I have been eating at Ponderosa Steakhouse since I was a child, as that was really the only affordable but nice place to eat in Sheboygan those days. It was a treat always, until I moved to Appleton and was introduced to Old Country Buffet. This is my story and take on both places, a comparison essay you could say.
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Before you ever taste a morsel of food, you are first introduced to the atmosphere of a Restaurant. At Ponderosa, the atmosphere is of cactuses and cowboy boots, giving you the feeling of being in a Western Film. They have a smoking and non-smoking section, tables and booths are offered, and the temperature is always fine.
The Old Country Buffet atmosphere is fresh, clean, with no theme, but the wallpaper looks fresh, and there is no smoking allowed. Mirrors line the walls near the food, giving the place a bigger look and also brighter. Booths are more in abundance here, and they offer a side room for private parties as well.
Ponderosa has always been of good value, having different prices for their lunch and dinner buffets. Their buffet is included with each seperate dinner, such as steak or sirloin tips. Lunch buffet usually costs around $4.99 and the supper buffet usually costs around $6.99. This does NOT include soda, but does include dessert. Dinners usually cost between $8 and $10 and include a potatoe of your choice. Sodas cost $1.29 and refills are provided at no cost.
Old Country Buffet gives you a lot more food for your money. Lunch Buffet is around $5 and Dinner Buffet around $7 as well, dessert and soda included. There are no other dinners offered, everything provided is on the buffet. It is the one cost, and one cost only. Children are charged 50 cents per year of their age- so our 7 year old would cost $3.50.
Ponderosa is known for their yummy steaks and mouth watering sirloin tips. They also offer chicken meals, and all-you-can-eat shrimp. Their buffet consists of salad, tacos, mashed potatoes and chicken wings, two different kinds of soups, buns, jello and pudding, pasta, and an ice cream bar.
Old Country Buffet offers several different bars, including salads, seafood, pastas, chicken and mashed potatoes, item of the day-such as hot ham or turkey, pies and cakes, ice cream, and then a seperate station for refilling your soda.
They clearly provide a better variety of food and desserts, but there are no steaks provided or available.
THE TASTE AND QUALITY
Ponderosa has incredible steaks, my favorite being the sirloin tips with sauteed, buttered mushrooms. I have had most of the steak dinners, all were done to my liking. I have never had to send anything back, and none of my orders were ever made wrong.
The Buffet had crisp and clean salad, buns were warm and fresh, but the pasta was a tad hard. The Soft Serve Machine also was out of ice cream, which I feel is bad management of their Ice Cream area.
Old Country Buffet has fresh salad, the turkey and ham are always warm and tasty, and the cheesecake is always creamy. Their pasta is soft and yummy, and the tacos are hot and spicey!
Ponderosa, even though buffet-style, still has a waiter or waitress take care of your sodas and such. They will clear away your plates in a timely matter, and will add to your order if need be. Our waitress has always brought out our dinners promptly and made at least two trips to our table to refill our drinks and check on our progress.
The Buffet Tables were constantly being checked and refilled, but the contents of spills into other foods or counter tops were not taken care of.
Old Country Buffet has no waiters or waitresses, and the people who bus the tables are slow. We sometimes had a pile of plates sitting for more than 10 minutes on our table- not appealing to us, or those around us. Noone came to our table to check on us, but we did see a woman going around filling coffee cups.
The Buffet Tables here were being filled all the time, and things were being wiped up and cleaned. The floors were swept, and children who approached the buffet were offered colored baloons as well.
Party platters can be pre-ordered at Ponderosa, while Old Country Buffet does not offer such a service yet, and at least not in my area.
Bathrooms in both places were clean and stocked, which IS a part of your dining experience, whether it is really thought about or not.
So in comparison, I would have to say that I enjoy the buffet at Old Country Buffet, but I also love the steaks offered at the Ponderosa Steakhouse. Ponderosa has better service, but Old Country Buffet definitely keeps up with their refills and cleanliness. I would take this into consideration the next time you decide to eat at Ponderosa or Old Country Buffet.
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