I set out for the Horseshoe Casino in Tunica, Mississippi. Come on, come on, I thought, blowing on a pair of red, translucent dice. Daddy needs to pay off his college loans.
But on this particular night, it wasn’t just the craps table that was calling me. Wednesday marked the grand re-opening of Jack Binion’s Steakhouse inside the Horseshoe, which has just completed about $10 million of renovations.
(And about time, too: before the remodel, Binion’s was a bit of a cave, an old-timey place where the heavy décor matched the heavy cuisine. Was there really a thick cloud of cigar smoke, or am I just imagining that?)
Anyway. Forget what you know. Executed in deep red, the new Binion’s is a breath of fresh air, a wide-open space that balances big-city cool with a certain Southern charm. The portions are lavish, and the staff are friendly and professional.
The changes are most evident in the lounge. Over the course of the evening, I heard several people say that it has a distinctly Vegas vibe, and I have to agree. This is the kind of chill, sophisticated space that’s hard to find in Memphis, let alone Tunica.
I especially liked the bar itself, executed in chunky slabs of translucent onyx. Lit from below, they glow molten yellow like the Sankara Stones from Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. Honestly, the pictures don’t do it justice.
Because this was a media event, I was handed a menu and given carte blanche. Order what you want! said the cheerful staff. And oh by the way, don’t forget about cocktails and hors d’oeuvres. And I thought, you know, life’s really not that bad after all.
Before wading into the appetizers, I made sure I was sufficiently primed to enjoy the experience with a Knob Creek Manhattan. All right, yes, there are loads of fancy cocktails on the menu, but you know what? Bah humbug. I’ll have the bourbon.
Feeling dandy, I moved right on to the food. And let me just say, executive chef Bruce Ford knows what he’s doing. Over the course of the night, I didn’t take one bite that wasn’t carefully thought-out and well-executed. Ford has also introduced a number of lighter menu items—fish, vegetables, small plates—that are designed to help Binion’s appeal to a wider audience. I’ll just quickly fire off a few favorites.
I recommend starting with with the chipotle grilled shrimp ($14). It’s definitely got some bite to it, but it’s beautifully balanced by the sweet tang of the mango salsa.
From there, move on to the heirloom tomato salad ($10). No joke, this was maybe my favorite thing on the menu. It comes with Maytag blue cheese, a roasted garlic vinaigrette, and ribbons of shaved cucumber—but the real showstoppers are the tomatoes themselves, big honking things from Ripley, TN.
For a main, I say stick with steak. There’s lots of wonderful fish on the menu, but come on—aren’t you craving some red meat this evening? I had the 14 oz. prime New York strip steak ($48), which was so tender that you probably wouldn’t need a knife to cut it. Pair that with the decadently cheesy scalloped potato gratin ($9), and you’re good to go.
After dinner, it was time to make some money. Now on my third (third?) Knob Creek manhattan, I felt pretty confident in my ability to pay off—or at least make a sizable dent in—the outstanding balance on my college loans. So I screwed my courage to the sticking place and stumbled out onto the floor of the Horseshoe.
Forty dollars later, it was time to call it a night. Media event or no, the Horseshoe Casino is not in the business of subsidizing the minor gambling habits of impoverished freelance writers. Oh well, I thought. I drifted upstairs to my hotel room and crawled into bed, while visions of Ripley tomatoes danced in my head.
A Look at the New Jack Binion’s Steakhouse