Fly&Dine’s Hotel Brunch Buffet Rules

Posted in On the Ground

You want to brunch, son? You want to buffet like a baller? Then drop the soup and listen to me. I’ve been hitting hotel brunch buffets since Justin Bieber was in short pants (he still is, though, right?). I know the secrets of the steam trays. I’m cool with the curiosities of carving stations. I’m open to the option of omelets. Lucky for you, I’m finally ready to share my knowledge about turning the All-You-Can-Eat Brunch Buffet into your derogatory word for a female dog.

If you haven’t checked out any of my buffet reviews before, now’s a great time to do so. Click here for the full list. Have you caught up yet? Good. Then you’re ready for the meat of the story. Brunch pun.

DSC00488I’m going to give you a set of rules for hitting the brunch buffet hard and if you follow these rules, you’re going to be a BrunBuf superstar. (Sorry about that. I was trying out a new abbreviation and it didn’t really work.) Harbourside at The InterContinental Hong Kong, The Broadmoor, the Airport Hilton: it doesn’t matter where you’re doing your buffet brunching. If you take these rules to heart, you will become a Brunch Buffet Master.

Rule #1: Put Down That Salad

Seriously, bro? You’re piling up a salad when there’s sushi over there? Salad is a LVI: low-value item. Brunches put these out to cut down on their food costs and appeal to idiots. “But I’m into healthy eating!” Shut up. If you’re into healthy eating, you shouldn’t be at an all-you-can-eat brunch buffet anyway.

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Rule #2: Hit the High-Value Items First, But Be Careful

You know to skip the salad, but what should you be replacing it with? HVIs: high-value items. In this category, you’ve got your crab legs, your prime rib, your made-to-order sushi. Anything that would actually cost money in the real world should be a target here. The problem is, you don’t want to fill up right away. That’s why HVIs are divided into two categories: Heavy HVIs and Light HVIs. That mountain of shrimp? That’s a light HVI. You can put down two dozen before you even realized you started eating. Those barbeque beef ribs? They might be great, but they’re not your starter. Save those for later in the meal (see my plate order suggestions below). Stick to Light HVIs to start things off and then move into the Heavy HVIs once you’re already in your groove. Your stomach and your wallet will thank you.

Rule #3: Skip the Sides

Sides are not only LVIs, they’re also stomach-fillers. Sure, some breakfast potatoes may work well next to that cooked-to-order omelet, but wouldn’t you rather have ANOTHER OMELET? If your plate has rice/potatoes/bread or any other complex carbohydrate on it, ditch the plate. We eat side dishes in our normal, everyday, non-brunching life because they make us full and keep us from ordering two steaks or a full rack of ribs. At AYCE brunch buffets, though, you don’t have these restrictions. Break the bonds of side dishes and make your brunch an all-entree affair.

Rule #4: Become An Evil Genius

Have you ever seen those people that pile a whole bunch of disparate items on their plate and eat them like they’re one cohesive meal? It’s gross. Prime rib + ambrosia salad + Thai green curry do not a meal make. That’s not to say you shouldn’t be combining ingredients, though. Think of the dishes that are put out on the buffet as suggestions. Or think of them as your Sandra Lee-style semi-homemade ingredients (but then stop thinking of Sandra Lee immediately because she’s terrifying). With a little creativity, you can turn your buffet brunch into a creative culinary incubator. Chop up bacon, grab some cheddar cheese (from the salad bar or the egg station) and throw it all into the grits. Combine a slice of honey-baked ham and pulled pork on a sandwich with pickles and Swiss and you’ve got yourself a Cubano. Heck, you can even pull ingredients from other sections and bring them to the omelet dude and have him throw in crab meat/sweet & sour pork/peanut butter. You’re only limited by your own imagination! Start thinking of the brunch buffet as your paint and your plate as your canvas.


Rule #5: Dessert Doesn’t Have to Be Last

Who said dessert comes at the end of the meal? If you’ve got a sweet tooth, go ahead and gorge on the sugar section whenever you want. After all, brunch always has a sweet component and what’s the difference between pancakes and chocolate cake anyway? Go ahead and drop the conventions of traditional meals because traditional meals don’t have unlimited soft serve.



This is how an all-you-can-eat brunch buffet king throws down. Five plates not your jam? Skip Plate 4. Four plates still too much? Start with breakfast and combine both light and heavy HVIs into one stellar course for Plate 2. Your goal should be to eat as much as possible while getting as much value as you possibly can. If this sounds too gluttonous for you, why did you bother reading this far in a post about brunch buffet rules?

