It's "Barbecue" Month at the Isle Casino; all of the restaurants are featuring BBQ specials in November, so I figured I'd "Pig Out" and give it a try. While I usually eat lunch late to avoid the crowds, you can't do that with buffets as they tend to get old. The last time I was here there was a long line; but not today.
Isle Buffet Entrance
There was no hostess that I could see, and of course the cashier people offered no guidance, so I just walked in and sat down. The way it works is that you pay and tell them what beverage you want, and they print it on the receipt. You put the receipt on the table and the server (hopefully) sees it an fetches your drink.
Isle Buffet Receipt 11/14
Humorously, they add a "Suggested Tip" on the receipt. Am I really going to tip 15-20% at a buffet? The server actually has negative value; they need to put up a beverage station and they'll save a bundle on the help.
A pretty sparse crowd today, maybe because the price is now a whopping $14.99 for lunch. It was 11.99 a couple of years ago.
Isle Buffet Dining Room
I got up and hit the buffet, and when I got back an iced tea was on the table. I got extra lemon from the buffet.
Isle Buffet Iced Tea
I started off with a salad and some BBQ. They have a pretty good salad bar setup. No more Deli; but you can make your own sandwich with the breads and salads available. The bread should be near the salad bar; it's way over on the other end of the buffet.
Isle Buffet Salad
Your basic blue cheese house salad. They do a better job of chopping stuff up than places like HomeTown Buffet, when they seem to chop stuff with an ax.
Isle Buffet BBQ
The "BBQ" special was in place of the usual southwestern station, so instead of fajitas they had ribs and pulled pork. The ribs weren't bad. The sweet potatoes were oozing and I found some butter over by the bread. The pulled pork was kind of dry and the BBQ sauce wasn't that good. This is as much as you'd get on a lunch plate. This was the only dish that I ate just about everything on the plate.
Next up was the carving station, where they had a Thanksgiving theme going on. I passed on the cranberry sauce; they had some nice looking Kielbasa. Unfortunately, the guy they had "carving" couldn't care less about his job, and he just lopped off a chunk and dropped it in my plate. I had to point at the sausage "I'll take some of that also". What a trouper.
Isle Buffet Turkey Kielbasa Fish, Sausage & Peppers
I also grabbed some flounder in an ill-advised "tomato caper sauce", sausage and peppers, stuffing and some fried cod with tartar sauce (think fish & chips). The fish was bad in both cases. The turkey would have been good if it was a thinner slice, and the sausage was easily the best thing I had all day. I had to ask for some mustard; another annoyance of the forced service. Why not just put it on the tables?
The sausage and peppers was lousy; boiled meats are just great.
I'll use this opportunity to again mention that the grill area wasn't in use at all. No burgers or freshly grilled chicken. The price goes up, and the good stuff disappears.
Time to try some Chinese food. They have a whole section with Chinese food. The problem was, that almost all of it looked terrible. Even the stuff they put out fresh didn't look good. I grabbed an egg roll just to show what the choices were like, and some pepper steak and lo mien.
Isle Buffet Chinese Food
I cut open the egg roll and had no interest in going any further with it.
Isle Buffet Egg Rolls
The Dumplings were the only thing that really looked good. Unfortunately when I cut it open it was filled with some tasteless gray matter.
Isle Buffet Dumpling
I left most of the Chinese stuff on the plate and went to see what else I might have missed. The result was an unlikely mix of tuna fish, mac and cheese and sushi rolls.
IsleBuffet Sushi Rolls, Mac & Cheese and Tuna Fish
The mac and cheese tasted like it was good a few hours earlier when it was fresh; macaroni tends to get mushy over time. The tuna was "meh", while the sushi rolls were comically bad. They fell apart on contact, and the rice…well I had to spit it out.
Isle Buffet Sushi Rolls
Ok, enough of that. They clearly need a new Asian chef. The Chinese food was really good the first time I was here, and now it's terrible. I think they just have sushi so they can jack up the price.
Time for dessert. They have a whole section with cakes and pies. The only place in the whole buffet where everything looks really good.
Isle Buffet Desserts
I got a mini key lime pie and a square of chocolate cheesecake.
Isle Buffet Key Lime
Not bad. But nothing crazy about either one of them.
