Arts & Entertainment, etc. and Opinion and Dining Reviews

DINING: Taking a chance on a casino buffet at Indiana Live!

November 21, 2009

It seems like only yesterday (actually, it was back in March), that the then about-to-open Indiana Live! Casino was previewing its innovative food court operation. These sneak-peek events are never reviewed, but they provide some guidance when I actually do pop in for an anonymous meal.

At the time, the Indiana Live! Market Buffet (4300 N. Michigan Road, Shelbyville, (877) 386-4463) used a kind of credit card. You ordered what you wanted from a wide range of tasty fare, much of it made to order. Every time you returned for more, your card was swiped and, at the end, you paid your tab.

At that event, my dining companion and I, nearly simultaneously, made variations on the same comment: “Nice, but how long until this turns into a pay-one-price buffet?”

Now we have our answer.

As expected, Indiana Live! recently dispensed with the card system and converted to the traditional all-you-can-eat format. And while the quality didn’t quite measure up to opening day, there are still plenty of solid offerings for a very reasonable $12.95 lunch tab (down to $9.95 for breakfast and up to $15.95 for dinner, which is served until 10 weekdays and 11 on weekends). Higher-end meats and seafood are also available cooked-to-order for an additional cost (i.e. $5.95 for a 6 oz. sirloin, $6.99 for salmon), but we stuck to what was included in the cover charge.

On this visit, the primary pleasures came from the simple. The Asian station’s sushi was fresh and uncomplicated. Gumbo was respectable, with big chunks of sausage throughout. Meatloaf was a bit on the salty side, but comforting nonetheless. And wood-fired pizzas were worthy of their own storefront. Delicious. Had I not been on a review mission, I surely would have made repeat trips to the Mediterranean station.

When breading was involved, the results were more problematic, from mealy pork chops to unappetizing tilapia to a third-rate version of General Tso’s Chicken. Making matters worse, the steam tables didn’t seem to keep anything terribly hot.

Speaking of steam tables, hamburgers should never be served from one—even in a school cafeteria.

Wisely, the dessert creators opted for small portions, minimizing waste and maximizing the chance that you’ll try a variety of treats. Flavorful oatmeal cookies and chocolate mousse cake were both meal-ending winners.

Alas, there were no winners on our trip through the casino back to the parking lot—a journey that added another $5 to our meager lunch expenditure.•

—Lou Harry

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Fourth in our month-long series of reviews of eateries with exclamation points in their names.

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