Friday, September 12, 2014

Another Visit to Yoders

After my previous visit to Yoders, we made another trip to the area several weeks later. We had several nights that we could go to buffets and the last night was open - we had not gone back to Yoders yet. I was not sure that I wanted to so soon after the last somewhat disappointing visit. We could go to Yoders or go for a second dinner in the week to Dutch-Way. I was feeling that after so many good meals at Yoders I should give it the benefit of the doubt and go back and see if it was an off night that last night.

We went on a Saturday night and this was a Saturday night of a holiday weekend. This really would put the restaurant to the test. We arrived before 6:30 pm and there was no line. This does not surprise me as this is a local restaurant for local diners. While I am sure a tourist or two must wander in - it is advertised in some of the free tourist visitor publications - the vast majority of people who come to this restaurant/buffet are local people. The feature nights changed in the past year at Yoders. In the past, the feature for both Friday night and Saturday night buffets was Land and Sea with the emphasis on seafood. The Friday night buffet has now changed to a seafood buffet - at a higher price than other nights - and the Saturday night buffet is now "Dutch Night". Way back when Dutch Night was in the middle of the week and the food on the buffet consisted of local specialties - Pennsylvania Dutch specialties. This helped in the decision to go back, especially on a Saturday night.

As we start our meals with soup, we went up to see what the two soups were. This was a hard decision for me - there was chicken corn noodle soup (a soup particularly local to this area) and there was shrimp bisque. We had been to Shady Maple a few nights before and they had lobster bisque as one of the soup choices. It had a good taste but was much thinner than bisque should be and had not visible lobster in it. I looked into the tureen of shrimp bisque here at Yoders and it was thick, pinkish orange, and full of shrimp. I love chicken corn noodle soup. My wife took the chicken corn noodle and I took a half cup of the shrimp bisque thinking that I would go back when I was done with the half cup for another half cup of chicken corn noodle. My first taste of that shrimp bisque and I knew that I had to go back for more of it- and I did. The soup was rich, thick, creamy with just the right taste and, as I said, lots of small shrimp in it. This was far better than the lobster bisque that I had a few nights before at Shady Maple. An excellent start to getting back together with an old friend.

I will skip the salad - it was good as always here. You can make just about any type of greens salad you want and the prepared salads are good. I walked around the buffet to look at what is offered on "Dutch" Night. According to the menu description of Dutch Night there is mention of ham balls and other favorites. Yes, there were ham balls - they often are ham balls on the buffet at Yoders and they are good. What I did not see where things like Chicken Bot Bie or Pork and Kraut, etc. There were a number of dishes that are Pennsylvania Dutch. There was a dish made of ham, green beans and large chunks of potatoes. That was good. There were cubes of stewed beef in a rich brown gravy that are good over browned butter noodles. The noodles are generally found on Yoder's buffet and they were there. There were pork ribs - not sure how PA Dutch they are, but they were good - nice large ribs with a lot of meat and served in a not too sweet but sweet enough barbecue sauce. The meat pulled off the bones except where it had charred on - and that part was good too.  There was potato filling and that was good. Yoders is not a large, overwhelming buffet but when added to the grill it is an adequately sized buffet.

At the grill there were several items, the best of which was marinated steak grilled over coals. I went up to the grill and asked for a steak - RARE. This is how I like it and also a test. Either the person cooking does not know what rare means and hands you a basically raw steak, the cook it to the point that it is beyond medium, or they know what they are doing and give you a steak that is nicely charred on the outside and red and bloody on the inside. This young man knew what he was doing. When I asked for the steak this way he looked at the grill. There were three steaks done on one side of the fire and there were three recently put on steaks on the other side of the grill. He looked at the done steaks and told me that he had none that were rare. I expected him to say that he would put one on for me and then he looked at the steaks that he had recently put on the grill. He picked up one that had been cooking a bit longer than the others and cut into it - it was just right - not raw, but rare. He showed it to me and asked if it was OK - I said "perfect". He put the steak on my plate and I was happy. I added some browned butter noodles and some potato filling to my plate and returned to the table to enjoy the steak. It was cooked right. The meat was a little tough on the ends - likely the cut of steak - but this was a tasty steak with a not overwhelming marinade.

