Great news: The buffet is back.
Casino buffet restaurants, of course, were supposed to be one of the fatalities of the Covid-19 pandemic. A year ago, when casinos were struggling to reopen after state-mandated closures, the main concern was being in a room with another human and not needing hazmat gear. It was widely assumed back then that the days of plucking items from a community pile of exposed foodstuffs were gone forever.
Now that we’re going back to 100 percent human capacity everywhere, it seems the human desire to stuff hot food down the gullet until mashed potatoes begin to crowd the esophagus has won out over any lingering safety concerns.
When some of the buffets began to reopen, they had servers at each station to safely shovel food onto your plate. But last month, commissioners in Clark County, Nevada, where all the Vegas casinos reside, ruled it is again OK to serve yourself. With shovels provided by the house, you can once again build obscenely large piles of food on your plate without judgment, and scarf down chicken, ribs, beef, pies and whatever else, to the point of belt-loosening nausea.
The reason casino buffets were conceived in the first place was not to promote gluttony, but to provide a fast, cheap bite to eat that would minimally affect gambling time. While the “fast” is back at several Strip casinos, the “cheap” is not. The Bacchanal at Caesars Palace, for instance, features dozens of cuisines and hundreds of perfectly prepared offerings from specialty chefs. “It’s like having your pick of nine high-end restaurants in one location,” says the casino’s website.
But that taste of Romanesque gluttony is $64.99 per person. I suppose that’s reasonable for the quality, but I’m someone who fondly remembers $9.99 buffets—when you had to pay for them at all. (I also remember $3 prime rib at the old Westward Ho. And newsboys in baggy clothes shouting, “Extra!” And complaining about “that damn Roosevelt.”)
There are, of course, much more reasonable buffets available on the Strip. The MGM Grand only charges $26.99 per person for weekday breakfast—still not cheap like in the old days, though. And some of the places where you would expect cheap buffets are not even reopening their scarf-fests. Red Rock Resorts CEO Frank Fertitta said in a recent earnings call that Station Casinos, the locals havens, will not bring back buffets.
I’m guessing it’s for sanitary reasons. I mean, it’s not like their bowling alleys, where a quick spray from an aerosol can magically eliminates all germs from bowling shoes that have been worn by any number of fat, sweaty, anonymous patrons, right?
Well, at least there’s still an affordable buffet at my favorite Las Vegas casino, the South Point—not to mention hockey slots. South Point was the first casino to install the new Vegas Golden Knights slot machine. (Segue rating: 8.) Slot-maker AGS produced the machine under an agreement with the National Hockey League. It is a huge machine, the size of the older AGS “Big Red” slot machine—8 feet by 8 feet, it says here.
The game has giant reels and multiplying wild symbols bearing the images of Golden Knights stars like goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, who Vegas stole from my team, the Pittsburgh Penguins, in the expansion draft a few years back.
Not that I’m bitter, mind you. I just hope someone puts out a Penguins-themed slot. It could feature current Penguins goalie Tristan Jarry in a pachinko theme, and you win if you put the “puck” past his tentatively and meekly outreached glove, which would trigger an animated bonus round in which you win the jackpot if Jarry passes the puck directly to a charging competitor in a Stanley Cup Playoff game, who easily scores the OT winner.
Glove side, naturally.
Not that I’m bitter, mind you.
Finally, the Macau Daily Times says they are considering “capsule hotels” to accommodate overflow and bargain-seeking tourists visiting the Macau casino districts. I had never heard of such a thing, but evidently, capsule hotels have been around for a long time in places like Japan. The “guest room” is a chamber roughly the length and width of a single bed, with just enough room to sit up on the bed. The capsules are stacked side-by-side, two units high.
So, it’s like getting a nine-hour MRI. Or staying in a drawer in the morgue, but with air conditioning and a tiny TV. Beyond that, it’s just like a hostel, with shared toilets, showers and dining rooms.
This is a perfect choice for my next vacation.
As long as they have a buffet.