Circus Circus Buffet Memories

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There is hardly anything in the world that someone cannot make a little worse and sell a little cheaper, and the people who consider price alone are that person’s lawful prey. … – John Ruskin

I remember a time, probably around 1994, when my dad and I were cruising the Strip with young Alex Curtas.

It was late-afternoon and our hungry 4th grader was starting to squawk. Suddenly, out the car window, the Circus Circus in all its tackiness loomed before us.

“Let’s go in a try the buffet,” Dad suggested. “How bad can it be?” he added, half-apologetically, as he saw my eyes narrow at the very thought.
“Alright,” I sighed….”Anything to feed the little shaver and hey, they’ve got to have something good, right?”
It was probably around 5:00 when the early birds started to stake out the bunkers from which they would launch their assault on good taste. We got there ahead of the fannypackers, but soon enough were standing cheek to gut with them at the cornucopia of steamer trays before us.
Rows and rows of food there were. More sheet cake than you’ve ever seen. Enough to feed a Mormon Tabernacle wedding 100 times over. Black, white, pink — football fields of baked rectangles. The frosting was thick…and crunchy…in colors unknown in nature, and in flavors unconnected to their hue.
Salad greens were military issue – surplus trucks of limp lettuce emptied into plastic tubs. Something called “Italian dressing” was offered, along with something called “French” — so thick and sweet it could’ve doubled as frosting on one of those great swaths of Sara Lee.
But the biggest bucket of dressing was reserved for ranch. Of course it was. 3 times I saw the hapless steward refill the ranch, while Italy and something called Roquefort went begging. (Side note: there was no “Roquefort” in the Roquefort; in fact, there was no cheese of any kind. With your eyes closed, you would’ve guessed it was watered-down sour cream.) The cheese came in perfect shingles — thin squares of white, yellow, and orange processed curds that had lost their whey (sorry).
And then there were the meats: great green-yellow streaks of staleness glistening off boiled gray-brown steer. Great haunches of it, steamed to death, two, three, four times before someone would put it out of its misery and into their gaping maw. “Rainbow beef” we called it — laid end-to-end in tray after tray — with a petri-dish sheen of preternatural colors adorning each slice.
As bad as it was, it was nothing compared to the boiled, artificially-pink pressed ham with lumpy pieces of congealed fat stuck all over it.
After two or three passes my father managed a slice of meatloaf with something that looked like a giant matzoh ball, but tasted vaguely of potatoes. Despite looking like it had been in the steamer tray for hours, it was cool to the touch. Who knows what was on my plate, but I looked at Alex’s and noticed a dinner roll, a cupcake, and a slab of lasagna so stale it could’ve been leftover from Hunter Thompson’s room service.
As he was pushing the noodles around on his plate, trying to summon the courage to take a bite, Alex looked up at me and said, “This food isn’t very good, is it dad?”
Apple, meet your trees. With that, we all had a good laugh, dumped our plates of untouched food into the garbage, and left.
You know food is terrible when not even a starving 9 year old will touch a cupcake.
If Covid19 accomplished nothing else, at least it put this place out of its misery.

4 thoughts on “Circus Circus Buffet Memories

  1. So…. where did you guys end up?

    Also, on a 1 – 100 scale, where are you on the Steakhouse?

    And a favor, if I may. If you have 5 minutes, can you “re-alphabetize” the historical reviews?

    Cheers,. and hope all is well!

  2. I laughed pretty hard reading this! I only have very faint memories of going to the Circus Circus Buffet probably somewhere around 1981 with my grandparents. I remember the place had a very distinct bad smell, and my grandma was thrilled that it was like $1.95 per person for lunch. The only food I remember were all the cans of canned fruit being dumped into the trays. And even as an 8 year old I couldn’t stand it! Lol.

  3. Last Year I visited in Vegas to my aunt home and I visit there also my visit is amazing and soon I will come again that why I am here for explore more.

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