Fare in Your Favor

a guide to high-end casino dining

Photographs Jeff Strout

Louisiana is home to more than 20 casinos, from riverboats to Native American reservations to the land-based Harrah’s New Orleans. Whether one is looking for a “staycation” or traveling within the state, there is virtually always a casino within driving distance. For the non-gamblers in the family, many of these offer resort amenities as well as fine-dining options for a special evening away from home.
 

l’auberge baton rouge
18 Steak

If L’Auberge Casino Resort in Lake Charles feels like a country lodge resort, the L’Auberge Casino Hotel has more of a metropolitan, Las Vegas-style vibe. First of all, it’s less than two years old, and everything is shiny and new. The large, clean gaming spaces are cast in metal and glass in a contemporary style. The sleek rooftop pool and swanky nightclub overlooking the Mississippi contribute to the overall Vegas atmosphere, as does the large venue that books world-class entertainment year round. They also have a legitimate poker room, which is difficult to find in Louisiana, so I sat down to play some Texas Hold ‘em. After recouping most of what I lost on my first hand, I made my way to 18 Steak.

The restaurant is so named for Louisiana being the 18th state to join the union, and it’s a beautifully designed space: Enormous industrial-style windows look out onto the curving Mississippi river from the plush dining area. The dining room rings around a nucleus of oversized red leather booths set under an opulent red glass chandelier. It definitely has the feel of a special-occasion restaurant, like you are treating yourself to something extraordinary. The army of servers is snappy and skilled. My water glass never got less than 20 percent full.  

I started out with the crab cake, because I saw a tantalizing-looking one served to the table next to me. It was one of the best crab cakes I have ever had. There was no discernable breading that is often used to bulk up a crab cake; it was all crab meat topped with a delightful mustard sauce that paired quite nicely with the buttery meat. To stick with local flavors, I followed that with the Amite-based Chappapeela Farms duck breast in an Abita root beer reduction. The duck was tender and juicy, and the sweetness of the reduced root beer worked quite well together. All in all, it was impressive. I followed it with a “salted s’mores” dessert drink from the after dinner drinks menu, which is basically a s’mores martini. I usually don’t drink sweet drinks, but the rock salt went really well with the chocolate syrup.  

Baton Rouge is not a usual destination that comes to mind for intra-Louisiana travel, but L’Auberge Casino Hotel is worth the trip. I would also say it’s a great place to spontaneously break up a long drive while crossing the state. Also, for the Baton Rougians out there, 18 Steak is a priority dining experience. It is easily one of the best restaurants in town.

Information, 777 L’Auberge Ave., Baton Rouge, (225) 224-4142.
 

The L’Auberge in Baton Rouge is the newest casino of its magnitude in the state. Sitting along the mighty Mississippi, the 74,000 square foot casino abuts a massive hotel, both featuring a strikingly contemporary aesthetic.  The signature dining experience is 18 Steak, named for Louisiana’s induction as the 18th state of the U.S. The elegantly appointed space is focused on elevated takes on local favorites such as trout amandine, liver and onions with foie gras, and barbecue shrimp with lobster dumplings. Diners can aid their digestion with a selection from a large menu of after dinner cocktails. For a truly special evening, there is also a chef’s table in a lush private dining room, offering a choice of six or 10 courses, each chosen by the chef along with a special alcohol pairing.




 

l’auberge lake charles
Ember Grille

At the entrance to the Paragon Casino Resort is a huge fountain featuring a giant gilded eagle statue perching on a stone carving of the L-shape of Louisiana. This was an unexpected bit of flair out in Marksville, about 75 miles north of Lafayette, on a vast property bounded on all sides by beautiful wildlife refuges and protected reserves. The Paragon features the flair one expects in a casino, but also tasteful references to the countryside, such as cypress trees growing in the main hotel concourse with wooden walkways between them.   

There is also a movie theater in the lobby for guests who need a 90-minute respite from the warbling of the slot machines. Adjoining the hotel lobby is Atrium Bar, which has a frosted bar top to keep drinks cold. This is a legitimately handy feature, as you can drink at a moderate pace without your ice melting, which is a prudent pace at which to drink when located 20 feet away from tantalizing games of chance.

