Summer Savings! Get unlimited digital access for 13 weeks for $13.
News Maryland Howard County Laurel

New buffet expands Laurel's dining options

A long line at Laurel Plaza June 28 heralded the grand opening of Grande Buffet and Grill, where the first 100 takers in the late-morning line were treated to free chow — as much of it as they wanted.

As green, yellow, red and blue streamers met a steamy breeze, Laurel Deputy City Administrator Marty Flemion grabbed an oversize pair of scissors and officially opened the new, 530-seat eatery, most recently, the home of a discount furniture outlet.

"Everybody hungry?" asked Flemion, rhetorically. With that, the mini-mob filed into the spacious dining room, where the decor is rich in dark wood, imbuing the air with a calm, soothing personality.  The motif is complemented by a recorded blend of lively jazz instrumentals and pop vocals.

Flemion said Laurel remains a thriving eating-out market.

"Buffet-style seems to attract more people," Flemion said. "We're doing a lot to attract businesses to the city and to the area."

More than 10 steam tables are positioned inside the restaurant like an undulating field of corn, giving diners ample room to pick and choose what to include on their plate.

Standing at the seafood bar, North Laurel resident Carol Worsham struck a reflective pose, as she filled her plate with fare.

"The shrimp are fresh and big,"  Worsham said. "And this salad bar is huge."

The buffet is co-owned by Richard Ni and Zheng Zheng, both natives of Fuzhou, the capital and one of the largest cities of China's Fujian Province. Ni's parents opened the first Grande Buffet in Chicago in 1994, and the chain has grown to 15 locations in Illinois, Ohio, Kentucky, the Carolinas and New Jersey. The Laurel store is the fifth to open in Maryland.   

"We want our customers to leave pleased and happy," said Zheng, 28. One way that goal is achieved, he added, is by shopping early in the day at the Jessup Seafood Market, where a fresh catch of salmon and blue fish arrive daily, and filleting the fish at their restaurant. 

The partners also buy fresh chicken, fruits and vegetables at the market.

Other items on the Grande Buffet menu include stuffed oysters on the half-shell, Japanese chicken, pork chops and beef stew. There are five kettles of homemade soup; pans of rice noodles, sesame chicken and sweet potatoes; ham; sausage; egg rolls; and a full line of cakes, pies and ice cream.

Ni, 30, and his wife, Janni Zhao, have been clocking 14-hour days instructing the staff of 35. Ni said Laurel was a good location to introduce diners to this particular buffet concept.

"There are all different kinds of people here," he said. "Spanish, black, white. Many of them are middle class." 

Flemion — whose favorite entree is sweet and sour chicken — noted the Laurel area contains a solid mix of "blue-collar and technical, with a splash of executive. It's a diverse community."   

The competition is not far away. Old Country Buffet, an all-you-can-eat restaurant located just five doors down from Grande Buffet, opened in the mid-1990s.  Zheng acknowledged that when the partners were knocking around the idea of opening in Laurel, some friends in the business advised against it.  

OCB offers "more American food," Zheng said. "Ours is Oriental, sometimes Spanish."

During construction of the restaurant, the partners often ate lunch at OCB, and even got to know one of the managers.

"We were friends — until we opened," Zheng said, smiling.

Another Laurel Plaza business owner keeping close tabs on Grande Buffet is Terri Haas. The longtime owner of Sullivan's Steak and Beverage, which has a sports-bar theme and Wednesday night Maryland trivia games, said she's ready for whatever competition it brings.

"I wish them the best of luck," Haas said. "I hope they wish the same for me."

Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun
Related Content
  • Marylanders win medals in Special Olympics World Games

    Marylanders win medals in Special Olympics World Games

    Marylanders won seven medals, including four golds, at the Special Olympics World Games, which end Sunday in Los Angeles. Ben Stevick of Laurel triumphed in two equestrian events, English Equitation and Dressage; Eddie Murphy of Grasonville won gold in cycling (500 meters); and Alicia Gogue, a...

  • Federal civil rights lawsuit filed against Laurel police

    Federal civil rights lawsuit filed against Laurel police

    The Laurel Police Department is facing a federal civil rights lawsuit charging an officer with publicly strip searching a man during a traffic stop based on racial profiling.

  • City, MDA spray to control Laurel mosquito population

    City, MDA spray to control Laurel mosquito population

    Mosquitoes are no match for the Maryland Department of Agriculture as they work with the city of Laurel's Department of Public Works to spray and control the mosquito population throughout the summer.

  • Laurel city, park station developers discuss MARC train station

    Laurel city, park station developers discuss MARC train station

    Pushing forward to save the Laurel MARC train station, Laurel city and state officials hit a speed bump after City Council President Ed Ricks said Laurel Park Station developers "never followed through" with signing a memorandum of understanding that the station would not move.

  • Stormwater fee measure continues to spring leaks

    Stormwater fee measure continues to spring leaks

    The devil is in the details, goes the old saw, and there's nothing more bedeviling to the state of Maryland with details at present than the stormwater management fee, also called by some "the rain tax." We are now in the third year of acrimony and confusion over this measure, which the General...

  • Volunteers are backbone of Maryland City Recreation Council [Maryland City]

    Volunteers are backbone of Maryland City Recreation Council [Maryland City]

    An ancient African proverb says, "It takes a village to raise a child." A child's village usually starts very small with his or her parents and family members.As a child grows and ages, daycare providers, teachers and coaches are added to that village.The activities provided in our neighborhood...