Gadling’s rankings of hotel breakfast buffet foods

One of the magical things about staying at a hotel is enjoying the breakfast buffet. At home, you might just have a bowl of cereal, a banana or a cup of coffee for breakfast. Heck, many people just skip breakfast. Does it mean nothing to you that it’s the most important meal of the day? At hotels, however, you can indulge in all of your breakfast fantasies. Rather than studying a diner menu while agonizing over whether you’re craving the sweetness of french toast or the savory goodness of eggs, you can have it all at the breakfast buffet. How you attack the buffet is critical to maximizing your enjoyment. That’s why we’re here with our official rankings of all of the hotel breakfast buffet foods.

The Unquestionable Top Five

1. Bacon

Because it’s bacon. When I was a kid, my mother limited how often we could have bacon. It was a treat. At the hotel breakfast buffet, however, you can have an entire plate dedicated to just those salty, succulent strips. And that plate can be refilled.

2. Fruit

Bet you didn’t see that coming! Fruit, when purchased individually from a menu, can be expensive. Restaurants will rip you off if you just want a bowl of fruit and yogurt. At the buffet, however, you can go to town on some fruit like some sort of crazed monkey. Adding fruit to your plate helps you justify the amount of bacon you plan to consume. If you’ve traveled a great distance, fruit is also an excellent way to prevent scurvy.

3. Omelet Station

Omelets are tricky to make at home because we often don’t have all of the ingredients to truly do them justice. How many times have you found yourself with eggs but no cheese? Or eggs and cheese but no vegetables? Or eggs, cheese and vegetables but no frying pan? Plus, flipping omelets is tricky. That’s why it’s best to just let someone else do it for you while you hover over them and realize that watching someone make an omelet is pretty boring. Maybe just use that time to get yourself some juice.

4. Waffles

This refers only to waffles that you can freshly make on a waffle maker. Firstly, you feel satisfied knowing that you prepared part of your own breakfast. You can survive anywhere! Secondly, you’ll be able to top your waffle with syrup, powdered sugar, butter, fresh fruit and nuts. Sure beats those Eggos that you normally toast up!

5. Assorted Breads

At home, you might have some bread that you can toast up. It’s OK but nothing special. At the hotel breakfast buffet, your cup runneth over with bread options (tip: don’t put your toast in a cup). Muffins, sliced breads with multiple grains, croissants (both mini and standard sizes), bagels, rolls and the holy grail of buffet breads, biscuits. Grab as many butter packets as you can fit in your pockets and carbo load like you’re running a marathon. But, remember what your mother used to warn you: Don’t fill up on bread.

The Questionable Remainders

6. Eggs

Here’s where things get tricky. Buffet scrambled eggs suck more often than they don’t. They’re always bland, often overcooked and occasionally just loose disasters. Our advice: skip the scrambled eggs. If you really want scrambled eggs, however, and there’s an omelet station, we recommend that you ask the omelet sommelier to prepare you some freshly scrambled eggs. Plus, you can ask for omelet items in your scramble. Win-win!

Hard boiled eggs are a nice treat because preparing them at home is just not that enjoyable. They make your kitchen smell, you get shells everywhere and there are more exciting things to do with your eggs. But when ready-to-eat hard boiled eggs are just presented to you, you best take advantage. All other eggs dishes such as frittatas and quiches should be judged on a case by case basis.

7. Sausage

Like eggs, sausage at hotel breakfast buffets can be a mixed bag (tip: decline all offers of mixed bags of sausage). Avoid sausage patties. You’re not at the hotel breakfast buffet so that you can replicate the experience of eating at McDonald’s. As for links, always take a close look to see how shriveled they are. If they look dehydrated, walk away. You want the casing to pop in your mouth, but you want that to lead to a juicy explosion. Dry sausage is not your friend. Besides, your bacon serving should eliminate the need for sausage.

8. Cereal

You can eat this at home!

9. Oatmeal

Unless the buffet is free, don’t get oatmeal. If you’re paying for the buffet, you already threw health out the window. Put down the raisins and start enjoying life.

10. Potatoes

Like the scrambled eggs, breakfast potatoes at a hotel buffet tend to be underwhelming. Often, they’re just a big batch of mushy, bland starch disappointment. If you’ve handled your bread decision properly, you don’t even need potatoes.

