Taking a gamble on food.

February afforded me a peek into the world of casino dining, thanks to my trips to Atlantic City and Las Vegas, respectively. Most people who hit the East and West coast gambling meccas these days know that it’s not just about the slots and the tables; it’s become very much an “experience,” with shows, family-themed activities, and, of course, food!

Lo and behold, Hooters!

In Atlantic City, since the gals and I were based in the Tropicana and really didn’t go elsewhere, all of our eating experiences took place there. We didn’t really venture out and do anything particularly experimental, choosing instead to eat at Hooters and Corky’s BBQ during our brief stay. Neither place, as you might expect, was particularly stand out. The boneless wings at Hooters were subpar: supposedly flavored with their medium wing sauce, but I couldn’t taste a thing and it appeared that the thin sheen of oil at the bottom of the paper-lined basket was what passes for their “sauce.” At Corky’s, we all went for a standard half rack of ribs and sides, but after becoming staunch Daisy May’s converts here in the city, the very pink meat and very orange dry rub just didn’t cut it. Both meals left us unsatisfied and I have a feeling we should have tried out Cuba Libre, which seemed to have a much more inventive and flavorful menu.

I had the bad luck to be sick and on antibiotics in Las Vegas last weekend, so between the medication and the smoke permeating the casino floor, I couldn’t enjoy the more vice-oriented aspect of the trip. (Does holding my brother’s beer while he sat at the poker table count? Methinks not.) However, I did have enough of an appetite to enjoy our few gastronomic sojourns: Le Café Île St. Louis at Paris, Hamada at the Flamingo, and Canal Street at the Orleans.

Though I’m not sure we really ‘enjoyed’ the poor service and unremarkable fare at Le Café Ile St. Louis. My brother seemed to like his Bloody Mary quite a bit, as well as his Provence omelet, but I found my vanilla bean French toast too vanilla-y. Fortunately, the coffee and bacon (when they finally remembered to bring it to me) made up for it. Our dinner at Hamada, with tableside hibachi grilling, was really quite fun. Our chef, a bit whimsical, tipped spice shakers and lemons into his hat, and cooked us fried rice and chicken with remarkable efficiency and ease. The food itself was fresh, perfectly spiced, and came with steaming miso soup (perfect for my sore throat) and cucumber salad. We ordered edamame as well, which was a little tough and not nearly buttery enough for my taste. It was a good meal, of which I could only finish a fraction. I made a much better effort Saturday night at Canal Street, where we nearly stuffed ourselves on the complimentary bread basket, barely leaving me room for the 9 oz filet mignon my brother suggested i order instead of the 6 oz. If you guessed that I had about 3 oz of steak leftover, you’d be right. But, damn, that was a good steak…cooked exactly to my specifications, accompanied by really, really awesome garlic mashed potatoes. We capped off the meal with an order of creme brulee, that they really would have had to have worked hard to mess up. Since we split it three ways, it was just the right dash of sweetening we each needed after the heavy meal.

I’m definitely ready to go back to Vegas healthier, with a healthier appetite.

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