The Thru-Hiker’s Guide to All-You-Can-Eat Buffets Along the Appalachian Trail
Hiker hunger is legit. Some experience it more than others, but we all crave food constantly. Our bodies need the calories, so it’s their way of begging us for the energy they need to carry us over 2,190 miles. While we are limited by what we can carry out onto the trail with us, in town, we can indulge. To truly satisfy the hiker hunger, an all you can eat style meal can be the best bang for your buck. Therefore, here is a comprehensive, but not complete, list of AYCE restaurants along the AT. I haven’t been to all, so I’ll do my best to include most relevant information. However, you may notice that I got lazy with some of my reviews. You’ll just have to go check them out yourself.
Blairsville Restaurant, Blairsville
This restaurant serves southern comfort food, so basically lots of meat with side veggies. Their AYCE lunch buffet is $8. I personally did not make the journey, but most reviews peg this place as “OK.” Considering the cost of the meal, the food seems to be good. Locals like the place. Cleanliness reviews are mixed. To get there, it is 14 miles west on US 19 at Neel Gap, making it a 1/5 for accessibility.
Daniel’s Steakhouse, Hiawassee
Another southern comfort food joint, Daniel’s Steakhouse serves a mean fried chicken and ribs on the buffet, depending what day you go. It’s a lot easier to get to than Blairsville, especially if you stay at the Top of Georgia Hiker Hostel because they give you a free shuttle into town for dinner. Therefore I’ll give it a 3/5 for accessibility. All you can eat dinner is $8. Reviews average 4/5 stars. If you are going to try one southern comfort food restaurant in Georgia, choose Daniel’s Steakhouse over Blairsville.
Big Al’s Pizza, Hiawassee
Personally, all you can eat pizza is not my scene, but there are a few to try along the trail, including Big Al’s. The reviews for this pizza buffet are pretty good, averaging a 4/5. It’s also very affordable—$6.95 for the buffet, soup, and salad bar during lunch and $8.95 for dinner. Prices are supposed to be lower on Wednesdays. There are desserts, too, so you can satisfy your sweet tooth (unsure if dessert is included in the buffet). Note: they are closed Mondays and Tuesdays, and be sure to look up the AYCE hours before you go. For the same reasons as Daniel’s Steakhouse, I’ll give it a 3/5 for accessibility.
Asian King Chinese and Sushi Buffet, Franklin
In the words of one of my friends, the “Asian King buffet is pretty lit!” For $8.59 during the week for lunch and $11.59 for dinner, you can help yourself to a large buffet of Chinese food, including dessert and sushi. Note: Saturday lunch buffet is $9.59 and all day Sunday, plus holidays, is $11.59. Another review says it’s just what a hiker needs. If you’re in a rush, no worries! They do to-go buffet for $4.59/lb during lunch hours and $4.99/lb during dinner hours. With reviews averaging 4.5/5, this place is a worthy stop. While Franklin is a little bit of a drive from the trail, it is a great place to resupply, so I’ll put accessibility as a 4/5 since you should be going into this town anyway.
Frogtown Market, Franklin
On Thursday nights for $11.99 you can partake in AYCE catfish night. As a local favorite and reviewed as the “best seafood in town,” you definitely want to hit up this deal if the scheduling works out. Plus, if you’re feeling adventurous, you can try the frog legs. This place is another 4.5/5, and while it is as accessible as the Chinese buffet, I’ll drop it to a 3/5 since the AYCE night is only once a week. However, if you like seafood, the entire menu is rather affordable, ranging from $3.99 for a grilled cheese to $13.99 for fried oysters. As one of the more unique AYCE options, I would definitely recommend.
Shoney’s Franklin, Franklin
Shoney’s is a chain restaurant that serves buffets options for all three meals a day. Note: this can vary based on location. Reviews peg the breakfast as the best of the three. Lunch and dinner are southern comfort food, and on Tuesdays and Saturdays they have AYCE ribs. Overall, it comes in at a 3.5/5 with accessibility being 4/5. However, if I were you, I’d only consider breakfast here, then lunch at Asian King, and dinner at Frogtown on Thursday. Three AYCE meals in one day! That may be overwhelming to a NOBO just getting started, but maybe not for a SOBO wrapping up in the cold of December. Wish I had known about this then.
