Las Vegas buffets: Your guide to lavish nonstop dining on the Strip
Nothing says “America” like excess, and nothing says “excess” like Las Vegas, and nothing says “Las Vegas” like the all-you-can-eat buffet. By the transitive property, that makes the AYCE buffet the most American thing imaginable. We sifted through a heap of them to help you decide where to do your patriotic duty.
Aria Resort & Casino
Among the major Strip hotels, the theme-less Aria is a mystery. Does the name reference coloratura sopranos? The youngest Stark girl on “Game of Thrones?” (No on both counts.) The pragmatically named Buffet at Aria ($30.99 for brunch, increased to $35.99 on weekends) has variety on its side. Among the standbys, you’ll find an offering of menudo and glazed plantains, a tandoor station and, at breakfast, a big vat of cream of wheat. That said, there’s also some buffet weirdness, like the way that pancakes are served as slices out of one massive pancake. As with many of the buffets in town, you’re kindly thanked for “limiting your dining experience to two hours.” Don’t think you’re arriving at lunch and then staying until dinner, buddy. — LKP
Bally’s Sterling Brunch
Open only on Sundays, Sterling’s claim to buffet fame is all-you-can-eat caviar and all-you-can-drink Champagne — and a hefty $125 price tag. The reality is less glamorous than the promise. The bubbles flow, yes, and there is caviar, sure, but it’s prespooned out into tiny mismatched containers. Other than that, it’s slim pickings. You’ll line up in a single small drab room for stringy crab claws, overcooked lamb, gloppy oysters the size of your palm and rubbery lobster tails. Beware the gargantuan free popover that a server delivers to your table upon seating: It’s not very good, and I got the feeling that it’s provided to fill you up early. You can allegedly order dishes including eggs benedict and chopped salad from your server, though that wasn’t the case when I visited. Reservations are strongly recommended; Bally’s is not. — AC
Whether you’re dining on the Strip or far away from it, in the mood to blow obscene amounts of money or looking for a quick and affordable meal, our dining guide will serve as a shining beacon, like the light on top of Luxor.
Something about the buffet experience falls short of the usual Bellagio extravagance. Most meals in the hotel are luxe, eaten in view of the fountains; they make for picture-perfect postcard Vegas Memories™. Not so at the buffet. To enter, you pass dated posters with a hybrid home-ec/travel agency from the ’80s vibe, advertising a “Taste of Italy” over a photo of pasta, olive oil and tomato or a “Taste of the Far East,” with shrimp, chiles and shiitake mushrooms. That sense of basic-ness carries over to the food. Little effort has been made to make anything sound better than it is: The placards plainly state white toast, wheat toast, green beans, pancakes, waffles, grapes. Do we need grapes labeled for us? At weekend brunch ($36.99, or $58.98 to add unlimited Champagne), there’s a make-your-own-omelet station, a limited selection of sushi (mainly California and spicy salmon rolls), and the buffet-ubiquitous heaps of crab legs and shrimp on ice. But Bellagio, you can do better. — AC
The Bacchanal Buffet at Caesars Palace, like Vegas itself, is a celebration of lavish excess, demanding indulgence of the highest order. Since undergoing a $17-million renovation in 2012, it’s been consistently lauded as one of the best buffet experiences on the Strip. You have to shell out a few bucks to book a reservation time; otherwise arrive early or be prepared to wait at least an hour. Once you make your way into the cavernous interior, you are the Roman god(dess) of gourmandizing; eat according to thine whims. There are no rules to stop you from erecting a tower of fire-roasted bone marrow with gremolata in the middle of your plate and surrounding it in a sacrilegious moat of ancho chile-braised birria and Impossible mapo tofu. Maybe you will hit up the dim sum station to pluck out some char siu bao and eat them on the way back to the table. Afterward, pick up some made-to-order tacos (al pastor, carne asada and chicken) or visit the noodle bar for ramen or udon. The rotation is constantly changing, with weekend specials like whole roasted suckling pig, wrapped in banana leaf with mango-pineapple salsa. A bacchanal, indeed. — BP
Here are six great off-Strip places to help ensure you’re making the most of your time in Vegas.
