One perk to living in Mississippi is leaving town.
Meaning, we are very close to New Orleans, the Gulf Coast and the beach. Yes, it’s one of those backhanded compliments like, “You drive so well, for being an Asian!” or “Those pants make you look so skinny!”. Take it for what it’s worth.
In October we took a weekend trip to Orange Beach, Alabama and ate lunch at Magnolia Blossom Cafe.
The route from Jackson to Orange Beach took us through Hattiesburg and Mobile, leaving long stretches of deserted highway between cities with few dining options other than fast food. We held out until Robertsdale and immediately pulled off highway 59 for the first decent looking restaurant in sight.
We darted across the road, walked into the cafe and made a beeline towards the lunch buffet.
Piling our plates high, I was thrilled to see fried chicken, greens, mashed potatoes, corn bread, rolls and a paltry salad bar. My husband was excited about the fried okra, butter beans and cabbage (he loves him some Southern vegetables). We snagged a table and the waitress brought us two glasses of tea, half-sweet half-unsweetened, the best of both worlds.
I’m fairly certain the gravy can from a jar and the mashed potatoes were instant. The beef pan was empty except for a few stringy remnants. Otherwise the fried chicken was juicy, the spicy cornbread had nice crust and the tea was fresh.
Passing up a second plate from the buffet, I chose to search out the dessert table and came back with a slice of homemade coconut cream pie. Apparently they also have a full service bakery and the desserts disappear fast.
Although the instant mashed potatoes were disappointing and the buffet options are limited, it was a decent, inexpensive meal. Proving to be popular place among the locals, they also have an extensive menu and are open for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Magnolia Blossom Cafe
22667 Highway 59 South
Robertsdale, AL 36567
Being on my first trip to Las Vegas and celebrating my thirtieth birthday, I wanted to have the quintessential Sin City adventure.
By Sunday we had already racked up a huge cab fare to Settebello Pizzeria Napoletana, club hopped at the Palms, stuffed ourselves at Hash House a Go Go, walked the Strip, watched the fountains, indulged at Nobu, danced on the stage at Tao and hit up Tryst.
After another late night (early morning) we made our way to the Bellagio for our one and only buffet experience.
We weaved our way through the hotel and casino to The Buffet and stepped in line around noon, which is very poor planning. The line was already extremely long, like they were giving away Justin Bieber concert tickets at a middle school, and snaked around many turns. Having no other plan we sucked it up and waited. I had disregarded one of my own buffet tips.
Once in awhile I would forlornly glance at someone in the parallel line marching straight up to the front. We weren’t staying there, didn’t gamble or have any connections so I never asked for a line pass, but it would have been worth the question. If at all possible, get a line pass from the hotel. Another buffet tip.
We stood in line for about an hour until we reached the cashiers to pay for our meal.
Unable to resist the temptation, we upgraded from the regular weekend brunch buffet ($24.95) to the weekend champagne brunch buffet for $5 more. At $29.95 a person we felt obligated to graze over a leisurely meal.
With receipts in hand, we waited about five minutes for a table to open up in the dining room. Just like a regular restaurant you have a waiter or waitress who brings you silverware and drinks. It took awhile for our waitress to appear and then it took even longer to receive our beverages. Nevertheless she continually topped off our champagne and brought orange juice for mimosas.
The buffet has many stations featuring cold seafood dishes, breakfast items, fruit, sushi, a salad bar, soup, pizza, carved meats, pasta, omelets, breads, desserts and too much to name. I took a lap to see all the available options and then decided what to eat.
Everything I spooned on my plate was of premium quality, fresh and ranged from good to terrific. A few items that stood out were perfectly cooked garlic broccoli rabe, a couscous dish, a fresh mixed greens salad, the beef tenderloin and the bacon. My friends raved about the prime rib and went back for seconds. The desserts were perfectly proportioned and we chose a number of them to share, but none of them were remarkable except for the chocolate chocolate chip cookie.
I would love to know the champagne they serve because it was dangerously smooth. We ate, laughed and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.
There are countless buffets in Las Vegas open at all hours of the day, covering different genres of food. But for our one meal and money, I’m happy we ended up at The Buffet in the Bellagio. Just be sure to spring for the bubbly.
