Friday, November 20, 2015

Back To KFC Buffet, Williamsburg, Va

It has been two years since we have been to the KFC Buffet in Williamsburg, Virginia. For those who do not know, in some parts of the US, KFC restaurants (Kentucky Fried Chicken) have buffets. I have only been to one. This one in Williamsburg, Virginia. I have seen one other in Virginia - there may be more, and I know that they are scattered around the country.

These are done in the regular fast food take out/eat in KFCs and are set up in part of the front counter. This one has two counter sections. One is a cold section with prepared salads including coleslaw, pickles, and cold desserts like banana pudding. The other is a hot section with fried chicken - here both regular KFC and extra crispy and a variety of hot vegetables and side dishes. There were dinner rolls and there was warm corn bread. There was also a hot dessert that I will talk about later.

The one big difference in the past two years is the price. The KFC buffet here went up in price from our first visit when it was $7.99 to now, $10.99. At $7.99 and even a little more, this was a great deal - especially as at that time, the cost of ordering three pieces of chicken with sides would come out to more than the price for the entire buffet. At $10.99 you come within a dollar of the price of dinner now at Golden Corral - and while the Williamsburg Golden Corral is not great, there is another Golden Corral a twenty minute or so drive away in Newport News. At other buffets around this price you are getting everything including fried chicken. Here you are getting fried chicken and sides. Is that bad? No. What I am saying is the price for the KFC buffet is not as attractive as it once was. It still is a better deal than ordering from the menu board - as you can keep going up and truly eat all the fried chicken that you care to eat. For us, it is something different, as we don't generally go to any KFC.

Soda is ordered separately and you go up to the machine just like at most fast food restaurants and get your own soda as many time as you like. There is no one in the restaurant to come and clear your plates away. You need to do that yourself and there is no one that is going to bring you a soda refill - you do that yourself as well. But you can go up to the counter and ask for a clean plate as many times as you like. You are given two plates to start with one large and one small - both made of Styrofoam. You are asked to always use a new and clean plate each time you come up to the buffet sections. You just go up to the register - no need to wait in line - and ask for them (and you get one at a time). You may need to show your receipt for the buffet each time if it is crowded. Of course, if there is a line when you get there, allow the cashier to finish taking someone's order before you break into the line. So far in the times that we have been there, there have been no protests by other customers waiting about this. Perhaps they are used to it at a KFC buffet. Pretty much, if there is anyone behind the counter and you can catch their attention, they can give you another plate.

The food is KFC - no different. You are not going to get any of the special KFC menu items. There is no grilled chicken - though once when we were here, someone asked for that on the buffet and they were handed a plate full of it. Trays keep being refilled. Everything that is supposed to be hot is hot and everything that is supposed to be cold is cold.  As I have said in the past, if you don't like KFC food, you will not like the KFC buffet.

Now this hot dessert. It was a tray in the hot food section and we both thought, when we saw it, that it was a meat dish of some kind. It looked like a try of meatloaf. It was a grayish brown, and was somewhat scored as squares. It was not meat. It was a dense, gooey, sweet cake-like dessert that had a taste of cinnamon and molasses.  We asked what it was and were told it is "Fried Pudding". Neither of us have ever heard of Fried Pudding before - perhaps it is a common Southern dessert. All we knew was that it was very sweet and rather good. It was not fried banana pudding which I see recipes for. There was no bananas in it - if there was I would have known right away, as I do not like the taste of bananas.

We both rarely eat fried chicken. We both enjoy this buffet. We have made this a must stop at when we are in this area - which is not often. There are not many buffets in this area any longer. Several of the Asian buffets that were once here have closed. This one is fun, totally informal, and a decent meal - if you like KFC fried chicken. It is probably the most fried chicken that I eat at a single meal all year. I have never regretted it afterward. I have enjoyed it every time.

To find out where KFC buffets are, the KFC website now has buffet listed as a filter on their locations finder on their website - Just put in a zip code and check buffet on the top of the page and any near there - or none - will come up.  (And in checking on this, I just discovered that there is one near me now - about twenty miles away that does not involve any bridges, tunnels, or toll roads...

The KFC Buffet that we went to is located at 1545 Richmond Road, Williamsburg, VA 23185. Their phone number is(757) 229 - 7212.

Friday, November 06, 2015

The Best of the Best

Our pick for the Best Buffet for 2014 was Dutch-Way Family Restaurant in Gap, PA. We have been there a number of times this year and find that the night that I like the best at the Best Buffet is Tuesday nights. All of the nights are good - but I particularly enjoy dinner there on Tuesdays the best.

This is the night when I find the most Pennsylvania Dutch foods mixed in with always good standards. We were the area again recently - and picked Tuesday for the night that we would go to Dutch-Way. The feature on Tuesday nights is not fancy - it is burgers made to order topped the way you like them and also hot wings, both at the Grill. On the buffet on Tuesday's there tends to always be Chicken Bot Bie (Chicken Pot Pie - stewed with large noodles, not baked in a pie shell), Dutch Loaf, Ham Balls, Pork and Kraut, and more. Simple. Plain food which this region is known for - Pennsylvania Dutch cooking of the Plain People. The burgers are an extra thrown in for a very enjoyable meal.

Now, I can't talk about the Wings from personal tasting, as I don't care for hot wings and small chicken legs and wings tossed in sauce and spice don't interest me - or my palate. But I have watched people go up to the Grill on a Tuesday night and order platefuls of these. The chef behind the counter puts the cooked and hot chicken in a bowl and tosses it in the sauce or seasoning that you request from a list - and if you want more than one "flavor", he just tosses more in other bowls - and then all goes onto your plate. Watching them eaten at other tables, I am certain that they are good from the reactions of the dinners. But for me, I don't care for them in general.

The burgers always interest me. You order your burger by filling out a paper at the Grill Counter. There is a sign listing specifically put together burgers each with a different combination of toppings, but you can just ignore that list and put together on the paper by checking off boxes of ingredients exactly what you want. Of course, there is bacon - lately a burger has to have bacon - but if you don't care for that leave it off. There is even a fried egg that can top your burger. You order it cooked the way you like it from rare to well done. You can top the toppings with sauces, lettuce, and tomatoes. It all gets cooked for you and put on a bun. I order mine without the bun. I would rather leave room for more interesting things from the buffet tables than a burger bun.  On the menu here - and in other restaurants - one of these burgers could easily cost you the price of the buffet - and here you could order as many as you like for just one price and have the entire buffet to go along with it.

Then, of course, there is the buffet. On this particular night, aside from the PA Dutch foods that I named above, there were ribs, lasagna, a pumpkin casserole, a vegetable casserole that was very good, fish, fried chicken, and more. As always there are five soups, a large salad bar, and a big dessert bar that spills over to one of the hot buffet servers where there are hot desserts.

I have my favorites on the salad bar also. They have the most wonderful chicken salad. I have sometimes considered just ordering the soup and salad bar for dinner as I could make a meal of this chicken salad. They also have chunks of Lebanon Bologna. This is a cured, dark pork meat with visible, tiny pieces of fat with a smokey, slightly sweet taste. This is a cold cut known in the Pennsylvania Dutch Country - originating in Lebanon County, PA. I have not found this on any other buffet in the area. It may be an acquired taste, but it is good. And if you go out to purchase this locally it is quite expensive for a cold cut. Here it is intended to go into a salad, but I just take the junks and eat them. The chicken salad and Lebanon Bologna are not limited to just Tuesdays.

We dined in a different buffet every night on this trip but this Tuesday night at Dutch-Way was a stand out meal. For Dutch-Way, which is the best, this is the best of the best. Other nights there are good selections also - Thursday is Seafood Night (at their highest price for the buffet) and Friday and Saturday feature Prime Rib, Ham, and Baby Back Ribs.

Service was excellent - and we knew it would be from the moment we were shown our table as our waitress/server was Marie who we have written about before as the BEST buffet server at any buffet anywhere.  This is a young woman who makes you feel welcome and appreciated as a customer and always comes across as enjoying her work.

