on the Thursday weeknight dinner buffet two weeks before. This time we were each handed two gloves each with the requirement to wear a glove on each hand when going up to serve yourself at the buffet. The majority did, some wore one glove, a very few wore no gloves at all. All did still wear masks when leaving their table to go to the buffet tables. 

There were more dessert choices out. Not all of the large cakes that were out in the past but the chocolate layer cake topped with whipped cream and the tiramisu cake were there. There was also more sushi choices including more rolls and also salmon on a bed of rice. Whether these were not out the last time because it was a weekend dinner priced night then OR that when we came in on the Thursday these had been taken and they had not yet replaced them or had not planned to replace them from earlier, I don't know.  Pre-Covid there were different foods out on weekends. There was a steamed ginger fish. This was a very tasty though full of bones fish that would replace the baked talapia.  The seafood soup that I was hoping to find was not there again. 

I will admit that I either ate more than I should have or my stomach has shrunk in the past year and a half when we stopped eating out at any restaurants. When we left the restaurant I was over stuffed and I had that overfull feeling over two hours later. Yes, all you care to eat is an offer - and not a challenge. I certainly was not taking it as a challenge but it has been so long, that I again had trouble resisting taking what appealed to me as I walked by it on the buffet. I did skip desert.  My good wife did take a piece of the chocolate layer cake with whipped cream which was a favorite for her in the pre-Covid dinners we would have here almost weekly. 

I did not mention serving staff in the first article above. The service was as good as it always was. On this night the young man who was our server had been our server for pre-Covid dinners here. He was prompt to clear dishes off the table and came over when my soda glass was empty and offered to bring more - which he did promptly. The service on our first visit was just as good. The gentleman who seated us, we knew from pre-Covid dinners here. I don't know if he recognized us with our masks on - but he greeted us as in the past and brought us to the area that we always liked to sit in without our asking.  The service at this restaurant has always been good. 

I am glad we went back to compare how the restaurant is on a Friday night even though it was not priced with weekend prices which we had wanted to see to find out if weekend priced nights had different choices. I was not very crowded but during this day, there was a severe storm that had passed hours before dinner and that might have kept people away. There were more people with take out containers than there had been two weeks ago.   They accepted the $1 off per adult dinner coupon (maximum two per coupon) from their website. The local community coupons that are mailed in the area have not had a coupon for Flaming Grill since Covid started. They may start to be sent out again.  Use of the coupon does require the purchase of a soft drink each. Whether the weekend buffet has the different dishes that it had in the past is still unknown. At this point we are unlikely to go there on a Saturday as we figure that Saturday night dinner will be much more crowded - as it always was in the past. It is possible that we may go back and try it on a Sunday night just to see if there is any difference.  At this point, weekday dinner is fine - and Friday night in the past had been our regular night to come.

Tuesday, July 21, 2020


In Pennsylvania the Covid-19 reopening is coded by color and Lancaster County went Green at the end of June.  The buffet restaurants that have been written about on this site started to reopen for inside dining - but not all of them as buffets (for the time being).  I have not been to any of these for their reopening (yet) but I will share what I have learned about each one. I am not including prices as prices can change. (The masks and six feet distancing are a PA State mandate during Covid-19 and this applies to all restaurants and all businesses so I will not mention this for each restaurant unless there is something in particular to note for a specific restaurant.  Please understand - no mask and you don't get in - don't wear it as required and you will be told to leave. I am not saying this - the State of Pennsylvania is.)

I will start with the very popular Shady Maple Smorgasbord. Shady Maple closed and when take out dining was allowed they reopened for takeout dining with a limited per serving menu. With indoor dining now permitted they have once again opened as a smorgasbord buffet with a modification of its usual offerings. There are rules that must be followed if you are going to dine there during this period of time.  Your temperature will be taken as you enter. You must where a mask to enter the building and you must keep that mask on your face covering your nose and mouth - down to your chin fully. The mask may only be removed when you are sitting at your table eating. When you get up from the table for any reason the mask must be put back on. Disposable gloves will be given to your as you approach the buffet area.  You must put the gloves on before you enter the area with the buffet tables and grills and wear the gloves to take food from the buffet tables, grills, or soda and drink dispensers. As you leave this area to return to your table, there are bins to discard the gloves into. Each time you go up you will be given new gloves to wear. Before you are seated at a table the table will be fully sanitized by staff.  The buffet areas are being intensively cleaned every thirty minutes and serving utensils at the buffet are being regularly changed. Employees are being checked for temperature and health when they come to work. I had hoped that Shady Maple when it reopened like this would have followed the approach that Golden Corral has incorporated now at their restaurants that have have reopened for buffet dining and had employees serving from the buffet tables to your plate (cafeteria style) instead of allowing diners to serve themselves - even with gloved hands. But they have chosen to do it their way instead - which to me imposes more of a risk.  Occupancy of the restaurant is limited to 25% of its dining capacity. With Shady Maple there is normally a very high dining capacity with the many dining rooms it has. At 25% of that there should not be that much of a problem getting in - at least during the week. Though it could mean some long waits even so. Because of reduced capacity they ask that all diners limit their time in the buffet to two hours only - and that is fair.

The buffet menu is the same Mondays to Thursday and is the same at lunch every day. At dinner on Monday to Thursday they add additional items at the drill stations including Carved Smoked Beef Brisket, Carved Honey Ham, Kielbasa, BBQ Ribs, Grilled Chicken, Potato Cakes, Corn Fritters, Pizza, Hamburgers, Hot Dogs, Delmonico Steak & Baked Potato. On the buffet tables will be 32 Salad Bar items, 5 homemade breads & rolls, 4 soups, 3 cheeses, 9 meats, 14 vegetables, 9 cold desserts, 3 hot desserts, 5 pies, 6 cakes, sundae bar & many beverages. 

