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Which San Diego Area Casino has the Best Lunch and Dinner Buffet?

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FoodT Jan 15, 2007 01:25 AM

I might take a chance when I'm playing Blackjack, but I'd rather have a sure thing when I'm at the buffet!

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  1. t
    toliver Jan 15, 2007 04:23 PM

    Barona Casino looks like someone dropped a Vegas casino and hotel in the middle of a valley. It's quite impressive.
    The buffet at Barona reminds me of the World Buffet in the Rio (Las Vegas) which is a good thing. The Barona buffet has different sections representing different cuisines (Chinese, Italian, Mexican, etc). They have a Mongolian BBQ, too, which is fresh anf flavorful and sometimes is a meal in and of itself.
    The dessert bar makes Banana Fosters or Cheeries Jubilee to order.
    In all, the food is very good but it's also a little pricey, around the twenty dollar mark. You can get a couple dollars off the price if you have a Barona Player's Card (the card you stick in the slot machines so they keep track of your spending). It's free to get one and you save on the buffet so it's worth the time in line to get one.
    We had Christmas dinner at the Barona buffet and enjoyed it. They served prime rib, a holiday special, carved to order, which was quite tender and had a great seasoned crust. They also had a massive ham leg, the biggest one I've ever seen, also carved to order.

    Valley View Casino, north of Escondido, has supposedly been consistently voted the best Indian Casino buffet in San Diego county. They are currently building onto the casino (the parking garage just opened in November) and they're building a hotel.
    Their buffet also offers different cuisines, though not to the extent that Barona does. It's a U-shaped buffet with the center island offering desserts. They do offer a lot of Chinese dishes and some sushi. They also have a grill where they BBQ everything from whole sirloin steaks to filet mignons. What they grill depends on the day of the week. I have friends who crave their grilled pork chops. Overall the food is quite good and costs just about the same as Barona's buffet (you get a couple dollars off the price if you have a Player's card).
    The good thing about Valley View is they constantly mail coupons and benefits to members of their Player's Club (again, it's the card you put into slot machines so they keep track of your spending...free to get one). I'm constantly receiving offers of a free dinner buffet so I think it's worth getting the card.

    The employees at both casinos are friendly and helpful. Barona employees are particularly pleasant and a joy to deal with the few times I've needed their help.

    I've heard nothing nice about the buffet at Viejas. I guess the easier it is to get to a casino the less they care about offering good food to their customers. Valley View, which is so far away it's about where God lost His keys, is just the opposite. They're so far away from civilization, they make sure the food is great and your gambling experience is a good one so you'll keep coming back.

    1. j
      jlls Jan 15, 2007 05:19 PM

      My parents live about 4 miles from Valley View Casino and are constantly talking about how good their buffet is! If you pick up a copy of the free San Diego Reader (usually available outside of major supermarkets), there's typically a buy 1 get 1 free offer for their buffet on the 2nd or 3rd page.

      1. j
        JRSD Jan 15, 2007 05:40 PM

        We eat lunch @ Valley View with my parents when they were in for thanksgiving and the food was good. We each got a free lunch buffet for signing up for their players card, and were all pleasantly surprised by the quality of the food.

        In particular, they had 3-4 above average cheeses, the prime rib on the carving station was very good (nice and rare) and the cold salads were all excellent.

        Many of the prepared ethnic dishes were only OK, (gnocchi and another pasta), and the chinese food was pretty salty, but not terrible.

        The staff was very helpful and attentive in terms of bringing drinks and cleaning used plates.

        1. phee Jan 15, 2007 08:00 PM

          Viejas used to be good, but they've slipped in quality as of late. We enjoyed the buffet at Barona, and also the one at Rincon (we like staying at the hotel there, too, as a local "getaway"). Thanks for the tip on Valley View. We're always looking for places to stop while out on the motorcycle!

          1. s
            SoCalVal Jan 15, 2007 08:47 PM

            I've only been to the one at Rincon, but I was impressed with the quality of their buffet. I didn't know what to expect from CA casino buffets; I'd only been to Vegas casino buffets and some are good (I like the ones at Rio and Mirage) and some are pretty bad (Circus Circus and Riviera). Rincon once did a promotion in honor of Valentine's Day where they had all-you-can-eat lobster every Friday in February (dinner plate sized lobsters). It was so successful, they continued the promotion for several months. I was in lobster heaven! Alas, they finally ended it before I could partake more than twice (this was about 4-5 years ago). I'd always meant to try Valley View's buffet but moved away before getting to it.

            1. c
              clayfu Jan 16, 2007 12:32 AM

              barona also has chocolate covered strawberries !!!

              also certain days they have steamed crab legs which are very tasty. As well, their taco bar is quite delicious, so many different meats and they make their own tortillas!

              just beware the line does get long, you might never even get the crab legs cause some people get GIANT amounts of legs haha

              1. f
                filberk Jan 19, 2007 07:43 AM

                Pechanga's buffet is pretty tasty. I felt it was on par with some of the middle tier Vegas buffets (ie, Ballys, MGM, etc). They also have some other pretty decent restaurants there as well.

