I might be beating Janice Okun to this one, and I’ll be first to admit to previously taking some low shots at the new Hamburg Fairgrounds Casino. However, like most good casinos, the Hamburg one features a buffet—the Midway Buffet to be exact. (Who am I kidding, Buffalo's storied restaurant critic has far better taste than a casino buffet!) Lunch at the Midway will cost you $13.95 + tax and tip, while dinner is $18.95. At those prices, this had better be one damn good buffet.
January, however, is a perfect month to try the buffet out. It’s just $9.95 all day, every Wednesday until January 31. Player’s Club members received a coupon in this month’s mailer that brings that price down a little further yet.
The Buffalo RV show is going on at the Hamburg Event Center, and after gawking at gross consumerism on wheels, I was hungry. A discounted buffet dinner was in order. Unlike lunchtime, dinner features all-you-can-eat king crab legs.
After waiting for an unacceptably long time—a lady who’d had too many visits from the cocktail waitress was flirting with the cashier—I was finally seated. Like everything at the Hamburg Casino, the Midway Buffet dining area is fresh and new. Tall booths flank the perimeter and provide a semi-private seating area, while I got stuck at a small table in the middle of the floor where everyone can watch you eat. Oh well, for the price I shouldn’t complain.
The food at Midway Buffet is certainly of a high quality. I overheard one diner exclaim, “For a change it’s actually good tonight!” For my first visit, I’d have to agree, the food was very good.
You can start at the salad bar and build your base from fresh, crisp romaine or spring mix. Some of the traditional salad fixings—julienne carrots, bell peppers—were lacking, replaced by grape tomatoes, raw mushrooms, and chickpeas. The dressing selection looked house-made, and I opted for an infusion of two Old World flavors—Italian with feta cheese. It was a rich, robust, tangy, cheesy delicious accompaniment.
Soup also flanks the salad bar, and I opted for an Oriental experience—hot and sour pork soup. It was not over salty, and the hot and sour flavors were ever so subtle. It was loaded with fresh vegetables and ground pork. There were long, pale strips of something that had a vegetal texture immersed in the golden broth. Was it Asian cabbage strips? Pig intestine? I have no idea and probably don’t want to know; the flavors worked together well.
For a main course, I skipped the carving station. While there were plenty of delicious looking roasted meats to choose from including lamb and beef, I opted for the king crab legs. For $9.95 you can’t even buy a pound of king crab at your local grocer. All the cracking supplies, pickle forks, and an array of toppings (melted butter, cocktail sauce, tartar sauce) surrounded the seafood station. King crab takes a lot of work to get every ounce of succulent meat out of those straw-like legs, but it’s a buffet, you’re supposed to pace yourself!
I also sampled Italian blend vegetables, a mix of artichoke hearts, green beans, and tomatoes in a vinegary marinade; carrots and pearl onions; and mashed potatoes, which were way too buttery.
While choices are abundant, Midway Buffet doesn’t overwhelm with thousands of low-quality items to pick from. International stations include Asian, Mexican, and Italian while American comfort food—roasted meats, mashed potatoes, sausage-studded macaroni and cheese, gravy—fill out the carving board area. On the Italian line, the pizzas looked particularly appetizing with thick crust and fresh toppings—certainly not your typical greasy, hours-old hotplate pizza. Fresh paninis were for the taking too, but hey, I’m one guy; I can only eat so much.
For dessert I opted for a slice of tiramisu and a hot, fresh blueberry cobbler—all topped off with vanilla soft-serve. The tiramisu was rich on chocolate flavor, while espresso seemed non-existent, and the blueberry cobbler was in a word perfect. Not overly sweet, the doughy puff pastry was an ideal accent to loads of large, succulent berries in a deep purple juice. The vanilla ice cream was a nice complement.
Midway Buffet’s menu does change from time to time and is available at Hamburg Casino’s dining website. A hit on a slot machine later that evening more than paid for dinner, but even so, this is one casino buffet that is worth its clams.