My wife was happy. They have a favorite of hers here - mostly she has only had it here - baked oatmeal. It makes an interesting side dish and it is served hot. They usually have plain and a flavored variety. This night the flavored baked oatmeal was banana nut. I had never had baked oatmeal either until I had it at Yoders and it is good. I am not usually a fan of oatmeal but this is nothing like the breakfast cereal.

While I was up at the buffet, one of the women came out of the kitchen with a tray full of hot cinnamon buns covered with thick white frosting. It caught my eye immediately. Now, they may always have cinnamon buns where the breads - and baked oatmeal is but I have never noticed it. Perhaps that means that they don't usually have this. Or perhaps I am too distracted by everything else to notice. I actually did not see where this tray wound up but when it was time for dessert - and there are a lot of desserts here to chose from including cakes, pies, a number of different prepared desserts, soft serve ice cream with a load of toppings including hot toppings - I went looking for those cinnamon rolls. There they were next to the baked oatmeal and there were two trays - one the frosted ones that I saw come out and the other were glazed sticky buns. I took one of those thickly frosted ones on my plate - decided that this was all the desert that I wanted - and went back to the table and enjoyed it.

It was a good meal. My old friend and I are back together again.

This meal cost $13.99 per person. Soft drinks - refillable - are $1.99. There is a senior discount of 10% and you need to let the server know that you qualify. There is a children's price. They serve buffet breakfast, lunch, and dinner. You can also order off the menu. If you order something off the menu that is on the buffet, your server will go to the buffet table and take your portion from there. We started figuring out the cost of a dinner off the menu with dessert compared to the buffet. If your dinner choice is something on the buffet you will do far better with the buffet at the price. You will get soup, salad, entree and sides, and dessert - all you care to eat - for less than you would pay ordering one of those items off the menu.

So, not wonderful on the last visit - but now I know that was just an off night. Every restaurant - I don't care how high and mighty a restaurant - will have its off nights. While we are still expected to pay for the meal on those off nights as we are on the great nights, they happen.  As I always say when I recommend Yoders - expect to walk into a room full of rows of wood booths that is far from fancy. This is a family restaurant at its most typical. Lots of local families dine here - if you are city folk looking for city food you are in the wrong place. This is a country restaurant in the heart of where  the Plain People.

There is a website for Yoders listed at the side of this article. The restaurant 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.



Friday, August 29, 2014

Shady Maple Smorgasbord, East Earl, Pennsylvania

Eight months has been too long to not have had dinner at Shady Maple. The snow this winter and the rain this Spring has kept us from traveling but we finally managed to get a passable weekend to make the trip. We went on a Saturday night in the beginning of June.

Arriving at the parking lot I said a loud, "Oh Boy!". The lots were jammed. I do not remember seeing the parking lots - yes, lots - there are three - this crowded. I wondered what we would find inside. We wound up parking in the lot adjacent to the supermarket - below Shady Maple at the entrance to the gift shop and cafe. This is also a tour bus entry area and there were two buses there - one dropping off and one picking up and I even more expected to find a mob inside. We entered through the gift shop and made our way upstairs to Shady Maple's lobby. Where were all of the people?

Where were all of the people really is a mystery because there were no lines in the lobby for the cash registers - there were two registers open and each had a family paying - but we walked up, were next, paid and went down the hall expecting a long line there. At that end there was one large group waiting to be seated, a family of four ahead of us and tables open scattered throughout. We were seated shortly.

There were people in all of the dining rooms and the rooms were busy but not full. For just the very start of tourist season and not officially summer yet, there were more people than I had expected but it still did not explain the jammed parking lots. My wife suggested that perhaps there was a very large catering function which is possible, but so many cars for one catering function seemed unusual too. Anyway, enough dwelling on the parking lot.