Papa’s Pizza, Robbinsville
Papa’s Pizza offers both a lunchtime and dinner buffet, not only including pizza, but also salad, cheesy bread, Stromboli, spaghetti, baked potatoes, and dessert pizza. Reviews give Papa’s a 4/5. It’s clean with “decent” pizza. The lunch buffet costs $6.99, while dinner comes in at $9.99. Robbinsville is a bit of a pain to get to, but maybe Papa’s Pizza makes it worthy of a trip, so I will give it a 2/5 for accessibility.
Granny’s Kitchen, Cherokee
If you get to Newfound Gap in the Smokies and opt to go east instead of west, you’ll go to Cherokee instead of Gatlinburg. And in Cherokee, you can get AYCE breakfast, lunch, and dinner at Granny’s Kitchen. Be sure to check online because they serve different southern classics each day, and the hours vary throughout the year. Ratings list it as 4/5, but considering Cherokee is 21 miles east, I’m giving it 1/5 for accessibility.
Bennett’s Pit Bar-B-Q, Gatlinburg
However, if you do decide to go 15 miles west at Newfound Gap to Gatlinburg, there are a couple AYCE options. First is an all you can eat breakfast at Bennett’s BBQ, which included a waffle bar, pulled pork, grits, and anything else you can expect for breakfast. For $10.99 you can have it all. It’s reviewed as 4/5, and since Gatlinburg is slightly closer and slightly more popular to go to than Cherokee, I’ll give it a 2/5 for accessibility.
Log Cabin Pancake House, Gatlinburg
Despite having pancake in its name, this restaurant has an AYCE lunch buffet (although it does serve breakfast all day). The buffet starts at 11 a.m., goes until 2 p.m., and features southern comfort food. It’s a family-owned and operated business given 4.5/5 stars. However, most of the hype is over the breakfast. Accessibility is 2/5 for the same reasons listed above.
Pizza Plus, Erwin
This pizza buffet includes a salad bar, a drink, and dessert pizza, all for $8.99. Reviews deem Pizza Plus as a 3.5/5, but it would definitely satisfy that hiker hunger. It’s only two miles from the trail, so between Uncle Johnny’s and hitches, this place is a 4/5 for accessibility. The one and only Zach Davis said he had to be wheelbarrowed out.
Shirley’s Home Cooking, Hampton
We have another southern comfort, family-style AYCE joint folks. They have a breakfast buffet on the weekends from 8-11 a.m. For dinner, you choose between fried chicken, country ham, roast beef, meat loaf, and chicken livers. On Friday, you can also have country fried steak and gravy. Then they have a long list of vegetables and sides to go along. And don’t forget dessert: cobbler, cake, and the southern classic, banana pudding. Dinner is only Friday and Saturday from 4-8 p.m. and Sunday lunch from 12-4 p.m. It gets a 4/5 from reviews, but accessibility is only 2/5 because the hours are so limited, but its only six miles from the trail east on Highway 67.
Lucky Star Chinese Restaurant, Pearisburg
If you hit up this place for lunch, the buffet is only $5.39. Sunday is $8.25 all day. The food isn’t that good, pegged as 3/5, but for the price it’s a decent deal. If you have the Virginia Blues, it may be worth a visit. Since the Lucky Star Chinese is located in a complex with a supermarket and really close to Angel’s Rest Hiker Haven, I’m giving it a 4/5 for accessibility.
The Homeplace, Catawba
The Homeplace is probably the most well known of the southern comfort food AYCE restaurants. They only serve dinner Thursday and Friday from 4-8 p.m., Saturday from 3-6 p.m., and Sunday from 11 a.m.-6 p.m. The price is $15 per person for two meats and $16 for three. I went as a vegetarian for $12, but I could only eat the biscuits, mashed potatoes, and coleslaw since the other veggies are cooked with meat products. I definitely don’t recommend southern comfort food restaurants to vegetarians. However, if you like meat, you don’t want to miss a visit to The Homeplace. With 4.5/5 stars, I’m not surprised that my friend said it was the best fried chicken he’s ever had. Four Pines Hostel will take you there for free, and there’s a trail leading directly from the AT to the Homeplace, so we’ll give it a 4/5 for accessibility.
I don’t know if many people journey off of the trail to Roanoke. My friends and I certainly didn’t. However, if you do decide to, there are many AYCE restaurants to check out. I am not going to review them all individually, but here’s a list for you: Golden Corral Buffet and Grill, Hibachi Grill and Supreme Buffet, The Great 611 Steak Company, Cici’s, Country Cookin, and Sakura Japanese Steak House.
