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Entries in TRAVEL Casinos (4)

Monday
Sep102012

Casinos: Where to Eat/Drink

Below, you will find restaurants/specialty shops that have been categorized by their respective cuisines.  I have only included venues where I have personally either dined-in or ordered-out.  

~

American

Burgers

Steakhouse

Tapas

Monday
Jun042012

Re-cap: Mohegan Sun's first annual "Sun BBQ Fest"

Last weekend, I was invited to cover Mohegan Sun's first annual "Sun BBQ Fest."  The three-day festival featured live bands, cooking demonstrations, a rib-eating contest, and plenty of saucy BBQ from some of the nation's best.  Talk about one protein-packed, finger lickin' good, hell of a fun time!

When I received my invitation, I was elated.  Who better than me, a displaced Southerner, to attend a BBQ festival?  I mean, come on, let's be honest here, y'all:  While I may live in Yankee territory, I am a Texan by birth and at heart. 

Mohegan Sun was generous enough to "and guest" me, meaning that I could invite a side-kick.  Without hesitation, I asked my fellow Texpat, Cathryn, to tag along.

...

Friday, June 1st

On Friday evening, Cathryn and I took a Connecticut-bound Amtrak train to New London.  The ride was nearly 3-hours!  Upon our arrival at the station, we were met by a *limo* from the Mohegan Sun.  Whoa. 

The two of us could not stop laughing, gawking, texting our friends, and snapping pictures of the car's interior and ourselves.  I'm pretty sure the driver wanted to kill us...

By the time we arrived and checked-in to the hotel, it was about 10pm.  The two of us were famished and in desperate need of a cocktail, so we headed downstairs.  Instead of reading every menu at each of the property's 40 restaurants, we put our indecisive ways aside and settled on Bar Americain.  

Mohegan Sun: Looking up at Bar Americain

Obviously, I got the party started with a margarita.  And a mighty tasty one, at that.  For my entree, I chose the "Gulf Shrimp & Grits, Bacon, Green Onions, Garlic."  I could have eaten two more portions but, instead, I chose to fill up on the contents of our bread basket:  Delicious, warm jalapeno cornbread and fluffy Parker House rolls.     

By midnight, Cathryn and I were sound asleep.

...

Saturday, June 2nd

I had my alarm set for 8:30am, as media check-in was to begin at 10am (the event was slated to commence at 11am).  When I reached over to the silence the beeping, I checked my email and was startled to learn that, due to the rainy forecast, the Festival would not start until 3pm!  Cathryn and I ended up going back to sleep until 12:30pm - something that, admittedly,  I have not done since college! 

After getting ready for the day and perusing some of the hotel's shops, it was time to check-in for the Festival. 

The Festival was held in one of the hotel's outdoor parking lots.  And, luckily, by 3pm, the rain had finally decided to take a little break. 

Rum sponsor: Sailor Jerry's

Beer? Yuck. Wine? No way. Champagne? Yes please!Fried Connecticut oyster po'boy sandwichPulled-pork sandwichGrilled cornMore pulled-pork!Texas Thunder BBQ's baby back ribsTexas Thunder BBQBeef brisket sandwich

After stuffing ourselves silly with champagne, baby-backs, and BBQ sandwiches, Cathryn and I were thrilled to learn that there would be a rib-eating contest at 4pm!  Hey, there's nothing better than watching someone (...other than yourself) binge eat! 

Setting the stage: Chairs would soon be occupied by the rib-eating contest contestants!Tray after tray after tray of ribs for the contest!EMS was on-hand just in case...!The contest's emcee The emcee picked a random guest out of the crowd to join the competitors! "Mitch" was the lucky guy!Whew! Look at those guns! I literally could not stop taking photos of this hottie. Damn!

Champion, Joey "Jaws" Chestnut, chugs water between rib inhalation.It was about this point in the contest when I felt a vibration in my purse.  Just as I was looking down to see who had called me, I heard something splatter on the stage.  Then, I inhaled "the whiff."  That's right, one of the contestants had PROJECTILE VOMITED on stage and, because of my close proximity, I was assaulted by chunks.  On my jacket.  On my purse.  On my cheek.  "Damn it," I squealed to Cathryn, "did this idiot not learn ANY drinking etiquette in high school or college?  Geez.  I thought EVERYONE knew to yack down and not up/across!  Jerk."

After the 12-minute rib-eating contest had finished, a winner was crowned:  Joey "Jaws" Chestnut, the world-famous competitive eater, took first place!  And, among all men, it was the adorable WOMAN who came in a close second!

The Lunch Belle and Joey "Jaws" ChestnutAfter changing in to different clothes and scrubbing puke off of my purse, Cathryn and I enjoyed our last evening at the hotel over wine and, even more, food at Ballo.

