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Local diners have long been averse to making the trek to specifically eat at one of the local casinos--gamble, yes; dine, no. And that's a shame, as several of the now shuttered casino restaurants have been noteworthy, such as Hubert Keller's SLeeK, and Jeff Ruby's Steakhouse, a place Relish dubbed as "the best steakhouse no one bothered to patronize."
There are now more reasons to rethink the whole casino dining proposition. A month ago, acclaimed chef Kelly English opened Kelly English Steakhouse at Harrah's-St. Louis (our rec's there are here) and today we receive word that the dice cup is being shaken at Lumière Place and River City Casino as well.
Look for the following changes to take place this month:
At Lumière, Executive Chef John Johnson has kicked up the menu at Stadium Sports Bar and Grill (home of the $50 reuben) by adding more steaks and a bone-in pork chop, but here's the kicker: they will be roasted and served on your choice of wood plank: wild apple, sugar maple, Acadian oak (what, Missouri oak's not good enough?), black cherry, or the ubiquitous cedar. Those differences have to be subtle, but we admit our curiosity is piqued. (An 18-oz locally-raised, bone-in rib eye on a wild cherry plank is at left.)
But if you think Stadium's menu is going all highbrow, think again. A tapas-type menu will also be introduced this month, where all items (like Potato Wrapped Shrimp w/ chili dipping sauce and a Mini Lobster sandwich w/ spiral potato chips, both below) will sell for about $8.
Chef Johnson (who's Exec at both Lumière and River City), has some surprises planned later this month at River City's Beerhouse, too. Relish readers will remember Johnson as the guy who reintroduced the local classic, the brain sandwich, there several months ago. It went over so well he's put it on the Beerhouse's new menu.
Next up? How about a hops-infused NY Strip? A 12-ouncer is first marked on the grill, then roasted on a bed of hops (the outer, less bitter leaves), and finished with a hops-infused steak butter. When asked what hops add to the flavor of beef, Johnson commented that "due to the success of the monthly beer dinners, it came naturally to start looking at incorporating hops, barley, and other malted grains into the Beerhouse menu...and hops proved to be the most challenging. Just like a brewmaster, though, through trial and error we found the right blend of hops to elevate the flavor of our steaks."
Black cherry planks, hops-finished steaks, potato-wrapped shrimp. OK, we're skeptical but intrigued. We felt the same way about River City Casino as a whole, but have been pleasantly surprised. Just like we were with that reuben...and the brain sandwich.