11. Pre-cooked Pancakes

Bland hockey pucks served with packets of “pancake syrup.” I know that you think that you love Aunt Jemima, but she’s a cruel mistress and you deserve better.

The next time you’re staying at a hotel and wake up hungry, we hope that you’ll remember these handy rankings. Whether you’re on vacation, a business trip or anything in between, you need fuel when you’re on the road. Start your day right at the breakfast buffet. The decisions you make in front of those chafing dishes may just save your life.

Photo of the Day (11.08.10)

My earliest travel memories are of my first trip to Disney World. I remember waking up before sunrise to go to the airport. I remember sharing a hotel room with my sister and thinking that we were very cool for doing so. And I remember the breakfast buffet at the hotel. Breakfast at my house as a kid consisted of cereal, bagels, eggs and, on special occasions, pancakes with bacon. I’ve loved bacon from an early age. My mother, being a caring parent, made sure to limit how much bacon her children ate to avoid us developing poor eating habits. However, on that first trip to Disney World, upon seeing the tray of bacon at the breakfast buffet, all of my mother’s attempts at making me a responsible eater were undermined by one plate that I filled entirely with bacon.

I was reminded of that story when I saw this photo by Flickr user JasonBechtel. You see, I still tend to graze when I travel. Sure, I eat proper meals, But, I also eat unorthodox meals such as pre-breakfast, second breakfast, linner, dunch, second dinner, late night snack, etc. Travel allows us to convince ourselves that eating is about far more than just fuel. It’s about culture. Passing up a chance to eat something is not an option. We don’t want to be closed-minded. So, we indulge. We gorge. We fill up those plates with bacon.

Sorry, mom. At least I’m cultured.

Have a picture of yourself grazing a buffet? Or maybe just some great travel photos? Submit your images to Gadling’s Flickr group and we might use one for a future Photo of the Day.

Crif Dogs: The Top Hotdogs in New York City

The various hotdog-and-papaya joints scattered across Manhattan are great for a quick fix, but if you want to truly experience a hotdog’s potential, you have to schlep down to the East Village. Tucked away on St. Mark’s Place, just in from Avenue A, you’ll find Crif Dogs, an establishment that redefines what many consider to be the worst form of meat.

The small, dark restaurant has committed itself to the hotdog in a way like no place I’ve ever been. A few old arcade games greet you at the door, and the décor will not strike you as carefully planned. Linger at the cash register for a moment, and you’ll see a “Wicked Girl” action figure (if you don’t know that that is, leave a comment, and I’ll help you out). And, there are even a few secrets to be found around Crif … if you know where to look.

An expansive menu hangs above the counter, and it is littered with creations that even my lust for unhealthy eating didn’t equip me to fathom. The “Good Morning,” for example, is festooned with cheese, bacon and a fried egg. Bacon, in fact, features prominently on several Crif hotdogs, including the Chihuahua, which comes with guacamole and sour cream (these two are my favorites by far – the bacon is a big part of the reason why). There are other menu items, such as French fries and burgers, but I tend to skip them, preferring to order an extra dog rather than fill the limited space in my stomach with something else.

What Crif Dogs serves is among the best I’ve ever had, with the only competition coming from Popo’s in Swmascott, Massachusetts and a small stand just off Camp Casey in Tong Du Chon, South Korea (which may not even exist anymore – it’s been a dozen years since I last “dined” there). The dogs are hot, they snap and they are packed with flavor in a way that keeps the toppings from masking it. To call a Crif Dog a superior hotdog would be an understatement. And you won’t have any problems with the bun. Though it isn’t toasted (take this as a suggestion, Crif), it’s firm and dry.

Crif Dogs is a bit out of the way if you’re sticking to the usual tourist spots when visiting New York City, but it’s worth a subway hike (and then a walk) to sink your teeth into one of Crif’s creations. The experience is worth it.

[Thanks to @welshwonder for putting a few dogs back with me on my last trip to Crif]

Knott’s Berry Farm adds chocolate and bacon to the funnel-cake menu

Chocolate. Bacon. Funnel cake. Three of my favorite things in the world. But is putting them all together too much of a good thing?

Apparently not at Knott’s Berry Farm, where chocolate bacon funnel cake is being added to the menu.

This over-the-top culinary concoction started where all good theme-park food trends do these days, on Twitter.

