Buffets - A Las Vegas Institution

Buffets … you trundle up, grab a plate, stand in line and serve yourself. I don't much care for self-serve at a restaurant, much less a casino. Though this allows me to take whatever I want and the quantity I want, I hate serving myself. Why go out if I still have to serve myself? Okay, so I don't have to do the dishes, but still, part of dining out is the service, plus buffet food is usually mediocre. Except in Las Vegas, where the art of buffet is taken to new heights. There's even a documentary film about it ... BUFFET: All You Can Eat Las Vegas (2007).  

the buffet by jean louis forain


Pretty much every casino here offers a buffet of some kind. Some are definitely better than others, but most are usually pretty good. There are breakfast, lunch, dinner and brunch buffets. Some specialize in seafood like the Rio and then there's the Bacchanal at Caesar's Palace that raises the bar with selection, quality and price. Mary and Becky have tried it for special occasions and raved about it. We couldn't come up with a special enough occasion while we were here to warrant the $50+tax/pp price tag. There's also a 24-hour buffet ticket ... Buffet of  Buffets … which is a pretty good deal if you like buffets on the Strip. It allows you unlimited eating binges at any of seven participating casino buffets for a 24-hour period which means if you timed it right and you could handle it, you could get at least four meals for $70/pp weekends, $50pp/weekdays.


at the buffet


Some tricks/tips for buffet dining I learned from Mary …

*The lines can be very, very long. Going early or late sometimes avoids the longer lines.

*Scope out the entire buffet before digging in. Why waste your appetite on macaroni and cheese when there's fresh shrimp or oysters down the way? Try something you've never tried before … be adventurous.

*Depending on the hotel policy, if you arrive just before the lunch ends, you can sometimes enjoy the dinner buffet, too which is usually considerably more. Same with breakfast and lunch. You can sometimes get buffet passes when you book your room. Shop around or ask before making your reservation.

*Alcohol is not included with your meal in most cases unless it's specified.

*Though you're serving yourself, you still need to tip the wait person who clears your table and keeps your drinks filled. $1-3/pp is usually the recommended amount.

*Take a fresh plate for each trip to the buffet line and don't eat in line (tres gauche). Doggie bags are frowned upon.


shrimp and lox


So, anyway, Mary had tickets for four free buffets at the Eastside Cannery Casino, not far from where she lives. We picked up Becky who hasn't been out for a meal since her hospitalization in mid-May and made tracks for the Cannery brunch buffet. I may not enjoy buffets all that much, but “free” is more than reasonable. The food was pretty mediocre, but the company was great and the complimentary champagne and orange juice (mimosas) weren't too bad either.


at the buffet


Okay, so where did the term “buffet”, meaning standing in line for a serve-yourself meal, originate. Most agree the concept derived from the Swedish smorgasbord, a fairly well-kept Swedish secret until it was introduced by the Swedes at the 1939 New York World's Fair. The term “buffet” is probably traced to the name the French give for the dining room sideboard that holds food.