On a bright Saturday afternoon at the end of my spring break, ES and I drove a half hour out of Denver and up into the mountain gambling towns of Black Hawk and Central City. While mellower than Atlantic City and certainly smaller and quieter than Las Vegas, these two towns boast a number of large casinos interspersed with humbler ones, all set along a gulch that had once been a hub for gold mining and processing.
Upon arrival, we stepped outside and breathed in the cold, crisp air. Behind the casinos tree-speckled mountains rose in the background, and the sun shone high overhead. Since we had arrived around noon, our first stop was Ameristar—one of the newer casinos to arrive to Black Hawk—to eat lunch.
Ameristar's Centennial Buffet is pretty standard "international buffet" fare, with the notable addition of a pho station amid the steam tables of American, Mexican, Chinese, and Italian offerings. ES got himself a bowl and declared it actually okay.
This, by the way, is also where I hatched a renovation idea for pho restaurants: installing a buffet station for the garnishes—sprouts, limes, mint, jalapenos, cilantro, etc.—instead of having servers bring over a pre-plated portion for each table. I don't know about you, but whenever I eat pho the garnishes never seem to match what I want; I rarely put in as many sprouts or herbs, and I always end up asking for more limes. A serve-yourself buffet station would allow everyone to get exactly what they need, and decrease waste for the restaurant, too. Brilliant…no?
Err, anyway. Back to the buffet. Pictured here are mac and cheese, corn souffle, meatballs in gravy, a king crab leg, breaded mini hot dogs, a spring roll, a piece of country fried steak with cream gravy, and a piece of smoked salmon with capers. All of it not bad, all of it not great.
The same could be said for the desserts, where one bite of each was pretty much enough. But that's how it goes with buffets, isn't it? You don't go for the high quality of each and every dish, but rather for the unfettered ability to sample your way through as much as you can.
We spent the rest of the afternoon letting our stomachs digest by taking a stroll down the main strip of Black Hawk. Afterward we drove a mile over to the much quieter Central City, where we found tiny casinos set up in houses and former bars and restaurants; it was delightfully strange to walk into a kitchen or a living room and to find it lined with working slot machines. All in all it was a wonderful day excursion, a unique little part of Colorado that I was happy to explore.
Also, one day I'm going to save up my money and buy these ten acres. With views, privacy, access, power, and its own gold mine, surely this is the perfect purchase?