So, Dutch-Way Family Restaurant on a Tuesday - best of the best. Try it. This is a local restaurant off and away from the main tourist areas and is there for local people including Amish and Mennonites who are seen dining here regularly. Nice decor. Very clean. It also gets excellent reviews from the usual restaurant review sites. Don't go looking for a touristy restaurant. You will not find it. To me that is a good thing and a very strong plus. Others seem to want the tourist hype.

The Dutch-Way Family Restaurant is located at the Dutch-Way Farm Market Supermarket at 365 Gap Newport Pike (Route 41), Gap, Pennsylvania 17527. The buffet is served from 4 pm to 8 pm Monday to Saturday. The restaurant is closed on Sundays. The restaurant is closed on some holidays. This is about two and a half miles south of Route 30. There is a web site and that is linked at the side of this page. The phone number is 610-593-6080.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Back at D.J.'s International Buffet, Garden City, NY

It has been almost two years since we have been to D.J.'s International Buffet. This is an Asian buffet that is a considered to be a step above most of the others in this area. It has been around for a long time - closed suddenly, reopened a year or more later, with a new owner though keeping most of what it had been prior including most of the menu. Since then it has changed in menu and interior decor a few times. There have been newspaper ads in the past several months - maybe longer - saying new menu and changes. There are usually coupons and we clip them just in case we decide to go. We don't generally go. The price for dinner here is $19.95 on weekdays and $27.95 from Friday through Sunday. This is just too much for just any meal. We have in the past gone to this buffet for "special occasions" when spending the additional amount for dinner for the two of us to celebrate seems more justified. We just had a special occasion and considered two "special" buffets to go to -  Minado Japanese Seafood Buffet or D.J.'s International Buffet. Since the dinner price at Minado is $31 on a weeknight we decided to go to International Buffet - and we had a $3 off each dinner coupon. Prices for dinner do not include the beverage.

There have been some changes since we have been here last. The food on the hot and cold buffet tables is being served now in porcelain platters rather than in metal hot trays. Under the platters are the heaters from the steam table and everything was kept properly hot - or cold. This gives the buffet a nicer appearance than most - though there are not as many dishes now being served - as the platters are going across the middle of each buffet hot table and where there would have been two trays of food - one on each side - there is now one large platter going across. So half as many choices. This is still a large buffet and there is plenty of food to chose. In addition to the buffet tables there is a long sushi bar, a cold seafood bar turning the corner, a hot appetizer grill, and now where there used to be dumpling steamers, there is Udon Noodle Soup which you prepare yourself. Across from this is a soup bar with five soups. Across the buffet room is a dessert bar that is along the wall including a chocolate fountain and soft ice cream - and a hard ice cream treats freezer case.

I did not see the Udon Soup when I went for soup and took what has been my favorite of their soups for a long time - lobster bisque. This is a pink, semi-thick. cream bisque with no recognizable pieces of lobster - though it tastes of lobster. I scoop out a wonton from the wonton soup and add it to the lobster bisque. I like it. It has varied over the years. It was good on this visit. My wife told me about the Udon soup and even though I enjoyed the lobster bisque I like Udon Soup too. Well, before dessert, I went and took a bowl of the Udon Soup. There are bowls full of Udon noodles, shredded "krab", and a head of broccoli in each bowl. These are kept cool next to a pot of broth. In front are items to add to your bowl if you wish. I added dried seaweed and something that I have always seen put in Udon soup that looks like bread crumbs but I suspect are a dried fish of some type.  The hot broth brings everything hot in the bowl by the time you get back to the table. I first removed the broccoli, stirred the bowl to mix the contents and get everything swirling in the hot soup. The soup was very good.

My next course was from the sushi bar and since I don't eat rice I went directly to the tray of just raw fish. I took several large chunks of salmon and tuna. I also took a few other things that I will describe but do not know the names of - all of which I have had before in Japanese sushi restaurants - a partially cooked tuna crusted with black pepper in a thin sauce, the same but with a white fish, and raw, marinated beef with a pepper crust. All were very good. There were many different sushi rolls. If you would like to make a meal of a good variety of sushi it is very possible to do here. Of course, there is a lot more to eat here than sushi so I took a good sampling of what I can eat and then moved on to the rest of the buffet.

I will tell you about the things I took and will not try to tell you about everything that was here. There were two types of dumplings - lightly pan fried pork dumplings and also steamed shrimp dumplings. Both were very good. These were much better than they had been in the past. There were spare ribs that were nicely charred on the outside and while they were brushed with a sweet sauce, it was not the usual Chinese buffet too sweet red sauced spare ribs. There was a lot of meat on the ribs - close to but not quite traditional Chinese restaurant spare ribs (that only one buffet that I know of serves). The ribs were good. There was fresh corn on the cob at the grill that was made on the grill - I took a half ear of corn that was well charred. I have not had corn this way for a long time - not Asian - but good. Steamed flounder in ginger sauce was very good. There are crab legs here every night. They are not full clusters but individual legs. Your server brings an empty plate and a nutcracker to your table. The crab legs are fairly steadily replaced and remain hot - so you are able to open them and get the crab meat out without it sticking and remaining inside a mushy shell (which happens as crab legs start to cool). There was a dish that I have wanted to try - that I have seen on a menu at a Japanese food stand - called Chicken Katsu. I knew that it was a fried cutlet - and these are made with various meats. I was able to try it here and it was good. It is a breaded and fried chicken cutlet with a mildly sweet glaze on top. It is served here cut up into strips. I liked it (and now I know if I go back to that food stand it is something that I would enjoy - I don't only eat at buffets.) I tried stuffed lobster - not what you think. These were lobster heads that were hollow and filled with a crumb stuffing and what must have been bits of lobster. It tasted of lobster, though it was more crumb stuffing than anything else. These were baked. They had similar in crab shells. I tried Mongolian steak - good and and beef in black pepper sauce - OK.I had a King Seafood Roll - this was odd - a breaded fried roll shaped like but softer than an eggroll filled with chopped seafood. It was different and good. I took shrimp and some scallops out of the Seafood Delight platter and this was very fresh tasting shrimp and scallops. I tried Grand Marnier Shrimp which looked like what other Asian restaurants call coconut shrimp. It had the same texture but tasted very different. It was good - but not something that I would take more than one piece of. There was a lot more. These dishes must vary each day as the menus on the website of all of the dishes served only includes some of the things we had and saw and some of what we had are not listed at all.

It is easy to eat too much here but I made sure that I did not walk out feeling like I was going to burst. I stopped when I started to feel full and did save some room for a dessert.

The desserts here are a mix of the typical Chinese buffet little pastries and cakes plus an entire cold buffet table of fruits and desserts. One of the desserts on this table was Tirimisu. Intertnational Buffet for the longest time has had flan on the dessert buffet and it is still there - but it was orange in color (as I have recently seen it at another Asian buffet). I took a serving spoon full (one) of Tirimisu. It was very good. There was a liquor under taste to it but I am sure there was no alcohol in in it. There are lots of children who are at this buffet with families and there is nothing that is going to not be OK for kids as well as adults.

You should know that the weekend dinner includes Lobster in Ginger Sauce. This is why the price goes to $27.95. From past experience here, when there is lobster on the buffet there is a line of people waiting for a new tray to come out and the best of that tray is gone in a few minutes. Lobster is nice - it is not worth the fight or the money - and then come away with a few small pieces that are mostly shell. 

The meal was good! The service was good. There were three birthday parties going on in the room but the servers were still able to attend to them and all of their tables. Dishes were taken away promptly and drink refills were offered and brought.

We were very pleased with this meal. It was a nice celebration for our occasion. Will we go back? Yes,but for an occasion. This is too expensive for us for a weekly buffet meal - even with the coupon. If you feel that the price is within your budget and you are in this area of Long Island, NY try it.

D.J.'s International Buffet is located at 1100 Stewart Avenue in Garden City, New York. Their phone number is 516-227-2472. The hours of the restaurant are Lunch Monday to Friday, 11:00am to 3:00pm; Brunch Saturday and Sunday 11:30am to 3:00pm; Dinner Monday to Thursday, 4:00pm to 10:00pm, Friday to Sunday, 4:00pm to 10:00pm. There is a website linked on the side of this page. 

