Web Site Whets Bargain-Hunters' Appetites for Vegas' Bounty of Buffets

Most visitors to Las Vegas know that the city is full of low-cost, all-you-can-eat buffets. Most are in or near casinos and are designed to attract traffic and keep it from leaving the building. In pursuit of this goal and often subsidized by their affiliated gaming halls, these nosh pits feature rock-bottom prices for meals of mythic proportions. Steak dinners can be had (and had and had, ad nauseam) for just a few bucks.

These eateries are part of what makes Vegas a cheap vacation destination for the nongambler. True, the quality of the food isn't always the highest, and the menus rarely inspire awe.

Even if the massive steam tables of food whet your appetite, there might be some overeaters in the dining room who will turn your stomach. (I've seen plates on which the free ice cream was melting over the beef filets and the cocktail shrimp and ... well, you get the idea.)

There comes now a Web page compiled by aficionados of those budget banquets: http://www.a2zlasvegas.com/food/buf-list.php3.

Frank Sener and Gene Balmain started the site about six years ago, and they're always adding to its content. It covers at least 50 buffets and includes hours of operation, telephone numbers and prices. And it's not just the cheap joints; if you're feeling flush, you can check the tab for the Bellagio's spread.

(But note the fine print, which tells when each listing was updated; some go back to 1998.)

The information on the Web page can be supplemented by still another tip for budget dining in Las Vegas that was recently submitted to us by some local retirees:

Many of the buffets do not close between meals, as many restaurants do. Accordingly, our Las Vegas informants suggest that you arrive 15 minutes before breakfast becomes lunch, or a similarly short time before lunch becomes dinner. That way, having paid for the less expensive meal, you'll get to devour the more expensive repast at no extra charge.

Aren't the casinos offended by such tactics, I asked? No, my informants replied. The casinos hope you'll drop some extra cash at their slots before you leave.

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