LJ and I took a brief jaunt to Watertown New York for a little day trip, some shopping etc. For dinner we wanted to try somewhere different, and we ended up at Ponderosa.
I had not been to a Ponderosa since I was a kid. All I remember was waiting in lines to get in, a massive salad bar, and the smell of grilled steaks. Would it be the same.
We walked in and the first thing we came across was the giant menu. We did not know what to make of it. All we could tell was that there were a lot of meat choices, it was cheap, and the buffet could be added for change. There was also a big poster for their wings, which seems like a good idea.
We were coming in after the main dinner hour, so there were no line-ups and we could ask the host how this place worked. He mentioned that you look at the big visual menu, pick what you wanted, add the buffet if you wanted, sit and enjoy.
This place was much larger in size than I had remember other members of the chain to be. There were all sorts of stations from salad fare, soups, meats, veggies etc. LJ and I had both ordered an entre and added the buffet because, well it was ridiculously cheap.
Our waitress (name not recorded) was friendly, attentive, but was busy with a lot of tables. But when I wanted a refill on a drink, I had it.
LJ ordered the 6oz Sirloin and Potato ($5) and `loaded' the potato ($0.99) and added the buffet which made it $11 in total. The steak was actually amazing. It looked good, it smelled good, and it tasted good. I sampled a piece or two and agreed with was one of the best steaks I had ever had. I was shocked. SHOCKED.
I ordered the Sirloin Tips ($7.99) with loaded potato ($0.99) and the buffet brought my plate to $11.99.
The tips were mostly tender, and the fried onions were good, but I wasn't crazy about the dish. It was a bit blah. After tasting LJ's steak, I was totally envious.
And there was still a buffet. Actually we had buffet while we waited for our main dishes. As with any buffet, there was the good, the bad, and the ugly.
Above we had some bland macaroni salad, stuffing, and cold/stale hush puppy balls with cheese sauce. There were some faux chinese dishes that were not so bad. There was also some wings and fried chicken.
There were two types of chicken wings: their breaded wings, and the wings that were in with the other fried chicken pieces.
It's a buffet, so you have as much as you want. I was excited, then I was not.
The top wing in the above picture is the fried chicken, which had an almost light batter on it that was not so much crispy as tired chewy. The bottom wing was what I call SUPER breaded. The wing was large, and most of it was coating. It was like a thick shell, keeping predators away from the meaty inside.
I strongly disliked the Super Breaded wing. The breading was just too much, and no flavour. It definetely made a craching sound when you bit in, but these definetly came from a bag in the freezer and I just did not care for them. LJ liked the breading, but I just couldn't.
The wings do not come with any sauces, so I improvised. I asked for some hot sauce for the table. Franks. I like Frank's, but it didn't help the wings.
In the salad dressing station there was honey mustard dressing. It didn't help the wings either.
I also tried it with Blue Cheese dressing. This was chunky and creamy, but also did not help the wings.
FINAL SCORE: WING FAIL. Do you know how hard it is for a Wing King to not take advantage of a buffet with chicken wings on it? Crappy, over-protective breading that was blah in taste and terrible in texture. The fried chicken wing was ok, but really, stick to the steaks. That's where the magic is. 4/10
1290 Arsenal St, Watertown NY (and other locations)