Vegas buffet tour – people actually wait in line, really long lines, for buffets

Mrs. Rapid Traveler is in Las Vegas on business this week and, in the spirit of the season, The Rapid Traveler is tagging along. Las Vegas is a great destination for many people, but The Rapid Traveler is not well-suited for it since he does not gamble, does not drink, does not go to bars/clubs, will not pay $95 to see the current members of Guns N’ Roses, will not wait in line for a buffet, etc. The people watching, however, is beyond compare: in addition to a widely diverse foreign tourist base, this is the closest Americans come to looking like Europeans, with jackets, and pants that fit, on men, and curvy clothes on women, though many totter on heels.

Over this and a prior trip, The Rapid Traveler has walked nearly all of the strip, off-strip,  and downtown casinos, and since Mrs. Rapid Traveler loves fresh, raw seafood, he has paid special attention to the buffets. He is more of a $5.99 prime rib dinner with the locals in a faded downtown casino  kind of guy, but for the sake of domestic harmony, he surveys the upscale.

Bellagio buffet line

Wasting time to be underwhelmed at Bellagio, photo by Jason Riedy

Some opinions and then a favorites list:

  • None of the buffets, except possibly Rio’s Village Seafood Buffet are worth waiting in line for more than 15 minutes.
  • Always insist on taking a look before committing, no matter how brusque the staff are, especially during holidays. Based at Aria this week with a breakfast room credit to cover part of the stay, The and Mrs. have seen the price of breakfast double and then increase further in the lead-up to New Year’s. The first big increase was justified only by a platter of snow crab legs and absolutely nothing else different from the regular, subpar breakfast. The next was for adding some lobster.
  • Bellagio Buffet is grossly overrated with huge lines. The ambiance is little different from Old Country Buffet.
  • 80% or so of the food is the same across most casinos, especially for breakfast. Unless you want seafood, seek out affordable ones. A family can be fed pretty well with the Luxor/Excalibur $32 eat all day pass if staying out that way.
  • Buffets can be expensive but ordering a la carte at casinos or strip restaurants is even more wallet damaging.
  • Wait staff is tremendously overburdened at many of the buffets, so order all the drinks you need at the rare times you catch one.
  • This comes courtesy of Mother-in-Law of Rapid Traveler: enter near the end of breakfast or lunch to lock in the low price, then sit and wait for the better items to come out with the new meal service. Staff typically do not care.
This is not a breakfast food, Wynn Hotel!

Desserts at Wynn, photo by Smath.

Three favorites, or at least ones that The Rapid Traveler is willing to cross the street for:

  • Paris Las Vegas’ Le Village Buffet, perhaps the only one worth a trip for breakfast and good throughout the day. French cuisine and many items cooked to order at stations. Especially popular with seniors who wake early, the big downside is waiting time, both to get in and at popular stations. Fun, themed ambiance. Reasonable prices.
  • The Buffet at Wynn Las Vegas, the only one with ambiance fit for a romantic meal. Top quality food, especially desserts, which are terrible at many of the buffets. Not cheap.
  • Rio’s Village Seafood Buffet, the choice for serious seafood lovers who can get the most out of the high prices. Since Todai is a disaster compared to its locations in Asia, and other casinos play footsie with purported seafood nights, this mainstay is the solid seafood option. In addition to the high cost, the downsides are long lines from open to close, limited options for non-seafood eaters in tow, and the off-strip location.

Readers, what are your Las Vegas buffet likes and loathes?

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  • Scottrick

    Bellagio’s The Buffet is on the edge of my “worth it” scale. Personally I think Aria’s buffet is better, so if you haven’t already checked it out for dinner, you should do so. I’m surprised you liked Paris’s Le Village given the rest of the review. Yes, the lines are awful, and I don’t think the food inside is much better than anything out of a frozen food box. But everyone’s preferences are different. You’re spot on that they are all mostly the same and you are paying for that small amount of difference.