Friday, October 09, 2015

Back to Lititz Family Cupboard Restaurant, Lititz, PA

Even though our last article on Lititz Family Restaurant appeared this past April, it has been about a year since we actually were there and we returned recently for dinner. We have been trying to go to some of the smaller, local PA Dutch buffets on recent visits. We were looking forward to getting back to this one.

I must start out saying that all the food was good, but I have to tell you that the assortment of foods this time was a bit disappointing. We went on a Tuesday night in August. As this restaurant is out of the main tourist area, just about everyone here is local. The restaurant was not crowded but it was busy - especially for a Tuesday night.  I have always said that this is a small buffet. There is one double sided buffet server with hot foods, a salad bar with two soups on one end and a small dessert bar.

There were x meat entrees on the buffet on this night - a featured, shepard's pie, rotisserie chicken which is a standard here, white and dark meat turkey, and beef in gravy which instead of the usual chunks of beef served in beef gravy, this was shredded beef in beef gravy. That was it and about halfway through dinner, the shepard's pie ran out and was replaced with sweet potato pudding, rather than another meat dish. This all surprised me and looking back at what I have written about what I have found here in the past, I was right to be surprised. My meal was mostly turkey with some of the beef in gravy. I don't care for shepard's pie so I did not try that. The rotisserie chicken is very good here but I did not want any on this night. The turkey was served from two trays - the white meat was thick, sliced turkey breast and the dark meat was off the bone dark meat turkey that was served - as is served in this area at some other buffets and restaurants - in its juices. I very much like turkey served this way so I was happy with what I had, but I felt while we were there and after that there should have been a couple of other meats served along with this all.

The rest of the hot buffet was loaded with various side dishes of vegetables, potatoes, stuffing, etc. There were no empty spaces on the buffet and a good meal was there for the taking - it was just, I felt, that the choices in entrees was lacking. Perhaps if there was also ham and maybe Pork with Sauerkraut, I would not be writing this article. Those would have rounded out the entrees and these are two dishes that have been included before.

The desert bar is small and there are puddings and prepared desserts, two cakes, and there is fruit on the salad bar. There is also a soft serve ice cream machine and sundae fixings.

There is continual oversight of the buffet by staff, checking on what needs to be replaced, keeping items stirred, and replacing near empty trays. Everything is kept at its proper temperature.

Service was very good and used plates were taken away and drinks were refilled. There is a very comfortable feel to this restaurant and very welcoming.

Even with what I see as limited choices, we had plenty to eat and went out satisfied that we had a good meal at good value. While prices at all restaurants are always changing, the price here is very good. Monday to Thursday, dinner is $13.25. Senior dinner is $11.60. Unlimited refill soft drinks  are $2.19 but if you are a senior, the beverage is only 60 cents. Also check their website (linked at the side of this page) for coupons - we had a coupon that took $2 off each dinner. There is also a menu and one can order from the menu while another at the table orders from the buffet, but you are asked not to share anything from the buffet with anyone not ordering it - which is a very reasonable request.

I felt that I should write this update in the event that any of you go here and based on my previous articles wonder where all of the entrees are. Maybe this was just this night. We will return again to find out.

Will we go back - absolutely! Should you go? Yes, but know that you are not going to find the row after row of buffet selections that you will find in many other PA Dutch buffets. The food is good. The quality is good. The service is good. The value is good.

Lititz Family Cupboard is located at 12 West Newport Road in Lititz, Pennsylvania 17543. The phone number is 717-626-9102. There is a website and it is linked on the side of this page. They are open until 8:00 pm. They are closed on Sundays.  To get there take Rt. 501 North to West Newport Road and turn left then make a left on Toll Gate Road and then a left into the parking lot of the restaurant.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Ovation Brands, Owners of OCB - SOLD!

The corporation that owns, Old Country Buffet, Ryans, etc. is Ovation Brands, Inc., formerly known as Buffets, Inc. until the name was changed by FORMER CEO, Anthony Weedo. Yes - former CEO. Within the past year Weedo (you know the guy who was on the television reality show, "Undercover Boss") put out that Ovation Brands was looking to be purchased. In latge August, 2015 it was announced that a Food Management Partners bought Ovation Brands and all of its buffet chains.

I have know about this since just after it took place and have been sitting on the story to try to get more details. I have decided to go ahead and share this with all of you now with the little that I have been able to learn. Let me give you a little pre-sale information that I have also been sitting on.

In early June I was contacted through this site's email link by someone who works for Ovation Brands corporate. He told me that he has been reading this site for years and would like to meet me for lunch at a local OCB and discuss Old Country Buffet. I respectfully declined the offer as I have always wished to remain anonymous and sitting in OCB with an Ovation corporate executive was not going to keep me very anonymous any longer. He understood and shared a few things with me - the most significant of which was that Anthony Weedo was GONE and indicated that some " changes" had been made in their "leadership" team. He went on to share that the little pots of food would be gone from the menu and that they were looking to bring back some of the foods that people who like OCB have missed. He also asked me to share some ideas with him in this regard and how to bring people back to OCB. I have to admit that I did do that but not right away. I waited, discussed it some, and did send back my reply in mid-July. I did not get a response back to date - and I sincerely hope that he did not become one of the "key changes" by that time. Since then it has been no secret that Anthony Weedo was sent on his way and I have received a few emails from some of our readers who keep up with things like this also letting me know.

So Weedo is gone by early June and in two months, the sales offer that he set into motion is taken by a company called Food Management Partners (FMP). Here is what I have been able to find out about FMP. Food Management Partners is a privately held company based in San Antonio, Texas. Prior to the purchase of Ovation Brands they owned 200 restaurants. Now with those from Ovation Brands they own 500 restaurants. Prior to the purchase, FMP owns Furr's Fresh Buffet - a buffet that I have never heard of and none of our readers has ever mentioned in communication with me. They are on Facebook, they have a website, and they have locations (25?) in Arkansas, Texas, Arizona, New Mexico, and Oklahoma. So FMP is familiar with the buffet business.

The biggest question on everyone (who cares) minds is what is FMP's intentions with all of the Ovation restaurant chains - OCB, Ryans, Hometown Buffet, Country Buffet, Fire Mountain, and a non-buffet restaurant, Tahoe Joe's, that was owned by Ovation. This from one of the FMP exec's - “The buffet business is one with which we are very familiar, and the chance to acquire a category leader does not come along often,” Peter Donbavand, FMP vice president of business development, said in a statement." (from "Nations Restaurant News - Aug. 20, 2015). This sounds hopeful. Unlike the Buffets, Inc (Ovation Brands) take over of Ryans which was intended to put Ryans - a competitor of OCB - out of business, closing many and changing the remaining Ryans into OCB clones, this buyout seems to not be looking to shut down or destroy what they have just purchased - which for those of us who enjoy these buffets - and those who work at these buffets - is a good thing. BUT - and a big BUT here to consider - FMP purchased a restaurant corporation that owned Coco’s Bakery Restaurants and Carrows Restaurants and as reported by "National Restaurant News", FMP immediately closed 149 of these restaurants based upon poor performance and apparently done so suddenly and again, without notice.  Oh boy!

Now, "Nations Restaurant News" reported on August 25, 2015 that there were layoffs of Ovations Brands employees at " the Greer headquarters office and in the Eagan, Minn., support office, where Ovation’s predecessor, Buffets Inc., had been based." Layoffs were done without notice or warning - sound familiar as this was how Ovation went through Ryans and some OCBs. Don't let the term "layoff" fool you - for the most part "layoff" means fired. In the article about this, included is Anthony Weedo - BUT we know that Anthony was given the boot in early June or before - along with other executives. So there is a little confusion here when piecing together what on-site sources have informed us and what later gets reported. Clearly, it looks to be that more have been let go than "key leadership".

So you all now have everything that is to be known to date. Time will tell and I only hope that this is not going to be another scourge of closings of buffets. I know that there are a lot of buffet managers and employees that follow this site, and perhaps those who can will share with me what is happening - or what has happened effecting your buffet and/or jobs. The email link at the side of this page goes directly to me and anything you share will not be used without your permission - and it is always kept anonymous.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Saturdays At Yoders

I have written about Yoders Restauant and Buffet in the Yoders Country Farm Market in New Holland, PA many times. The last time I wrote about it I said that things were inconsistent there. I have since have within one month had three very good meals at Yoders and they were all on Saturday nights.