There were no weekend specials on this Saturday night. Shady Maple through the winter and Spring will have special feature weekends. It was a usual assortment of items on the buffet servers and multiple grill stations for a Saturday night.

Lately I am finding that I get full sooner than I have in the past and decided that to make sure that I would be able to enjoy an assortment of items - there were several grill features that were catching my eye - that I would cut back on the usual salad that I make to start dinner at Shady Maple. I took a small sampling of macaroni salad and a small sample of Amish potato salad along with a small scoop of chopped tomatoes topped with a few green olives and Ranch dressing.

Where one of the soups should be on both halves of the buffet was trays of melted cheese sauce. This was there for french fries that were near by. As a result there was one - or two - soups missing from the usual assortment. I took a very different split pea and ham soup. It was not a thick soup as expected but a thin cream soup (very pale green in color) full of split peas and pieces of ham. I have not had it made this way before and it was good - the thick version of this soup (the standard version) is one of my favorites. This had the taste but lacked the body of the standard. I would actually consider it a soup all onto itself and not to be compared to the thick green version. There were other soups - some spicy - and there is always excellent chili.

On the grills were a broad variety of foods. There was NY strip steak being cooked to order on two grills. There were Smorgy Cheesesteaks, kielbasi, country sausage, several types of fish, carved smoked brisket, carved ham, and something that I have not seen here before - marinated prime rib. The marinated prime rib was one of the things that caught my eye and I knew that if I started with that I would not be eating much else as they were carving thick, juicy slices of it. When Shady Maple has Prime Rib as a feature and they usually have this on Wednesday nights, there are several Prime Ribs being carved - each done to a different wellness from rare to well done - at the grill so well done can be made even more well done if one prefers. This was just one prime rib being carved and it was done well. There was always a short line to get a slice. It had been so long since my last Shady Maple dinner that I was drawn more to the usual and started with a New York Strip Steak cooked rare the way I like it and some country sausage. I then took the plate to the buffet servers and walked the full length of the restaurant to see what was being offered. To my surprise Dried Corn was back no the buffet. This has been missing for over a year - though having been absent for eight months I don't really know when it was brought back. Last year the sign where the Dried Corn should be on the buffet said that since the Copes company changed hands the dried corn that they were supplying was not to the satisfaction of Shady Maple. Apparently, the corn got better because it is there where it always had been before - at the first corner of the right side buffet server. I had to have Dried Corn and took some and added some buttered noodles to my plate and happy, headed back to our table.

I don't understand what goes on with the chargrill that Shady Maple installed at the first carving/grill station. It seems to never be in use. It is covered over and is used as a flat griddle. This was where steaks were to be made. They are still made there but are made - as they had always been made at Shady Maple from the beginning - flat on the griddle. A charbroiled steak can be so much better but I have not had one here since the new grill was put in. The steak was still good and so was the country sausage. The sausage here is made in-house. It is popular at Shady Maple and I found as the night went on and I decided to go for more that it does run out.

I love the Smorgy Cheesesteaks - a Philly Cheesesteak by another name. You can have it served to use the standard way - on a thick, hard roll - or if you are like me and don't want to fill up on bread when there is so much more to enjoy, have them scoop it off the grill covered in melted cheese and mixed with chopped onions right onto your plate. There is also tomato sauce to go on top if you like - something that seems to be local - and they are cooking the meat without onions and without cheese. I got some cheesesteak - on the plate, not roll - and also got a piece of kielbasi. To this plate I added a pirogi that were on the buffet server. There were also a few small items scattered around the right half buffet servers on top of the center other trays - one was small hor d'oeuvres sized kiesch.I tried one of those too. The kielbasi was nice. I like smoked sausage and this was good. The pirogi was good as well.

I picked at a little of this and that for the rest of the meal. I took a fried crab cake and a piece of marinated turkey. This was very unusual. It was a small piece - I suppose it could be described as a thin medallion. It was blackened on the outside, moist and flavorful inside. This seem to be the night for marinated meats as there was also marinated chicken on the buffet servers that I did not try.

