Gut Rumbles

May 05, 2006

hotel food

Why do hotel restaurants usually serve shitty food at expensive prices? Due to circumstances beyond my control (I couldn't arrange transportation to the nearest Burger King), I've been forced to consume hotel restaurant food in the past, and it's ALWAYS been shitty, except at one Holiday Inn in Florida, where I happened to find myself on an "All You Can Eat Snow Crab Legs" night at the buffet.

Even then, the snow crab legs weren't anything to write home about, which is remarkable, because snow crab legs come packaged ALREADY COOKED and all you have to do is HEAT THEM UP. You've got to really TRY to fuck up THAT dish, and the Holiday Inn almost managed. And that was GOOD FOOD by Holiday Inn standards.

I don't understand it. When I was in Austin, I conked out took a power nap brief siesta after sitting in the sun all day and missed the grand Saturday evening blodger exodus to a Tex-Mex restaurant and the Stevie Ray Vaughn Memorial.

I was alone and hungry, so I went to the hotel restaurant and saw this guy dining by himself. I decided to join him. I ordered a Philly Cheese Steak Sandwich with french fries. I figured that it was a safe bet.

I was mistaken. I should have known that any restaurant chain capable of fucking up frozen snow crab legs could not possibly handle making a got-dam simple sandwich. They couldn't. The damn thing tasted like old cardboard with onions, bell peppers and melted cheese on it.

Where is the outrage??? Without the Blown-Eyed Writer's Conference discount, rooms in that establishment go for almost $200 per night. At those prices, why do they serve old cardboard as food in their restaurant? Bejus! Some of the microwave-ready frozen burritos you find in 7-11 stores taste better.

I saw the hotel restaurant packed with customers a couple of times, too. They must have been a captive audience with no way to find a decent place to eat, because I think I saw a couple of dogs cross the street to avoid the place when I looked outside. Serving the dishes that place did is lodger abuse, in MY humble opinion, except for maybe the pancakes and bananas--- but you had to be there to appreciate those.

The best food I tasted at the hotel was the kosher wasabi and horseradish flavored capers in a can that he of the horrid flowered shirt served on the sixth floor balcony of the hotel. Those things had a nice "kick" to them, even without beer to wash them down.

Which brings me to my blog-question of the day: Have YOU ever stayed in a hotel that served good food?


I've eaten at a hotel in Vegas that had great food but we weren't staying there. Plus it was reasonably priced. The place we stayed was waaaaay overpriced and pure crap.
I've stayed at all-inclusive holidays that actually did have some pretty good food though but not in North America

Posted by: Jeannie on May 5, 2006 05:59 PM

yeah but not in the USA. The German Gasthaus are famous for their great groceries
and I did get some pretty good grunts in a Big Hotel in Manila a few times--at least in the manila Hotel I was relatively sure it was dog meat although it might have meowed loudly just before it hit the skillet.

Posted by: GUYK on May 5, 2006 06:22 PM

I traveled for my company for nearly 30 years, and my rule was "I don't sleep in restaurants and I don't eat in hotels".

Posted by: Bill on May 5, 2006 06:53 PM

No hotel but I've eaten pretty well at a motel. I can't remember the exact name (Maple Manor?) in Eau Claire, WI that had a diner run by the same management as the motel. Pretty good diner type food, you even got a REAL free breakfast with your stay there.

Posted by: Toddk on May 5, 2006 07:02 PM

Ooooh, I've had some amazing food....but it's usually been in the high end places. You can get some really great food in Vegas. Harrah's in Reno used to have some great stuff, but they've kind of gone down hill over the years. In Los Angels, if you're not finding good hotel food, you ain't living right! Same goes for San Fran, Portland OR, and Seattle. But you're going to have to kick it up a couple of notches above Holiday Inn.

If anyone wants a list of great hotel food, just shoot me an email. Heck....maybe I'll even blog it!

Posted by: DogsDontPurr on May 5, 2006 07:08 PM

Close to us in Jawja, The Breakers in West Palm Beach, Florida...especially their own Flagler Steakhouse!!

Posted by: vicki on May 5, 2006 07:13 PM


Red Lion next to the San Jose airport. Venison and buffalo; expensive but a wonderful meal.

Marriott in Irvine. I have never in my life eaten a more expensive breakfast than their room service, but it was terrific.

Mirage in Las Vegas. One of the more expensive buffets, but well worth it. I've had fine food in many Strip hotels, but not necessarily the ones where I was staying.

