Despite Vegas's hoity-toity culinary makeover, there's nothing we like more than the city's famous and fabulous buffets that continue to rake in the masses. Why? Because who doesn't love that uniquely American obsession—unlimited gorging for one set price?
Buffets originated in the late 1940s as an attention-grabbing loss leader that would attract hungry gamblers to the casinos (and keep them there). Now the buffet concept has grown into an important tradition at virtually every resort. Bargain-hunters will still find plenty of economical deals, but the top buffets typically charge upwards of $25, or even $40, per person at dinner. Hey, there are lobster tails, Kobe beef, and unlimited champagne at some of these spreads—you get what you pay for. With that in mind, here's a look at some of the best buffet bangs for the buck, from the chichi Buffet at Bellagio to the value-packed Feast Around the World.
The Buffet at Bellagio
Step into the regal dining room, tricked out with opulent chandeliers and elegant artwork, and any hesitation that a buffet could be gourmet enough to deserve Bellagio's hefty price tag vanishes. Even the most discerning foodie should find something to like among urbane cuisine like venison chops, apple-smoked sturgeon, and (especially) elaborate pastries.
Some say the Buffet is overrated and overcrowded, but don't be put off by the naysayers—if you skip items that you could easily get at any Vegas buffet (such as pizzas and pastas), you'll do well here. The staff does a first-rate job tending to everybody's needs.
If you want to try to avoid the dinner lines, show up right when dinner starts (4 PM nightly). You might be eating earlier than normal, but the tradeoff is worth it.
Eggs Benedict, crab omelets (with real lump crab meat), Kobe beef, Chilean sea bass, baby squid, crab legs, sushi, smoked Scottish salmon, tandoori game hen, steamed clams, the salad bar.
Breakfast $15, champagne brunch $29, lunch $20, dinner $28–$36.
Le Village Buffet/Paris
Let other buffets touch on international foods—Paris Las Vegas owns the world's foremost cuisine, and Francophiles unite jubilantly here to sample Vegas's take on French fare. The verdict? Okay, this isn't going to beat out Joël Robuchon's Left Bank L'Atelier, but in terms of buffets and other similarly priced Strip dining, the food here is mouthwatering.
The cooking stations are themed to the regions of France, such as Burgundy, Normandy, Alsace, and Brittany (head here for the delicious dessert crepes). Raclette (a dish of melted aged cheese) and the towering pile of snow-crab clusters are always popular, and there's a particularly impressive spread of cheeses (naturally).
Drop by Le Flambé station for bananas Foster to top off your meal. The dining room, fashioned after a quaint French village, is a kick: stone walls and floors lend a charming feel, if not one that's especially conducive to quiet conversation, and the flattering, soft lighting is a rarity among Vegas buffet restaurants.
Chicken chasseur (sautéed in a brown sauce), roasted duck, bouillabaisse, veal Marengo (in olive oil with tomatoes, onions, olives, garlic, and white wine), smoked-salmon salad, raclette, braised lamb, chocolate mousse, made-to-order crepes, Belgian waffles, French bread pudding.
Breakfast $14, champagne brunch $25, lunch $18, dinner $25.
A chic reinterpretation of the usual Vegas buffet, Cravings was designed in bold colors by noted designer Adam Tihany (who designed Bouchon, Aureole, and Spago, among many others). Aesthetically, it's the anti-buffet—the futuristic back-lighted glass walls, dramatic geometric patterns, and low-slung chairs and tables give it the feel of a mod cafeteria from the next century. The brash lighting can be headache-inducing, but otherwise this is a fun, stylish place to nosh. You can even watch cooking shows on the several flat-screen TVs.
Thirteen separate cooking stations freshly prepare all types of eats, including all-American barbecue, wood-fired pizza, Chinese entrées, Mexican dishes, and even sushi. Many selections are made to order, and the Asian items consistently draw top praise. The mouthwatering dessert section with hand-scooped Italian ice cream, coffee gelato, and chocolate mousse with raspberry puree may entice you to skip the main course.
Dim sum, peel-and-eat shrimp, prime rib, bruschetta, fried chicken, chipotle-mashed potatoes, Asian noodles, wonton duck soup, macaroons, croissant pudding.
Breakfast $13, champagne brunch $22, lunch $18, dinner $24.
Village Seafood Buffet/Rio
For lovers of all creatures from the water, the notion of an all-you-can-eat seafood buffet sounds almost too amazing to be true. And, well, it is. This nautical-theme dinner buffet at the Rio isn't the seafood nirvana that you'll find at pricey restaurants like Mandalay Bay's RM Seafood or the MGM Grand's SeaBlue. But hey, it's still impressive. In keeping with the around-the-world theme of Rio's standard buffet (Carnival World), the Village Seafood seven seas-themed spread ventures, to Mexico (with seafood fajitas), Italy (try the cioppino), China (delicious kung pao scallops), and elsewhere. The relatively steep price still rewards you with plenty of value—just think what you'd pay a la carte for heaping platters of sushi, lobster, raw shellfish, and the like. Skip the baked or fried fish fare (flounder, cod, salmon), as it doesn't always hold up as well as the shellfish and raw-bar items, although there are exceptions. Fear not if you despise fish and you're just going along to placate a seafood lover—there's plenty of chicken and beef, including delicious barbecue beef ribs.
Oysters Rockefeller (above), seafood cannelloni, broiled swordfish, lobster tail, peel-and-eat shrimp, seafood gumbo, snow-crab legs, clams and oysters on the halfshell, chocolate cheesecake.
Dinner $38 (no lunch).
The layout here looks a lot different from other buffets. Six live-action stations with marble and stainless-steel counters are arranged like individual restaurants along a street, and the dining room is divided into a number of small sections with tables and booths. The pricier "Swanky Dishes" Fridayand Saturday-night dinners include a number of high-ticket items.
BEST DISHES: North Carolina–style barbecue pork, barbecue brisket, dry-rub ribs, lobster ravioli, ricotta tortellini, chile rolls, Chinese chicken salad, house-made doughnuts, cotton candy.
PRICES: Breakfast $13, champagne brunch $20, lunch $16, dinner $21, Swanky Dishes buffet $26.
Carnival World Buffet/Rio
Carnival World might have been among our top picks, given its excellent desserts and loyal following, but this international spread occasionally misses the mark on food quality. It's still a winner, but considering the steep prices, there's room for improvement. It serves dozens of Mexican, Italian, Chinese, Japanese, American, and other ethnic specialties under one large and colorful roof. Don't miss the dessert area: it's one of the best and biggest, with more than 70 varieties of homemade pies, cakes, and pastries, plus nine flavors of gelato.
BEST DISHES: Burgers and fries, fish-and-chips.
PRICES: Breakfast $15, champagne brunch $24, lunch $17, dinner $24.