Chain Restaurant Ham, Ranked Worst To Best According To Customers

When you think of a big breakfast, there are always cured meats on the plate to pack in a bit of protein in your morning. Ham is a natural accompaniment to any stack of pancakes or scramble, but the savory simplicity gives it equal footing as a main course, hence its association with the holiday season. There are endless ways to get creative with your leftover Christmas ham. However, as long as Americans are going to brunch, dining establishments will be carving the pork staple with as much gusto as bacon and sausage. 

A local institution is likely superior in execution. However, there's just no beating your Waffle Houses or IHOPs to sling a dependable hunk. You might think if the ham is good at one chain restaurant, then it will be good at them all, but you would be mistaken. To ensure foodies won't waste their hard-earned dollars, we sought to confirm which franchises offer quality meats, with the poorly-performing contenders exposed for your convenience. All of our picks were informed by consumer feedback, so read on for the winner — our methodology will be fully explained at the end.   

13. Golden Corral

There's no debating that buffets like Golden Corral entice customers with its variety. With almost 400 eateries nationwide, where else can you cram your gullet with meatloaf, fried chicken, and soft-serve ice cream all in one sitting? Carved ham is one of the pork selections visitors will find on rotation, and employees will be slicing it morning, afternoon, and evening. 

There is a downside to this help-yourself format spearheaded by the North Carolina mainstay: dishes aren't going to be super fresh. The ham is no exception, and for this reason, it ranks at the bottom. Diners experience tough, fatty slices only fit for feeding your dog beneath the table, but even that's assuming your pet will want to eat it. They're usually lukewarm and bland as well. 

Besides the leathery consistency, visitors didn't hesitate to bash the subpar quality. Supposing you didn't already have qualms about the type of pork found at an all-you-can-eat joint, one customer confirmed our worst fears. "The ham had a yellowish color to it and was dry," they said. Yuck. We're sure other dishes at Golden Corral could satisfy, but smoke-kissed pork isn't its strong suit. Stay away from the hot bar — it's not worth it. 

12. Denny's

Golden Corral's ham might be the most atrocious, but Denny's carves something you're not going to be missing from your morning platter. The Grilled Ham is à la carte for just $4.99 or a player in the Lumberjack Slam. Much like The Original Grand Slam – which hit menus almost 50 years ago — the Lumberjack Slam boasts a smörgåsbord of breakfast favorites on one gigantic plate. Flapjacks, sausage, hash browns, bacon, and eggs-your-way, plus ham for $15.79. 

The website's image hones in on a pork steak that's pink with light grill marks on the surface. But when you see it in real life, it's unappealingly burnt in a way that doesn't look any better than it tastes. YouTube users were ruthless in their criticisms of the dreaded side item. Daym Drops, for example, was disgusted by the stale flavor that permeated into a nasty aftertaste, while Austalicious Eats found the sinewy texture off-putting. Compared to IHOP's rendition, The MacMaster said Denny's offering was "tougher" and "saltier" — two words we'd deem acceptable for a packet of jerky, not baked pork to compliment your scramble. Unappetizing at every turn, look the other way in your pork pursuits. 

11. Bob Evans

A no-brainer for homestyle breakfasts and suppers, Bob Evans unfortunately leaves us scratching our heads with its lackluster meat. A "premium" style made by sugar curing, the Hickory-Smoked Ham is seen in the mornings on the Whole Hog platter featuring bacon, sausage, eggs, and your choice of spuds, or you can add it to your entrée for an additional charge. If visiting one of its 500+ locations later in the day, folks can grab the Hickory-Smoked Ham Steaks at dinnertime. This saddles the pork with green beans and a scoop of buttery mashed potatoes. 

Where diners' thoughts are concerned, this baked ham goes belly up — at least enough to relegate it to the round-up's bottom rungs. For one, pieces are typically smaller than they should be. When visitors slice it, they find the meat teeming with gristle. One visitor who ordered it claimed, "The ham was too hard, to the point that I almost couldn't take a bite and was afraid I would break my teeth." 

Fearing dental distress is one reason to avoid it, and the negative comments are enough to say it isn't worth spending money on. Save the $4.29 and satisfy your brunch cravings somewhere else.

10. Mimi's Cafe

Unless you reside in the South or Southwest enclaves of the U.S., you might be out of the loop on Mimi's Cafe. The micro-chain, with under 50 establishments to its name, is a breakfast-all-day joint. The menu leans on griddle-friendly staples though there are numerous salads and savory plates to choose from including beer-battered fish and chips. While diced ham features prominently in some of the omelets and crepes, our eyes are squarely on the Ham & Eggs, parading home fries and buttered toast with every order. 

Although one visitor cited mixed feelings in their dining experience, the pork slab wasn't the cause of their ennui. As they attested, "Basics like bacon or ham and eggs are reliably good," a sentiment that overlapped with a different patron who issued mostly praise towards the cured meat's smokey deliciousness. But we all know the ways breakfast ham can go south. In some instances, the meat tasted like a generic supermarket cut or a tanned hide right out of a John Wayne flick. Either scenario is far from ideal, and very much depends on the location you visit. So given this feedback, we think putting Mimi's in the middle is only fair. 

