A Tale of Two Casino Buffets . July 2005

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A Tale of Two Casino Buffets By Howard Berenbon and VP & ME DO LV--PART TWO By Terrence "VP Pappy" Murphy

A Tale of Two Casino Buffets, MotorCity and MGM Grand Detroit

By Howard Berenbon

It’s been a couple years since I visited the MotorCity Casino and MGM Grand Detroit specifically for their all-you-can eat lunch and dinner buffets.  So, on May 15, I headed down to MotorCity Casino with my wife for some gambling fun and a feast.  Since we were on a roll, the following week we headed to MGM Grand Detroit for a fun repeat performance: a bit of gambling and then another feast.

The Classics Buffet at MotorCity Casino

Before tackling the slots, we headed to Club Metro to see if we had any points left on our club cards, but they told us they expire if you don’t return within a year; and it’s been a while, and we were out of luck.  However, with the current promotion they gave us $5.00 in matching slot play on our club cards, and we headed off the play some quarter video poker and nickel and quarter slots.  After about an hour of playing, our appetites kicked in and we followed the signs past the two restaurants and down an escalator to The Classics Buffet.  We were getting excited about lunch because we had fond memories of the buffet two years ago: the food and desserts were outstanding.  The entrance was as I had remembered, except there was no line and we walked right in at 2 p.m.

After being seated in a nice comfortable booth (near the dessert station), we ordered our drinks and headed for the main course.  We found about 25 different entrees, a well-stocked salad bar and lots of sides to select.  There was an Asian station with a few dishes, a roast beef and turkey station with mashed potatoes and gravy.  I was disappointed, though, because they hard hardly any chicken or fish dishes, and offered way too many pork plates, but I found a few good choices.  The fried chicken looked great, but I can’t eat fried foods because of a cholesterol problem, and had to pass. 

Here’s quick rundown of what we found for lunch including the fabulous dessert station:

Main dishes: fried chicken, several potato dishes, broiled chicken legs wrapped in bacon, several pork dishes, carved roast beef and turkey.  They had very nice salad selections, with a variety of condiments, olives and other salad toppings like artichoke hearts and mushrooms.

We found a few Italian selections like Pasta in Basil Sauce and Fettuccini Alfredo. The Asian station had General Tso’s Chicken, Tempura Fish, Battered Salmon and a variety of Sushi.  Now for the piece de resistance: The Desserts.  They included Chocolate Moose, macaroons, cakes and chocolate chip cookies, Lemon Moorage Pie, ice cream, Apple Cobbler and more.  Freshly cut fruit included a bowl of excellent pineapple and strawberries.

MGM Grand Buffet

With 6 different main course stations, MGM Grand Buffet offered at least 50 or 60 main plates.  Starting with the Italian station (though it varies from day to day), I found 3 types of pizza, Chicken Parmigiana and a few different pastas and, of course, garlic toast (can’t have Italian without the toast!).  At the Smokehouse they offered BBQ Spare Ribs (dry and wet), BBQ Chicken, Slow Roasted Beef Brisket and BBQ Pulled Pork, plus sides like Corn on the Cob, Macaroni and Cheese, Corn Bread, Black Eye Peas and more.  I happily tried selections from each of the food stations including pulled pork, baked fish and a few spare ribs.  I waited at the Italian station for a new batch of Chicken Parmigiana, which was just okay, but there were better choices elsewhere.  By the time I found the Stuffed Cabbage, one of my other favorites, I had to pass, because I was saving room for dessert.

Here’s a run down of the choices, though the selections do vary, some stay the same from day to day:

Italian Kitchen

Antipasto Bar, Chicken Alfredo, Sausage & Peppers, Veal or Eggplant Parmigiana, assorted Pizzas and more.

An American Grille

Prime Rib Hearty, Rotisserie Chicken, BBQ Chicken, Smothered Pork Chops, BBQ Country Pork Ribs, Grilled Polish Kielbasa and Sautéed Carmelized Onions, Roast Turkey Breast and more 

The Boardwalk

On the Boardwalk you’ll find Manhattan Clam Chowder or creamy New England Clam Chowder, Peel-and-Eat Shrimp, Spicy Cajun shrimp, Stuffed Flounder, Seafood Stuffed Crab Shells, Whitefish, Old Bay Cod and Fried Clams. 

The Bayou

For your New Orleans dining experience you’ll find Spicy Jambalaya, Blackened Chicken Breast, Jerk Chicken, Red Beans and Rice, Fried Okra, and Breaded Catfish and more 

The Wok

If you’re in the mood for Chinese food, then you’ll find a few chicken and beef dishes including some chef’s daily wok specials.   If you don’t mind waiting, they’ll quickly stir-fry something completely new while you wait. 