On Friday and Saturday what is on the buffet tables is the same but at the grill on Friday are added Salmon, Cajun Catfish, Pizza, Hamburgers, and Prime Rib and on Saturday are added
Salmon, Cajun Catfish, Fried Shrimp, Crab Cakes & NY Strip. Prices are higher on Friday and Saturday.  Over all the menu is not bad - and with what is included on the buffet tables there is certainly enough to eat, The Meals To Go menu is still available for pick up.  The smorgasbord hours are the same as always and they close at 8:00 pm.

Another restaurant that has opened its buffet tables is Dienner's. This is a small restaurant and has always had the earliest closing hours of any of the buffet/menu restaurants in Lancaster. Monday to Thursday and Saturday they still close at 6:00 PM and on Friday instead of being open until 8:00 pm as was the usual Friday closing.  Dienner's is serving the buffer cafeteria-style with diners coming up to the buffet and being served there by an employee.  They are keeping people six feet apart. Masks are required in the restaurant except at your table.  In addition to the buffet there is also menu dining. They are also still doing take out.  After 5 pm on Saturdays there is only the buffet - but the restaurant closes at 6 pm on Saturdays.  As I say, this is a small restaurant. The state mandate is no more than 25% capacity and that would mean a lot with the size of this restaurant in very much limiting how many can be inside at one time. There are always waits to get into Dienner's in the best of times - and with 75% capacity lost - this may be a difficult restaurant to get into. 

Miller's Smorgasbord has also reopened with its buffet in addition to menu dining and a meal that is served to your table. I do not often write about this restaurant as I feel that it exists for the tourists and it has very high prices. This was one of, if not the first Lancaster County PA Dutch buffet restaurants but it has changed greatly over the years. I have been checking on them through their website throughout the Covid-19 closures and there has not been a mention of the virus until recently - and this is what they say are their modifications - "
  • We have established a one-way buffet route. Directional arrows and other spacing is shown on the floor.
  • Enter the buffet line at the “ENTER HERE” signs and practice social distancing, maintaining six feet between you and the next guest.
  • Use of the gloves or parchment paper is strongly encouraged when using utensils to take your food.
  • Take food ONLY from one side of the buffet. Do not reach across the buffet."
OK, so from this we only assume that they are providing gloves -  and some type or parchment paper to take items from the buffet. But are they asking you to change gloves every time you go up - it does not indicate that - and will these gloves just be out on the counter and you HOPE everyone puts them on - or takes a clean piece of parchment paper. They are limiting each table to no more than four - so if you have more than four in your family you will need two tables. Nothing here is clear.  I would not feel comfortable here at all - but that is up to you to decide.

Bird-in-Hand Family Restaurant and Smorgasbord was one of the first to open with outdoor dining - but no smorgasbord. They opened at the end of June for indoor dining with menu only. The restaurant is open Tuesdays to Saturday - CLOSED MONDAY and Sunday - and only open until 7:00 pm. On July 24, 2020, the Smorgasbord will reopen. They state the following which is very clear -  "To support distancing, we have established single-direction lanes at our buffets, and we change serving utensils regularly. We are requiring that guests wear masks and gloves when they visit the buffets, and we are providing gloves and glove-disposal containers for that purpose.". Again it would have been better if they went to cafeteria-style serving at the buffet - they are certainly set up for it with an open area behind the buffet tables for employees to serve you - but they have not. They had a survey about a month ago asking many questions about coming to dine at their restaurant and buffet if they were to reopen and I must have suggested a cafeteria style buffet served by staff - at least five times in my responses. Too bad they did not go with that idea. At least they are taking the same precautions as Shady Maple and they are giving gloves each time one goes up to the buffet.  They are open to 50% of their capacity - and they do have two large dining rooms - one very large - and this will make getting in easier with less wait.  This has always been a favorite - and one of the buffets I have thought about a lot while sitting home for the past several months. There does not seem to be any changes in the buffet menu.

Yoders Country Market Restaurant and Buffet has been open with menu dining only for over a month. I had to go searching a lot to find out that the buffet is now open also.  I only found out by looking at the supermarket's newspaper insert which came up on the website. They have decided to have cafeteria style serving at the buffet by employees. That is great! The buffet does not seem to have changed at all - but it appears that each day's buffet will be the same as it says "no featured buffets will be served at this time".  This is a favorite for both of us! They do not say how limited the capacity is - but the state guidelines are 50% so we can assume that is what it is.

Dutch-Way Family Restaurant and Buffet in Gap, PA has only recently opened again for indoor dining. Before that the only thing that was open was the food stand in the supermarket lobby and they had added some platters to their menu - and there were special events such as a chicken BBQ and a rib platter special.  With their reopening the restaurant it is menu only at this time - no buffet. And since this has happened the website says "Menu Coming Soon" - but there still is no menu. I  have been able to get to see their lunch and dinner menu that is current for this time - and it seems limited. There are several entrees that had been in on the buffet including meat loaf, fried chicken, and ham balls.  There has been always a lot here - on the buffet - and since my last visit there in January that I have missed. I am looking forward to when they are able to open the buffet again safely. I might go for the menu - as the food is always good here.

