Monday, July 28, 2014

Drinks Now Back to Being Included at Old Country Buffet

This article is timely and I am putting it in right now in the middle of the two week span of articles. We received an email yesterday that soft drinks were back to being included in the meal price at OCB. The claim is that We listened to you and you want this! in so many words. We went tonight to see if my suspicions were correct about this. We walked in and yes, there is a sign that drinks are now included - and then I looked at the dinner price on the board at the register and the price was increased by more than two dollars and the senior price was increased even more as it is less of a discount now that it was two weeks ago when we were there last. Dinner at OCB for the two of us - with DRINKS INCLUDED - was $30! That does not include the tip I left for the server. She is good and there is no reason to take this out on her. It does include sales tax. Price here now for dinner at OCB is $13.99! Senior price is $13.49. And if you don't want the beverage - many did not spend the two plus dollars on the soda before because it made the price too high - too bad! There is no option any longer.

Right before the soda stopped being included in the price at OCB they raised the dinner price. Then they dropped the soda out - and, of course, did not lower the price. Now, the soda is back in the price and the price went up a little more than the price of the soda that one paid a week ago. It was not surprising that on a summer Sunday evening when this OCB is usually packed with a line to the door, there was no line and the dining room was noticeably empty. For many, $13.99 is just too much to pay at OCB - especially for a family with kids (the kid's price went up too). This increase is going to hurt this OCB location even more as there are three big chain restaurants about to open in the parking lot of this shopping mall - and compared to OCB for the same money people will be going to those restaurants instead.

I recently got an email survey from OCB that was focused on OCB seeing their competition as chain restaurants such as Applebees, Olive Garden, Fridays, etc. It surprised me to see that OCB was focusing on these and not Golden Corral and other buffet chains. And then in this survey they wanted to know if OCB would be more attractive to coming to IF they offered some special pay extra additions to the buffet! I could not believe this - and even more so now with this price increase! The survey went on to say that a new promotion WILL BE coming soon that offers a "Special Premium Steak" for an extra charge - one steak - not unlimited "special premium steak"! "Would you be more likely to go to OCB for this feature?" they asked - NO! I answered. They have got to be kidding! First they are all but admitting that the current steak is inedible which in the way it is cooked and allowed to sit in a steam pan until served more than well done it is, and then in expecting us to believe that this special premium steak is going to be prepared properly - which here in the two local OCBs and most of the others that I have been to - it won't be. So is the new over priced dinner at OCB another step toward self-belief by Ovation Brands that they are just like Applebees, Olive Garden, etc.?

I also have to comment about another change at the OCB that we go to that we discovered tonight. Part of the carving buffet server has been tiled over where food serving trays once went. On this tile under heat lamps were small tin pans. One was "Steak Tips over Loaded Mashed Potatoes" and the other was "Pulled Pork BBQ over Cowboy Potatoes". You don't take what you want of what you want like the rest of the food at OCB, you take the pan. I had heard about this on discussions - negative discussions - on the OCB Facebook page. Our OCB has never served Pulled Pork BBQ before in any way, nor has it served steak tips. It seems that other OCBs in other parts of the country had served the pork - and served it like everything else. Now you get the potatoes and less than a spoonful of pork with too much spiced BBQ sauce covering it. I tried both pans. The steak was crunchy and charred, the loaded mashed potatoes had some bacon bits and shredded orange cheese sprinkled on top along with scallions- both pans were covered with scallions. I did not want the potatoes in either pan - I tasted them. They were OK but I did not want these potatoes. The potatoes in both pans had one taste and were taken away by the server to the trash. Really a terrible waste. I wanted Pork BBQ - not potatoes. Any other buffet, I would have taken the pork and decided on my own what potatoes to have - if any.  The only acceptable thing about all of this was that the items that should have been where these are now were put in half trays and scattered around the buffet, resulting in some usual foods going missing. What is even more ridiculous is that the man who is carving is responsible - at least here - for going into the kitchen (leaving the carving to no one) to make more pans which were being taken and were gone no more than ten minutes after being put out.

Ovation Brands, someone in your offices is very miss-directed in what OCB - and I am sure Ryans, Hometown, and Fire Mountain - needs and you need to get people out into the restaurants and see (unknown to those working) what goes on day to day and how your "ideas" make things worse than better. Right here - three strikes for OCB!  And no, I am not down on OCB. If you follow all of my articles you know that we go to OCB more than any other buffet - though at this change in price that may be changing. I am hoping for more coupons to start being emailed now to all to make up for this. We shall see...

And now back our every other week schedule and the next article will be this coming Friday...

Friday, July 18, 2014

Father's Day Brunch at IKEA

For several months we have been seeing signs for holiday brunches at Ikea's store restaurant. The first we saw - just a few days before its date - was not a brunch but a Valentine's Day dinner presented much as the brunches are described. Unfortunately, Valentine's Day was a large snow storm so any idea of attending - even if there were tickets available was snowed out. We then saw a sign for an Easter brunch and then for a Mother's Day brunch and and then one for Father's Day. While we were at the Midsummer Smorgasbord I asked the manager about what happens at brunch. He told me that it is served at the regular restaurant counter and is served to you. It does require an advance ticket but they were undersold and coming on Father's Day - two days later - we could buy tickets when we got there for the brunch. I asked what the hours were and he told me 9:30 am to 3 or 4 pm. He told us that with a ticket you can go back to the serving counter as many times as you liked. These meals are served in every Ikea store at the same times on the same day no matter where the Ikea store (at least in the US - I don't know about international stores) is located.

We usually don't go for brunch. This one was intriguing because many of the good regular items served at the Ikea restaurant were included on the brunch. While we don't eat breakfast, the hours of this one were set so that we would really be eating lunch. I considered if I wanted to eat such a heavy meal for lunch but we decided that we would reverse lunch and dinner - especially since the local Asian buffets and Old Country Buffet were increasing their prices to $13.99 because it is Father's Day. What the heck! We decided to go.

I am going to list the items that were on the table card describing what is included in the brunch -

Salad Bar
Seasonal Fruit Display
Mini Bagels with cream cheese
Gravad Lax
Scrambled Eggs
Swedish Pancakes
Turkey Sausage or Bacon
Swedish Meatballs with cream sauce and lingonberries
Barbecue Baby Back Ribs
Penne Pasta with Marinara Sauce
Chicken Fingers
Mashed Potatoes
Macaroni and Cheese
Grilled Cheese
Seaonal steamed vegetables
Assorted Swedish Deserts and cookies
Fountain beverage, coffee, and tea

The price for any and all of this is $12.99 OR $9.99 with the free store discount "family" card. Children pay $4.99 OR $2.49 with the discount card. Wow! I have had these barbecue baby back ribs before and they are good. I have often thought,"wouldn't it be great if the ribs were served at one of the special Smorgasbord dinners at Ikea!" They never are but they are served at these brunches.

We arrived a few minutes after Noon. The dining room was not crowded and there was a short line at the serving counter. We went up to the cashier and purchased two tickets - first, confirming all that we had heard was included. Yes, just get what you want from anything - EXCEPT - the prepared salad plates and wraps as those are not included and then come through the cashier line and show your ticket.

Everything on the list was there to have with one small exception. There were no grilled cheese sandwiches so if one had come for grilled cheese one would have been disappointed but everything else was there plus soup - chicken soup with orzo and also chunk home fried potatoes. Not everyone was having the brunch and a number of people were just ordering off the menu boards as they went along the counter - and paying for each item. Some realized as they were going along that buying a ticket would save them money and some did that when they got to the cash register. Most of the items included on the brunch were also on the menu boards as platters and with the brunch you could have the platter as it is usually served or pick and choose what you wanted the servers to put on a plate for you.

I decided to go with the breakfast items first and I asked for Swedish Pancakes and sausages. I was going to start slow and easy. I have never had Ikea's Swedish Pancakes before but they have always looked good on the signs. I was given three folded pancakes and two breakfast sausages. There was no bacon - apparently it was sausage or bacon - whichever was being served at that restaurant. These special meals happen at all Ikea stores at the same time. There was a basket out of bagels - they were far from mini - these were big bagels. I decided to pass just not to fill up on bread. As I came past a display of desserts, there were mini Ikea cinnamon rolls - these as full size pastries are sold in their cafe and are wonderful. These did not have the white icing on top.

The pancakes were great. Swedish pancakes are very thin and roll or fold. There was lingonberry jam to put on them. There was also hot maple syrup and packets of butter. The sausages could have been hotter and for turkey sausages were not bad. There is a reason that these were turkey sausages as there were people asking who could not eat pork for religious reasons. This plate was an excellent start and I was soon ready to go back for more. The cinnamon rolls despite their size were as good as the large ones that they sell in the cafe. Since the restaurant was not closed off for the brunch and people were continually coming in, we decided to each go back one at a time - where at a buffet we never hesitate unless there is some reason to be concerned - about going back together each time.

This next plate was for barbecue baby back ribs and another pancake. I could not resist the chunk home fried potatoes and the lady put a large helping of that on the plate also.  Then I asked for Macaroni and Cheese and I received two large scoops in a bowl - the usual side serving (which would normally cost $2.29). As I got to the salad bar I took two large rolled up sliced of Gravad lax and put them on a dessert plate. At the salad bar there was also cups of coleslaw, cucumber salad, a large tray of cut fresh fruit, rolls, butter, creme cheese packets, the maple syrup, and the soup. The one disadvantage of being served this way is portion size control. I would normally take much less than I was being given and you don't know how much you will get until you get it - and it was always more than less.Each time we went up to the counter, wall we had to do was go past the cashier and wave the ticket and receive a "thank you!" and a "go right through".

