A couple of weekends ago my wife and I were on our way to one of our favorite breakfast places for brunch when she suddenly said “Hey, I forgot Ponderosa was out this way.”

I looked to the left, as I was heading north off Route 11 in North Syracuse and sure enough, there was Ponderosa. I hadn’t thought about it in years; I’d actually forgotten all about it since they’d closed the one in Liverpool many, many years ago. I wondered why I hadn’t thought about it, and we decided to go there for our brunch instead.

It’s located at 3713 Brewerton Road, North Syracuse, close to the airport and close to many other things I remembered used to be in that area years ago. We parked easily enough and lucky for us the place wasn’t packed when we got there, as we just beat the lunch crowd that seemed to follow us there over the next 20 minutes.

I’d thought about it as a buffet place, so I was shocked to be reminded that you could actually order food instead of just the buffet. I remembered that in the past I always ordered sirloin tips because at a different restaurant in my past that was my dad’s favorite meal as well. This time around, with a few changing sensibilities, I decided to order the grilled shrimp, as I tend to love grilled shrimp.

We took our seat, a waitress came to ask us what we wanted, and we headed to the buffet. My wife was impressed by the salad bar, which I must admit looked pretty good; they even had beets, which is one of my favorite vegetables (I don’t like a lot of vegetables).

I decided on some other things instead. I went to their small version of a taco bar and, in a bowl, put some nacho cheese and seasoned beef in and mixed them together, then grabbed some small taco chips. Moving on, I got a piece of fried chicken, a piece of barbecue chicken and some corn and went to my seat. My wife ended up grabbing some other things to try our on her own.

The lowdown? The taco stuff might have been good if it wasn’t all way too salty. Normally taco chips aren’t salted but these were really salty, so I couldn’t eat more than a couple of them. The fried chicken was wonderful, and I was surprised. The barbecue chicken wasn’t, though I’m not sure why. The corn… how does anyone mess up corn? My wife made a mistake by getting the meatloaf. One doesn’t get meatloaf from a buffet ever; trust me on this one. It was horrid, as she encouraged me to taste a brief bit of it. She loved her salad; can anyone mess up salad?

Then my meal came, since she only wanted buffet food; oh yeah, for me the buffet was only $2 extra. Based on the picture you see my shrimp looked good, but it also looked different than what I was expecting, although to be fair, once I went back to look at the picture of stuff to order on the wall it does look a lot like that. I don’t like hot spices, and there were a lot of them on the shrimp. However, if that was its only problem I might have still been able to eat it. The shrimp was overcooked; it actually mushed in my mouth. I can’t recall ever having mushed shrimp; that was awful. That and the shrimp was also way too salty again.

It came with a baked potato; can one ruin a baked potato? Actually, it turns out one can. It was fully baked but it wasn’t that hot. That turned out to be problematic because all they use is margarine; they tell you that up front. And obviously it’s not the same margarine one gets from Land ‘O Lakes because what they put in my potato never melted, and it tasted horrible as well. I can’t say that I was overly enjoying my meal, although I was loving the diet soda that I had them keep bringing me.

With those bad experiences behind me it was time to look at the dessert buffet. I never expect much at dessert buffets and I wasn’t disappointed this time around either. The only thing I saw that I just had to try was the peanut butter fudge; I normally love fudge. And I have to say that the fudge was passable; not the best I’ve ever had but definitely not the worst. I had a few pieces of that.

My wife picked up a few things and unfortunately for her, I’d called them right except for one, that being a tiny chocolate chip cookie that she just knew was going to be dry because of how hard it was on the outside, but when I bit into it the thing was soft on the inside. If I had to rate it I’d say if one had hot chocolate to dunk it into it would be passable; otherwise, I’d stick with the fudge.

And that was that. I don’t think that’s the reason I stopped going to Ponderosa but I think it will be the reason I don’t go back, since it’s the only one left in the Syracuse area. There are 5 others within 50 miles of the city, barely, but I’m not feeling compelled to give them a try. Still, I did see that they also offer a breakfast buffet before 10AM, and who knows how good that is. The waitress was very good and I gave her a nice tip but I think that’s the best thing I can say for now. Someone else can try it out and let me know; I think I’ll remember why my favorite breakfast place is my favorite. 😎

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