The Buffet in the Bellagio
3600 Las Vegas Blvd South
Las Vegas, NV 89109
Traversing the South to the Desert Southwest, I continued my birthday extravaganza to Las Vegas where I met two of my best girlfriends.
They appointed me to be in charge of all meals and after many hours of research on Urbanspoon, Chowhound and various websites, I complied a solid list. Since we didn’t rent a car most of them are situated on the Strip, but I had a few off the beaten path. Knowing we wanted to splurge on one nice meal, experience one buffet and then eat casually, these are the restaurants I selected:
In future posts I will be writing stories about the restaurants we ate at. And to further reveal my Type-A side, below is some of the information I learn about Las Vegas dining in the process.
Know your budget
None of us are independently wealthy or have a secret money tree, so we knew prior to our trip we wanted one really special meal. Planning was easier when I knew how our group felt and how much they wanted to spend on each meal.
Make reservations, duh
There is a large pool of famous and celebrity restaurants in Sin City. Do your research and make reservations ahead of time. Although it’s probably hard to have a bad meal in Vegas, it’s possible, especially if you can’t get in.
I used OpenTable to secure reservations which makes the process a breeze. You can select open available slots, write special requests and even alter or cancel your reservation if plans change. We underestimated our schedule throughout the day and needed to push back reservations twice. Using the OpenTable app it was easy to do so on the fly.
Although we didn’t actually get to any of the happy hours I found, it was a good option to have. Obviously it’s great to spend a little less on drinks and appetizers, but it’s also a way to visit places you might not otherwise get to eat at.
Weekend buffet at the Bellagio
We wanted to hit one buffet during our Vegas trip for the quintessential experience. I debated between the Bellagio and the Wynn, two of the best and most revered, finally selecting the weekend brunch buffet at the Bellagio. The base price is $24.95 and we opted for the champagne brunch which costs $29.95. It was worth the extra $5 because our glasses were never empty and the champagne was smooth!
Note: It’s not uncommon to find champagne buffets available during the weekend for an extra cost.
Studio B buffet at the M
Alcohol costs extra at most buffets, but a beer and wine selection is included at the Studio B buffet at the M.
Caesars Entertainment Buffet of Buffets deal
If you’re a big eater, on a budget or interested in different buffets consider purchasing the Buffet of Buffets deal. This pass includes seven buffets, unlimited visits and is valid for 24 hours (starting at the time of purchase). The VIP or express line pass does not apply and it does not include alcohol.
These are the participating locations (click the name for the website):
MGM group promotion
I couldn’t find information on the MGM website to confirm this promotion, but I’ve read they offer an all-day buffet pass at specific hotels. This pass includes VIP line status, which means jumping to the front of the line. Supposedly the pass is valid for these locations:
This list consists solely of places I’ve eaten at, but there are numerous places I still want to try. Due to where I work, many of these restaurants are located downtown or in Fondren. Click the restaurant name for the website. Click the read more link to read my restaurant story.
1. Sal and Mookies | $5.50 lunch special
For some reason, I think the pizza tastes better at lunch but maybe it’s the dirt cheap price. The lunch special consists of a slice of pizza and your choice of a side salad, soup or french fries. The daily slice offerings include a white sauce slice, red sauce slice and vegetarian. An additional slice will only set you back $2.50. Read more…
2. Walker’s Drive-In | $8 blue plate (price on site is outdated)
If you are a fan of Walker’s but don’t have a mint to spend, eat there at lunchtime instead of dinner. The same blue plate specials are repeated weekly and you get an entree, two vegetables, cornbread and salad. At the same price you can get the vegetable plate (four veggies), cornbread and salad. Read more…
3. Brent’s Drugs | $3.50 burger and chips
A single hamburger is a mere $3.50, which leaves plenty of room to splurge on a small cherry limeade ($2) or chocolate milk shake ($3). All of the burgers and sandwiches come with chips or you can upgrade to french fries for $2 more. Read more…
4. Ding How Asian Bistro | $5.50 – $7.25 lunch special
Besides being one of my favorite restaurants, Ding How has a great lunch deal where you can get an entree, soup or salad, and steamed or fried rice. Read more…
5. Mr. Chen’s | $6.50 – $7.50 lunch special
If you can’t get up to Ding How, Mr. Chen’s has an equally good lunch deal including an entree, egg roll and streamed or fried rice. It’s the ideal opportunity to try their dishes on the cheap. Read more…
6. Steve’s Downtown Deli | $6.50 plate lunch
Head downtown to Steve’s for lunch because it’s the only time it’s open! He offers the same plate lunch specials on a weekly basis, in addition to sandwiches, quiche and soup (go for the Senegalese Peanut Chicken). Read more…
7. Soulshine Pizza Factory | $5.95 – $9.99 lunch special
If you are budget conscious get the one-topping, eight inch pizza and drink, but if you are looking to splurge add on a side salad or cup of the addictive crawfish soup.