The baby back ribs served here - and included on the brunch - are what would be considered a half rack of ribs - six to eight meaty ribs. These ribs are cooked to fall off the bone. They are moist and tasty. For me - and likely just for me - I would prefer less barbecue sauce because it is increasing the sugar that I am eating and with this meal I was above maximum carbs (I took an increase in medication in anticipation of this.) I like these ribs when I have them just at their restaurant and I very much enjoyed them at this brunch - perhaps more so knowing that the $7.99 ribs were included in an all you care to eat of them meal for $9.99 total. These ribs are good! And these are not Swedish barbecue ribs - these are American barbecue ribs. The macaroni and cheese is Wonderful with a capital W. This is among the best mac and cheese I have had. These are close and even surpass some of the PA Dutch buffet mac and cheese served. It is thick and full of cheese. It is not runny at all. This is the way mac and cheese should be. The potatoes were good! The Gravad Lax was the same I have had at their smorgasbords. And all of this with another pancake - this time with butter spread on.

Now, my picky eater wife was doing fine. She was enjoying pancakes, sausage, soup, some of my mac and cheese, meatballs and more. She was trying to save the carbs for dessert.

Less you think two plates was it - there was a third trip back - before dessert. At about 1:00 pm the restaurant and the line at the serving counter started to get crowded. We each wound up waiting near the end of the barricades the line snakes through after 1 pm - and this continued this way until about 2:00 pm when things got empty again. As I say, there are regular diners and brunch diners mixed together in the restaurant - some are coming for lunch while shopping and some are coming to the Father's Day Brunch. The third plate was a mix of what I liked the best - more ribs, more sausage, more Gravad Lax this time with a packet of cream cheese for each roll of salmon that I took, and I still had unfinished mac and cheese waiting for me at table - and I could not resist another mini cinnamon roll. Now, we eat leisurely. We don't gulp down a plate in minutes. We eat, talk, and take our time - there will be more when and if we are ready to go and get some more. This third plate was it for me. I have to note a little more about the value of this - in this area a bagel and lox sandwich with cream cheese - usually a single to a single and a half layer of lox (here Gravad Lax - locally just called Lox) will cost you in a diner or bagel bakery/restaurant somewhere from $10 to $12. This entire brunch was $9.99!

OK - dessert. In the cold case along the serving counter there was chocolate sheet cake, banana sheet cake, and carrot sheet cake - each frosted accordingly. At the end of the salad counter there were Elderflower cupcakes, chocolate cupcakes, cookies, cinnamon rolls, and red and green whole apples. We each were attracted to the cupcakes. I took a chocolate one and she took an Elderflower one. The Elderflower tasted like a sweet flower - both the cake and the frosting. It was very good. The chocolate cupcake was also very good - a well made chocolate cupcake. At that point we quit.

It is perhaps a good thing that these brunches are only served for special holidays. And I wish they would do this in the evening for dinner but I can understand why they don't. I am looking way forward to seeing if they do this again for Valentine's Day dinner. And maybe we will try another brunch at some point for one of the holidays they do this for. These are not usually as well advertised in the store or the website as the Smorgasbord special dinners, but if it is a holiday approaching look and see if they are having one. Get your free IKEA Family discount card in the store at a computer kiosk  - it is one of the few store discount cards we have actually gotten something back with  - free coffee or tea in the restaurant or cafe, special meal prices in the restaurant, and a discount on these special all you care to eat meals!

If you don't like Ikea food - and for some reason some people get wild about this, don't go. (I don't understand why but I get more general complaints about the store with nothing to do with the food or the restaurant whenever I write about special buffet meals at Ikea. 

If you want a great and abundant meal - all you care to eat - for ten bucks go!

Friday, July 11, 2014

This Alternating Weeks Schedule

As you know if you have been reading along for the past several weeks, I am posting articles to this site on alternating weeks. Travel is difficult and there are few buffets locally other than Asian buffets. When I can travel, I do and look for new places or places that I have been to long past or places that I try to get to when I am in an area that are old favorites that can be updated since last visits. It would be nice if there were buffet restaurants everywhere - again other than Asian buffets, I find that there are not - and I find more an more that there are even fewer new buffets - at least within my range of travel.

I have been feeling uncomfortable about this alternating weeks schedule. I have new articles coming but I find I am writing articles today that will not appear until September. For the most part the articles are not time critical and this new schedule will keep articles appearing through the non-travel season. I guess I need to just say all of this and keep on going.

I can assure you that there will be new articles every other week and these will keep on coming. We are just back from one trip and have more coming. Each trip brings more buffet experiences. For the time being we shall keep with this schedule. There will be a new article next week to continue the schedule. This little piece that you are reading now is not taking the place of a regular article and has been fit in between article weeks.

If you know of buffets, email me through the contact link at the side and tell me where they are and what you thought of it when you went there. If it is someplace that I can get to, I will try to go there. If I can research it and have enough to share that way, I will do that too. 

Friday, July 04, 2014

IKEA Midsummer Smorgasbord

We attended another of Ikea's special one night only smorgasbord all you care to eat dinners. This one, the Midsummer Smorgasbord. Each of the special smorgasbord dinners that Ikea holds in their stores' restaurant is a celebration dinner much as would be served in Sweden for seasonal occasions and this one celebrates the summer solstice. These dinners are becoming more and more like parties with all of the activities that go on.

I have written about the music that has been added to these dinners. This dinner - we attended the dinner at Ikea's Long Island, New York store in Hicksville - had music, dancing, and a balloon man who was just incredible. I have seen many balloon men - they create animals out of long, thin balloons. This guy was the best I have ever seen. He was way beyond the bunny rabbits and puppies that you usually get. He was creating monkeys and an octopus that were actually lifelike.

These dinners used to sell out months in advance. This dinner and the dinner for Easter did not sell out and they were selling tickets at the door. The room eventually did fill but it started out rather sparse which for these dinners is unusual. You see many of the same people attending these dinners and many are of Swedish or Scandinavian descendent.

There was more served at this dinner than there has been at recent previous dinners and one big entree item had not been on the menu that had been distributed before the dinner. A very nicely cooked and very flavorful Roast Beef was added and carved at a table at the end of the two long buffet tables. There was also a great thin onion gravy served alongside the Roast Beef.

We always arrive early to get a particular table that gives a good view of the entertainment and is out of the way of the movement of the crowd. We were a little later than we usually are and when we arrived at about 6:30 pm - the dinner starts officially at 7:00 - the entrance to the restaurant had already been opened and we walked right in and went to "our" table. The way these dinners work is that when the buffet tables are open to come up to, an announcement is made and a single line is formed that leads to the two buffet serving tables filled with platters of food. At 6:45 people took it upon themselves to start forming a line. People who have been in here before were commenting on what was happening. The line started to get long and we, too, along with everyone else decided that we better get on the line. As we were on the line, the restaurant manager came past us and asked what was happening. He could not believe that people had done this either. He just shook his head. And rightly so. The line was not allowed to go up to the buffet tables until 7:00.

The first thing that I caught my eye as I got up to the food were large pieces of thick Prinskov sausages. These are usually small, thin sausages. The ones there on this night seemed to have been a rope sausage cut into pieces. I got up to the platter and took two pieces. It was a good thing that I did as the sausage was gone by the time we went up for our second plate. Remembering the Easter dinner and how the herring was gone by the time we went up for our second plate, I took more herring than I usually would. There were three types of herring at this dinner - for a long time there has only been two. I took some of each - herring in mustard sauce, marinated herring, and herring in wine sauce. I also took Gravad lax and Smoked Salmon. I took some shrimp salad - another dish I have not seen before - and some poached salmon. I decided that my next plate would be the meat dishes. Had I anticipated that there would be no more sausage then, I would have taken more of that - it is one of my favorites. All is excellent. This is an incredible value if you like salmon and herring. A single slice of smoked salmon on their restaurant menu served on a platter with salad usually costs $5.99. Here it was for all you care to eat! The herring sold in their store food department is no bargain. Here , again, is all you care to eat. And that is just the fish.

As I said, we went up for our second plate and this was going to be my meat course. The sausages were gone. The ham - shaved thin on a platter was almost gone - and I took the small amount that were remaining. At that point I had no idea that it would not be refilled. There is an earlier seating and it seems that at that seating what was on hand of these items went. There was still the marvelous Roast Beef and I took two large slices of that. I added some boiled dill potatoes to my plate and took some more of the poached salmon. As this is the summer dinner there is fresh fruit salad and tossed green salad. My wife had gotten to the ham before I did and she had ham and salad. As regular readers know, she is a picky eater and does not eat fish. There was cold shrimp in the shell but they are served here with their heads on and she will not eat shrimp that way.

By the third plate I was just picking and everything that was there for the second plate was still there except the ham - all of the herrings and all of the fish were out in abundance. I took some more herring and some more smoked salmon. I really should not have because I was stuffed as I finished this plate. I usually don't go that far. This is one of those buffets that, at least for me and others that I observed, is hard to resist taking more.

As people were nearing dessert, one of the employees was carrying a tray of ice cream cups - chocolate and vanilla around the dining room, stopping at each table and offering it.When he came by we were still on our second plate and did not take any. He did come around again, but there were some nice looking cakes out and we both decided to pass on the ice cream. There there three single layer frosted cakes out - chocolate, carrot, and banana. There was plain cake out to cover in whipped cream and fresh cut fruit that had an abundance of fresh strawberries. There was also small squared of chocolate truffle cake which was more like fudge than cake. The banana cake looked to me to be vanilla cake and I should have been suspicious that the frosting was yellow. I took a piece of that thinking it was vanilla - my mistake because I do not like the taste of bananas in any form. My good wife took it from my plate. I had a half piece of chocolate cake and a small piece of the plain cake. I also took one of the truffles that was interesting and good.

