Friday, May 22, 2015

Hill Country Barbecue Market - NY and D.C.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Brooklyn, NY | 345 Adams Street, Brooklyn, NY 11201 | 718-885-4608
 http://www.hillcountrybk.com/

New York City | 30 West 26th Street NY, NY 10010 | 212-255-4544
 http://www.hillcountryny.com

Washington, D.C. | 410 Seventh Street NW, WASHINGTON, D.C. 20004 | 202-556-2050
  http://www.hillcountrywdc.com

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

If you try it - let us know!











Friday, May 08, 2015

Golden Corral, Freehold, NJ - Revisited

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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





























Friday, April 24, 2015

Lititz Family Cupboard, Lititz, PA

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We recommend Lititz Family Cupboard. Try it!

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

































Friday, April 10, 2015

Many Improvements at the Levittown, NY Old Country Buffet

I have said many times on this site that the manager and employees can make or break a buffet restaurant and that has been so true at the Levittown, New York Old Country Buffet since it opened many years ago. I have written many times about this buffet - mainly in the negative - but there have been some significant changes over this past winter and they coincide with a change in the general manager.

The general manager who is now at the Levittown OCB had been one of the secondary managers of the Bay Shore, New York Old Country Buffet. He had been there since at least when one of the best buffet managers we have ever encountered (I have written about that manager referring to him as "Mr. Smiley" in past articles) and it is my opinion that under that tutelage this manager, himself, became an excellent manager. He is now at Levittown OCB with his name on the front door as General Manager and he has taken what had been what has been referred to as the "worst OCB" to one that is improvingly good. 








I have said in the past that I would never go back to the Levittown OCB, but this rough Long Island winter made traveling to the Bay Shore OCB too difficult and I found myself one night deciding to go back to Levittown. What a surprise when we went inside - first seeing who was the manager and then seeing how things had changed. We have been back numerous times since then and have noted continued improvement. Now, I am not talking about the food selections as that is completely in the hands of Corporate that seems now to completely dictate the menu - and we spoke about this in our last article.




So what is different. For one thing there is a change in the cleanliness of the dining room. The floors (carpets) that were rarely kept clean in the past are now clean. Of course, a busy day can take its toll on the floors around and under the tables of the best buffet restaurants, but an effort is being made to keep these floors now clean.

In the past, food trays would sit empty for hours - and when something came out to replace the empty tray, it would often have a very dis-similar item, for example, rolls for a meat entree. We have seen fairly consistently that if a meat entree runs out, a different meat entree is brought out if the original is not available. We have seen ongoing supervision of the buffet tables and orders sent into the kitchen that items were about to run out and needed replacing. Some items still take a long time to come out, but eventually they do come out - and a few times we have seen another item that is ready come out quickly to that spot while the item to be replaced is being cooked and eventually is back out. This is a big improvement here.

One thing that we immediately noticed when we first came back was that many of the people who had been working here in the past were gone and replaced with workers that actually seemed to care about what they are doing - and made an effort to get their jobs done and communicate clearly with the customers (which had been a big problem here in the past). I often observed in the past that what the Levittown OCB needed was a clean sweep of staff and that is almost what has taken place here. One other thing is that one of the better table staff from Bay Shore was brought here and appears to be (though I do not know this for sure) to be overseeing the rest of the table staff while he is also taking care of tables. Good manager plus good employees equal good buffet.

A good manager needs to be seen in the dining room and around the buffet and that is now happening here. He talks with the guests. He pays attention to what is going on. All so very much needed here and happening now. 

Now, is all of this consistent? It is fairly consistent, but I have also observed that it is still somewhat dependent upon this manager being on duty - and, of course, the guy has to have a day or night off sometime. When he is not there, some things slip back - though not completely back. Also when new table people are starting, clearing of tables can get lax - but that now seems to be the exception and not the norm - as it once was. We have been here on extremely busy nights - and while it was an effort for the kitchen to keep up with getting more food out - the table was taken care of as it should be. But there has been the occasional night - our most recent, as a mater of fact was one - when the buffet was not crowded and a new table server was letting the dishes pile up on the table (ours and others) much too high - getting there eventually to clear what had become a tall stack way - but it should never have gotten to that point, especially given the few tables in this section with diners. We had never seen this server working here before - hopefully this server gets the idea, and if not, is gone. I rather hope this employee gets the idea, improves, and stays.

Things are definitely better at the Levittown OCB. We decided one night to go back to Bay Shore and were very disappointed that the food was not being replaced and the selections were less than what we have been experiencing in Levittown.While one time we would have felt going to Levittown was a mistake, on this return to Bay Shore we felt that going there was a mistake.

My hope is that Corporate recognizes how well improved this location is BUT does not take this great manager away and move him elsewhere - which has happened in the past. And secondary management here needs to learn from this man and follow both his manner with customers and attention to what is going on.

Congratulations to the new manager and his staff! Keep up the good work! (And I'll bet there are a lot of our readers who thought that they would never read that here about the Levittown OCB!)














Friday, March 27, 2015

What the Heck is Going on With Old Country Buffet?!?

There have been some big changes at Old Country Buffet over the past six months - perhaps longer in other areas of the country - and not for the better. I am not talking about any particular Old Country Buffet location but with the chain as a whole. I am talking about the change in menu and how some foods are not being served.

To start - and certainly, no surprise to anyone that regularly goes to an Old Country Buffet or has been to one since this past summer - there is no longer steak served. Steak was a regular feature every night - as it is (was?) at Ryans and as it is at Golden Corral. Now, I was never a big fan of OCB steak as in all of the OCBs that I have been to it was cooked on a grill in the kitchen and brought out to a steam table where it sat until each steak was carved and served. I know that there are OCB's with grills right out at the carving area and steaks are cooked to order, but that was not chain-wide. Well, it does not matter any more as steak every night - or any night - is gone.

In the place of steak, in the two OCBs that are local enough for me to go to, a buffet table was partially covered with a flat heat tray and little pots of meat - sometimes steak sitting on one type of potatoes or another are laid out. As it turned out these pots change every couple of months to what they are calling new features. So there has been pulled pork barbecue sitting on potatoes, pot roast - the same that used to be served on the buffet, chili, a variety of little pieces of steak seasoned in various ways and always overwhelmed by most of the little pot filled with potatoes. Then there has been just mashed potatoes with a little cheese and bacon bits put on top, and little pots of macaroni and cheese with bacon bits put on top. Why? And I have to say that these pots of food are the most unappetizing looking foods that I have ever seen. I have heard more than one guest say what I thought the first time I saw this - "Little pots of dog food!" The best of all of these little pots has been chicken pot pie which is actually very good and looks good too - covered with a pie crust. Unfortunately when you get under that crust you will find a few small cubes of chicken with a few small carrot squares, a few pieces of potato, and peas. It does taste good but this particular pot is popular and disappears as soon as it comes out and there is a long wait for more to come.

These little pots work to make a long standing problem at OCBs (almost all from what I hear from various employees and managers who write to us) even worse - taking an already occupied employee away from the buffet (sometimes even the person carving) and into the kitchen, not only to get these pots and bring them out, but also to assemble them. So with this each buffet is minus one employee needed at the buffet.

And the little pots are not just for the hot foods. They have found their way to the dessert area. Instead of a tray of bread pudding, there are now little pots of bread pudding. Instead of a tray of fruit cobbler, little pots of fruit cobbler. Instead of a tray of chocolate cake with fudge sauce, now a little pot of chocolate cake with fudge sauce. Often these are too hot to each and very much too hot to pick up and put on a plate to take to your table.