In Lancaster I have tended to go to Shady Maple on Saturday nights - and when we are in Pennsylvania for just a day - often on a Saturday - we have gone to Shady Maple. But during the summer months when the tourists are everywhere, Shady Maple on Saturday night can be jammed with tourists. We go to Pennsylvania to relax and dealing with tourists at a buffet is just not relaxing. This occurred to me on the evening of the first of these three really good dinners at Yoders. We could not make it on time for dinner at any buffet but Yoders or Shady Maple. I thought about the crowds and who I would find at Shady Maple (no hit on Shady Maple as they can't help who comes there to give them business) and we decided to go to Yoders.

Yoders feature on Saturday nights is Pennsylvania Dutch. Now, at Yoders, this is not exactly what you might generally expect to find as Pennsylvania Dutch foods in this area at one of the other buffets. On the menu they say that there are two popular dishes of Lancaster County that are featured on the buffet on PA Dutch night - baby back ribs and marinated steak. I did not know that Lancaster is famous for baby back ribs but they served on the buffet at Yoders on Saturday nights and they are tasty. So is the marinated steak.

Let's talk about the marinated steak. I have had the best steak off a chargrill at Yoders at these three meals than I have had at any other buffet for a long time. First, there are two men cooking and serving at the grill (at the moment) who know what they are doing. Our regular readers know I like my steak rare - but that does not mean raw. It means crisped on the outside and red and juicy on the inside. And that is exactly what I got on request. The marinade that is being used is not overwhelming and the steaks are tender. They are also a decent thickness - not thin and not a thick lump of meat. I was recently there and I want to go back right now. There is only one problem - at each of these three dinners, I ate too much. I really could not resist even though I have learned over the years not to over eat at buffets.

The rest of what is served on Saturday night varies on the buffet. There have been different dishes each time. Items on the grill remain consistent on Saturday nights. In addition to the steak, there is chicken parmigiana cooked on the flat grill, corn fritters, salmon, fried zucchini, and more. On the buffet tables things have varied. Some of the better dishes have been a very tender pot roast, cut up smoked sausage cooked in a cream sauce with large peeled potatoes, the baby back ribs which are tasty and thick, ham balls, beef stroganoff (beef chunks in cream sauce with noodles), and others. There is a lot on this buffet and add that to the numerous items on the grill and there is a lot to choose from here. Side dishes like noodles in brown butter, a selection of plain in a good way vegetables, really good macaroni and cheese, good potato filling, and more are standard to this buffet on most nights. There are usually also a few fish entrees.

For PA Dutch Night the soups we have not always been very PA Dutch but there has been Ham Vegetable soup at two of these dinners and that is very good - loaded with vegetables and bits of ham in a tomato/ham base soup that is slightly sweet and good. Other soups have been Chessyburger soup, Minestrone, and others. There are always two soups served on the buffet.

There is menu serving here also but I figured out looking at prices on the menu and looking at what is on the buffet for the Saturday night price of $14.99 that one could quickly pass the buffet price ordering off the menu - and here if you order something that is on the buffet, the server goes over to those trays at the buffet and creates your platter. A slice of pie was $4 and this is the same slice of pie that is on the dessert section of the buffet - they go over and get one and bring it to you if you order it from the menu. So look carefully at the buffet if you are considering ordering from the menu and it may be worth your while to order the buffet and just don't get carried away. Though as I have been finding here lately, it is very easy to get carried away.

The change in night going here really made a difference. The restaurant can be crowded - all local people including Amish and Mennonite - and on one of the three Saturdays we waited in line for about ten minutes until we got in. It is a different crowd - not tourists. These are people who know this family restaurant and have been here before.

Service was good on each of these three nights. It had not been on the meal I reported on in the last article I wrote about this buffet. Again - a different night or just three times luck (not bad odds). Whatever it was - we were happy.

I can't wait for another Saturday night opportunity to get back here.

Yoders  is located at Yoder's Country Market, Route 23, New Holland, Pennsylvania. The phone number is (717) 354-4748. There is a website posted at the side of this page.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Epic Buffet, Hollywood Casino at Grantville, PA

The Epic Buffet is the casino buffet at the Hollywood Casino in Grantville, Pennsylvania. The casino is located at the Penn National Race Course. Grantville is located just outside of Hershey, PA where the chocolate comes from and where the Hershey amusement park is. The Hollywood Casino is a place for adults to go when the kids are asleep with a babysitter after a long day on the rides.

The buffet is located off the casino floor and no one under the age of 21 can walk through the entrance of the casino. Unlike casino buffets in many of the Atlantic City casinos and the casinos in Connecticut, you cannot get into the buffet without being inside the casino.

We went on a Friday night. Also unlike all of the other casino buffets that we have been to, this one closes early - 9:00 pm every night. THE ENTIRE BUFFET IS CLOSED ON MONDAYS AND TUESDAYS.  Dinner price Wednesday to Thursday and Sunday is $14.99. Dinner price Friday and Saturday is $24.99. Ten dollars is a big jump from the weekday price to the weekend price and I am not sure how much would have been left off other than the two features of the weekend buffet - Prime Rib and Shrimp. The meal price includes soft drinks. At the table you can order beer and wine at an additional cost.

The decor of the casino is Hollywood and the buffet is decorated in an Art Deco style as would fit the "golden age" of Hollywood. The room was very nice as was the decor. For a Friday night in the middle of the summer, there was no line. We paid before we went in - as we have always done at all of the casino buffets that we have been to and were seated right away.

There was a large selection and the buffet was set up with a large oval that went around the middle of the room and the rest of the buffet filling the rear wall of the room. On the oval were salads, soups, and desserts.

As we always do, we started with soup. We picked the chicken corn soup which I expected to be similar to the chicken corn soup in nearby Lancaster County. It was chicken broth with a lot of chicken meat and no corn. The soup was fresh made. Fresh made chicken soup has a good taste different from soups made from a mix or from a can. The soup was good and would have been even better had there actually been corn in it other than a kernel here and there.

There was a salad bar to create your own salad from a variety of fresh ingredients. My wife takes not of salad bars that make sure what is out is fresh, crisp, and as it is supposed to be. Here she said it was all fresh. There were a variety of prepared salads including a few with an ingredient that one might say stands off from just the ordinary. But here that ingredient was in the minority of what was in the prepared salad. For example - there was a dish of tomatoes and mozzarella balls. There were lots of tomatoes and very few mozzarella balls and the dish looked to have been recently put out and not picked through. There was also shrimp pasta (part of the weekend shrimp feature?) and it was very good BUT there were very few shrimp to be found in the dish. At $24.99 there should not be skimping like this. The tomatoes and mozzarella was tasty. So was the shrimp pasta - but essentially I was eating tomatoes in dressing and pasta salad.

There was a lot on the buffet and I am sure things will change from night to night but I will share all together what there was and then I will critique what we took sharing what was good and the not so good. OK - here is what was on the buffet:
Crab Tomato Bisque and Chicken Corn Soup, Sushi (a small selection of rolls sections), Peel and Eat Shrimp (for weekend shrimp feature?), Rolls, Rye mixed grain bread, Cheese Puffs, Pepperoni in Crescent Rolls, Roast Turkey carving, Turkey Legs, Prime Rib carving, Fried Garlic Jasmine Yellow Rice, Pot Stickers, Egg rolls, Mandarin Orange Chicken, Spiced Shrimp, Sesame Green Beans, Honey Ginger Carrots, Summer Squash, Stewed Tomatoes, Potato Wedges, French Fries, Chicken with Vegetables, Sauteed Onions and Peppers, Garlicky Broccoli, Fried Shrimp (must have been part of the shrimp feature as there was only one other shrimp entree), Creole shrimp and Noodles, a selection of pastas and sauces, Roasted Half Tomatoes, Mac and Cheese, Mashed Potatoes, Green Beans, Baked Cod with Lemon Sauce and Arugula Salad, Pulled Pork Sliders with Jack Cheese. Roast Potatoes, Fried Chicken, Sweet Corn, Wax Beans and Carrots, Old Bay Salmon with Lemon Capers, Tilapia with Mushrooms and Spinach, Seafood Marinara, Corn on the Cob, Sweet Pea Pods with Red Peppers, Brussels Sprouts, and three Pizzas including one topped with BBQ Chicken.

