Ranking all-you-can eat buffet chains from worst to first

If you have a hungry family of picky eaters or want a super quick, yet filling lunch, nothing compares to the convenience of an all-you-can-eat buffet. In these eateries, you pay one flat price and then have access to any number of food items. While nobody goes to an all-you-can eat buffet for world class-dining, you can definitely find tasty restaurants that allow you to fill your gut with as much food as you can manage.

If you love a good deal, that may be another attraction to these buffets. For as much as you'd spend for a fast food meal, you can pick and choose exactly what you want to eat in your next mouthful. And if you want to go back for more, no one will give it a second glance.

The heyday for all-you-can-eat buffets might be in the past but if you know where to go, you can still find your unlimited satisfaction in the form of an unending dinner plate. Here's our ranking of all-you-can-eat buffets, from worst to best.

13. Cicis

Do you enjoy eating cardboard? No? Then stay away from Cicis. This all-you-can-eat buffet known primarily for their pizza is an inexpensive restaurant option but if you succumb to the cheapness, you'll soon regret not shelling out more money for a real meal. The pizza crust is stiff and flavorless, while you can taste the cost-cutting measures in the rest of the bland ingredients. 

Cicis, formerly known as Cici's Pizza, is apparently trying to distance themselves from their own underwhelming pizza by changing their name. The problem is that the rest of the food is equally as disappointing. With each bite you take from the buffet, no matter if it's pizza or one of their newer concoctions, your regret will grow and the money you saved won't be able to overshadow your dissatisfaction. 

With over 400 locations in 29 states, chances are good that you will eventually be tempted by their low price buffet. But do yourself a favor and stay far, far away from Cicis.

12. Souper Salad

There's nothing super about the salad or anything else at Souper Salad. It used to be a decent place to stop for a quick lunch but the quality has gone noticeably downhill over the last few years. As the name suggests, they offer primarily all-you-can-eat soup or salad, but what you get is atrocious. The salad options are disappointingly limited and the lettuce is oftentimes wilted or already brown. If want to try the soup, you sometimes have to do so blindly because Souper Salad has a bad habit of not labeling the different soup options. Ultimately, whichever soup you select will be a letdown.

Most Souper Salads also have a taco bar but it's not worth trying, either. The meat doesn't taste like meat, the cheese tastes artificial, the chips are stale, and even the salsa is watered down and spiceless. 

Souper Salad has 25 locations, most of which are in the state of Texas, all of which should be avoided.

11. Shoney's

Shoney's has been around since 1947 so you might have good childhood memories of this restaurant. But don't let your memories fool you, Shoney's isn't a place you should go to if you want good food. 

In theory, Shoney's all-you-can-eat food bar is a bargain, as it promises everything from seafood to fruit, and from fried chicken to meatloaf. But in reality, it's usually just gross. The problem with Shoney's isn't necessarily the ingredients or even the recipes. The problem is that everything is just so stale. It's not uncommon to see gravy with a film on top, or a vat of macaroni and cheese that is completely dried out on the top layer.

If you happen to catch the buffet when it's hot and fresh, Shoney's isn't bad. That said, it's still not what you may remember from decades ago. These days, Shoney's has more than 100 locations in 17 states, primarily in the South.

10. Pizza Ranch

Pizza Ranch has more than 200 locations, mostly in the Midwest. This all-you-can-eat restaurant chain is especially popular in North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, and Iowa. When you enter a Pizza Ranch, you might be impressed by their Western-themed decor. When you taste the food, you'll be mostly unimpressed. 

While the pizza might be a step up from Cicis, it's still not what anyone with functioning taste buds would classify as good. Beyond their pizza, the macaroni and cheese is basically glorified cheese paste, and even their mashed potatoes manage to somehow disappoint.

If you find yourself in a Pizza Ranch, the best option is usually their dessert pizzas. Those pizzas are usually gooey enough and flavorful enough for you to be somewhat satisfied. Unfortunately, Pizza Ranch can sometimes be stingy with their dessert pizzas. And if you don't act quickly, the feeding frenzy created by others waiting for the same dessert pizza will empty it before you can get your hands on a slice.

