Visitors pack Vegas buffets for feasting; crab legs top turkey for most Thanksgiving diners

Las Vegas visitors lined up early Thursday at the city's mega-buffets to pile their plates high for an unconventional holiday meal on the Strip.

For many, turkey wasn't even at the top of their list. Crab legs were king.

That was the case for Josh Wells of Oklahoma City, who brought family and friends to Caesars' Bacchanal Buffet.

"I don't even think I'm going to touch the turkey," Wells, 32, said as he waited in line at the Bacchanal Buffet at Caesars Palace.

With backdrops depicting ancient Greece, Parisian streets and a Rio Carnival, the buffets cost as much as $52.99 and offered a wide variety of favorites, including a traditional Thanksgiving feast of turkey, honey-mustard glazed ham, sage and sausage stuffing, spiked pumpkin soup and apple cobbler.

The eateries are much more expensive than the cheap buffets of early Las Vegas, and they aren't as common as the high-end restaurants run by celebrity chefs along the foodie-friendly Strip.

But the buffets are still the go-to spot for feasting.

Jessica Parks of San Diego and her 10-year-old twin boys stood in line with her brother and his family before 10:30 a.m. at Carnival World Buffet at the Rio All-Suite Hotel and Casino.

They all looked forward to one thing: crab legs.

"I know, we're supposed to say turkey, right?" Parks said.

Back at Bacchanal, Wells said he usually treks home to Kansas City on Thanksgiving to visit his parents and friends, but with his parents traveling, he took a trip, too, with his wife, brother and friends.

He ticked off the advantages of feasting in Sin City instead of sitting on a couch all day: It wasn't cold outside; he didn't have to smoke a turkey; and he could bet on football games.

"It's been awesome," he said.

It was a busy day for the people who stage the buffet, but Friday would be even busier as people fast-fueled before shopping, said Gabrielle Perez, assistant director of food and beverage for Caesars Palace.

She said as many as 4,200 people a day line up at the Bacchanal's carving stations, belly up to its oyster bar and cruise the dessert counter during the four-day weekend.

Lucinda G. Cavazos of Victoria, Texas, listed the items she would have made if she and her family had been home Thursday to celebrate the 70th birthday of her husband John Cavazos.

"Don't forget the ham and the tamales," he chimed in at Le Village Buffet in the Paris Las Vegas hotel-casino. He was also eager for pumpkin pie rather than cake.

Charlie Miller of New Mexico and his two grown children were in search of a no-turkey, non-traditional holiday meal. To make sure they didn't leave hungry, each bought a pass that gave them 24-hour access to five buffets.