Atlantis Casino Reno Buffet



The finest buffet in northern Nevada is now open! The health and safety of our Guests and Team Members is our top priority. In effort to create a safer and healthier dining experience, our Culinary Team will be serving our Buffet Guests. Guests must wear a mask or face covering at all times, except when actively eating or drinking.

  1. The finest buffet in northern Nevada is now open! The health and safety of our Guests and Team Members is our top priority. In effort to create a safer and healthier dining experience, our Culinary Team will be serving our Buffet Guests. Guests must wear a mask or face covering at all times, except when actively eating or drinking.
  2. Atlantis Casino says it is the first buffet in Northern Nevada to reopen. Toucan Charlie's Buffet at Atlantis Casino Reopens Tuesday - KTVN Channel 2 - Reno Tahoe Sparks News, Weather, Video News.
Watch: Atlantis employees tested for COVID-19 prior to opening

No more browsing.

When Toucan Charlie's Buffet & Grille reopens Aug. 4 in the Atlantis casino, folks won't meander the main drag (or side streets like the salad and dessert bars), checking out dishes, helping themselves to lo mein and soft-serve, perhaps passing by pasta salad and baked fish, returning to scoop up enchiladas and oysters.

© Johnathan L. Wright/RGJ At the Atlantis casino, Toucan Charlie's Buffet & Grille is set to reopen Aug. 4, the first casino buffet in Reno and Sparks to do so under coronavirus safety directives.

Instead, a plastic barrier will stretch the length of the buffet counters, from fried shrimp in the north to tacos fixings in the south, dividing folks from food.

Customers, wearing masks, will form lines at each buffet station: seafood, carvery, Asian and so on. Folks will indicate the foods they want, and from behind the barrier, staffers will plate and serve the food and supply utensils, but only for that station — no passing plates along.

And there will be a time limit on grazing: two hours.

These and other significant changes mark the property's bid to re-invent all-you-can-eat dining, to balance safety with a slice of classic Nevada, as the Atlantis becomes the first casino in Reno-Sparks to reopen its buffet under current coronavirus directives.

'We were always committed to reopening, because our guests always want our buffet to be open, and it's a staple, but we waited to do it until we could do it with the utmost care for our guests and team members,' said Chira Pagidi, the Atlantis' food and beverage director.

'People can still have as much as they want — they just can't get it themselves.'

Monitoring the lines; a reservations kiosk

© Johnathan L. Wright/RGJ At Toucan Charlie's Buffet & Grille in the Atlantis casino, counters on the buffet line are being fitted with plastic dividers to partition food and staff from customers, in keeping with coronavirus safety practices.

The other morning, Jurgita Samardokiene, the buffet manager, walked the dining rooms, testing table arrangements so they complied with the maximum number of diners (six) and the minimum number of feet apart (six, too).

In one hand, she held a cell phone; in the other, a fat tape measure.

'I've been measuring, measuring, measuring,' she said. 'I do a lot of projects at home, so I'm pretty comfortable with it.'

The buffet, like other Nevada restaurants, will be seated, at most, at 50 percent capacity (about 200 diners, Pagidi said).

COVID: Atlantis reopened on June 4, tested employees prior to opening back up

Managers must closely monitor that capacity, Pagidi and Jamardokiene said, so the line to get into the buffet does not get so long that people cannot socially distance. Managers will also have to do the same monitoring for lines at the food stations.

Both types of line will have floor decals to indicate proper distance.

Large parties, which the buffet typically attracts, will be split into groups no larger than six for seating.

A kiosk that might not be installed by the Aug. 4 reopening will eventually allow folks to make reservations, pay and receive a ticket for entry.

How challenging will social distancing be?

© Johnathan L. Wright/RGJ Open seating is being reduced and rearranged at Toucan Charlie's Buffet & Grille in the Atlantis casino as the buffet prepares to reopen Aug. 4 under current coronavirus directives.

Back inside Toucan Charlie's, there will only be lunch, dinner and weekend brunch for the time being (no breakfast).

The dessert bar remains. As at the main buffet line, staffers will hand to customers foods they select, so the self-serve soft-serve machine is being removed.

The salad bar remains, too, in a sense. Its greens, prepared salads, fixings, condiments and soups are being transferred to the main line for service, but the bar itself is being re-purposed for decorative displays of food and flowers.

Buffet officials acknowledged that some issues (and how to address them) will only fully emerge with reopening: How will the flow of food service proceed? How difficult will it be to maintain social distancing in lines? What is the best practice for monitoring and enforcing the two-hour limit?

In June, the Wynn became the first casino on the Las Vegas Strip to reopen its buffet. The place is still all-you-can-eat, but it's partly become a traditional restaurant because customers order from a menu and are served at table.

Pagidi, the Atlantis food and beverage director, said that was never an option at the Reno property.

'A lot of our guests, they look at buffets as different from other restaurants. If they want restaurant-style service, they go to a restaurant. If they want buffet-style, they go to a buffet.'

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Atlantis Casino Reno Buffet

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Johnathan L. Wright is the food and drink editor of RGJ Media, part of the USA Today Network. Join @RGJTaste on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

This article originally appeared on Reno Gazette Journal: Atlantis to reopen its buffet with big COVID-19 changes, first Reno casino to do so

Watch: Toucan Charlie's Buffet reopens at Atlantis Casino in Reno

It’s just before 11 a.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 4, and Toucan Charlie’s Buffet & Grille in the Atlantis casino is preparing to reopen the show after going dark for 139 days under coronavirus safety directives.