9. HomeTown/Old Country Buffet

HomeTown Buffet, Old Country Buffet, and Ryan's Buffet are all-you-can-eat buffets owned by the same company and offer the same experience under different names. Twenty years ago, you could find really good food at these restaurants. Unfortunately, the parent company recently filed for bankruptcy and the quality of food continues to deteriorate.

When you eat at any of these buffets, it'll be painfully obvious that you are eating at a place that may be out of business soon. The decor is outdated, cleanliness can sometimes be lacking, and the atmosphere is depressing. The food itself is okay as long as you prefer everything to be sweeter than necessary. Plus, you'll find the meat options to be lacking in variety.

Once upon a time, there were hundreds of Ryan's Buffet locations. Now there are less than 20 left. The same shrinkage holds true for Old Country Buffet  and HomeTown Buffet — with the brand overall losing around 80 percent of its locations since 2000. Needless to say, they probably won't be around by the time your grandkids grow up.

8. Western Sizzlin'

Western Sizzlin' (not to be confused with Sizzler) is an all-you-can-eat buffet restaurant chain with approximately 100 locations in various states in the South, most notably Arkansas, Oklahoma, Georgia, and Florida. The food is a reasonable array of authentic Southern cuisine, with the fried chicken and the catfish being two options that stand out as being especially good.

In addition to some above average dishes, you can always count on good service from Western Sizzlin'. You will be seated promptly, the waiters are attentive, and the food is never allowed to run out. 

Two issues hold Western Sizzlin' back from rising higher on this list, however. First of all, a lot of the food is simply overcooked and allowed to become mushy and largely tasteless. The sides are particularly forgettable. Secondly, the cost has gone up enough that it's questionable whether you are receiving good value for your money. For a comparable price, you can get higher quality food at a normal, sit-down restaurant — although, of course, you have the privilege of being able to refill your plate at Western Sizzlin'.

7. Pizza Hut

Though it used to be fairly common, only certain Pizza Hut restaurants offer an all-you-can-eat lunch buffet these days. Finding one near you can be a chore, however if you do find one, it's actually pretty good bang for your buck — especially considering the reasonable price point.

That said, there are a few caveats you should know about before you track down a Pizza Hut that does the lunch buffet. First of all, expect there to be a really limited assortment of pizzas. The quality of what is available is usually high, but don't be surprised if your favorite type of pizza is nowhere to be found under the heat lamps. Additionally, don't expect the dessert pizzas that can be found at other unlimited pizza joints.

Also as part of the lunch buffet, most Pizza Hut restaurants have a salad bar. However, don't get your hopes up. The salad bar is bare bones and the freshness of the vegetables can be iffy at best.

6. Souplantation/Sweet Tomato

Souplantation, which goes by the name Sweet Tomato in some parts of the country, has around 100 restaurants and is legitimately one of the best all-you-can-eat options in the nation. Open for either lunch or dinner, this is the place to go if you want a buffet with a wide variety of fresh fruits and vegetables. Their salad bar is fantastic, as they even have special salads that change each month, along with nuts, croutons, and seeds to add a yummy crunch to your salad. 

Souplantation also has some of the best soups you will find at a buffet restaurant, as well as a bakery section that features really good muffins and breads. This is also one of the few buffets that takes pride in offering choices for vegetarians and vegans.

The only real flaw for Souplantation is crowd management. If you go during a busy time of day or on the weekend, the restaurant will be swamped and your favorite items could be out of stock. They aren't especially quick to refill the different stations, which could leave you disappointed. With this flaw in mind, it's best to visit Souplantation during off-peak hours.

5. Sirloin Stockade

Sirloin Stockade has been around since 1966 and unlike others on this list, they seem to be getting better and better. When you go to a Sirloin Stockade, you can count on the staff being friendly and the food being tasty. You can also count on an upbeat atmosphere and a clean environment.