Salads

Salads include Caesar, fruit salad, Cucumber and Red Onions, Marinated Button Mushrooms, Three Bean Salad and Chunky Red Skin Potatoes.  

Grand Desserts Shop

Desserts include Peach and Apple Cobblers a variety of sliced cakes (including strawberry cheese cake) and several pie choices. They also offer some sugar-free desserts and an ice-cream sundae bar with various toppings, plus some desserts to order like Bananas Foster and Cherries Jubilee.   

When we signed up for the MGM Mirage Players Club Card, we were offered a free buffet.  Happily surprised, we graciously accepted their kind offer.

Our Conclusion

The Classics Buffet at MotorCity Casino won hands down for their Dessert Station, but I think it failed in the main food categories and was more expensive.   While MGM Grand, offering over 50 main dishes, rose above and beyond any buffet I’ve been to here in Detroit, and their dessert station was more than acceptable.

Buffet Times and Prices (tax is included)

The Classics Buffet at MotorCity Casino

Lunch - $17.00:
Monday - Thursday 12:00 PM until 4:15 PM; Friday 12:00 PM until 4:00 PM; Saturday 12:00 PM until 4:15 PM

Dinner - $21.00:

Monday - Thursday 5:00 PM until 12:00 AM; Saturday 5:00 PM until 12:00 AM
Seafood Fridays - $31.00:
Fridays 5:00 PM until 12:00 AM

For information call: 1-877-777-0711

MGM Grand Detroit

Monday – Thursday
Lunch - $14.95
11:00 AM - 4:00 PM
Dinner - $17.95
4:00 PM - 12:45 AM

Friday
Lunch - $14.95
11:00 AM - 3:00 PM
Dinner - $28.95
4:00 PM - 3:45 AM

Saturday
Lunch - $14.95
11:00 AM - 4:00 PM
Sizzling Steak Saturdays - $22.95
4:00 PM - 3:45 AM

Sunday
Brunch - $12.95
10:00 AM - 2:00 PM
Lunch - $14.95
2:00 PM - 4:00 PM
Dinner - $17.95
4:00 PM - 12:00 AM

For information call: 1-877-888-2121

VP & ME DO LV--PART TWO By Terrence "VP Pappy" Murphy

"No presidential candidate should visit Las Vegas without condemning organized gambling."

--Ralph Nader

My trip to Las Vegas last fall with my wife Dolores, my unseen pal and mentor VP Pappy, and some friends from the Rochester Elks in Michigan was, to say the least, a surreal experience. Here in Detroit if I go to a casino, I have to drive for an hour or so, park in a cold, damp and lonely garage, walk down and around rows of parked cars stepping around and through puddles of water left over from rain or melted snow, just to get to the damn casino. In Vegas, in the same time it took to get to one lousy casino in Detroit, I can be in and out of maybe ten or so because they are situated side by side and on both sides of Las Vegas Blvd on the strip or downtown. That also means I can lose my bankroll ten time faster there then it takes me to lose it back home. A great place to gamble and visit, but I'm not sure I'd want to live there full time.

Now let me see...where was I when I left off?... Oh yea, now I remember. We were with Jean "The Frugal Gambler" and Brad her "Frugal Husband" at the Rio...

After having dinner at the Rio with Brad and Jean, they were nice enough to give us a ride across the street to the Palms. ( Hey, we were tired after that long walk that Dolores "forced" me take) The Palms stands tall and proud overlooking the Las Vegas Strip, looking something like a fatter Washington monument with windows and neon signs plastered all over it. The Palms has a lot of great restaurants and bars where a person could spend a whole evening just partying, drinking, and getting lost in all their upbeat music and dancing and never go near a gambling device. ( VP Pappy would love to live here and party down, Dudes, every night) But for me, what the Palms really has is great video poker and that is what I mostly came to Vegas for. They have just about the best selection of VP around the strip. We played on a quarter Double Bonus machine that has a long-term payback of over 100% for a couple of hours and I managed to hit, with VP Pappy's help, four Aces twice (love to hear those credits rack up) and walked away with a nice $375 profit. Dolores won a small amount on those damn slot machines again. I don't know how she does it, but I do know that it won't last what with their lousy payback percentages. (or so I thought)

"I vow to never touch a slot machine again...although I suspect this resolve has all the firmness of a cream pie."

