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Old Country Buffet

I just got back from Old Country Buffet (“OLC”) in Watertown, Massachusetts and was not impressed. Normally I avoided OLC because of not-so-positive reports about the place from friends and online reviews, but my girlfriend and I got positive recommendation from her brother and sister-in-law who normally dine at upscale restaurants, so I figured if they’re raving about it, let’s check it out.

While the experience was not entirely unpleasant – it was underwhelming – it’s not one I’d be in a hurry to repeat. I wasn’t expecting Las Vegas buffet quality, but for $11.00 for one adult, the place is what it is. The dining area was designed for a "mass feeder" concept – we were all packed into the dining area with just enough space between tables to be –comfortable, i.e. not intruding on the other tables. The service was bare bones – you have to get everything for yourself – the staff were merely bussers who promptly cleared your table.

For me, the only highlight was the fried chicken, which in my opinion was close to being on par with Bob the Chefs’ “Glorifried Chicken.” The mac & cheese was too watery; the spinach soufflé too salty; from the carving station I had roast beef and turkey that I found to be moist, but it was borderline between moist/dry; the tops of dinner rolls appeared to be drowning in a butter wash, the stuffing appeared to have been made from torn not cubed pieces of bread that seemed to have been clumped together (in fact, parts of the stuffing had the crust attached); and finally the cube of cheesecake I had for dessert was too soft.

Would I go back? No. The overall food quality was mediocre and only one saving grace, i.e. the chicken, doesn’t justify a return trip.

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  1. I've been there, too, and exactly once, for about the same reasons that you have. The mediocre food just isn't worth it and the dining room had the feel of sleepytime at the nursing home, to be honest.

    1. I've found that the whole buffet.com family (Old Country Buffet, Country Buffet, and Hometown Buffet) are little more than glorified school lunchroom food. And actually, I remember school lunchroom more fondly.
      That being said, my wife makes me eat there periodically for the desserts. I do like the fried chicken, and I can make some decent nachos out of the fixins on the bar. And when we ate at the Country Buffet in Denver, I had some rather nice grilled salmon and my wife liked that they gave her some steak very nice and rare.
      But mostly I dislike being elbowed out of the way by old, unbathed seniors who park their walker in front of the buffet and pick through each entree looking for just the right piece of fish or chicken or whatever.

      2 Replies
      1. re: podunkboy

        "But mostly I dislike being elbowed out of the way by old, unbathed seniors who park their walker in front of the buffet and pick through each entree looking for just the right piece of fish or chicken or whatever."

        Yeah, those old infirm people should stay in the house! Fine lot of nerve, wanting to get out every once in a while and get in our way...

        1. re: Muskrat

          I don't think the problem is the age, it's the concept of hygiene. I've also, unfortunatly, experienced this problem at several other restaurants, none of which I'm interested in going to again. The odor irritation ranks up there with servers who start spraying Windex everywhere even though you're still eating.

      2. I have to wonder what was expected in the service area, as it is a buffet. Aside from that, the quality of the food here changes from day to day, depending on, it seems, whether anyone cares about their job that particular day. When the food is out fresh and made properly, it is actually quite good. However, there are two problems that come with most buffets: They are either not busy, and food grows a "crust" overtop, lest it be thrown away (meaning money is thrown away), or it is too busy, and the food prep is done too quickly, resulting in sloppiness. If you want food prepared exactly as you like it, don't go to a buffet.

        1. OCB is currently operating under Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and they have really cut back on any expensive ingredients. For example, you rarely see cauliflower or broccoli or the various melon cubes and other fresh fruit.

          OCB in general, lacked consistency with some very good restaurants and some horrible ones. However, even the good ones are now difficult to enjoy.

          1 Reply
          1. re: jlawrence01

            If they're bankrupt, that's another BIG reason not to go there.

            It is popular though (at the Watertown MA location anyway). I've walked through that mall and seen the line out the door.

          2. OCB and other establishments like it are a good way for someone to get the college dining hall experience without actually having to goto a college dining hall. There is an unlimited supply for horrible to mediocre food, and if your lucky a food fight will break out. People at work insist on going there at least once a month for lunch, that is when I have my emergency bowl of soup...

