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“Better food this time. Plus no more menu. Only buffet” 4 of 5 stars
Review of Ponderosa Steakhouse

Ponderosa Steakhouse
878 Munson Ave, Traverse City, MI 49686-3602
231-929-9720
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Ranked #218 of 255 Restaurants in Traverse City
Cuisines: Steakhouse
Dining options: Breakfast/Brunch, Reservations
Restaurant details
Dining options: Breakfast/Brunch, Reservations
Traverse City,MI
Senior Contributor
30 reviews 30 reviews
27 restaurant reviews
Reviews in 6 cities Reviews in 6 cities
9 helpful votes 9 helpful votes
“Better food this time. Plus no more menu. Only buffet”
4 of 5 stars Reviewed July 21, 2014

Ponderosa has abandoned their menu and now are strictly a buffet only. Probably to cut down on cost. This trip the food was much better. Tasted hot and fresh. Dined on rice, meatballs, bread sticks, and of course: chicken wings. Everything was good. Server was very attentive. All in all a positive experience.

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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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40 reviews from our community

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Rating summary
    Food
    Service
    Value
    Atmosphere
Date | Rating
  • English first
  • Any
English first
Traverse city
1 review
“Never again”
1 of 5 stars Reviewed July 7, 2014 via mobile

It's pretty bad when the bathroom smell better than the food and the foods was all burn too hell so never coming back

  • Visited July 2014
    • 3 of 5 stars Value
    • 2 of 5 stars Atmosphere
    • 1 of 5 stars Service
    • 1 of 5 stars Food
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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Brighton, Michigan
1 review
2 helpful votes 2 helpful votes
“First restaurant that made me want to write a review. Avoid at all costs.”
1 of 5 stars Reviewed June 23, 2014

This is a review of the Ponderosa Steak House in Traverse City Michigan. Visited 6/23/14 around 6:00 pm.

On our way to our hotel yesterday, just outside Traverse City, my girlfriend and I noticed a Ponderosa Steak House. My girlfriend laments that there used to be one in her hometown when she was a girl, and that we should go there for dinner. I remember seeing Ponderosa’s around when I was a kid, but really hadn’t since one since I was a boy. Man, whatever happened to those places?

So today we went to Ponderosa for dinner, getting in the parking lot around 6:00 pm. The outside of the building looked a bit sparse and dated, but I was not to be dissuaded. When I walked in I was confused because I thought I had walked accidently into a McDonalds’. Dinner choices were listed on the wall with the prices. Weird, but hey, whatever. As I approach the hostess stand, I notice the register I realize that you pay before you eat. Also weird.
It’s about now that the doubt begins to sink in; maybe we’ve made a horrible mistake. But it’s too late, as we’re already inside and the hostess shows up. She seems nice, and I talk with her just to confirm that you do indeed place your order and pay at the hostess stand before you sit down. Yep. In that case, I’m going to need a couple minutes. After a few short awkward minutes of pondering my options of steak in front of the hostess I figure out what my final answer will be. I check with my girlfriend to see if she figured out her million dollar question as well. She had, and so then we turned back to the hostess who we had to neglect while figuring our dinner options out. We place our orders with the only problem being that the hostess was a bit soft spoken, so we had to go over some things a couple times. After we placed our orders and paid we were handed a receipt with what we ordered and were told to sit where we like and give our receipt to the server.

As we walked into the dining area six things became apparent. One, the floor was quite sticky. Two, the inside of the building resembled the outside, in that it had sparse décor and felt like we just went back to the 90’s. Three, everyone here was over 60. Four, everyone here was overweight. Five, there were not that many people in here, despite it being 6:00 pm. Six, again, we might have made a grave error.

We grab sticky booth in the corner and I sit down while my girlfriend uses the restroom. While I’m waiting I set our receipts out and scope the place out. The older waitress manages to take me by surprise when she shows up, but just snags our receipts and leaves without saying a word. By this time my girlfriend is back, and I have to use the restroom myself.
When I walk into the restroom I nearly lose my shoes to the absurdly stick floor. I only need to pee, so I approach the urinal, but there is a ton of pee on the floor so I decide to go for the stalls instead. The first stall I check is… blown up, and looks quite sickening. Check out the other stall… same thing, slightly less worse. Decide the urinal isn’t so bad.

When I get back to the booth the waitress is bringing our drinks. I thank her and take a swig of what was supposed to be water, but tasted like a glass of water that someone spilled just a bit of lemonade into. The water probably comes out of the same dispenser as the lemonade, and she just might have accidently put some lemonade in there as well. Anyhoo, that didn’t really bother me, but we were famished, so we make our way out to the salad bar. Many enjoy their salads on chilled plates, but this Ponderosa goes the extra mile and keeps their salad plates in a freezer right next to the salad bar. My girlfriend opens the freezer and tries to grab a plate, but most of the plates are just frozen together. We succeed in finding a couple frozen plates that are not glued together. When I start building my salad I am disappointed to find only iceberg lettuce, and there is a fair amount of brown lettuce in there. I pick around that, and acquire some simple fair for my salad, although I had to set the plate down multiple times because it was like holding an ice cube. When we get to the end of the salad bar there are dressings, but they aren’t labeled, and it just seems to be 50 shades of ranch dressing. Luckily, my girlfriend notices some vinegar and oil, and I just stick with that. As I walk back to the booth I notice they have watermelon and other fruits as well, but upon closer inspection, I think better of it.