--Barry Meadow

Next we took a shuttle over to Ceasar's Palace and wandered around the streets inside the mall window shopping all the designer items that we didn't really need or couldn't afford. Along the way I ran into some talking statues and had a good conversation with Bacchus, an old wine buddy. "Hey Bacchus, how's it feel to be stoned all day long?" I asked. Hee, Hee, Hee. "Very funny, wise guy." Bacchus replied." How would you liked to be standing here in the same spot day after day with thousands of mere mortals staring and making fun of you all day long and having to do the same stupid one-act play every hour year after year?" he answered. "Look on the bright side Bacco," I said. "It could be a lot worse. At least there's no pigeons in here." He gave me a mean look and as I walked away I could hear him yell something that sounded like, "Impurae matris prolapsus ab alvo!" I'm not sure what it means, because it was in Latin, but I'm pretty sure that it was something very complimentary. I'll have to look it up when I get home.

"The Vegas strip must contain more elegance and extravagance per square inch than anywhere in the known universe."

--Rob Wiser

We left Ceasars and the fountain show and walked back to the Flamingo and crashed in our room. We were worn out, exhausted and after calling and making arrangements to meet tomorrow with Jerry, my brainy engineer friend from work and his wife Virginia who were staying down at Harrahs, (see VP DOES VP in TC by BUS) Dolores was ready for bed and it was only 10:30, but not me. I went next door to the Barbery Coast for a nightcap and a little video poker before I hit the sack. The Barbery Coast is a neat little place that has some decent video poker and a comfy, cosy little bar. They also have a sports book area where you can crash for a while, kick back and catch up on what's happening in the world of sports. I finished every day at the place while I was in Vegas.

The next day I was up at 6:30 and on the strip for my morning walk, a routine I did every day while I was there. First stop was Ballys. Bally"s is set so far back from the strip that they need moving sidewalks to get their patrons to the entrance and back. Bally's didn't have a lot of good video poker like most of the strip casinos, so down the street I continued to walk spending a little time in each casino along the way. Paris, with its one leg of the Eiffel Tower in the gaming area, was a hoot. Aladdin was next and is a magical carpet ride back to Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves time. Worth the time just to walk around in the place. Next, I strolled past a couple of mini-malls where I found an Internet cafe. I decided to check my e-mail and found a message from one of my video poker buddies who was at Windsor Casino back in In the Detroit. He wanted me to meet him there. I sent him a note telling him to meet me where I was, on the strip in Las Vegas, in reply.

"If you got talent, Las Vegas is the land of milk and honey. If you don't, it's a burial ground."

--Benny Binion

Next I visited MGM and since I already had a slot card from its Detroit-owned casino, I was fully comped in the place. After taking the tour of the place, I found one decent bank of VP machines way at the back and won a little bit before leaving. I made the turn around at the Tropicana where the landscaping is lush, green, and beautiful. On the way back I passed a couple of tired looking, pretty young ladies who turned around and ask me if I was looking for a good time, and at 8:00 in the morning yet. I told them that, yes I was, but it was going to be with my wife or in a casino. For that remark I got a one-finger salute as they walked away. Boy, the people here in Vegas sure are friendly. I picked up the pace on the way back and only met one other strange person who informed me that I was going to go to hell which I already knew from watching all those Jimmy Swaggart shows on television. When I got back to the Flamingo I had just enough time to take a quick shower and head out the door with Dolores for another day's activities.

After a great breakfast buffet at Harrahs with Jerry and Virginia, we headed for the Hilton to play some Pick'Em Poker. ( a 99.95% payback video poker game) We took a cab to get there and knowing where the place was, watched in amused amazement as the cabbie took a route that passed near the place a couple of times before finally getting there. The place was only about a mile away from where we were, but the bill came to about $15. When I questioned it, the cabbie gave me some mumbo-jumbo about construction and road blocks and such. Yea, right. At the Hilton, we headed for the Space Quest Bar where I knew they had the Pick'Em machines. What we didn't know was that we would run into Sam the very friendly and talkative bartender there. For the next two days, Sam and I got into a Don Rickles-like, who could insult each other the most contest, in a friendly, joking way of course. It got to be so much fun that one morning when Sam saw me coming he stuck napkins in his ears so he couldn't hear me. "Not fair" I yelled, " Take those damn things out of your ears and take your medicine like any over-bearing, loud-mouthed bartender would." But he left them in and went on serving drinks to his customers and ignored my insults. As for the video poker, Dolores hit for $1200 and $600 playing the dollar machines which put her up over $2,800 for the trip so far. And I lost a couple of hundred. Some days the beers gets you, and some days you get the beers.

