While only one buffet remains at local casinos, the big news is Gordon Ramsay’s headed for Harrah’s Resort SoCal
Most of the all-you-can-eat options have been replaced with new, safety-focused concepts
When the pandemic arrived 16 months ago, the region’s casinos sharply scaled back their restaurant offerings and — to the dismay of thousands of local gourmands who relished unlimited crab legs and lobster tails — closed their popular buffets.
As the state has reopened this summer, so have many casino restaurants. But the buffets — which were loss leaders for casinos and banned under public health orders — are not coming back. Only one local casino has resurrected its buffet, but with multiple restrictions. Here’s a look at what’s on the menu at San Diego area casinos.
Valley View Casino & Hotel: This Valley Center’s regionally famous $42 all-you-can-eat Maine lobster buffet is back, but only for qualified members of its Players Club, only for dinner service and only with servers bringing plated selections to the table. In future months, the resort hopes to open more seating for the general public. Meanwhile its Black & Blue Steakhouse and Patties & Pints restaurants are now open Thursdays-Sundays only. 16300 Nyemii Pass Road, Valley Center. valleyviewcasino.com
Harrah’s Resort Southern California: Earlier this week, the Valley Center-based casino announced that global superstar chef Gordon Ramsay will open a 332-seat Hell’s Kitchen restaurant in the former buffet space that closed at the beginning of the pandemic. The restaurant will be one of only four Hell’s Kitchen spots in the world. It will open in spring 2022. Meanwhile, its Fiore steakhouse, Oyster Bar, ‘Ritas Cantina, KJ Chinese Restaurant and more have reopened. 777 Harrah’s Rincon Way, Valley Center. harrahssocal.com
Sycuan Casino: This El Cajon casino has limited dining options for now, but it plans to reopen its UnCommons restaurant sometime later this summer. Its Elicit Asian Restaurant & Lounge has a newly expanded menu that includes pho, ramen and yakisoba options, new sushi rolls and a variety of bao buns. Elicit is also offering a $25 all-you-can-eat sushi deal on Thursdays. At the Bull & Bourbon steakhouse, a $29 surf-and-turf dinner special is offered from 6 to 9 p.m. Wednesdays. The Phil’s BBQ and Lucha Libre Taco Shop outlets are slated to reopen in a few months. 5469 Casino Way, El Cajon. sycuan.com
Pechanga Resort Casino: In May, this Temecula casino opened 1882 Cantina, a new Mexican, Central and South American restaurant/bar that replaced its former Lobby Bar & Grill. Also in May, it opened The Cove, its 4.5-acre pool campus that now features a swim-up bar serving beers, wines and signature cocktails such as the Coveside Colada and the Strawberry Citrus Refresher. Meanwhile, most of its major restaurants are back in service, including the Great Oak Steakhouse, Paisano’s, Umi Sushi & Oyster Bar and Journey’s End. The Coviside Grill is open for walk-up orders and poolside in-person service. The buffet has not reopened. 45000 Pechanga Parkway, Temecula. pechanga.com
Pala Casino Spa & Resort: Pala has permanently closed its Choices buffet and its Sushi Sake restaurants. Its Oak Room steakhouse remains temporarily closed. But its Noodles quick-serve restaurant, Luis Rey’s Sports Bar and Bar Meets Grill are open with hours that are updated regularly on the casino’s website. 11154 Highway 76, Pala. palacasino.com
Barona Resort & Casino: This Lakeside casino has no plans to bring back its buffet, according to comments posted last month on Yelp.com by Barona officials. The space is being used instead for additional food court seating. Most of its other restaurants have reopened, though many only for limited hours. Barona Oaks Steakhouse is only open Thursdays-Saturdays, and its Italian Cucina is serving Thursdays-Sundays. Sage Cafe and Ho Wan Noddle shop are open daily. Plaza Grill remains closed. 1932 Wildcat Canyon Road, Lakeside. barona.com
Viejas Casino & Resort: Viejas closed its buffet in June 2020, and it has not reopened. But its Grove Steakhouse is serving dinner seven nights a week. The Café at Viejas is open 24 hours a day, serving a surf-and-turf special of crab legs and steak for $29.99. Also open are its Baron Long Bar & Grill and Ginger Noodle Bar. 5000 Willows Road, Alpine. viejas.com
Jamul Casino: The casino has just completed a renovation that includes the addition of the new Jamul Marketplace, a hub for the casino’s quick-service food venues, which includes a taqueria, burgers and shakes, smoked barbecue, a pizzeria and coffee shop. Meanwhile, Prime Cut Steak & Seafood restaurant has reopened, offering a $59.95 Sunday lobster brunch. Emerald Chinese Cuisine has also reopened, along with Loft 94 Yakitori and the Tony Gwynn’s sports bar. 14145 Campo Road, Jamul. jamulcasinosd.com
Casino Pauma: This Pauma Valley casino is luring diners back to its Café restaurant with a “2 for $20" 10-ounce prime rib dinner for two from 4 p.m. to closing on Tuesdays and Thursdays only. 777 Pauma Reservation Road, Valley Center. casinopauma.com
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