Oregon Dairy has opened its restaurant for indoor dining but it is menu only. The buffet is "temporarily" closed. This is the restaurant with the dairy on the premises made ice cream that is included on the buffet deserts. They have a pretty extensive menu with PA Dutch and other items included. The ice cream is at the ice cream stand outside.  The restaurant is only open until 7:00pm.

Lititz Family Cupboard is open but here also the buffet is temporarily closed and they are serving menu only.  They are open from Monday to Thursday to 7:00 pm and Friday and Saturday until 8:00 pm.  Their menu also is rather extensive.

I have not written about Good and Plenty Restaurant which is a family style PA Dutch all you care to eat restaurant. In normal times your family sits at a long table with other people and pass the serving platters around the table - everyone taking what they want and filling their plates. This restaurant reopened in July for both menu dining and family style dining - BUT you do not sit with strangers. Each table will be your family only - and you will be served the same way. The food was always good at Good and Plenty and you did get a lot. It has been years since I have been there as I much prefer not sitting with people I don't know and eating at the pace of the group at the table. I much rather go up and get what I want and eat at my leisure. With you and yours only being served family style that is much different and to me better. Enough for me to consider going back while this is going on.

The Hershey Farm Restaurant in Ronks, PA has also opened for indoor dining and has recently reopened its buffet. I do not write much about this restaurant as the last time we were there we experienced many problems including an infestation of flies around the buffet foods - and we decided we we would not go back. They are not having anyone go up to the buffet at all on their own - but will ask you at your table what to bring you from the buffet. This is certainly a safe way to do it - but without seeing what there is and knowing if you want it can be a problem plus you are depending on that server being available to go and get what you want - and how much of it you want when you are ready for it.

The Golden Corral in Lancaster, PA has just reopened and they are serving the buffet indoors. They are serving you cafeteria-style at the buffet counters. A server will put what you want on your plate.  With all of the really good buffets in Lancaster we tend to only go to the Golden Corral there if it is a Sunday night and all other buffets are closed or we are too late to get to one of the other buffets and Golden Corral is open later.

These are just about all of the all you care to eat restaurants in Lancaster, PA.  As you see some are not serving buffet now and some are.  Whether it is safe to go to a buffet now is up to you - and my feeling is that the ones that are serving you or are making sure that everyone has gloves on that will be changed each trip up are the safer choices. One thing that gives me hope about all of this is I saw a news story that said buffets are dead because of Covid-19 and will never be again. Well that is certainly not true!

Will I go? I am, right now, undecided. One thing I keep watching are the Covid-19 updates for Pennsylvania - which very recently have not been good and Lancaster County has the highest daily counts of the counties in the Susquehanna Valley. I would love to go to a buffet again - as soon as possible - but it is not worth dying for.  I will keep a close watch on all of this and if I do go, you will hear about it - right here on this site!

Saturday, May 09, 2020

The Future of Buffets - After Covid-19

The last time I was at a buffet was mid-March, 2020. It was a usual Friday night at Flaming Grill Buffet in Baldwin, New York. We had been going with some concerns - carrying hand sanitizer in our pockets to clean our hands after going up to the buffet tables, using napkins to touch serving pieces and disposing of the napkins when we got back to the table.  At that point there had not been one case reported in this area - or in this county. The restaurant had noticeably less diners - many more open tables and that has gradually been increasing since February.  What I remember from that meal - and I think of this a lot - because I really miss it a lot -and have been craving a few of the dishes that I liked the most there. One, in particular, and I am not sure why was a seafood soap that was a thickened whitish grey broth containing eggdrop, tofu, bits of shrimp, and fake crab (krab) chunks. It was very tasty - and satisfying. I miss that soup - and I miss the overly sweet spare ribs - and for some reason I started eating their chicken nuggets covered in sweet and sour sauce. Not the highest of Asian cuisine but tasty.  And now, with understandable restrictions on New York State restaurants - and this buffet - which is part of a chain - the restaurant is closed as it was not set up to do take out unless the takeout was self-served from the buffet. I wonder if it will open again - and what will it be like?

Golden Corral - the most national of buffet chains - has closed all of its company owned locations due to Covid-19 - following a nationwide non-contact conference with its restaurant managers, employees, and franchise holders - and determined that for everyone's safety and well being - it would close. The franchised Golden Corrals were left to make their own decisions but were expected to follow any and all guidelines determined by the states that they were located in.  Some remained open as take out only - and the menu that I was able to see was a single platter of selected meat entree, vegetable, and potato. Not at all buffet but you were getting for example a piece of Golden Corral sirloin steak cooked on the grill - as it is in the restaurant - and you picked the vegetable and potato from the selection offered. I was not able to see a price - which I hope would have been significantly less than the price of a buffet dinner.

As some states have started to re-open, some Golden Corrals will be reopening as buffets again - but with a very different approach. What these have chosen to do is to serve cafeteria style - still a buffet - still all you care to eat - but you go up to the counters and an employee will put the food you wish on your plate - with a limited number of people up to the counters at one time and full social distancing being followed - six feet apart.  This seems to me to be the most logical and safest way to do it.  They have stated that there are sanitizing stations throughout the restaurant. The counters will be sanitized every 30 minutes. The employees will wash their hands on a schedule.  And most important - no one gets near the food but those serving it.

Some other ideas that I have heard involve everyone getting their own serving utensils - one variation I heard of that was these would be disposable. I have to say that this is not a good idea at all.  Over my many years at buffets - I do not trust anyone to not put that utensil to their mouth and then put it into the serving tray - just because they don't think! And then that utensil will go from one tray to the next - transferring what ever is in one tray to the others. Not a good idea at all.