"Ever have a casino visit when nothing goes right? When you wonder where you got the idea that gambling was fun?

--Alan Krigman

Later that night we had a great Italian dinner with lots of good wine at Andreotti's in Harrah's where we had some fun joking with Gino Federici, the strolling musician there .Gino was a great guy who didn't mind putting up with all my nonsense and jokes (or maybe he was just another great actor?) and could give and take with the best of them. We even bought one of his CDs called "Serenata" which reminds me of that night every time I hear it. Gino said that he was going to come visit us in Michigan and was going to paddle a gondola up the Mississippi and over the Great Lakes to Detroit. I love to see him try that in the winter time. You meet the nicest people everywhere when you aren't afraid to open up a little, let down your defenses, and really talk to people as equals. So many people treat workers and entertainers as just servants in these places, like they were beneath their status and weren't worthy of consideration. It always saddens me when I see it happen in Vegas or anywhere else I go. Old VP Pappy and I like people and talk to everyone from the street hawkers to the bus boys to casino owners to little old ladies from Pasadena in the restaurants and casinos around the country and have made lots of friends over the years, even if we never see them again. Life is as good as you make it. Sorry about that sermon. I'll get down from my pulpit now. After Andreotti's, we saw the obligatory "Legends" show which everyone should start with when they visit Las Vegas. It's always a good entertaining show.

"Casinos are delightful "hosts." They ply their customers--we players--with free booze, great entertainment, delicious food, and almost every form of sensual pleasure known to man in order to get you to or keep you at their tables. They do this because they plan to beat you. More important, they almost always do."

--Bill Jones

After leaving Harrah's, we walked over to The Imperial Palace and played the slots for a while. Hey, when in Rome. At around 2:00 a.m., and barely awake and standing with slightly bloodshot eyes, Virginia hit a progressive slot machine for over $17,000 which woke me up and got my attention. Knowing Virginia, I'll bet that she went to bed that night with a smile on her face and I'll bet it was still there when she woke up in the morning. Good for her, she's a very friendly, warm person and it couldn't have happened to a nicer person. At 2:30, Dolores called it quits and headed off to bed. I had my usual nightcap at The Barbery Coast and then made the long walk to our room and just barely got into bed before collapsing.

The next morning on my walk, I hit the other side of the street on the strip. At Bellagio where I oohed and ahhed over Dale Chihuly's beautiful glass sculptures in the lobby and tried to book dinner at Picasso for four that evening. Yea, right. I think they are booked up solid every weekend until at least 2006 or so. Oh well, I probably saved several hundred dollars in the process. Boardwalk, Monte Carlo, and the ever crowded New York--New York came next. By the way, unless you love huge masses of people all jammed together like worshippers praying at Mecca, don't even think of visiting New York--New York on a Saturday night. We did and I almost got claustrophobia in the process. Hordes of "in people" all dressed in the latest funky "in" fashions were running amok.(don't you love words like "amok?" It sounds like something lewd Eskimos would do.) Drunks, haven't-a-clue gamblers, mothers carrying or pushing babies in strollers, and thousands of site seers at 2:00 a.m. in the morning were everywhere. The noise was so loud it would have deafened a heavy-metal rock musician. Not my cup of tea. More like a cup of flaming moonshine. I hurried back to the Flamingo again for a shower and was ready for a new day's adventure.

"All the best actors and actresses are not in Hollywood, but in casinos. Casino employees are trained to smile, shake your hand, be sympathetic when you lose, and pretend to want you to win. Bullcrap!

--VP Pappy

The next day went just as the last couple did. Breakfast, gambling, dinner, entertainment and gambling again. Later that evening, we played video poker at the Palms again until our eyeballs almost fell out and hit the sack around 3:00. The next day after dragging ourselves out of bed early ( I passed on my usual walk) we had breakfast at Lindy's and spent the rest of the morning packing, checking out, and heading for the airport. At the airport, I got lucky and hit for a couple of hundred on one of their lousy paying video poker machines there and bought a few things in their gift shops. Take off...landing, and we're home again. On the bus, driving back from the airport with our group back together again, everyone looked blurry-eyed, tired and run down, but strangely enough all we could talk about was what we were going to do "the next time" we visited Las Vegas. Will we ever learn? I hope not.

Terrence "VP Pappy" Murphy

"The restaurants, the themes, the nightclubs, the eternal ringing of slot machines, the endless hordes of people having fun, and that wild sense of freedom that comes with walking along the strip at night. It's a blast!"

--Adam Fine

"Las Vegas is the most honest, fake city in the world."

--Frank Scoblete