18 Best And Worst Hotel Breakfast Buffet Foods

When you're shopping for a hotel online, what do you look for? If you're traveling with kids, you may look for a pool, while pet owners will appreciate pet-friendly accommodations. But if you're a foodie with a grudge against paying for a lackluster McDonald's breakfast, you may be looking for one crucial amenity: continental breakfast.

Hotel continental breakfast buffets are offered at many chain hotels, including the Hampton Inn, Hyatt Place, Comfort Inn & Suites, and the like. But, some smaller hotels not affiliated with a big brand may also offer a continental guest to its patrons each morning. These meals can range in offerings from continental breakfasts (which include light, uncooked fares), to massive buffets lined with eggs, pancakes, and pastries galore. If you want to know what your hotel will have in the lobby, it's best to check out a sample menu on the hotel website or booking portal before traveling. With that, here are some of the best and worst things you can pick from your breakfast buffet.

Best: Regional dishes

If you happen to travel to a new place, getting breakfast is one of the first things you can do to take a step into regional cultures and food preferences. While domestic hotels rarely offer diverse regional dishes besides Southern classics like biscuits and gravy or chicken and waffles, traveling abroad may open up opportunities for you to sample some local fare from the comfort of your hotel.

If you're traveling to England, for example, you may have a chance to try a full English breakfast with fried bread, beans, mushrooms, tomatoes, eggs, and breakfast meat. On the other hand, if you are feeling like taking the lighter breakfast route, try to enjoy a local pastry or a special kind of yogurt or granola at the breakfast station.

Worst: Scrambled eggs

Scrambled eggs are an easy way to get a hefty dose of protein in to start your morning. But you should think twice about getting scrambled eggs from your hotel's breakfast bar.

The scrambled eggs at a hotel may not actually be "real" because many hotels opt to use powdered eggs instead of cracking open a couple of dozen before the morning breakfast rush. Powdered eggs are still eggs — they're just dehydrated into a powder that can be easily mixed with water and heated back up. This innovation extends the life of the eggs, but it also makes them a bit more spongy and rubbery than you may like. Nevertheless, amid the increasing price of eggs, these shelf-stable powdered eggs are a good option for hotel management to purchase in bulk — even if it means a breakfast staple with an odd texture.

Best: Omelet station

Instead of grabbing a scoop of pre-made scrambled eggs at your hotel's breakfast, you should instead stop by the omelet station. Although this might be an option for a few select hotels (or breakfast buffets found in fancy restaurants), these stations are definitely worth stopping at.

Not only will you be able to see a real person making your omelet before your eyes (with real eggs, we should add), but you can customize your omelet based on your favorite flavors. For example, add cheese, veggies, or chopped breakfast meat to make your omelet uniquely yours. Plus, you can assume that the folks working the omelet station have made a couple of omelets in their lifetimes and can perfect the texture — which might not be something your novice breakfast skills can help you with at home.

Worst: Quiche and frittata

If your hotel's breakfast bar doesn't have the luxury of an omelet station, you may find quiches and frittatas served on the buffet line. You might be enticed to grab a few of the small egg bites or a slice or two based on the hunch that quiches and frittatas are generally healthy and made fresh to order.

But, these quiches and frittatas are often not as they appear. First, they're likely made with the same powdered eggs as the scrambled eggs. It's also one of the foods you should never get from a buffet, because it can harbor bacteria like E coli if it is improperly stored. These egg dishes must be cooked to 160 degrees Fahrenheit to ward off potential pathogens and be kept at a steady hot temperature to ensure they are safe to eat. It's hard to tell if this happens at every single hotel, so we recommend just steering clear of the egg bites, quiches, and frittatas.

Best: Oatmeal

Oatmeal has long been lauded as a nutritious food — and for good reason. On a busy day of traveling, exploring, and sightseeing, you need to rely on a fiber-rich breakfast to help keep you filled up throughout the day. Oatmeal is a great option to choose from the breakfast buffet because it contains a decent dose of fiber and beta-glucan.

Hotels often serve a giant crock of oatmeal with various toppings like brown sugar, nuts, and dried fruit. But these are not the only customizations you can make to help make your bowl of mushy oatmeal a bit more palatable. For example, search for individually-packaged peanut butter containers or grab some maple syrup from the waffle station. You can also slice up fruit like bananas or apples to put on top of your breakfast.