All of this costs $12.99 - OR $9.99 if you purchase your tickets and show an Ikea store discount card which are free at computer kiosks all over the store. Children are $4.99 - OR $2.49 with the same card. All is included - soda, etc. You eat and you go to a party with Swedish music, group dancing, singing, and balloon animals! I do not really know if the music is at all of the Ikea's for these dinners or just this one. The same goes for the balloon man. Talking with this manager, he goes out of his way to create a great time.

The next dinner like this is on August 15 and that dinner is all about Crayfish. Everything at that dinner has crayfish in it except the meatballs.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Breakfast for Dinner at Old Country Buffet

We had a coupon for OCB good on a weeknight only. We usually avoid Thursday nights at OCB because it is Kids Eat for $1.99 night and while we like kids, we don't like kids running wildly around the restaurant completely unsupervised by their parents, but in the last several weeks - maybe longer Old Country Buffet has been sending emails saying that they serve breakfast at dinner on Thursday nights. This has intrigued me. We have never been to OCB for breakfast - pretty much because we don't eat a breakfast meal and the thought of a heavy breakfast buffet meal that early in the day just does not appeal to either of us. I do like breakfast foods and I thought that this would be an opportunity to get at least of sampling of the OCB breakfast buffet.

So we went on a Thursday night - to the good OCB a distance away. We arrived to balloons for Kids' Night and a lot of children but they were - for the most part controlled and behaved. This OCB has a griddle station that was specially built for the wok feature that has been gone now for about a year. It has been used for breakfast in the mornings but has sit empty at dinner. For Breakfast for Dinner the griddle station - two fry pans on portable conduction cook tops, a cold section of omelet fixings, a big bowl of whole eggs, and on the side kept warm a small try of bacon and a small tray of breakfast sausage. There was a young man behind the grill and every so often he was cooking eggs - mostly for kids. Out on the buffet, mixed in with much of the usual OCB dinner menu items which do not seem to change much from night to night any longer. (No matter what night and which of the two local locations, we find the same foods out each night - and one night when asked, the manager told another guest that he is told each day by corporate what food to serve that day and he has no control (unless, it seems if they run out of something and make a substitute - hopefully), anyway - out on the buffet three was a tray of pancakes, a tray of quarter round waffles, a tray of hot syrup, and a tray of hot what could be - butter sauce. I looked for some form of breakfast potatoes. I have seen these on the poster for breakfast in the morning. There were none. On the poster they talk about Country gravy for omelets, there was none. There were no muffins, breakfast pasteries, or anything else breakfast. Eggs, sausage, bacon, pancakes, and waffles is what Breakfast for Dinner consisted of here.

Here it the surprise. I liked it! It was not necessary to order eggs to get breakfast sausages or bacon from the chef at the griddle. He was happy to give me all that I asked for and offered more. The waffles were not bad - thick and a little dry. I don't use syrup and I was trying not to add the melted butter. I went over to the cold condiments table and found a tray of butter that had been well scooped through and was full of extraneous other condiments so I skipped on that butter. The first pancake - these are small pancakes about three inches in diameter - was OK. I took another two later and these had been sitting for some time on the hot tray and dried out. One was edible, the other was solid and would not cut with a knife. I liked the sausages and went back for more of those - and again, the young man wanted to put more on my plate - which I actually gave in to as I was not resisting as I should. The bacon for the most part is good - it is real bacon, after all, but it is cooked in a fryer - like fried chicken which is a common way to cook bacon in bulk. The problem is that some of the bacon over cooks this way and burns so some of the bacon that I had could not be eaten. What I could eat was good. (I don't recommend overindulging in bacon unless you want to put a cardiologist's kid through college.)  The sausage was distinctly breakfast sausage in flavor and mild - slightly mealy but I liked them.

I added to the sausage, etc. some of OCB's usual meatloaf, mashed potatoes, string beans and such. This was certainly not a typical breakfast but more like a brunch but I was pretty happy at the end of dinner. My wife who does not eat any of this for her own various reasons, made do with the usual dinner entrees and sides. Gone were the Kid's Night foods - corn dogs and such. The ice cream mix banana split station - right next to the egg fry pans was serving the kids. I am not sure that Breakfast for Dinner - at least on this night at this location - was a big draw for the crowd who was there. I did not seen any adults getting any omelets or eggs. A few got sausages, as I was.  

Kid's Night features like the ice cream mix in ends at 8:00 pm at night and before that my wife asked if that meant that the breakfast would end then too - and at 8:00 pm the eggs were taken away and the griddle station was shut down - but the sausage and bacon trays were brought to the buffet table which is much better as now it was out for you to take yourself. They also refilled the pancakes and waffles.  

This was certainly not a carb-friendly meal and not something that I can do too often but I would like to go back. If you have no reason to watch carbs or fat, you can go all out. I would have liked to see more breakfast items out. We started to figure out what was missing from the usual dinner menu to make room on the buffet table for the breakfast items. There was no pasta in creme sauce. That was the most evident item not usually seen at dinner.  There was fried chicken, roast chicken, meatloaf, carved ham, steak, and roast beef. The usual side dishes and vegetables were out - mac and cheese, pizza, string beans, corn, carrots, mashed potatoes, baked potatoes, the french fried potatoes that look like waffle fries but are too hard to bite into... And the usual desserts were out.

They don't say how long this will stay available on Thursday nights. I do miss Thursday BBQ nights that had beef ribs, etc. so many years ago in the long gone and long past. If you are partial to breakfast you might like this. I suspect that you get a lot more breakfast foods at the regular morning breakfast buffet. Years ago we used to go to a breakfast buffet that would start at midnight at a truck stop along Route 222 in Pennsylvania. We would be there on line waiting for it to open - having skipped dinner for only a snack earlier. That too is long gone. Even the building is gone! The OCB breakfast buffet was not as good as that but it was enough to remind me of it. My favorite item from that gone breakfast buffet is something that many find disgusting and many GIs from wars long ago found disgusting too and had a special name for it - abbreviated SOS - creamed chipped beef which there, I would serve myself over home fries. (Another cardiologist's delight!) Oh my. I half imagined before we walked into this OCB that it would be there - of course, it wasn't. This is not something in this area that you will find even in a regular restaurant or diner for breakfast. (I have seen it on menus in Pennsylvania. I should not eat it and especially not a full restaurant order of it.)

I leave it up to you to try or skip Breakfast for Dinner at OCB. I may find myself going back at some point, if it is still offered.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Temporary New Article Schedule

New articles will be running every other week with the next new buffet article appearing next week. This schedule will continue on a temporary basis for a few months and I will then make a decision whether I have enough new material to write about on a weekly basis again or continue longer on this new schedule. If something comes up that is timely I may post that in between, so look for articles or subscribe to be alerted when a new article comes out.  The free subscribe link is in the column on the right of the page.

If you would like me rather to post repeat articles from the past on alternate weeks - oldies but goodies - please send me an email and let me know. There is an email link at the right of this page. If you wish to post a comment instead, I will read your comment but not approve it to be posted. There is really no need for comments published that are personal communications to me. 

Thank you for your understanding.

Art of the Buffet

Friday, June 06, 2014

Rules of the Buffet

Once again, for the new buffet goers - and for the old timers -


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.

Friday, May 30, 2014


Recently we have been encountering people in buffets who seem to have never been to a buffet before. It is entirely possible that they haven't. They seem so lost and confused. We hear them asking each other what to do and neither seems to have any idea. I started thinking then about this article, an article on how to buffet. If you are new to buffet dining then this is for you. If you have been around buffets for years and years, read anyway for fun.

Let's start at the beginning - walking through the door. There are two basic types of buffets. One type is where you are seated, have your meal, and at the end are given a check, just like in a menu restaurant. You then take the check up to the cash register - or your server will bring your check with a cash "tray" under it or in a cash folder and you put your money on the tray, the server takes it up to the register for you and returns with your change or charge receipt. The other type is where you will walk into a cashier's desk where you are going to pay before going in and eating. You may or may not, depending on the buffet, be asked to select your beverage at this time also.

What is included in the price of a buffet varies by the individual buffet or the buffet chain. At some the price is just for the food and drinks are a separate charge. At most, the soft drinks are unlimited meaning you can have all that you care to drink. At others though, you may be paying per drink. At some buffets the tip is included in the price. At other buffets the tip is not included and it is up to you to leave a tip of an amount that you decide. Yes, you are expected to leave a tip at a buffet even though your are primarily serving yourself. The server that is taking care of your table is often actually working harder than some servers in menu restaurants. He or she will be at your table to take away your finished plates (promptly, hopefully) and at many buffets bring you your drinks and refill your drinks when you desire. Tip accordingly based on the level of service you are receiving, but tip.

Now you have either been seated after having paid or just seated at your table. Your server will usually come up to your table shortly and introduce him/herself. Some will ask if you have ever dined at this buffet before and if not, will explain where everything is. If your drinks will be brought to our by the server - and the buffet did not ask you to name the drink you will be having - the server will ask what you wish to drink (seeing on your receipt which will be placed on your table that you have paid for drinks - if drinks are not included) or if this is a pay when you leave buffet will ask you if you would like to have a drink which will be placed on your bill when you are finished with your meal. Some get to their table and are in such a hurry that they don't sit down but go right to the buffet server. It is better - in my opinion - to sit down, let the server see that you are there, and come over to go through what you just read above. A buffet is no a fast food restaurant unless you make it one. Sit down, get settled, meet your server, and then go up to the buffet.