The benefit of a buffet is not only that you can eat all that you care to eat, but you can also eat as little of something that you would like to eat. Perhaps you might like to take a little pulled port to try it - you have to now take the whole pot. Perhaps you would like just a small treat of bread pudding or cobbler - now you have to take a whole pot of it. Then there is the waste - and I ma just as guilty of this as everyone else. I want to eat just so much of potatoes. I don't want to have to eat a pot of potatoes each time I take a little pot just to eat the meat. So I eat the meat and leave the potatoes to be taken away to the garbage. I felt like a couple of spoons of bread pudding and before I would have taken just that - a very small serving of bread pudding. Now I had to take the pot, eat the few spoons that I was allowing myself to have, and the rest was thrown out. I just don't get these little pots. The restaurants are told that this is how corporate wants it now and that is that.

The newest of the changes has been to the carvings and the two local OCBs now have areas set up away from the hot food buffet tables just for carvings - with a sign "Carvery" over it. Well in one this is the end of the dessert counter but that I guess makes sense to someone. The first time we encountered this we thought that they had eliminated carvings all together. It was not until well into the meal when we looked over toward the dessert area that we saw the sign and the carvings. And the carvings - there used to be ham and roast beef every night, but not any longer. Now there may be smoked sausage and what they call "chopped steak" that are thin hamburgers that are over cooked. There may also be turkey but no longer on Sundays are there the three - turkey, ham, and roast beef all together as there had been in the past. Then on some nights when there is smoked sausage (and I like smoked sausage) at the carving station, there has also been smoked sausage with sauerkraut and smoked sausage in barbecue sauce on the buffet table. How much smoked sausage should take up the buffet at one meal period? Certainly, not three kinds at once. One of the better things brought back - now as a carving though it is served in a tray on the buffet - are baby back ribs. Two summers ago, the OCB baby back ribs were terrific. They are not quite as good any longer - though it may just be that whoever is cooking them now here, does not know what to do with them.

Hopefully, the little pots will go the way of the stir fry - that was a failed and short lived idea of Corporate. The not so new anymore CEO either has poor advisers or bad ideas on his own.

My wife wondered if Corporate was looking to put themselves into bankruptcy again. We have seen people come in, look at what is on the buffet and walk out. We have seen people who have paid, come in and go back and ask for their money back. All within this period since this past summer.  If you needed to find a way to lose business intentionally, what has been going on is it. We do not see the crowds that we saw on weekends at OCB that we saw just a year ago. Another problem now is also with a price for dinner of $13.99, it is just too much for many couples and families.

Well, I don't know what the heck is going on with Old Country Buffet now, but it is not good. If anyone on the "inside" wants to share it with us, please leave a comment.  We have not been to a Ryan's since this started, so I don't know if this foolishness has extended to there - but I suspect it has.












Friday, March 13, 2015

RULES OF THE BUFFET

It has been a while since we have listed our "Rules of the Buffet". These are the rules that everyone who dines at a buffet - from old to young - need to know and follow. From what we have seen lately at a few buffets, these are sorely needed to be seen again.




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, February 27, 2015

TOP BUFFET 2014 - SHADY MAPLE SMORGASBORD, East Earl, PA

Our pick for Top Buffet of 2014 goes to Shady Maple Smorgasbord in East Earle, Pennsylvania. Shady Maple has been on our picks for Top and Best Buffets since our annual awards began. Allow us to explain why Shady Maple is the Top Buffet this year. We get many requests from readers and those who just stumble upon this website asking what buffet would we recommend in various locations. When it comes to Lancaster County - where there are more buffets than anywhere else - and I am talking privately owned, local buffets and not casino buffets - the first recommendation that we always make is Shady Maple Smorgasbord. Shady Maple is at the top of our "recommend list". When people ask for such a recommendation, they want to be "wowed" and Shady Maple is going to wow them. And when we do send someone there we always hear back about how wonderful it was and that they could not believe it -and there is always the comment - "We will be going back!".

Going to Shady Maple is an experience and one that any visitor to Lancaster should not miss. This is a buffet that one would take a long trip just to (and only to) dine here. This is a large buffet with dining rooms and a buffet serving area that is overwhelming when one first sees it. I am not sure what restaurant is considered the largest in the world but this one has to be a contender. There are two huge dining rooms - three if you separate the first dining room's very large booth section from the very large table section, with more dining rooms along the side. Then there are the catering rooms and an entire menu restaurant in addition on the lower level.

The food is just as grand with a building long serving area of buffet servers and four - grill areas - and two of those grill areas are double-sided making this actually SIX grills working on most nights. There are often not duplicates from one grill to the next and the foods on the grill range, depending on the night, from steaks to real Prime Rib to Asian dishes to sausage to ham to brisket to fish to burgers to smoked sausage to their special "Smorgy Cheese Steaks" - and more. On the buffet, there are two huge salad bars - with some but not all duplication, eight different soups, and entrees and side dishes that include many Pennsylvania Dutch favorites along with American dishes and more. There is a rotation of dishes that may appear on the smorgasbord that go through the seasons. There are some items that seem to always be there, but there are others that you may not see for months and then they are there again. The food is well prepared, quality food that is properly maintained in the serving trays and replaced quickly when needed. If there is a substitution that substitution is of an equal dish - in other words, no one is replacing meat with rolls here. Food is constantly being brought out from the kitchen by a number of people working at the buffet servers. Now, I know that many of my readers want to hear about desserts and there are plenty of those to choose from - real cakes, pies, prepared desserts, hot desserts, sundaes - soft serve and on special occasions hand dipped, and sugar free desserts that actually taste good and you don't have to be concerned about what they have been sweetened with.

While this looks like the type of restaurant that is owned and operated by a big corporate conglomeration, it is in reality owned by the founding family (this started as a farm stand, grew to a market and grew to a buffet restaurant and grew to this much, much bigger buffet restaurant) and the owner is, at times, present in the restaurant and if he is not there, competent managers are visible. There is a large staff of employees to run this huge restaurant.

Even with the size of this restaurant it is often crowded - on season and off season. There is rarely a night when there is not a wait. And off season, they run special dinner menus on some weekends including a Hawaiian Luau with a whole roast pig. Tourist season, and that can be May to November, the restaurant is the busiest. You are going to encounter people from all over dining here but you may also find an Amish family sitting at the table next to you. By the way, if you come by buggy there is parking for your horse and buggy on the lower side of the building. This buffet is well known far and wide. We have met people hundreds of miles from Pennsylvania who are talking about Shady Maple. Recently sitting at lunch in a fast food restaurant 200 miles away from Lancaster there was a group of men having lunch together and we overheard one say to the rest how he just returned from Lancaster and then he told his friends all about Shady Maple - and some of them said they already knew about it as they have been there as well. We have been in local Pennsylvania farmers markets and have heard one PA Dutch farmer say to another - "Going down to Shady Maple tonight!"  See, this is what sets this buffet restaurant apart from all of the rest.

So if you want to know what restaurant to go to when you go to Lancaster County, Pennsylvania to see the Pennsylvania Dutch - or you just want to experience a restaurant this large and this good - the top choice is Shady Maple Smorgasbord. They are closed Sundays and several holidays through the year. They serve buffet breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The food and selections are different at each of those meals. Each night there are themed offerings so look at their website for what night features what. The prices include a gratuity and sales tax. The meal price is complete including beverage. There are children's prices, a senior price, and you get a free meal on the day of your birthday with proof.

Shady Maple Smorgasbord is located at 129 Toddy Drive in East Earl, PA. Take Route 23 East or Route 322 South to get to the restaurant. There is lots of parking (free, of course). The phone numbers are 1-800-238-7363 and 717-354-8222. There is a website and it is listed at the side of this page.













