Best of Connecticut 2012: Casinos

 

appetizer
Michael Jordan’s Steak House
Mohegan Sun, Uncasville, (860) 862-8600 (michaeljordansteakhouse.com)
A good steak needs no enhancement, they say (why gild the lily?), but Michael Jordan’s has pulled it off with its bleu-cheese fondue garlic bread—toasted ciabatta covered with garlic, crumbled bleu cheese, parsley, shallots and butter, all sliced and stacked on a bed of Maytag fondue (onions, garlic, white wine, cream and blue cheese) and topped with chives. Rich as Croesus and, oh, so good.

concert venue: large
MGM Grand Theater
MGM Grand at Foxwoods, Mashantucket, (800) 200-2882 (foxwoods.com)
A good-sized (4,000-seat) theater with excellent acoustics that feels surprisingly small, the MGM Grand is tops in this category again this year. We guarantee you’ll love it there, whether you go for a concert alone, or add one onto a dining/betting/shopping weekend. We’ve enjoyed some terrific performances over the years . . . and we’re looking forward to a star-studded fall and winter season featuring Heart, LeAnn Rimes, the Brian Setzer Orchestra and funnyman Gabriel Iglesias, to name just a few.

concert venue: small
The Cabaret Theatre
Mohegan Sun, Uncasville, (888) 226-7711 (mohegansun.com)
If you like your performers thisclose, it doesn’t get any better than the Cabaret Theatre at Mohegan Sun. The intimate venue with 350 seats—all of them prime—is a refreshing respite from the lively casino atmosphere that prevails outside its doors. We can vouch for the fact that couples love the theater’s cozy feel, but it’s also a favorite for parties of four, six or more. While we highly recommend the music, we urge you to check out the comedy, too.

drink with a view
Jimmy buffet’s Margaritaville
Mohegan Sun, Uncasville, (860) 862-2626 (margaritavillemohegansun.com)
Now hear this: There will be no wasting away in this Margaritaville, not when Jimmy Buffett’s Mohegan Sun “destination” offers casino-goers a rare alfresco water view from a deck high above the Thames River. This so-called “Porch of Indecision” is a popular spot for Parrot Heads to drink in some much-needed fresh air along with a tropical concoction like Havanas and Bananas, License to Chill, Stranded on a Sandbar or Off to See the Lizard—we’ll take ours on the rocks, thanks.

fiesta
Soltoro Tequila Grill
Mohegan Sun, Uncasville (860) 862-4800 (soltororestaurant.com)
You can find a party pretty much anywhere at Mohegan, but there’s only one place to find a fiesta. SolToro keeps it rockin’ with more than 200 (yes, 200) premium 100-percent blue-agave tequilas, live mariachi performers and, of course, a menu filled with all the spicy Mexican favorites your heart desires. Start your experience with a tequila flight—the Don Julio trio, featuring a blanco, reposado and anjeo, will have you saying “Ole!”

martini bar
Vista Lounge at Wombi Rock
Mohegan Sun, Uncasville, (888) 226-7711 (mohegansun.com)
There’s something so chic about Vista Lounge (formerly known as Leffingwell’s). Maybe it’s the fact that it’s located on Wombi Rock, the three-story white onyx “mountain” set high enough above the hustle and bustle but still close enough to offer a view of the action. Or it could be the ceiling filled with sparkling, ever-changing star formations, courtesy of the world’s largest indoor planetarium dome that allows you to sip under the stars anytime of day. Oh, and the martinis of course, with names like Almond Joy, Pineapple Upside Down Cake and Tiramisu. It keeps getting better: This past summer, in addition to the name change, Vista added a new sound system, dance floor, lounge seating and even a couple of blackjack tables.

nightclub
Shrine
MGM Grand at Foxwoods, Mashantucket, (860) 312-8888 (shrinemgmfoxwoods.com)
It’s no secret: We love Shrine. We love the atmosphere (with its mix of gothic and Asian decor), we love the food (sushi, dim sum, tempura), we love the celebs and big-name DJs that make appearances (past hosts have included Diddy, Dave Navarro and the late DJ AM) and most of all we love the fact that every time we visit this 21,000-square-foot nightclub/lounge, we’re guaranteed an experience like no other. Party it up on “Entourage Thursdays” with no cover all night, tequila specials and live beats from DJ John Cardona.