OK! Now you go up to the buffet to start your meal. No one has to invite you to do this. You are on your own. In fact, during the course of your meal you can go up as many times as you like to take what you like. Remember that this is a meal and not a marathon or a food eating contest. Take your time to enjoy your food and the company that you are with. So, yes, now you go up. I am amazed at how many times I have heard people get to their table and ask each other, "Do we just go up?" Yes, you just go up. No one is going to bring your food to you. You are going to select your entire meal and bring it back to your table yourself (including drinks if this is a self-serve drink buffet such as Old Country Buffets and their affiliates do).

So now you are up at the buffet servers. One suggestion that I have is to walk around the entire buffet serving section and look at everything that there is to eat BEFORE you take anything. Discover what they have. Find out for yourself where things are. In this way you will not miss anything and you will not have any regrets when you have eaten yourself full that you missed your favorite whatever that you did not know was there - until it was too late. Once have have seen it all it is time to start taking what you would like to start with. I say "start with" because you do not have to take everything that you want for the entire meal at one time. This is NOT a cafeteria. Again, you may go back as many times are you wish. Take a plate or a bowl and make a plate of food for yourself. Each person in your party will do the same. If you have children under 12, make their plate for them - asking them what they would like - guiding them is this is what you do.

If you went to a menu restaurant meals are served in courses. A meal at a buffet should be no different. If you start other meals with soup first, take soup. If you start meals with salad first, take salad. If you never eat soup or salad then go right to the entrees and side dishes. If you like it all, take soup, then salad (or the two reversed) and then take your entree and sides, and finally dessert. All with separate plates.

As you go around the buffet, understand again that this is not a cafeteria. There are two styles of buffet. One is called a scatter buffet meaning buffet serving tables are scattered around the area. The other is considered a counter buffet with a long counter to go along and take what you like from the many trays along the counter. Some buffets are a combination of the two. Even at a counter buffet, it is acceptable and not rude to walk up to any point in the counter and take what you would like to take without getting on the end of a line at the start of the counter and walking all around the counter until you get to the one thing that you are up there for. People see a counter and decide it means there is a line - and in some buffets form a ridiculous line. Sometimes you will encounter this and no matter what, you get sucked into this line. There was a commercial several years back for a popular pizza buffet chain in which they made fun of this and made it clear that you can walk up to any point of the counter and take what you want - there is no line! It is not rude. It is not impolite.

Please don't fill the plate piled high with one thing on top of the other. There is no reason for that. Make a normal plate. It will be there for you take on the next plate. I never understand how anyone can taste anything sitting under a pile of four, five, more other foods mounded up like a pet bowl. There is no need to pile layer over layer of different foods one on top of each other and then douse the whole thing with gravy. You are not making a casserole, you are serving yourself a plate of food. Each item should be visible and recognizable when the plate is ready to take back to the table. You might consider buffet eating as I do - take a very small portion of a variety of things that appeal to you. And I mean small portions. This gives you an opportunity to taste a lot and if you desire go back for more of what you liked best or for another sampler plate.

So you have taken your first plate and have gone back to your table. I always recommend waiting for the rest of your dining party to return before you start eating. This is a meal to be eaten together. You can not be so hungry that you must devour your plate before your spouse, kids, or whoever is with you comes back to the table. I have seen this many times. In my opinion it is rude and lacking of manners. When you have finished your first plate, you may go back up for more of what you had or whatever else you want. I know that some of my readers disagree with what I am about to say, but I feel that it is only polite to wait for your spouse and, usually, your kids to be ready before you get up from the table to go back for more. I understand that this is not practical when with a large group, and certainly in those situations, go up, perhaps as a couple, without waiting for the rest. When you go back up to the buffet, LEAVE your soiled, finished plate on your table. The server will come to pick it up. NEVER take a used plate back to the buffet tables to be used again!

You are now back at the buffet tables to take more food. Continue your courses - salad after soup, if that is your preference, soup after salad, if that is your preference, or entrees and side dishes. This can be the first of many return trips - if you desire. Again, don't load your plate. Take normal portions of a selection that just fills the surface of the plate or less. YOU CAN GO BACK! So many don't seem to believe that! Every time that you go back, take a clean plate!

There is a dessert section to keep in mind while you are eating. Again, a buffet is all you CARE to eat, and not all that you CAN eat. The idea is not to feel like you need to puke when you leave the buffet because you stuffed yourself so full that you can barely move. Save room for dessert. I know that it is hard sometimes walking away from somethings that you really wish you had taken sooner but it is not the end of the world if you don't get it - and if you can come back to the buffet another time you can always get it then. Again, a reason to walk around at the beginning and see what there is - you will see that favorite then and know to take it before you have eaten too much. Save room for dessert. If you are a dessert fanatic save a lot of room for dessert. And if you are really a dessert fanatic there is nothing saying that you can't just eat a meal of desserts and nothing else.

So now we have gotten you through the entire meal. You still are able to walk and not feel like you never want to look at another bite of food again. If you have paid in advance, put a tip on the table and you then leave the restaurant. There is nothing more necessary - unless you are making a stop at the restroom on the way out. And if you have a long drive home, that is advisable! If this is a pay when you leave buffet your server should be aware that you had just finished with dessert and will bring the check over to you. It may be necessary to beckon to an inattentive or very busy server to indicate that you are ready for your check. Do not be alarmed if when you start dessert your server brings you the check and puts it on your table. This is USUALLY not a way to tell you that you have had enough and you should leave. It is often just a way to give you an opportunity to have the check without waiting when you are through. (I hesitate to say that there are some buffets where the check shows up mid-meal and this is often taken as a way of saying, you had enough already. Sometimes this is true and sometimes this is not. We have had this happen and the server very politely will say that they are bringing the check because their shift is ending or they are going on a break but please eat as much as you care to and stay as long as you like. We have had it happen the other way too - and I get just as annoyed as you would - and when it happens at a particular buffet that I have been to I will let you know about it in my review!) Pay your check, leave your tip - if you are paying by credit card you can leave a tip on the card when you pay at the end. If you pay at the beginning you are going to need cash in your pocket to leave a tip. Do not hesitate to go up to the cashier to break a bill for smaller bills for a tip. They know that this is why you are asking and would rather that you get the bills to give to the server rather than walk out without leaving a tip.

There you have "How To Buffet"! It does not end there and next week we will post a return of our "Rules of the Buffet". What you have just read are the basics. What you will read in the Rules are the finer points and, sadly to say that they must be stated, the manners of buffet dining.

If you have any questions, leave a comment or send me an email using the contact link at the side of this page. Happy buffeting!

Friday, May 23, 2014

Island Buffet. Baldwin, NY

Last week I wrote about a new Asian buffet that opened in Baldwin and I mentioned that I had set out for another buffet thinking that it was the buffet that I wrote the article about. I said in that article that I would go to that other buffet at some point and we did.

This may be one of my strangest articles because we did go to this buffet and we walked out. Here is why.

We went on a Friday night and arrived at about 7:40 pm which for some buffets is late but this buffet is open to 11:00 pm. The parking lot behind the buffet was not very crowded. We walked into the restaurant through the parking lot entrance in the rear of the restaurant. We walked down a long hallway to the front of the restaurant. This hall was clearly recently redecorated which all of the restaurant was when it opened after the long closure of a previous Chinese buffet that had been in this location some time back. There was an odd odor in the hall - I really don't know what but it was not a food smell and while not overwhelming, it was not pleasant. Once out of the hallway you are in the front of the restaurant and walk right up to the host's station from where you will be seated. Unlike the buffet I wrote about last week, you do not pay here when you enter.

There was a young woman at the desk - I really hesitate to call her a woman as she could not have been more than 18 - perhaps younger. She was not Asian. I looked around for a sign with the prices for the buffet and there was none. I was not taking any chances and I politely asked what the dinner price is. She hesitated and and "ummed", and eventually said very uncertainly - "for tonight it is $10.99". There was a great deal of noise in the restaurant - mostly very loud music that was o loud I could barely hear what she was saying. Anyway, that price was what I had expected and I said fine. I told her that there were two of us - as there were two of us standing there - and I expected her to walk us to a table. But she just stood there behind the desk and started mumbling something about it being crowded and pointed at an area behind us in the front open window with several empty tables and saying something about sitting there - again, the noise and music was so loud I was not sure if she was telling us to sit there or to wait there until she had a table in the dining room was appeared to be off somewhere to the side of what looked like a large buffet room - which I noted was absent of people walking around getting food - which I expected being this young woman was telling us how crowded they were. Because I could not really hear what she was saying, I asked her what she was trying to tell us. She then said, "Do you want to sit over there?" and pointed to the window. (The window is wide open to a very busy avenue with people walking on the sidewalk and sitting in the window one is fully in view of all that pass by. I said, "No, we don't want to sit in front of the window." Now she mumbled some more and said something about a small table against the back wall in the dining room." I had to be sure of what she said and I repeated that to her. She mumbled some more and said something about this small table in the corner against a wall - somewhere. And she just looked at us with a dazed look. I started to feel that if this meal is starting out this way, perhaps it would be better to avoid all together. I have never really encountered anything like this before. There seemed to be an Asian gentleman behind a cashier's desk about ten feet from where this was all taking place and he just ignored what was happening with this young woman (I so much want to say "this kid" because she acted and looked so much more as a kid than a young woman - yet this was not someone a restaurant should have as the first person meeting and seating their guests.) She was not saying anything that she should have been saying such as "If you don't mind waiting a few minutes, a table should clear shortly." She was not saying anything - and she spoke perfect English - well as perfect as today's "kids" speak. I just felt that we should go - and I looked at her, and politely told her to forget it and that we were leaving. She did not seemed surprised. She did not offer to look for a table in the dining room or ask us to stay for her to do so. She just stood there and we turned and walked back to the long hall with the odd smell and left.