Marinated watermelon salad with stracciatella, crispy prosciutto, and pistachioMargherita pizzaRigatoni w/ spicy sausage ragu and fonduta...

Sunday, June 3rd

Because I had to be back in the city for a dance recital, Cathryn and I headed home on a 10:30am train.  It was during this nearly 3-hour ride in the "quiet car" that I was able to reflect on what I had experienced and learned over the weekend:

  • If you have plans to visit the Mohegan Sun, request a non-smoking (that is, if you do not smoke and/or enjoy the smell) room on a high floor.  The views are really quite lovely.Actual view from my hotel room!
  • The shops and restaurants at Mohegan Sun stay open later than those at the Wynn Las VegasWhat the hell is that all about?  Vegas needs to step it up. 
  • Always have cash on-hand to tip a driver, bell boy, maid, etc.
  • Texas BBQ kicks Tennessee BBQ's ass!!
  • Nothing is impossible:  A short, 90-pound woman can eat more than a man.  Even if the man in question is obese.
  • Always bring snacks aboard a train.  The cafe-car line can get redonkulously long.  And annoying.
  • Carry hand sanitizer.  And antibacterial wipes.  Always.  Because YOU NEVER KNOW what's going to happen!
  • Never sit within 10-feet of the competitors at a food-eating contest.
  • Apparently, being shat-on by a bird is good luck.  How about getting puked on?  Seriously, does anyone know the answer? 

 

