A mini Vegas in the heart of wine country

What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas but what happens when Vegas is brought to Sonoma County?!

This week I was fortunate to receive an invite to the preview party of the Graton Casino in Rohnert Park. During this preview, we were greeted by the parking attendants who happily directed us which way to go and where to enter the enormous casino. Upon entering, we {a group of six of us} were all welcomed by five of the staff. The Junket Manager, Chris, whom I was emailing back and forth with about the reservation earlier in the week, along with our tour guide and a couple of other key people within the casino. The organization was impeccable. We had no more walked through the doors and I was floored at the team’s dedication to standards.


On the tour we went. Each party was assigned a special guide who would show them the floor and explain the different, exciting offerings the casino has. we walked around the outside of the gaming floor {the “floor” being the slot machines area, which was closed at the time, awaiting the grand opening on November 5th} passing by all of the wonderful looking restaurants and bars. As we passed by the open doors of the restaurants, the hostesses said hello and smiled. Everyone working there had a beautifully wide smile on their face, clearly showing they were very happy to be there.

What would a casino be without a rewards card or how about a preferred member? Graton had that one covered for us. Nearing the end of our tour we stopped at the desk where we all signed up to be a preferred member, receiving a card that when we go back and insert it into a machine, we could possibly be the lucky winner of anywhere between $5 and $500 in free playing money! I know I want to be lucky! After signing up as a preferred member, we were given our cards and $100 in “Play Night Money”. No real money was exchanged on this night {the real money begins today with the VIP’s}, the purpose was for us to have a blast and to help the dealers gain experience since many of them were “fresh out of dealer school”. More about that later, let’s get to the good part!

The food!! Well, I do not know if it was our girlish good looks or my husbands great smile or even my uncanny way of getting into the good places, but we got into the the 630 Park Steakhouse for dinner {every party was given a random restaurant to “review” and eat at complimentary to help the staff learn}. Okay, well, I do have to admit that the ladies I was with had some good connections with a couple of the guys at the casino so I think that may have helped our luck :). As a party of six, we sat at the bar in the beautiful “Vegas” like restaurant and ordered cocktails from the very attractive girls behind the bar as we listed to the gentle sound of the man on the piano singing today’s hit songs softly. What a night. I thought, “if this is good then how will dinner be?!”

We waited a very long time to be seated and even longer to get our entrees but truthfully, we were having so much fun and everything was so top notch that it did not even matter. Our Captain, Linda was fantastic! She presented us with four menus for the table and we each chose one appetizer or starter, one entree and one side {no duplicates}. She explained that this is meant to be a learning experience for the kitchen team so the chef wanted to be sure no items were repeated so they could get in their practice before the big opening. Sounds great to me, I will be a guinea pig any day!

Since there were six of us, we ordered everything. We all tried a bit of each others but I mostly went for mine and my husbands dishes. we started with shrimp tempura and the wedge salad {of course a steakhouse is not complete without an enormous wedge slathered in creamy & chunky blue cheese dressing}. Both dishes were amazing. My husband, being a chef himself, can be quite the critic; he loved it! Other dishes ordered were Caesar salad, shrimp cocktail, an endive and walnut salad and crab cakes. All were spot on and flavorful.

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Endive and walnut Salad
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Shrimp Tempura
Wedge Salad
Wedge Salad

The between period from clearing the starters to receiving our entrees was long but we were well taken care of by Linda and Spencer. We asked them all sorts of questions about the casino and how they got there and how they felt about their new jobs. Both were very excited to be there, showing us their smile through and through. Their service was attentive and extremely professional.

Next up on our food list list was the buttermilk fried chicken, dry aged rib eye, Kansas strip and new york strip steaks. Being a steakhouse, obviously we had to try all of the cuts of meat. Mine was supposed to be a bone in when it was described to me but when I was given it, he referred to the Kansas strip that was boneless so I am not sure what it was but it was cooked to perfection: medium rare. The flavors were rich and the meat was juicy and delicious. Everyone at the table was drooling over their cuts of meat and the sides of creamed spinach and garlic mashed potatoes with roasted parsnip sliced on top, meanwhile, I was drooling over the plate across the table from me: the buttermilk fried chicken. Luckily it belonged to my hubby so i dove in. The best part about dining with my husband is that he doesn’t mind ordering that other dish that I really wanted but couldn’t decide between two. The chicken was crispy on the outside, almost melting in my mouth after the fresh crunch, the inside followed with a juicy, tender mouth feel. I know this was a steakhouse but i would go back just for that creamy sauce and crispy fried chicken. My mouth is watering now just thinking about it.

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Garlic Mashed Potatoes
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Buttermilk Fried Chicken
Kansas Strip Steak
Kansas Strip Steak

Having spent the last three hours in this awesome restaurant we thought we were ready to go when the dessert came out: chocolate cake with peanut butter ice cream, creme brulee and carrot cake. I have been in love with carrot cake since I was a little girl so how can I say no now? I didn’t. They were all moist and quite lovely. However, most would not really complain about this but just for their cost, the portions were absolutely huge. They could definitely get away with cutting those pieces at least in half once.

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Carrot Cake

Being stuffed to the core we decided we would try our luck at the Blackjack tables. When in Rome…. We found a smiling dealer with a table that was just emptying so we sat down. We had a blast.They taught us the right way, as some of us really needed a refresher {we need to know so we can go back and win!}. We were graced with Glynnis {Rhymes with Guinness…she loved to say. Ask her what her last name is, that’s a mouth full!}, then Kirby and Chris. All of them showed enthusiasm for their new job. The dealers were all new to their job completely and were learning themselves so they were getting a kick out of practicing on us. We so enjoyed asking them how they ended up at Graton and all had a great story. We were so amazed that two of them moved just to be there, one form Arizona and the other from San Diego. This place must be a great place to be if people have moved from all over to be a part of it. I am looking forward to going back and winning big! after chatting with Chris about craft beer {of course we went there} and spending a good amount of our play money with Kirby and Eric, we decided to go “All In” and… we lost. which since it was play money, and midnight, it was part of the plan so we had to call it a night. With full bellies, satisfied palates, and being down $600, we walked out of the casino with big smiles because it was a perfect night, it was play money AND they play awesome music in the parking lot.

All in....
All in….
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Thanks for the hospitality Graton Casino!!

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