Anthony's Key Resort on Roatan Island, Honduras. Captive audience for most of the week, yet the food was varied and mostly excellent. I was pretty tired of conch by the time we left, but otherwise it was great.

Your point is well taken, though. You generally have to be staying in a fairly swank place to have a decent restaurant on the premises, and you'll pay for it. Better to google some local reviews and take a stroll or short cab ride.

Posted by: Alan S. on May 5, 2006 07:13 PM

Next go round, we're waking your ass up.

I agree with Vicki. The Breakers Hotel on Palm Beach. We stayed there one summer when they were running some scary great special. Their Steakhouse is fabulous. Other than that? No. I didn''t even eat breakfast at the hotel in Austin. I ate at the IHOP.

Posted by: Bou on May 5, 2006 07:29 PM

If I'm gonna eat at the Hermitage House in Nashville or at the Parker House in Boston - or the Riverway Omni in Houston - I expect good food. In a Marriott, I expect edible food. In a Holiday Inn, I expect shite.

When a hotel has a captive audience, they can (figuratively) crap in your mess kit.

Posted by: Elisson on May 5, 2006 07:46 PM

My job involves a fair amount of business travel, mostly outside the US. And finding ANY hotel that has good food is rare.


The Swynford Paddocks Hotel (near Cambridge, England) is more of a destination restaurant attached to a boutique hotel. Truly amazing food. Got booked there once when my regular hotel in Cambridge was full - if I ever have to do business in Cambridge again I'll happily pay the difference in price out of my own pocket.

Novatels are usually OK, especially for breakfast (baseline: UK, France, Korea).

The Hyatts in Tokyo and Seoul have great breakfast buffets, but overpriced. OK but *hideously* overpriced for dinner.

Last summer, we were shocked to find that the Tower Hotel in Waterford, Ireland served excellent food for all meals - but on the other hand, it was the only hotel of the 10 or so we stayed at on the trip that we felt was outstanding. If I'm ever lucky enough to return to Waterford, I'm staying at the Tower.

You can get good eats (only slightly overpriced) in a lot of Los Vegas hotels.

Don't even get my started about the travesty that a lot of chains call a "free continental breakfast". The last time I was in Georgia, the place we were staying offered that (Day's Inn, I think - but it was no worse than any other chain). After the first day, we all walked across the parking lot to Waffle House - and it was a *big* step up.

I've had excellent food on business trips - but generally by asking locals where to go. As a regular thing, you'd get better food - and spend a lot less money - eating in fast food joints than most hotel "restaurants".

Posted by: Javahead on May 5, 2006 08:39 PM

The food at the Ambassador East Hotel in Chicago was great when I stayed there years ago. I also think the food is good at Wolfgang Pucks Bar & Grill at the MGM Grand. Hyatt's had decent food. There are a lot of hotel restaurants with really great food, but Holiday Inns don't qualify. My favorite food in hotels on the level of a Holiday Inn was found in the grease grills at Ho-Jo's. Especially their strawberry shortcake...dang that was gooooooooood!

Posted by: Tessa on May 5, 2006 08:41 PM

The Hotel Burnham in Chicago has a chef run 'Cafe Atwood' on the main floor. Pretty excellent.. however, pretty excellent prices.

Posted by: zeluna on May 5, 2006 08:46 PM

Lodger abuse? May we use that?

Posted by: Kim on May 5, 2006 09:10 PM

Crummy old hotel in Belgrade, Montana about 35 years ago. I can't remember the name of the hotel, but the restaurant was the "Cattleman." I had a steak the size of a toilet seat that was so good I sat there for two hours eating it. I just couldn't stop. It came with a baked potato that I first thought was a football and a big bowl of fresh steamed green beans. I asked how many servings there were supposed to be. The waitress said, "Just one, hon."
As I remember, it cost about $5.00.

Posted by: Gerry N. on May 5, 2006 10:09 PM

Yeah, I've had great food. The Wichita Royale in Kansas City comes to mind. Just about any place in Oklahoma or Texas.

The remark about motels up there is dead on. The two, motels and restaurants, seem to be symbiotes, that both serve each other well.

The Waffle Spot at is maybe the best breakfast I ever had, while the motel was one of the filthiest fleabags I ever stayed at.

I was there for my son's graduation from Marine Boot Camp.

There's plenty of hotels/motels on that strip. Stay at any but the nasty nasty nasty King's Inn. But don't miss eating at the Waffle Spot.