Cathryn and I had a fantastic time at Mohegan Sun's "Sun BBQ Fest."  I hope to return again next year!

~~~

Until we eat again,

The Lunch Belle

Tuesday
May292012

48-hours in Sin City: Tips, Opinions, eats/drinks, and photos

After a whirlwind 48+ hours in Las Vegas, I thought that it would be fun and crucial to share some of my favorite tips, observations, experiences, and photos with you.  Enjoy!

1)  Flying Delta?  Not checking your luggage?  If you're checking in to your flight online, I highly recommend paying the extra $19 to a) upgrade to 'Zone 1' boarding, and b) have access to WiFi.  Not only will you get to board the plane first (behind old people, folks w/ children, etc. and First Class) but, because you're one of the first passengers, overhead storage bins will be virtually empty!  And, if you've never experienced it, WiFi at 35,000 feet is beyond cool and makes the dreaded flight time breeze by.  

2)  The taxi line at McCarren International Airport is as long and tangled as an accordion.  If you have no time to spare and/or plenty of money to burn, then do yourself - and your blood pressure - a favor and hire a private car to come and fetch you upon arrival. 

3)  And, speaking of taxis, make sure to have cash on-hand for payment.  While some vehicles now accept credit cards, you will be charged a hefty $3 fee just for swiping your plastic.  No thanks!

4)  Hate smoke?  Well, you're out of luck - because cigarette puffing is EVERYWHERE in Las Vegas.  Either deal with it or choose a different destination.  Seriously. 

5)  Guys:  If you DO NOT want to get laid, then make sure to wear jean shorts AND mandals.  At the same time. 

6)  If you need even more proof that the Kardashian's have taken over the world, then head over to The Mirage for confirmation.  Sigh.  Eye roll.  Gag.

7)  Curious to see the grand canal and the shops at The Venetian?  Fine, take a peak at the charming gondoliers - snap a photo or two - then do a pivot and get the hell out of there.  If you're not in to shit-shows and gnarly crowds, I highly recommend The Forum Shops at Caesar's Palace.   

8)  And, while we're on the topic of shopping:  If you absolutely DO NOT want to receive good service whilst shopping - especially at high-end indoor malls - then make sure and come dressed like this:

9)  If you think that 'people watching' in NYC or Venice Beach is outrageous, you ain't seen NOTHIN' yet.  Vegas, hands down, takes the blue ribbon for 'best people watching.'  Of all time.

10)  Ladies, a word of advice:  You may want to reconsider traveling to Vegas with your man.  Trust me, no matter how amazing you think you look - there is another chick(s) who's 100x hotter.  And, believe me, he will *not* be able to stop staring.  I couldn't, either.

11)  In some aspects, Las Vegas seems like a mini-Manhattan.  There are so many NYC outposts of restaurants, bars, and boutiques.  Some examples include:  Scoop, Intermix, Tao, 1Oak, Max Brenner, Blue Ribbon Sushi Bar & Grill...

12)  And, just like NYC, many restaurants in Las Vegas are outrageously expensive.  Actually, the prices in Vegas are even *more* offensive.  Be very mindful of food/drink menus and order wisely.  Mom, my Vegas travel buddy, and I would typically order a couple of appetizers and split one entree.  It was a great system that saved us both cash and calories!

13)  And speaking of restaurants

~ We enjoyed lunch at Stripburger, which is located on the outside of the Fashion Show Mall complex, and across the street from the Wynn.  How can you go wrong with outdoor seating - great cocktails - burgers cooked to your liking - fantastic fries, onion rings, fried pickles - and all of the ranch dressing that your heart desires?  

~ For dinner, we headed to Emeril Lagasse's Delmonico's Steakhouse, located within the brutally annoying/overwhelming/panic attack-inducing Grand Canal Shoppes at The VenetianMom said it best, "This entire hotel complex looks as though its architects and interior designers had high hopes, but ran out of money towards the end of construction."  The same observation could be said of the restaurant:  While you gaze up at beautifully vaulted, arched ceilings, the column to your left is squared-off sheetrock.  Blech.

Our dinner at Delmonico's Steakhouse was mediocre, at best.  Here are some of the key reasons that I would not return:

  • Mom's margarita was overly salty and sour (even for me, a salt/sour whore).  When we informed our server, he looked at us like we each had 10 heads.  While he did offer to have it remade, he sure as hell did not seem sympathetic or pleased.  We saw him take Mom's drink over to his manager and explain the situation with less-than-thrilled facial expressions and hand gestures.   
  • Drinks, round 2:  Our server got heated when, upon tasting the first bottle of red wine, I asked that we switch to something else (hey, it tasted carbonated and extremely sour). 
  • The iceberg lettuce leaves in the "Petite Iceberg Lettuce Wedges" salad were limp.
  • There was not enough burrata cheese in the "Vine Ripened Tomato Salad."  
  • Our filet was cooked "medium rare," instead of our requested "medium."  But, by this point in the meal, we were too exhausted to correct the order.

The one item on Delmonico's menu that I *would* return for?  The ridiculously rich, perfectly-scalloped and garlic-y "Potato Gratin" that arrived bubbling over the brim of a cast iron skillet.  I'm drooling just writing about it...

~ The award for 'worst service of the entire trip' goes to La Cave, a wine/tapas restaurant at the Wynn.  After returning to the hotel from our 7pm "The Beatles Love" performance, Mom and I were hungry.  We didn't want a full, elaborate meal; we were simply hoping to enjoy some heavy snacks and a great glass of wine.  

We arrived at La Cave at approximately 10:10pm, and were greeted by two hostesses.  "Hi.  Are you joining us for dinner or just drinks?"  Both.  "OK, we have a spot open at the bar.  You can squeeze in another chair, or we can seat you at a table.  But just an FYI:  We're closing our kitchen in 10-minutes, so we're having last-call."  How would *another* chair fit at the bar?  There's not enough room.  OK, we'll take a table, then.  "If you sit at the bar, then there isn't a 'last call,' you know."  Oh, so we can order food/drink at the bar w/out being rushed?  "No, you can only order food for another 10-minutes.  Even at the bar.  It's 'last call.'"  Huh?  I'm confused.  But you just said...never mind.  We'll take a table, please.  

The hostess seats us in front of an open terrace door, gushing the interior space with wind drafts.  I ask if we can, instead, be seated outdoors.  "There's not a table open."  The beotch was lying - I saw plenty of space out there - but I didn't have it in me to punch her in the face fight. 

Mom and I eventually moved ourselves to another table.  Since we ended up waiting for an unreasonable amount of time, I had to excuse myself and advise an employee that we'd like to see menus and, eventually, order food/drink.  We were served by a kind man who informed us that the kitchen did not close until 11pm.  Interesting point, since the HOstess lied to our faces and said that the "kitchen closes in 10-minutes (which would have been 10:20)."  

La Cave was a 'fail' on so many levels.  Our cheese platter was accompanied by crostini - Mom's wine was $17/glass - my margarita sucked - and the service was beyond heinous.   

14)  And speaking of the Wynn

Despite our shiteous experience at La Cave, Mom and I thoroughly enjoyed this gorgeous hotel.  Never, in my life, have I stayed in a more beautifully appointed and furnished room.  Every detail, down to the toiletry bottles being 'pop top' as opposed to 'screw top,' was incredibly well thought-out and delivered. 

Here are some of my favorite aspects of the hotel:

  • Our room was 640 square feet.  That's larger than my apartment in NYC!
    • *Our bathroom contained a separate tub and shower, plus 2 sinks!
    • *Lights and curtains were powered electronically, via a digital screen on the wall.
  • Unlike other hotels - especially other hotels in the immediate vicinity - every employee knew where each restaurant/shop/nightclub/pool was located on the property.  The staff was incredibly knowledgeable and friendly.
  • I never felt like I was at a Sandals resort or aboard a Carnival Cruise ship (while at the hotel):  You can use your imagination/make your own assessment of what I'm talking about...
  • The shops, while completely outrageous and extravagant, were fun to browse in and window-shop.

...

Mom and I had a fantastic "girl's weekend" in Vegas!  The people watching, weather, shopping, and hotel-hopping was priceless.  As was the 1x1 time that we got to spend together. 

I cannot wait to return to 'Sin City,' especially knowing all that I know now.  Do you have any tips or favorite experiences in Las Vegas?  Holla'!

