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How much is a free breakfast worth?

Free breakfast, and worth every penny

No such thing as free breakfast?

Do y’all remember when most hotels, even the ones in relatively small towns, featured their own restaurants?

I miss those days. I stay in a few now, mostly the big multi-story, national chain hotels in big cities, that have restaurants — and room service.

Room service is one of the joys of travel. After sitting in meetings all day, spending hours in an airplane or an automobile or walking cotton rows with a farmer, plopping down in a comfortable hotel room and calling downstairs to have a meal delivered ranks right up there with clean sheets as one of the best things about business travel.

That convenience is not available in most places I stay these days, leaving me to scurry around to find a restaurant close by or make do with chips and cookies from the vending machine. Don’t judge, sometimes it’s just the most convenient option.

I’ve eaten some pretty good meals in hotel restaurants, but I’ve also learned a few things. For instance, don’t order seafood if you can’t hear seagulls. Regardless of the hype, the food is not as good as your mother’s cooking (unless your mother is overly fond of tuna casseroles). And the eggs on the breakfast buffet should be avoided — runny or rubbery, take your pick.

Breakfast was always one of my favorite meals in hotel restaurants. Made-to-order eggs, hot pancakes, and crisp bacon put me in the proper frame of mind to hit the road for another day of talking to farmers.

Now, most of the second-tier hotel chains — mini versions of the big hotels — tempt travelers with “Free Hot Breakfast.”

Of a morning, a hungry traveler may select from an array of tasteless goodies. Free Breakfast eggs are, arguably, less appetizing than buffet eggs. Sometimes they offer fried eggs, rubber side up. Also on the menu are greasy bacon and greasier sausage, maybe omelet-like concoctions that resemble small, but less appetizing, frisbees.

Waffle makers may be the best choice, if you have time to stand in line behind the soccer team from somewhere in North Dakota.

Toast is available, with a condiment that resembles butter. A few odd pastries languish on shelves above the bread.

Oatmeal gurgles in a tin pot surrounded by bowls of raisins, walnuts, brown sugar and other things to disguise the taste. I’m sometimes tempted, but the mucousy strings that cling to the ladle always put me off.

After surveying the options, I usually fill a cardboard bowl with cereal, grab a mini carton of milk, pop a slice of bread in the toaster and smear jam on it when it pops back up.

The coffee is good.

Free breakfast is convenient, since you don’t have to look for a restaurant. And the food is worth what you pay for it.

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