WHEELING - What requires 4,200 pounds of steak, 600 gallons of soup, 490 loaves of bread and much more? The recipe for running the "Best Buffet" in the Ohio Valley, according to readers of The Intelligencer and Wheeling News-Register.
Wheeling Island Hotel-Casino-Racetrack's Islander Buffet was named the winner of the buffet category in the newspapers' Readers' Choice contest. Facility spokeswoman Kim Florence said the eatery is a popular choice for local residents, many of whom stop in for a meal even without taking advantage of the facility's other attractions.
"We can have 2,500-3,000 customers on a busy Saturday," Florence said of the buffet.
Photo by Jennifer Compston-Strough
Sous Chef Charles Krause grills up some steaks at the Islander Buffet. Grilligans Island is one of four stations at the buffet. The eatery at Wheeling Island Hotel-Casino-Racetrack was selected as the Readers’ Choice for “Best Buffet” in the Ohio Valley.
The all-you-can-eat Islander Buffet was renovated in 2005 with the addition of four "action stations," including: Grilligans Island, offering grilled steaks, chicken, pork and seafood made to order on the open-flame grill; Bohemian Skillet, which Sous Chef Charles Krause said offers eight pastas cooked to order, along with 20-25 toppings like fresh vegetables and 10 sauces; Village Market provides a selection of daily soups, salads and warm breads; and Dessert Island features chocolate fountains, fresh fruits for dipping, cheesecakes, pies and an ice cream sundae bar.
Additional updates are planned for 2010, according to Florence.
Currently, special themes are featured at the buffet on various weekdays. Florence said a seafood buffet is offered every Friday with the addition of jumbo shrimp, catfish, crab cakes, Oysters Rockefeller and king crab legs to the daily menu. In addition, Sunday offerings come with an Asian theme, and on Thursdays an Italian buffet is provided.
the Islander Buffet Serves:
4,200 pounds of steaks
4,100 pounds of chicken
3,000 pounds of pasta
1,400 pound of chocolate
600 gallons of soup
490 loaves of bread
Executive Chef Chris Matta handles purchasing for the Islander Buffet and for the facility's other restaurants, such as The Pointe Steakhouse and the Terrace Dining Room, which overlooks the greyhound racetrack's finish line. He is assisted by Krause and Sous Chef Harry Edge in planning the daily offerings at the buffet and other restaurants.
Restaurant Supervisor Brad Bonacci said about 25 staff members - from behind-the-scenes cooks to cashiers and servers - help operate the buffet each day. He also pointed out that new desserts, including tasty toffee cookies, were added to the usual selection of sweets on Dessert Island this week.
"We also have a lot of no-sugar-added choices," Florence said, noting the facility serves many senior guests who may have special concerns about their health.
And while it can be difficult for local suppliers to keep up with the demand for fresh meats and produce at the buffet, Bonacci and Krause said every effort is made to buy from local sources. Regardless of the source, though, the foods offered at the buffet are all fresh and organic, Florence said.
Lunch at the buffet is $12.95 from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Thursday, while dinner is priced at $14.95 from 2-8:30 p.m. The seafood buffet is $18.95 on Fridays and is available from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday's buffet runs from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. and is priced at $16.95. And the cost Sunday is $14.95, with hours from 11:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.
A special Monday price will be offered throughout November with the buffet costing just $5.95.
Located on the south end of Wheeling Island in the midst of the Ohio River, Wheeling Island Hotel-Casino-Racetrack also offers live greyhound racing, a 151-room hotel, a 1,000-seat showroom and a casino featuring 2,000 video slot machines and table gambling. Nearly 3 million people visit the facility annually.