8. Farmer’s Market Grill | $5 – $7.25 plate lunch
Unknown to many, the farmer’s market has a small restaurant inside offering up terrific daily lunch specials where you get your choice of entree, three vegetables, bread and a drink. The vegetable place includes three vegetables, bread and iced tea for $6.75, or a hamburger, french fries and drink costs around $5. Read more…
9. Peaches | $6-$8 plate lunch
This isn’t your ordinary plate lunch. Serving up soul food, Peaches is a downtown institution revered by many. So do likewise and grab lunch which includes a meat, two sides and dessert.
10. Rooster’s | $7.50 – $10.50
Occasionally only a good burger or chicken sandwich will do and this is the place to go. The hamburgers and chicken sandwiches range from $5.50-$7.75 and a side of curly fries or onion rings will cost you $2-$2.75. They also offer other hot plates, hamburger steaks and salads. Read more…
Great Buffets to Fill Up At
Mama Hamil’s serves up Southern cookin’ for $8.95 per person
Petra Cafe offers Mediterranean and Greek fare for $9.99 per person , $12.99 on the weekend
Spice Avenue has fine Indian cuisine for $9.99 per person
Awhile back I had a blind date. It wasn’t necessarily romantic, but we did meet online.
Through tweets or comment exchanges, Angela of Go Shepherds Go had mentioned an impending move and I suggested we should meet up before she left town. Being equally adventurous we agreed on Bombay Bistro for a weekday lunch (she had never eaten Indian food). An internet date was born.
Bombay Bistro sparked my curiosity after spotting it on the side of I-55. Admittedly, my knowledge about Indian food is limited. I have yet to try cooking it myself, believing some genres are best left to the professionals.
Shortly after arriving Angela walked in, we introduced ourselves and found a table. While sharing background stories a basket of naan was delivered to the table and the waiter pointed us to the buffet near the entrance. We traversed the long dining room and filled our plates.
The buffet has a fair amount of items to choose from and are labeled on a clear partition above the chaffing dishes. There is a large rice cooker, section of fresh vegetables, chutneys, sauces, and a table with a couple appetizers. I took an ample scoop of Butter Chicken, some chick peas, spinach, lentils, basmati rice, potatoes with peas and pakoras. I can’t remember the exact names of everything I ate and the labels are undecipherable from the photo. My apologies.
What I can tell you, is the naan was hot, chewy and crispy, the perfect accompaniment to sop up the rich, smooth Butter Chicken sauce. Each dish I tasted was fragrant and some were spicy. Although it was good, I couldn’t help evaluating the food next to Spice Avenue.
Like comparing a new car versus a used car, Bombay Bistro and Spice Avenue are similar yet different. Either car would get you where you need to go and essentially both restaurants offer the same things, a lunch buffet and Indian food.
But like a new car, Spice Avenue is more polished and the flavors of the food are a little bit brighter. However it’s also more expensive, making the lunch buffet at Bombay Bistro a bargain ($12 versus $8). I paid only $1.99 for a creamy, refreshing Mango Lassi (it’s a dollar more at Spice Avenue).
Bombay Bistro hasn’t been able to shake the hotel bar aura and iridescent beer signs still glow in the windows. It feels slightly used, but the owner was very nice and courteous.
If you are new to Indian food it’s an ideal place to taste several dishes and not break the bank. It was the best blind date I’ve ever been on.