Ming Garden, Waynesboro
This was one of my favorite AYCE restaurants along the trail, and in my opinion, definitely the best Chinese food option. The lunch buffet option during the week is $8.99, and dinner and weekends cost $11.49. This doesn’t include drinks, but there are tons of food options. From sushi to a salad bar to dessert, you can satisfy all your cravings here. Reviewed as 4/5, I’ll give it a 3/5 for accessibility (Waynesboro is a little bit of a drive, but a good stop to resupply before or after Shenandoah). If you are going to try just one Chinese buffet along the trail, go for Ming’s.
Golden Corral Buffet and Grill, Waynesboro
Golden Corral is a chain buffet restaurant. They serve breakfast, lunch, and dinner, costing $8.69, $9.95, and $11.99, although prices may vary based on location. They serve American fare, and mostly lots of meat options for lunch and dinner. Vegetarians can definitely load up on carbs, though. It also comes in at 4/5 in reviews, and for the same reasons above 3/5 for accessibility.
Skyland Resort & Restaurant, Shenandoah National Park
Apparently, Skyland Restaurant has an AYCE breakfast buffet. I unfortunately missed the breakfast, but did get lunch (not buffet). The food is fantastic. For hikers, definitely 5/5 stars. I’d imagine the breakfast is similar, but expensive, as it is a tourist destination. For quantity and quality, it would probably be a steal in comparison to lunch or dinner. And as a side note, if you have a budget to work with, I definitely recommend carrying minimal food through Shenandoah and stopping at all the waysides and restaurants. Accessibility is 5/5 because it’s practically right off of the trail.
Brookside Restaurant, Luray
Brookside has family-style dining, offering buffets for breakfast on weekends, and dinner and lunch all week. They feed you down-home cooking, and claim to be vegetarian friendly. It’s reviewed as 4/5, but accessibility is 2/5. Luray is a little bit of a trek from Shenandoah National Park.
Epic Buffet, Charles Town
Epic Buffet serves all you can eat American fare for lunch and dinner at a casino. Costing $22, it is one of the more expensive AYCE options. It’s rated as 4/5, but many reviews say that the food quality is not worth the cost; food for thought for a thru-hiker on a budget. It is also 7.3 miles outside of Harpers Ferry, but there is a Walmart there, too, so if you’re going for a resupply, it is pretty close. I’m still giving it a 2/5 for accessibility. My inclination is that this buffet may not be worth it.
Keystone Family Restaurant, Waynesboro
Keystone offers breakfast during weekends for $8.95, lunch during weekdays for $9.50, dinner Monday-Thursday for $11.50, and dinner Friday-Sunday for $13.25. They offer home-style food with different specials each day (they always have fried chicken though). The food must be pretty darn good because this place is reviewed as 5/5. It’s only three miles away directly on Route 16, so it’s a 3/5 for accessibility. Meat-eaters should seriously consider hitching to this restaurant.
Similar to Roanoke, Mechanicsburg has a few different AYCE options. It’s about six to eight miles from the trail, so if you are interested in checking out the different places, here is a list: Lin Buffet, Tokyo Diner, Sakura Japanese Restaurant, and Zahra Restaurant.
Aya Japanese Steakhouse, Carlisle
The all you can eat sushi lunch for $12.99 and dinner for $24.99 has pretty good reviews (4/5). Along with sushi, you can also get soup, salad, fried rice and noodles, but don’t quote me on that. At 0.5 miles away along a major roadway, it’s a 3/5 for accessibility.
Sushi Village, Fishkill
This was my other favorite AYCE place besides Ming’s in Waynesboro. The sushi was delicious, and the AYCE option included soup, salads, appetizers, and ice cream for dessert. Make sure you don’t order too much, though, because you are charged the full price of the roll if you don’t finish it. Many AYCE (non-buffet style) places do this to avoid wasting food. It’s rated 4/5, but accessibility is 2/5. It is only 6.5 miles from the RPH shelter, and you can Uber there, like my tramily and I did, but there are also delivery options, so naturally most hikers will opt for those. The dinner is around $30, but I don’t remember exactly how much. However, it is one of the more expensive AYCE options.
Royal Buffet and Grill, New Milford
This buffet serves American and Asian eats, including sushi. It’s reviewed at 3.5/5 stars. Lunch during the week is $8.99 and $11.99 on Saturday. Dinner during the week, except Friday, is $14.59 and $15.99 on weekend nights. They have a lot of options, but sometimes the quality is not up to par. For a hiker, though, it probably will taste delicious no matter what. The restaurant is 11 miles from the intersection of the AT with Route 55, so I will give it a 1/5 for accessibility.