 I am very mixed about this dinner. There was a lot to choose from. I enjoyed it but there were several disappointments. Hot food was set out grouped in theme - appetizer type dishes, Asian dishes, fish, meats including carvings, Italian, and a pizza section. So, I took pot stickers that looked good but were hard and over cooked. It was tough to bite into them and chew them. The pulled pork sliders that should have been good. They were on the buffet each wrapped in tin foil - which they should not have been. The bottom of the roll had dried out and impossible to bite into while the top of the roll remained soft. The pulled pork inside was good but there was supposed to have been jack cheese in there also according to the sign and there was no cheese. This would have been something I would have gone back for more of if it had been good. I ate the pork out from the roll and that was it.

I started out with Prime Rib and the first slice of rib that I had was excellent. It was moist and juicy and on the edge of rare. The outside crust was very tasty as was the meat. The slice that was carved for me was the equivalent of what would be carved in a sit down restaurant. I thoroughly enjoyed that first slice of Prime Rib and I should have stopped with that one piece and not gone back for another later in the meal. When I went up for the second slice there was a new Rib out being carved. When I took the slice back to the table and put the first piece into my mouth I found out quickly that this one was not hot - it bordered on cold to the point that the fat was congealing. What had been melting, soft,  translucent fat on the first piece was cold, hard, and white on this slice. As I say, had I stopped at that first slice I could rave about the Prime Rib here - but a solid hit and a solid miss a half hour later - not good.

There was carved turkey and next to the turkey breast on the carving board was a stack of turkey legs. My wife had the turkey breast and she says that it was very good. So the turkey was a hit. I should have taken one of the turkey legs instead of the second slice of Prime Rib.

I tried the Baked Cod with Lemon Sauce and Arugula Salad. This was pieces of cod sitting in the lemon sauce with Arugula salad next to it in the serving tray, also sitting in the lemon sauce. It took the cod and skipped the salad. I tried to spoon some of the lemon sauce up with the fish but the serving spoon was a slotted spoon so very little sauce came to my plate. A few more attempts at just the sauce added little. The fish was bland. Perhaps had it been possible to ladle the sauce up with the fish it might have been better.

There were two different shaped pastas and different sauces to put over them. I took some of the linguine pasta and put Alfredo sauce on top. This was very good. I also took a slice of the cheese pizza which were being made fresh there behind the counter. There was cheese pizza, pepperoni pizza, and bbq chicken pizza. The cheese pizza was good. It had a very thin crust with fresh cheese and a good tomato sauce.

I took a piece of the chicken with vegetables. This was charbroiled chicken breast rounds cooked served with vegetables around the chicken. Each piece of chicken was charred and there were grill marks showing that it did come off a char-grill. It tasted great, but it was overdone and the chicken was hard.

The roasted half tomatoes were good with a crust of breadcrumbs on the top. The stewed tomatoes were very good and they were not overly sweet as stewed tomatoes can sometimes be. Also good was the macaroni and cheese which was very thick and gooey.

Everyone always wants to hear about the desserts and the desserts here looked terrific. There was a wide assortment of cakes, pies, pastries, and cookies out. Walking around the dessert table it was hard to decide. And the cake that I choose was OK - but it looked much better than it was. There was also fresh fruits around the salad bar and and a sundae bar with ice cream.

Service was very good. Our server was quick to take away used plates and made sure our drink glasses did not become empty. She was attentive and did not disappear.  For a casino buffet, that is refreshing.

So - the meal was hit and miss. There were some really good things and some just so things. The big disappointment was that second piece of Prime Rib - which for anyone coming in at that point this was what they were getting. Other dishes as noted should have been better. The extra ten dollars was for Prime Rib and shrimp and there hardly was enough shrimp dishes that should have constituted a high price feature. This buffet is 30 miles from Lancaster County - home of some great buffets - most of which are less than the price of this meal. But of course, if you are in Hershey or at this casino for the evening you are not going to leave and drive 30 miles for dinner.

Do I recommend this buffet? Really tough question. Had my food choices been different I might be quick to say that I would, but with the number of dishes that I found lacking in one way or another, I am going to leave the decision to try it or not up to you.

Will we go back? Maybe. We are in this area once a year - generally on a Friday night so if we do go back it will be on the same night for the same $24.99 meal. I was not put off enough not to try this buffet for a second time and in a year we shall see if things are the same or better.

Keep in mind that if you are traveling with the kids - forget this one! There is no one allowed under 21.

The Epic Buffet at the Hollywood Casino is located at the Penn National Race Course at 777 Hollywood Blvd, Grantville, PA 17028. There is plenty of free parking. The phone number is 717-469-2211. There is a website for the casino and buffet and that is linked at the side of this page. The casino is open 24/7 but the buffet closes at 9:00 pm and is only open five days a week. REMEMBER THE BUFFET IS CLOSED EVERY MONDAY AND TUESDAY. There is a lunch buffet every day and also a Champagne Brunch on Sundays ($19.99) from 11 am to 3 pm.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Breakfast for Lunch and Dinner at Golden Corral

The newest feature at Golden Corral is breakfast and lunch for dinner. We have tried this twice - at two different Golden Corrals and I have enjoyed it on both visits. We tried it at the new Lancaster, PA location and also the Whitehall, PA location.

Old Country Buffet had tried this on Thursday nights about one or two years ago and it appeared that it would be a regular thing but soon was gone. Like all special features at Golden Corral this one is time limited. It is also much better than the one time we got to try breakfast for dinner at OCB.

The first time we went was at Lancaster. To make room for the breakfast items on the buffet some of the Asian dishes that are found on the buffet were replaced with the breakfast items. There was also an omelet station with a burner to prepare egg and omelet dishes of your design with several ingredients there for you to direct a chef to make your omelet with. This omelet station was next to the breakfast items and not at the grill - good location as it did not interfere with the regular grill operation for steak, etc. The breakfast items on this first visit included squares of French Toast covered in powdered sugar, small pancakes, bacon, breakfast sausage patties, biscuits, and country sausage gravy. There were also several types of syrups to top your French Toast or pancakes with.

The second time we had Golden Corral's breakfast for dinner (it is also available on the buffet at lunch) was at the Whitehall, PA Golden Corral and here there were two new items added (the two meals were about a month apart and Golden Corral in the interim did introduce these two new items to this feature) which were Strawberry Cheesecake French Toast and Sausage and Egg Breakfast Burritos. At Whitehall the French Toast and Pancakes were different. Here they were serving full pieces of French Toast (not quartered squares) which was not covered in powdered sugar and large full size pancakes. The Strawberry Cheesecake French Toast was served with a scoop of cream cheese on top of each slice and covered in strawberry sauce with pieces of strawberries. The burritos were being made at the egg station which again was not at the grill station, but with the breakfast foods.

There were two things that I found at both - the bacon was over cooked and appeared to have been fried in a deep fryer rather than cooked on a grill as it was hard and difficult to bite into and the sausage patties were also overcooked and were also hard and burned. Had either the bacon or sausage patties been cooked correctly I would have had more of both, but as it was I took one piece of each - both visits - to try and did not go back for more.

What I liked about the rest was that it was tasty, well prepared, and exactly what I expected it to be - which is a good thing. You could properly taste the egg in the French Toast and it was soft and moist. The pancakes were fluffy. It was much better than the same that I had that one time at breakfast for dinner at OCB. I enjoyed it - which for me is a bad thing as I indulged during both visits in too many carbs eating French Toast, pancakes, and biscuits, but I could not resist. I like breakfast foods but do not eat breakfast. (I can't face a meal like this in the morning.) We don't go to breakfast buffets because of this as well. But at dinner, a good rare steak cooked just right, hot off the grill and a side of French Toast. Oh my! Had the bacon been moister and not burned, it would have been even better - and I took the bacon to put over the steak both times. Crisp bacon is fine. Bacon that breaks into little hard pieces if you bend it is not. I have seen other places cooked bacon in the deep fry and it comes out like this - and while this may be a quick shortcut to making bacon, it does not result in good eating bacon.

