Buffets are a pillar of any Las Vegas experience, but all are not created equal.
Dating back in Sin City history to the ‘40s, when the idea was to offer gamblers cheap, fast restitution (so they could get back to the tables and slots quicker) they now offer Vegas decadence at its finest. While you’d think buffets at all Las Vegas hotels would all be fairly predictable (a big prime rib, a mountain of cold shrimp, and a bit of Chinese, Mexican, and Italian) there are actually wide variations between them.
So personal preferences may matter as much as quality, variety, ambiance, value, and service did to your tireless (some might say maniacal) blogmeister, who chose weekday dinners for consistency's sake. “Many Are Called, Few Are Chosen,” so the saying goes…
Here are my top 10 Las Vegas buffets:
1) Cravings, Mirage
The first of Steve Wynn’s lavish buffets, Cravings remains unbeatable for overall experience. Despite a huge 500 seat capacity, the Adam Tihany-designed room is warmly lit and relatively quiet, with a multi-station design that largely prevents pile-ups (except, of course, in front of the crab legs and shrimp) and almost forces you to take time exploring all the options. Highlights include a fresh dim sum & noodles station, good sushi (salmon handrolls and nigiri), salads tossed, gyros carved and panini grilled to order, near-perfect babyback ribs, above-average prime rib (and real cranberries for the turkey), asian salads, ceviche, snapper, Portuguese linguiça sausage, a variety of steamed vegetables and soups throughout. Desserts include cute mini pies and tarts, lots of cut fruit and sugar-free options, and 8 gelatos and sorbets. Weekday dinner $24.95 — Early-bird special, dinner is only $19.95 from 3 to 5 p.m. weekdays.
2) Studio B, M Resort
Emphasizing its “show kitchen” design, the new Studio B makes overeating a media event, but it isn’t the circular-mod 500 seat room, the giant video display or the working chefs that will impress. It’s the eats. Quality meets quantity in this category-killer destination, with more than a little bit of (almost) everything, from decent gnocchi, to Thai dishes, oysters, mussel-heavy bouillabaisse, and in particular, a carving/grill station that features everything from juicy lamb chops to cedar plank salmon (and halibut to order). The separate dessert counter is the size of a stand-alone bakery. Beer and wine are included in the $17.95 (weekday dinner) price — making this the one buffet truly worth a special trip, as well as the only one that actually takes reservations. I’m guessing they’ll make their money back by renting you a room to sleep it off.
3) The Buffet, Bellagio
With lines like a Disneyland ride, even on a slow weekday, the Bellagio’s buffet needs no endorsements. What they do well, they do very very well. In a deceptively large (600 seat) series of rooms with an Italian seaside motif, the strength here is seafood, including a surprising sushi spread (hand rolls, poke, seaweed salad), light bluenose sea bass three ways, and vol-au-vents finished to order. Several soups (including a savory red pepper bisque and mushroom-laden miso) and salads, six different brick oven pizzas, and perfectly roasted turkey are among other solid offerings. Desserts are anticlimactic, though the apple pie rolls and fudge brownies delight. Weekday dinner, $27.95.
4) Wynn Las Vegas Buffet
This pricey ($34.99 weekday dinner) spread feels like being locked in the kitchen of a gourmet restaurant overnight, with impressive variety and detail — five soups, four fish entrees, five ceviches, thin-crust pizzas, smoked salmon and trout, asian noodles finished to order, dim sum, edemame, chunks of blue cheese and real anchovies on the salad bar, great rustic breads and pesto foccacia. The grill includes vegetable skewers, game hens, lamb T-bone and short ribs. Still, the basics — perfect prime rib, crab legs, shrimp, salads and pastas are the strengths. Desserts include cute mini cupcakes, mousse cakes and candy apples.
5) Village Seafood, Rio
Dedicated to the buffet-goers who tend to pile on the crab legs and shrimp and avoid almost everything else, this dinner-only hot line (one of two at the Rio!) offers shrimp at least five different ways (including heads-on), two different kinds of crab claws, king crab legs by the fistful, oysters, mussels, crayfish, slipper lobster tails and many more fish entrees in a relatively small, modern setting. Surprisingly, the meats (rib roast, Chilean pork) and hot Japanese food (unmarked, next to the salads) are among the strongest offerings. Avoid the bland sushi, but don’t miss the fun rotating gelateria with flavors like Pina Colada and “Elvis.” For $38.00, I’d suggest coming hungry.
6) Spice Market, Planet Hollywood
A holdover from PH’s Aladdin days, Spice Market includes Middle Eastern (good hummus, baba ghanooj persian figs, and lamb kebabs) alongside the more typical options like seafood (mussels, crab legs, fried snapper), Italian (very good polenta with lobster risotto), Chinese, Mexican, as well as baked potatoes stuffed to order, and a healthy amount (pun intended) of vegetarian options. Desserts include crepes made to order, pretty fruit tarts, warm bread pudding and frozen custard. Dinner, $24.99.
7) Le Village, Paris
Some might consider the concept of all-you-can-eat Cuisine Française a bit troubling — but those are not the kinds of people we associate with in Vegas! Le Village wins points for it’s quaint setting — artificial or not — and impressively ambitious selection, from gnocchi to grilled vegetables. Still, some dishes are stronger than others: the cassoulet, prime rib, leek mashed potatoes, onion soup and flan in particular. Many others have stronger looks than taste (it would also be nice if the live crepe station offered savory varieties). Service is above-average. And if you really want to have an Eiffel Tower souvenir drink with your meal…no one’s stopping you. Dinner, $24.99.
8) Seasons, Silverton Lodge
For $13.99 (with players card), dinner at Seasons is a no-nonsense value. Despite modish design, this buffet sticks to the standards and does them well: a variety of pastas finished to order, solid Chinese, a taco bar, good BBQ (esp. the pulled pork) and unfussy desserts (including an ice cream bar). Theme nights offer different special dishes.
9) The Buffet, Golden Nugget
Possibly because this Las Vegas hotel is now affiliated with Houston-based Landry’s, this small but serviceable line is best with its Southern food, particularly the mac’n’cheese, fried catfish, crab corn chowder and even good collard greens. There’s a big pasta-to-order station, decent turkey, omelettes at every meal, and featherlight bread pudding for dessert. Dinner, $17.99.
10) Palace Station
On a post-binge budget? Palace Station’s $6.99 buffet (with players club card) is the only under-ten dollar line I’d recommend. It may not be terribly adventurous, but this simple buffet delivers a decent salad bar, burgers finished to order with a nice array of fixings (sautéed mushrooms, crisp bacon), big knockwurst & franks, fresh fruit, some actually very good rustic-mashed potatoes, the classic carvings (prime rib and turkey), pizza, tacos, Asian and a dessert bar including low-sugar options. It would be hard not to get double your money’s worth here in just a few bites. For a few dollars more ($11.99-$16.99 with players club card), any of the sister Station casinos’ Feast Buffets offer that much more value.
Insider Tips: Waits are typical at the best buffets. Bellagio Buffet General Manager Mark Huston advises coming in before 6:30 p.m. to avoid lines…and allows singles and pairs sneaking in through the exit to sit at the bar, space allowing.
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A contributing editor at VEGAS Magazine, E. C. Gladstone also interviews top Strip entertainers, restauranteurs, moguls and behind-the-scenes players for other local and national publications and websites. Like many Las Vegans, he sleeps only when absolutely necessary.