Papa Joe’s, Pittsfield
Papa Joe’s is an Italian restaurant. On Sundays from 4-8 p.m., Papa Joe’s has an AYCE Mama’s Sunday buffet for $12.99, and from Wednesday-Friday they have an AYCE lunch buffet for $8.99. The buffets mostly have pizza, but also include salad, pasta, meatballs, and veggies. It’s rated 4/5, and the accessibility is 3/5 because it is only 4.5 miles west of Dalton, MA, where the trail cuts through, along a major road. Out of all the pizza buffet options, this one seems the most authentic because unlike the others, it is not a chain.
Oriental Buffet, North Adams
Another Chinese food buffet. This one is rated 3.5/5, so maybe not the best. Caution, according to one review, there aren’t many choices for vegetarians. The lunch buffet costs $8.42. Dinner is probably a little more expensive. Roughly 2.5 miles from the trail and off of a major road, the Oriental Buffet is 4/5 for accessibility.
Spice Root, Williamstown
If you head in the opposite direction from North Adams, you’ll get to Williamstown, where you can get Indian food. Their lunch buffet includes main dishes, salads, and desserts. With 4/5 stars, it may be worth checking out the only AYCE Indian food option along the trail. From Tuesday-Friday, the lunch buffet is $10.95. The weekend brunch buffets are $12.95. Again, the restaurant is 2.5 miles from the trail along the same road, just in the opposite direction, so accessibility is 4/5.
China Wok, Bennington
Probably the worst rating for a Chinese buffet along the trail with 2.5/5 stars. Lunch buffet is less than $10, and dinner may be around $12. But to be honest, I’d recommend Cilantro, a laid-back Mexican food place with great vegetarian options. It’s not all you can eat, but it was one of the best burritos I’ve ever had. Bennington is about five miles west of the trail. You can hitch or call for a shuttle from the Catamount Motel owner if you’re staying there, so accessibility is 3/5.
Jesse’s Steakhouse, Hanover
This 5/5 restaurant offers an all you can eat Sunday brunch, voted “Best in New Hampshire” by the New England Business Journal. For $25, it better be the best brunch! The trail goes right through town, but brunch buffet is only on Sunday, so we will say 4/5 for accessibility. If you can afford it and the timing works out, I’d definitely check it out.
Gordi’s Fish & Steak House, Lincoln
Gordi’s has a unique AYCE experience. On Thursday night, they have all you can eat fish and chips for $11.99. If I had known about this 4/5 restaurant, and the timing worked out, I definitely would have gone for AYCE fish and chips. It’s 5.5 miles from the Flume Visitor Center, and the dinner is only on one night, so it’s only 2/5 for accessibility.
Dynasty Buffet, Gorham
Dynasty Buffet is one of the more well-known Chinese buffets along the trail. I would only give it 3/5 stars, but online reviews give it half a star more. The vegetarian options are very limited. The dessert was just ice cream, which is better than no dessert at all. Lunch buffet is $7.25, and dinner is $10.85, except on Fridays and Saturdays, when it’s $12.15. Gorham is a great resupply town (it has a Walmart), and between hitches and hostels, getting a ride to Dynasty Buffet should be pretty easy. Therefore, I’ll give it 4/5 for accessibility. Definitely a better option for meat eaters.
Kelly’s Landing, Greenville Junction
Lastly, at Kelly’s Landing you can get an all you can eat Sunday brunch buffet for $15, but I’d stick to breakfast at Shaw’s. You can go even if you aren’t staying there; you just need to let them know. Pancakes are all you can eat, and the home fries are delicious. Greenville Junction is ten miles west from the trail, in the opposite direction of Monson, where most people go after or before the 100-Mile Wilderness, so accessibility is only 1/5. In my opinion, it’s not worth the hassle.
AYCE restaurants are the bomb. As hikers, we can really take advantage of these opportunities with our raging hiker hunger. I wish I had known about more of these places during my thru-hike, and then I could have written better reviews and information for you. Only a handful are mentioned in AWOL’s guidebook and Guthook, so hopefully this list brings some attention to some hidden gems along the trail. There are definitely more AYCE joints out there, especially if you expand your search radius. My recommendation is to at least try one or two all you can eat restaurants along the way. My challenge is for someone to hit them all! This may require a few days in certain places like Roanoke. Happy trails and happy eating.
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