Sunday, February 24, 2013

Betting on St. Cajetan's

As mentioned last week, we are running out of Catholic Churches close to home, but on the way to St. Stephen’s last week, we spied St. Cajetan’s advertising their Lenten Buffet. For those of you not up on your Catholic  saints,  St. Cajetan is the patron saint of gamblers  and, perhaps not too ironically, the unemployed. Yup, we decided to check out Columbus’ new casino!

Now, I am not trying to be sacrilegious; in fact I had no desire to venture into our new local gambling establishment. I’m not really a fan of gambling since I would rather see something for my money. But there, in flashing letters on the sign was the siren call of the “ALL YOU CAN EAT SEAFOOD BUFFET!  Only $32 during Lent!”

You have probably observed, many dining establishments roll out a fish option during  Lent.  The fast food joints that don’t usually serve fish suddenly have it on the menu ( see F’s review below) or more posh locations offer the Friday fish special.  It was no surprise then, that The Hollywood Casino would join in capitalizing on the tradition.  

Not being Catholic myself, I can only say that I don’t believe Catholic’s frown on gambling, since they are historically the prime sponsors of Bingo Nights. Perhaps they did give it up for Lent, but I am unaware of that tradition.

A plan was hatched. We would not take the kids. We would however invite our friends V and C. Since we know they are always up for some competition, our plan was this….Each couple would take $125.  Dinner would be $64 plus tip. We would then each get $25 gambling money and see who could either last the longest or win the most. For an added bonus, T discovered that the casino has a loyalty card. When you sign up for it you receive a $10 credit for the slot machines. Fortunately, V and C were free that night, and the game was on!

We arrived at the Casino at about 6:30, clearly early because there were not a lot of people there. The place is enormous though, so it is hard to get a good read on how many people are there at any time. Because C and I work in the design industry we were busy checking out the finishes and critiquing the carpet. (Which, by the way, we both thought it was hideous.)

We all made our way to the back of the casino to get our loyalty cards giving us a chance to scope out the place. Like any casino, it seems to be predominantly occupied by slot machines. There are at least three areas for table games, three restaurants, that I saw, and two bars.  There is a stage for shows.  Sadly, we missed the Village People by one night.  If you go this Friday you can catch Sheen Easton! Sugar Walls, anyone?

We of course were headed to the Epic Buffet.

One of the big draws for the buffet is that each diner gets a lobster as part of their meal. When you pay for your dinner at the entrance they give you a ticket that you will hand to someone who will serve you your lobster, this is to make sure you only get one.

Everything else is All-You-Can Eat. From the front door you are taken to your table and a server takes your drink order, gives you the lay of the land and turns you lose. No alcohol seemed to be served at the buffet, but you could probably bring some in from outside.

At this point I should tell you I am generally not a fan of buffets. For the most, I find their food below average at best. I can count on one hand buffets I have been to in my life that I actually thought were good, but I consider even a good buffet to be about a 5 on the scale of 1-10 compared to a standard style restaurant. This one was a 4.  If I were only comparing it to other buffets, it bumps up to an 8. If you are a fan of buffet style eating, you would probably enjoy it much more than we did.

We all scoped out the offerings. They do offer lots of variety. It is important to note that while they offer many seafood options they have not given up on other meat for lent, so if you are not following the Lenten tradition you would have many more options. There is a pasta and pizza station, a carving area, salad and dessert bar on top of all their various seafood options.

Three of us opted for the lobster first. T decided to give it a miss, and made a good choice. I am not a huge lobster fan, but even I know it isn’t meant to be tough and rubbery.  Also, you have to wait for someone to serve it to you, and despite the fact that there was a line of people waiting for lobster, the two young men working in that area chose to talk to each other and studiously not make any eye contact with the patrons. So, it took a little while.

The lobsters polished off, we all headed back to investigate other options. I kept to the fish and seafood category and indulged on things like peel-and-eat shrimp, fried and baked fish, fried clam strips and scallops, steamed clams, oysters on the half shell and crawfish.  I also made sure I tried veggies like green beans, glazed carrots and steamed broccoli as well as a mashed redskin potato.

The others tried various meat options as well as the seafood. Not one of us was brave enough to try the sushi. We were all skeptical, and as V said “No Asian had anything to do with that sushi”. That pretty much summed it up.

For the most part, the food rated okayto pretty good. If you were able to get some of the fried items when they came out fresh they were on the high end of pretty good. I can also say that other than the lobster, nothing we ate could be called bad either.

Three of us also tried the desserts, if you remember from last week, T has given them up for Lent. They have a pretty extensive spread, though again some of the items are behind glass and you have to flag down an employee to get them for you. The best of the deserts we tried was the bread pudding. Everything else was pretty much what you would expect from a buffet.

After dinner, we all headed out to gamble. A little tip here, don’t go the casino expecting to use their ATMs.  Both T and I were out of cash and were charged $5 for the luxury of getting money.  We broke up our little group into men vs. women and looked for ways to lose our money. C and I hit the quarter slots. As I said, we are novices, so it took us some time to figure out the loyalty card. My brag moment...I was rather quickly up to $65! However, I am not shocked to tell you I was also out of cash in 30 minutes.  C out lasted me by 10 minutes.

After our 40 minutes at the slots, we found the boys. They had both played video poker, T left with $26.25, so was the winner with total actual winnings of $1.25. He’s been trying to tell me he could have won more if I hadn't run out of money so quickly.  

All in all, I would rather go shopping with my money. It was a fun night out with friends, though, and worth the price of admission for the adventure.  T says that if you just want a good fish dinner, head around the corner to St. Stephens The Martyr and get your fill of fish for $9.00. Then you would have a larger gambling stake.

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