When I think of buffets, I usually think of Ponderosa first. This is probably because, through high school at least, Ponderosa was the buffet/steakhouse we visited more than others. There used to be Ponderosa Steakhouses all over the place - western Xenia, main street in Dayton, Springfield, down near the Dayton Mall, and elsewhere. When I was in college, I actually wrote an economics paper about John Kluge, who owned Orion Pictures and the Ponderosa chain at the time.
A lot of folks don't realize this, but the Ponderosa chain was founded in 1963 by Dan Blocker, who played "Hoss" Cartwright on Bonanza. (company headquarters were located in Dayton, Ohio in 1965) The ranch on the show was called the Ponderosa, and that is where the restaurants get their name. The early restaurants capitalized on their connection to the show. Walls featured pictures of horses and the wild west, while servers dressed to fit the wild west theme. At one point, the chain had grown to 600 restaurants. Like Ryan's Steakhouses, many of the Ponderosa restaurants have disappeared, likely falling victim to higher food costs, changing eating trends, and several "mega buffets" such as Golder Corral.
Even so, there are still a couple of Ponderosa restaurants in the Dayton area: one in Englewood just off of Main Street, and another in the Beavercreek area on Airway Road. I recently heard that the Englewood location has added a breakfast buffet, and the Airway location will be adding this over the summer. Evidently just about everybody seems to think there is enough of a breakfast demand to add breakfast choices. We will see if this market gets oversaturated.
I went back about a month later, when I was no longer annoyed over the coupon issue, and finally got around to trying their breakfast buffet, which was only $5. I was not impressed with the eggs, which were quite bland and tasteless - almost reminded me of a yellowish, pale tofu. There was a mixture of hash browns and eggs that had a buttermilk flavor that I enjoyed a bit more. Bacon was a surprise, nice and crispy, so I went back for seconds. I only wish that it had been smoked and peppered bacon, instead of the honey variety. The sausage didn't have enough "sow" or enough sage. What I mean by that is that it was one of the fattiest sausage links I have ever had anywhere, and seemed to be more lard than meat. I did not get seconds, and feel that they need to offer some leaner choices.
Final Verdict: Ponderosa's breakfast buffet is a pretty good value, but don't go expecting lean meats. This would probably be a good choice for an informal group trying to keep costs down, but wanting to eat out without waiting in line or for the food to be prepared. In other words, a good choice if you have kids. This is a good step for Ponderosa in trying to diversify their menu. On the downside, the interior of the Englewood location looked rather tired - water spots on the ceiling, and rust on the pillars outside. It could definitely use a remodel.
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