Eating Our Way Through ... Mohegan Sun
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Connecticut is home to several notable concentrations of restaurants. The downtowns of most of our large cities offer a good variety of worthy dining spots, as do some stretches of well-traveled highway such as the Post Road and the Berlin Turnpike. We hope to get to all of them eventually. But we begin our “Eating Our Way Through” series with a taste of Mohegan Sun, where somewhere between 25 and 30 restaurants operate under one big roof.
The purpose of “Eating Our Way Through” is to showcase the extraordinary dining-out riches of Connecticut, and perhaps stir your own desire to explore and taste. The writers are not professional reviewers, but enthusiasts with significant appetites. In these reports, they will be searching for breadth rather than depth. The exercise of eating at all these restaurants in one day is something of a stunt, no doubt, but it seemed the best way to get a quick snapshot of the dining scene.
A few general words about Mohegan Sun: As we all know by now, it’s a large, noisy casino. There are lots of people gambling and expressing their emotions in fairly uninhibited ways. Under the same roof along with the restaurants are a hotel, a spa, a variety of shops, a cabaret and a big arena. It wasn’t at all hard to find things to do in between meals.
The plan of attack was simple: The four teams were to gather at 10:30 a.m. on July 25, make sure the six assigned restaurants for each team were understood, scatter to eat for 10 hours, then meet up again around 8:30. for a celebratory drink and wrap-up. The day went well. No one ate themselves silly or sick, or lost a fortune at the tables. The greatest overall impression was the friendliness, helpfulness and professionalism of the waitstaffs at all the restaurants. Every dining team commented on it. What follows is the rest of their impressions.
> Team 1: John Monagan and Brian Boyd
Want someone to do serious damage to the eat-all-day concept? Invite a couple of 23-year-old males along for the ride. John and Brian took their assignment very seriously, managed to win a trifecta at the sports book, and even took care to sample various drinks along the way. How diligent they were! Here’s their report:
Seasons Buffet. It’s always a good idea to start the day with a big breakfast, and that’s what we do at this all-purpose buffet. We begin with made-to-order eggs, toast and bacon for John and a sausage-and-onion omelet and fruit for Brian. Seasons switches away from the breakfast menu at 11 a.m., expands the menu to include carving stations, etc., and raises the price of admission from $10.85 to $16.98. At any hour it’s a good place for a quick sit-down meal. The brownish-red color scheme with repeated patterns of crops and vines is in keeping with the Casino of the Earth setting.
Imus Ranch Coffee. This little take-out stand almost seems a vestige from an earlier time, when Don Imus seemed to rule the morning conversation. Our eat-through today coincides with the WNBA All-Star Game . . . in light of Imus’ crude dismissal of the Rutgers women’s basketball team a few years ago, probably not too many fans of the sport will be making a stop here for a cup of coffee. John grabs a cinnamon roll and Brian a chocolate croissant, both fine.
The Dubliner. There are a few places here at Mohegan Sun where you can feel that you’ve truly ducked away from the crowds for a while—The Dubliner is one of them. Set back down a hallway, this place has an Irish pub feel, with a lively atmosphere and live music at night. Our early afternoon repast includes tasty shepherd’s pie for John and a shin and Guinness for Brian, as well as the first beers of the day—c’mon, it’s an Irish pub!
Michael Jordan’s 23.sportscafe. One of the dining highlights at Mohegan Sun is the incredibly rich blue-cheese fondue garlic bread served both here and at Michael Jordan’s Steak House. As we settle in front of this sports bar’s nine projection-screen televisions, we order the bread and, as long as we’re at it, a fried chicken Cobb salad and a grilled chicken sandwich along with a couple more beers—c’mon, it’s a sports bar! Good stuff all, but we’re wondering if we’re beginning to overdo it.
Bobby’s Burger Palace. Nah! How could we overdo it? This brand-new addition to the Mohegan Sun lineup immediately jumps to the top ranks of burger places in Connecticut. Ubiquitous chef Bobby Flay goes ultracasual here with a fast-food setup and a menu consisting of 10 burgers, various sides and, for variety, a grilled-cheese sandwich. Brian goes for the Dallas burger, featuring a spice rub, coleslaw and pickles (all on the burger), while John takes the Crunchburger, topped with a layer of potato chips. We rate these burgers second in the state, after Plan B in West Hartford. We also test the beer menu—c’mon, it’s . . . Saturday!
The Longhouse. Here is one of the casino’s original fine restaurants, replicating the feel of the tribal longhouse and still going strong despite all the competition. We can’t really say we’ve been lacking beef during our rounds today, but this is largely a steak house so we feel we need to order accordingly. Our filet mignon and prime rib are perfect as ordered (the house steak sauce is excellent but not needed) and we share a dish of mashed potatoes, garden vegetables and a bottle of cabernet. Room for dessert? Oddly, no.