By now, it’s not even relevant to address people’s tired misconceptions that Las Vegas is the land of the tired $1.99 prime beef dinner, or the bastion of the sat-under-the-heat-lamp-too-long buffet. After all, the city is now well-known as a major culinary hub, and those outdated versions of the old buffets are, if not extinct (and some of those relics are not extinct), at least elegantly upstaged. Until you arrive and are bowled over by what the 21st century Vegas buffet has actually become—hundreds of made-to-order and individually plated items from all around the world, prepared by chefs from internationally acclaimed chefs—well, you don’t yet know the Vegas buffet. You’ll find live-cooking stations, spectacular décor and even offerings that include thoughtfully gluten-free, sugar-free and vegan items. Plus—in the city that can make anything feel exclusive—you’ll find some buffets with private, VIP dining rooms. Here are five of the best all-you-can-eat experiences:
Wicked Spoon at The Cosmopolitan
When it opened in 2010, The Cosmopolitan and its new buffet concept—dozens of individual and made-to-order dishes in adorable ramekins—launched the most recent era of buffet one-upmanship, sending casinos scrambling to reinvent their food halls (the culmination, so far, is the almost-too-massive Bacchanal). With its warm-wood environs and progressive take on buffet dining (bone marrow, fried chicken in individual fryer baskets, a custom mac-and-cheese bar, all in manageable portions), Wicked Spoon still draws a crowd—but since it’s no longer the new kid in town, is a bit less zoo-like than the newest buffets.
Studio B Buffet at M Resort and Spa
This “studio”-style buffet—lined with more than 100 screens—plays in-house cooking demos and Food Network programs while you graze, and prepares more than 200 items per day while you watch. There are carving stations with every meat you might imagine, excellent sashimi and nigiri in a Japanese station, wood-fired pizzas and a leviathan dessert selection. But the locals know to come on the weekends, when the most extravagant seafood selection in town is laid out, from crab legs and oysters to piles and piles of shrimp.
Bacchanal at Caesars Palace
After a $17 million revamp two years ago, the Caesars buffet—now seating 600 people and appropriately named “Bacchanal”—serves more than 500 dishes from nine open kitchens. The opulent display puts to rest the concept of the mass offering; these dishes are cooked to order. The room is massive but designed to feel intimate. Think you’ve reached the end of the line? Turn the corner. Don’t miss the all-day dim sum, Mexican pork carnitas, the Chinese black soup and an oyster shucking station. Off the menu, there are at least six daily chefs’ specials, plus gluten-free, sugar-free and vegan items. There's even back room for private dining (if you want to eat where The Hangover crew ate while filming).
The Buffet at Wynn Las Vegas
Thanks to an airy, sky-lit atrium and Carmen Miranda-meets-Willy Wonka décor, Wynn Buffet could be the most lively and delightful buffet in Las Vegas. At least 16 live-action cooking stations make it a fun experience, plus the central dessert counter is a riot of color. Don’t miss the waffle-battered fried chicken and Wagyu lasagna. Plus, since both Wynn and Encore make it a point of offering vegan and vegetarian options in every restaurant, if there’s something you see that you’d like in vegan form, the chefs will accommodate special orders.
The Buffet at Aria
A bit newer than Bacchanal, the Buffet at Aria has a bright, museum-cafeteria feel: cheery and easy to navigate. Its 11 specialty stations, including Latin cuisine and a fish market, spice up the offerings—plus it has the only buffet-line tandoor on the Strip (which means hot naan for you!). The best perk for large groups dining together: You can order family-style entrees for your table (for up to 14 people) at no additional charge.