The Lancaster buffets right now are all closed.  Shady Maple has meals to go from the Shady Maple Supermarket - which they have pretty much always have had. Dutch Way Gap's restaurant is closed but they too are selling dinners from their supermarket and have been having some special features -  not buffet in any way - being offered.  One was barbecue ribs offered in platters at their snack bar outside the supermarket. One big event was a chicken barbecue  - chicken barbecue is a popular event in Lancaster County. Chicken is grilled on a outdoor grill and is sold by the platter with sides or sold as in number of pieces.  A few weeks ago, Dutch Way Gap had a chicken barbecue that you went into the closed restaurant lobby to pay for and then get your purchased chicken outside.  Bird in Hand Family Restaurant and Smorgasbord has been closed - along with other Bird-in-Hand owned properties - but they announced for Mother's Day that they would start serving take out dinners. After Mother's Day a menu would be posted on their website to continue take out dinners that would be ordered through a menu form online and then picked up at the restaurant.  Yoder's Restaurant and Buffet is closed. They are offering Mother's Day meals to go with advanced ordering.

I have seen several articles saying that there will be no more buffet restaurants - but, personally, I don't see that happening. First, these are well established businesses that want to find a way to continue. Second - when everything settles down - and things start to get back to near normal - there are ways to continue the buffet style of eating - but perhaps with servers serving as Golden Corral plans to do now. What this might do to the price to have the additional employees that will be required to do this is anyone's guess.  But before all of this - at a Golden Corral to use that as an example - there were employees behind just about every counter refilling trays, cooking and serving from the grill area, and maintaining the buffet. It would not take many more to add servers to a section. It would slow things down a lot - but it keeps the restaurant in business - and those of us that prefer this way of dining happy.

Until then, I think of all of these restaurants - and when I was there last - and what I have enjoyed eating at each of them. Golden Corral sirloin steak rare.  Prime Rib carved to your plate at Dutch Way Gap. Chicken Bot Bie and chicken corn soup at Bird-in-Hand .  Seasoned steak at Yoders. I miss it. And my mouth is watering as I write this.

May you all be safe and healthy! Use good common sense so that you can once again enjoy a good buffet meal.

Friday, March 13, 2020

Buffets and the Coronavirus (COVID-19)

I never figured that my next article to appear on this site after so long would be this article. The Coronavirus is a reality around the world and here in the US many specific protection instructions have been issued by the Federal, State, and Local governments with the C.D.C. guidelines as a basis in an attempt to both keep as many as possible safe - and to try to control further outbreaks. I am not going into any of the details of that but I am going to talk about what is happening now at buffets across the US.

Up to last weekend we were still going to the Asian buffet that we have been regularly going to for some time now. It is basically one of the few buffets left in this area that is both affordable and decent.  We were aware of the warnings in regard to buffets and salad bars which primarily were warning about common serving utensils that everyone touches.  We were using hand sanitizer after every trip up to the buffet and last week that was combined with using a napkin to hold the utensil and then hand sanitizer back at the table before eating what was on the plate. This week as things in this  county got worse I had second thoughts about going back for awhile.  And we will not be going back.

Today I got three emails from various buffets - as I - as you could also be - am on their email lists. All were worded very much the same and I suspect that these guidelines were issued by the C.D.C. to buffet restaurants - OR - two buffets that are not national saw the email sent out by Golden Corral which is a national chain.  The emails were from Golden Corral, Shady Maple Smorgasbord in East Earl, PA, and Bird in Hand Family Restaurant and Smorgasbord plus their other vacation and dining properties - the last two both PA Dutch Lancaster County buffets.  The most extensive was from Golden Corral and to just have this out to everyone I will quote the  body of the email -

"The health, safety and well-being of our co-workers, guests and communities are always our top priority. We are deeply committed to delivering on that promise. For 47 years our brand has specialized in serving our local communities across the country. 

Beginning in January, in consultation with national, state, and local health authorities, including the Center for Disease Control (CDC), we implemented additional preventive measures to maintain a clean and safe environment for our co-workers and our guests. 

  • We have established a task force to continue to closely monitor this dynamic situation and are fully prepared to adapt and modify should circumstances dictate on a restaurant by restaurant basis 
  • We are strictly enforcing our longstanding policy of requiring team members to stay home if they show or report any signs of illness
  • Sanitizing the surfaces of all key guest touch-points a minimum of every 30 minutes
  • Changing all serving utensils a minimum of every 30 minutes
  • Diligently following current cleaning procedures using approved and effective sanitizing products
  • Reinforcing stringent hand-washing practices requiring employees to wash their hands a minimum of every 20 minutes or between tasks
  • Making sure all hand sanitizer stations are stocked and operating properly, as well as adding additional sanitizing stations throughout the restaurant

It is important to remember that the coronavirus in not a foodborne illness. We are in constant communication with managers at all Golden Corral® restaurants across the country and have set up an internal website to provide them with updated information and other guidelines as the situation evolves.

We appreciate the trust and support of our loyal guests and we look forward to continuing to serve you in our company and franchised restaurants across the country."