The first time I went to the Isle Buffet, I thought it was a terrific value. Lots of good choices, a good price ($11.99). Frankly each time I've come it's gotten worse.
What's happened here is they've gotten some bad marketing advice; they've thrown out the idea of having a good buffet because someone has convinced them that they could make more money marketing the buffet with a bogus premise as being "Farm Fresh". The truth is that it's less fresh than it was before, and there's a lot of bad food. It's too bad, because if they paid a bit more attention to the recipes and less trying to push a false premise this could be a whole lot better than it is.
What's really ironic is that the worst stuff on the buffet was the vegetables; all wildly overdone. You'd think that a "Farmer's Pick" buffet would do a better job with the veggies.
Buffets are great when you're on a diet where you can only eat certain types of food; there's always plenty to pick from and you can have all you want. Buffets are sort of a conundrum for me; I usually eat lunch late to avoid the crowds, but with a buffet they tend not to put out as much fresh food late. So I went at peak lunch time.
Parking is a problem to start, and getting seated is almost comical. They have 3 hostesses, but they were completely brought to their knees by a party of 7, who were apparently trying to use player cards and 4 different credit cards. This is one of the ridiculous things about this place; if you're in a big party they add a tip to the bill; Why not just pay separately and ask to seat you together rather than creating a major headache for everyone waiting on line?
Isle Buffet Entrance
I went up to a hostess and asked if I really had to wait for these big parties to be seated or could I just sit somewhere, and she showed me to a table right way. You really could just walk in and sit somewhere.
The place is almost exclusively people who are gambling in the casino; they get a discount with a card, and it's just way too much trouble to make a special trip here, as I found out.
Isle Buffet Dining Room
An older crowd for sure. I took a quick walk-through to try to figure out how much stuff would fit my diet, and it was pretty lame. There really was a lot I can't have; the pasta station, homestyle stuff with mashed potatoes and gravies, bread, pizza, flatbreads; all out of bounds. They have a grill, and for the 3rd time they have ABSOLUTELY NOTHING being freshly grilled. I grabbed some ribs, blackened fish, rotisserie chicken and some steamed vegetables to start. And some broccoli rabe (I think).
Isle Buffet: Blacked fish, BBQ ribs, Rotisserie Chicken, Steamed Veggies, Rabe
The fish was overcooked but decent, and the rotisserie chicken wasn't bad. The ribs had some weird stuff on them and the vegetable were woefully overcooked to the point of mush. I scouted some tarter sauce for the fish; I left at least half of this plate. Time for a second pass. >
I hit the fajita bar, where they also have baked potatoes which are off limits. I put together a fajitas and black beans plate. The "steak" was medium well, which isn't how I prefer it.
Isle Buffet Black beans and
The beans had a strange taste; they'd be better plain. The steak was surprisingly tasty; whatever they marinated it in gave it a nice flavor. The chicken was bland. Not terrible, but no match for the sizzling fajitas you get in a regular restaurant.
I'd also grabbed a salad, which I ate along with the southwest stuff.
Isle Buffet Salad BarSalad
They had some pre-made caesar salads, but I made my own. Iceberg, spinach, egg, blue cheese, cucumbers and blue cheese dressing. I'm eating a lot of these types of salads on this diet.
One last pass to try all of the stuff I hadn't tried, which was mostly from the Chinese.
Isle Buffet: Sausage w/Peppers and various Chinese
"spicy" chicken that wasn't spicy, I was fooled by the cubes; the cubes turned out to be tofu, I had thought it was chicken. The Asian Pork had to be spit out. And the sausage was less like a sausage than any I'd ever had. Pepper Steak: tough tasteless meat. The entire plate was a loser.
No desserts on this diet, at least not cakes, pies and bread pudding. A pretty disappointing visit.
Since my first visit here, the Isle Casino has rebranded, calling this the "Farmer's Pick" Buffet. My question is, what exactly did the farmer pick out? This buffet was 3.5 stars 2 years ago, now I feel like I'm being generous giving it 2 stars. They've raised the prices and drastically lowered the quality of the food. Frankly, this place is no better than the Golden Corral, which is a lot less expensive.