Stanchions forming customers into socially distanced lines are being checked. A meeting for servers and busers is underway. And marquee players like carved roast ham, a heaping tangle of lo mein fresh from the wok, and enchiladas draped in a cheesy coverlet are being primped for their lunch debuts.

© JASON BEAN Patrons line up to pay at Toucan Charlie's Buffet at the Atlantis Casino Resort Spa in Reno on Aug. 4, 2020.

Toucan Charlie’s is the first casino buffet in Northern Nevada to resume service, and its reopening offers a local test case of how all-you-can-eat dining, a signature Nevada experience, might adapt to the pandemic.

For the Atlantis, the main challenge, as seen at lunch Tuesday, is acclimating diners to an organized, socially distant buffet line where they cannot help themselves willy-nilly.

“They were used to how the buffet was; we’ve got to help them get used to the new way, patiently,” said Aspi Warden, assistant food and beverage director of the Atlantis.

In othe words, the fried shrimp free-for-all is over.

Missing the cheese enchiladas

By 11:30 a.m., the buffet had already filled to about half of its socially distanced seating capacity of 260. Warden managed the line as it entered the buffet — gently enforcing social distancing, confirming the size of parties, indicating when folks could approach the cashier.

Gregorio Inman of Reno was among the first 50 people to enter the buffet. He said he’d been eating at Toucan Charlie’s for years. With masks, social distancing and cooks now serving food from behind plastic barriers, he said he wasn’t worried about safety. What dish did he particularly miss while he was away?

“Those cheese enchiladas.”

© JASON BEAN Patrons eat together at Toucan Charlie's Buffet at the Atlantis Casino Resort Spa in Reno on Aug. 4, 2020.

Alicia Gomez, a longtime customer from Hanford, in central California, was also among the first cohort of customers.

“I never leave town without having my meal here,” she said of the buffet, “even if I’m not staying here.”

Past coverage: Atlantis to reopen its buffet with big COVID-19 changes

A few minutes later, Gomez, like some other customers, became confused about the buffet line: where she could enter, where she should wait to be served at a specific station, how many different dishes she could have on her plate.

Warden, the assistant food and beverage director, saw her confusion and explained the process.

How the new buffet line works

Sets of stanchions marks the limits of each buffet station and divide the buffet line into inside and outside lanes. The outside lane proceeds north to south. From this lane, customers move through openings in the stanchions to access food stations on the inside lane. Floor decals in both lanes indicate 6-foot distances.

On the inside lane running south to north, cooks at each station plate dishes customers choose. If customers want food from another station, they can return later to the station or receive a new second plate of food. Plates cannot be passed from station to station.

© JASON BEAN Toucan Charlie's Buffet at the Atlantis Casino Resort Spa in Reno on Aug. 4, 2020.

The systems sounds more complicated in writing than it is on the ground. That said, “this is something brand new, and we are going to make changes and improvements based on feedback from the guests,” said Chira Pagidi, food and beverage director of the Atlantis.

Teamwork in the buffet dining room

At Tuesday lunch service, it was all hands to the buffet.

A full complement of kitchen and dining room staff, about 50 in all, took their places, with some being called back from furlough, said Pagidi, who praised the work of the food and beverage team in the lead-up to reopening day.

Aldo Corona, a buffet server, said he looked forward to seeing many of his regulars.

“I’m excited to be back. I’m ready for them.”

© JASON BEAN A message of safety is carved into a food display at Toucan Charlie's Buffet at the Atlantis Casino Resort Spa in Reno on Aug. 4, 2020.

Jurgita Samardokiene, the new buffet manager, had arrived at 4:30 a.m. She traffic directed, among other things.

“I tell customers it’s just like driving a car,” she said of navigating the buffet line. “They’ll get it down.”

Jennifer Franklin, the popular former manager of the buffet who is now the Atlantis’ banquet manager, returned for the day to help, waving to customers who recognized her.

Nevada's casinos and COVID-19: Should they be open? It's complicated, experts say

Pitching in to serve dishes

Dennis Houge, executive chef of the Atlantis, worked various food stations. So did David Holman, assistant executive chef, who took a turn carving ham or spooning up gloriously gooey golden macaroni and cheese.

“Do you want some more?” he asked a guest after plating a generous portion of mac. The guest did.

Ravyn Rodriguez, the buffet room chef, was the kitchen point person for reopening day.

To help food service proceed more smoothly for guests and cooks, certain changes had been made from the old buffet, she said.

© JASON BEAN Individual servings of paella are seen at Toucan Charlie's Buffet at the Atlantis Casino Resort Spa in Reno on Aug. 4, 2020.

Like self-serve charcuterie refashioned as individually plated selections; or paella, previously dished from hotel pans, presented anew in stylish mini cast-iron skillets; or salad toppings reduced by half because cooks now must toss each salad for customers.

Another change: Current safety regulations prevent customers from bringing heaps of shrimp from the salad bar to the Mongolian grill for charring, as they used to, so those shrimp have been placed among the grill ingredients behind the line.

“We all need to be super-patient,” Rodriguez said of the buffet crew as they interact with customers experiencing these significant changes.

For the time being, Toucan Charlie's will serve lunch and dinner daily and weekend brunch. Prices, which have increased $3 to account for rising ingredient and shipping costs, Atlantis officials said, can be found here.

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Johnathan L. Wright is the food and drink editor of RGJ Media, part of the USA Today Network. Join @RGJTaste on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

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This article originally appeared on Reno Gazette Journal: Atlantis becomes first Reno casino to remake all-you-can-eat dining