prime rib
David Burke Prime
Foxwoods, Mashantucket, (860) 312-8753 (davidburkeprime.com)
Beef lovers know that there are times when nothing but prime rib will do—so when that distinctive craving comes around, why not head out to one of Connecticut’s best restaurants to put it to rest? “Slow Roasted Prime Rib” is always on the menu at David Burke Prime, in fact it’s right at the top. Served perfectly to order in its own flavorful juices, with a baked potato on the side, it’s one of Foxwoods’ sure bets.

steak
Craftsteak
MGM Grand, Foxwoods, (860) 312-7272 (foxwoods.com/craftsteak.aspx)
Acclaimed chef Tom Colicchio’s handsome restaurant (the only other one’s in Las Vegas) is one of our favorites when we’re feeling carnivorous. It’s not for the faint of wallet, of course, but if you’re up to the challenge, there’s a lot to love—corn-fed beef steaks, including a dry-aged bone-in New York strip and rib-eye, and a monumental 32-ounce porterhouse listed as “For the Table” ($130); a couple of Wagyus (rib-eye and skirt) and a grass-fed New York strip. (Each is listed with the ranch where the animal was bred.) What really makes the meal is the great accompaniments (à la carte), that bring out the best in all that delectable meat: exotic mushrooms (three different kinds or a mix), Yukon Gold purée, carrots and rosemary, Texas onion rings and spinach-and-Emmental gratin—to name a few.  

spa
G Spa
MGM Grand, Foxwoods, Mashantucket, (860) 312-4772 (gspa.com)
You’ve worked hard all week—now it’s time to r-e-l-a-x. G Spa is an ideal place to do just that. Our advice is to arrive well before your appointment and spend some time alternating between the lovely pool and outdoor sun decks. Then try the swoonworthy G spa Raindrop Moisturizing Wrap, a G Tox Facial, a soothing massage or any of dozens of other invigorating body treatments, including hot rocks, wraps, Thai foot massage or paraffin treatments. A big draw now are the new hydra facials currently all the rage in Hollywood. (G Spa is one of the first spas in the state to offer the treatment.) There are two rooms with cascading Vichy showers, two luxurious couples’ suites, waterfall Jacuzzis, eucalyptus steam rooms and saunas. After your treatment, you can go back to the pool and order a mimosa. Most relaxing of all? Spa and pool are 21 and over only.  

place to spend your winnings
Bulgari
Foxwoods, Mashantucket, (860) 312-4876 (bulgari.com)
Those windfall winnings won’t have time to burn a hole in your pocket once you stop at Bulgari, known for its fusion of traditional and modern design, superior gemstones and daring color combinations. One dazzler, a pendant necklace, features blue topazes, amethysts, green tourmalines, peridots, citrine quartz, rhodolite garnets and pavé diamonds. Or choose a fabulous watch, pair of shades or handbag.

place to spend your winnings
Tiffany & Co.
Mohegan Sun, Uncasville, (860) 885-2000 (tiffany.com)
Premier jeweler Tiffany & Co. purveys the finest in men’s and women’s jewelry, watches, diamonds, engagement rings or silver. With designers like Jean Schlumberger, Elsa Peretti, Paloma Picasso and Frank Gehry, as well as Tiffany’s own 1837, Jazz, Sparklers, Swing and Twist collections, you can choose one or more pieces that speak to you and the precious gems in your own life.

splurge
Paragon
Foxwoods, Mashantucket, (800) 369-9663 (foxwoods.com)
Foxwoods’ showpiece is still one of the standouts of Connecticut’s dining firmament. Way up on the 24th floor of the Grand Pequot Tower, it’s at a blissful remove from the sensory overload of the casino. The fare by chef Scott Mickelson more than lives up to the luxe setting, with dishes like butter-poached lobster and Imperial Wagyu Eye of the Ribeye with truffled foie gras mousse. The cool thing is that with Mickelson’s new menu, you no longer have to win big to dine here: There are several lower-priced entrées in the mix—and a slew of delectable small plates in six categories (Beef, Noodles, Ahi, Columbia River King Salmon, Duck and Crab), three for $35. Still, one of the best things on the menu is the jazz stylings of cool cat Jack Madry on the baby grand. And that’s no lie.
 

Best of Connecticut 2012: Casinos

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