Question of the Day December 1, 2015
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Q:Do any casino buffets in town provide nutrition info either online or at their location?
A:Things have come a long way since the original El Rancho "chuck wagon," with its promise to "appease the howling coyote in your innards" for $1 with its round-the-clock menu of cold cuts, salads, and a small selection of hot and cold entrées. Today's "gourmet" buffets can cost $40 or more for dinner and feature innovations ranging from unlimited cocktails, all-you-can-eat caviar, and private chef's tables, to take-out service and table reservations. And in many instances not only has the quality and variety of cuisine improved (with Thai curries, Middle Eastern stations, authentic Tandoori dishes, sashimi, and even Wagyu beef lasagna all available), but there's also a new awareness regarding special-diet needs.
The (newly remodeled) Buffet at Wynn was a pioneer on the sugar-free dessert front and has always offered a clearly demarcated (and extensive) section. In addition, since Steve Wynn dabbled in veganism himself, he insisted that all Wynn/Encore restaurants cater to a vegetarian and vegan diet, with menus prepared in collaboration with celebrated vegan chef vegan chef Tal Ronnen (who, by coincidence, is hosting a tasting event at Wynn's County Club this evening -- call 702-770-3463 if you're interested in reserving a spot), so expect to find plenty of meat-free and dairy-free offerings at this buffet. And if you spot something that you fancy that isn't vegan, ask and there's a good chance that one of the chefs will prepare a version specially that works with your dietary needs.
Bellagio is also well known for its sugar-free desserts, if blood-sugar is your problem (although the labeling is not necessarily as clear as at Wynn, so ask if you're not sure about something, rather than risking getting sick). The same goes for Le Village Buffet at Paris and Cosmopolitan's Wicked Spoon, which has a large case of sugar-free desserts. In fact, most buffets these days will carry at least a few sugar-free dessert options, many of them provided by Mrs. Williams Sugar-Free Diabetic Delights (Spring Mountain and Decatur), which provides hundreds of pies weekly to casinos across town.
With more than 500 different dishes prepared fresh daily in one of nine open kitchens, you would expect Caesars' Bacchanal Buffet to cater to pretty much every food preference and diet, and sure enough you can find gluten-free, sugar-free, and vegan items at Las Vegas' most upscale and pricey buffet.
For those suffering from celiac disease, or any other form of gluten intolerance, the Buffet at Aria comes highly recommended by website glutentfreeinlasvegas.com, which describes how "they work very hard to keep non-gluten items separated from gluten items whenever possible" and serve "tons of fresh seafood daily, an omelette station, prime rib, salads, and often at least 2 or 3 gluten-free desserts." Made-to-order gluten-free pasta and gluten-free pizza are available on request, too.
While all the aforementioned eateries have been at that "gourmet" end of the buffet spectrum, the casino group that's really breaking the mold in terms of the your question, is Boyd, whose Ports O' Call buffet at the Gold Coast is not only serving specified gluten-free dishes at each meal every day, but has even posted its gluten-free menu online. It includes helpful and honest information, like "all desserts contain some form of gluten," with the exception of the entirely gluten-free sorbet selection, or suggesting that those in search of a totally gluten-free experience should skip all the salad dressings and stick to oil and vinegar. As to fish, it's all naturally gluten-free, but ultimately it depends on how it's served: "Baked, Pouched [sic], Broiled Are Gluten Free" (as long as no sauce or flour has been added during preparation, the menu goes on to explain). The same is true at sister property the Orleans, where the same gluten-free menu is available at the French Market Buffet and is posted online at the casino's website.
We hope that gives you a good overview of the (increasing number of) options and some suggestions of where to eat; if any readers know of a dietarily-sensitive gem or online menu that we've overlooked, please drop us a line and we'll add to this answer. In the meantime, in our main Restaurant section you'll find listings and links to non-buffet eateries that cater to special dietary needs/requirements, including: vegetarian/vegan; gluten-free; kosher; halal; and eco-friendly.
UPDATE: 12-01-2015 Reader feedback:
- "Soon after it opened, my vegan daughter and I went to the Caesars' Bacchanal Buffet thinking it would be a great place for her. NOT. There was very little, if nothing for her to eat. Sure she could get a salad (she never uses dressing) but it's the protein options that are difficult for her. And she needs plain vegetables, which are hard to find. Has the Bacchanal Buffet changed? Are there vegan options? Actually I, who eat it all, didn't like it either, so we've avoided it since then." [Ed: During the holidays this buffet, as do others, is posting its special "holiday" menus online, and we have to agree that there are very few vegan-friendly options among the dishes being served over the next few weeks.]