9. Perkins Restaurant & Bakery

Dishing up comfort platters and delectable desserts, Perkins is a diner chain that's casual and dependable. Competing franchises normally integrate the morning side into existing entrées, and the Ohio spot delivers just that. Guests can order the ham with any meal they like and can select the pork as part of the Build-A-Breakfast option, touting the components of a Continental spread — think eggs and hash browns with toast or buttermilk flapjacks.  

Occasional assessments found the ham decently meaty, but where this meat falters in our estimation is where usually bad breakfast meats meet their maker. It tastes cheap and processed, and like other eateries at the bottom of the ranking, it bears a stark similarity to deli slices. Less the chunky Easter Sunday slabs, more the rubbery folds between Wonder Bread. In some cases, kitchen staff dole out teeny-tiny pieces that barely satisfy; a disappointed review pointed to pork that was "scant" and "over-cooked."

The price isn't a huge drop in the bucket; we found $3.99 was even lower than other establishments. But does it fit the bill for that salty protein carnivores crave at the breakfast table? Perhaps no, and there are other chains better worth the time and your budget. 

8. Huddle House

Starting as a community retreat following football games, Huddle House has expanded out of Georgia into 21 states, including New Jersey, Florida, and Pennsylvania. The Southern establishment offers Country Ham, and this regional style arrives with specialties like the 2 Eggs & Country Ham and Ranch Platter. Both meals give you plenty of food to hunker down with, including creamy grits, fresh fruit, and buttery toast. One observation to note — there's Sugar-Cured Ham on the menu, but it's only available on the Ranch Platter. 

There are places where you could do a lot worse for cured meat than Huddle House. Some circles were generally pleased with the flavor and large serving size. But ask less-impressed visitors what they thought, and their conclusions speak of a chewy, moccasin-esque piece. One review labeled the pork "inedible," a response finding echoes in a separate complaint where the patron was aghast at the "overcooked and dry" texture. It's no mystery that cured pork will be high in the sodium department, but the saltiness here tends to be overbearing, as was another guest's experience. 

Our verdict? Though far from an abomination, it's still a bit hum-drum and experiences do vary. Let's move on. 


IHOP pancakes draw some intense opinions if a prior reader's poll from us is any indication. The specialties offered in its near-70-year existence riff on everything from sweet treats to cartoon characters, so it's not surprising debates will be had on the best and worst menu items. Has such a discussion been conducted over its grilled ham? A serving is included in the Breakfast Sampler assembling even more meat, plus eggs, hash browns, and its signature flapjacks. You can spend $5.99 to get a side portion, should going the combo route prove too rich. 

Although a handful of customers like the ham, the reception is divisive enough to put the pancake chain on hold. YouTube channel The MacMaster did praise the ham over the chain's other meats, but the increasingly sugary flavor threw a wrench into their full enjoyment. Another response admitted to the pork being "a little greasy for my taste," so that's something to look out for if saltier meats anger your tummy.

Being inescapable in the U.S. and overseas makes IHOP a convenient choice. But it isn't the best choice, even if you stand an improved chance of procuring a piece with your morning meal. 

6. Cracker Barrel

Think Southerners are the only ones spoiled by Cracker Barrel? With 662 kitchens coast-to-coast, patrons from around the country can snag one of its homey breakfasts easily. On the carving block for suppers and wake-up entrées are the Sugar-Cured Ham and Hickory-Smoked Country Ham. These meats commonly hitch a ride onto the diner's variety platters and ham dinners – available with your pick of sides, such as green beans and fried apples (and a biscuit). 

The comfort food haven delivers lip-smacking saltiness in just about every dish on its menu. Do the Flintstone-sized ham steaks inspire the sort of fervor reserved for, say, the hash brown casserole? Multiple reviews underscored small portions and said the meat was tough and almost jerky-like, explaining why the ham's succulence is not quite up to snuff. One patron echoed this sentiment saying, "My dad's country ham keeps coming out dry or overcooked. Way overcooked."

A lone commenter did praise the ham as "everything you would want it to be," so we won't rob you of forming your own opinion as this could be a location-based issue. At $5.99 apiece,  we're willing to give it a chance if the restaurant pulls through. 

5. Original Pancake House

Old-fashioned eats are The Original Pancake House's strong point, and the Oregon chain was firing up the griddle long before IHOP assumed the title of official flapjack-flipper. Ham joins the protein lineup alongside corned beef hash and sausage links, yet patrons aren't deprived of main courses catering to the pork solo. Like good ol' PB&J, there's Ham & Eggs. Listed fittingly under the menu's "Egg Specialties," the humble pairing features those core components — the grilled ham, and eggs scrambled, fried, or poached to your liking. 

