Culinary trailblazers back in the 1940s found a way to keep gamblers inside the resorts with cheap food, and lots of it. El Rancho Vegas, the Strip’s first resort, came up with the chuck wagon, the earliest version of the modern-day buffet to turn up in Las Vegas. As UNLV’s Center for Gaming Research writes, “quantity was usually emphasized over quality.”
“The buffet filled a need for the casino, which wanted to keep its late-night gamblers happy, but didn’t want the expense of keeping a full restaurant open all night. Knowing that the hungry gamblers would be happy with good, plentiful meats and snacks, the El Rancho Vegas’s managers created the all-night chuck wagon. It may have seemed like no big deal at the time, but the casino buffet would become a Las Vegas signature restaurant.”
Those early chuck wagons might have served some hot dishes along with cold cuts. El Rancho Vegas’ Buckaroo Buffet only charged a dollar for all-you-can-eat fare when it opened back in the day.
Before the pandemic, Las Vegas had more than 70 buffets inside casinos, spanning from Aliante to Henderson, Summerlin to the Strip, serving gourmet fare at a range of stations. Nowadays, options are more limited, though these buffets remain favorites among tourists.Read More