~~~

Until we eat again,

The Lunch Belle

Friday
Sep092011

Weekend wishes & Atlantic City dreams

Dear readers,

TGIF!  I apologize for the lack of posting this week.  For some reason, 4-day work weeks always seem to progress at the speed of molasses, despite how many tasks you may have on your plate.  These first few days of September have already proven to me that Fall is, in fact, here.  From the subtle chill in the air to the fact that every bike is now occupied at my 6am spinning class, I'm slowly being forced to come to terms with the end of this three-month-long 'easy breezy paralysis.'  And, clearly, everyone else is, too.

But before I kick Fall in to high gear, I wanted to send you all off with a wrap-up of my Labor Day weekend adventure in Atlantic City, NJ.  That, plus a couple of my personal tips, should you find yourself out there any time in the future. 

Best wishes for a lovely weekend!  *And don't forget that Sunday marks the ten-year anniversary of September 11th.*

~

Atlantic City, NJ

Transportation

  • We chose to take an Academy bus from Port Authority, which dropped us at the first stop: the Trump Plaza (resort).  Door to door, the trip time was approximately 2-hours and 15-minutes.
    • A roundtrip ticket will run you $36, plus you receive a $25 casino voucher!  Talk about a deal!
    • Make sure to arrive one-hour before your bus' departure time, so that you can purchase a ticket and be guaranteed a seat.  Tickets can also be purchased online.
    • Bring hand sanitizer: there is not a sink/soap in the bus' restroom and, more often than not, there is no hand sanitizer, either.  Ew! 
  • Getting around "town": cabs are readily available, but make sure to have cash on-hand.

Hotel

  • We stayed at The Water Club at Borgata.  Shut up.  The rates here are pricey but, luckily, we were able to cram four girls in to one room. 
    • The only reason that I would stay here again, aside from the fact that our room was gorgeous and very well thought/laid-out: this "portion" of the hotel has an outdoor pool; the Borgata does NOT. 
    • Bottom line: stay at The Water Club in the summer - stay at the Borgata in the colder months, as they have an indoor pool complex.
    • Speaking of the outdoor pool at The Water Club: the policies and layout are simply RIDICULOUS.  Are you ready for this?  1) On the day that you check-in to the hotel, you are not allowed access to the pool until 3pm on weekdays/4pm on weekends.  2) There is only one entrance to the pool.  3) The actual "pools" are relatively tiny, especially for the size of the hotel.  This includes the amount of surface area surrounding the pool and the number of chaise lounges.  4) If you want to score a chaise lounge, wake up at 6:30/7am and head to the pool to mark your territory.  Drape a towel over your desired chair + leave another piece of collateral (magazine, water bottle), and then return to bed until you're ready for sun exposure.  5) Make sure to choose a chaise lounge by the pool CLOSEST TO THE BAR - NOT the pool closest to the entrance.  This area clouds over at 3pm, sharp.  Trust me.
    • Room-service menu highlights: cheeseburger + fries
    • Pool menu highlights: scrambled-egg breakfast sandwich + rosemary potatoes
    • Old Homestead Steakhouse: they make a mean steak + tasty bread basket.  The side dishes were atrocious, as were the desserts.  Stick with the beef.
    • DO NOT waste your time eating at the Sunroom.  The service sucked to the point that it overshadowed the 'mediocre at best' food.

Tips

  • Come to Atlantic City with cash (try to avoid using the ATM machines in the casinos, which charge incredibly inflated fees) - not enough to where you feel uncomfortable, but at least $100.
  • Bring non-perishable snacks from home so that you don't have to purchase them at the hotel (granola bars, nut mixes, etc.).  Great for when you get poolside munchies!
  • If an event sounds like it's too good to be true, it probably is (*cough, cough* DJ Pauly D).  My friends and I bought tickets to see DJ Pauly D perform at The Pool After Dark, only to be extremely disappointed when his diva ass didn't show up until 5-hours after he was slated to arrive.  Fail!
  • Stay away from guys who get their eyebrows waxed and wear more hair gel than, well, DJ Pauly D. 

~~~

Until we eat again,

The Lunch Belle