As we make it back to our booth our waitress is bringing out our dinner already. I ordered steak tips and my girlfriend ordered a center cut steak. The presentation of both meals was quite lackluster. Both were just served on a buffet plate with a baked potato in aluminum foil. I felt bad for the beef, it deserved better. The potion size was small for what I’m used to for a steak dish, but I figured it had something to do with the other buffet style stuff they had up there, so I made my way up there.

I love cornbread, so I was excited to see they had some. They also had bread sticks, some soups, nachos, spaghetti, meatloaf, chicken wings without sauce and a couple other things that didn’t look so hot. Oh yeah, and I saw mac and cheese. That looked good, and I love mac and cheese, so I grabbed some of that. After making it back to the booth I eagerly took a bite if my corn bread muffin, only to be disappointed. Dry as a desert, tasteless as cardboard. Didn’t bother trying to finish it. While I took a bite of the cornbread my girlfriend tried some of the mac and cheese, and we both ended up giving each other a look of disgust, as we were both let down. Not wanting to believe it true, I took a couple bites of the mac and cheese as well, and was met with a slightly funny tasting mac and cheese, although the favor wasn’t too strong there either. Didn’t finish that one either.

I wasn’t really to give up yet though. I had felt robbed that two of my favorite dishes had been brutally murdered and felt like something at this establishment had to be keeping it open. So I tried again, this time going for just a regular breadstick and some nacho chips with cheese sauce and so ground beef I took from the tacos.

As I bit into my breadstick, it deflated like a balloon. It also lacked an appealing taste. I had my girlfriend try it as well, just to see her reaction. Poor flour that went into that breadstick. It could have become many things; a homemade chocolate chip cookie, bread from a bakery or even an airy crust for a pie. But instead it was sentenced to hell, here at Ponderosa, to become a cog in what I can only imagine is the world’s most awful breadstick.

The last thing I touched here was the nachos. Those were surprising normally, being the generic nacho chips you might see at a Big Boy or some sort of sporting game. It would have been quite an achievement to mess these up. My girlfriend only ate maybe half of her steak, and instead put whatever faith she had left into hoping the self-serve ice cream was good. I tried a bite of it, and it was fine, didn’t taste as good as DQ, but hey, when you’re down as much as we are at this point, that’s a win in my book. I wouldn’t describe myself as frugal, but I certainly always take our leftovers home with us. That said, I’m glad our hotel didn’t have a fridge, so I didn’t have to feel bad about leaving behind that sad piece of beef.

Not sure how this Ponderosa has managed to continue its existence over the years when every other Ponderosa went extinct, but I don’t imagine it’s because of repeat customers.

  • Visited June 2014
    • 2 of 5 stars Value
    • 2 of 5 stars Atmosphere
    • 2 of 5 stars Service
    • 1 of 5 stars Food
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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Traverse City, Michigan
Senior Reviewer
7 reviews 7 reviews
3 restaurant reviews
Reviews in 5 cities Reviews in 5 cities
“Not Again!”
1 of 5 stars Reviewed April 6, 2014 via mobile

My husband and I decided to try it again,thinking after a year it would be better...WRONG! The buffet was nasty and our Med well steaks were leather and over done.We ate off of the salad and desserts and didn't eat our ordered meals.Lots of dirty tables...one table by us was stacked with dirty dishes for the 45 mins we were there.Our meals sat in the kitchen area for 6 mins before the server brought them to our table.This place needs to be closed down and cleaned up then make up a new menu for their buffet! Save your money folks....go someplace else!

Visited April 2014
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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Traverse City,MI
Senior Contributor
30 reviews 30 reviews
27 restaurant reviews
Reviews in 6 cities Reviews in 6 cities
9 helpful votes 9 helpful votes
“Better food this time”
3 of 5 stars Reviewed October 2, 2013

Usually when I go to Ponderosa the food is okay at best and the selection is worse than that. This time the food tasted fresh and the selection was much better than normal. However it appears that the bone in chicken wings are different. These ones were bigger, spicier and not as good as the regular ones. The chicken wings are my favorite menu item at Ponderosa. That and that alone is why this review is average and not very good. Hopfully with the wings it is a fluke because based on this visit I was impressed Minus the wings.

  • Visited September 2013
    • 4 of 5 stars Value
    • 3 of 5 stars Atmosphere
    • 3 of 5 stars Service
    • 4 of 5 stars Food
Was this review helpful? Yes
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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