This is not what a restaurant should be doing when big competition has opened practically across the street just weeks ago. We got in the car and went back to the Flaming grill Buffet that I wrote about last week, which by the way was truly crowded and bustling and yet we were seated in the main dining room with no wait. We had another excellent dinner and had no regrets leaving the Island Buffet.

Will the same happen to you if you go to Island Buffet in Baldwin, New York? Frankly, I don't know. I can't figure what was going on. If the restaurant was so crowded why was there no one - and I mean no one - at the buffet tables? If there was a wait for a table in the dining room, why not just say so and ask if we minded waiting? (I probably would have waited.) It was just bizarre. Will I go back again after this? Highly unlikely. Do I suggest that you go to the Island Buffet? Simply - no.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Flaming Grill and Supreme Buffet, Baldwin, New York

This is a new buffet that we found in a way by happy accident. One of our regular readers emailed to let me know of the reopening of an Asian buffet in Baldwin, New York. The buffet that he told me about was renamed Island Buffet. I put that tip in the back of my head. A short time later in the local newspaper there were coupons for the grand opening of a new Asian buffet in Baldwin, NY. I just assumed that this was the buffet that our reader had told me about and we clipped the coupon and decided that we would give it a try when we had the opportunity. That opportunity came and with coupon in hand we went out on a Friday evening for dinner at the new buffet. We arrived at the location of the buffet that we knew and it seemed that the address on the restaurant that we passed quickly driving down a busy road to get to the parking lot on the next street that was behind the restaurant was wrong. We parked and walked around to the front and the address did not match the coupon that we had. The name of the restaurant that we could now clearly see did not match either. We were standing in front of Island Buffet. The ad and coupons were for Flaming Grill Buffet. At the time I did not remember the name that our reader had told me and we decided that this unknown buffet might be fine, we had no idea about the price and we set out looking for the address on the ad for Flaming Grill Buffet.  As it turned out we had passed that about two streets down in a strip shopping center.

When we arrived at the parking lot for Flaming Grill Buffet there were large banners announcing its grand opening. We walked up to the restaurant and the windows in the front were blacked out. We could not see inside. There were people coming out and we went in. Inside was far more impressive than the plain storefront appearance of the outside. There was a very large and nicely decorated restaurant behind those blacked out windows. There was a short line to get in. Like the chain buffets you pay as you enter this buffet. The price is $10.99. There are two children's prices according to age. The lunch buffet is $7.99. Soft drinks (Pepsi products) with unlimited refills are $1.69. We had a coupon for $9.49 each. We paid at one of the two cash registers. When you pay you are asked what drink you are having and that is put down on your receipt. You then walk a few feet down to the host who you show your receipt to and you are seated. Everyone was extremely pleasant.

The buffet was crowded and at this excellent price it is no wonder. I am always skeptical in this area if a price seems too low, but this buffet proved to be both good in value and food. There is a dining room along the right side of the building with a view of the buffet and a narrower dining room on the left side of the building walled off from the buffet. There is also a party room in the rear. We were asked if we preferred a table or a booth and I asked for a table. We were escorted to the dining room on the right side. As we entered the dining room and were shown to our table I was uncertain. The room was on the dark side - though very nicely decorated but not as bright as the larger dining room on the other side. It looked as if the kitchen was located in the middle of this dining room but as it turned out it was just a large service area for drinks and a place for the servers to bring the used dishes. As I saw later on the rear side of that service area was another section of this same dining room. We went right up to the buffet to get started.

The buffet servers are numerous. There are eight large buffet servers all together in addition to a hibachi grill area and a large rectangle buffet server open in the middle with one side with sushi, a short side with oriental cold prepared salads, and the other long side with a large dessert buffet including full size layer cakes and a chocolate fountain. This chocolate fountain was encircled in a see through plexiglass case with a door that was open for access to the hot, flowing chocolate. There were employees in the middle, some preparing sushi and others putting out the cakes. The other short side had plates. We counted five hot buffet servers and three cold buffet servers in addition to the grill and sushi/dessert island. Almost a third of this large restaurant is the buffet. I should add that not only were the hot buffet tables steam tables but over each tray was a heating lamp. This kept everything at just the correct temperature.

We walked around the entire buffet before we found the soup which shared a hot server with other hot foods. There were four soups - wonton with the wontons in the soup and not in a steam server on their own, egg drop, hot and sour, and miso. I scooped a wonton out of the wonton soup, put it in my bowl and filled my bowl with egg drop soup. The soup was very good and the wonton was what a wonton should be - light, full of meat and tasting just like the wontons taste in a menu Chinese restaurant. This was the best wonton that I have had at a buffet. I bit into it and smiled. It was not what I expected. It was - in my opinion - a properly cooked, real Chinese restaurant wonton. This meal started off well!

I next went up for sushi - and my picky eater wife went up for dumplings. There were many different types of sushi rolls and there were four types of nigiri - raw fish on rice. I took salmon nigiri and tuna nigiri. There were two other types of fish - one with the skin on - that I did not recognize. The sushi bar did not have labels. Everything else in the buffet did. I went over to where there were other cold fish items and I saw that the cold, raw oysters were being refilled. A woman was emptying a tray of oysters onto a bed of ice. I am hesitant about eating raw oysters at a buffet unless I see that they are moist and fresh looking, that they have not been sitting, and that they are on a good layer of ice. These looked just that way and I took three. At the side was a server with cocktail sauce and I added a dollop to each. The sashimi was good - not fancy Japanese buffet good but fresh and good. The oysters were cold, wet, and fresh but each had some remnants of shell - not what a well opened oyster should have. I had to be very careful as I scooped the oyster into my mouth to find the bits of shell and not chew or swallow them. The oysters tasted good, but beware of the shell. Despite the shell this buffet was still going strong!

My wife had chosen a selection of the dumplings that they had, and on my next plate that is what I went for. There was a meat filled shu mai, a pan fried mixed meat and vegetable dumpling, and a steamed pork bun. There was dumpling sauce next to the pan fried dumplings. Shu mai is my least favorite dumpling and I usually do not take it. I wanted to see how this one stacked up against the dry ones I have often had at Chinese buffets. This one was light and moist. The meat may have been chicken, perhaps mixed with pork. The meat was light in color and very nice tasting. I was glad that I tried it. I then tasted the pan fried dumpling which had a mixture of pork and chopped greens inside. The dumping was light, thin and not doughy or chewy. It had a nice flavor. I saved the pork bun for last. This is a steamed round mound of light dough filled with chopped pork in the center. The dough was thick but properly cooked in the steamer and the pork center was tasty. Another very pleasing course!

I am not going to try to list all that was on the buffet. Things will certainly change from night to night. There was a lot of dishes. There were many hot appetizers, Asian entrees, vegetable dishes, seafood dishes, and  side dishes. I will share what I had.

On my trip around the buffet looking at all that there was to choose from, I spotted a tray of spare ribs. These were not Chinese spareribs but more country spareribs. They were covered in a brown barbecue sauce that was not overly sweet or overwhelming. They were laid out on the tray in sections of three meaty ribs and there was a carving knife out to cut less if you did not want three. The ribs were moist and meaty. These are similar to other "country" style ribs that I have had at SOME other Asian buffets. They were good. Do not expect smoker ribs or real country ribs. But they tasted good, the meat came off the bone with little effort, and there was a lot of meat on each rib.

I tried stuffed scallops which were scallop shells halves filled with fresh tasting chopped scallops, some mayonnaise, and melted cheese cooked under a broiler. The taste was distinctly scallops - which is good. They were a pleasant change from the usual stuffed clams which in other buffets are all breading. There was little - if any breading in these. (They had stuffed clams as well but I did not try those.) I also tried half a stuffed blue crab. This was a half blue crab cooked in its shell with legs and claw. There was a very light breaded coating on the outside of the shell. There was little meat in the half crab but it was tasty. (There are on crab legs here.) There were also small, fried crab cakes which they called crab pastries. These were deep fried with a light crab and breadcrumb mixture inside. They were tasty. There was also fried talapia - thick chunks of talapia deep fried and breaded. That was tasty as well. I also tried shrimp and vegetables which was shrimp in a light white sauce with slices of carrots and chunks of zucchini. It was very good - the zucchini tasted very fresh. There was a light buttery taste to the sauce. My wife liked this also and took more when she went back.

In addition to egg rolls and spring rolls, they had a "house special" roll. This was a long thin rolled wrapper around chopped pork and vegetable and deep fried. This was a cross between a spring roll and an egg roll but longer than either of those. It was a little greasy but good.

There were many meat dishes all over the buffet. I tried chicken with black pepper which was good. I tried hibachi beef - not from the grill but from the buffet - which was very good. On one buffet there was a tray of a whole baked ham in pineapple sauce. Next to that was a tray of slices of roast beef. There was also steamed whole talapia in ginger sauce that was cut into pieces including the whole head if you cared to take that. I have never seen a whole talapia fish before. I like talapia, but talapia is a fish that gets bad write ups as far as being one of the least healthy fishes. I will not go into that here and if you want to learn more just Google talapia.