Here is Bird in Hand and there are things in here that apply also to their hotels and the dinner theater stage that is located at Bird in Hand Family Restaurant (to explain some of the non-restaurant related steps they are doing - 

"As we continue to monitor developments of the coronavirus, our focus will be the safety and well-being of our guests, staff and communities.  We continue to adhere to guidelines provided by the CDC and would like to provide the following updates:

Precautionary measures at our properties:
  • We follow cleaning, sanitation and disinfection protocols that meet or exceed industry guidelines and use EPA-approved disinfectants.  Given current concerns with COVID-19, we are increasing our cleaning regimen and focusing our efforts on all high-traffic, frequently-touched areas.
  • Our lodging properties will be removing some of the extra linens and decorative pillows from the rooms. We will continue to clean and disinfect all guest areas diligently.
  • At our Restaurant, we are using individual packets of salt, pepper and ketchup, and we have installed hand sanitizers around our buffet and are offering plastic gloves for buffet utensils.
  • Hand sanitizer stations will be added to our Stage for when shows start in April and we will do extra cleanings after each show.  Our meet and greets with cast will be evaluated closer to our show openings in April.
  • We are reinforcing with our staff members the recommended steps from the CDC to prevent the spread of germs.  These guidelines include: wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, avoid close contact with people who are sick, cover a cough or sneeze, avoid touching your face and stay home if you have flu-like symptoms.
  • We will discuss any concerns regarding upcoming travel or events directly with guests in terms of cancellation or ticket exchanges.
Bird-in-Hand is committed to protecting the health and safety of our staff and guests and will continue to take this situation very seriously and implement measures in line with the recommendations from the CDC and other health agencies.  We are confident our properties continue to be safe and ready to serve our guests, and we look forward to seeing you on your next trip to Bird-in-Hand."


Shady Maple has their notice formatted as an image so I cannot copy it here but I will add the link to the image for you to look at..  This is written for all of the Shady Maple business in the one location in East Earl, PA which include the Smorgasbord, the Supermarket, and a Cafe with salad bar located in the building with the supermarket.  This is the least detailed of the steps being taken and we can only hope that they are including what is being done at the other buffets here and just did not include those details as the others did - but it would have been wise for them to have talked about smorgasbord serving surfaces and the serving utensils.  But Shady Maple has always been a very conscientious restaurant and buffet and their image to the community both local and beyond is extremely important to them - so please do not judge them for not being as detailed as some - as it is likely they are doing it all just as the others are.


Golden Corral, as I started out saying is the most extensive - and that is not surprising because their entire business is buffets and their focus is only on buffets.  I have looked at Yoder's and Dutch Way's restaurants' websites and there is nothing on their websites about any of this. This may change - I don't know.  Both of these businesses focus more on their supermarkets than their restaurants - which does not mean that they are not taking precautions - if one went to the door of either you might see a similar notice. They also do not get as many tourists as the other two. They are both off at the very edge of the active tourist area and neither have the tourist status that Shady Maple or Bird-In-Hand have.

Would any of these emails encourage me to go to one of these buffets right now?  No. Why?  For the time being -  it is better not to take any unnecessary risks for a buffet meal. I might go to a restaurant that is not a buffet as there is only contact with serving utensils and plates by employees who hopefully following all guidelines. We have been going to a  fast food restaurant that we know well and can see preparation and those employees wearing gloves.  All of this is enough to make one paranoid about even leaving the house - and for anyone in a high risk category - that might be something to pay heed to. 

I can see a lot of potentially challenging or political comments made to this post so I am closing it to all comments - which is a very unusual thing for me to do.  And just to be clear - I am not a doctor or medical professional and I am not giving or suggesting any medical advice here. I am just a guy who really likes to eat in buffets - and now for awhile that is not going to happen.

One more comment - in addition for my concern for my wife's and my health - to go to any of these buffets we would have to travel one or two states away, and I would not want to have carried anything from here to where any of these are located - and in particular Lancaster County where the population is heavily Amish - and while they do go to regular doctors and hospitals - they tend to be in less contact with many of the even common diseases.

Everyone, please stay healthy - do what is necessary to protect yourself - and let's all hope and pray that something is found to stop the spread, treat those who are effected, and that a vaccine is developed quickly so that we can all stay immune from this happening again.


On March 21, 2020, Bird in Hand Family Restaurant and Smorgasbord closed to seated dining and is only open for take out meals. from 6 am to 6 pm. 

Friday, August 16, 2019


It has been a very long time since we  have brought out the Rules of the Buffet  - rules to be followed by any one eating a buffet - and WOW are they needed now.  What I see at buffets is just beyond manors and often just disgusting - and this goes for adults, kids, and even supervised kids. 


1. All you can eat is not a challenge. It is an offer!

2. There is no limit to the number of times that you can go up and get food.

3. Take your food in courses - as you would be served if ordering from a menu.

4. Everyone must pay!

5. No food is permitted to be taken out of the restaurant.

6. Take only what you will eat - do not waste food.

7. For a more social meal, it is polite to wait for the others at the table to finish their plates and then go up together to get more.

8. Take a clean plate every time that you go up to the buffet tables.

9. If you put it on your plate, leave it there. Never return food to the serving tray.

10. Never eat at the buffet tables!

11. Children under 12 should not be going up to the buffet tables alone.

12. The buffet table is not a cafeteria line.

13. Tip the server.

14. Never take a serving piece from one item and use it for another item.

15. Never place your dirty plates on someone else's table.

16. Never use your silverware to serve yourself from the buffet trays.

17. Once you have gotten what you want, don't stand around the buffet tables. Move on back to your table.

18. Children should remain seated through the meal.

19. Do not fill community plates for the "table". Each should take their own plate of what they wish to eat.

20. If you cough or sneeze into your hand, please do not use that hand to pick up the serving utensils.

21. In the buffet, as in any restaurant, children (and adults) should use their inside voices.

22. Don't talk on your cell phone while you are getting your food at the buffet tables.

23. Never bring an animal into the buffet. (this is not referring to medical guide dogs)

24. Never put your hands into a serving tray.

25. Tell your children not to put their hands into a serving tray - and make sure that they do not!

26. Do not carry on a conversation throughout dinner with the people at the tables around you.

27. Do not put anything back into a serving tray that has dropped onto the serving counter - and never put anything back into a serving tray (whether from the counter or your dish) with your fingers.