The Wicked Spoon at the Cosmopolitan
The purported wickedness of the spoon is at odds with the schoolmarmish urge this buffet has in its efforts to encourage portion control by swapping heaping platters of food for bite-sized morsels allocated into tiny dishes. Shrimp cocktail? Put the ladle down: You get one butterflied shrimp atop a dollop of cocktail sauce and a sliver of lemon. Eggs benedict comes by the half-muffin and fried chicken is doled out in dainty duos of wings. Ultimately you will be thankful for the corrective action the Spoon takes, because it makes room to work the room. Many of the Cosmo’s buffet standards get a twist: gingerbread pancakes with cream cheese frosting and candied walnuts; French toast made of cinnamon bread; “angry” mac and cheese infused with a spicy kick. Things get really good with the not-your-typical-buffet-fare offerings, including chorizo chilaquiles, mortadella pizza and duck wings with soy caramel glaze. Feel the urge to hoard? The crab legs are still a free-for-all pile. — AC
Excalibur Hotel & Casino
Excalibur is a 4,000-room, King Arthur-themed hotel and casino that went up three decades ago near the south end of the Strip. It could use a new coat of paint, the Camelot vibe has been supplanted in the buffet room for whatever the aesthetic is where you Google “generic office stock photo” and use that as inspiration, but the poker room is good and the value of the weekday brunch ($20.49; $23.99 on weekends) is solid. The food itself rates a C plus. Steer yourself toward the “American” section of the buffet, where you’ll find a respectably moist herb-roasted chicken. The make-your-own taco bar is a reliable stop; nachos covered in fake cheese and pickled jalapeños never goes wrong, or out of style. — LKP
Luxor Resort & Casino
Luxor, which for a long time was the coolest hotel on the Strip due to its being a literal pyramid and having the world’s strongest light beam shooting up from its crown, has been overshadowed by the newer and fancier players in town. Today it’s a little sad-feeling, as befits a hotel with Carrot Top as its artist in residence. The buffet gets an A for effort but an E for execution. The escalator-assisted descent to the buffet feels like entering the excavation site of a pharaoh’s tomb. (OK, I’m being pretty generous with that description, but that’s the idea, anyway.) The food, unfortunately, isn’t what I’d have my servants bury me with for my journey to the afterlife. Pasta sauce tastes metallic, and a gamey Salisbury steak was nearly inedible. In the Asian arena, potstickers were decent and an orange chicken was satisfactory, if too heavy on the soy sauce. When I visited for brunch ($21.99 on weekdays, $24.99 on weekends), the seasonal fruit was a sad tray of pineapple, cantaloupe and orange slices. Somewhere Renenutet, the goddess of the harvest, is shaking her head. — LKP
M Resort Spa Casino
I’ve always wondered why you’d stay at a place like M Resort, which is a 20-minute trip down the freeway from the Strip that seems totally antithetical to the Vegas experience. After visiting the Studio B Buffet, the mystery has cleared up for me: It’s a lot cheaper and the experience is better. The buffet at M Resort is cheap ($24.99 for dinner) and includes beer and wine in the base price — the only buffet I visited with that perk. There is prime rib and seafood galore, of course, all of it nicely cooked. The servers are attentive, the semicircular layout of the buffet somehow more engaging than most. I was most impressed by some off-the-beaten-track entries: a smoky chile colorado, with tender chunks of pork and just enough heat to make it interesting, as well as a vegan chana masala, warm and earthy and full of tender chickpeas. — LKP
The MGM Grand is big. It’s 7,000 rooms big. Finding anything within its massive confines — a theater, a lost loved one, a buffet — takes a little hunting. The MGM used to be “Wizard of Oz”-themed (hence the pervasive emerald greenness) until the higher-ups decided that was a bit too specific and switched to a general Hollywood theme. The vague directionless of the decor is symptomatic of the lumbering giant’s overall vibe — that it is past its prime. This ennui carries over to the disappointing buffet. Dish names are hastily scrawled with a grease pencil on the sneeze guard and don’t impress much; the food looks unappetizing and unloved. If you’re going to stick it out, lean on the Mexican options: beef tamales, maybe, or the respectable taco bar. A corned beef hash I tasted wasn’t bad, but at that point I was just hunting for things not to hate. A general sense of loss and resignation hangs heavy in the dining room. — LKP