Legends Steakhouse has a tastefully appointed dining room with an exposed kitchen, overstuffed wooden booths and white tablecloths. It immediately feels cozy and secluded, isolated from the boisterous casino floor. The wine list is well-curated, and the prices are reasonable. I started with the “Shrimp Michael,” a combination of things that are virtually impossible not to enjoy: large bacon-wrapped shrimp sitting atop seafood stuffing with mozzarella cheese melted all over it. One of the best things about this part of the world is that things like stuffing and crab cakes have very little “filler” content.  The stuffing was not a ball of breadcrumbs, but mostly delicious seafood and diced veggies in a decadent cream sauce. The Gulf shrimp were huge and fresh, and the bacon was perfectly crispy.   

I wanted to order something I don’t eat often, so I had the petite filet, which some people think is just a smaller filet mignon, but is actually a different cut altogether – from the shoulder near the end of the chuck, not the tenderloin. I ordered it medium-rare, and the temperature was spot-on. It was perfectly cooked and tender and delicious.  

If you’re in the Lafayette or Alexandria area, or just feel like a weekend in the country, Paragon Casino Resort is a great place in a beautiful area, with plenty to do to keep the family occupied for a few days.

Information, 711 Paragon Place, Marksville, (318) 253-1946.
 

L’Auberge in Lake Charles sits on a beautiful property west of the city, nestled among the various tributaries of the Calcasieu River for which the region is known. The expansive resort features a massive pool, shopping, a video arcade, golf course, spa and all the Vegas-style table games one could ask for. The star of the culinary show is Ember Grille, a modern American steakhouse. Ember features traditional dishes as well as innovative dishes, such as the “Quail & Waffle” appetizer. For those who swim, shop, and gamble up an appetite, there is a massive, table-carved 40-ounce tomahawk steak that will sate a small army of the most ravenous diners.

 

 

 


OTHERS TO CHECK OUT:
The Vintage | El Dorado Casino
451 Clyde Fant Parkway, Shreveport | (318) 220-0711
Across the river from Jack Binion’s is another plush steak house, The Vintage, serving up primo USDA beef. The Vintage is the luxury dining option of the El Dorado casino, one of Shreveport’s best entertainment establishments. As the name would suggest, the wine list at Vintage is quite exhaustive, but so are the steak options. The signature bone-in rib eye is famous for a reason.

 

harrah’s new orleans
BESH STEAKHOUSE

As a resident of New Orleans since 2001, I have become intimately familiar with Harrah’s over the years despite not personally being a big gambler. It eventually opened in 1999 after a rocky history involving two casino companies vying for control of the project, but really exploded in 2006, when Harrah’s Hotel opened during the post-Katrina rebirth that rocked New Orleans. Harrah’s is always busy, filled with tourists from bachelor parties, conferences and concerts fraternizing with locals.  

Besh Steakhouse has a refined but whimsical vibe, with leather seats in earth tones broken up by royal blue accents that match the large selection of blue dog paintings by famous Louisiana artist, the late George Rodrigue. The scene here can be fairly rowdy, as Besh Steakhouse is open to the casino floor, but there are curtained booths for those who seek a sense of seclusion. If you’re looking for a seamless transition from partying to dinner and then partying again, Besh Steak is ideally situated. Also, it’s a John Besh restaurant, so stellar food is a guarantee.

The “Big Bad Baked Oysters” are a serious starter dish. The oysters are baked and then topped with decadent crabmeat au gratin. It’s a rich, buttery explosion of oysters, herbs, and cheesy crabmeat sauce. These appetizers seem great for sharing, making Besh Steak a solid choice for a group dinner. I opted out of steak for the beautiful spring preparation of yellowfin tuna, which comes with fava beans, artichokes, sunchoke puree and a beautiful bordelaise. It was perfectly filling without feeling excessive, as the fresh Gulf tuna complemented the bordelaise perfectly. The seasonal veggies were divine. It brought much-needed balance to a meal that started with the gut-busting Big Bad oysters. All in all, it was great dinner in a fun and lively atmosphere. If you want to have a great dinner in New Orleans without skipping a beat from a fun night on the town, look no further than Besh Steakhouse.  

Information, 8 Canal St., New Orleans, (504) 533-6111.
 

Harrah’s New Orleans is located steps away from the Mississippi River in the Central Business District and just a few blocks from the historic French Quarter. While some Louisiana casinos represent a more isolated resort experience, Harrah’s is right in the middle of the action. And the culinary centerpiece of Harrah’s is Besh Steakhouse, named for and co-owned by celebrity chef John Besh, a Louisiana native. The menu features Gulf fish options, steaks and a truly unique selection of appetizers, such as oxtail sliders with foie gras butter and a fanciful version of Natchitoches meat pies. The whimsical environment and appetizers fit Harrah’s billing of the restaurant “a playful spin on the traditional steakhouse.”

