Lancaster County smorgasbords are a major attraction for hungry travelers. One question we often hear at the Bird-in-Hand Family Restaurant & Smorgasbord is, “What’s the difference between a buffet and a smorgasbord?” It’s a great question. If you’re curious about the answer, read on!
WHAT’S IN A NAME?
These days, both “smorgasbord” and “buffet” refer to a fixed-price, all-you-can-eat meal you serve yourself. But that wasn’t always the case.
The word “buffet” comes from old French. It was initially used to refer to a sideboard, a long, low piece of dining room furniture used to store plates and cutlery. Unlike a cabinet or china closet, a sideboard could be used as a serving table, which may have given rise to its contemporary meaning: a meal where individuals serve themselves from dishes that are not on the dining table.
(When the serving dishes are on the communal table, we call that “family style,” and you can find family-style restaurants in and around the region.)
“Smorgasbord” is a Swedish word that roughly translates as “a table of open sandwiches (or buttered bread).” The Swedish word is spelled smörgåsbord, with an umlaut over the first “o” and an open dot over the “a.” Traditionally, the Scandinavian smorgasbord featured cold fish and other seafood, cold meats and hard-boiled eggs with condiments like pickles, onions and mustard. It would also include a cheese plate and salads.
WHAT’S FOR DINNER?
Today’s Pennsylvania Dutch Country smorgasbord offers something for everyone. In a July 2016 interview, Bird-in-Hand CEO John Smucker told Eater that, “In Lancaster County, people like variety. We have a variety of really good foods, and at a smorgasbord, you get all of that.” He also talks about the “seven sweets and seven sours” that are the hallmark of many of the region’s traditional recipes.
A mix of Pennsylvania Dutch classics and other popular dishes, the many items on the Bird-in-Hand Smorgasbord reflect the area’s rich bounty, with an emphasis on fresh produce, meats and dairy, and lots of home-baked goods. Lancaster County is farm country, and that not only means fresh, local food but big appetites. Many of the dishes we serve are made from old family recipes dating back generations to Grandma Smucker’s time. All are made fresh, with care, in our kitchen.
Some of the traditional Pennsylvania Dutch cooking on our menu includes pork and sauerkraut, homemade baked ham balls with pineapple sauce and chicken pot pie. You’ll also find Amish-style sides like buttered noodles, hard-boiled red beet eggs, creamed corn and stewed tomatoes. If you want to eat like a local, don’t miss the apple butter, hot bacon dressing, and the sweet-and-tangy pickled relish or chopped salad known as chow-chow.
Another favorite is broasted chicken—made with a process that uses less oil than conventional fried chicken, so it is crispy and juicy but is a healthier option. You’ll also find roast turkey, baked ham and a variety of other popular entrees. Farm-fresh sides include carrots, green beans and a variety of other vegetables.
The main smorgasbord isn’t the only attraction. There’s also a soup-and-salad bar with homemade soups, garden-fresh greens and toppings, cucumber and onion salad, creamy cole slaw and other selections, as well as freshly baked bread and an assortment of cheeses. And remember to save room for dessert!
If you’re an early bird, the selections on our all-you-can-eat breakfast smorgasbord will keep you going long into the day, whether you’re working the fields or finding new Lancaster County backroads to explore.
IT’S MORE THAN A MEAL
Dining at a Pennsylvania Dutch smorgasbord is certainly about good, fresh, homestyle foods—but the satisfaction is from more than a full belly. It’s about the experience. At Bird-in-Hand, you’ll be greeted and treated like family, whether you’re a regular guest or on your very first visit. You’ll enjoy your favorite comfort foods and maybe fall in love with some new flavors. Take in the delicious aromas and the happy sounds of conversation—and you’ll want to share it all with friends and family.
Your meal will be memorable in itself, but it can also be a part of a larger experience—a way to relax after a day of sightseeing, outlet shopping or browsing at Kitchen Kettle Village, or visiting a family-friendly attraction like Dutch Wonderland or the Strasburg Rail Road with the kids. You can also enjoy our lunch or dinner smorgasbord when you come to see a live show on the Bird-in-Hand Stage, conveniently located just below the main dining room.
If you’re coming from out of the area and planning to stay overnight or longer, ask about meal and lodging packages at any of our properties.
We hope to see you soon—and when you come, bring your appetite!