First Plate

Stock up on all of the Light HVIs: your shrimp, your crab legs, your sushi, your shellfish of any sort. If it’s fresh and expensive, it goes on your plate. High-end cheeses are attractive here, but be careful. They may fill you up more than you’d prefer. Personally, I go crazy on the smoked salmon first — at least $20 worth.

Second Plate

Plate 2 is great for all of the breakfast foods you want but never want to make: Belgian waffles piled high with whipped cream, eggs benedict, and crepes are all fair game here. Don’t go nuts, though, because you won’t have room for the most important plate: Plate 3.

Third Plate

You’ve already laid a solid foundation and at least a third of your stomach space is already gone. Now it’s time to dive into the Heavy HVIs. A slice of prime rib on a slice of ham on a slice of turkey creates a high-value deconstructed spin on turducken (more of a turbeefam, really). Poached salmon works here as does any amount of breakfast meats. If you’re bringing dessert into the fold early, now’s your chance to hit it. You know what the expensive stuff is. This is your time to pull out all of the stops.

Fourth Plate

Seconds. If you still have room, your fourth plate is meant for your greatest hits. Mix and match the highlights of the meal here and enjoy.

Fifth Plate

Dessert. If you didn’t pull dessert into the rotation earlier, this is the time to do it. Instead of going for six or seven little desserts, find one or two that really look good and grab multiple portions. Who needs a tiny creme brulee when you can have three mini-slices of pecan pie that add up to one whole piece?

Portuguese Sausage Eggs Benedict

Portuguese Sausage Eggs Benedict

By following these brunch buffet rules, you will soon become a Brunch Buffet Ninja. Skilled in the ways of the value warrior, you will feel a sense of brunch enjoyment you have never previously known. Go forth, young ninja, and eat well.



  1. Now THAT is one hilarious post. I loved it. In a moment I’ll zip back up to the top and check out a couple of your lists… Notes:
    1) In the opening pic #1, what looks like a high-volume sushi station, try to make be believe that the wonderful green past is REAL Wasabi! Just try…
    2) In my younger years I really could (and did) attack a buffet with a battle plan similar to yours, always getting more than a good value and plates of S-HVIs. These days, I cannot and no not want to pack-in that volume, lest I suffer for a day or more.
    3) #2 considered, I still attack the better buffets with a Battle Plan, I usually win and of course, intel and recon are critically important. Some additional suggestions…
    Before even picking up a plate, survey the ENTIRE Battle Zone, even taking notes if necessary. Know what you intend to capture, when and why.
    I absolutely agree with skipping the LVI fillers… UNLESS one or two tiny portions are essential for your personal eating plan. The best example is a little bit some kind of good potato to accompany that massive slab of Prime Rib.
    I also agree that moving or combining ingredients from one station to another is brilliant – and I’ve done it: Seafood/shellfish/HVI salad ingredients moved to the omelet station is an important skill to acquire.
    4) In semi-civilized company it is also important to know you limits. Plan well, using the best intel and recon available, but don’t be a wasteful PIG. A SMALL amount of waste is is expected, but ladies and gentlemen do no discard huge mounds of anything. Multiple visits are just fine, but pace yourself and do not take more than you reasonably expect to eat! A seriously good buffet can be wonderful fun and also expensive. Whenever possible, do a brief recon visit a day ahead of time. The information gained will assist with your Battle Plan for E-Day.
    -What made me write all of this crap? Please see pic #3, that Prime Rib! I’d love to know where that shot came from. Any buffet that serves PR that way will not be inexpensive, but that is obviously not ‘utility grade’ meat! Congratulations on a very fine post.

    • Cook, that prime rib is from Harbourside at the InterContinental Hong Kong. They’re well known for their amazing brunch and at roughly $115 US, it better be amazing. Hong Kong in general has a number of truly extravagant hotel brunch buffets and they each try to outdo the others.

  2. We used to do Friday brunch in Dubai where the prices for somewhere decent ranges in the $100 -$125 range. And then you can have alcohol. And these are over-the-top-eat-till-you-explode-4-hour-gorge-fests. After a couple times, it gets too much. Now we’re down to maybe once a quarter or once every 6 months.

    • What were some of the highlights, Mike? Did Dubai buffets offer anything that you couldn’t find at buffets around the world or were they standard multi-ethnic extravaganzas like you’d find in Vegas?

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