Worst: Pre-cut melon and lemon slices

Fresh fruit is a great way to start the day, right? That all depends on what kind of fruit you choose. Popular breakfast offerings include oranges, apples, and bananas, but you may also find a bowl of sliced melon or fruit salad hanging around. We recommend avoiding taking any of the sliced melon — especially cantaloupe — from the breakfast buffet because of the potential food-borne pathogen exposure. Improper handling, cutting, and storage of melons may lead to outbreaks of salmonella. And, it's impossible to know if your melon was cut and stored safely if you're just grabbing it from your hotel breakfast bar.

Another notoriously disgusting food at buffets is lemon slices. Sliced lemons come into contact with many dirty surfaces, including cutting boards, hands, and utensils. You also don't know if the staff is throwing the leftover slices out at the end of the day and replacing them with new ones.

Best: Good coffee and tea

Hotel managers, if you're reading this, we want one thing: good coffee and tea. We're not talking about the watered-down vat of Folger's or Maxwell House that's only slightly lukewarm and doesn't taste too much like coffee.

If your hotel has a Keurig or single-serve coffee maker in the lobby, we recommend taking advantage of it. You won't have to worry about getting a weak coffee, and you'll likely have the option to choose whatever coffee flavor or roast type suits your fancy. Just be sure to refill the water and remove your pod after brewing. If you're the tea type, you can also enjoy many different options from your hotel lobby — and no one will judge you if you take a couple of tea bags for your purse or for the room.

Worst: Breakfast meats

Hotels have capitalized on the American love of all things bacon, including cooked bacon, sausage patties, and links at most breakfast buffets. While these breakfast meats are a protein-dense start to your day, there are some drawbacks to picking out breakfast meats from your hotel's buffet. Not only are these meats rarely seasoned well (besides with copious amounts of salt), but they're also not one of the most sanitary options you can pick from the buffet.

Brandi Augustus, a TikTok user who worked as a front desk agent and a night auditor, revealed in a video that the sausage served at the buffet was less than appealing. "Sausage is not supposed to be grey. Stop eating grey sausage," she shares. A breakfast sandwich from a local chain might be a better option if you're craving something meaty.

Best: Single-serve yogurt

Did we just make our ranking based on all of the items from a breakfast buffet that you can take back to your room with you? Not necessarily, but if the shoe fits.

Self-serve yogurt containers are one of the best items to choose from at the buffet. Since each item is individually packaged, you don't have to worry about other people sticking their fingers in the yogurt bowl or accidentally contaminating the scoop. Plus, you can often pick and choose from various yogurt flavors and varieties depending on your preferences. So slice up some banana pieces or grab some nuts from the oatmeal station to bulk up your breakfast. And if you do decide to take a container or two back to the room, refrigerate them or eat them relatively quickly, because yogurt doesn't last forever.

Worst: Make your own waffles

If you're a kid and you find out that your parents booked the hotel with the DIY waffle station, you would have likely felt the same way you did on Christmas morning (or at least we did). What can be better than eating a deliciously crisp waffle covered in downright frightening amounts of pancake syrup and whipped cream? As it turns out — a lot of things.

In a TikTok video, Brandi Augustus noted that waffle machines are one of the dirtiest parts of the hotel breakfast buffet. "Check the waffle maker and see if the waffle maker is even clean," she suggests. "That waffle batter don't get made every day. That waffle batter gets reused until it starts to smell like beer." Gross.

Best: Pastries

It's tough to have a lousy breakfast pastry. And while hotels aren't serving Michelin-star cheese and cherry danishes, the pastries served at most hotel breakfasts are suitable for a quick bite while you're heading out on the first leg of your vacation. The offerings at each hotel are different but often include some sort of danishes, muffins, or quick bread.

Hotels also typically offer some light bread, including English muffins, bagels, and toast. Paired with a bit of protein from a single-serve peanut butter packet, you can be on your way to a well-rounded and filling breakfast with very little preparation needed. If you want a snack for the road, you can also whip up peanut butter and jelly or make a breakfast sandwich with a scoop of scrambled eggs and breakfast meat.

Worst: Pre-made pancakes, waffles, or French toast

If you can't eat the make-it-yourself waffles, you might search for the next best thing: the pre-made pancakes, waffle sticks, or French toast tray. But anyone who has dived into these humble breakfast offerings knows that you can just expect a dry and disappointing result. These options are never as good as they seem and are often just prepared by reheating frozen, pre-packaged items. Plus, leaving these foods in the steam trays deflates them and can cause all of the airiness to escape, thus rendering the food so dense that no topping could ever fix it. In short, don't expect these foods to taste anything like your grandma used to make for Sunday morning brunch.