It was easy to find something to eat on any one of the five hot buffet servers. There is also the hibachi grill - with a line of about eight or so people most of this night. I was not sure if I wanted to keep sampling the buffet selections or go to the hibachi grill and create a plate. If I did I knew that there would be no room for anything else. I saved this for the end and before I was too full to enjoy it. There are a number of things on the hibachi cold selection to put on your plate to give to the chef at the grill to cook for you. There were some things that you don't often see - at least at buffets here - one of those was whole eggs in the shell. I have only seen this in Asian buffets in Virginia and at one of those I tried it. The egg is cracked and mixed into all the rest that you select when it goes on the grill. No one here that I saw tried this. I did not either - I might on a return trip as I liked it when I had it in Virginia. Anyway, there was also white rice to add to your mix. This made hibachi rice on the grill mixed into your other selections. (There is also ready made hibachi rice on the buffet.)  There were peeled raw shrimp and Krab (not real crab). All of the meats were frozen - as they are at many Asian buffets. The chicken was in big pieces not thin slices. There were pieces of pork. There were also fairly large, but not thick steaks. As usual, you fill your plate with cold items and when it is your turn the grill chef takes it and cooks it on the solid grill. People were getting up to the chef who was asking them for their plate. As they handed it him they were giving him very detailed instructions - make it medium well, I want a lot of teriyaki sauce, do this, do that. He seemed to be half listening and cooking things as he wanted to. I purposely did not give him any instructions and he cooked everything just about the same. Some asked directly as they were watching theirs cooked to put more sauce on or add garlic or add hot pepper - which he did. But for the most part he cooked the meat well and added teriyaki sauce unless you told him not to. He cooked mine and scooped it onto a clean plate when it was ready and handed it to me. I choose a steak, bean sprouts, mushrooms, and zucchini. It tasted good. The steak was very tough. As in most of the Chinese buffets with hibachi grills in this price range what looks like steak is usually thick sliced beef cut into steaks (which is what steaks are) but these are not steak cuts of meat. The steak was cooked on the grill and laid whole over the vegetables when it was all done. I cut it up myself when I got back to the table and mixed it together. It was fine.

Dessert. There was an excellent assortment of desserts here - and not the little sheet cakes cut into squares. There were three whole layer cakes - slice yourself a slice - big or small. My wife tried the chocolate cake - all chocolate and it was good. There were a number of puddings, etc. and a lot of types of fresh fruits, as well as canned fruits. There was a freezer chest with ice cream bars, cups, and the like. There were lots of desserts here - and they looked and were good. Enough said.

The service was excellent. Everyone who worked here was Asian - they all spoke perfect English. Everyone was pleasant. Our server took dishes away as soon as they were finished. She came over several times to ask if we wanted drink refills - and got them quickly. She was at a nearby table talking to a couple and answering questions about dishes - and suggesting things to try. She was concerned that an older man was OK when he seemed a little unsteady. She also was taking pictures of the people at the table next to us with their phone - making sure to take two to get a good shot. This was way beyond any server at an Asian buffet that I have experienced. When she sees that you are done with the meal - and never rushed us or anyone - she came with a tip tray and fortune cookies. This is a gentle reminder that the tip is not included in the price - a problem often encountered by servers when one pays when entering. She deserved a tip and got one!

We will definitely go back. I have been getting tired of the local Asian buffets and we go often. This buffet will be on our list of go tos! I recommend that you try it.

The Flaming Grill and Supreme Buffet is located at 1773 Grand Avenue, Baldwin, New York 11510. The phone number is 516-544-2222. When I went looking for a website I found another buffet with the same name and an identical website located in East Rutherford, New Jersey. I assume - but do not know for certain that they are owned together. The website for the Baldwin buffet is linked at the side of this page. The hours are Sunday to Thursday from 11 am to 10 pm. On Friday and Saturday the hours are from 11 am to 10:30 pm. The price is the same for dinner every night. Sunday is dinner price all day.

Friday, May 09, 2014

Golden Corral Now Has Nightly Features

Gone is the buy a lobster with your buffet feature at Golden Corral buffet restaurants. The new feature is a feature that changes every night of the week and they are calling this Weeknight Dinner Spotlights.

Every night of the week will have a different feature - Monday nights are Shrimp and Seafood, Tuesday nights are $2.99 Kids Nights, Wednesday nights are Wing Fest, Thursday night is Best of BBQ, Friday night is Fish Fry, Saturday night is Hot Off the Grill, and Sunday Night is Carvers Buffet. Mondays you will find Golden Shrimp, Crab Cakes, Stuffed Crab Shells, and Shrimp topped Baked Fish. Tuesdays your kids will eat for $2.99 - the foods that are featured are always on the buffet such as fried chicken, though they are adding mini corn dogs. Wednesdays you will find Teriyaki Honey Wings, Spicy Garlic Wings, Mild Buffalo Wings, and Hot Buffalo Wings. Thursdays you will find Baby Back Ribs, Boneless Beef Ribs, Bone-in Barbecue Chicken and Pulled Pork Barbecue. Friday nights you will find Tempura Fried Fish, Bone-in Catfish, Catfish Fillets, and Salt & Vinegar Fried Fish. Saturday nights you will find Founder's Five Ounce Sirloin Filet, Mini Steakburgers, Grilled Pork Chops, and Grilled Chicken Breast. On Sundays you will find Carved Glazed Ham, Carved Whole Turkey, Carved Roast Beef, and Carved Cajun Sausage.

As it just happened, right after I learned about this, we were in an area with a Golden Corral and we went there for dinner. It was a Wednesday Night - Wing Fest. I would have much rather have been there on a Thursday for the Best of BBQ but that could not be. I went to see how prominently this feature was being - featured. If it was not for the sign in the window showing Weeknight Dinner Spotlights, one would not have known that this was any night special or different from any other. There were three half trays of chicken wings - I am not sure which of the four were missing but each that was there was described as either hot or spicy. I don't eat hot wings so I did not try any of these. No one seemed to be paying any attention to the wings and if the wings were being taken it was not evident while we were there by the looks of the trays. At one point during the evening I was passing the grill and a guest was talking to the manager asking for something that is usually on the grill. I guessed that it was ribs as the manager was telling him that tonight was the special hot wings feature and he had to come the next night on Thursday if he wanted what he was asking for as it is part of the  Best of BBQ night.  I had been hoping that they had the ribs also - despite the features as there were other foods on the feature nights that are often out on most nights - perhaps not prepared the same way but the same food.

While you are reading I will say that the meal without the wings was OK. I like Golden Corral. I have felt that it is now the best of the chain buffets. This particular Golden Corral in Bensalem, PA is not one of the better Golden Corrals that I have been to on the East Coast and I have written about this specific Golden Corral before. Service started out good and then slowed down for awhile. When she made herself visible she was one of the better Golden Corral servers that we have had. The restaurant was busy for a Wednesday night. The items on the salad bar were not being replenished, the same two dried out pieced of watermelon that were there in the beginning were there - almost - to the end of our meal - when someone decided behind the counter that it needed to be replaced and filled. There were duplicate items on the hot buffet which is not usual for Golden Corral and some things just did not get replenished. Like other chain buffets, a Golden Corral location is very much dependent upon the manager and the employees - and this one needs better of both.

I am not sure how long this feature of nightly features will be run. All Golden Corral features run a limited time. I am hoping that this one runs for a few months. Perhaps I will be able to get to one on a Thursday and maybe a Saturday or Sunday. Those are the feature nights that seem worth going for - at least to me.

Friday, May 02, 2014

OCB's Two Day Easter Feast

Old Country Buffet this year had a two day Easter "Feast". It started on Easter Saturday and went though Easter Sunday. The meal featured carved ham and carved Prime Rib and the price was raised to $13.99 for this buffet meal.

We decided to go on Easter Sunday. The meal was being served all day until closing and we arrived at about 6:30 pm. There was a short line to get in and once we paid we waited about three minutes to be seated. The restaurant was crowded but not much more so than a usual Sunday at this time. Before we went I wondered if OCB was really serving Prime Rib or if they were cutting their usual Roast Beef to appear to be Prime Rib. I hoped for real Prime Rib as it is a favorite. When we were seated the first thing that I did was go past the carving station and saw what looked from the distance to be Prime Rib - boneless, but most Prime Rib served at buffets are. I also looked around to see what else might be special for this Easter dinner that I just paid $13.99 each for along with $2.29 each for soft drinks. This was the most expensive meal price that I have ever paid at an OCB and add tax and tip on top it gets even more expensive. There did not appear to be anything else being served that was any different from any other Sunday at OCB - later, I did find that they had an Easter sheet cake out for dessert - a single layer yellow cake with green frosting with green colored coconut on top and a few jelly beans on each piece. The usual price at this OCB for Sunday dinner is $11.99 and for seniors, $10.49. Were we paying $2 or $3.50 more just for Prime Rib or for the privilege of their being open on Easter Sunday?

We dine at OCB fairly regularly for Sunday dinner. Everything that is usually there on Sundays was there for this "Feast". The Prime Rib - and that cake - were the only additions. After soup and salad, it was time to go up for Prime Rib. As I was waiting on the short line while the carver was slicing Prime Rib, turkey, ham, and steak for those in front of me, I saw that he was shaving off thin slices of Prime Rib. He was carving less than he usually does when he carves Roast Beef. No, this would never do! When I got up to him, I asked for a "thick" slice. He obliged and cut off a piece about three eights of an inch thick, not as thick as a usual slice of Prime Rib even at a buffet, but more than anyone else was getting. He put it on my plate and I saw that it looked a bit odd in the middle and at the bottom.The top looked as expected but not the rest.  I added a baked potato to my plate along with some green beans and headed back to the table.

