May 21st, 2014
02:30 PM ET
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(Travel + Leisure) You’re not going to say exactly what happened last night, but a few drinks may have been consumed. This morning, all you can think about is waffles and eggs Benedict and king crab legs…ooh and maybe a make-your-own-sundae bar. They’re waiting for you at the all-you-can-eat buffet—that great smorgasbord pioneered, naturally, in Sin City.

The western-themed El Rancho Vegas introduced a gastronomic free-for-all in 1941, rolling out a $1 chuckwagon designed to keep high rollers full and gambling into the wee hours of the morning. Almost 75 years later, the indulgence has spread across America. And why not? Gluttony is at its best at brunch, when you and your fellow travelers can while away the day recapping your exploits over a steady procession of mouthwatering dishes.

The restaurants we’re spotlighting prove that buffet no longer has to mean sacrificing quality for quantity. For example, Orchids Halekulani plays to Hawaii’s strengths with suckling pig and lomi-lomi salmon at a buffet that also includes universal favorites like made-to-order omelettes.

So grab a tray: we’ve got the meal to match your craving, whether it’s Cuban-style suckling pig and taco bars poolside in Miami, nouveau tapas whimsy in L.A., or jazz-fueled Creole in New Orleans.

Orchids Halekulani - Honolulu, Hawaii
Hawaii’s most famous brunch buffet is served with a side of Oahu’s best views. Locals and tourists alike reserve weeks in advance for coveted tables on the hotel veranda to savor the crystalline waters of the Pacific and Diamond Head beyond. Inside, Hawaiian specialties like poke, suckling pig, and lomi-lomi salmon punctuate a menu of Asian and American food. Expect fresh sushi and soba stations, along with crêpes, made-to-order omelettes, and carving stations. Be sure to save room for the restaurant’s legendary popovers, light rolls as fluffy as the clouds rolling by outside. $50

Tres by José Andrés - Los Angeles
Go down the rabbit hole at this Philippe Starck playground of curlicue chandeliers, marble banquette tables, and hide-and-seek alcoves at the SLS Hotel Beverly Hills. The setting complements star chef José Andrés’s spread of globe-trotting indulgent dishes, from gazpacho to a Greek yogurt bar, caviar spreads to carving stations. Upgrade to the Brunch Experience ($52) to add on whimsical dishes like eggs Benedict with jamón serrano and hollandaise air (a light foam in lieu of the typical heavy sauce), mini olive oil pancakes, or a dozen sunny–side up quail eggs. Wash it all down with a Brazilian-style Screwdriver made with cachaça and freshly pressed tangerine juice. $42

Schoolhouse BBQ - Scranton, South Carolina
Set beside the highway near Florence, SC, this historic four-room building opened in the 1930s as a schoolhouse for the black community. Some of the older locals who come religiously on the weekends can still point out where their desks used to be. Now the wood-paneled walls are hung with vintage country signs, antique toys, and NASCAR bric-a-brac. You come for the Carolina barbecue, which the veteran pitmasters smoke for 16 hours. Pair it with down-home sides like biscuits and gravy, pickled okra, and sweet potato soufflé. $10

Zuma - Miami, Florida
This buzzed-about dining room in the Brickell neighborhood has hosted everyone from A-Rod to Shakira, the Kardashians to the Kravitzes. Its Sunday brunch is as showy as its clientele, with chefs grilling prime cuts on the robata, slicing super-fresh sushi, and keeping champagne glasses very full. The presentation is equally over-the-top. Exhibit A: the beautiful orb of soft-poached egg floating cloudlike in a soy broth with wisps of scallions and bonito flakes. Ceramic bowls with Technicolor layer cakes perched amid ice cream on ice slabs are punctuated with arcs of melon and curls of sesame cookies. $95

Court of Two Sisters - New Orleans, Louisiana
Trees arch overhead, shading a brick courtyard tucked within the 200-year-old mansion of the Court of Two Sisters. A fountain gurgles at one end while a trio strikes up some hot jazz for a decked-out clientele sporting their Sunday best. Start off with a tour of the breakfast-oriented stations—eggs Benedict, grits, grillades—and move on to lunch-style dishes like shrimp étouffée, crawfish Louise, and jambalaya. For dessert, it’s a spread of king cake, pecan pie, bananas Foster, and house-churned ice creams with praline sauce. $29

The Buffet and Fountains at The Bellagio - Las Vegas, Nevada
True to form, the over-the-top Bellagio offers not one but two brunch buffets. Its traditional buffet restaurant serves more than 500 items, like lump crab omelettes, Kobe beef, cut-to-order sushi, and tandoori game hen. For an extra $10 (the price of a beer at most Vegas clubs), you can have unlimited Prosecco, Bloody Marys, or beer. But where The Bellagio really shines is at the elegant Fountains restaurant, which overlooks The Bellagio’s famous water show. Hit up the Asian soup station for a mix-and-match choice of noodles, broths, and dumplings. Classic brunch dishes get fun twists in the form of lobster and potato cake Benedict, red velvet waffles, and banana and Nutella–stuffed French toast. Try creative savory-sweet dishes like lobster profiteroles or grapefruit-mint panna cotta with Sriracha caviar. $29.99 at The Buffet; $58 at Fountains