28. Never put the serving utensil, whether it a spoon, fork, or tongs, up to your nose to smell the food that you have taken out of the serving tray.

29. Do not eat while walking with your plate back to your table.

If you take a plate, bowl, cup, or piece of silverware and you decide you don't want it, do not put it back on the stack of clean dishes or back with the clean silverware. Take it back to your table or put it on the side of the stack where it will not be taken as clean. 

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Golden Corral, Freehold, NJ - A Hit and Miss Golden Corral

Yes, it has been a long time since the last article. I have not wanted to keep writing about the same places and there are so few buffets to write about any longer - in fact, even the old standbys seem to be closing.

I am often asked about the Golden Corral in Freehold, New Jersey. We have been there many times in the past and the one thing that holds true is that one visit can be great and another visit not so good. This Golden Corral opened with some problems and during that first year it was to be avoided - and that was some time ago. It got better - but it remains inconsistent.

We were just there again. We had not been there for a number of months. This is not near us. It takes two expensive bridge tolls and a lot of traffic to get to this Golden Corral - the closest Golden Corral to the NY Metro area.  We had business in the area and decided to spend time until dinner to have dinner at Golden Corral.

We had been to the Golden Corral in Whitehall, PA for dinner not too long ago. That was nice! Our experiences there have been consistently good. The price for dinner there was $13.99 - less for Seniors.  We walked into the Golden Corral in Freehold and the price for adults was $15.99 with a Senior price of $14.99!!! This was not on the weekend. This was a Wednesday night!  This Golden Corral has always been more expensive - but never this high! Drinks are almost $3.00. This is now quite an expensive meal with nothing really different from what they have ever served before.

I like Golden Corral, in general, for the steak. It is the best of the buffet steak - thick sirloin - and when there is a grill chef who knows what he is doing will cook to order as you request - and you get your piece of the steak the way you want it. The grill chef on this night at the New Jersey Golden Corral was one I have seen there before.  I like my steak rare - not raw - but red inside and crispy cooked outside - and often I get it this way just by asking for rare.  I asked for a rare steak. He took one off the side of the grill from a pile of steaks and started cooking it again - OK - he was going to heat it back up (I guess). He cut a piece off the steak - did not show it to me - as they usually do - and put it on my plate. It is best described as medium/well.  Tasty? Yes. Grizzly? No. Overdone? Yes - for me.

We start our meals with soup and we both like the chicken noodle soup that Golden Corral serves. Unlike other chicken noodle soups the noodles are thick and doughy - great. The soup has pieces of chicken, carrots, and celery in a nice chicken broth - USUALLY.  This chicken noodle soup tasted like someone in the kitchen dropped a full container of salt into the chicken noodle soup. It really was beyond edible for the salt. This is not usual in our experience with this soup - there or in other Golden Corrals.

My wife likes meatloaf - as do I. She likes brown gravy meatloaf - as opposed to tomato sauce/ketchup covered meatloaf. On this night it was brown gravy meatloaf - burned on the top. We both took some. This too was so salty it was hard to eat it. My wife says that the next tray they brought out - which was not burned on top - and she took some - was not salty. So what happened to that first one? Not good!

There are special features on the menu this month - the one most intriguing on the television commercial is Slow Smoked Sirloin. On the commercial this looks like steak. In photo ads it looks like sliced sirloin.  In each ad, it is pink and juicy looking - nicely pink and juicy looking! When I saw this I knew I had to get to a Golden Corral to try this - and was looking forward to this when we came in that night.  it was on the side of the grill counter - a large blackened chunk of beef to be sliced by one of the grill people. I went up for a piece and eventually someone came over to slice it - they had been slicing in advance before I came up. He sliced off about an inch thick slab of grey meat with a thick crust and a small pink ring around the edge under the crust. I figure that was the "smoke ring" and the crust was the "bark" - all smoked BBQ terms.  The nice pink and juicy smoked sirloin was just on the commercial and the photo ads. This was more pot roast than anything else. It was tender - at least while it remained hot. As I was getting to the end of the piece (reluctantly) it was fast becoming tough and not chewable. There was a seasoning on the outside - and on the meat - that was a bit overwhelming - and not good. I did not finish the piece I was given.  I just could not eat any more of it. Is this representative of this entree in all Golden Corral's - I hope not - but maybe it is. I regretted not taking another piece of steak instead of this not good featured slow smoked sirloin.

The other features are Peel and Eat Shrimp, Golden Fried Shrimp, and Cajun Shrimp Boil. Of these I only saw the peel and eat shrimp and that was on the side of the salad bar. My wife missed that completely and when I told her about it she thought I was talking about the tiny boiled shrimp that are always on their salad bar. The other two - ? - if they were there they were not obvious, but I was not looking for them.

Between the too much salt and the price and the not so properly cooked steak and the not so good slow smoked sirloin this was one of those better not happen too often OFF nights at Golden Corral, Freehold, New Jersey.

