There may be no better deal in the world than the casino buffet. Imagine a food lover’s delight spread out on several thousand square feet: salads, carved meats, pasta, fish and seafood, fried chicken and mashed potatoes, Asian and Mexican dishes, soups and breads, vegetables, cold cuts, desserts and ice cream. You can eat with your eyes and already be full.
If you have not yet visited a typical casino buffet like the ones in Reno and Lake Tahoe, you are in for a treat. For around $15 for breakfast and brunch buffets and around $30 for dinner, you can stuff yourself silly with every variety of food under the sun. But when faced with a plethora of choices, some people go crazy and fill up way too quickly and ruin the experience. Buffet newbies must have a plan of attack. Here’s the quick and dirty on how to hit your first casino buffet.
1. Go hungry
It’s a waste to just go for one plate of food. It may seem better for your waistline and other customers if you hold back, but don’t. The fun is in the filling up. You can sleep it off later.
2. Go for breakfast, stay for lunch
Breakfast buffets are the cheapest, but offer less to choose from. Go a little later in the morning and hit the cusp period between breakfast and the brunch/lunch buffet and still pay the breakfast buffet price.
3. Get the lowdown first
When you get to your seat and the server takes your drink order, get the 411 on the buffet first before even picking up your first heated plate. See what is being served, check out the salads, the carving station and the desserts and create an eating plan. Mine is usually a nice big fresh salad first, followed by two or three plates of hot food, another prepared salad like hot spinach or Caesar, followed by coffee and ice cream. Maybe some bread pudding thrown on top for good measure.
4. Visit on the weekdays for price, weekends for variety
Friday night and the weekends usually feature seafood and steak buffets as well as all the other choices and the costs go up. Weekdays usually feature the usual fare for a lower cost.
5. Tip your server
They don’t serve your food, so you may be tempted not to tip, but casino servers do clean up your plates and refill your water and iced tea. Most of them work their butts off and do an excellent job. Some of my best servers have been casino buffet servers. If you are able, leave a good comment for them on the bill, as well.
6. Even if you don’t eat salad, visit the salad bar first
A good indicator of a great buffet is a great salad bar. Anyone can serve iceberg lettuce and bacon bits, but it takes a bit more skill to offer herring or beet salad, fresh cherry tomatoes and baby corn, spinach and mesclun greens and six different kinds of dressing.
7. Take small portions of everything. You can always go back.
Plan on spending a good two or three hours at a casino buffet. The fun part is being with family and friends and asking them, “Hey, where did you get that, I didn’t see that,” while heading back up for another helping, and maybe another round of Keno.
Here are a few of the best casino buffets in the Reno and Lake Tahoe areas.
Photo by [Perfecto Insecto]