Garden Court Buffet
When most people visit Las Vegas, they stay on the Strip and rarely venture elsewhere. It's hard to blame them when Luxor alone reveals bodies ranging from topless girls at "Fantasy" to real preserved human specimens at "BODIES The Exhibition." Dining options easily cover the gamut, too : you can find a typical fast food court at Excalibur or enjoy a $5,000 burger next door at Mandalay Bay. The Strip's an incredible place, but if you're not out to impress anyone by telling them you ate (and paid for) a $5,000 burger, fine dining and entertainment options can be found in downtown, old-school Las Vegas for relatively cheap.
The Garden Court Buffet at Main Street Station in downtown Vegas is a bargain at less than $10 for lunch and less than $15 for dinner six nights of the week. — Prices vary by the theme of the night : only the seafood night on Fridays is more than $15. It's currently $21.99 with a free players card. — At the entrance, a chart details the prices and times, and as with every buffet in Las Vegas, non-alcoholic drinks are included in the price as well.
Walking into the Main Street Station buffet, the first thing you'll notice, though, is the turn of the century style architecture of the main room. Rows and rows of archways are lined with individual light bulbs, and regal antique looking chandeliers make you feel like you've stepped back in time. Dark wood and brick are used extensively to contrast with the pale tan latticework to make it appear almost as though you've entered a historic train station. A large circular section of the floor contains artwork laid in tile, and a heavy wooden table with a tall bouquet sits in the center of it. Wooden cabinetry and painted-glass signs harken to a long forgotten era, and for a brief moment, you'll almost forget that you're in current day Las Vegas.
After paying your entry, you'll be directed to a table in one of two large rooms. Deceivingly, while standing in line to get to the cashier, the room appears to be simply one, with mirrors giving the illusion of it continuing into the distance. — The technique is used quite successfully in other parts of Main Street Station. — In this case, though, two full rooms actually exist.
In the front, a salad bar holds items to design your own starter plate along with premade concoctions such as beet salad, carrot salad, and coleslaw. Fruits like whole strawberries and sliced peaches, oranges, and melons round out the healthful selections for those so inclined.
Moving to your left, you'll find pizzas and pastas along with other Italian items such as manicotti and garlic bread before coming to more traditional American food. Depending on the time of day and the day of the week, you'll encounter everything from freshly grilled T-bone steaks (on Tuesday nights) to pork chops, salmon, and baked chicken. I've personally been to the Main Street Station buffet on "T-bone Tuesdays" three times in the past couple of months and found the steaks to be quite good most of the time. On two of those visits, I even had two steaks during my meal, but on the third visit, the preparation or the cut of meat was just off. Nevertheless, when unlimited steaks are less than $15 per person, it's hard to complain.
At dinner, baked potatoes and sweet potatoes are next to an area dedicated to Mexican food, and a condiment bar sitting on crushed ice provides everything from cinnamon, sugar, and butter for the sweet potatoes to lettuce and cheese for the Mexican items (or however you wish to top any of your food). I've yet to visit the Garden Court Buffet, as it's called, when there wasn't fried chicken, a separate area with just fried chicken wings, and collard greens as well : the buffet covers a wide swath of food tastes and preferences.
The main entrees section continues with an area of Asian food such as chow mein noodles and eggrolls before ultimately finishing with Hawaiian specialties. — Downtown in general, and the neighboring hotel, The Cal, in particular, have a considerable number of visitors from Hawaii.
Kalua pork (an earthier version of roast pork and cabbage), pork guisantes (pork and green peas stewed in tomato sauce), and lau lau (pork and rice wrapped in a taro leaf) provide a bit of island flavor for those seeking something from the middle of the Pacific Ocean. While those may all sound a bit foreign to most "mainlanders," that's one of the great features of a buffet. Take a small portion and if you don't like it, move on to something more suited to your tastes.
For dessert, you'll find a whole island itself surrounded by pies ranging from pecan to coconut cream and pumpkin to apple, along with slices of cheesecake, ice cream cones and sundaes with sprinkles, and several types of dessert bars, too. Puddings like tapioca and chocolate can be found in small bowls on refrigerated surfaces, but the best "pudding" at the Garden Court Buffet, the bread pudding, is kept warm in a tray for you to scoop it out yourself. You can tell it's indulgently caloric, superbly dense and topped with a caramel sauce, but I haven't passed it up yet.
When your meal's done, you can head back out into the casino to gamble the night away or admire a bit more of the yesteryear style architecture while grabbing a drink at the Main Street Station's Triple 7 microbrewery. Of course, if you do that, you'll be hitting the restroom, too, where you can see a genuine chunk of the Berlin Wall. Well, if you're a guy. It's in the men's room behind the urinals.
At Main Street Station
In Downtown Las Vegas / Just Off Fremont Street
7AM to 10:30AM Weekdays - Breakfast
11AM to 3PM Weekdays - Lunch
7AM to 3PM Weekends - Brunch
4PM to 9PM Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesday, & Thursdays - Dinner
4PM to 10PM Fridays, Saturdays, & Sundays - Dinner