Oddly, I've noticed that room service is better than the restaurant food in most hotels. Especially if you tip well, right off the bat.

A little more money, but usually worth it.

Of course, there's always Dominoe's...

Posted by: Bane on May 5, 2006 10:28 PM

BION the Holiday Inn in Bellevue, WA had a 5 star resturant.... but that was 20 plus years ago, and the Red Lion Inn at SeaTAc and the one at Columbia River...were also good.

Almost any casino in Vegas will have at least one good resturant.. My favorite is the buffet at the Bellagio.

The Marriott at LAX has a better than expected steak...

Beyond that it gets pretty thin in a hurry...

Did you folks go down to the river in Austin? Several good resturants in the area.

Posted by: Poker Player on May 5, 2006 11:48 PM

Embassy Suites right outside of BWI in Balti. Killer free breakfast buffet. About ten stations including cooked to order eggs with the acroutrements and it had good hours. They kept serving until at least ten. They also had a free happy hour at night with a big snack spread. And better than decent crab cakes from room service for dinner.

The only other one I can think of is the Hotel Parador in Costa Rica. Another kick ass free breakfast with the room, the tropical fruit assortment was especially exciting and very elegant restaurant.

Posted by: Libby on May 6, 2006 02:25 AM

I forgot about the Canciones del Mar in Costa Rica, where they cook your food under a big thatched roof in the outdoor dining area. All the food I ate there was good---- and Libby is correct--- the fresh fruit is wonderful.

Posted by: Acidman on May 6, 2006 06:47 AM

Yes, in Caen, France overlooking the castle of William the Conquer, 8 miles from the Normandy beach. Say what you want about the frogs, but they would rather kiss G.W. Bush than serve bad food or wine. Just don't order something American like Philly steak or a hamburger. Ask for the local specialty and they puff up with pride and give you the best.

Posted by: Ivan Ivanovich on May 6, 2006 08:19 AM

Two times. Once in a Holiday Inn in Indianapolis where the restaurant (going back 25 years) was called Hugo's. One of the best meals I ever had in my life. The other was at the Hyatt in Kansas City right across from Hallmark. The food there was also great. Other than that I stay as far away from hotel restaurants as I possibly can.

Posted by: dick on May 6, 2006 10:42 AM

Hey Bob!

Wasn't Hugo's a brand name within Hyatt? You comment jogged my memory, and the Hyatt in Nashville had one that was very good, but again that was 30 years ago...

Posted by: Poker Player on May 7, 2006 12:38 AM

most of the resorts that I've been too (Sandals in Negril, Jamaica, some swanky place on Grand Cayman, and the Marriot in Puerto Vallarta) all had good food. the food at TI in Las Vegas was pretty damn good too, but that doesn't really count b/c those were all separate restaurants. as far as Holiday Inns and other hotel chains go, I can't even remember the last time I ate at one, other than grabbing a continental breakfast on the way out in the morning.

Posted by: girl on May 7, 2006 07:39 AM

I think that I agree with Dick...I ate at the Holiday Inn at the Airport in Indianapolis in about 1993 and the restaurant was rented out to a pirvate restauranteer.

The food AND the service was excellent.

They had a gentleman with this outrageous handlebar moustach that tended bar while he told the most hilarious jokes and did little monologues and I almost missed my flight because I didn't want to leave I was having so much fun.

Posted by: Virgil on May 7, 2006 07:58 AM

They're all crap. I used to fly 50 times a year out of O'Hare -- I think that may qualify me as a "frequent flier", and other than at expensive hotels with nosebleed prices for everything, hotel food is only two steps better than hospital food, and three better than airline food.

Only the Euros have any idea -- it's about the only area where they still have us beaten.

My favorites:

Hotel Petershof in Konstanz, Germany. Best food I ever ate in a hotel: breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Four Points Sheraton in Santiago, Chile. Best room-service menu I've ever seen, and cheap as hell, too (eg. large steak dinner plus dessert: $12 -- try getting THAT at a U.S. hotel).

Posted by: Kim du Toit on May 7, 2006 10:49 AM

I ate in a Holiday Inn in Quebec City once; it was the best damn meal I ever had.

Posted by: Fred on May 7, 2006 11:23 AM

Crowne Plaza in Akron, OH. Neat place, but the best burger I've ever had. They actually made it special for me I was the only guest in the whole hotel that night.

Posted by: Terry on May 8, 2006 04:50 PM
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