The marinated Prime Rib kept calling to me from the carving station to our table but I resisted. I wanted it but I knew that I would not be comfortable if I went for it - a plate too far. As we say it is not all that you can eat but all that you care to eat - all that you care to eat needs to be tempered by common sense. My common sense won out and I skipped the marinated Prime Rib - maybe it will be there next time!

Dessert at Shady Maple is always an overwhelming assortment of choices. I saw squares of apple cake and was going to take that until I saw that the sign said "Gluten Free Apple Cake" this means something other than flour has been used and I need to know what that "other" is for my own dietary concerns. I skipped the apple cake. Then I saw a half of an apple fritter on a plate. I was about to take that and a scoop of my favorite - egg custard. Again, my common sense won out and I left the apple fritter and took the egg custard. Later thinking about that apple fritter I was tempted to go back for it as I finished the custard, but decided that I was at the point of full and just stay right there in my chair. And I did.

While we were dining Meryl spotted Mr. Weaver, Shady Maple's owner. He was talking with the main buffet manager. This is a buffet restaurant (and complex of so much more) that is well supervised and managed. 

Was it all good? Of course. Was I away too long? Absolutely. This is still THE Best Buffet! There is no question about it and everyone local to this area knows it. My next visit will be A LOT SOONER than eight months.

Oh and by the way, our Best Buffet 2013 certificate is hanging in a glass case on the piller next to the last cashier to the left in the lobby.

Shady Maple Smorgasbord is located at 129 Toddy Drive in East Earl, PA. Take Route 23 East or Route 322 South to get to the restaurant. The phone numbers are 1-800-238-7363 and 717-354-8222. There is a website and it is listed at the side of this page. You can also keep up to date with Shady Maple by liking them on their page on Facebook!





Friday, August 15, 2014

Dutch-Way Family Restaurant, Gap, PA

Dutch-Way Family Restaurant's buffet in Gap, Pa was our "Top Buffet" for 2013 and I explained then that a top buffet is one that is a must go to whenever in the area of that restaurant. On our recent return to Pennsylvania in June, there was no question that we would be dining at Dutch-Way.

What I like about Dutch-Way aside from good quality food at a very reasonable price, is the many different things that Dutch-Way serves on their buffet. Whenever we go to this buffet, there will be some items on the buffet that will be consistent time after time - these usually Pennsylvania Dutch foods made from local recipes, but there will also be a number of items that are just different. This is great as it gives a chance for the chefs to show off and provide a variety to every meal served. The only drawback to this can be hoping that something that you had once like this, will be there again. Sometimes it is, but often it isn't. But that new selection that you encounter makes up for it. (Thought I do hope that their wonderful ribs show up on the buffet again on some future visit!)

This time we had some interesting dishes. Bacon is very popular lately and two side dishes on the buffet on this Friday night featured bacon. One was string beans and bacon. This was just what it says strips of bacon and string beans cooked together. This is very much like a local dish often served in this area - string beans and ham - with the bacon put in place of the ham. It was good. If you are a bacon lover this was a treat. The other bacon dish was another variation of a common dish and again involved string beans. Most are familiar with string bean casserole - a popular Thanksgiving side dish of string beans in mushroom sauce (often cream of mushroom soup) cooked with french fried onion rings. Take that dish and bake it with strips of bacon on top and that was what was served at Dutch-Way. Again, good and a nice surprise added to a dish many have had before but not this way.

Fillings are a common Pennsylvania Dutch dish. Fillings are like stuffing but made with other than bread cubes. Dutch-Way has one of the best potato fillings in this area, and that is one of the dishes generally found here on most nights. I had that - and enjoyed it as I always do here. On this night they also had an Apple and Sausage Filling - a bread based filling chock full of apples and local country sausage baked together. This, too, was very good!

Another interesting and different dish served on this night that we were there was Crab Covered  Broiled Catfish. Take REAL crabmeat lightly mixed with breadcrumbs just slightly seasoned and spread it on top of catfish and broil it and this is the dish that they had. It was good!

