Smile Politely

Good ole home cookin’

Bottom line: Apple Dumplin is worth your time if home-style food is your thing. But you might want to bring a zip lock of your favorite seasoning, or be prepared to reach for the salt and pepper. 

Some friends and I went out to AD last Sunday for a taste of “good ole home cookin’.” Sundays are buffet days, so when you sit down you’re not going to get a menu. The waitress will ask you for drink orders. The water tasted fine. Coffee was black. Cream and sugar are on the table which is convenient. Service was friendly and prompt. Our coffees stayed full.

So we made our way up to the buffet. There were two sections: a salad bar and the main course. There was one type of lettuce, a few fixings, a few dressings, and then some sides. I chose to do a lettuce salad with egg, tomatoes, cucumbers and French dressing. I added pepper just for looks.

  1. The lettuce was chopped in all sorts of funky sizes. There was a major lack of uniformity in the chopping which made it a bit difficult to navigate with my fork. It was fresh, not wilted. It was pretty watery though, but hopefully that means they washed it well. 
  2. The tomatoes are store bought, and not even worth putting on your plate. They have absolutely no flavor.
  3. The egg. Oh, the egg! It almost tasted like a deviled egg was crumbled up on my salad. Very tasty and the best part of the salad. Put lots on yours!
  4. The dressing. I chose French and it was the strangest French dressing I have ever had. Why? because it was nearly the consistency of water. The taste? It was ok, but I couldn’t get over the watery consistency. My guess as to why? They’re cutting their French with liquid to make it last longer. 
  5. The cucumbers were actually a cucumber salad which I’ll get to next.

Next I went back for a few sides. I was excited about the cucumber salad and beets, but the pea salad is not something I would normally eat. I did it for the readers!

  1. The pea salad was creamy and a bit sweet. 
  2. The beets were firm and not as sweet as pickled beets that I’ve had in the past. It was a nice surprise. 
  3. The cucumbers and onions were tossed in a vinegar-sugar mixture. The vegetables were crisp and the taste was not over powering. Good dish. 

Next we went in for a roll. They were kept in a warm pan that you fished out with a pair of tongs. The bread was still warm by the time I got back to my table to open it up and slather on some butter and apple butter. 

The bread was warm and the apple butter and regular butter made for a great bite. After these appetizers it was on to the main course. Of note, all of the menu items available are also served on non-buffet days. 

On the main portion of the buffet was fried chicken (legs, breasts, and thighs), meatloaf, mashed potatoes, beef and noodles, corn, green beans and gravy. I opted to try the chicken and the beef and noodles.

The meatloaf was pre cut into approximately 3×2 inch slices. The consistency was a bit mushy, as meatloaf usually is, with some crunch of onion once in a while. The top was covered in a layer of baked sauce which was similar (if not actually) catsup. The meat didn’t have much flavor. Most of the taste came from the catsup which was sweet. It was missing a salty, savory, meat flavor punch which the sweet catsup sauce would have combined with nicely. 

Next I tried the beef and noodles. Wow, these were fantastic! The noodles tasted and felt homemade. They were thick, doughy, and covered in a gravy that tasted of beef broth. Every other noodle had a chunk of actual beef on it. This was my favorite dish and I would eat a bowl of it any day. 

The chicken was fried but was more like an Amish fried chicken than a Kentucky fried chicken, meaning that the skin was fried, yes, but it was not crunchy. I believe they probably fried the chicken briefly and then finished it with a broiling method. The chicken was moist and tender, and pulled right off of the bone. Both the dark and white meat were flavorful.

Of course we had to order an apple dumpling as well. This is an apple, cored, filled with cinnamon and sugar, baked like a pie with a crust around it, and then put into a bowl with ice cream and more brown sugar and syrup. It was warm, the crust was not crunchy, and tasted very sweet. Some folks at the table did not like the gooey bath it was in while others did. We ordered this at the end of our meal and it fed four of us. 

I don’t go to AD often so I don’t know how their food is during the week. But I think this buffet is all about playing it safe. They probably put out the dishes that sell the best, naturally. But they also play it safe in that they don’t put much seasoning on anything. The beef and noodles were about the only food at the table that had any real flavor. Those I was dining with commented on the mashed potatoes noting that they were likely homemade (as evidenced by the bits of real potatoes in them), but that they lacked any flavor. If AD were to be a bit more bold with the seasoning they could have a stand out meal on their hands. But until then, I’d sneak in your own seasoning. 

Apple Dumplin’ is located at 2014 N Highcross Road, Urbana, and is open Tuesday through Saturday, 7 a.m. to 8 p.m., and Sunday, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

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