Ponderosa was a staple in my family growing up. My parents had two hungry boys and there’s no better value than an all-you-can eat buffet. Since then, I’ve kind of drifted away from those type of places. You don’t think quality food when you think buffet.
The Ponderosa on South Cedar Street in front of Lowe’s has been calling J and I since we moved here. We’ve made so many jokes about going to Ponderosa, but we never have. The restaurant is literally within walking distance but it’s just never sounded like a good idea.
I was supposed to go to the Lugnuts game tonight and J was going to fend for herself for dinner, but as I got down to Oldsmobile Park, the sky’s opened up again the game was cancelled. I headed back towards home and texted J that I was home. She asked if I wanted to meet at Ponderosa for dinner. I thought she was joking, but she wasn’t, so we did.
We met in the parking lot which was the first of many weird things. If you enter after you pass the building, you have to park in back. There is an entrance before the building (if you’re coming from Pennsylvania) with angled parking. The entrance to the building is actually on the backside.
When you get inside, there is a counter where you order your dinner. The menu board doesn’t list the price of the buffet or even show it as an option. They only list the steaks. I ordered two buffet’s and J handed the waiter/counter clerk her credit card. The kid mumbled so much, we couldn’t understand a word he said. The total for the two buffets, which included drinks was $24. When you think about how much food you could possibly eat, it’s not bad, but you better get your fill and make sure you show up hungry.
After paying, we grabbed our silverware and headed towards a table. Yes, we had to get our own silverware and napkins which they keep on the order counter. We took a seat and didn’t really know what to do next. The kid who took our order mumbled something and he did ask what we wanted to drink even though there was a fountain machine in the middle of the dining room.
We decided just to hit the buffet. There are three different stations. All the way in the back near the kitchen is the hot foods and entrees. I grabbed a plate and headed there first. On my first trip, I picked up some baked chicken, chicken wings, pizza, and a dinner roll. J also got some pizza, chicken, and some nachos.
I went back to the table without a drink. J went over to the fountain machine and grabbed a glass. She started to fill it up and was then stopped by a waitress. Apparently, the “waitresses” are supposed to get your drink. You’re supposed to put your receipt on the table and they will come over and see what you’re drinking. How stupid is that? Everything else in the damn place is self serve, but they have waitresses who’s only job is to clear your plates and get you drinks. After she was stopped, J joined me back at the table. She was followed back to the table by a waitress with a Pepsi and a Diet Pepsi.
Our second trip to the buffet was to the salad bar. There weren’t many options and not nearly as many as I remember. I put some lettuce on my plate and topped it off with a little cheese. After that, there weren’t a whole lot of toppings. I found the french dressing and as I was walking away, I noticed some bottles that were filled with bacon bits and croutons. They weren’t even on the salad bar. They were in glass bottles that would normally be used to serve water.
After only filling half my plate with salad due to lack of toppings, I headed back to the hot food bar and made myself some nachos with the tortilla chips, taco meat, and liquid cheese on the buffet. I could have eaten a whole plate of just that.
J had a little more salad than I did. She also grabbed a piece of pie and some chicken wings. We both agreed that the wings were really good. We see signs all the time for carry-out wing specials. That’s something I could see us doing again. After finishing my salad, I went back for one more trip and all I got was chicken wings.
The final stop was the sundae bar. Again, not how I remember it. There were little Styrofoam cups that weren’t more than a 1/4 inch deep instead of bowls. It was like putting ice cream on a paper plate. J got a mix of chocolate and vanilla because the handles weren’t marked and there was no way to tell which was which. She stopped it off with some chocolate sauce. I got some vanilla and topped it with Oreo cookie crumbs. Since there really wasn’t a bowl, I lost half my cookies on the way back to the table.
Just like when I was growing up, I didn’t know when to stop. I ate more than I needed and I had a tummy ache when I left. It wasn’t from the food, it was from eating too much. The food was alright. There was nothing gourmet or anything you’re going to write home about, but it filled us both up. As we were getting up to leave, we had a little conversation about tip. I mean, seriously, all the waitress did was get us pops which we could have done ourselves. Still, knowing that tips are what fed my family growing up, I couldn’t leave without leaving one even though I didn’t see a reason as to why we should.
I don’t really know what to say about Ponderosa. The food is alright at best, but that didn’t stop me from eating more than I needed. I know it’s not a place we’re going to make a regular stop, but I would say there is a chance we’ll call in for wings when we see they’re on special.