It's undeniable the pink breakfast meat takes a good photo. So how does it taste? We'll leave that part to the customers themselves, who generally laud the franchise's execution. The flavor is bold and porky, and if that sounds like the bare minimum, consider the mistakes displayed by our bottom picks. "Ham steak was smoky and not-too-salty," gushed a five-star rating on Yelp. The only reason it doesn't advance higher? Some comments expressed disappointment over the change in portion size, affirming servings were once hefty but have shrunken noticeably. One diner wrote, "What used to be a delicious bone-in ham steak is now a small piece of pressed ham." 

4. Village Inn

Denver, Colorado witnessed Village Inn's birth in the '50s. Nowadays, the sit-down titan oversees 135 locations in close to 20 states, meaning a solid number of diners can savor its menu of crepes, burgers, and other comforts. We find it underrated when it comes to the ham. As seen on the Ham Steak & Eggs or the Ultimate Breakfast, the cured specialty delights a lot of customers, making it a promising option to have when gathering for Sunday brunch. 

The ham won't blow everyone away, and a couple of complaints cited cold temperatures. Yet when it's grilled properly, the cured protein garners the kind of shout-outs to warrant nabbing a portion."The food is amazing, especially the ham," said one reviewer, whose praise echoed other patrons who were satisfied with the slight smokiness infusing the palate. Tender and juicy, it's exactly what we look for when waking up with our coffee and toast.  

Assuming you opt for a different entree, $6 for the meat itself isn't out of line, especially when it's reliably prepared. Some customers find the side dish tasty enough to warrant the up-charge, which speaks to its quality and popularity. 

3. Waffle House

We found one of America's most beloved chains proffers a fantastic ham hunk. Waffle House, naturally, is where we go for the waffles — it wouldn't sling 124 million of them annually if that wasn't the case. Should you crave a shake-up from the golden morning staple, there's no going wrong with the City Ham and Country Ham. Potential combinations to devour are the Country Ham & Eggs Breakfast, which offers grits or hash browns, and the Country Ham Dinner trumpeting griddled Texas Toast. 

Regardless of the difference between City Ham and Country Ham (hint: it's how it's made), the protein makes a great impression. These are gigantic steaks that are seared and practically squealing when they hit your plate, with a smokey feel striking the palate like a sledgehammer. It's tender, it's juicy, and the huge portions allow for sharing or making it the center of your meal. 

"Done right," was the turn of phrase implemented by one happy diner, and they weren't the sole patrons riding the hype train. According to another fan of the side meat, "The real reason to visit [Waffle House] is the country ham." 

2. Black Bear Diner

Grizzly-sized appetites know where to run to when breakfast is near. Black Bear Diner, the woodsy franchise touting over 140 locations, possesses an exhaustive array of meals fit for a sluggish weekend: fried, greasy, and ultimately filling. On the ham, or more aptly the ham steaks, patrons overwhelmingly green-light the restaurant's version. Incorporated into signature menu items (there's the 2-Egg Classic Combo and Bear's Choice sampler, to name a couple), the mouthwatering slab is big enough for a T-Rex — and $4.69 per piece gives bang for your buck. "My ham steak was probably about a half-inch thick!" exclaimed one diner.

But bearing epic portions is just one factor that resulted in its high score. More importantly, Black Bear Diner is applauded for the pork's above-average quality. In one complimentary write-up, a customer credited the morning proteins for helping the franchise stand out. "Other places offer cheaper cuts," they explained, offering that this distinction sets Black Bear Diner apart in conjuring robust flavor. For this, we award it with a favorable place in our round-up. 

1. Snooze A.M. Eatery

"A harmonious balance between saltiness, sweetness, and smokiness" may as well be the description going forward on our number-one selection. Snooze A.M. Eatery delivered the meatiest, most mouthwatering ham to come out of any chain establishment. For context, the brunch franchise only cooks with the freshest ingredients, including pork free of preservatives. This lends the Tender Belly Ham the upper hand in a sea of ambiguous mystery meat. Add in the thicker proportions and excellent searing, and you'll be flagging down the waiter for a taste. 

Explaining why it tops this list is a matter of basic observation. Simply put, approval was high among the majority of customers. The top-notch flavor received multiple thumbs up from reviewers, followed by the sensational mouthfeel that tasted like a legitimate piece of carved ham. Nothing rubbery or slimy, no chunky gristle that creates an unpleasant crunch when biting down into it. For the sort of quality that's consistently demonstrated, $5.50 is reasonable, if not an outright steal for this brunch supplementer. We'd also advise sampling it with the Snooze Classic, where you'll be treated to the full morning experience: eggs, hash browns, toast, and of course, delicious ham. 


The number of restaurants serving ham is broader than the scope of any one round-up. As such, our criteria focused on chains with larger footprints (when possible). This allowed us to hone in on the specificities of each menu item, using an array of review platforms (YouTube, TripAdvisor, and Yelp) to organize our ranking. The general satisfaction of consumers played the biggest role in deciding the order of our list. 

When mentioning specific dishes, ham had to be plain to be granted consideration. Scrambles and omelets, for example, contain a variety of ingredients, and we wanted the meat to be able to stand on its own.