Earlier in the spring, Gold Strike unveiled the 13,500-square-foot Buffet Americana. The casino brought in Philadelphia designer Chris Sheffield to work on the décor, which is a combination of down-home and uptown.
"Because of where we are in the Delta, we wanted to do something really authentic using cotton and textiles," says Niklas Rytterstrom, general manager at the Gold Strike.
Sheffield's design for the seating area includes one wall dominated by a large installation of colorful ropes arranged like a loom. The opposite wall features large rolls of denim in varying shades. Yet another wall looks to be made of wood planks but is instead made from industrial leather belts. The wood accents are salvaged from an old barn.
"One thing we had in mind was Levi's jeans," Rytterstrom says. "You can wear them casual with a T-shirt or dress them up with a jacket. We drew parallels to the buffet and to the market. We're pretty simple folks, but we also wanted to be aspirational. We wanted to introduce some modern lines too."
The design carries over into the food area as well.
"We wanted to make the experience of walking through the food area like visiting a high-end market. You see the fresh ingredients that we use. You see the cooks in front of you at the pizza oven, at the tandoori oven, at the Mongolian barbecue," Rytterstrom says.
Even with the deeply Southern inspirations for the décor, Americana's food offerings are global. The tandoori oven roasts Indian-style skewered meats and bakes traditional naan bread. The Mongolian barbecue provides a show with dinner as the grill workers toss and stir ingredients.
The South is not forgotten either. Traditional soul food dishes have their place with many of the sides served in Lodge enameled pots. Baked ham, fried chicken, and greens are found alongside Cajun specialties like gumbo.
"When we first talked about the buffet, we knew we would stay true to some of the traditional recipes your grandmas passed down. Those recipes are the core of the buffet," Rytterstrom says.
On weekends, Americana pulls out all the stops with seafood buffets featuring sushi, oysters, and a variety of seafood dishes, plus complimentary wine and beer. Friday night, the star of the show is all-you-can-eat crab legs, and Saturday night brings whole lobster. For early-risers, a champagne brunch with complimentary bloody Marys and mimosas is offered Saturday and Sunday.
Harrah's casino also has changes coming up for their buffet. After recently parting ways with Paula Deen, the casino is transitioning to a new buffet that will be called the Crossroads Southern Kitchen.
"You're going to know the Crossroads wherever you're from," says Jesse Keaveny, vice president of marketing at Harrah's. "We think there are a lot of fun plays off that name. Of course, the Crossroads brings music to mind. Here, it is an intersection of different food types but all tied to the South. For the logo, rather than an intersection of railroads or streets, we will use utensils."
The buffet's food will evolve rather than change outright after the rebranding.
"We will still offer traditional Southern food, but instead of stations tied to Paula Deen and her restaurants, we will have stations that reflect the different cuisines of the South," Keaveny says.
Each station will be redecorated to match the food it offers. Stations will also be given Southern names from the salad bar, Greensville, to the dessert bar, Delta Delights. One station that Keaveny is particularly excited about is Bluff City Barbecue, the Memphis-style barbecue station.
"We think that will resonate with our local visitors and with our out-of-town guests. The name definitely signifies our true Memphis barbecue," he says.
The changes will not require the buffet to close as all work will be done during off-hours. The space is set to be ready in early October with an official launch in mid-October.
Also at Harrah's, the space formerly occupied by Toby Keith's I Love This Bar & Grill is now occupied by the Field House, the largest sports bar in Tunica.
"The Field House offers a chance to get off the casino floor for a bit or to just come in to watch a game. It offers late-night food and beverages, including a build-your-own burger and typical bar fare. On the weekends, we offer live music," Keaveny says.