Keeping Kansas City in the Loop

Double Down

Go ahead, cajole me. It takes more than a one-armed bandit to get me up and out when money is the motivator. I’m talking about dream palaces that hook fast and hold on until you pull your pockets inside out and wonder what happened.

Casinos.

We’ve got plenty of them floating around town doing a bang-up job keeping ‘em coming. So call it curiosity. The lure?

Not bells and whistles.

Dining ... surprisingly delicious, I might add, at a couple of our brightest.

 

Hollywood Casino

Hollywood Casino at the Kansas Speedway was destination one. I admit I went to this place only once to interview the pastry chef (an entirely different story).
Tonight, appetites were in motion as we trooped inside, invited to taste the delights of Hollywood’s best.

We gathered in the Marquee Cafe — a handsome stop a la 1940s serving from morning ‘til evening. Carol Lombard and Errol Flynn would be right at home — white leather banquettes, high deco décor. I’d give it an eight on the swoonable scale.

Like most of the eateries within, there’s respite from the smoke in the gaming hall, thank goodness. The only torch lit here is the food.

Heavenly grown-up milkshakes, fried chicken and waffles are but three of the temptations designed by executive chef James White. Odds here are on the side of the house. This stop is a winner.

Slots and tables can distract but for my money, step right upstairs to the ultra-lounge Turn 2 Sports Bar. This place gives you more than just a place to throw one back. The view is nothing short of spectacular. Why? That big racetrack front and center.

Race or no race, try the spicy fish tacos or (on certain evenings) lobster tails that leave you enough cash to continue.

Finally, if you’re going to go all out for an evening, the 95-seat Final Cut Steakhouse is way above par.

Homemade pastas, seafood, duck fat truffle fries, steak that melts in your mouth all presented within very snazzy confines that executive chef Nick Estell makes certain oozes old Hollywood. Speaking of which, the set dresser managed to procure vintage film memorabilia throughout. On display, a cache of Elizabeth Taylor’s baubles, 007’s tux and Dorothy’s pinafore from “The Wizard of Oz,” among other Tinseltown novelties.

 

Ameristar Casino

On the other side of town, step inside Ameristar Casino and you’ve arrived at a fantasy village complete with depot, trains and temptations galore. It never rains, it’s never windy and overhead, blue skies prevail.

Strolling along the Trumanesque streetscape, you almost forget there’s a gaming floor right next to an arcade of restaurants.

The Falcon is more than a bakery — it’s a spiffed-up diner. Shiny blond wood, vintage toys and no-nonsense breakfast/lunch/dinner options along with serious pastries, make this a great place for a nosh.

Unless, of course, you prefer a taste of the ol’ South. By that, I mean lobster, crab, shrimp and gumbo at Pearls Oyster Bar. A raw bar in KC? Now that’s a change-up.

“Be Nice or Leave” is the M.O. in this open-kitchen casual stop. Whether or not you’re lucky on the tables, there’s no reason to be anything but pleasant — especially after a bowl of the tantalizing gumbo.

Of course you can indulge until your eyes bulge at Horizon Buffet across the town square.

A better bet is to take your time and savor executive chef George Paulussen’s spin on cuts and chops at Great Plains Cattle Co. His stints working around the globe for Hilton International and in Las Vegas add up to a thoughtful approach balanced with considerable skill.

This place raises the bar in a town that knows beef.

The interior, a rustic timber frame, is cozy and comfortable. Sit by the fire and watch the line master whatever you’re hankering for. The hamburger alone is built mile-high.

But if meat isn’t your game, try the half-dollar-size scallops or the cedar-planked salmon.

You can’t leave unsatisfied unless, of course, you must quench your thirst in a totally different atmosphere — the brew/sports pub next door.

It looks like an old foundry but this lager house actually is a real brewery. Ale, blonds and dark draws prevail. All the while, amuse yourself with personal televisions (some located right in your booth) dialed up with your sports preference. Novelty? Sure. At least someone cares about your happiness.

OK, there’s more. As if we didn’t have enough barbecue in this town, Arthur Bryant’s is here for the die-hard fan.

And then there’s a food court and a deli.

Stuffed? Should be. The idea throughout is to amuse and satisfy every hunger.

Hollywood and Ameristar are both pros. You eat, you play. You play, you eat. It’s entertainment served up with flair.

One thing’s for sure: at either casino you’re guaranteed not to leave hungry. Cha-ching! 

 

Gloria Gale is an Overland Park-based food writer. “On the Menu” is not a restaurant review, it is a summary of dining out in the metro area. 

photos: courtesy Hollywood Casino and Ameristar Casino, Inc.