My wife was even more unhappy because for some reason they need to pour a thick butterish oil over the cornbread and rolls and soak it in - making that not very appealing. it is not butter - and there is plenty of butter available to put your own butter on the rolls and the cornbread.

Dessert - the selection is limited - and my wife likes to take the apple cobbler and put the vanilla soft-serve over it - which she says has been good at other Golden Corrals - and even at this one in the past.  The apple cobbler was fine but the soft-serve machine was putting out white ice and not vanilla soft-serve ice cream.  I had a small cube of chocolate frosted chocolate sheet cake - which was just OK.

Service here - in our experience - has mostly been good and it was good on this night. The server went out of his way to keep checking in with us and while it took him a little while to get to our table when we first sat down, he was good during the meal. He also was covering too many tables and was  constantly carrying more stacks of dishes than he should be expected to. Another server was needed in this section.   Many were not tipping him. I did - as always.

Cleanliness was just OK. There were too many dirty plates coming off the clean stack and when you pick you a plate check the top and bottom of that plate and the bottom of the plate that was under it.  Since plates are now out to take (and not brought to your table by your server as they were at Golden Corral in the past) there is a problem with finding a clean plate.

Will this be the last time we go to this Golden Corral?  No, it won't be. We will go back again as the next time could be very good.  Why was this time like this - there really is no explanation or excuse. It was not crowded. We did not arrive late - in fact we were earlier than we usually are at most buffets - just after 6 pm.  The price, however, will be a concern. For the cost of this dinner for two I could go to a non-buffet steak chain and save the gas and tolls.

Do I caution those who have never been there from going? Yes. Expect that it could be great or a bumpy meal!  But do definitely expect it to cost a lot.

Friday, November 30, 2018

Chen's Buffet, Levittown NY - Back to See After a Long Time

Asian buffets in our area are getting fewer and fewer. A favorite out in Suffolk County recently closed. We have been going to two on a semi-regular basis - both of which are OK but I was curious to see what Chen's is now like after not going for quite a long time and also how it is attempting to compete with it's directly across the street competition, Global Buffet.

Chen's no longer has a website. I was able to find out that dinner price at Chen's is now $11.99, Monday to Friday, and $13.99 on Sundays. There are no longer any coupons in their advertising but there is a 10% discount for Seniors. We went on a Friday night.

It was not crowded.  At one time this buffet was jammed on Friday nights.

We were seated and we went up to the buffet for soup. The wonton soup has the liquid in one hot pot and the wontons in a steamer. I opened the wonton steamer and they looked dry and yellow. I took one and some chicken broth. The broth was very hot - which is a good thing as this buffet in the past had problems with food not being kept hot enough while out.  The broth had little taste. I bit into the wonton and it was like biting into a small rubber ball. (This was my experience with several things I chose to eat here.)  A lot of chewing of the hard outer noodle wrapper and it went down.  My wife had egg drop soup and said it was OK - at least it was the correct color (she noticed the color of the wontons too).

I went up for sushi. The sushi was OK. There was not a large assortment - mostly it was salmon and tuna in various forms. The fish was cut thick. The soy sauce that was put out for it was excessively salty - far more so than regular soy sauce - even from other buffets. There was not much of each choice out - but there was a man at the counter making it to refill. I normally would have taken more of one or another but I did not want to empty the dish of any one of them.

Let's see... I took a dumping. I thought the wonton was like a rubber ball - this was more so. It was thick with hard spots that were impossible to chew. That found its way out of my mouth to the side of my plate. A grilled skewer of chicken was hard. Most of that got left. A scallop on the shell was not a scallop or even pieces of scallop. I would say it was chopped up fake crab = Krab. At least it was chew-able.

Shrimp out of the seafood delight was OK. Chicken out of the Chicken and Broccoli was rubbery. Teriyaki Chicken was OK. I was going to take Pepper Steak but the beef in this looked like dry, hard beef jerky chips (which likely is not something that really exists) but this was not anything one would want to try to bite - and no one was taking any. There were mushrooms in oyster sauce that was dried out. Along the way, someone from the buffet stirred it and it did not look as bad. I took two small mushrooms and they were really sweet from having sat too long in the sauce. I took lo mein and that was the most normal thing I had. It tasted pretty good but again it was sweet - which lo mein is not usually. I was tempted by a roast beef. I started to slice it and the large serrated carving knife was not cutting it. I walked away without taking any.  I took some fried rice - it was OK.

I next went up to the grill. There was thick slices of beef - thick enough to be a steak though about three inches (maybe) around. I took two and had them grilled. It was somewhat tasty though it needed salt and I don't usually put salt on food (unless it needs it) but it was  tough and chewy. I had to cut it into small pieces to be able to chew it.

Well - one thing that looked tempting when we had walked around the buffet were flat, hot apple pie sealed pockets. I had planned on that for dessert. When we went up to take them they were dried out and burned all around. We went to the dessert bar and took cookies. I also took a small rolled cake - commercial out of the commercial serving package. It was not good and I did not eat it.

I am not sure how they stay in business other than they are less expensive from what is across the street which has gone up in price since it opened. There I find things to eat that are tasty and edible (most of the time).  Before I left I could feel the MSG headache coming on - so something I ate had to have been loaded with it. I wondered if it was the steak as it came on shortly after.

SO - Chen's - No. I was hopeful - and disappointed in that.

Chen's Buffet is located at 3056 Hempstead Turnpike, Levittown, NY 11756.