Back at the table, I looked more closely at the bottom and middle of the slice. It was slightly pink in color with grey but it did not really look like beef. It was smooth on both sides and seemed dense. The top was just right. There was a coating of way too much salt, pepper and what seemed to be the seasoning used on OCB steaks. Below that charred coating was a layer of fat - again, as expected with Prime Rib and below that fat meat that looked as it should with the appearance and texture of beef. I wondered if the top looked like this, what the heck was going on with the rest.  The texture of the middle and bottom of the slice - the entire slice - was more like ham than beef. It chewed like ham and was dense like ham. The taste was fairly neutral - beef-like is the best way to describe it. The top - which as I say looked right (and good) tasted just like Prime Rib. What type of cut of beef was this? The only way to describe what this is like is to say that it was very similar to a certain roast beef fast food chain's roast beef used on their sandwiches - not exactly beef but a beef formed together, not looking like roast beef, not having the same texture as roast beef, and not having the same taste as roast beef. Could this be like that? I have no idea, but it was unlike any Prime Rib that I have ever had and I have had Prime Rib from fine restaurants and every day buffets. Never before had any have the texture of what this had below the top eighth of the meat. I very much enjoyed the top, but the rest was chewy and a great disappointment - and it raised the price of dinner!  Just in case it was this one roast that was out when I first went up, I did go back for a second piece. I asked the carver again for a "thick" slice of Prime Rib and he carved a slice about as thick as the first. Again, it looked just like the first - and when I ate it, this piece was exactly like the first - some odd cut of Prime Rib - if Prime Rib REALLY was what it was.

There was no rush for Prime Rib at the carving area. Most people were taking ham, turkey, or steak - getting just what they would have gotten on any Sunday for dinner for less money. Those that got the Prime Rib had slivers of it put on their plates. Real Prime Rib could not be sliced that thin. This one slices smoothly into paper thin slices.

I seem to be having a run of disappointing buffet meals lately. It happens sometimes and when it does I have to discuss it with my wife who shares these meals with me to see if it is me being too critical or is what I am experiencing exactly as it is. With this - and the rest of the recently disappointing buffet meals, she agreed that they were, indeed, disappointing. I was looking forward to Prime Rib. I was ready to find just Roast Beef, but what I found - well you know what I found.

So what is the story Old Country Buffet? What was this meat that you called Prime Rib? Where is the new quality that Ovation Brands, Inc - parent company of OCB - and its president James Weedo are promising now at OCB in the foods that they serve. It was not here for this special Easter "Feast" - at least as far as the Prime Rib that raised the price of dinner is concerned.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Easter Smorgasbord at IKEA

We went to another of the seasonal one night only smorgasbord dinners at the restaurants at the IKEA stores. We have been many times now since first discovering these wonderful dinners a few years ago. These are dinners for the seasons - one at Easter, one mid-summer, one that features primarily crayfish in late summer and one at Christmas. This past year they held one that was not announced with very much notice on Valentines Day - which unfortunately for us was in the midst of a heavy snow storm.

We have always enjoyed these dinners and they are a wonderful value for the money - in fact extremely wonderful for the money as they only cost $12.99 per adult or $9.99 with an IKEA Family Card which are given free. The children's price is $4.99 or $2.99 with the Family Card.  This price includes all you care to eat of the Swedish foods that are served along with desserts and soft drinks. As I have written before, many Swedes and Scandinavians attend these dinners and praise the food as authentic. The dinners are always held on a Friday night and there are two seatings - one from 4:00 pm to 6:pm and one from 7:00 pm to 9:00 pm.

The foods served for the most part at each of the seasonal smorgasbords are basically the same with slight variations. What I have noticed at the last two or three smorgasbords that I have attended is that the selections have become a little more limited than they had been the first year, a few years ago, that we had started attending these dinners. Perhaps limited is the wrong word to use, perhaps it would be better to say that less is being put out. In the past there had been two complete buffet setups consisting of one very long and on short table for each setup with duplicate items. Lately this has been reduced to one very long table for each setup and a common short table for all of the buffet lines.They send you down the long tables on each side - reaching from side to side to take what you want. This means that four lines then converge on the one small table which this year held poached salmon.

This Easter Smorgasbord held the Friday BEFORE Good Friday was very crowded. The room was overflowing with guests (though as we were going in, they were still offering tickets meaning that the 7 pm seating had not sold out). The lines to the buffet tables were long - though they move quickly and at a steady flow. The staff that IKEA assign to these dinners are top-notch and go out of their way to make this a party atmosphere for all. At the Hicksville, NY IKEA where we attended this Easter Smorgasbord, we were near the beginning of the line when the buffet tables were opened and the guests were invited up to begin to dine. The tables were full of everything that was on the printed menu that is out (at the dinner and in advance) to tell you what is being served. There were two types of herring, a variety of salads, Swedish meatballs, Gravlox, marinated smoked salmon, platters of sliced ham, Prinskov sausages, poached salmon, cold shrimp with the heads on, breads, boiled potatoes cheese, shrimp stuffed hard boiled eggs and more. There are various toppings and dressings that go with specific dishes also out in serving bowls on the buffet tables.

I decided to start my first plate primarily with salmon and herring - though I could not resist my favorite Prinskov sausages and I took a couple of those. I took several spoonfulls of each of the two herrings and also several slices of Gravlax and marinated smoked salmon. I added some beet salad to my plate and went back to our table. My wife - as regular readers know - does not eat seafood and will not eat shrimp with the heads on - took ham, meatballs and tossed salad along with boiled potatoes. I was going to wait until my next trip up for ham. The problem was that on the second plate - which was not too far into the evening - all of the ham was gone. As was the herring. Now, there was plenty to take and they were replenishing what they had, but it was a great surprise to me that ham which is a feature of this dinner - and actually all of their dinners - was gone by 7:30! I filled my next plate with a couple of meatballs, more Prinskov sausages, poached salmon, and more smoked salmon (the Gravlax was also gone - as were some of the salads). I was glad that I took the herring on the first plate - and my wife was glad that she took the ham on her first plate! While they have run out of some things during past dinners, this was the first time that they ran out so early into the dinner. Perhaps the first seating overwhelmed them - BUT since this diner is sold by ticket in advance they know how many to prepare for at each seating.

The food was excellent. It always is - and we ate plenty. But we would have preferred to have had the choice that was on the table for most of the night. Something else was going on during this dinner - not by the restaurant - but by the people who were dining. People were filling plates of items and returning to their tables with them - not as in filling their dinner plate - but filling a plate with item x and another plate with item y. This was especially true when it came to desserts. Plates filled with six or more cupcakes brought back to the table as along with other desserts the same. We went up for dessert and there were no cupcakes left - and the table next to us had a plate of seven cupcakes which they did not eat - when they left, the cupcakes were still there and before they left they filled a bag with about thirty cookies which they took with them. This seemed to be going on all over. Just like at any buffet taking food away is not permitted. My wife commented to one of the employees what was happening whose reaction was "that is not allowed"  but nothing was done. The employees were trying hard to get out what desserts they had to be sure that everyone who wanted something got something - but those cupcakes looked real good and they were gone.

During the evening we purchased our tickets for the mid-summer buffet. We are looking forward to it and will know to be sure to take what we want ahead of time - we will eat everything that we take, of course. Of course, every IKEA is different. Nothing may have run out of any of the other buffets being served at all of the other IKEAs on that night or other things may have run out. No matter what - you can't beat what you are getting for ten bucks - a smoked salmon appetizer alone would cost you that or more in a restaurant.

Tickets are now on sale for the mid-summer smorgasbord. Go to any IKEA to the restaurant cashier and purchase your tickets. If you don't already have one get an IKEA Family Card at any one of the many computer kiosks around the store and you will save two dollars each on the smorgasbord and be entitled to reduced price specials in the restaurant and special discounts around the store.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Disappointing Dinner at Foxwoods Casino's Festival Buffet, CT

As I wrote a week ago, we delayed our day trip to Connecticutt a day because of the weather to go to dinner at the Festival Buffet at Foxwoods Casino. This has been one of my favorite buffets and it was given a Top Buffet award for 2012. I have always liked this buffet best on its extended menu night on Fridays and Saturdays and while the weeknight buffet has been good, it has always been better on the weekend.

Well we drove north to Connecticut, getting stuck in traffic on the Connecticut Turnpike as usual, made a stop during the afternoon at Cabellas Outdoors store - a destination store, and then drove east to Foxwoods for dinner. We don't gamble, but we do go to casinos for the buffets.  We arrived for dinner at about 7:00 and there was a long twisting line of people waiting to get into the buffet. We decided to walk around for a half hour and when we returned the line was longer. We got on the line and waited about twenty five minutes to get up to the register to pay for dinner and go in. Once you pay you get on another line to be seated. We were offered a table in the "patio" area which is a dining area outside the buffet room that is supposed to be like sidewalk cafe seating in the space where people are walking to go through the casino building to the various casino rooms, restaurants, shops, etc. There is a bar across from this with music. The music is loud and outside the buffet room smoking is permitted. We did not want to eat with cigarette smoke all around so we waited for a table in the buffet dining room. It was not a long wait.

We were seated and the hostess looked at the table for two that she was seating us at and told us that she had to get a cloth to clean the table. She said it first before I did. She came back a few minutes later while we stood next to the table and cleaned it. As we sat down she told us to go right up to the buffet as it would be some time before the waiter would get to our table. This was a concern right off though it did not prove to be a problem as dinner progressed.