Friday, February 13, 2015

BEST ASIAN BUFFET 2014 - YUMMY CHINA BUFFET, East Meadow, New York

It has been awhile since we have given a Best Asian Buffet award. We dine at many Asian buffets. It takes a very special one to really stand out and Yummy China Buffet in East Meadow, New York stands out. It is not a large restaurant and in fact, it is one of the smaller Asian buffets. It does not have rows and rows of buffet servers. It has one long server, a wall next to that with cold items, and a combination hibachi grill and sushi bar. What it has is outstanding food, prepared, and maintained better than any other Asian/Chinese buffet that we have been to.

We have been watching this buffet since it opened about two years ago. During its first year it was expensive for buffets in this area and, frankly, because of the price we did not go in. About a year ago, the owner decided to lower the price and to do this he removed the nightly lobster feature from the menu. That was fine as he brought the price down to where it could better compete with other local Asian buffets. During this past year, the price was lowered again - to $13.99 where it is priced just right, especially for the excellent food that he is serving. As our readers are aware, our criteria for a best or top buffet requires value and quality and with the lower price those two criteria were more than met. But we also look at consistency over time and that criteria was easily met as well. The criteria of good service has been very well met - both by the women who care for you at your table but also by the chef who is at the sushi bar and hibachi grill. The Asian gentleman at the grill who also doubles as the sushi chef does an excellent job and prepares your order perfectly to your request. We were realizing that we were in a "best" buffet about mid-year. We dined here several more times to be sure and we are very sure. We have written about this buffet during this past year and you can go back and read the reviews.Our most recent review was at the beginning of December.

One thing that is special about this buffet is that while they are serving the standard dishes that appear on many Asian buffets, they also are serving their special dishes. Every review we come back to one dish that is exceptional and that is their Yummy Pork. This is a slow cooked pork roast - with the skin in a thin sauce that compliments the meat well. You carve a piece off for yourself from the hot serving tray. Sometimes it just falls apart which is good. The meat is tender and moist. We have tried other similar pork dishes at other Asian buffets and there has been nothing like this one. The sign says "Ancient Recipe" and I am sure that it is - and no one else seems to have that recipe that tries to serve a similar dish.

There are many other excellent dishes that you will find here on the buffet. There is a very broad selection of seafood, beef, chicken, pork, shrimp, and vegetable dishes. If the name says "Yummy" try it, as these are their specialties.

The hibachi grill is small but has everything that you would want to have prepared hibachi style - an assortment of vegetables, noodles, chicken, beef, shrimp, and raw eggs in the shell. The chef will prepare it to your liking. What is different about this from other Asian buffets? This chef knows what he is doing. I really can't say that about many other Asian buffets. When this chef is not there, the owner takes over - and does just as excellent a job at cooking.

One very important thing about this buffet is that the owner is out in the dining room and around the buffet servers the whole time. He keeps an eye that everything is running just as it should be and we have seen him bring special things over to a table on request. As we have said so many times before, when the manager is hands on and involved - and in this case the owner - that is what is going to make a major difference in how good a buffet is. This combined with excellent workers and the difference is going to show and it certainly does.

We have found hidden gems in the past and Yummy China Buffet is certainly one of them. This is a must try. Try it for dinner. We have not been there for lunch and while I am sure that lunch is as excellent as dinner, you are going to get the experience that we have had so many times at dinner - and we have been to dinner here both weekends and mid-week.

This is a must try. And we are very happy to name Yummy China Buffet as BEST ASIAN BUFFET OF 2014!

The Yummy China Buffet and Sushi Restaurant is located at 398 Merrick Avenue, East Meadow, New York 11554. The telephone number is 516-486-2525. There is now a website that is linked at the side of this page.  (By the way that website right now  has a coupon for $5 off dinner on Mondays to Thursdays.) The restaurant is NOW open seven days a week from 11:30 am to 10:00 pm.









Friday, January 30, 2015

BEST BUFFET 2014 - DUTCH-WAY FAMILY RESTAURANT, GAP, PA

The Dutch-Way Family Restaurant located in Gap, Pennsylvania has been named Best Buffet for 2014. This is a buffet that we have been following for several years and have dined at several times in the year 2014 and it has consistently met every one of our criteria for a best buffet. This buffet has been consistently highly recommended in every one of our reviews.

Dutch-Way has never disappointed. It serves quality food at a very affordable price in very pleasant restaurant surroundings. The service staff have always been reliably good and in some cases outstanding. While not a large buffet, it has a selection of food that always introduces new dishes along with regular favorites.

Readers will find many reviews on this site for this restaurant that describe the various dishes that have been found here. There has always been something different - even out of the ordinary - served on the buffet and each time it has been something good - something that you would like to see again on another visit. But if that one particular dish is not there, another just as good has taken its place.

There are many, many buffets in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. This is the buffet that we want to go back to each time we are in this area and we often go more than once during the same trip. When there are others to choose and one goes back to one already visited within a week - that is saying a lot. We have not said that often about any one buffet. 

Those going to this buffet for the first time may be surprised when first walking through the door. Like some other buffets in Lancaster County, this buffet is connected to a food market on site - and this one shares the same building though the restaurant is completely separate on the opposite end of the building. While the decor is extremely nice, it is not lavish. If one is expecting row after row of buffet servers, one will not find that here. What you will find are three buffet servers in the middle of the buffet section - two hot and one cold, a grill area serving a different feature each night, and a wall that circles halfway around the section that includes a bread area, five soups, baked goods including cakes, cookies, and pies, a soft serve ice cream section with a sundae bar, and a cold prepared desserts area. The dining room consists of two sections plus private party rooms. The type of food that you will find is a mixture of local Pennsylvania Dutch foods combined on the buffet with continental dishes. The food is well prepared and kept in the buffet servers properly.  We look carefully at every buffet that we review that the food is what we call "well maintained" in its serving tray meaning consistently kept at the proper temperature and not allowed to dry out and Dutch-Way maintains the food on the buffet well. One must understand that "small" can sometimes surpass "large" and this buffet does exactly that.

We are very pleased with our choice for Best Buffet for 2014. It took a great deal of consideration and we as we had this in mind during 2014, during each visit we looked perhaps more critically at each point that is considered for a top and then a best buffet. In 2014, this was the Best Buffet.

When you go to Dutch-Way Family Restaurant in 2015, let them know that you read about them here. It is out of the usual tourist area but worth the trip - that is really not that far and very direct to get to. Dutch-Way also has the advantage that they also serve from a menu and if someone in your party does not wish to dine buffet they may order from the menu. The menu is just as reasonable as the buffet.

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





Friday, January 16, 2015

BEST/TOP BUFFETS OF 2014

It is time once again to name this site's best and top buffets. The results this year will likely surprise many of our regular readers. The criteria for being a Best or Top Buffet are, as they have been, the buffet must give excellent value, it must serve quality food, the food must be prepared properly, consistently, the restaurant must be managed properly, and the service must be good to excellent. And all of this must be consistent - meal to meal, visit to visit.  Then it must be a buffet that comes to mind to go back to whenever possible. When the process gets narrowed down to a few choices, they get ordered in priority of the criteria - and what starts to be examined is how consistent were they. Consistency is an extremely important factor and in the end becomes the deciding factor. A few favorites every so often disappoint. Some never disappoint. Every restaurant considered for best or top buffet has been visited several times over the course of the year.

The BEST buffet of 2014 is Dutch-Way Family Restaurant in Gap, Pennsylvania. This honor goes to this specific location of the two Dutch-Way Family Restaurant buffets in Pennsylvania.

The TOP buffet of 2014 is Shady Maple Smorgasbord in East Earle, Pennsylvania.

The BEST ASIAN Buffet of 2014 is Yummy China Buffet, East Meadow, New York. This is the first time that a Long Island buffet has been given any award from this site.

