Las Vegas Replaces Another Casino Buffet With a New Food Hall
The food hall trend in Las Vegas is going absolutely nowhere, with yet another casino swapping out its buffet for a new food court-style dining venue. The Rio Hotel & Casino is replacing its Carnival World Buffet with the Canteen Food Hall, a hub that will bring in five new dining destinations — many with ties to restaurants currently found on the Las Vegas Strip.
It’s a bold move for the Rio, an off-Strip casino that opened more than 30 years ago. In 2019, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported that Caesars Entertainment had spent well over $600 million since 2014 to upgrade nearly 90 percent of its 25,000 Las Vegas rooms in properties like Caesars Palace, Planet Hollywood Resort, and the Flamingo. The Rio, however, did not benefit from that reinvestment money.
In December 2019, Caesars sold the Rio to Dreamscape Companies for $516.3 million. The new landlords announced earlier this year that they planned to renovate the Rio’s rooms, pool decks, and casino space. With the latest announcement about the new food hall, the Rio is finally getting some much-needed TLC.
The Rio’s buffet closed during the pandemic and never reopened. The Canteen is expected to open in January 2024 with restaurants like Tender Crush, a New York-style chicken tender spot from the founders of Black Tap Craft Burgers & Beer. The creators of Tekka Bar, a sushi and hand roll counter in the Block 16 Urban Food Hall inside the Cosmopolitan, is introducing Nama Nama, which will feature made-to-order hand rolls, cut rolls, poke bowls, nitro matcha, and sake on-the-go. Chef Alex Resnick, who has worked alongside the likes of Jose Andres and Ray Garcia, is debuting Attaboy Burgers with a straightforward menu of just four burgers. South Philadelphia’s cheesesteak chain, Tony Luke’s, will make its West Coast debut with sandwiches like the chicken cheesesteak and the roast pork Italian with broccoli rabe and sharp provolone. And Shogun Ramen, which currently serves piping-hot bowls of umami-rich ramen both on Blue Diamond Road in Las Vegas and on Eastern Avenue in Henderson, will open a third location inside the food hall.
The food hall comes on the heels of other similar venues that have recently opened or plan to. Last winter, the Aria Resort and Casino replaced its buffet with the Proper Eats food hall and the Fremont Hotel and Casino downtown converted parking space into a food hall — though that one includes some staples of more familiar food courts. Two new casinos opening this December are also opting for food halls instead of buffets: The Durango Casino in southwest Las Vegas will debut the Eat Your Heart Out food hall and the Fontainebleau Las Vegas will introduce the Promenade food hall. Even the mixed-use campus, the Uncommons, got in on the food hall action when it opened this year.
While Las Vegas still boasts — many of which are very good — it appears that food halls, which can offer big chef names, brand recognition, and the opportunity for diverse dining options in one space, have a stronghold.