Of course as always there were four soups. The beef vegetable with fresh garden vegetables, beef in a thick tomato stock was an excellent soup. The salad bar is wonderfully stocked with so much to both create a salad and try many local prepared salads, and the chicken salad is exceptional. I could easily make the meal center around the chicken salad but there is so much more that I take some chicken salad and go on to the entrees.

Friday and Saturday night are Prime Rib and Ham at the grill. The Prime Rib was well done but the slice that I had was moist and tender. It was very tasty. The ham looked as good but I passed on the ham for several other meats on the buffet including an excellent meatloaf and ham balls. I also took some of the Pork and Kraut that is excellent here with very large pieces of pork mixed into the sauerkraut.

As I have described in the past there is a large assortment of desserts including cakes, pies, soft-serve name brand ice cream (Turkey Hill), and prepared desserts. There was also hot shoefly cake. I took some of the cracker pudding. Cracker pudding is a local dessert made like rice pudding using saltine crackers and coconut. No rice - crackers! It is wonderful and here it is excellent.

The price for dinner on Friday and Saturday night is $13.99. It is less Monday to Wednesday. Thursdays is the most expensive dinner night and the reason is it is all seafood. Seafood night is $19.99 and a great deal of seafood is served including snow crab legs.   Unlimited soft drinks are extra.

I have to acknowledge someone at this restaurant and that is our server/waitress. Her name is Marie and she has been our waitress here several times before. She is the MOST FRIENDLY waitress of any restaurant - buffet or menu - that we have ever been to - and that is a lot of restaurants over many years. She is delightful in her manner and in how friendly she is. There is always a quick and sincere thank you!  She really stands out. She does her job well and is very attentive to her tables and guests. She is prompt and makes sure that dishes are cleared regularly. She truly stands out! Thank you, Marie!!!

Should you go to Dutch-Way if you are near Gap in Lancaster County, PA? Absolutely! Don't expect a large, lavish restaurant or an overwhelming buffet - it is big enough and there is plenty enough. It has pleasant decor and is one of the supermarket restaurants that seem to only be found in this area of Pennsylvania. The restaurant is in the same building as the supermarket - completely separated. This is Lancaster farm cooking with a a bit of continental added in on the side.

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. 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, August 08, 2014

Even in the Best Basket You May Find a Rotten Apple

Here is another article put in the middle of the every other week schedule - as it is a bit out of the ordinary. You will be reading an article in a few weeks about another previous to this dinner at Shady Maple in East Earle, Lancaster, PA, but this is about a more recent dinner there. And something happened that has never happened to me there before and I hope to think rarely if ever to anyone there.

We went on a Saturday night in late July for dinner at Shady Maple - just search this site to see all about this exceptional buffet. It is always crowded on Saturday nights in the summer and I often avoid that night because of the tourists, the bus trippers, and the chaos of those overwhelmed by the expanse of this buffet. It was crowded. We waited on line to get in and again waited for a table. We were seated and the tourists were everywhere in mass. But it was not the tourists that this article is about - it is about an employee. One such, that shocked the heck out of me!

Here is what happened. When we finished soup and then salad, I went up to start on entrees. There was New York Strip Steak being grilled at two grill stations. I went to one of those grills and there was an older man and woman behind the grill. I asked for a rare New York Strip Steak. The man had a scowl on his face for whatever reason and looked at the woman with him behind the counter and pointed at a steak for her to take off the grill and serve to me. She took my empty plate from me and placed this steak on the plate and as her and and mine were on the plate I saw that the steak looked on the outside to be very red and raw looking. I made a comment to her that the steak looked more raw than rare. Now, I have to add here that this has happened to me at Shady Maple before. The a rare steak will often be raw inside and I was trying to avoid that before I took it and got back to the able - now you may wonder, why not just ask for medium rare and I have done that but medium rare often comes off the grill more than well done. So here we are - both hands on the plate and I make the comment.