These reheated breakfast items are disappointing and likely won't keep you filled up for more than a short while. If you're doing a lot of physical activity on your vacation, you'll need to get some protein and fat in your breakfast rather than just a carbohydrate bomb.

Best: Hard-boiled eggs

If you need a relatively safe protein option, skip the scrambled eggs and go for the hard-boiled ones. These eggs are encased in a protective shell — unless they come pre-peeled, which you can consume at your own risk — meaning that you won't have to worry about what fingers and contaminants touch your egg before you put it in your mouth.

Hard-boiled eggs are a great breakfast and snack food because they're filled with protein and fats to help you power through your day. One hard-boiled egg has around 70 calories and 6 grams of protein. Eggs are also rich in choline, which helps aid in cell maintenance and cognition. In addition, hard-boiled eggs are a good option for folks looking to consume a low-sodium diet because you won't have to worry about the added salt used in prepared eggs.

Worst: Hash browns

Breakfast potatoes come in many different forms at a buffet. You may find diced potatoes that are made with peppers and onions, shredded with seasoning, or shaped into tiny triangles that are perfect for stacking onto a breakfast sandwich. Despite the diversity of shapes and flavors, hash browns shouldn't be a top pick on your list of foods to eat at a breakfast buffet.

The perfect diced potatoes take a long time to prepare — especially if you want a perfectly soft center with a crispy exterior. Moreover, home fries are really best after you've just pulled them off the heat. If you let the potatoes sit for too long, the skin starts to wrinkle, and the inside gets mushy. The potato triangles or tater tots can also get soggy quickly — which is nothing but disappointing.

Best: Juice bars

Juice bars are a must-have breakfast item, especially when the hotel offers beverages made to order. Even if you don't order a massive glass of orange juice, you'll still have enough to wash down your other breakfast staples or sip while reading a copy of the morning newspaper.

Your hotel may offer juice options that you don't have access to in your local area. For example, if you're traveling to a tropical locale, you may find passionfruit or guava juice served with breakfast rather than the standard orange and cranberry juice combo. And if you're committed to getting the freshest possible juice from your breakfast, you can always grab a couple of oranges from the buffet line and get to squeezing — you just might be there for a while.

Worst: Communal condiments

If there's food at a breakfast buffet, there also have to be condiments. Where else are people going to get the forsaken ketchup for their eggs?

Although condiments are a necessary component of a buffet, you should express some caution when picking up your pancake syrup or your jam. A poorly kept-condiment station is one of the biggest red flags at a buffet that should make you turn around. If the ketchup is smeared everywhere on the table like a kid doing a finger-painting project, you might think twice about getting any accompaniments for your breakfast food. In addition, it's hard to know what other people touched and contaminated with their hands while filling up their plates. As a result, the best policy is always to use individually-packaged condiments rather than communal ones.

Best: Boxed cereals

We're telling you it's acceptable to eat Fruit Loops at the hotel breakfast buffet even if you're above the age of 10. Hotels typically carry a variety of breakfast cereals to cater to all types of palates. So if you want to feel like a kid again and grab some Cocoa Pebbles or Captain Crunch, there's nothing anyone can do to stop you. But if you feel more conservative, you may go for the Cheerios or Raisin Bran.

Although cereal alone may not be a filling option, it can be used as an ingredient to pep up your yogurt. These boxes are also very portable, so you can take a couple with you for snacking on in the airport or having a late-night snack in the room.

Worst: Breakfast casseroles

Breakfast casseroles are an effortless way for hotels to use up all the extra foods that didn't clear out the day before. As a result, you'll get a medley of different ingredients that may or may not taste good together, as well as ingredients that came powdered or pre-packaged in the first place. We should add that the worst types of casseroles are the ones that are unlabeled — meaning that you could be taking a bite of spinach, broccoli, or bacon that will catch you by surprise.

Since breakfast casseroles often include eggs, it's hard to keep them at a consistent temperature to ward off bacteria and food-borne illnesses. So if you see a breakfast casserole served at your hotel's breakfast buffet, you should walk the other way.

Static Media owns and operates Tasting Table and Mashed.