Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Saluting the Las Vegas Buffet

Click any photo for a larger view.

While most American cities are known for having their own unique, regional foods - Las Vegas celebrates and provides food-favorites from all over the world.

Memphis may have its BBQ and Southern favorites and Seattle and Maine may have their great lobster and crab dishes, but Las Vegas buffets have it all, plus much more.

In Las Vegas, locals and tourists can find any of the specific foods of their choice - whether they desire Hawaiian food (at the California Hotel) or Cajun cooking (at the Orleans). Las Vegas has every food in the world and most of it can be found inside all the major hotel-casinos' buffets.

The concept of feasts and buffets has been around for centuries for those people (kings, pharaohs and knights) who could afford such lavish assemblages of different food offerings. But it took until the 20th century before these feasts could become available to the common man.

One thing is sure...kings and pharaohs never had such worldwide food varieties available to them as is available now in modern times. In Las Vegas any person, with $10 thru $40 dollars to spend, can eat better than any old king ever could.

This concept of buffet feasts has been around for the last century or so. There were many cafeteria-style places that offered large food selections to choose from, but the prices were set according to how much food (in weight or plates) a person ended up eating.

In 1941 Las Vegas and in 1946 Minneapolis the concept of "all-you-can-eat" for one set price entered the buffet picture. Though some encyclopedias and sources ascribe the "all-you-can-eat-buffet" to a hotel operator named Herb Mac Donald in Minneapolis - Thomas Hull had already started the Vegas Chuck Wagon Buffet five years earlier.

Whoever started the all-you-can-eat-buffet matters very little, though it may be a correct fact that the term "all-you-can-eat" may have been first advertised in a Minneapolis hotel. Vegas' Tom Hull might not have used the term "all-you-can-eat" in his early advertising, but it was an unspoken fact that any El Rancho guest could eat forever if they so chose.

Here's a good description of an American buffet that comes from William Pearson's 1965 book titled The Muses of Ruin:

"At midnight every self-respecting casino premi√®res its buffet—the eighth wonder of the world, the one true art form this androgynous harlot of cities has delivered herself of.... We marvel at the Great Pyramids, but they were built over decades; the midnight buffet is built daily. Crushed-ice castles and grottoes chill the shrimp and lobster. Sculptured aspic is scrolled with Paisley arabesques. They are, laid out with reverent artistry: hors d'oeuvres, relish, salads, and sauces; crab, herring oyster, sturgeon, octopus, and salmon; turkey, ham, roast beef, casseroles, fondues, and curries; cheeses, fruits and pastries. How many times you go through the line is a private matter between you and your capacity, and then between your capacity and the chef's evil eye."

In today's blog I've included photos and videos that celebrate the Las Vegas Buffet.

This is an "all-you-can-eat" blog. View as little or as much as you desire.

The Wynn Las Vegas Buffet

The Buffet at Wynn Las Vegas is probably the best in all of Las Vegas.

There are several videos below that show the great food items and dining room layout of The Wynn Buffet. 1006 Yelp Reviews give this buffet a four star rating.

The Buffet at Aria

The Buffet at Aria is located in the center of the second floor.

The view looks out onto the pool area and Vdara.

110 Yelp reviews give this buffet a three star rating.
There is a 10 minute video tour of the Aria buffet down below.

The seating area at Aria's Buffet.

History of the Las Vegas Buffet

Las Vegas has been serving buffets to its guests since a few years after its 1905 formation. Early casinos like the Arizona Club, as well as various bars had platters of sliced beef and chicken available for the many train travelers who stopped into Vegas for a short lay-over and a quick lunch.

It took until 1941 before the buffet concept became a part of the Las Vegas Strip. At the first Strip casino, the El Rancho, guests were provided with a Chuck Wagon station that provided basic 'picnic food' like cold cuts and cold salads. Within a short time the buffets were serving guests high-quality hot meals - as explained in the video below.

Chefs at the 1950 Desert Inn 'Snack Bar' (as titled on the green sign in background).