Some comedy is that on the bill they offer tip recommendation amounts at 15, 18 and 20%. What kind of a lughead is going to tip 20% at a buffet where you have to get up to fetch your own food? The servers are an annoyance. GET A BEVERAGE STATION PLEASE.
The Isle Casino Buffet has been advertising a new "Farmer's Pick" buffet, and I wondered whether they were just trying to latch onto a faddish gimmick or if they were swapping out some of the good food they had for more veggies and chicken. They've got all sorts or marketing going on, even trying to push their bread as somehow superior.
Isle Buffet Entrance
When you enter you pay at the counter and tell them what you want to drink and they give you two long receipts. They have servers who bring you everything but the food; drinks, straws, condiments. Put one of the receipts on the table so your server can see it, and they'll bring you your drinks.
Isle Casino Iced Tea
I got extra lemon for the tea over by the soup, where they have battered fish, tartar sauce and fresh lemons. Not so fresh, but fresh enough.
The layout here is very simple; there are multiple stations along the back wall, a dessert and salad bar in the middle and table and chairs on one big long room; not unlike the Golden Corral. >
Isle Buffet Dining Room
This picture was from my first visit; the "Salad" area is now "Soups", and the salad bar is in the central isle.
The first thing I did is walk the entire food area to see what was new; my conclusion was that the buffet hasn't changed much at all. The have a token sushi area now, but it's just some rolls. No Nigiri or sashimi.
I started off with the new Salad Bar, which is the only thing that's really improved in this new configuration. They have a tray of mixed greens and one for spinach, so you can't pick the type of lettuce you want unless you want spinach. The blue cheese dressing wasn't too chunky but they have blue cheese crumbles, so I rolled my own.
Isle Buffet Salad Bar
Of course if I was going to load up on Salad I would go to Sweet Tomatoes. So on to see what looked good. Last time the carving station had ham and pork, but this time they had some pretty nice looking pastrami and rotisserie chicken. I also grabbed some meatloaf and what turned out to be battered fish (it wasn't labeled). This was the best stuff I had all day here.
Isle Buffet Pastrami, Rotisserie Chicken, Meatloaf and Fish
The pastrami was top notch; I asked my server for mustard but she brought over the yellow stuff in the iced tea picture; they had some better mustard up by the carving stating. The chicken was also good, done just right, and the meatloaf wasn't bad either.
On my previous visit, the chinese food was the star of the show; all very fresh looking. This time, almost nothing looked good. The dumplings were overdone and sticking to a too hot warmer, Bok Choy was waterlogged and the other dishes looked like they were sitting for too long. >I ended up grabbing some sausage and peppers and tomatoes and mozzarella, along with some tempura chicken.
Isle Buffet Chinese plus Sausage and Peppers
I later tried some moo goo gai pan, which wasn't very good. The KimChi was awful as well.
Something else that could be better about this buffet is that they have a grill area in the middle where they have burgers, hot dogs and some other grill items, but both times here there's been nobody cooking anything and just a bunch of old-looking burgers and franks, with nobody eating it. They also have a buffet tray with "french dip" sandwiches, but the sandwiches are so overcooked from the steam that they don't look appetizing at all. Maybe this stuff is better at 12pm or when it's more crowded on weekends. The fajitas/southwestern station didn't look so good today either.
I tried some minestrone soup; bland and not so good. I ended up going back for a caesar salad and some more pastrami . I couldn't find any caesar dressing, though.
One thing they do well here is the dessert bar; I had a key lime tart and some coconut cream pie. They also have soft serve ice cream.
Isle Buffet Coconut Cream PIe
Good stuff, if you like cake and pie.
On my first visit, service was so abysmal that I suggested that they replace the humans with ice tea and soda machines. I still would prefer that, but my server today was on the ball and omnipresent.
My assessment of this new Farmer's Pick buffet is that it's just a gimmick. There's nothing here that's any fresher than before. They have these signs all over claiming that the items are "Fresh", but I found the food no better than the last time; in fact I found much of it worse than my previous visit. They've raised the price $1, so it's probably some marketing guru's idea to get more for the same. it's still a good deal for $12.99; I'd think it's better at noon than it is at 2:30pm because they don't put out fresh stuff late and much of the buffet gets old looking after sitting out for 3 hours.