 

OTHERS TO CHECK OUT:
Horseshoe Casino
711 Horseshoe Blvd., Bossier City  | (318) 742-0711
The Horseshoe Casino in Bossier City is a traditional, Vegas-style casino situated on the Red River that divides the twin cities of Bossier and Shreveport.  For table games and slots on the east bank of the river – or a luxurious meal – this is the place to go.

Four Winds
If you are looking for something exotic, try the Four Winds, a fine dining restaurant offering authentic cuisine drawn from Cantonese, Mandarin, Szechwan, Vietnamese, and Thai culinary traditions. Diners can choose from daily specials incorporating fresh seafood as well as select delicacies displayed live in saltwater tanks.  

Jack Binion’s Steak House
For a more traditional experience, Horseshoe also houses Jack Binion’s an elevated steak house named after the famous casino mogul and godfather of the World Series of Poker.  Enjoy prime cuts paired with vintages from the extensive wine list while gazing out over the spectacular view of the Red River and Bossier/Shreveport skyline. Patrons less inclined toward red meat can choose from a robust selection of gourmet seafood dishes.

 

paragon
LEGENDS STEAKHOUSE

At the entrance to the Paragon Casino Resort is a huge fountain featuring a giant gilded eagle statue perching on a stone carving of the L-shape of Louisiana. This was an unexpected bit of flair out in Marksville, about 75 miles north of Lafayette, on a vast property bounded on all sides by beautiful wildlife refuges and protected reserves. The Paragon features the flair one expects in a casino, but also tasteful references to the countryside, such as cypress trees growing in the main hotel concourse with wooden walkways between them.   

There is also a movie theater in the lobby for guests who need a 90-minute respite from the warbling of the slot machines. Adjoining the hotel lobby is Atrium Bar, which has a frosted bar top to keep drinks cold. This is a legitimately handy feature, as you can drink at a moderate pace without your ice melting, which is a prudent pace at which to drink when located 20 feet away from tantalizing games of chance.

Legends Steakhouse has a tastefully appointed dining room with an exposed kitchen, overstuffed wooden booths and white tablecloths. It immediately feels cozy and secluded, isolated from the boisterous casino floor. The wine list is well-curated, and the prices are reasonable. I started with the “Shrimp Michael,” a combination of things that are virtually impossible not to enjoy: large bacon-wrapped shrimp sitting atop seafood stuffing with mozzarella cheese melted all over it. One of the best things about this part of the world is that things like stuffing and crab cakes have very little “filler” content.  The stuffing was not a ball of breadcrumbs, but mostly delicious seafood and diced veggies in a decadent cream sauce. The Gulf shrimp were huge and fresh, and the bacon was perfectly crispy.   

I wanted to order something I don’t eat often, so I had the petite filet, which some people think is just a smaller filet mignon, but is actually a different cut altogether – from the shoulder near the end of the chuck, not the tenderloin. I ordered it medium-rare, and the temperature was spot-on. It was perfectly cooked and tender and delicious.  

If you’re in the Lafayette or Alexandria area, or just feel like a weekend in the country, Paragon Casino Resort is a great place in a beautiful area, with plenty to do to keep the family occupied for a few days.

Information, 711 Paragon Place, Marksville, (318) 253-1946.
 

The scenic area surrounding Marksville is dotted with pristine wildlife refuges and is also home to the impressive Paragon Casino Resort. Paragon contains boutique shopping, a modern spa, and nationally renowned golf course, Tamahka Trails. It also boasts Legends Steakhouse, a fine-dining restaurant featuring sophisticated, international-influenced entrees in addition to steak. Diners not in the mood for a cut of red meat can enjoy duck à l’orange or fresh seafood pasta.

 

 

OTHERS TO CHECK OUT:
Big Sky Steakhouse | Coushatta Casino Resort
777 Coushatta Drive
Kinder
(800) 584-7263
Situated between Opelousas and Lake Charles, you will find the entertainment megaplex that is the Coushatta Casino Resort. Coushatta is loaded with activities, including a concert venue, a huge facility geared toward child-appropriate fun and the Dream Pool, which offers waterslides, a lazy river and a swim-up bar for the parents. There are casual food options, but for more refined fare head to Big Sky Steakhouse. The luxurious dining room is home to some of the best prime rib in the state.

 

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