Where do you start? Tackling Bacchanal Buffet at Caesars Palace is like running a marathon. With more than 250 individual-sized dishes, this is definitely a place where you need to pace yourself and choose wisely. There is no way you’ll be able to taste everything and you absolutely must save room for dessert–which, in my opinion, is the best part of the Bacchanal experience.
Even before I ordered my sweet tea, I took a long lap past all 10 kitchens and action stations to scout the seemingly endless options. It’s a necessary move just to orient yourself and to plan an efficient attack through what is widely considered the city’s top buffet, and with a hefty price (dinner starts at $79.99), you want to be sure to get your money’s worth.
The first buffet in Las Vegas opened at the El Rancho resort in 1941. The whole premise was to quickly feed hungry gamblers in chuck-wagon-style and keep them on property. Others caught on and it became a Vegas signature. When Bacchanal Buffet opened in 2012 to eye-popping success, it upped the ante, forcing competitors to tweak, or completely overhaul, their own operations.
The reason Bacchanal stands out is that, despite its overwhelming number of offerings, it’s still approachable. You don’t feel engulfed by the experience. Bacchanal also changed the game with open, chef-run kitchens and by serving individual portions on small plates. In doing so, they eliminated food waste and the need to scoop out spoonfuls of mashed potatoes or mac and cheese from giant serving pans.
The dining room seats several hundred, yet designer Tetsuo Aoyagi’s winding scheme that features large glass partitions makes the large room seem much more intimate. Glass chandeliers hang over the larger eight-tops for an added sparkle. While the spread is one continuous food line that snakes through the space, each kitchen and cuisine has a look all its own. Copper pots hang delicately above the carvery. Brightly colored pottery and vases adorn the Latin kitchen. And a wall of sea glass overlooks the crab legs, lobster tails and shrimp that chill on a bed of ice.
When the pandemic shut down the city, many resorts reevaluated buffets. Several properties closed them, never to reopen. Instead, the spaces have been transformed into upscale food halls. Bacchanal, however, used the pause to renovate and reinvest. While the buffet still features all the classic items one would expect, chefs replaced or added more than 100 new, imaginative dishes, including a whole slew of plant-based and vegan options— including quinoa-stuffed baby sweet potatoes with fried kale, tomato tartare and coconut-carrot gazpacho.
The investment has paid off. There are very few buffets where you can experience and sample such a diverse menu that goes well beyond staples like beef brisket, prime rib and steamed crab legs. Bacchanal has several live cooking stations where chefs prepare dishes on the fly–from fresh pasta and risotto to quesabirria tacos.
But unique offerings can be found everywhere. Crispy-skin lechón, tender short ribs and japchae dumplings highlight the Asian kitchen. Expect pizzas with a little more pizazz. Smoked salmon, brie and apple or chicken pesto top the pies here. Other dishes I found intriguing were whelks (chewy sea snails), harissa-grilled baby octopus, a tasty duck carnitas quesadilla, and a bacon-wrapped, Sonoran-style hot dog topped with chipotle mayo and jalapeños.
And when it comes to dessert, these colorful, creative sweets are an ideal way to end the meal. Eye-catching treats like yuzu tarts, ube chiffon cake, earl grey mousse, and rich buttercream cupcakes topped with a cotton candy swirl may make it difficult to decide. But in such small bites, it’s easy to try several of them.
The vibe: Casual and laid back, buffet-style dining.
The food: Global cuisine with food stations dedicated to seafood, sushi and dim sum, along with dozens of Italian, Mediterranean, Latin and Asian dishes.
The drink: Soft drinks, tea and coffee; beer and wine at an additional cost.
Time Out tip: The entrance can be a bit confusing. Make a timed reservation on OpenTable and skip the line.