In the coming weeks there will be an article about each buffet and what brings their designated award to it. We will, at this point, speak briefly to the "Top Buffet" award to Shady Maple. As many know Shady Maple has been a Best Buffet for many years. Shady Maple is as good as it has always been. It is a restaurant that it is hard to compare other buffet restaurants to. None can compare to the size of the restaurant or the quantity or variety of foods served. It is the first buffet that we recommend anyone to go to when in Lancaster County, PA - because it is just that different. But - and this is not a negative "but" - more and more if both this and Dutch-Way, Gap are considered for a meal, Dutch-Way is chosen. It is small, has pleasant but simple decor, and does not have anywhere near the quantities and variety of foods that Shady Maple offers in one night. Telling someone who is looking for a "experience" though is going to find that more at Shady Maple and that what puts it the TOP of the list. Yet, Dutch-Way has been proving to be the BEST when it comes to different and sometimes, more unique food choices. Both are great buffets and are must go tos. Designating Top or Best when it comes to these two buffets takes nothing away from either one. Read the articles that will follow in the next several weeks about each and you will better understand.

Congratulations to these exceptional restaurants. There are many other wonderful buffets that were dined at this year (and a few not so good ones) and some others came very close to being on this list.







Friday, January 02, 2015

Another Golden Corral

I am pushing this article ahead of some important other articles to follow the Golden Corral article which has been running here over the past two weeks. Since our visit to the Freehold, New Jersey Golden Corral we went to another Golden Corral - one that we have been to before. We took a day trip to Bethlehem, PA for the Christmas events that take place there in the weeks before Christmas and for dinner we decided to drive up to Whitehall, PA to the Golden Corral - one that I have written about here before. We went on a Saturday night two weekends before Christmas. This Golden Corral is in the back of a shopping center and the shopping center was very, very crowded. We arrived at the Golden Corral at about 6:30 pm.

We went in to find barely a line. There was a larger line later after we had gone in. The restaurant inside was busy but not hectic. One thing that is most important to note is that the price of the buffet on Saturday night - UNLIKE the Golden Corral in Freehold, NJ - was the new, as advertised price of $11.99 ($11.49 for seniors). A sign showed all of the supposed features as it had in Freehold.

On the buffet there were more items than at Freehold and a broader selection of things I expect to find at Golden Corral. There were several types of potatoes including French fries, homemade potato chips, mashed potatoes and baked potatoes. One different item was Italian Sausage and Peppers which, while greasy, was good. The riblets were more like baby back ribs than riblets but there was not as much meat on each rib as baby backs usually have. They were not bad. Similar to Freehold there was someone carving the larger ribs and they were carving one at a time though putting more than one on your plate if you asked. There was pulled pork and that was very good. The meatloaf was of a much better consistency than at Freehold and it held together rather than crumble. It was slightly spicy.The steak was good. The first one that I had was more well than anything close to rare, but the second one was close to perfect. It was crispy charred on the outside and reddish pink inside. It was a nicely seasoned steak. Again, as in New Jersey, the sign said that this was the new "Founder's Cut" of steak. It was done much better than what i had in Freehold, and I really enjoyed the this steak!  The pot roast here was large thick slices of beef - perhaps almost a half inch thick with vegetables on the side. The only thing disappointing on the main buffet was the corn pudding which looked very good but turned out to be no more than cornbread with whole kernels of corn throughout.

The night was not without a minor problem and that had to do with the dishes and utensils. I have not had this problem at this Golden Corral before and perhaps it was crowds during the day from the shoppers coming in and the dishwasher could not keep up. There were two many plates and silverware that was not totally clean - as in coming out of the dishwasher too soon. It took some picking through the silverware (more than the dishes) to find ones clean. The dining room and the buffet were clean - as were the rest rooms.

One thing that can be a problem at buffets are the employees who are in charge of getting food out. There was no problem here until we got to dessert. This is a tale to be told - and I will tell it. I will say from the start that I let this go as long as it did because I was curious as to what the outcome would be and because we were not in any hurry and not eager to get back on the road and head home. OK - we went up to the dessert counter for dessert. Again, there was a sign about the "Vegas Desserts" and I still have to wonder what makes them think that a slice of apple pie or a small slice of chocolate cake is a "Vegas dessert". My wife wondered if it was their putting the chocolate pudding in cups with whipped cream on top. I really don't know but that is aside from our story. So, we went up to see what to have and there really was nothing very enticing. There were little individual pumpkin pies and I was tempted to take that but then I remembered the good bread pudding that I had had. The tray of bread pudding had a spoonful or two of crumbs and needed to be replaced. If I was going to have it, I would wait for a new tray to come out and have a worthwhile dessert. There were two people behind the counter and they were actively working to get desserts out to the counter. We went back to the table and waited. About three minutes later another diner went up and scraped out the pan that I passed up and now the bread pudding was completely gone. As I say, I was in no hurry and I waited. After about fifteen minutes I went up to see if I missed the woman putting out a new tray. No she had not. I caught her attention and I asked her if more bread pudding was coming out. "Yes, it is on its way." Fine. I went back to the table and kept my eye on what was taking place behind the dessert counter. Time passed and we were just sitting there. Our server came over and asked if there was anything wrong - or if she could bring us tea, coffee, o more soda. I told her exactly what was happening. She was very apologetic and she told me she would go find out what happened to the bread pudding. She was very nice. We watched her behind the counter talking to the woman that I had spoken to. There was a lot of discussion and she then came back to our table. She said, "I have good news and I have bad news", trying to smile. OK - tell me it all was my response. Well, it turned out that yes, there was more bread pudding coming out, but it was in the oven and it takes over an hour and ten minutes to cook. There was still six minutes left for it to complete baking. This was now almost forty minutes and at least thirty minutes since I spoke with the woman at the dessert counter. She never said that it would be coming out in any lengthy amount of time. Our server apologized again and assured me that if I still wanted it, it would be out very soon now. All together I waited forty five minutes for the bread pudding to come out. Again - I had decided to wait this out from the start. When it did come out it took another five minutes for it to cool to be placed out on the counter. I went right up and took a bowl. Our server saw that it came out and came right over to be sure I had it and commented that she hoped it was worth the wait. It was. Now, what does this tell me is wrong? What is wrong here is if it is early in the evening dinner service and something that takes over an hour goes out on the buffet another needs at that same time to go into cook - if not earlier. When one tray empties there should always be another ready to come out - whether this is the dessert station or the hot foods or the salad bar. And there should be a manager supervising to make sure that this takes place. During the course of this time a manager had been behind the dessert counter talking to the two people working there but it was obvious from the outcome that it did not make any difference. Management and the employees are the heart and lifeblood of a buffet restaurant. Usually Golden Corral is better than many others. Anyway - if you want bread pudding take it when you see it.

I have to make a special note about our server. Her name is Erin and she was excellent. She is the best servers we have ever had at a Golden Corral. She went above and beyond with us and all of the tables she was taking care of that night. I commend her and I hope that someone at Golden Corral corporate is reading this as this young woman deserves a raise! You can really tell when someone looks upon their job as something to get done and away from or really cares about doing a good job. Erin really cared about doing her job well.

Overall - good dinner. It was a good meal despite the dishwasher problem (as I say it has not been that way here before in OUR experience) and the wait for bread pudding (definitely a problem with the people behind the dessert counter not anticipating need). We are in this area infrequently and it will be many months before we will be back but we will be going back to the Whitehall, PA Golden Corral. 

This Golden Corral is located at 900 Lehigh Valley Mall Drive in Whitehall, PA 18052. The phone number is (610) 443-0866. The chain's website is linked on the side of this page. This restaurant is just northeast of Allentown, PA. If coming west on I78 it is easiest to go past to where I22 and I78 join and come back a short distance to the exit for the mall and this restaurant, rather than drive north through the streets of the City of Allentown.