                1. t
                  toliver Feb 21, 2008 07:42 AM

                  I was out at Valley View on President's Day and wanted to let everyone know that they've changed how you get into the buffet. You can longer just get in line. They have timed seatings now. More about that in a bit.
                  The last time I was there (last summer), the buffet was in a huge dining hall south of the non-smoking area. It's no longer there.
                  The buffet is now on the east side of the casino (when you enter the casino from the main west entrance, keep walking straight ahead and you'll find it). The layout of the buffet area is almost exactly like it was before they redid the casino. It's still a U-shaped food area with the island in the middle. What's odd is that the dining area is far smaller than the dining area when it was located south of the non-smoking part of the casino. The new dining area is just a little larger than their original buffet dining area.
                  In regards to the new timed seating, it's handled quite inefficiently, IMHO. As you stand facing the cash registers to get into the buffet, the line forms to your left. However, you can't just get in line, as I previously mentioned. Instead, there's a small podium in front of the cash registers. There's an employee at the podium who asks two questions of you: "Do you have a Gold Player's card?" and "How many are in your party?" If you have a Gold Player's card, you get to stand in a shorter line to the right of the buffet cash registers and don't have to worry about the timed seating. Everyone else has to get in the regular (longer) line to the left of the cash registers.
                  Once you've answered the two questions, the employee then hands you a sheet of paper and tells you what time you have to be back to wait in the buffet line. You can no longer just get into line. We were meeting a friend at the buffet entrance at 5pm and the employee at the podium told us to come back at 5:50pm and get in line at that time. When we did come back to wait in line, I could hear the employee telling customers who wanted to get in line without a piece of paper issued from her, that the next available seating was at 7pm. Even though we got in line at 5:50pm, we didn't actually enter the buffet until 6:20pm.
                  My advice is that an hour (or more) before you want to eat in the buffet, go to the podium to get that precious piece of paper and your assigned "get-in-line-time". When you come back to get in line, you have to hand your piece of paper back to the employee at the podium and then they'll open the rope to let you into the waiting line.
                  They still serve seafood Wed-Sat. Even though we were there on a Monday, they didn't have Filet Mignon, as they advertise on their web site. They served prime rib at the carving station which was quite good but we still missed the filet mignon.
                  All in all, it's a rather odd way to run a buffet.

                  1. l
                    LisaSD Feb 21, 2008 12:51 PM

                    My friends and I had a bad experience with the whole "line" thing at Valley View and so far, nothing I've read here makes me want to take the trip back.

                    Barona, on the other hand, has my vote as they have been consistent in their food quality and friendliness of the cooking staff and wait staff.

                    The think I noticed the most about Barona was how fresh the offerings were. They didn't let food just sit there getting stale, which might mean that you have to wait a minute or two minutes for them to refill a certain entree but I'd rather stand there and have it come hot off the grill than eat mediocre-quality fare.

                    The Frutti Di Mare is exquisite (mussels, clams, scallops and shrimp) in a tomato/garlic/wine broth and they have a nice tray (again, very freshly made) of toasted bread to sop up the juices with. The Chinese food station makes some flavorful offerings that are spiced just right. The sushi is good and the salad bar has this caramelized walnut/peanut mixture that I wished they bagged and sold to take with you. The Prime Rib on Thursdays is always popular and the lines can get pretty long.

                    I haven't been to Viejas in a long time and the only reason I used to go was to have their wonderful French Toast made with thick, Texas sized toast that they would put a custard and fresh fruit on. They could also make it in a chocolate flavor but I never tried it. The rest of the food was forgettable though. When they raised the prices, that ended my visits there.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: LisaSD
                      t
                      toliver Feb 22, 2008 06:59 AM

                      Viejas is surprisingly bad. They seem to be trying to become the Circus Circus of Indian Casino buffets.
                      It makes me wonder if there's an inverse relationship between ease of accessing a casino and the quality of its buffet.
                      Viejas is relatively easy to access off the freeway so perhaps they think they don't have to try so hard to attract customers which could explain why their buffet is so forgettable.
                      Valley View, which isn't so easy to access (it's out where God lost His keys) uses the good food in their buffet to attract customers.

                    2. m
                      marymbs Feb 21, 2008 03:06 PM

                      I've been to Viejas, Sycuan, Valley View, Harrahs's and Barona. The worst by far is Viejas! I've been twice and both times were disappointing. I enjoyed Valley View and Barona's the best. Harrah's and Sycuan were satisfactory, but not outstanding. Valley View had some nice unique dishes liked stuffed pears, etc.

                      1. o
                        ochavez4 Apr 1, 2010 09:12 AM

                        I've been to Barona, Valley View, and Viejas. Barona has a the largest variety of food but the other two casinos provide a great value. Barona is 20.99 minus 20%, if you have a club card, putting you at around 16.80 per person. This can become a little pricey if you take out and treat several of your family and friends. Valley View and Viejas will put you at 10.00 dollars or less depending to which you go. They still provide great food. Viejas' food was not as good for awhile but it has improved and is again very good. The atmosphere at Barona is like being at a huge Vegas casino. I believe they started to provide some entertainment with local bands. Viejas on the other hand has been hosting shows with some great headliners. My wife likes going when Rick Springfield comes in Viejas. I am not sure if entertainment is provided at Valley View but they are expanding so it will probably be coming soon. Never been to Sycuan but friends who have been there tell me it has a great buffet. Hopefully this brings everyone up to speed since it has been sometime that there has been a more recent posting.

                        1. scottca075 Jun 24, 2011 12:06 PM

                          Way old topic, but maybe due for an update.

                          I think Pala has the best buffet of all the SD Casinos right now followed by Harrah's. The Valley View upgrade has helped, but I think it trails the other two.

                          Barona is nice, and I think Sycuan and Viejas are lagging.

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: scottca075
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                            boltsfan Jun 29, 2011 10:44 AM

                            Harrahs buffet got a makeover and is very good imo.

                            1. re: boltsfan
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                              zoey67 Jul 8, 2011 05:19 PM

                              Pala by far. If you read their Yelp reviews there are people from vegas who swear that Pala is even better than Rio, madalay bay and other vegas buffet. And they have pick your steak and they grill it fresh in front of you. Their desserts section is probably their best asset, it's huge and high quality. Valley view is good to but it's just too far from where I live oceanside.

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