Their all-you-can-eat hot buffet has filling entrees including pasta and cooked-to-perfection steak. The meat quality here is surprisingly high, especially when compared to the competition. In their cold buffet, Sirloin Stockade has a top notch salad bar with fresh vegetables. What may end up being your favorite aspect is the bakery, where they have cakes, multiple types of pies, and rolls. They also have ice cream and a vast choice of toppings.

Unfortunately, Sirloin Stockade only has restaurants in five states: Texas, Missouri, Oklahoma, Indiana, and Kentucky. Then again, if you're in the mood for an all-you-can-eat buffet, it's worth a drive.

4. Shakey's Pizza

While all-you-can-eat pizza places usually underwhelm, Shakey's Pizza is an exception. With a history that dates back to the 1950s, they've been able to maintain the same high standards throughout the years. This is one place that won't disappoint if you decide to visit due to nostalgia. In fact, it'll be just like you remember.

You can taste the difference in their pizza dough, which is prepared fresh every day and is never frozen. The mozzarella cheese on the pizza is also tasty and a step up from the competition. If you like dessert pizza, Shakey's has you covered with plenty of sweetness to select from.

Shakey's Pizza does more than just pizza. Their Mojo Potatoes are famous for a reason, and their fried chicken is crispy and yummy.

Tragically, Shakey's Pizza seems to be going the way of the dodo bird. What used to be a chain of more than 500 restaurants is down to 58. Visit before it's too late.

​3. Sizzler

Sizzler has had its ups and downs over the 60-plus years it's been in business. From iconic eatery to bankruptcy, these days Sizzler doesn't have many locations in the United States — but the ones they do have are actually serving really good food. Unfortunately, only some of them are still all-you-can-eat buffets. Still, we recommend you locate one because, if you haven't been in a while, you'll be surprised at how good at all tastes.

They have a wide array of salad options with all the condiments you could want. The available fresh fruit is bountiful and all perfectly ripe. The taco bar is surprisingly good as well, and there are enough options to put together many of your favorite Mexican dishes.

Dessert is another area where Sizzler stands out from the pack. They always have a few freshly prepared sweets you can look forward to during your meal.

Unlike many of their competitors, the salad bar at Sizzler is constantly being replenished. You don't have to worry about your favorite food running out or what time of day you show up, as Sizzler has it all down to a science.

Keep an eye out as Sizzler will sometimes offer all-you-can-eat entrees like shrimp, steak, or ribs. That's a great time to visit and get your fill. Your Sizzler might not look like it did in the '90s, but it will still be darn good.

2. HuHot Mongolian Grill

A relative newcomer to the all-you-can-eat buffet scene, HuHot Mongolian Grill has their own tasty twist. After paying for the lunch price or the dinner price depending on the time of day, you get a bowl and get to work. In your bowl, you place your choice of protein, noodles, vegetables, and sauce. The most popular protein options include meat, chicken, and shrimp. Once you're finished picking the items for your bowl, you head to the grill where your food is cooked for you. Still hungry? Start the process all over again!

With HuHot Mongolian Grill, the combinations are limitless. If your first bowl didn't come out exactly right, you can switch it up on your second try. All the ingredients are fresh and their sauces offer unique, flavorful options, all of which are worth trying at least once.

The first HuHot Mongolian Grill opened in 1999. Today, they are located in 17 states and they're still growing.

1. Golden Corral

When you combine quantity of options and quality of food, no all you-you-can-eat buffet can touch Golden Corral. While it's not the best food on the planet, you are sure to find something you fancy. You can find it all here, with timeless favorites including bacon wrapped sirloin filets, smoked beef short ribs, boneless buffalo chicken wings, sweet and sour pork, baked fish with lemon herb sauce, and many more.

Golden Corral has an incomparable carving station and a salad bar complete with all types of fruits and vegetables. They also have delicious soups, freshly baked breads and other goodies in their bakery, and a dessert bar that will have you coming back for seconds and thirds.

Across 4i states, Golden Corral has nearly 500 restaurants. They've set the bar for all-you-can-eat buffets, as they've made it nearly impossible for you to leave one of their restaurants either hungry or unsatisfied.