EDGE Steak & Bar at the Four Seasons - Miami, Florida
While you’re out partying in South Beach, chef Aaron Brooks and his staff are already hard at work on tomorrow’s brunch, spending the entire night roasting the Cuban-style suckling pig that forms the centerpiece of this tony Miami brunch. It’s carved up the next morning alongside Cuban bread, mojo onions, house-made pickles, and lemon aioli. This being a steakhouse, you can get grilled-to-order meat and ribs alongside a taco station, a raw bar, and a dessert spread of Cuban-inflected desserts like cortadito crème brûlée and rum tres leches cake. $69

Shady Maple Smorgasbord - East Earl, Pennsylvania
A vast strip mall rising from the rolling farmland of Pennsylvania Amish country doesn’t sound like the most promising place for a good meal. But this buffet showcases fresh produce from the surrounding farms—and dished up a staggering 1.4 million gut-busting meals in 2013. Shady Maple’s buffet includes regional specialties like corn pudding, scrapple, and shoofly pie, alongside waffle, omelette, and pancake stations. Sip on some sarsaparilla before visiting the 4,000-square-foot gift shop to stock up on Amish romance novels, bonnets, and apple butter. $11.99

Get the rest of the list at Travel + Leisure: Best Brunch Buffets in America

More From Travel + Leisure:
Best Breakfasts Around the World
America’s Best Brunches
America’s Best Places to Eat like a Local

Is 'all-you-can-eat' an opportunity or a challenge?

soundoff (17 Responses)
  1. Kathleen

    A good brunch is tough to find in Montana, if it's not Easter or Mother's Day.

    Chico Hot Springs and the Sacajawea Inn have wonderful Sunday brunches that wouldn't be out of place in any city in the nation.

    May 22, 2014 at 9:54 am |
  2. Fiona

    I appreciate a beautifully presented buffet, but after one plate I'm through...with the smells, the textures, the entire overstimulation of the thing. The serving implements handled by person after person freak me out. So I'd rather pay a premium for one perfectly prepared dish. More isn't necessarily better, in my view.

    May 21, 2014 at 11:57 pm |
    • Nobody Cares

      Awww, she's sensitive. GO AWAY.

      May 22, 2014 at 6:47 am |
      • JellyBean

        I agree with her. No need to be ugly with folks.

        May 22, 2014 at 9:02 am |
  3. Cletus

    Drinkin' beers an thumpin' qweers....YEEEEEHAAAAWWW!

    May 21, 2014 at 10:03 pm |
  4. Much0

    Wynn Buffet!!

    May 21, 2014 at 10:02 pm |
  5. vidal808

    yes, definitely the Halekulani Brunch is one of the best, even some years ago when I worked for that Resort it was considered top of the line. If you don't mind to pay the price, consider it a treat for a special occasion or purchase a gift certificate to give it to someone special, like your mom, your dad or anyone else you love or care for. It is well worth it and sure it will be appreciated.
    Vidal Demonti

    May 21, 2014 at 9:02 pm |
  6. MR GT.

    U Like buffet in Mesa, AZ..

    May 21, 2014 at 8:59 pm |
  7. Thinking things through

    Yep, if you want true quality at a buffet you will have to pay for it. That's fine, just get yourself really hungry first!

    May 21, 2014 at 8:28 pm |
  8. Robert W.

    The Foundry Grill at Sundance Resort has an awesome Sunday Brunch

    May 21, 2014 at 7:32 pm |
  9. Pooky

    $50 for breakfast will break my bank account.

    May 21, 2014 at 6:07 pm |
    • Fiona

      The thing about these buffet brunches is that they are breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

      May 21, 2014 at 11:51 pm |
  10. fleet

    Simon Bushka's Inn in Annapolis, MD has great crab dishes at brunch and homemade breakfast hash. Outstanding!

    May 21, 2014 at 5:39 pm |
  11. Kat

    scrapple.... ack!

    May 21, 2014 at 4:37 pm |
  12. A Mennonite

    Shady Maple! I had such a great time there a few years back with my family. Went in with the intentions of buying lunch, came out with a beautiful handcrafted quilt!

    May 21, 2014 at 4:32 pm |
  13. David Flad

    I was thrilled to see our hotel mentioned in your review of the best brunches in America. And I agree that the Brunch at Orchids at the Halekulani Hotel is one of the best. However, the photo you featured is of the daily breakfast buffet at the sister restaurant of House Without A Key. The price of the buffet at House Without a Key is currently $32.00. The price of the Sunday Brunch at Orchids is closer to $70.00 (holiday prices are higher.)

    May 21, 2014 at 4:00 pm |
  14. Pinellas Co. Native

    Island Way Grill on Clearwater Beach has the best brunch buffet in the area. If anyone knows about another one of that or better caliber, I'm all ears.

    May 21, 2014 at 3:33 pm |
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