The gold-flecked Mirage was kind of a big deal when it opened in 1989. The biggest hotel in the world at the time, it still has a bland “island” theme; tropical plants, rushing water and a huge Biosphere-like atrium greet guests. At the Cravings buffet, there are the standard Latin, Asian and Italian stations found in nearly every buffet, but there’s also a “fishmonger” section. Steamed crab legs with drawn butter and shrimp cocktail are pure Vegas luxury, and tomatoey cioppino is hearty and satisfying. With made-to-order pasta dishes and a good variety of pizzas (pesto chicken, grilled vegetables, Philly cheesesteak), you can toddle out of this buffet feeling like you’ve made a pretty good life choice. — LKP
Palms Casino Resort
The brain trust behind the prosaically named A.Y.C.E. Buffet saved their energies to brand their buffet stations with names like Smoke and Fire (grilled/smoked meats), Sweet & Light (desserts) and The Hearth (stuff cooked, you know, in and around a hearth) — instead of just labeling them with ethnicities and territories, as most buffets do. The brisket and ribs from Smoke and Fire are better than they need to be; the miniature French onion soup crocks are sleeper hits. The kitchen turns out red curry crawfish I went back for seconds on and a New England seafood — shrimp, sausage, clams, sausage and vegetables swimming in a spiced, savory broth — that was a transporting highlight of my buffet scrounging. The quality and variety of food, plus the reasonable price ($24.99 for dinner), make this one of the best buffet options in town. Even if you’re staying on the Strip, it’s easy enough to hop across the freeway to visit. — LKP
Rio All-Suite Hotel and Casino
Of all the Caesars properties, Rio is perhaps the oddest, with its crimson-and-royal-purple color scheme and the grinning faces of Penn & Teller permanently affixed to the outside of the building. The off-Strip location does have some advantages (free parking, for one), but is it enough? The theme of the Carnival World Buffet is Carnival, obviously, or Mardi Gras, with multicolored bead-like patterns embroidered into the carpet and purple, red and green pleather chairs. At $34.99 for dinner and $29.99 for weekend brunch, it’s one of the more expensive buffets you can visit. Beer and wine are not included but can be added for $13. For the price, Carnival is a disappointing value. The seafood is your best bet (with crawfish, peel-and-eat shrimp, raw scallops and green mussels, among other things), followed by the do-it-yourself Asian soup bar, which had beef pho, udon, pork miso ramen and a ginger-y chicken broth with egg noodles. Kimchi and papaya salads are not terrible but couldn’t redeem the overall depressing vibe. The place was nearly empty when I went at 6 p.m. on a weeknight — never a great sign. — LKP
Wynn Las Vegas
Towers of fresh fruit and flowers balloon up toward the high ceilings, giving the buffet at the Wynn a whimsical Alice in Wonderland quality. It’s expensive ($38.99 for weekend brunch and $52.99 for dinner) but the setting isn’t a downer, which can be important depending on how bad the hangover you’re trying to feed is. The target audience for this buffet are people who’ve graduated from Build-a-Bear workshops into Build-a-Regret weekends; as such, the choose-your-own-adventure stations are where the action is. You can build your own crepes or pancakes or omelets in as much as said breakfast items can be built. (Just kidding, you don’t actually build the stuff, you just pick the fillings and/or toppings.) My favorite was the brunch congee station, where you can ask for as much pork floss, pickles and century eggs as you like for your bowl. Don’t do the math on whether you’ve gotten $40 worth of congee out of the deal, just be happy you didn’t give out your real number the night before. — JH
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