Friday, December 19, 2014

New Golden Corral in Freehold, NJ

One of our readers who has let me know about a number of buffet restaurants in New Jersey over the years let me know this past year that a new Golden Corral was being built in Freehold, New Jersey. This may be the closest Golden Corral to where we are though it is still quite a distance and a great expense in tolls to get to. I heard from this good friend of this site when the restaurant opened and he gave me a mixed review - mostly mixed because of the crowds that were there during the opening week. I have been looking for an opportunity to go to New Jersey and try this new Golden Corral and recently that opportunity presented itself.

We went on a Saturday night. I had expected that the "newness" had worn off and there would not be an overwhelming crowd when we arrived at about 7 pm that night, but I was wrong. The line was out the door and outside the restaurant. We got on the line and waited. Some who were behind us left. It was just a few minutes before we were inside the door and the line inside twisted around before getting to the two cash registers to pay at to go in. There was a large sign on the front door and also inside that said that no $50 or $100 bills are accepted. This sign could not be missed. The couple in front of us saw the sign and decided that they had to use a credit card. The people behind us noticed the sign but when we all got to the registers the people behind us pulled out a fifty and tried to pay and when stopped protested to the point of having to complain to two managers. It was explained that there have been problems with counterfeit bills but these people were not going to accept that and insisted on paying with their big bills. This is in no way a problem with this Golden Corral but if you go there be prepared with twenties if you are going to pay cash. No, this was not a problem, but what was a problem was that despite the advertising that has been recently put out on television, the website, and emails by Golden Corral that they now have an expanded buffet with a new price of $11.99 - an increase of a dollar since my last visit to a Golden Corral several months ago, this Golden Corral had a sign that on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday nights (all day Saturday and Sunday) there is a "Premium Dinner Buffet" at a price of $12.99. This is not an option - you pay $12.99 on these days - plus $2.19 for a drink. OK. I was there. I was not going any place else. I was very annoyed that they advertise one price - $11.99 and suddenly it is a dollar more on certain nights. Had they said this in the advertising it would have been fine, but they didn't. With this new price they are actually $0.18 more for dinner on the weekends than OCB's new price of $13.99 which includes the beverage. Though Monday to Thursday, this Golden Corral is still less. I do not know if the $12.99 is only at this location, or just some locations, or at all locations.

We paid and waited a few minutes to be taken to a table. The inside of this restaurant on this night was a madhouse. There were children running everywhere. There were tables for six with eight people squeezing into them. This resulted in blocked aisles. There were also several birthday parties going on - in the middle of all of the other tables of diners - with people who brought there own cakes, and had kids sitting on the floor opening presents. There was a mob around the food counters - and for some reason at Golden Corrals people have to walk around in a line along the counters as if they are in a cafeteria even if the one thing that they want is at the opposite end of the counters - and it was just like that here. People were upset if you walked up to the tray you wanted and helped yourself. Too bad, this is exactly what I do. It is a buffet and not a cafeteria! Anyway, to say it was crowded is an understatement.

We went up for soup. I love the chicken noodle soup with its thick, doughy noodles that Golden Corral serves. They had the soup and we both took it. I found that the noodles in the soup were undercooked. They were tough - and what would be considered in pasta "al dente". I did not care for the noodles this way, though my wife liked them better this way. It was not really how soup noodles should be - and if they were undercooked what else would be.

Next was the salad bar and it was well stocked and what was out was fresh. This can be a problem at some Golden Corrals but here the salad bar was properly maintained. My wife wants me to make a point of saying that this was one of the best maintained salad bars she has seen at a Golden Corral. She says that everything was fresh and kept refilled. Since as the meal went along she wound up mostly eating the cold chicken from the salad bar, that was very important.

Now came the advertised, new, and expanded food selections on the buffet. I would still like to know what those new and expanded selections are supposed to be because I saw nothing different from before. In fact, I found less than I have found before at Golden Corrals. The buffet is arranged in sections with signs overhead identifying the section. There was a sign over the Asian section and there was Asian food there. There was a sign over a small section of seafood that was identified as Seafood on the sign overhead - "seafood" being their usual (and good) fried fish, broiled fish, and fried shrimp. I went right to the grill. I wanted a cooked to order steak - the usual at Golden Corral but now the steak is supposed to be "Founder's Select", a five ounce cut of steak that is "supposed to be better than before - at least according to the sign near the cash register. I asked for my usual "steak - rare" and was given a steak off the grill. It was more medium rare than rare but that was OK. It was moist and pink in the middle with a slight grill on the outside. It lacked fat for flavor. It was not tough - big plus over OCB steak, and it was not over seasoned - another big plus over OCB steak. This particular steak was good. I wanted to put some mashed potatoes on my plate to have with the steak and I walked all around the buffet looking for them and did not see any. There were baked potatoes and no other potatoes. I went back around and saw a crowd around an empty tray of what should have been the mashed potatoes. I waited a short while for them to come out. they didn't and I gave up the wait, took two hush puppies, added some green beans and went back to our table to eat the steak. I could see the counter where the mashed potatoes were supposed to be and watched to see when they came out. It took a long time for them to come out and when they did the crowd descended on the tray emptying almost as soon as it was put down.

My picky eater wife who does not enjoy eating at Golden Corral as I usually do, was having a hard time finding other than vegetables. When we came in there had been a ham being carved. That was gone. She went to the salad bar and took cold chicken pieces to eat with the vegetables. She has not had this much trouble at a Golden Corral before. Usually there is turkey - not here on this night. (So much for the "premium buffet" and expanded offerings as advertised.)

I next decided to try the ribs that were at the grill. There was a rack of ribs out for the person at the grill to carve and next to that there were riblets for him to serve to you. I asked for ribs and he cut ONE rib off the rack and put it on my plate. I asked for one more and he said NO. I asked again and he said there were too many people - one rib! And rude. He had an entire rack out and more in a tray next to him. I asked then for some riblets and he put one small section of those on my plate.  I should not have bothered with either. THE rib was tough, dry, and the meat did not come close to coming off the bone. The riblets were better - moist, at least, but overly sweet. I also tried the meat loaf which turned out to crumble even as I took it from the tray. It was mealy and tasteless. I also tried the beef pot pie which was lacking in beef and had a too thin gravy with the top pie crust, chunks of carrots, celery, and potatoes.

By this point the ham was back out to be carved. At first look I thought that they brought out a turkey breast as the ham looked white. It was ham and my wife got a slice finally.

For my final trip up to the hot buffet I went back for another steak as this had been the best so far that night of what I had eaten (aside from the hush puppies). Again, I asked for a rare steak - figuring that if I asked for medium rare, given what the first rare steak was to start with - it would be well done. What I was given was a raw steak with the outside cooked.  Talk about punch it bloody and put it on a plate! I ate it. I have eaten steaks like this before. It all depends on whether the grill chef knows how to cook and this one knew how to only cook well done and when it came to anything else he was guessing.

Now. The sign with the announcement of the new expanded buffet also said - new, expanded desserts. In fact. it said Las Vegas style desserts! I never figured that this meant sparse like a desert. Half of what was out was sugar free. The other half were small pieces of carrot cake, small pieces of chocolate cake, what looked like small pieces of white cake (but then I saw the sign on that said sugar free), cookies - the chocolate chip were gone leaving only the oatmeal, pre-measured puddings in cups (mostly sugar free), apple cobbler, and bread pudding. There was a sign for pumpkin pie but there was none. There were brownies but those were gone and did not come out until we were leaving, and there were chunks of fudge. Of course, there is the chocolate fountain (only chocolate here), cotton candy, and the soft serve sundae section. I watched the ice cream come from the machine and it looked icy. There was also scooped hard ice cream. This was certainly not a selection of lavish Las Vegas desserts. I did try a table spoon size piece of the bread pudding and it was good.