What happens next shocked both the woman and me. The man reaches over and yanks the steak off the plate with his bare hands, (no gloves) and using both bare hands rips the steak in half shoves it up to my face (on his side of the grill) and angrily says, "Raw! It is not even rare!" He then throws the steak back onto the plate and looks at her to hand it to me. She handed it to me as he grumbled angrily under his breath. I was so taken back and in shock, I took the plate and I just stood there - still surprised, I looked at him and I said, "Be polite!" It is not in my nature, especially here, to make trouble and I certainly was not going to cause a scene - "Be polite" got my point across - though I doubt he saw any point but his - but my point was this is not a way to treat a customer. Now, I did not call for a manager and I just went back to my table with the steak - still in shock. I explained to my wife what just went on because she could not understand why I looked the way I did. Her first comment was - "He touched it with no gloves - that is illegal!" Well I don't think he is supposed to ever touch the meat once it is cooked with anything but the tongs or spatula and it is perhaps legal to cook with gloves on, but the point was how he acted. I thought to myself - he touched this steak with his bare hands, perhaps I should not even eat it - I did eat it. This spoiled the dinner and if I did not know what my experiences have been with the employees here for so many, many years, it could have kept me from ever coming back to what has been the BEST buffet anywhere. I still cannot believe this happened.

Perhaps he was as overwhelmed with the tourists here this night as I was. I passed him several times after that and he continued to have the same sour scowl on his face. Perhaps this was a bad night for him - maybe there was bad news of some sought - but why am I coming up with excuses for this employee's actions. They are inexcusable - in fact grounds for dismissal. The old maxim - "the customer is always right" may not be really true but if you want to keep customers you treat them properly and no matter how much of a pain in the butt they may be, you treat them with respect.

Now what could he have done - he could have taken the steak, put it down and with a knife, cut it open and shown me what it looked like inside - not essentially this with ripping it apart with his hands and literally throwing it back across to the other employee onto the plate. He could have said - fine, take it back and select another steak. As it happens I passed the other grill later in the meal and there was someone that was asking the same thing about how done a steak was and the young man employee behind the grill picked up a steak with a fork, cut it open and showed it to her and asked if that one would be alright. I really still am in shock. I thought about this the two hundred mile drive home.

Will I go back? Absolutely! Let's just put this up to a one time thing. Hopefully the owner of Shady Maple Smorgasbord will read this and have a meeting with his employees about how to treat customers - he seems to be a reasonable man and a good businessman. He knows what is right and what not to do when it comes to his customers.  I had to share this. This was so over the top that I could not share it with all of you.

Now back to our every other week schedule and there will be the next article next week.


Friday, August 01, 2014

Yoders Restaurant, New Holland, Pennsylvania

Two years ago, Yoders Restaurant in New Holland, PA was one of our Top Buffets. It was not in 2013 because of a visit in that year in which the buffet was a bit inconsistent with past great visits.  On a recent visit to Yoders for dinner, I experienced another inconsistency at Yoders. I have to say that all of the food is still great. The overall service is great. This time it was the grill that disappointed.

We went to Yoders on a Thursday night. Some nights at Yoders seem to follow themes. This night there was really no identifiable theme but smoked brisket on the grill and pulled pork barbecue on the buffet suggested that this night may have been a barbecue theme - that is just a guess. Anyway, at the grill there is a large TV monitor at the ceiling with the grill features and at the top of the list was smoked brisket. After a good bowl of vegetable beef soup and a salad of greens and dressing and some very good Amish style prepared salads, I went up to the grill for a slice of brisket. A friendly young man behind the counter greeted me and I asked for a slice of smoked brisket. His answer was that they had just run out. This was before 7 o'clock and the buffet is open until 8.I asked if more was coming out. He hemmed some and then said no. I asked if something was coming out to replace it. He hemmed some more and then said that some barbecue pork was supposed to be coming out but he had no idea when. I never did come out. He continued behind the grill serving liver and onions which was also a grill feature that night. As there was already pulled pork barbecue out on the buffet table, this could not have been what he meant - or was it - and if it was, it was there before and certainly not a substitute for a featured grill item this early. This is not the type of thing that has happened at Yoders in the past and it was very disappointing. Not that I was craving smoked brisket -it would have been nice to have - but if a grill feature runs out, something should come out to substitute for it. I expect what happened to happen in some chain buffets - but not at Yoders.