In addition to the breakfast foods most of the regular Golden Corral items were served. Just a few of the Asian items were missing. Whitehall, which we go to when we are up in that area of Pennsylvania (where there are few other buffets), was the better of the two breakfast for dinner (and lunch) meals and the price was the advertised $11.99, a dollar less than the Lancaster Golden Corral for dinner. (Of course, Golden Corral in Lancaster is the new "go to on Sunday" buffet when 98% of the other buffets in Lancaster are closed on Sundays.

I would love to see this feature become a regular offering at Golden Corral - though it will be too tempting for me - fine, I am sure for so many others. If you are fortunate enough to be near a Golden Corral go in and give it a try. As I say, both of the locations we visited served the same items slightly differently - so another Golden Corral may be different again - though it would have to be between the two that I experienced. We did not try the egg dishes. I would rather go for the dinner entrees than an omelet though I am sure the omelets were good - they looked good. I know many who wish that Golden Corral would come back to this area - but they were here years ago and the Golden Corral here was terrible and they went out of business as a result. This is an indication more of this area as it happens with other chain restaurants and national retailers. There is the rest of the country's good locations and then there is here. I won't go into that further. A transport device like on Star Trek could resolve it all - we could just beam ourselves from here to where the good locations are... ha, ha!

Friday, July 31, 2015

Oregon Dairy Country Restaurant and Buffet, Lititz, PA

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Oregon Dairy Country Restaurant and Buffet is located at 2900 Oregon Pike (Route 272) in Lititz, PA 17543. The phone number is (717) 661-6804. There is a website and that is listed on this page at the side of the articles.While this is the town of Lititz it is not near the center of what is thought of as the town of Lititz (where the old pretzel bakery and the Moravian settlement is located). It is also on the top of a hill with a large up hill driveway from Route 272. As you get up into the parking lot, the restaurant is on the left, the supermarket part of the building is on the right, and the dairy/ice cream stand is on the far left. There is a little playground and "park" near the ice cream stand. In season there is a corn maze for the kids.


Friday, July 17, 2015

Lunch at Old Country Buffet

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, July 03, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, June 19, 2015

A New Golden Corral - And In of All Places, Lancaster, PA

A year ago we were in Lancaster and saw construction starting on Route 30 in the middle of hotels, restaurants, and Dutch Wonderland amusement park for small children. On the next visit to the area there was a sign announcing the coming Golden Corral restaurant! This area, if you regularly read this site you already know, has more buffets than any place else. There are many local buffets, there are Asian buffets, there are buffets that serve fancy and there are buffets that serve plain - "plain" in the sense of Pennsylvania Dutch cooking of the Plain People. There is also a OCB. The nearest Golden Corral has been in Lebanon, Pa and now Lancaster has its own.

We were in Lancaster on a Sunday night recently. With all of these buffets here, few are open on Sunday. This is a religious community and the local buffets employ a lot of Amish and Mennonites and these restaurants close of Sundays. We tend to avoid this area on Sundays because of this. I could think of no better a choice for this particular Sunday than to try the new Golden Buffet.

We went with a pre-understanding that since this was Sunday of Memorial Day weekend we might be walking into a big crowd with a restaurant buffet overwhelmed by tourists. What we actually found when we got there - despite a completely full parking lot - was that there was no line and the restaurant while crowded was handling the crowd extremely well.

The price was $12.99 for dinner - no difference in price weekdays or weekends. This is one dollar more than the Golden Corral advertised price of $11.99 and one dollar less than the weekend price at the Golden Corral that I have written about that opened a year ago in New Jersey. There is a senior discount. The price for soft drinks is $2.29.

We were shown our table promptly and our server - a young man came over to introduce himself. He was very good - and came around frequently to ask if all was well and if we needed anything. The food featured promotion going on was ribs with KC Masterpiece Barbecue Sauce. The food on the buffet was properly kept - well maintained, as I say. Nothing was left to dry out. Trays were replaced as needed. The food on the buffet was pretty much standard in selection to Golden Corral with one exception. There was a tray of a local PA Dutch dish - Chicken Pot Pie - not baked chicken pot pie - but chicken stewed with dumplings and vegetables in a thick sauce. This was a surprise and other than being over salted was good.

I like the steak at Golden Corral. It is thick and you are served an individual steak - while not a full size cut, quite sufficient especially when you can go back for more. There was no wait at the grill and the grill chef asked how I wanted my steak - "Rare". He cut into one - it was nicely red inside and charred outside - just as I like it. He put that on my plate and I was very happy. My second trip up for steak resulted in a steak slightly more done but very good as well. I tried the meatloaf which was moist and while my picky eater wife prefers meatloaf with brown gravy, this one was covered in tomato sauce. Golden Corral varies how they top their meatloaf. They had a nice assortment of potatoes including steak fries, hashed browns, and also housemade potato chips. The chips were seasoned with a slightly sweet seasoning. I would have preferred just salt as they have been at other Golden Corrals - but these were tasty but I was concerned that there was sugar in the seasoning (which with everything else that was good to have there, I did not need).

There was no rotisserie chicken as there has been in other Golden Corrals and this may be due to the space being taken up with two carving sections for ribs. I asked for a rib in regular, and not spicy sauce, and was told they only had regular sauce as the others had run out - which was fine with me. The ribs were better than I had recently at the Golden Corral in New Jersey. They were moist and really well cooked.

Perhaps since people who live in this area are used to eating at buffets but there was no chaos around the buffet counters. The meal was rather relaxed and despite the great meals I had at other PA Dutch buffets during this trip (five buffets in five days) this one held its own and was very good and satisfied my taste for steak. 

Desserts were all out and their bread pudding held up to the Golden Corral bread pudding I have enjoyed at other locations. And nothing ran out!

I mentioned at the beginning that the parking lot was full when we got there. We saw this on the road as we passed and we just went to where we were staying to park which happened to be practically next door. The walk there and back was good exercise for this meal.

I enjoyed this Golden Corral. It was one of the better Golden Corral meals that I have had. The restaurant is clean, inside and outside. The food is properly prepared and hot when it should be hot. There was really nothing wrong. Hopefully, it will stay this way and it is not just new opening enthusiasm.

I recommend this Golden Corral - it is where to go for a buffet in Lancaster on a Sunday. I will go back when I am there on a Sunday. If not a Sunday, there are too many great local buffets to choose from already Monday to Saturday. If you are local and have had your fill of PA Dutch cooking, then try it anytime.

The Lancaster Golden Corral is located at 2291 Lincoln Hwy E, Lancaster, PA 17603. The phone number is (717) 208-3984. The hours on Sunday - Thursday are to 9:30 pm. On Friday and Saturday they are open until 10:30 pm. There is a general website for all Golden Corral's located at the side of this page.

Friday, June 05, 2015

Yoders of New Holland, PA Has A New Look

Yoders Restaurant in Lancaster County, PA is one of several supermarket located buffet restaurants in this area. The restaurant has always had a coffee shop appearance with long rows of wooden booths filling the room. In 2014 the restaurant renovated its dining room and removed all of the booths and replaced them with tables for four with the walls surrounding these with booths. The restaurant has taken on a completely new look and it is very much for the benefit. The walls are still being decorated with mural sized photographs of the farm that is Yoder's dairy. These photos are being taken by season and the Spring photo is missing at this point because with the odd weather here this year, photographic Spring has not really begun yet even though I am writing this a week from June.  It is all very nice and very pleasing.

We went there for dinner tonight. We went in about 6:30 pm on the Thursday before Memorial Day weekend. This is not a tourist destination restaurant and it was not busy. We were seated at a table immediately. We sat for about five minutes before our server appeared. In the meantime servers for the tables around us were visibly there. Where was ours? She finally did appear and we ordered the buffet and our soft drinks. Prices have gone up. Monday, Tuesday, Saturday dinner is $14.99. Wednesday and Thursday dinner is $13.99. Friday night is seafood buffet and that will set you back $19.99 each. Soft drinks - refillable by your server - are $2.29.

