This past Easter, my Mom treated me to dinner at the Courtyard Buffet at the Gold Strike Casino in Tunica County, Mississippi. Initially, we were going to the Paula Deen Buffet at Harrah's, but my Mom changed her mind when she realized how expensive it was. As we entered the parking lot for Gold Strike and two other casinos, my Mom wanted to see how much the buffet at the Horseshoe was. When we discovered that the Village Square Buffet was about as expensive as Paula Deen, we headed to Gold Strike.
The Courtyard Buffet used to be my go-to place for Thanksgiving dinner when I returned to Memphis after serving over nine years in the Air Force. Then one year, for whatever reason, I decided to go to Village Square and it was a good choice. I was very impressed with the wide variety that Village Square offered, which led to it being my new favorite buffet. In terms of quality, both buffets (and Paula Deen) are about the same. That said, I didn't mind my Mom wanting to save a few bucks by choosing Gold Strike's buffet.
Although it had been a few years since I had been to the Courtyard Buffet, not much of it has changed. As usual, it offered the standard fare of meats and vegetables but it also had something that I hadn't noticed before. As both my Mom and I headed back to our tables with our first plates of food, we noticed that buffet had a pasta bar. As I looked over the contents of the bar, manned by a sous chef, I was impressed by how fresh everything looked. So after finishing my first plate, I got myself a plate of pasta.
The pasta bar consists of a variety of ingredients, with linguini, bow tie pasta, Marinara and Alfredo sauces being the main components. After looking everything over, I decided to go with a seafood theme and chose lobster and shrimp over bow tie pasta in Alfredo sauce. After the sous chef sautéed the lobster and shrimp and mixed it up it up with the pasta and Alfredo, it was topped with Parmesan cheese and parsley to complete the dish. The result was a beautiful plate of pasta that I was anxious to drive into.
From the first bite, I knew the Alfredo pasta was going to be better than I expected. The sauce was thick and creamy, which earned high marks because that's the way it should be. Too often when I get Alfredo, the sauce is so watery that I often need I bib to keep me from making a mess of myself. The shrimp and lobster had a sweet flavor that might have come from it being sautéed in olive oil. I was really pleased that the shrimp was "de-finned" (yes, a made-up word that I'm sure a certain blogger will point out). I hate when I have to pull the fins off shrimp as I eat pasta, gumbo, jambalaya or anything else that it is mixed in. I appreciate the cooking staff for doing that as well as everything else that made my pasta dish a great meal.
As my Mom saw the joy I was getting from my pasta, she decided to get a plate of her own. Unlike my plate, hers was prepared with ingredients chosen by the sous chef. Like mine, she got Alfredo bow tie pasta with lobster and shrimp. However, instead of parsley, the chef spiced my Mom's pasta with cayenne and garlic. It turned out to be as good as mine and Mom was very pleased.
I can't speak for my Mom, but in my opinion, the pasta at the Courtyard Buffet was the best I've had in Tunica. My conclusion might be premature because I hadn't had the linguini or Marinara, but because of the quality I previously experienced, I have faith that pasta with those ingredients will be good as well.
Aside from the pasta, the food at the Courtyard Buffet is average for a buffet. The plate that I had was a slice of prime rib with sides of mashed potatoes and broccoli and cheese. The entrée wasn't any better or worse than what can be found at most buffets, so I wouldn't recommend driving from Memphis just for it. However, when the rest of the Tunica experience is mixed in, a buffet dinner isn't a bad way to either start or finish the day. Personally, I'm not much of a gambler so what I just said might seem like a contradiction, but it seems cooler to say that I was in a casino than at Piccadilly.
For dessert, I chose cheesecake. It was covered in chocolate and cherry flavored swirls which turned out to be okay. While I was eating it, the pasta bar's sous chef brought out two slices of strawberry cake covered with strawberries and whipped cream. Although my Mom loved the gesture, I was stuffed and couldn't eat another bite. I managed to put down a couple of bites before throwing in the towel. Unfortunately, we couldn't take the cake with us because of the buffet's no take-out policy, so we had to leave it behind. Overall, my Mom and I enjoyed our meals and were glad we chose the buffet at the Gold Strike Casino.
In summary, the Courtyard Buffet is decent place to dine at and it's much cheaper (by about $10) than either Paula Deen or Village Square, even though it has less variety. The pasta bar far exceeded my expectations. While the pasta isn't five star good (or even as good as Bardog Tavern), for a buffet it's outstanding. For anyone who decides to dine at the Courtyard Buffet, I highly recommend the pasta.