    If you want to splurge on a real restaurant, my favorite so far has been Bouchon at the Venetian. It’s in a separate wing on a higher floor, so there is no chance of casino noise leaking into the restaurant. And if you don’t drink (although the cocktails and wine selection are excellent) you should be able to leave with most of your wallet intact.

  • I was there on Thanksgiving night a few years back, the buffet was the original plan, but a four hour wait put the brakes on that plan real quickly.

  • We also spent time in Vegas and don’t like to gamble, drink or eat at buffets but we had a surprisingly great time. I guess one of the reasons is that, even though we enjoyed Vegas and spent a lot of time wandering around, we also spent most of our time away from Vegas at Hoover Dam, the Grand Canyon, etc. But since you are asking specifically about buffets – we don’t even do them. Vegas has tons of fabulous restaurants, many priced the same or less than a buffet (who needs that much food anyway?) and I recommend you just go to those. If you want a really nice dining experience, we had one of the best meals of our lives at The Capital Grille at the Fashion Show Mall. You can read my review, if you are interested: http://www.wanderlustwonder.com/2011/06/16/the-capital-grille-in-las-vegas/

  • Adam S

    I prefer avoiding buffets as well. Some good, reasonably prices places on the Strip include Mon Ami Gabi in Paris (book ahead for an outside table with a view of the Bellagio fountains) and Burger Bar in Mandalay Bay. Jaleo in Cosmopolitan is very good but more pricey.

    Off strip, Lotus of Siam and Raku more than justify the cost of the cab ride.

  • aadvantagegeek

    Adam S. is right about the Lotus of Siam. It’s one of the few places in Vegas that actually lives up to their reputation.

    Speaking of faded downtown casinos, I’ve always wanted to visit Circus Circus just for the Fear and Loathing connection.

  • Jason

    I may be shooting myself in the foot depending on your readership, but I’ve learned so much here, I can’t help but feel the need to give back. Here’s a tip for the Bellagio buffet, Take the right “exit” line all the way to the front and ask the hostess if there’s room at the bar. If so, sit at the bar, pay there, and you’ve essentially skipped the line.

    If you happen to have a bigger party, a line pass will get you past the line as you go through the middle lane. Reserved for the casino’s best gamblers, these are like gold during the holidays when lines push 3 hours. P.S. I’d be happy to secure one for any of the Boarding Area bloggers for all that you do.

  • Aaron S

    I know this is a little late, but I hope somebody finds this page and our comments help out a bit.

    My wife and I recently ate at Le Village for Monday breakfast at about 7:15 am, just after they open. We figured nice hot food and fresh. Wrong! Most of the food was cold. No recommendation from me.

    Went to Rio’s Seafood – expensive. Salmon sashimi was decent, but other than that it wasn’t too special. With the amount we paid, we could have gone to Mon Ami Gabi twice and had better food. My wife did like the crab legs, however.

    Aria Buffet – my favorite of all. Unlimited house wine for $6 more. Very clean, very fresh, and a tandori oven. Like most places they have unlimited shrimp too, but this place serves them individually in shot glasses. This means people usually take less, which means they can get better quality. Crab legs were great, staff freshly steamed them upon request. Excellent service – when our waiter came back to refull our glasses, I swear he would always refill them so that all of our glasses were even with each other. Very professional. Highly recommended.

    Wynn Buffet – Again, my wife and our friend loved the crablegs. Staff steamed them upon request. Place was huge with many options, but slow service.

    Overall, Aria was the best, Wynn second best, Rio Seafood next, and Le Village last. Personally, I would only visit the first two. Don’t forget that one day a buffet can be terrible, and the next delicious!

    Thanks for the info here – it helped guide us on our trip!

  • @ Aaron S – thanks for the detailed report. It does indeed seem the rule that the buffets can be wildly inconsistent. By the second and third times we had breakfast (with a room credit) at Aria during the week between Christmas and New Year’s we were ordering multiple drinks to start because there was little hope of seeing a waitress again! We finally shlepped over to Monte Carlo’s serviceable breakfast but at least could get drinks served.

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