On the buffet throughout the night if something went empty it was a long time before it ever came back out again - and some things never came back out and the trays remained empty - or scraped out. I have been to many Golden Corrals and things have tasted better and have been prepared better elsewhere. The place was full of people who have never been to a buffet before. They walk around with dazed eyes, form lines where there should not be lines, or just stand around.

The service was pretty good and the server did get our plates away regularly, and though I had to ask her to bring refills for our drinks as she stood looking at empty glasses she did get them. In fact, my wife thought that she was one of the better servers that we have had at a Golden Corral.

Was it the night? Was it the crowd? Is it the newness of the place? (Well it is not so new that the lights on the sign out front have not burned out already "Golden C..al") I don't know. It was a disappointment on this night. Will I go back? When we are in New Jersey again we may go back just to see. That will be some time. I did submit a survey to corporate about this experience and asked to be contacted back but so far no call.  Should you go? Go or not. Be forewarned - there will be crowds. The experience may or may not be better than I have described.

This Golden Corral is located at 3520 US Highway 9 in Freehold, New Jersey 07728. The phone number is 732-400-8600.






Friday, December 05, 2014

Yummy China Buffet, East Meadow, New York

I have written about Yummy China buffet a couple of times in the past year. They have changed their price again - for the better. The dinner price is now $13.99. They started this restaurant a little over a year ago at $19.99, then went to $15.99 (including soda), and now it has dropped to $13.99 with unlimited soda additional.

This little Asian buffet seems to always be struggling and I am not really sure why. I could understand when they first opened that $19.99 was not going to go well here where very few Asian buffets are at that price level and they are much larger restaurants. The change in price to $15.99 was a step in the right direction - especially that they included the soft drinks. Now, at $13.99 they are at the same price as the local Old Country Buffet (though plus the drink at $1.50), but when we walked in on a Friday night at about 7 pm there were only four tables of people dining aside from us. Other local Asian buffets are jammed for the most part at that time.

I always feel sad for the owner who has been trying very hard to get this restaurant/buffet off the ground since purchasing what had been a bad Asian buffet in this location that had been there for many years and finally went out of business. The new owner is very friendly and has been there every night that we have gone. He greets us like we are there every week when in reality it is months between our visits. We wondered if he just greets people this way but observing while we are there it seems to actually be sincere and he recognizes us. This is not to say that he does not greet everyone well- he goes out of his way to greet and make people feel welcome.

Here is the thing about Yummy China Buffet. The food is EXCELLENT. This is probably the best Chinese buffet food we have ever had - and we have been to some pretty good Chinese/Asian buffets. Everything tastes fresh and the cooking surpasses menu Chinese restaurants. For a small buffet - one long double sided, hot buffet server with a cold server along side, a sushi bar with a sushi chef who is making sushi to your order (in addition to some rolls prepared and out) and when he makes your sushi order he is serving you full rolls of whatever you order, a small hibachi grill with chicken and beef and assorted vegetables and noodles, and entrees that are not all the usual Chinese buffet finds. Let me say something here about the sushi and the buffet - when we in the restaurant the sign says Sushi included on the buffet and the chef was making sushi for people who were asking for specific rolls, etc. The website and the recent ad seems to say that any sushi that is out in the "sushi serving boat" - a boat like serving tray - is what is included and not made to order requests - but that was not happening. This may be something that will happen at some point - I don't know. I did not have the sushi on this night - so I did not ask. As to the entrees on the buffet, some things are the usual - over-sweet sauced spareribs, chicken and broccoli (though extremely light and fresh tasting), egg rolls, fried dumplings, etc. Then they go into specialty items.

I have mentioned the "Yummy Pork" in the past. This is an entire section of pork cooked whole with an interesting sauce - the sign says "ancient recipe" and I am sure it is. I have never had anything like this pork and it is the first thing that I go for when I start on entrees here. As you take it from the serving pan - off the whole - it breaks away in sections and pulls away. It is very tender. There is also the skin and the fat that comes away with the meat - eat it or not - it is very good if you are so inclined.

There are small Chinese meatballs - yes, Chinese meatballs show up at other buffets - but none like these. The beef is so finely ground that the texture of the meatball inside is creamy. There is egg foo young - again standard - but the sauce that they have on the side for you to put on yourself is unlike any sauce I have had on egg foo young. This is not the thick, light in color brown sauce usually served (which I do enjoy when I have it). This is a delicate almost sweet sauce that is very good.

There was a very good dish that combined chicken, beef, and shrimp in a light brown sauce with red peppers - not spicy or "hot" peppers. If you like spicy there are spicy dishes - and two bottles of different types of hot sauce on the tables. There were more dishes to please just about anyone including hot snow crab legs (small individual legs) and then there is the hibachi grill to make whatever you like if you decide you want something that you don't see.

Everything is also replaced promptly when it runs out and everything is kept at the proper temperatures and nothing is left to dry out. On this night there were sauteed mushrooms and when those ran out they were replaced with sauteed string beans - both good. The owner is watching over everything and the people working for him - which I believe are family - are making sure that everything is right.

The service was excellent also. We did not order soft drinks - just water. We have found that at some Asian buffets that if you just order water, no one ever comes to ask if you would like the glass refilled and freshened with more ice. Not here. The young lady kept an eye on our glasses and made sure to ask as they got past half full if we would like more water. All dishes were promptly removed from the table as well.

 So what is going on here? Where are the customers? While we were dining on this night at one point we were the only ones in the restaurant -but then in a short while people started coming in and several tables filled.  Perhaps this is just a restaurant that gets people in spurts. I suspect that people don't know about the change in price - perhaps even from the $19.99 price when they opened. AND unless someone has come in and tried the food, they don't know how good the food is. The owner has been trying. He has run newspaper ads with coupons. The $2 off coupon is what motivated us to come in and see what the change to $13.99 would change on the buffet - and the answer to that was nothing was missing - and perhaps more different things were out to try. We ate for $11.99 each. You cannot beat that easily around here for food this good. (Yes, there are Chinese/Asian buffets within easy driving distance that are actually $10.99 and they are good - but don't equal the cooking here.

This little buffet reminds me of another exceptional little buffet - the European buffet in New Jersey that struggled and never seemed to have many people eating there when we would go. That was an exceptional buffet! It too was excellent! It could not survive and went out of business in a few years. I am very much hoping that this great little buffet will keep going! Selfishly, I would hate to see a line going out the front door but it that keeps him open that would be great for him and I will wait.

If you are on Long Island, New York and come to East Meadow which is about mid-Nassau County, please try the Yummy China Buffet. I believe you will be pleased that you did. Don't go in expecting a lavishly large buffet. Do go in expecting great cooking and food.

The Yummy China Buffet and Sushi Restaurant is located at 398 Merrick Avenue, East Meadow, New York 11554. The telephone number is 516-486-2525. There is now a website that is linked at the side of this page.  (By the way that website right now  has a coupon for $5 off dinner on Mondays to Thursdays.) The restaurant is NOW open seven days a week from 11:30 am to 10:00 pm. The lunch price is less.



Friday, November 21, 2014

General Pickett's Buffet, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania

It has been six years since I have been to General Pickett's Buffet in Gettysburg, Pa. We do not get to Gettysburg very often anymore. We were there and there was no doubt where we would be dining. We went on a Wednesday night and while there was not a large crowd in the restaurant there were people coming in the whole time we were having dinner including close to closing time. This buffet closes at 7:30 pm every night. It is open seven days a week. Yes, it is open on Sundays.

This is a Southern-style buffet. It is located across from the parking entrance to the OLD National Park Visitor's Center in Gettysburg on Steinwehr Avenue.You enter the restaurant from the rear of the building from the parking lot. The first thing I noticed when we walked in was that the music was gone. This buffet used to play the soundtrack from the motion picture, Gettysburg, over and over again. I often wondered how the people who worked there could tolerate hearing it so often, but I have to admit, as a fan of the movie, it was exactly right for this restaurant given its proximity to the battlefield. We were seated promptly and the waiter who came to greet us was the same gentleman who has waited on us at other visits going years back to before our last visit here six years ago. I am sure that he did not recognize us but we recognized him.