The 1941 El Rancho served the first full-fledged buffet on the Las Vegas Strip and set a trend that most all other casinos of the Fifties and Sixties followed. This first buffet was called the Chuck Wagon. The video down below gives full details on how it started.

Guests enjoying the Flamingo's buffet.

The Dunes had their Top Of The Dunes buffet on the top floor of their 1965 hotel-tower. The buffet was on the 21st floor and looked out northward at the Flamingo, the Sands, Last Frontier, and Riviera. Clear views could be seen of downtown's Fremont Hotel skyrise. In 1966 Caesars Place opened just across Dunes Road (now West Flamingo) and was an exciting site to behold. At one time the Top Of the Dunes was the most deluxe spot on the Vegas Strip.

The Dunes was formerly located where the Bellagio's Lake Como has its fountians.

Carved-swan ice sculptures were common in early Vegas buffets.

A Video-History of the El Rancho Buffet

A 2005 Six Minute Documentary by Chris Justus

This film includes an interview with Dr. David G. Schwartz, head of UNLV's Center for Gaming Research, and was made with the help of the UNLV Special Collections' Department . It talks about the history of the first Strip buffet and shows color footage of several casinos of the 1950s.

Photo-Tour of the Gold Coast Buffet

Catfish, Corn, Spareribs and Trout

I live in West Vegas near Flamingo & Decatur. I mainly eat buffets that are close to home. Since I am half Armenian and half Cajun Louisiana French (and 17% German) I can find my favorite foods in my local area at the Palms, the Orleans and the Gold Coast Buffets.

My absolute favorite buffet is at the Palms Casino. The Maloofs, being of Lebanese descent, have a Lebanese Station in their buffet which serves food items that are very similar to Armenian food (being that the two countries were both located close together in Upper Persia).

When I feel in a more Cajun mood I can find the special foods I like at Orleans' French Market Buffet. Orleans has a great BBQ Station and (in my opinion) the best local salad bar - because of its large assortment of fruits and vegatables.

Back in 1997 I tried the Gold Coast Buffet when it was operated in a different area of the casino and was much smaller. At the time, I thought the food was flavor-less and all seemed to taste bland. I recently went back there about three months ago and was surprised by how good the food is now that the buffet has moved to its large location at the west-end of the building.

In a city like Las Vegas - which has some of the best buffets in the entire world, a buffet like the one at the Gold Coast rates near the bottom of the list when compared to Bellagio's or Wynn's. But if the Gold Coast buffet was available in most any other city or town in America it would stand out as one of the most popular restaurants in nearly any other location.

Gold Coast's Ports O' Call buffet is part of same casino chain that operates the Orleans, so their experience in high-quality food acquisition and preparation is as good as it get. It is easy to park close to the buffet and isn't a giant hassle to get into like it can be at many of the larger hotel buffets on the Strip.

Gold Coast self-parking is right up the ramp (near the Rio in this photo). Valet parking is available by turning left into the front driveway. Since the buffet is actually on the west end of the building, you can reach it with less walking if you park in the garages closer to Flamingo Road directly across from the Palms Casino.

With lunch prices set at just $8.95 it can be one of the best places to eat when you desire a wide-selection of foods to choose from, plus free drinks and dessert.

These parking garages (closest to Flamingo Road) are nearest to the buffet.

If you park in the south parking garage you can quickly and easily reach the buffet by using these doors that face Flamingo Road. You don't need to walk nearly as far to the buffet using this entrance, as you would if entering thru the (eastern) lobby entrance.

Gold Coast's buffet is called Ports O' Call.

This is a casual, friendly, clean buffet with lots of flavorful food.

Special prices apply to Gold Coast card holding players.

Breakfast is $6.95 (7-10:30am).
Lunch is $8.95 (11am-3pm).
Dinner is $12.95 (4-9pm).

Prime Rib Buffet is on Monday & Wednesday for $11.95
Friday is Seafood Night. $16.95 for players.
Sunday Brunch is $12.95 (8am-3pm).

