Cityview Online
[an error occurred while processing this directive]
| Weather
Food Dude

Click to visit our sponsor

By Jim Duncan

Triple Crown

The ďall you can eatĒ (AYCE) buffet is the bastard offspring of post-World War II American farm policy. Before the first AYCE buffet in 1946, the idea of unlimited food consumption for one low price made no business sense. Thatís why the concept began in a Las Vegas casino, where losses were written off as marketing expenses to tempt obsessive-compulsive personalities. Slot machines subsidized those food bargains but half a century of Farm Bill largess changed things. Now so much American food is subsidized by billions of tax dollars that super-sizing a meal, for an extra 20 cents, is profitable in fast food restaurants. And AYCE buffets now make money, even in Las Vegas. With a new Farm Bill being sculpted into yet another caviar aspic of lavish handouts, I visited the only casino buffet in America that is owned and operated by a governmental body.

Prairie Meadows Racetrack & Casino, Polk Countyís moneymaker, opened Triple Crown Buffet last year after a $15.9 million kitchen upgrade. Since casinos and governments both subsidize bargain buffets, I reasoned that a government-owned casino buffet ought to be the best bargain of all. That logic held up at Triple Crown, the most pleasantly appointed buffet around, brilliantly lit and furnished with stylish touches of rattan, wood and leather. Open kitchen stations add more style. Triple Crown is completely free of the usual casino buffet annoyances ó keno, television, slots and secondhand smoke.

Little things were done quite well. Soups are an afterthought for calorie bingers and thus a weakness of typical buffets. They were extraordinary here. From clam chowder to chicken and noodle, I found bone-stock flavors, hand chopped vegetables and homemade starches. A salad bar included exceptionally fresh spring mix, and home made dressings of distinction. A high-flame pasta station chef expertly flipped individual orders with top ingredients like Graziano link sausages, pesto of fresh basil, extra virgin olive oil, fresh tomatoes, etc.

Those are just appetizers for most AYCE shoppers. Main courses included a mix of exceptional and mediocre dishes. Corned beef and cabbage came from the first category, it had been cured and aged in house and then smoked like pastrami. Another winner was prime rib, available Wednesdays and weekends when the dinner buffet carries a surcharge beyond its usual $11 threshold. The trick with prime rib is the quality of the beef and oven. This kitchen has five double deck Alta Shams, an expensive piece of kitchenware whose existence depends upon human desire to consume good prime rib.

An Iowa invention, broasted chicken was honored here. Fish was offered both fried and baked ó I tried forgettable cod both ways. I wasnít awed by the stir-fry selection either, though it appeared to include fresh foods, it didnít stand up well under heat lamps. I bet the pasta chef could use a wok.

Like any restaurant that uses more than 300 pounds of flour on a given day, all desserts were home made from scratch. That included two bread puddings, five kinds of pie, four kinds of cake and dozens of cookies, candies and cobblers on a particular night. Speaking as a pie-person, the cakes were the most impressive thing ó basics like carrot and red velvet cake had exquisite textures. Chocolates used in bread pudding and in cake had the flavor of great cocoa. Fruit cocktails included pineapple that was much riper than any Iíve found in local supermarkets. Even the ice creams, soft serve and gelatos were homemade here.

Side dishes
Casa di Vino will host a tasting of wines that pair well with holiday meals on Nov. 17. Ö Chef Chris Place says things are on schedule for the holiday season opening of a new French café in the Hotel Fort Des Moines. CV

Triple Crown Buffet
Prairie Meadows Racetrack and Casino
I-80 exit 142, Altoona,
Buffet hours
Tues., Fri. & Sat. 6 a.m. - 2 p.m
Mon., Wed. & Thurs. 11 a.m. - 2 p.m.
Sun. 9 a.m. - 2 p.m.
Sun.- Thurs. 5 p.m. - 10 p.m.
Fri. & Sat. 4 p.m. - 10 p.m.

Past Food Dude Reviews
Amici Espresso (1-4-07) Bandana's (1-11-07)
Perry hotel (1-18-07) Beyond frozen (1-25-07)
Centro (2-1-07) KC BBQ (2-8-07)
Planet Sub (2-15-07) Trostelís Greenbriar (2-22-07)
Acapulco (3-1-07) Aryana (3-8-07)
AJ's (3-15-07) Ban Thai (3-22-07)
Two Crop Palace(3-29-07) Mo Q x 2 (4-5-07)
What's In A Name?(4-12-07) Lemongrass (4-19-07)
Chef Joe's Place (5-3-07) Suburban Restaurant (5-10-07)
Gateway Market Café (5-17-07) Irinaís Restaurant Bar (5-24-07)
Trailer Tripe (5-31-07) Azalea (6-07-07)
Pho All Seasons (6-14-07) Farmers Market (6-21-07)
El Sabor Latino (6-28-07) Crouse Café (7-5-07)
Bistro Montage (7-12-07) Jaliscolita rebounds (7-19-07)
New Saigon (7-26-07) Smokey D's BBQ (8-2-07)
Gourmet Burgers (8-9-07) Iowa State Fair (8-16-07)
Rolling Wok (8-23-07) Sports Bars (8-30-07)
Dragon House West (9-6-07) Carrís Soul Food Cafe (9-13-07)
The Sushi Surge(9-20-07) B & B Grocery Meat & Deli (9-27-07)
Redefining Pizza (10-4-07) Café Su (10-11-07)
Providence Café (10-18-07) Firkin & Fox (10-25-07)
Dos Rios (11-01-07)  

Comment on this story | Return to top



Best Of . . . Best Of . . . (Thank You) Relish Dining Guide

Best Of 2009

Best of ... Than You


Condo & Loft Guide Wedding Guide Education Guide
Loft Guide Wedding Guide Education Guide
Nightlife Golf Guide Wine Tour Guide
Cityview Nightlife Golf Guide Iowa Wine Tour
Trips on a Tankful Pet Guide Dwelling Guide
Trips on a Tankful Pet Guide Cityview Nightlife
Holiday Party Planning Holiday Gift Guide Women In Business
Holiday Party Planning Guide Holiday Gift Guide Women in Business
Winter Games Live Smart Arts & Entertainment
Des Moines Winter Games Live Smart Arts & Entertainment Guide
Dallas Co Tourism Annual Manual Get Moving
Dallas County Tourism Guide Annual Manual Annual Manual
Johnston Green Days Summer Essentials Road Trips
Johnston Green Days Summer Essentials Road Trips
Brewfest 2009 Locally Owned Bar Guide
Brewfest 2009 Locally Owned Bar Guide