1. JB's Family Restaurant
704 W. Appleway, Coeur d'Alene website
The food isn’t exactly manna from heaven, and it’s nearly unbearable to listen to the notoriously loudmouth waitresses gossip, kvetch and fight, but there’s something tragically alluring about the all-you-can eat breakfast spread that’s on offer at this unholy chain restaurant every single day of the week. Endless cereal and milk, healthfully fluffy golden scrambled “better-n-eggs” served cake-like, and piles of barely-warm but delicious French Toast triangles. Okay. Yeah. Uh huh. You want tapioca and cantaloupe for breakfast? You got it. These guys even serve up an intense breakfast casserole that disappears fast upon arrival amidst the swirling breakfast vultures. The Grandmas run thick through here, so the line moves slow, but for $6 plus the cost of coffee, it’s worth the wait.
2. High Mountain Buffet
Coeur d'Alene Casino, Hwy 95, Worley website
It’s hard not to feel spoiled and impossible not to feel stuffed after a visit to the High Mountain Buffet in the Coeur d’Alene Casino. Juicy Prime Rib shimmering in the glow of the slot machines, the humongous Alaskan King Crab legs, the big, sexy baked potatoes with everything. Brunch is a craze of specialty omelets and intense baked goods. Easily the classiest spread in the Panhandle, and along with a dozen hours of lost to mindless gambling, it’s the perfect mini-vacation and an excellent way to blow through your bill money. That damned Avista can wait another month.
3. King's Buffet
740 N. Cecil Rd., Post Falls
After being shut down a few years back by local police for harboring illegal immigrants, this Post Falls Chinese buffet reopened earlier this year and although the food is actually quite fresh and unique, an eerie air of mystery and drama still hangs heavy in the air. These girls don’t speak a lick of English but communication needs are minimal: you pay, you eat. I can’t tell you how much better the food is here than at those other local Chinese buffets. The dishes offered change on a daily basis, depending on what the chef decides to make. Everything I’ve tried here has been surprisingly edible and they’ve even got a full ice-case of hard ice cream flavors for dessert. Note: do not be afraid of the pickled baby octopus. It’s actually quite tasty.
4. Coeur d'Alene Resort
115 S. 2nd St.,Coeur d'Alene website
I suppose there are folks around who think this sort of food layout is pretty magnificent and over-the-top, but I’ll bet very few of them actually live here. When I worked at the Resort, they’d feed all the Sunday Brunch leftovers to us grunt workers and eventually I got really sick of half-day old potatoes au gratin and trays of congealed american-cheese omelet. Even the frou-frou pastries and cannolis became tiresome after a while, although the trademark orange rolls never really did. I miss the heady days when smoking was allowed in the Shore Lounge (where they house the Sunday buffet serving area) and there would still be a foul tobacco haze hanging in the air from Saturday night’s boozy party crowd to soil the delicate fabrics of the tourists. If you’re not a fan of soggy sun-lamp abused meats and eggs, at least you can get your $30 worth of fresh fruit and champagne.
414 E. First St., Post Falls website
It’s been a few years, but the last time I went to the Sunday Brunch at Templin’s Red Lion in Post Falls was on Mother’s Day with the whole fam. I don’t really remember how the food was, but I do remember we were unhappy with the service; it was kind of a shoved-in-a-back-room-and-forgotten-about sorta feeling and I remember my mother getting royally riled up about the whole thing. Well, that could have been due to all the Mimosas she was sneaking from the beverage cart during the server’s long absences.
6. Mulligan's at The CDA Inn Best Western
506 W. Appleway, Coeur d'Alene website
Generic Hagadone blah. Exactly like the CDA Resort’s Sunday Brunch doo-dah but with half the glam. This kind of food seems so homogenized, so gentrified and geriatric. Easy to digest. Beige walls and beige food. Mix, bake, and repeat. I one went for brunch and ended up stuffed in the corner of some converted convention center room with no windows and no personality and tables full of nervous Christians with dozens of children scurrying like little rodents. More hassle than it’s worth.
7. (tie) I.T. Buffet/Top of China
200 W. Hanley/757 W. Appleway, Coeur d'Alene
The I.T. Buffet (an ESL damaged abbreviation for “International”) and it’s older sister Top of China are the same in nearly every way; 80% non-edible 15% passable and 5% yummy little sugared Chinese fried dough balls. Those are about the only things I can stomach at these places, save for the salad bar. The I.T. is located in the ghostly Silver Lake Mall in the former location of Granny’s Buffet, once the glorious Queen of the North Idaho buffet scene until it’s untimely death a few years ago. It is missed. Alas, we now have to drive to the Spokane Valley and hit up Old Country for our fix of Americana served hot under sneeze guards. However, if you’re tempted to dine at these two fast-Chinese dives, I’d say a trip to the OC is a much saner option.