The Gold Coast Buffet has an Italian food station, a Mexican, Chinese, Mongolian, Barbecue, Seafood, Salad and Dessert station.

The Barbecue Station.

The Mongolian Station.

The Mexican Station.

The Mexican Station serves enchiladas, carne asada, plus make-your-own-taco items.

The Chinese Station.

The Chinese Station serves egg-rolls, ribs, rice & chow mien.

Chinese food toppings.

The Seafood Station alternates their selections - but almost always has catfish and crawfish available (sometimes spelled as crayfish and something I've never even thought of eating), with alternating fish choices from trout to halibut to bass, etc.

Salmon, trout, catfish, hush-puppies, crawfish and drawn butter in the Seafood Station. On Friday night the Gold Coast holds a seafood buffet from 4-9pm, for 16.95.

Fried popcorn shrimp, teriyaki chicken, and jambalaya.

Stuffed green bell-peppers, BBQ chicken & corn-on-the-cob.

Meat Station serves Ham, London Broil, & Monday Prime Rib, etc.

The Italian Station has pasta and different types of good pizzas.

The side of the pastry section of the Gold Coast Buffet.

The Dessert Station serves ice cream, cakes, pies and other sweet items.

Behind the Scenes Video-Tour of Bellagio's Food System

A nine-minute segment from the TV show 'America's Heartland' takes a guided tour of the food management operation for the Bellagio Buffet. Executive chef Wolfgang von Weiser gives a very interesting tour that shows such things as how his staff checks oranges for sugar content, the milk and cheese room, fish and beef selections, plus a whole room devoted completely to oysters and lobsters.

Videos of Las Vegas' Best Buffets

Below is a video-player I filled with 32 specially selected short videos that show most of the best buffets in Las Vegas. I search thru hundreds of videos to try to find the ones that are most informative and helpful to viewers.

In this compilation of Vegas Buffet Videos, I placed the professionally shot promotional videos in the beginning. Then I placed the amateur videos with the highest quality or best information after those. I purposely try to pace and edit these video-playlists I compile, so viewers won't be bombarded with any junk - yet can see and find exactly all they might want to see by fast-forwarding or using the 'video-selection button' (on left side of player).

There is some extremely good film-making being done by amateur vid-e-ographers who post on YouTube. They provide viewpoints and commentary that is virtually priceless. There about three videos where the ambient buffet noise of plates and silverware can get slightly loud. I placed those at the very end of the batch, yet they are still worth seeing if you're interested in that particular buffet.

1. MGM promo clip, 2. Extra TV's Number One buffet in Vegas, 3. Wynn Brunch Buffet, 4. Wynn buffet promo (no audio), 5. Bellagio buffet, 6. Vegas' best buffet, 7. Golden Nugget buffet and restaurant promo, 8. Mirage's Cravings, 9. Crepe making at Planet Hollywood's Spice Market Buffet, 10. Rio's Buffet, 11. Village Seafood Buffet at Rio, 12. Rio Buffet Start to Finish, 13. Seafood Buffet at Rio, 14. Wynn's Buffet, 15. Wynn's Buffet, 16. Wynn's Dinner Buffet, 17. Wynn's Buffet, 18. Red Rock Buffet, 19. Mirage's Cravings, 20. Cravings Buffet, 21. Buffet at Wynn, 22. Heaven on Earth Buffet - Bellagio's Brunch, 23. Bellagio Buffet's Dessert Station, 24. Bellagio Buffet, 25. Pizza at Bellagio Buffet, 26. Opening Day at Aria Buffet (good quality video but no audio), 27. Breakfast Buffet at Four Seasons, 28. Hotel Paris' Le Village Buffet, 29. Gold Coast Buffet, 30. Orleans' Breakfast Buffet, 31. Orleans' French Market Buffet, 32. Aria Buffet (very short but shows a line bottleneck that is informative).

Links to Good Websites That Review Buffets

Most of these websites show buffet hours & prices.