We have always liked the food at Yoders. This past year and on this visit, some of the food has been disappointing. The feature on the Thursday dinner are BBQ Smoked Brisket and BBQ Baby Back Ribs. The brisket was dry and while I was offered to top it with more BBQ sauce by the carver, I declined that and shouldn't have. The ribs were OK - a little fatty but tasty. They were not dry and did fall right off the bone. There was a tray on the hot buffet of thin sliced Prime Rib.  I took a small slice and it had a watery taste - beyond that it was tasteless. I tried the Salisbury steak in brown gravy and it was dry but very tasty. Ham balls were good. Mac and cheese with a nice crust is excellent. Buttered noodles in brown butter were over buttered but tasty. They always have baked oatmeal as a side and it is always good and was tonight. The meal was good but there were disappointments.

Service was just fair. The server would appear every so often to take away the plates on our table and she did offer drink refills twice. She was never visible in the dining room other than these brief and spread out visits.

I have noticed what I am about to say on other visits but it surprised me on this night that it involved the dessert bar. This restaurant closes at 8:00 pm and they mean it - even though they are still letting people in close to that time. It was just 8 and I noticed one of the workers closing down the dessert bar - emptying all of the trays into one large scrap tray and taking it all away. Had we waited five more minutes to go up for dessert that section of the dessert bar would have been completely gone.

I was asked this past year why Yoders did not make the list of best or top buffets - this is why. I want to see things get back to what they once were again. I really like this buffet and we will go back but they are not at their best for some reason.

I still recommend Yoders. The new look makes it a new experience. You might choose just the right things to eat and come away feeling this is an excellent buffet - and it can be. Consistency is important and that seems to be what needs attention there now.

Yoders  is located at Yoder's Supermarket or perhaps, more properly, Yoder's Country Market, Route 23, New Holland, Pennsylvania. The phone number is (717) 354-4748. There is a website posted at the side of this page.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Hill Country Barbecue Market - NY and D.C.

I am always looking for buffets that feature barbecue and I "sought of" found one practically in my own backyard. Right off I am going to tell you that this is NOT a buffet restaurant. This is a menu barbecue restaurant BUT on Monday nights varying by location there is an All You Can Eat barbecue dinner. I will also tell you right off that I have not been there yet but I felt that I should share this with our readers. There are three locations of this restaurant - one in Manhattan, NY, one in Brooklyn, NY, and one in Washington, D.C. . Each one offers the all you can eat barbecue dinner on Monday nights with a variation in prices and an offering variation in the restaurant in Washington, D. C. . In NYC the meal is only available on the First Monday of the Month from 5 pm to 10 pm. In Brooklyn the meal is available EVERY Monday at dinner. In Washington, D.C. the dinner is available EVERY Monday at dinner.

What you get on this all you can eat dinner is Market Chicken, Barbecue Pork Spare Ribs, and Barbecue Brisket. In Washington, D. C. the brisket is only included with a $5 additional charge for the Ribs. The price varies at each location and the prices that follow are as of the current website prices to when this article is written. The D.C. restaurant is charging $27 for the meal (plus $5 to add the Ribs). The Brooklyn restaurant is charging $25.00 per person - all three meats included. The Manhattan restaurant is charging $32.00 per person (which is the same as D.C. when you add in the Ribs). Now, get this - in Manhattan children under 12 eat free accompanied by an adult having this dinner! In Brooklyn, for children 10 and under the dinner costs $15. In Washington, D.C., children 12 and under also eat free accompanied by an adult having this dinner!

From what I understand the restaurants are set up as a market. There are counters that you go to and order what you want to eat. On Monday nights, the included items are going to be there for you to get as well (though one person who has been to the Brooklyn restaurant spoke of a waiter). While this AYCE dinner is going on, they are also serving from the menu - but all three restaurants are very clear to say that EVERYONE at one table must order the all you can eat dinner or no one can. This is not a surprise and there are buffets that allow one to order the buffet and another to not and others that say all or none.

So what do you get - as said, you get Market Chicken, Barbecue Pork Spare Ribs and Barbecue Beef Brisket. The meat is smoked as barbecue should be. Then you get sides - Longhorn Cheddar Mac and Cheese, Campfire Baked Beans with Burnt Ends, EAK's Bowl of Red Chilli, White Shoepeg Corn Pudding, Green Bean Casserole with Durkee Onions, Beer Braised Cowboy Pinto Beans, Collard Greens and Applewood Smoked Bacon, Sweet Potato Bourbon Mash, Cool As A Cucumber Salad, Confetti Salad, Texas Black Eyed Caviar, and Hot German Potato Salad.

There is a bar, of course. There is soda but don't expect free refills. There are desserts and they are extra. What you get for the $25, $28, or $32 is the meat and sides. Everything else is extra. Now, given that we are talking Manhattan (and Brooklyn) this could be one of the least expensive meals you can have there - unless you start ordering from the bar and/or adding desserts.

And, of course, what goes better with Barbecue than Country Music and after dinner there is music here. I cannot say that there is no cover charge for the music or a drink minimum during the music.

Is it good? As I say, I have no personal experience but from the diner reviews I have seen the food is good. If any of our readers, have been to any of the three, please leave a comment - please be polite.

When I can get to one - if I can get to one - I will let you know, but for now, you are on your own. There is great potential here and others do say it is good. There are not many places that serve smoked barbecue on a buffet or all you care to eat. And as I have said, considering the locations, the prices are not bad!

Brooklyn, NY | 345 Adams Street, Brooklyn, NY 11201 | 718-885-4608

New York City | 30 West 26th Street NY, NY 10010 | 212-255-4544

Washington, D.C. | 410 Seventh Street NW, WASHINGTON, D.C. 20004 | 202-556-2050

I am not adding the links to the side of the page as this is not a regular buffet. Keep in mind that if you go to the Manhattan restaurant you will only get this meal on the FIRST MONDAY OF THE MONTH at dinner.

If you try it - let us know!

Friday, May 08, 2015

Golden Corral, Freehold, NJ - Revisited

In December 2014, I wrote about the new Golden Corral located in Freehold, New Jersey. This is the closest Golden Corral location to the Metro NY area. Our experience there was not the greatest and if this was a first time to any Golden Corral I likely not go back. We found ourselves in that area in April and other than Asian buffets, there are no other buffets in this area. I thought that despite that first visit, we would go back again and see if things were the same or if they have improved.

We were there again on a Saturday night and when we arrived at 6:45 pm for dinner there was - again - a line out the door. We waited about fifteen minutes to get in and up to the cashier. We were seated about five minutes later. The restaurant was crowded but the crowd did not seem as maddening as it had the first time that we were there. In December I talked about the price at this Golden Corral being more expensive than other Golden Corrals that we have been to and they have raised that price. The weekend dinner price is now $13.99 with another $2.29 added to that if you want a beverage. The weekend dinner is called "Premium" but like the first time there it is "premium" only in price. What is on the buffet is exactly the same as is there at any other Golden Corral on any night. There was a sign advertising Mother's Day dinner for $14.99 - plus the price of the beverage which would make this buffet dinner for Mom $17.28 plus tax and tip. That is a lot for a meal at Golden Corral. (As an aside, OCB's local price of $13.99 includes the beverage and their Mother's Day meal is also $14.99 but includes the beverage - and OCB has a current coupon for $2.00 of Mom's dinner on Mother's Day.) This Golden Corral remains the most expensive Golden Corral that we are aware of. 

The current feature was (perhaps still is if you are reading this currently) baby back ribs made with a variety of KC Masterpiece BBQ sauces. One sauce is daily after 4 and after 11 am on Sundays. I tried the ribs with the basic sauce. The other ribs that were out had chipotle sauce. These were the only two being served that night. I found the ribs to be dry and not as good as I had hoped that they would be. I have had Golden Corral baby back ribs before and they have never really been very special. Since this was a big feature with a promotion for the BBQ sauce, I had hoped that they would be better. The ribs, however, were popular and they were carving ribs all night. These ribs were served at the carving station, about three ribs at a time.

