CINCINNATI - The Horseshoe Casino in Cincinnati has been hyped quite a bit, and has all the pieces to make for a great night out. So for its first weekend in operation, we here at WCPO Digital went to check it all out.
I drove to the casino with high hopes and exaggerated expectations with two fellow team members from WCPO Digital at 6 p.m. on Friday.
We all took separate cars and all parked without hassle or paying for it. Definitely a big plus in my book.
We walked in without having to wait in line and were quickly asked for ID by friendly staff.
First impression: The lights were bright, the slots were calling me and the people were varied.
We decided on first venturing to Bobby Flay's Burger Palace to review/stuff our faces with some of his signature burgers.
It was 6:22 p.m. when we started in line, and a staff member (that seemed too busy to accept my jokes) was taking our order exactly 20 minutes later. Maybe the jokes weren't as funny as I thought.
A word of warning: As the night rolls on and casino guests grow hungrier, the lines get longer. Around 8 p.m., the line winded longer and patrons grew in size significantly.
The sleek design of the restaurant seemed straight out of a Jetsons cartoon, while the background music hummed tunes from the Rolling Stones. Not bad.
We sat down at a long, thin, winding table that made conversation somewhat awkward.
I decided on the Bobby Blue Burger, sweet potato fries and the vanilla caramel bourbon milkshake.
WCPO Digital reporter Kevin Osborne, member No. 2 of the casino review team, ordered the Crunch Burger, regular fries and the mocha Kahlua vodka milkshake.
And member No. 3 of our review team, WCPO Digital web editor and local A&E expert Emily Maxwell, ordered the L.A. Burger and a cactus pear margarita.
We may have waited only five to 10 minutes after sitting down until we were brought our order. Just keep that in mind if you're waiting in a long line to get in, you won't be waiting long at all for your food.
To be clear, I am a black and blue burger enthusiast and order them whenever a restaurant claims to have good burgers. When I was brought my plate, I was immediately excited by what I saw: Lots of blue cheese and lots of bacon (See picture above). It was juicy, flavorful and did I mention it had a lot of bacon? I loved Bobby Flay's version and would definitely order it again.
The caramel bourbon milkshake was delicious, but because I am more of a vodka fan, I decided to steal Kevin's instead. I could drink one of the mocha Kahlua vodka milkshakes every hour of every day if it wouldn't land me in rehab. Absolutely amazing.
My favorite part of the meal was the sweet potato fries. I order them from time to time when I go out, but I have never had better sweet potato fries than these. Yes, I know that is a very bold statement, especially from a fry lover, but it's the truth. They were crunchy, sweet and the dipping sauce complemented them perfectly.
Kevin said his Crunch Burger consisted of a high-quality meat, but he loved the spiked milkshakes the most. The bourbon in the vanilla milkshake cut some of the sweetness and was surprisingly strong without being overpowering.
Kevin said he isn't a big fan of fries but as far as fries go, the regular fries he ordered were OK.
Emily said her burger, which had avocado relish in it, was delicious. Emily was impressed by the fast turnaround at the restaurant for a quick bite to eat at the casino, rather than a calm sit down, with the whole waiting experience only lasting 25 minutes.
After Emily allowed the group to down some of her bright pink cactus pear margarita (which looked like it could glow in the dark), we had to order our own. For reviewing's sake, of course.
To me, the margarita tasted like and had a similar consistency to apple sauce. If you want a lighter, fruity and strong drink, without it being overpowering, I would go for this one.
After we finished our meals and ran out of things to say to each other, we all realized that we weren't given the option to add a tip on our receipts when we ordered with our credit cards. This, of course, was a huge issue because who carries cash these days? I don't.
I pulled a waitress aside (who, by the way, was an incredibly funny and nice woman), and asked her the awkward question about tipping. She told us that they only really accept cash, which wasn't made obvious until that point.
Luckily, Emily saved the day with a few bucks and we didn't have to leave the table without tipping our wonderful waitress. Keep that in mind: If you go to Bobby's, bring some cash and save yourself from the uncomfortable conversation with your waiter/waitress.
We left the burger joint stuffed to the point of bursting, but happy, and ready to explore Jack Binion's Steak House.
Next page: Jack Binion's and some gambling
My first impression of Jack's: I loved the mysteriously dark atmosphere (because everyone looks better that way).
We sat down immediately and were greeted by a friendly waitress. I asked her what some of the signature drinks were, and she said they were not making any that night and that they also weren't offering food. Still a little confused about that.
We asked the waitress if she could bring us three drinks that the bartender recommended. We'd later find out that question was not the best to have asked (I blame it on the vodka milkshake).
We were brought three beautiful, brightly colored martinis that gave me high hopes for their taste.
I was handed the Rasp-manian Devil, Emily grabbed the Peachy 'Tini, and Kevin was left with the Effin' Fresh.
I took only one sip of mine before shaking my head and mouthing, "No." It felt heavy on the syrup and too sweet for my liking.
Emily was also not overly impressed with her martini, but Kevin lucked out with the only one that all three of us enjoyed.
Kevin said his Effin' Fresh was an interesting combination of flavors that tasted great. It was a light and refreshing mix of cucumber and lemonade that made me think of summer time. Pretty sure I could drink those after a workout.
When the bill came, we all thought we had sight problems when it read that each martini was $15.
So let me get this straight, we come in and are told there are no specialty drinks or food available, we ask the waitress to bring us three concoctions and she brought us very expensive options, two of which were barely tolerable?
Word to the wise: Know what you want before you order. If you ask them to bring you something, you might as well be asking to be overcharged.
Emily said the service at Binion's was friendly, but on a full night out at the casino, she wouldn't do more than a drink there.
A tip about casino decor: Don't look down. The casino carpet is nauseating even stone cold sober.
To gather other viewpoints of the action at the city's newest attraction, I returned Sunday to ask some gamers what they thought of the Horseshoe experience.
"It was definitely everything I thought it would be," said Brad Beam of Blue Ash. "Everyone is friendly, dealers are nice and there is a lot of selection in games."
Beam told me he didn't have much luck that day and ended up losing money. He added you can tell there are a lot of new people at the casino that don't know the games as well.
"It makes you feel like you're in Vegas," Beam said.
Emily Combs, also of Blue Ash, said that she had never been to a casino before Horseshoe. She told me that it was what she thought it would be like and that she really loved the margaritas at Margaritaville.
But if you're looking for food at Jimmy Buffet's restaurant, be prepared to wait. Many reports came in over the weekend of as much as an hour and a half wait for a table throughout the dinner-time period.
"I was very impressed with it," Bill Menkedick , of Cincinnati, said. "I can't believe it's in Cincinnati. It's 100 times better than Columbus' casino."
While I was happy to play the slots and lose only $20, it seemed many of the real gamers had good things to say about the new casino.
To sum it all up: Go eat a burger at Bobby's, grab just one drink from Jack Binion's, throw down a margarita at Margaritaville, be wary of the carpeting and have fun at the wide-selection of games that Horseshoe offers.
Have you been to the casino? What did you think of the experience? Let us know in the comments section below.