Gobble and Gamble

Food And Dining

For those money-hungry go-getters, casinos have become the opportunistic hotspot where people meet for the thrill of pressing their luck. In order to complement such a fast-paced venue, these locations must be accompanied by the relaxing comfort of an inimitable dining experience. Here are a few we recommend.

'Ritas Cantina at Harrah's Rincon {777 Harrah's Rincon Way, Valley Center; 760.751.3100}

Gaming is second to none at Harrah's—we all know that. But what about the food? Well, let's just say they know how to please the palate. At ‘Ritas Cantina, the tacos and margaritas use fresh, seasonal ingredients that create a taste not found this side of the border. Between rolls of the dice, dig into a Baja Shrimp Cocktail or a traditional Pozole. Then experience the best Crab Enchiladas your mouth has ever known, or an order of Braised Beef Barbacoa for your entrée. Finish off your trip south of the border with some Horchata Cheesecake served with Cinnamon Sauce and Buñuelo Chips. Oh, and don’t skip the drink menu, featuring a mixologist’s dream—Avocado ‘Rita, Cucumber ‘Rita, Summertime Sangría, or an Oakheart Mojito. The focus for everything from the food to the drinks is freshness, and local sourcing. Chef Jeffrey Piccirillo has truly captured not only the flavors, but the feel of Mexican fare with items like the street tacos that hit the spot for a quick snack. Plus, for a quick fix, enjoy all your favorite grab-and-go items at 'Ritas own built-in food truck near the hotel lobby. {harrahsrincon.com/restaurants}

The Great Oak Steakhouse at Pechanga Resort & Casino {45000 Pechanga Parkway, Temecula; 951.770.8507}

Dining at the Great Oak Steakhouse inside Pechanga Resort & Casino is like stepping into surreal realm of elegance. Upon entering through the etched double glass doors of the restaurant, the overwhelming sensation of “this is about to be good” envelops guests. After a greeting by the steakhouse’s host, guests are seated at comfortable booths or tables, a little reminiscent of the seating styles of famous dinner houses in Beverly Hills in the 1950s and 1960s. While the ambience is alluring, the show at The Great Oak Steakhouse is food and drink. It all begins with the award-winning wine list and classic cocktail menus. After drinks are ordered and appetites stirred, patrons peruse the dinner menu. And they'll notice a grand procession of tantalizing flavors, from gourmet soups and salads prepared with fresh herbs to start off the meal, to elegant appetizers that include Oysters on the Half Shell, Crab-Stuffed Portobello, and Seared Lamb Chops, to meaty entrées both tender and succulent. Only dry-aged, prime steaks are served at The Great Oak Steakhouse; the 20-ounce Delmonico, the eight-ounce Filet Mignon, and the New Zealand Lamb Rack are some of customers’ favorites. Direct from the Pacific, seafood options also abound at the steakhouse, including the Pacific Chinook salmon and Alaskan halibut. For the consummate sweet tooth, desserts are prepared nightly by the resort’s in-house pastry chefs and provide a perfect complement to any special evening—or just a night out for food and fun. Oh, and we should note: The Great Oak Steakhouse carries the AAA Four Diamond rating and has been honored by Wine Spectator magazine. {pechanga.com/dining}

Barona Resort & Casino {1932 Wildcat Canyon Road, Lakeside; 619.443.2300}

The intoxicatingly delicious thing about Barona is that it's not just a casino with a pizza joint in the corner for slices in between slots. It's got gourmet food galore, touching on cuisines from Mexican to Italian to classic American steak. If you're a seafood-lover, be sure to drop by Seasons Fresh Buffet and the Ship of Seafood for a spread of smoked salmon, bay shrimp, smoked white fish, and other oceanic goodies to satiate your cravings. But it doesn't stop there; like any well-rounded buffet, this one is rich with treats enjoyed around the clock, like omelettes come sunrise and American barbecue staples when all you want is a beer and supper. Then again, you could get your meat fix at Barona Oaks Steakhouse, where prime cuts meet a sophisticated, upscale design. Not feeling red meat? Make a stop at Italian Cucina and you'll be filled with everything from crispy thin-crust pizzas (done the right way) to freshly-made pasta dishes. And even if these three temptations are not quite tempting enough, your appetite will likely carry you to the Plaza Grill, El Rancho Grande, or the Ho Wan Noodle Shop. Truth be told, there's little the culinary masterminds at Barona haven't thought of, and just about everything will leave you feeling like a VIP. {barona.com/dining}