Meghan Gardner, a spokeswoman for Knott’s Berry Farm, said that the park sent out a tweet asking followers what funnel cake toppings they would like to see added to the menu.

Chocolate and bacon was the winner. So, the Buena Park, Calif., theme park created a funnel cake drizzled with chocolate syrup and topped with chopped bacon.

It was supposed to be a temporary item, Gardner said. But it proved so popular that the new snack has been added to the permanent menu at the park’s Funnel Cake Kitchen.

Chocolate bacon funnel cakes sell for $8.

Undiscovered New York: Top 5 breakfasts

To truly experience New York during your next visit, you need to start your day with a good breakfast. No meal better epitomizes the different attitudes and moods of the city’s residents then this first (and sometimes last) meal of the day. Whether we’re talking about the quintessential lazy weekend brunch, a bacon egg & cheese from a deli or a strong cup of joe from the street cart, New Yorkers’ breakfast choices are about as diverse as the city itself.

You’re probably already familiar with the old standbys – New York bagels are legendary the world over. And New York’s iconic paper coffee cup never seems to go out of style. But for everything you think you already know about what New York likes to eat for breakfast, there’s plenty of surprises. Breakfast here includes everything from your standard omelette to Chinese Dim Sum to Dominican Mangu and Italian breakfast panini.

With all these choices, where exactly does a breakfast-lover get started? Breakfast is, after all, the most important meal of the day, and who can stomach such an essential daily ritual becoming something bland or boring? This week Undiscovered New York is here to get your New York morning off on the right foot. We’ve compiled a list of our top five breakfasts from across the city. Step away from that yogurt and see what we picked…
Breakfast Five – Barney Greengrass
It would be downright sacrilegious to leave the classic lox and bagel off a New York breakfast list, and Barney Greengrass is arguably one of the best places to get it. Located well off the beaten path on New York’s Upper West Side, this delightfully old-school institution has been slinging some of the city’s best cream cheese, bagels, smoked salmon and whitefish since way back in 1908. Enjoy your bagel with some schmear and the Sunday New York Times in the restaurant’s old-school wood-panelled interior.

Breakfast Four – Joe Art of Coffee
New York could not function without caffeine. The self-proclaimed “city that never sleeps” seems to be mainlining a constant IV drip of the brown stuff. The problem is most of it sucks. The scalded, bitter excuse for caffeine you’ll find at most delis simply won’t do. Instead head to Joe the Art of Coffee, one of the city’s growing range of quality coffeeshops. In addition to a zealous dedication to a quality cup, Joe also offers in-store classes to help take your appreciation and coffee brewing skills to the next level.

Breakfast Three – Chinese Dim Sum
Consider this while you’re crunching that morning bowl of Special K – breakfast around the world is as different as the people that eat it. And in many countries, the typical yogurt, fruit and cereal is not on the menu. New York’s large population of Chinese residents happen to enjoy Dim Sum for their weekend breakfast, a leisurely meal that consists of many small plates chosen from constantly moving food carts. Though there’s no one typical dish served at Dim Sum, the meal usually includes staples like dumplings, spare ribs and sweets filled with bean paste. Try Chinatown spots like Jin Fong, the Golden Unicorn or Flushing’s Ocean Jewel.

Breakfast Two – Alpha Donuts
Way out in the Sunnyside section of Queens, they take their breakfast seriously. That is to say, they don’t mess around with fancy-pants breakfast food like brioche french toast or omelettes filled with goat cheese. What they are serious about is donuts – the ultimate sugary breakfast favorite. That’s why Alpha Donuts leads the pack. In a city filled with fancy breakfasts, Alpha Donuts stands out for its simplicity and commitment to this classic American staple, which they’ve been making since World War II.

Breakfast One – Shopsins
There’s no easy way to explain what to order at Shopsins, a hilariously quirky breakfast establishment located in Manhattan’s Essex Street Market. The correct answer is probably “What do you want to eat?” Not only does Shopsins serve all the classic breakfast favorites like skillets, sausage and cereal – they’ve also got plenty of one-of-a-kind morning meals prepared by the surly owner Kenny Shopsin. How about some “Slutty Cakes” made with pumpkin, pistachio and peanut butter? You also can’t go wrong with the “Jihadboy Sandwich” topped with beef, pomegranate, olives, sheep feta and tahini.