Going up to the buffet servers - there are three - one long double server that takes up the back wall of the restaurant's buffet area, a smaller buffet server that has soup, salad, and a taco/nacho bar, and a table set to serve cakes and pies - we saw just about everything that we remembered being served here. In all of these years, the menu has varied little. The price, of course, has gone up a few dollars in six years but still very reasonable and affordable.

We started with soup - as usual. I had the chicken noodle soup which was excellent. It had thick dough noodles and a good broth with pieces of chicken. My wife tried the vegetable beef soup which she said was very tasty but the broth was thin. They also had ham and bean soup. The chicken noodle soup was good enough to go back for another bowl but I resisted that temptation and went for salad.

The salad bar here is basic. There is lettuce and toppings to make a good salad with an assortment of dressings. There are a few prepared salads - the macaroni salad and potato salad were fair. There was apple butter and also cottage cheese which is a PA Dutch treat when you put them together.  There is also nacho fixings here as well as a taco bar. Also with the salads are fruits and puddings for dessert and warm Southern corn bread which was very good.

The entrees and side dishes are plentiful and there are also carvings. The first thing I went for were the barbecue pork spare ribs. These are ribs with a lot of meat on the bones. For the most part the meat came right off the bones. They are cooked in a red barbecue sauce which is more of a vinegar based sauce than a sweet sauce - though it was sweet enough. Some of the ribs were a bit chewy and they were somewhat greasy. They were, however, very tasty and I took them on more than one trip up to the buffet. There were two carvings - roast beef and ham. The carvings are put out whole and then someone from the kitchen comes out and carves slices off to be left to be taken. As those slices are gone, more is carved. The roast beef was very tough and really was not worth fighting with to cut or chew. the ham, however, was good.

In the hot serving trays there was sliced turkey breast in a thin gravy. I felt that the turkey was a little dry but my wife liked it. There were pieces of fried catfish, fried in a batter that made it almost like chips. The catfish was good. There was an unidentified broiled fish that was also good. Nothing was labeled so some things were a guess. When we started there was a tray of ham and green beans and this was very good. I am glad that I took this on the first time up as this tray emptied and was never refilled. This was the only tray that was not refilled while we were there. There was shrimp creole - spicy in a red sauce with white rice served on the side. There was chicken with black beans and rice. There was pork and sauerkraut that was very good. There were both chicken nuggets and chicken chunks - the difference that the chicken chunks were pieces of chicken batter fried and the chicken nuggets were what are usually served to kids. There was baked chicken, but no fried chicken. There was penne with tomato sauce on the side and also meatballs. The penne was good but the tomato sauce was not good. It was watery and had no taste.

The side dishes included very good macaroni and cheese, mashed potatoes that had a nice, fresh taste, kernel corn that was very good with a fresh off the cob taste fried apples which were very good, plain carrots, plain sting beans, and plain broccoli. There was also summer squash cooked with mushrooms that was not good. It had a very vinegary taste and we were not sure if had gone bad. For the roast beef and the chicken there was beef gravy and chicken gravy.

Of course, everyone wants to know about desserts, and while there is not an overwhelming selection, the baking here is good and they are putting out whole layer cakes and pies to cut slices from yourself. There was chocolate layer cake, vanilla layer cake, banana cake, apple cake with walnuts, carrot cake, chocolate brownies, apple pie, peach pie, Boston cream pie, pecan pie, lemon meringue pie, and cherry pie. I tried the apple cake with walnuts. It was almost 7:30 and closing time and I took the last piece of apple cake on the plate. Had I waited about two more minutes a whole new apple cake was brought out. The apple cake was good and I am glad that I tried that. Following that more cakes were brought out to replace ones almost gone. We were very impressed that they kept refilling serving trays and desserts past closing time.

Other than the squash and the tough roast beef the food is good and tasty. There is plenty to choose from and a good assortment.  Soft drinks are not included but refillable and cost no more than what the chain buffets are charging for soda.

The service was excellent. He made sure our plates were removed each time that we went up for more and he refilled our beverages.

The only suggestion that I have for General Pickett's Buffet is that they get steak knives to put out instead of the table knives that could barely cut anything. This surprised me but we made do.

I will definitely go back when we are in Gettysburg. This buffet is well known by repeat visitors to Gettysburg and when trips to this area are talked about this buffet is often mentioned as a "go to when you are there". So yes, if you are in Gettysburg, go to General Pickett's Buffet. If you are there at lunch time there is a lunch buffet with a different menu. There is a frequent diners card that is still honored. Ours is quite old, and we did not think to bring it with us, but they would have taken it and so many dinners get you a free meal. 

An aside - as we were driving into the town of Gettysburg my wife said to me, "Look there is General Lee's buffet!" and laughed. I looked to where she was pointing and it was General Li's Buffet - a Chinese buffet. The owner had a good sense of humor - or was it just a coincidence.

 The restaurant is located at is located at 571 Steinwehr Avenue. Their phone number is 717-334-7580. The restaurant has a website which you will find linked at the side of this page.



Friday, November 07, 2014

Dutch-Way Family Restaurant, Myerstown, PA Once More

I want to start right off saying that this article is about the Dutch-Way Family Restaurant in Myerstown, PA which is NOT the Dutch-Way Family Restaurant in Gap, PA which I have written so complimentary about many times now. Myerstown is not in Lancaster County. It is north of Lancaster County nearer to I-78. We are in this area once a year and for the past three years we have gone to this location of Dutch-Way. There are three Dutch-Way restaurants in Pennsylvania but only Myerstown and Gap have buffets. Now, one would think that with the same owners, basically the same recipes, but different locations and staffs things would not be that different but this is just not the case.

We had not planned on going to this restaurant on this particular trip. I was going to the Hollywood Casino near Hershey, PA to try the buffet there. I was willing to pay almost three times the price of Dutch-Way to try this casino buffet. On the way there, we had some problems and we could not go - reasons unnecessary, but we made most of the way there and we still had to eat and Dutch-Way could be gotten to in enough time to have dinner - and there really was no other buffet to head for. So we went. It was a Friday evening. So we turned around and headed to Myerstown. I was hopeful. We were not very happy the first time there. Last year was better - I had some nice things to say about it. So we got there - walked in and surprisingly had a five minute wait to get seated.

As I think about that meal, I come up with negative thoughts. I checked with my wife who was there with me and she agreed. Let's talk about what was served - there was one nice surprise on the buffet that I never had before. I have talked ofen about the Pennsylvania Dutch dish, Chicken Bot Bie, well on this night at Myerstown Dutch-Way they had Beef Bot Bie. Instead of chunks of chicken there were chunks of beef in a brown thick broth with flat dumplings, carrots, and celery. This was very good and the best thing of the night. On Friday and Saturday nights, just like at Gap they have carved Prime Rib and carved ham but on this night there was no ham - it was roast loin of pork. I had a slice of the Prime Rib and it was very dry - even with au jus poured on top. My wife had the roast loin of pork and said it was good. They had a dish that they called Cheesesteak Casserole - sounds promising, but it was overly doughy, more like bread filling than a casserole, lacked a taste of cheese and not very good. There was potato filling - stuffing made from potatoes - that was too loose. Not good. (This was a big surprise as the potato filling in Gap is wonderful.) There was a tray of sausage - made like Italian sausage and peppers but the sausage was nondescript in taste. It was not Italian sausage, nor Country sausage, nor breakfast sausage. It was just OK - but marginally that. There was Pork and Kraut that was very good. This followed the same recipe that I have had at Gap and this was decent. There was Noodles in Browned Butter but there was too much butter - the noodles were drowning in it but at the same time the noodles were hard and dry. There was good kernel corn. There was Meatloaf that was cooked in a tomato sauce that was a cross between tomato sauce and catchup. This was pretty good.