Friday, July 06, 2018

IKEA Summer Smorgasbord - All IKEA stores

We regularly go to the four time a year IKEA Smorgasbord special dinners. These take place four times a year. There is a pre-Christmas dinner, a pre-Easter dinner, a Mid-Summer dinner (in June) and a dinner in September that features Crayfish. These are all all you care to eat dinners laid out on Smorgasbord tables and they have seatings twice on a Friday - one 4:00 pm to 6:00 pm and one 7:00 pm to 9:00 pm and they take place in the restaurant in IKEA stores. We go to all but the crayfish dinner. We have written about these dinners before.

I am writing this right after attending and enjoying the Mid-Summer Smorgasbord. Usually the menu is pretty much the same from one dinner to the next with some seasonal changes. This year the Mid-Summer dinner had different entrees than any of the dinners have had in the past. The menu from IKEA store to store is generally the same at all locations for these dinners - so the changes here should have been the same at the dinners at the other IKEAs as the advertising for these dinners goes out from all IKEA stores.

The many of the usual were included - and consider the price of these items if you were to go to a restaurant and order them - and for some - if you went to a store to buy them and bring them home to eat. There was three kinds of pickled hearing, Gravlax (in the US - Lox, outside the US - smoked salmon), poached salmon, and hot smoked salmon. There was shrimp salad - small shrimp in a mayonnaise based dressing. There were shrimp stuffed hard boiled eggs.  There was the usual Swedish Meatballs. There was tossed salad. There was redskin potato salad. Other than the potato salad this all has been at IKEA smorgasbord dinners before. The usual meat entree at these dinners is ham, but at this dinner there was no ham. There were St Louis Ribs and Bratwurst. Never before has there been St. Louis Ribs and Bratwurst! Both absolutely seasonal - not very much Swedish - but a nice change!

The ribs were fall off the bone. We were told during the dinner that the Food Service Manager cooked the ribs - and he was very proud of it. There were sections of three and sections of four ribs - take as much as you want, of course. They were dry seasoned - no barbecue sauce. I would have preferred  barbecue sauce on them but they were meaty and good even without the sauce. Several years past IKEA would serve in their restaurant half racks of baby back ribs in a thick barbecue sauce that were pretty good - but they no longer offer that. These ribs were different - much more meat but no sauce. I enjoyed them!

The bratwurst was also a new entree and these were cooked with onions and cut in half to serve. Large serving platters of brats were put on the two serving tables. The brats has a slight beer taste underlying and they were either cooked in beer - as brats often are - or these were beer brats as sold in some meat markets. They were good! Even my picky eater wife tried them and liked them - I did not tell her there was most likely beer in them or they were cooked in beer until we were leaving. She knew there was a different taste than she expected.

The deserts included fruit salad, fresh strawberries, fresh blueberries, red velvet cake, and a strawberry filled cream cake. There were two types of IKEAs excellent sandwich cookies - one jelly filled and the other chocolate filled. The deserts do change from Smorgasbord to Smorgasbord and are usually seasonal.

Of course, there is unlimited soft drinks, a non-alcoholic seasonal cider drink and now this IKEA has a computerized coffee dispenser that makes lattes, cappuccino, espresso, and Americano coffee. Put your cup under the spout and push on the screen for your choice and it is made in the machine and dispensed into the cup complete with a head of milk foam.

As I have reported in the past this IKEA store goes all out to make these dinners a party and here there is music from a live band that plays both Swedish Music and Country/Cajun music - interesting combination and they are excellent. During the dinner they stream live on Facebook. We were speaking to the manager during dinner and he said that there are very few IKEA stores that have live music at the Smorgasbord dinners and he has booked this specific band for several years into the future to be sure they are available. The band was talking about jobs they play all over the country - not for IKEA.

There is always a seasonal presentation at the dinners. These dinners coincide with traditional smorgasbord celebrations in Sweden. Mid-Summer does take place in Sweden and the people eat all night on the Summer Solstice celebrating the midnight sun. At this dinner tonight at IKEA there was a circle dance done around a tree as done in Sweden for this holiday - and they get children and adults to come up and join in the dance - which is always a simple dance and easy to do. All night they also had a craft table going on for children - and adults - to make a traditional Swedish head wreath with flowers - which is worn at these celebrations in Sweden - no real flowers but some nice paper flowers adorned many heads on this night.

And then there is the price - and I save the best for last. This dinner - with an IKEA Family Club Card is $12.99 each for adults and $2.99 each for children!  What you don't have an IKEA Family Club Card? They are free and you get one immediately at kiosks all over the store. Get the card. Buy your tickets in ADVANCE at the cashier in the IKEA restaurant (not the snack bar). These dinners often sell out - this one was sold out. People came to see if they could get in, not having bought tickets in advance, and were turned away.  Tickets go on sale during the dinner before the next dinner - and if the next dinner was not the Crayfish dinner we could have bought tickets for that to be held in the Fall tonight. Signs for the dinners go up in the store and in the restaurant about two months or so before the dinner. Depending on the dinner they can sell out quickly. 

I had said above about what you are getting here for the money you are paying compared to getting the same off a menu at non-buffet restaurants. Well, around here two slices of lox (smoked salmon) on a bagel with a little cream cheese in a dinner can cost you upwards of $15.99 and more. I had at least six slices of lox tonight along with everything else.

We very much look forward to each of these dinners. We have a lot of fun. We get there to be on line to be one of the first in - you pick your own table - and then we stay to the very end and the music plays all night!  One thing we always take note of is how friendly and nice the IKEA employees are in the restaurant and at these dinners. They actually seem to enjoy their work.