Sweet tomatoes is a place that I never really even wanted to try. A salad bar buffet. I don't usually eat a salad as a meal.I saw their web site and it seemed like it might be nicer than I thought. The first time I went in I had my iPad, and I turned around and walked out. I realized that every time I went to get some food, I'd have to pack up my iPad and take it with me. That wasn't going to work.
So today I was in the mood for soup and salad, so I thought I'd try it out. They have their "menu" on their web site, which are soups and pastas that are available in addition to the salads. The menu changes every 2 weeks or so.
The entrance is unique in that there is no hostess or register, just a very long dual-sided salad bar. It's not entirely clear which side you should use initially. As it turns out, the right side it the side where you load up your initial plate, and the left side is where you get your seconds.
They have prepared salads (like caesar salad) on the right side, and it's better maintained. I don't know why they do it this way; your plate will be more than full halfway through the line.
I grabbed some caesar, built a regular blue cheese salad, and sampled the "poppy-seed cole slaw" and the "bbq potato salad". I can say that everything on the salad bar was fresh and well-stocked. They have a "premium toppings" bin, where you can put chicken or other add-ons for an extra couple of bucks. They charge extra for drinks; it was 8.69 for the unlimited salad bar and 2.39 for a bottle of water. Bring your own water if you're on a budget. Seniors get a deal; something like $7 which also included coffee.
So you pay and take your big overflowing plate into the dining room and find a seat. The place reminds me a little of Original Pancake House; sort of a diner layout but a little nicer.
The salad stuff and blue cheese dressing was all pretty good, as well as the caesar salad. The pickles and potato salad were taste and discard fare. The cole slaw wasn't bad. Enough with the salad, time for some food.
Scoping out the "extras" area, it was clear the the freshness that their web site purports is just fantasy; this is typical buffet food. The smaller stations and selections allowed most of it to be in pretty decent shape. For starts, I grabbed some broccoli cheese soup, chili soup and mac and cheese.
The soup was actually pretty good, save the big chunk of brocolli that should have been cut into smaller pieces. I shouldn't need a knife and fork to eat soup. The chili soup was ok, but it would have been better as a chili with less liquid. The mac and cheese was fine; it's hard to ruin mac and cheese. Just your basic elbows with cheese.
I subsequently tried the potato rosemary soup, which was also pretty good. Not high end restaurant stuff; more like the kind you might get at a specialty grocery store like whole foods.
The pastas, which are the other foods they tout on their non-salad menu, are your typical pasta station stuff; there are bins with penne pasta and the different sauces and every once in a while they toss some and put it out in a serving dish. It always looked a few minutes too old; I tried the alfredo pasta and it was predictable mediocre. Definitely not worth the calories.
They also have a selection of breads, from plain sliced bread to some different focaccias. I tried the 4 cheese focaccia, which of course is really pizza. Ok, but kind of cold. They also have chocolate muffins, which are more like brownies than muffins.
For dessert, I suppose you could have a chocolate muffin, but they also have soft serve ices cream; vanilla, chocolate or swirl, just like they have on the cruise ships. They have caramel and chocolate syrup as well as a couple of nutty toppings. I just went for a little vanilla and chocolate mix.
So for about the same price as the Golden Corral, you can get a much smaller selection of food in a slightly nicer setting. The food, however, is generally pretty good; unlike the Corral, there wasn't anything here that looked so bad I wouldn't consider eating it under any circumstances. It's also not nearly as good or fresh as it sounds on their web site. It's certainly a good value; considering I paid $5 for a small ice cream the other day, you can really chow down here for $9. if you bring your own water.