Now, as I have said before about this location - the salad bar is half what it is in Gap. The dessert bar is a quarter - if that - of what it is in Gap. The bread section is one eighth what it is in Gap and there was nothing on it but packaged white bread. There were no rolls though there was a sign for rolls. We were about to ask for rolls when someone else did and only then did rolls appear in the server. The people working had passed that roll tray many times and let it sit empty. While some hot food trays were replaced, some were not. I don't expect that from any buffet in Pennsylvania. This became very evident with dessert. Almost all of the desserts were gone when we went up and there were still people coming in to eat. None were replaced. A few puddings were in a cup - it appeared that these were what was left of these puddings and the cup was rather large. So instead of three people having the last of the cracker pudding had the that amount been split into three cups, no one had it but me - and I really did not want that much. Had I been able to take it from a tray I would have taken much, much less. As it was, it was take this cup or nothing. There were no more cakes or pies or other puddings. There were a few half donuts out on a serving plate - all were hard as a rock.

The service started out good. This was a young woman who was clearing plates away fairly regularly - and then her boyfriend came in for dinner and sat at the table behind us. She then spent the rest of the evening talking to him - paying attention to him - and pretty much forgetting what she was supposed to be doing. She came to the table once and asked my wife if she would like a refill of her soda. She brought that and never asked me if I wanted a refill - and then she was gone - back and forth with her boyfriend. The first time we were there at Myerstown, we had poor service also.

The best thing of the night was the Beef Bot Bie and I say often that Dutch-Way (and I am usually speaking in regard to Gap) always seems to have something different that I have not had before that is good. This was it for this dinner. These dishes seem to also be random. One may not see this Beef Bot Bie here for months - if ever again- or maybe it will show up again in a couple of weeks.

So what is wrong at Myerstown?  For one thing, the people working in the buffet are too young. This includes those responsible for maintaining the buffet and I suspect those cooking as well. I cannot speak about the buffet manager except to say it was not evident if there was one. A strong manager who stays on top of employees to do what needs to be done and provide the customers their money's worth is essential to every buffet. That manager has to be visible to both the customers and employees. Perhaps there was a manager there - and perhaps it was one of the other kids working that night.


Was this an off night? I don't think so. I cannot recommend this buffet to you. There is nothing else close by other than a Golden Corral in Lebanon, PA (and I have not been to that one in years) but I cannot tell you in good conscience to try this buffet - and I did last year. It was better last year. Unfortunately, it is way too far to go from here to Gap. I have said in the past that it was not fair to compare this location to the Gap location, but just in comparison to many other buffets, skip this one. I wish that I could say differently.

Just so that you know where this all took place - The Dutch Way Family Restaurant in Myerstown, PA is located at 649 East Lincoln Avenue, Route 422 East in Myerstown, PA 17067. The phone number is 717-866-5758. There is a website for the three locations (only two are buffets) at the side of this page.My GPS put this address past its location so watch for the supermarket as you drive down Route 422 and once in the parking lot the restaurant is on the right side of the same building as you face it from the road in the same parking lot.










Friday, October 24, 2014

Golden Corral, Whitehall, Pennsylvania

The Golden Corral restaurant in Whitehall, Pennsylvania, just east of Allentown, is just a couple of years old. We were there about a year ago for the first time and in that article I had mixed feelings. We went back again recently and we were quite pleased.

The restaurant in is located in the back of the parking lot for a large shopping mall - Lehigh Valley Mall. We went on a Wednesday night and while the restaurant was busy, there were only a few people on line ahead of us and we got in quickly.  As you come up to the cash register (pay as you enter) you take your own first soft drink from the machines at the counter. Once you get to your table your server brings your refills. As we went in, I looked at both sides of the dining room and chose a table off to the right. As our meal progressed several large groups came in and were seated around us which was fine. The restaurant for a weeknight was busier than I would have expected.

This Golden Corral has the newer setup of continuous long serving counters that stretch across the entire length of one side of the building. These counters start with the salad bar, continuing but moving more to the rear to the soup area, then start the entrees and side dishes with the Asian section first, continue along  and come back forward to the grill, back around toward the rear for more entrees and side dishes, break for a door into the kitchen, take up again with the bread section which moves the counter right into the dessert area which includes now three chocolate fountains - chocolate, caramel, and white chocolate - and ends with the soft serve ice cream machine and sundae bar. For the crowd that was there, the restaurant was clean and the buffet trays were kept well stocked. There were a lot of children always at the dessert section going to the chocolate fountains unescorted. I see this as the parents' lack of supervision rather than a fault of the restaurant. This visit was during the summer and the feature was steak (which they always have), hot wings, and bone in fried catfish. The Golden Corral features seem to change regularly.

I was in the mood for a nicely cooked chargrilled steak and after soup and salad, that is what I went for. There were a number of people standing around the grill waiting for their steaks to be cooked well enough for them. I knew that if I did not just speak up to the grill chef that I wanted a rare steak, what was on the grill would have gone past rare. I got his attention and asked for one and he reached down and picked one up knowing that it was rare. And it was! This steak was just right. It was charred on the outside and red inside. I was very happy.

I saw that there was turkey to be carved and I let my wife know it was there. We got the person behind the counter's attention and he carved a piece of turkey for her. Also at the grill in a tray near the turkey was pulled pork barbecue. I took some of that when I went up later and it was fine - not great but fine. Golden Corral usually has hush puppies - fried balls of corn meal dough - and the ones here were very good. At some other Golden Corrals they have been hard. These were just right.

 Overall the meal was very good. The second steak that I went up for was a disappointment. The chef who was cooking before was there but he was being assisted by another older gentleman who was the one serving while the chef was cooking. I knew that I was in for a disappointment when I asked for a rare steak and the chef had to tell this man how to tell it was rare by feeling it with the tongs. The steak was put on my plate and back at the table when I cut into it, it was beyond medium. Well one great steak in a night is better than the not so good and poorly cooked steak that I get at another chain buffet. There was one other disappointment and that was a teriyaki steak that you served yourself from a tray in the grill section. I did not expect this to be rare - I expected it to be well and charred and that is how it looked. It was tasty but almost impossible to bite and chew. It was full of grizzle and after an attempt at eating it, I gave up on it. Despite these two items, I had a good meal and was very satisfied when we were finished.

Service was very good - I point this out because during our first trip here a year back service started out poor and while it got better during that night, on this night it was good from start to finish. The young lady who had our table whisked the finished plates away and made sure to ask if we wanted refills on our drinks - and brought them promptly.

I know that one of our readers recently commented on this particular Golden Corral not being good and not being clean. He was referring to a breakfast visit and I can not speak to what goes on at breakfast. All I know is that at dinner, the food was good, the service was good, and the restaurant was clean - both in the dining room and at the serving counters. I confirmed my impression of this Golden Corral with my picky wife and she agreed that this is one of the better Golden Corrals that we have been to.

I will definitely go back when I am in this area. Based on this visit, I think you will find it good. Now. if you don't like Golden Corral, this one is not going to be different when it comes to the foods served, the variety, and what is offered.

This Golden Corral is located at 900 Lehigh Valley Mall Drive in Whitehall, PA 18052. The phone number is (610) 443-0866. The chain's website is linked on the side of this page. This restaurant is just northeast of Allentown, PA. If coming west on I78 it is easiest to go to past to where I22 and I78 join and come back a short distance to the exit for the mall and this restaurant rather than drive north through the streets of the City of Allentown.