This is Part 2 in a 4-part series comparing two casino resorts in Lake Charles, Louisiana. Part 1 detailed the hotel rooms and now part 2 will compare both resorts’ Food & Beverage offerings.
Comparison Of The Food & Beverage Offerings | Lake Charles Resorts
The great thing about the Golden Nugget and L’Auberge casino resorts in Lake Charles is that they are next to each other and thus can be treated as one large experience. There are many other casino destinations in the nation with multiple casinos but one of the perks of the “Vegas experience” is that you can hop from casino to casino to experience a multitude of entertainment options. The proximity of these two resorts in Lake Charles creates a bit of this freedom to choose. This really pays off when it is time to eat and drink.
Between the two resorts, there are 19 food outlets, not including pool bars (which both have), and four standalone bars (not including restaurants that also function as bars which, again, both have and are included in the tally of 19 restaurants). So, all in, if you want to eat or drink, you have 25 different options across two resorts. Considering most regional market casinos are lucky to have 3 or 4 solid dining options, these two properties really go above and beyond in quantity.
Quality is not a different story although consistency is not always present. To be rational, with 25 outlets, we can’t expect all to perform at a 10. Well, we can, but we don’t want to be that person now do we? So first some general commentary…
Golden Nugget is owned by Tilman Fertitta, who owns Landry’s Restaurants and its many concepts. Living in Houston we get most of these at our doorstep. A great perk of patronizing these restaurants is that if you sign up for the Landry’s Select Club Card, you can use your rewards (issued in $25 increments upon point accrual) at any of the GN restaurants. You can also accrue points at any of the restaurants. You must present your card when you pay but that’s it. Membership is $25 and lasts for a lifetime. And, you receive a $25 welcome reward when you join and a $25 reward on your birthday each year. No real debate here. It’s one of the best deals in the industry as the ROI is positive as long as you plan to eat and drink at Landry’s Restaurants ever…in your life.
That free advertisement aside, L’Auberge has great options as well so let’s look at some side-by-side.
Because a big win should always be followed by a steak dinner, it’s important to know your options. GN has Vic and Anthony’s, a well-known chain within Landry’s, and L’Auberge offers Ember Grille and Wine Bar. We have had the pleasure to dine at both and both are solid steakhouse concepts. Both offer a fairly traditional steakhouse menu, but Ember pays special attention to local sourcing and an ambitious wine program. It also has a nice piano lounge with a “social hour” complete with discounted appetizer and drink specials. In terms of experience, Ember’s staff went above and beyond to make sure we were enjoying our meal. Friendly professional service is a perk in any restaurant and absolutely necessary in a high-end restaurant like a steakhouse. With that in mind, we can’t say we have enjoyed a Vic and Anthony’s experience. We have dined at the Houston location and felt both neglected and rushed on a busy Friday night. At the Golden Nugget, we gave them another shot and not only had “limited” service visited only at ordering and check delivery, but also had a table lifted up and over our heads as the staff was moving it to accommodate a larger party. I’m hoping that was not indicative of the service standard, but it definitely clouded our expectations of the brand. My wife also wanted me to add that the acoustics and location in the resort design of Ember are more conducive to a romantic dinner and conversation than those of Vic and Anthony’s. I wholeheartedly agree…and not just because she’s my wife.
Bars & Lounge
Both properties offer a number of standalone bars but the standout is Golden Nugget’s Rush Lounge which also functions as a gambling party pit. At the center of the casino action, Rush Lounge is a common staple in Golden Nugget properties but the Lake Charles location is open and well-placed so that you can hear the great lounge acts throughout the casino as you have fun gambling and imbibing. The great lounge acts also perform in a great lounge space with a double-sided bar offering video poker and table games on one side and a cozy space with couches and chairs on the other to sit and listen to the energetic (if not a bit too amplified) performers at night.
Another standout at the Golden Nugget is Blue Martini. This is primarily a bar and nightclub concept but they also serve food. And, don’t get me wrong – they do both pretty darn well. The best part of Blue Martini is its great Happy Hour (Thurs-Sun 4p-7p). All the usual martini and appetizer offerings are half price. The menu is quite extensive and you can have a great time at a great price…which, of course, leaves more money for gambling! They have three bars but rarely have them all open at once. That doesn’t matter because service, while a bit slow each time we’ve visited, is friendly and accurate. The outside bar comes in tandem with a nice outside patio. GN does a great job of taking advantage of its lakeside location with lake-facing patios on this concept and its Cadillac Mexican Kitchen and Tequila Bar venues. The one disappointment of Blue Martini is its signature drink, The Blue Martini, which is both not served in a martini glass and is also not very tasty. Avoid that drink and otherwise enjoy a great lounge space and bar.
The Place To Be
Let’s not forget this is a comparison however, and we must mention the absolute best place to have lunch or dinner within this duo’s complex: Asia. Found right next to the gift shop at L’Auberge, this pan-Asian concept has one of the best menu of Chinese, Vietnamese, and sushi plates I’ve ever had. Shining stars are the sticky rice, any of the sushi specials “of the day”, large bowls of soup, fried rice…well, hell…everything we’ve ever had here is delicious. They recently expanded the dining space as this has always been a popular venue; but, the quick and attentive service has never changed. If you are a fan of Asian cuisine, give this casual restaurant a try. You won’t regret it.
Since we don’t have time to cover every venue, and well, frankly all the venues don’t really deserve a special write-up, I wanted to mention some things you might want to know. Both casinos have a buffet. As with most buffets, neither is stellar but L’Auberge’s buffet has a view of the lake and a better salad and dessert selection.
Less Casual Dining
For a step above casual dining a notch above Chili’s, Golden Nugget offers a number of midrange options but L’Auberge’s Jack Daniel’s Bar and Grill (yes, like the whiskey) has an interesting menu that changes from time to time and fun drinks. It also serves as a sports bar of sorts if you want a good place to catch the game on a big screen and has a nice poolside patio if you don’t want to watch the game.
L’Auberge had a great concept, called Desserts…I’ll let you figure out what they featured. It’s currently closed and will reopen as a new concept called Modern Pantry, which looks like it will combine dessert, coffee, and deli offerings 24 hours a day. With subpar café offerings at both properties, this could fill a much needed void. Just don’t ditch the pepperoni kolaches we’ve enjoyed at your coffee stand over the years. Oh, and speaking of coffee, Golden Nugget has a Starbucks. It opens later than I’d like (7 am) but is smartly right by the hotel elevators. L’Auberge does have surprisingly tastier-than-expected free self-serve casino coffee…but we’ll jump to that later when we talk about casinos.
My unabashed opinions aside, I enjoy the multitude of choices available across both properties. And, you know, you can even get away for a bit and drive across two big bridges and a turnaround to have some savory Southern seafood and Louisiana fare (Boudin Balls, anyone?) at a local favorite, Steamboat Bills – don’t forget to order a Louisiana Roll…it’s not just bread.
The Winner When It Comes To Food & Beverages
But, when faced with the choice of who achieves the most success in this category, Golden Nugget has concepts I still need and want to try (like The Country Club) and has enough outlets I currently enjoy that it has to be the clear winner.
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Scott Roeben of Vital Vegas
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