            1. I tend to stay away from buffets, all those little snotty kid fingers everywhere and adult breathing cold and other germs, gross.

              1. gag me, gag me, gag me. I'd rather eat at Olive Garden than the slop that passes off as food at OCB. There is one in Port Huron, MI that closed recently. Golden Corral opened there and oh the lines........( I dont get that either). Lots of cheap, cheap food( ingredient wise, not price wise)

                1 Reply
                1. re: Calipoutine

                  I eat at the Golden Corral in Chicagoland quite often. It is not my favorite BUT it is the only place in my vacinity where they offer 6-8 vegetables EVERY day. Of the six vegetables they offered the other night, at least two were fresh. And unbelievably, the vegetables are well prepared (other than the turnip greens which are terminally UNDERcooked.

                  3-4 oz of steak, four vegetables, and a little fresh fruit off the salad bar (cantelope and watermelon) is generally what I need for dinner and is a real value for $10.

                2. We don't expect much when we go to the OCB, but a few choices are good. In fact, the OCB at the Blue Star Shopping Center in Watchung NJ has pretty good fried chicken. it's best when it comes out fresh, so we wait until they bring out a fresh batch.

                  1. Last time I went there was with a school trip in the DC area. It quickly took the nickname "The Old C**t." Pretty awful stuff, though the breakfast sausages were good for playing Jenga.

                    1. going downhill even further, judging from my visit to the OCB in Mays Landing, NJ tonight!! (near Atlantic City)....

                      The only item at the carving station was some cheap looking ham, and no one around to carve it anyway... (the whole time we were eating our meal, that same little chunk of ham remained there).....

                      Fried chicken was about the only decent thing...
                      and YES, the rolls were SWIMMING with butter on top!!! and I mean, swimming!

                      And what's up with their new "beverage bar"?!? $$ ...
                      it just comes across as tacky to me...

                      1. Look, we all know OCB costs too much for what they offer, and is kind of disgusting (ok really disgusting), and is pretty much the opposite of any kind of "chow-worthy" restaurant. And yet, and yet... it's so hard for me to say anything bad about that place. I grew up in an immigrant family with not a lot of money so we didn't eat out very much. It was home-cooked Chinese food made from scratch with fresh ingredients, day in and day out, and as a dumb-ass kid I was always sick of it. On those rare occasions when we did go out, it was almost always to OCB, where me and my brother could gorge ourselves comatose on starchy heartland food as only teenagers can. Witness the mountainous grandeur of the massive beef roast and honey ham standing proud amongst the never-ending pans of fried chicken, whitefish fillets and lakes of gravy! Beware the seductive over-filling wiles of the mashed potatoes, buttery rolls, and never-ending soda! Avert your eyes from the lady breathing through a respirator and sitting in three chairs while gnawing on a BBQ rib!

                        OCB was my first real experience of "American food" and I will always remember it fondly for that. Would I ever recommend it to anyone I wanted to stay friends with? Maybe not. Will I eat there once a decade when I'm feeling blue? Definitely.

                        4 Replies
                        1. re: RealMenJulienne

                          That's beautiful. I feel much more love for OCB now. Really.

                          1. re: RealMenJulienne

                            The thing I have about all buffets is those little kids with their snotty fingers all over the food. In the case, of OCB, hey it is what it is, don't expect a high-end spread for a 10 spot.

                            1. re: RealMenJulienne

                              Enjoyed reading your post, RealMenJulienne!! Made from scratch home cooked Chinese! You did'nt realize how good you had it at the time, huh !??

                              RE: OCB Roast Beef ....... Unfortunately, the last time I went there, only HAM was to be found ! I love a massive crusty mound of roast beef , but it was'nt meant to be that night!

                              1. re: RealMenJulienne

                                Haha, I also have the same experience with and nostalgia for OCB from my childhood, when it was a welcomed and exciting break from the monotomy of home cooked Chinese food. OCB provided my family and me with our first tastes of many "exotic" American foods such as cheesecake, carrot cake, fish sticks, mac & cheese, "ceasar" salad, jello fruit salad, baked ham, ribs, clam chowder, etc. My tastes have changed over time and I haven't been to OCB in years, but I will always think of it fondly.

                              2. that is not a good batting average, Shallots ...
                                OCB = Old Crap Buffet ??