Like so much else that was Vegas tradition, buffets have evolved. Gone, mostly, are the days of trays and cafeteria-style lines serving heaping mounds of warmed-over blandness at bargain-basement prices. The modern buffet uses come-and-go serving areas, live-action cooking stations, and multiple ethnic and regional cuisines. A general rise in quality puts many on par with traditional restaurants.
Of course, as the quality has gone up, so too have the prices, which now make them less of a bargain. But consider it this way: You would pay much more per person at one of the fancier restaurants in town, where you would order just one, potentially disappointing, item. At a buffet there’s more variety and more chance to find something you love. More variety per person means less likelihood for disappointment, so if you hate what you picked you can simply dump your plate and start all over. They are, generally speaking, not nearly as atmospheric as a proper restaurant, but how else can you combine good barbecue with excellent Chinese and a cupcake or 10?
Buffets are extremely popular, and reservations are not taken, so be prepared for a long line at peak times. Eating at offbeat hours (lunch at 2pm, for example) will mean a shorter wait to get in, as will some hotel/casino players’ club cards, which can get you line cuts.
Note: At press time, several hotels were offering all-you-can-eat all-day-long packages where you could pay one flat fee and come back to the buffets as many times as you like in a given day. Caesars Entertainment (Harrah’s, Flamingo, Rio, and so on) is even offering a full-day pass to most of their buffets for as low as $50 so you can mix and match. Details and pricing on these change often, so visit the hotel’s website or call ahead to see if they are offering any special deals when you’re in town.