Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Soup 'n Salad Unlimited (Middletown, OH)

Allow me to introduce a place that needs no introduction… well, actually, it does so just scrap that opening altogether.  Never before in my life had I heard of a restaurant titled Soup ‘N Salad Unlimited until this one moved into the building where an Old County Buffet existed prior.  That aside, I was never stricken with a strong desire to dine there.  I figured, a bunch of bland soups and boring salad, plus gaudy old people fumbling around, no thanks!  Although my brash assumptions were quite accurate in the end, this place still has some undeniable charm that turned this critic into a fan.

Let’s tackle some general restaurant information first.  They do keep some pretty peculiar hours, that’s to say, they close earlier than most competing eateries.  On our first trip, Molly and I got adventurous and tried to take a back route, ended up lost, got there right before they closed, and settled elsewhere for a horrible experience.  No fooling around the second time, though, we got in and got formally acquainted with our surroundings quickly.  The place is big and rather nice inside, there’s a lot of room, and they allow you to seat yourselves, which is rare and very cool.

We took advantage of that option, and picked out a cozy little corner booth with lots of privacy from the other guests.  If you’ll look behind me, there are some Christmas decorations out, which I really liked.  Little touches like that separates places like this from the dozens of surrounding fast food joints.  The set-up is simple, you go up and get a plate, grab some food, eat, and then repeat the process until you’re content.  There were several sections dedicated to salad and pasta, an Italian section with spaghetti and pizza, a soup section, a huge dessert area, and a couple others.

I ate such a variety of food, that’s it hard to discern where to even begin a solid evaluation.  There were some things I really liked, other stuff that was too bland, and only a couple items I didn’t enjoy.  Stuff I personally enjoyed was brussel sprouts, cabbage, meatballs, and a baked sweet potato.  You could make your own salad, ranging from mundane to magnificent, with tons of toppings to add to the final product.  I had a few pasta dishes, too, which were average, and the Hawaiian style pizza wasn’t bad, just a tad too cold.

We weren’t too excited about their soup selection, and I remember us not being too fond of our choices.  Surely, they must have a few decent soups, which I’ll likely investigate on future treks.  I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention my soda.  They’ve got a fountain and you get your own drinks, I choose Coca-Cola just to be safe and was rewarded handsomely with one of the arguably best soft drinks I’ve ever tasted.  The cup given isn’t that big, and I made many refill runs throughout my meal.  We were stuffed, but as always, if you’re at a buffet and paying good money, might as well sample the desserts!  I was honestly too full to properly undertake indulging our plate of sweets.  The amount of options was staggering, and I tried to get as much possible onto one plate.  There are a lot of generic items (like pudding), but several inspired choices (like pineapple upside-down cake) that so deservedly make the list.

Here’s another factor in the equation… this place is really cheap!  It’s only $5.79 per person for unlimited food?  Amazing!  I was right in that a lot of older folks frequent here, and that the buffet did contain some bland items.  However, for sheer value alone, it’s hard not to recommend this place.  Also, it wasn’t crowded at all when I attended, and the atmosphere was pleasant leading to a relaxed and comfortable dinner.  Albeit not the fanciest place, nor the biggest selection in buffets, I’d honestly suggest giving it a shot some random weekday night, you may just find yourself falling for it’s easygoing charm, delicious Coke, and past due Christmas decorations.

Overall Grade: B+ 

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