There were other main dishes to eat out on the buffet. There were ham balls, Salisbury steak, ham, broasted chicken, broiled chicken, baked cod, and stewed beef chunks made to be served over rice. There were plenty of Yoders wonderful side dishes - and one - perhaps an entree/side dish in one - chicken corn noodle casserole. This was a thick cream sauce with large pieces of chicken meat, corn, and broad noodles all baked together in a casserole. It was tasty - more heavy on noodles than chicken. There were whole baby potatoes in browned butter - anything in browned butter is good. Browned butter is burned butter and has a sweet/salt nut like taste. There were also noodles in browned butter. Then there are hot baked oatmeal dishes located off on a side hot counter where the soups and breads are. These are good and the plain baked oatmeal is one of my wife's favorites. I actually felt that the entree selection was weak and perhaps would not have been had the brisket been at the grill. 

Of course, there are always a lot of desserts including pies, cakes, puddings, prepared desserts, and hot shoo fly cake and hot cobbler. Having had more carbs in this meal than I was planning to have, I went with the egg custard - which is a favorite dessert of mine anyway. It was good as always.

Again, all of the food was excellent. The disappointment was in the selection and what was missing.

Of course, I will go back again, and that may be soon. I will let you all know what happens then.

Yoders menu noted that the Friday night feature is now Seafood Night and no longer the Sea and Land feature that used to be the standard for Friday and Saturday nights. Friday night now costs $18.99 which is the highest price night at Yoders. The usual weeknight dinners are $13.99. Saturday's feature is now Dutch Night. That used to mean an assortment of Pennsylvania Dutch foods. Until I am there on a Saturday night to see for myself, I will not guess at what it might be.

The restaurant is located at Yoder's Country Market, Route 23, New Holland, Pennsylvania. The phone number is (717) 354-4748. There is a website and that is linked at the side of this page. There is also a Facebook page that you can "Like" and get updates on specials.This is another of Lancaster County's buffet restaurants connected to supermarket buildings and when you pull into the parking lot what you will see is a supermarket. Enter at the entrance at the far right or middle and you will enter nearest the restaurant. This is not a fancy restaurant and looks like much less when you enter than it actually is. The food is good. The buffet is good. You are not coming here for the atmosphere. You are coming for the buffet. One may order buffet and other members of your party at the table may order from the menu. Order the buffet for the best deal unless you are a light eater. Often if you order from the menu they are taking it from the buffet and putting it on your plate and serving it to you if it is an item on the buffet.  Unlimited soft drinks are at an extra charge.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Drinks Now Back to Being Included at Old Country Buffet

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

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

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

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

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


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



Friday, July 18, 2014

Father's Day Brunch at IKEA

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



Friday, July 11, 2014

This Alternating Weeks Schedule

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

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

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

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

Friday, July 04, 2014

IKEA Midsummer Smorgasbord

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, June 20, 2014

Breakfast for Dinner at Old Country Buffet

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Temporary New Article Schedule

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

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

Thank you for your understanding.

Art of the Buffet

Friday, June 06, 2014

Rules of the Buffet

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

RULES OF THE BUFFET

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

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

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

4. Everyone must pay!

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

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

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

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

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

10. Never eat at the buffet tables!

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

12. The buffet table is not a cafeteria line.

13. Tip the server.

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

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

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

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

18. Children should remain seated through the meal.

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

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

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

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

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

24. Never put your hands into a serving tray.

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

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

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

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

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

30.
If you take a plate, bowl, cup, or piece of silverware and you decide you don't want it, do not put it back on the stack of clean dishes or back with the clean silverware. Take it back to your table or put it on the side of the stack where it will not be taken as clean.

Friday, May 30, 2014

HOW TO BUFFET

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Friday, May 23, 2014

Island Buffet. Baldwin, NY

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

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

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

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

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

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





Friday, May 16, 2014

Flaming Grill and Supreme Buffet, Baldwin, New York

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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