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.



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