The Best Las Vgas Buffets

Jo McGarry
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Wednesday - July 26, 2006
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You might be under the impression that the dining scene in Las Vegas has undergone some dramatic transformation; that there are more sommeliers there than anywhere else on earth, that the restaurants are among the most innovative and expensive in America, and that service, style and a certain surrealism surrounds almost any daily activity.

But where would you go if you got a sudden craving for Spam musubi while throwing quarters at the Wheel of Fortune, or felt like a bowl of steaming hot saimin for lunch? Or where, amid this hotbed of fine food and wine, would you look if you wanted a simple mahi mahi plate lunch, some teriyaki chicken or a good old-fashioned loco moco?

Welcome to the California Hotel, where shorts and slippers are de rigueur, plate lunches are served daily and you can get a loco moco at midnight. But while The Cal might be the hotel of choice for Hawaii travelers, sister hotel Main Street Station has a whole different approach to food and wine.

Ward Daughters is the executive chef responsible for the restaurants at Main Street Station and the California Hotel, and in conversation with him it doesn’t take long to find out why the plate lunches and loco moco here are so good.

“I worked for years in Kihei,” he says with a smile, “and I brought some of the local tastes over with me.”

But there’s so much more to the food at Main Street Station than plate lunches and Spam musubi. There’s an award winning micro-brewery - Triple 777 - that serves breakfast from midnight has a full sushi bar and a great range of sandwiches, salads, steaks and burgers.

Vegas is home, too, to the largest buffets in the country, and at the Garden Court Restaurant there are buffets of gargantuan proportion served three times a day in one of the city’s prettiest buffet restaurants.

“We’ll go through hundreds of pounds of prime rib, chicken, fish and turkey each day,” says Daughters, “and we offer more than 100 dishes for lunch and dinner.”

But by far the most delightful dining experience at Main Street Station is at the Pullman Grille, a traditional American steak-house where everything from king crab to fine steaks, veal and prime rib are served in an elegant atmosphere. It’s a little like Hy’s in that there’s wood paneling around the room and some gorgeous antique pieces, including impressive doors from the original Pullman Mansion in Illinois, and a fireplace and sideboard niche with hand-carved depictions of Aesop’s Fables that came from a castle in Scotland. The restaurant sits resplendent in Victorian elegance amid the hustle and bustle of casino life, and is such a delightful discovery that I’d recommend it to anyone - whether you’re staying downtown or not. The Louisa Alcott rail car sits within the restaurant and we spent a thoroughly enjoyable hour there enjoying an after-dinner drink, looking out to the restaurant and enjoying the friendly camaraderie of both staff and other guests. The whole experience is quite delightful - and fairly inexpensive. Compared to finer, fancier places we visited, the value for money and all around dining experience was hard to beat.

Next time you’re booking your trip to the Cal, take some of your winnings and make a reservation at the Pullman Grille. For value, atmosphere and service, it might just be one of the best dining deals in Vegas.

And if you really can’t live without them, saimin and musubi are just minutes away.

Happy eating!

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