This buffet is divided into serving counters with different theme foods - seafood, international, Italian, Chinese, and BBQ. In the center there is a soup and salad island. I always look around the counters before going to the soup section because there are often other soups at the theme counters. The only soup like that on this night was wonton soup, so I headed over to the soup bar. I chose what turned out to be the best thing that I had at this meal - sausage and broccoli rabe soup. My wife took chicken rice soup. There were two other soups - both cream soups - one was New England clam chowder and the other was corn chowder.  The sausage soup was excellent. It was crumbled sausage meat in a broth with broccoli rabe all cooked down together. It had a pleasant taste and was not greasy at all. My wife's chicken rice soup was terrible. It was very dark yellow in color - and she had commented about that to me when she took it.  It tastes as if someone took a box of salt and emptied it into the bowl. It really was inedible - and she did not eat it - could not eat it.

Soup was followed by salad and they have a very nice and extensive salad bar. They have one section to create Cesar salad and another section to create a tossed salad with various choices in greens, many toppings and dressings. Also at the salad bar were salad/meat wraps as well as pickles and marinated olives - both green and black.

We set out then to the buffet counters. I went first to the BBQ counter. There I found pork barbecue, St. Louis ribs, and steak. They also had tacos, taco chopped meat, and toppings. I took some pork barbecue, two St. Louis ribs, and a piece of steak. The steak is being cooked on a flame grill behind the counter but not to order. It was strip steak and small pieces were out on a warming tray to take. There was no way to tell how it was cooked and, as usual, it was all well done. The steak was tough - tough enough not to want to go to the trouble of trying to chew it. The pork barbecue was good though on the sweet side. The St Louis ribs were so over done that they were difficult to eat and for the most part had little meat to try to get off to eat. The steak is part of the weekend appeal - the steak was not good. The St. Louis ribs were consistently burnt, small ribs.

I went over to the Italian counter next and there was a sign that said sausage and peppers but in their place were meatballs. The meatballs here have been and were good. There was a chicken dish served on individual small plates. Each had a piece of broiled chicken cutlet on it with tomato sauce, and overabundance of garlic cloves, and pieces of eggplant hidden under the mozzarella cheese and tomato sauce on top. The little plates of chicken were sitting on a hot plate and while the sides when picking them up with your fingers off of that hotplate were not very hot, the bottom of each plate was and I remembered how hot a similar chicken served in a dish here last year was.  I came close to burning my fingers until I got that small plate onto the dinner plate I had in my other hand. The chicken was dry underneath what was on top and not very tasty.

The main attraction on the weekend buffet and what is the reason for the increased price is the snow crab legs. There is a sign outside the buffet that says add a portion of crab legs to your buffet - $10. On the weekend buffet all you care to eat snow crab legs are included. On this night the crab legs on the buffet were not snow crab legs. At best I can identify the crab as dungeonese crab, as that is the closest crab that looks like the half steamed crabs that were being served. I took one of the halves to try. I had seen people with nut crackers and looked around for them at the counter with the crab. There were none. Asking the man behind the counter for some came back with an answer sending us to the salad bar for crackers - the eating kind. There was no nut cracker to be had and our waiter never came around to ask him for one. I attempted to break this rock hard crab shell with my fingers. I was only able to obtain some of the meat in the claw this way. It tasted bitter and that was the end of my finding a way to break open the crab shells - I did not like the taste of what was inside. So this was another disappointment of the night. There has been in the past a long line to get to the snow crab legs. On this night there was no line.

I tried little bits of things looking for one thing that I would settle on and make the meal. There was the usual Prime Rib being carved and a ham. I always take the Prime Rib, get a slice that fills the plate, and then regret later that it was far too much to have with the rest of the buffet - so I did not go for any on this night. I should have. There was a meat dish called "Hunters Stew" that was very tasty but I am uncertain what the dense cubes of meat in the stew were. Most likely they were pork. The dense meat did not allow the stew sauce to soak through so while the stew liquid, potatoes, carrots, etc. were very tasty, the meat was bland.  I went to the seafood counter and took some fried clam strips and a piece of batter fried fish. The fried clams were good - as they have been. The fish was very greasy and I wound up pulling the coating off of it and just eating the fish inside. Some side dishes were duplicated from one counter to another.

There is a large assortment of desserts and as it was my birthday celebration buffet I took a piece of cheesecake. The cheesecake was swirled with chocolate syrup. It was good but far to sweet for my palate that is no longer used to eating very sweet things.

This was not the meal I had anticipated - and I have been here to dine many times before. I felt very let down by this meal as my "birthday" buffet diner. I regretted not driving the additional distance to Shady Maple in Pennsylvania instead for the day where the meal would have been better and free for my birthday. 

Looking back at my "birthday dinner" here in 2013 I had much the same disappointing experience though then for other reasons. Perhaps I should have read back before we went, but sometimes a restaurant - any restaurant has a bad night so I tend not to rule out going back unless that happens more than once. This was that more than once.  More than likely we will not be coming back for my next birthday dinner.

I can't say that I recommend this buffet any longer. If you are at Foxwoods it is the best deal as far as dinner is concerned even with the over $20 price. It was better in the past. Maybe it will get better again.

The Festival Buffet is at Foxwoods Resort Casino. The address is 350 Trolley Line Boulevard,
Mashantucket, CT 06338-3777. The phone number is 1-800-369-9663. There is a website with directions, etc. and that is listed at the side of this page.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Good Taste Buffet, Commack, New York

It has been four years since I have written about the Good Taste Buffet, a Chinese buffet, in Commack, New York on Long Island. We have been back since but it seems that I have just not written about it. We no longer go there as often as we once had. For one reason, it is a distance - though not very far, and another reason is that there is a better priced Chinese buffet very close by.

On my birthday this year I was planning on going to Connecticut to Foxwoods for dinner. Yes, that is a very far and long distance but we make a day of it and stop at other favorite places along the way. The weather on my birthday was not great and I did not want to make the drive to Connecticut in that weather - and as it would be better the next day - we put the trip off a day. So that left me with deciding where I wanted to have dinner on my birthday. Had we not been planning to go to Foxwoods the next day, there are several "expensive" buffets locally that would have made for a "special occasion" birthday dinner, but since we would be making that trip the next day, I wanted to go locally to a more reasonably priced buffet. My first thought was Good Taste Buffet and the reason that is for me is the one item served there on the dinner buffet that is unlike any other local buffet - real Chinese broiled spare ribs that are not soaked in sweet red sugar sauce. I have written about these ribs before and these are real Chinese restaurant spare ribs. These are the ribs that I grew up with at Chinese restaurants. So despite the drive through heavy rain, we were going to Good Taste Buffet.

Overall, nothing has really changed about Good Taste Buffet. What I wrote about the food selections here are pretty much the same today. Even the price has remained the same at $14.99 for dinner. The thing that I come here for - as I just said - is the ribs and I make the bulk of my meal here those spare ribs. They are meaty - most are moist - and they are not covered in any sauce. If you want duck sauce or hot mustard that is available with the condiments. The meat for the most all peels off the bone as you bite into it and pull. These are not barbecue ribs - they are Chinese spare ribs - so the meat does not fall off the bones. On some nights, the rib tray empties and it is a wait for more to come out. On this night the rib tray was quickly refilled as soon as it got down near the bottom. These are popular here - for good reason - and it is best to not wait if you plan on more ribs, but go up and take what you want when they come out. This way you have the pick of the meatiest ribs. (This is not telling your to fill your plate with more than you will eat - just take what you will eat.- and as an aside there are now signs around the buffet that you will be charged extra if you leave over food on your plate. A common sign at some buffets.)

There is a lot more here than ribs and the food here is very good. The egg rolls are filled with pork and vegetables and are another "real Chinese restaurant" taste. Also like this is the Shrimp with Lobster Sauce with lobster sauce traditionally seasoned, thick, and full of egg white. All that is missing from what is traditional Chinese restaurant Shrimp with Lobster sauce is the ground pork. There is no pork or meat in this dish here - I am sure to make it suitable for those looking for a meatless dish.

There was a dish on the buffet that has not been here on my past visits and it is a dish that I saw for the first time within the past year. They had a "house special pork" which was a pork roast cooked just like the port roast that I have recently written about at another area buffet. This was smaller and was not cooked with the skin on. I tried some and it was tasty but not as good as the "Yummy Pork" that I have written about. (the name is a clue to where that - in my opinion - better pork is served).

You will still find crab legs here. They are not whole clusters but are served as one or two small legs.In the past there has been grilled Italian sausage served on some of the nights that I have come here. There was none on this night - and I don't know if they ever serve it now. There is a large enough variety including non-Asian dishes that it should accommodate most.

Desserts are standard Chinese restaurant desserts but not just the little squares of sheet cake. The apple strudel is not served hot but cut into slices on the dessert counter. The almond cookies, if they are not homemade, taste and have the texture of homemade. They are not the hard cookies often found but a soft but not chewy cookie with good almond flavor.

I have recommended this buffet to many friends and always to my readers. One thing to be aware of is if you are not going here during dinner hours and you are coming for the ribs, call first to make sure they are being served at the time that you come. I have had readers contact me to say that they went for lunch - even on a Sunday and there were no ribs. Before you make the trip - call! (This is try about any buffet. The dinner menu is often more extensive than the lunch menu so always call first if there is one item I talk about here to find out if it will be served when you are going to be there.)

The restaurant is open seven days a week and the hours are until 10 pm on weeknights and 11 on Friday and Saturday. The last dinners are let in up to an hour before closing. There is no website, but the telephone number is 631-543-9583.