I have not had a decent steak in a long time and I like Golden Corral steak. I decided pretty much going in that it was the steak that I was there for and this is what I mainly would have - and I did. All together I went up three times for steak - now if you wonder how or why anyone would eat three steaks in one meal, understand these are not full steaks but are about three or so inches around in size and about an inch or less thick. The three steaks together were the equivalent of one full steak. The first two that I had were very good. The gentleman cooking and serving steaks at that time new exactly what he was doing and knew what a rare steak looks like before he serves it. I like steak that is rare in the middle and charged on the outside and those steaks were just this way (with the first one perfect and the second close to perfect. This was what led me back for the third and perhaps I should have stopped at those two. When I went up, the same chef was there and I asked for a steak rare and he told me that all of the steaks had to go just a little longer and he then walked away. He did not come back. A while later another chef came up and started asking those standing there all over again. I asked him for a steak rare and what I got was a steak medium well - which he did not recognize even after he cut into it before serving it to make sure it was rare. Well, he made sure it was medium well and that is what I got. The steak was still tasty. The Golden Corral steaks are seasoned and they do tend to be slightly on the salty side - which some would not like but I don't mind as long as it is not overly salty.

My picky eater wife found more choices here than she did the last time we were here and she did not wind up eating the cold salad chicken from the salad bar for the entire meal. She had meatload which she said - this time - was good. She also had a piece of the rotisserie chicken which she usually does not take but this time was not dripping with grease and was not seasoned, as it had been before. I was actually surprised at the variety she found for herself.

As trays emptied they were being replaced - though not always with the same thing. The dessert section was fairly well stocked and the bread pudding is still the best dessert there - which I indulged in though I am not supposed to.

Our server was a "serving trainer" and she was good. She was attentive to our table despite the crowd and she made sure our used plates were taken away and our drinks were refilled. She was one of the better servers that we have had at a Golden Corral.

The buffet was crowded but getting around the buffet and to the serving counters was manageable. The continuing problem that occurs in many Golden Corrals - especially ones where people have never been to a buffet before - is that people think that they are at a cafeteria and insist on starting a line at one end of the long winding counter and moving along. We heard one woman at a table nearby ask the server for a tray so that she could get on the line. A buffet is not a cafeteria and you go up to whatever tray you want, wait politely for the person there to take what they want, and then you take some. This cafeteria mentality is what results in plates piled so high that one cannot recognize what is at the bottom with the entire meal layered over it! I just go up and go to what I want. I am not walking the entire buffet to get what I want that is at the other end of the room.

We had anticipated another disappointing experience but had quite the opposite. We were both complimentary of the meal and the restaurant when we were finished. The wait outside to get in seems like it will never go away. I am curious if this also happens on weeknights.

So, other than the price, if you are in or near Freehold, New Jersey this Golden Corral is worth a try. This Golden Corral is located at 3520 US Highway 9 in Freehold, New Jersey 07728. The phone number is 732-400-8600.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Lititz Family Cupboard, Lititz, PA

We very much miss the Family Cupboard Restaurant and Buffet that was located in Bird-In-Hand, PA. That restaurant is now a Colman Store and the owner has gone to help run his parent's restaurant in Lancaster, Dienners.  Dienners is nice but it is not open past 6:30 pm on any night but Fridays. Several years back we found another restaurant that had been in this family - and sold to the Fisher family that retained the name and much of the buffet menu that it had when owned by the Dienner family. The Fishers are from Amish and Mennonite backgrounds and well know local cooking. That restaurant is the Litiz Family Cupboard.

We had not been back there in a number of years. I thought that it was worth a try to see how it is now and we actually went back twice over the course of two trips to this area. Both meals were good but we lost the notes that we took on that first trip and went back for a second experience to be able to write this article.

The restaurant serves both menu and buffet meals. The restaurant is located off a main route and is not obvious unless you are looking for it. The building is only this restaurant and they have a bakery on one end of the building and their restaurant that is the rest of the building. You enter though a small lobby and there is a cashier and reception area where you will be taken to your table. The restaurant has been redecorated since our visit years ago. The decor is very nice and very much a family restaurant in appearance.  There are two dining rooms and on the side is the buffet area. The buffet is small with one double long buffet server, one dessert buffet server, and one salad buffet server with soups on the front end.

The buffet is not big but it has a good assortment of foods and everything that we tried was good. There are two soups. On the second night that we were there the soups were Creamy Chicken Soup and Chili. When the chili ran low, it was replaced by ham chowder. The salad bar was small but everything that was on it was very fresh. This is important to note because too often buffet salad bars sit and the vegetables become dried out or limp. The salad bar here - again - was very fresh.

One of the features at the other Family Cupboard and also at Dienners as well as here is Rotisserie Chicken, cut up on the bone and served in prices. This is very good. It is nice and moist and flavor full. It is one of the things that I was missing and I had it here on both visits. One of this restaurant's menu features is a dish that many will think is not something to run to have but I like it very much - stuffed pig's stomach. I had this at this buffet on our first visit and since it is a feature on their regular menu, I assumed it was on the buffet every night. I discovered on our second visit that it is not. Stuffed pig's stomach is a popular dish in this area. It is pig's stomach stuffed with chunks of cut up sausage and bread stuffing. The sausage and stuffing are cooked first and then stuffed into a well cleaned pig's stomach and baked. It is then chopped up into small pieces and served. If you did not know what this is and if there was no sign identifying it, it just looks like stuffing mixed with chopped sausage. It is actually hard to tell the stomach meat from the sausage and only by a slightly sharp taste of the pig's stomach do you know it is something different. It really is good and I recommend that you try it if you come to this buffet and it is being served that night. I was a bit disappointed not to find it on that second visit.

There were lots of other good things to eat on the buffet on that second night as well. There was Ham with Pineapple Sauce, Beef and Gravy, Dark meat Turkey, Pork with Sauerkraut, and the Rotisserie Chicken. Side dishes included Rice, fresh made Mashed Potatoes, Brussels Sprouts,Potato Filling, Green Beans, Corn, Cheesy Potatoes, Stewed Tomatoes, Macaroni and Cheese, Baked Beans, and Buttered Noodles. There was beef and turkey gravies and also potato rolls. The entrees are all Pennsylvania Dutch dishes cooked in the Amish/Mennonite way. The turkey was very good. The pork and sauerkraut was traditional. Beef and gravy in this area is not slices of roast beef but chunks of slow cooked beef cooked in beef gravy. This is not a large buffet with many offerings but what is here is good.

What is very important at any buffet is that what is out on the buffet is well maintained - this means that nothing is allowed to dry out, that food is stirred when needed to keep it hot and moist, and that there is attention to anything that needs to be removed. All of that happens properly here. When any dish runs low it was quickly replaced. As we saw with the soup, when something is gone and there is no more of it, something equal takes its place.

Dessert was mostly puddings and prepared desserts. There are also pies and there was one type of cake. There is soft serve ice cream. I would have expected more baked goods on the dessert buffet with the bakery on the premises.  The dessert that we had was good. The dessert was an adequate end to a good meal but you will not be overwhelmed by the assortment of desserts - but that is OK because what is here is good.

We had excellent service on both of our visits. The servers that we had took good care of us. All used dishes were taken away promptly and our soft drinks were kept refilled.

Friday night is Seafood Buffet. Saturday night is BBQ Buffet. I have not mentioned prices because prices are always changing at all of the buffet restaurants, but prices were very reasonable- lower than the chains. There is also a senior discount and, of course, kid's prices.

We were very happy to have gone back - on both times. It was busy on both nights but we were seated right away. My picky eater wife had no problem finding things to eat which is not always the case at some of the buffets we have gone to. I will eat a broader selection of things than her and I rarely have a problem finding plenty. This is not always the case with her - she had NO problem here. We will certainly be putting this into our selection of "go back to" buffets in Lancaster - and if you are a regular reader you know that there are many buffets already on that list. This one is a trip out of the main tourist area, but worth a trip and Lititz has a lot of history and things to see, not to forget the Wilbur Chocolate Factory. This restaurant is located north of the actual "town section" of Litiz and as I say it needs to be looked for.

We recommend Lititz Family Cupboard. Try it!

Lititz Family Cupboard is located at 12 West Newport Road in Lititz, Pennsylvania 17543. The phone number is 717-626-9102. There is a website and it is linked on the side of this page. They are open until 8:00 pm. They are closed on Sundays.  To get there take Rt. 501 North to West Newport Road and turn left then make a left on Toll Gate Road and then a left into the parking lot of the restaurant.