I?ve always said that I don?t really understand the Parrothead phenomenon that hits Cincinnati every time Jimmy Buffett comes to town and sells out Riverbend, as he is doing once again on Tuesday.
But when I consider it, there?s nothing that hard to understand. Let?s just say it?s a little more enthusiasm than I would show, but the combination of Buffet?s good-time music in an atmosphere that re-creates a beach vacation with margaritas, beer, beach balls, Hawaiian shirts and more margaritas is an undeniably fun package.
And packaged it is. Buffett-o-mania has launched not only countless tours, but restaurants, bars, gift shops, a liquor label and a clothing line. As a Parrothead capital, it?s only right that the package should come here. Now it has, with Margaritaville in the Horseshoe Casino, Downtown. It?s a place for reminiscing about past concerts or vacations, or taking a frivolous break from the serious business of gambling.
There?s no mistaking the theme. Nautical charts on the ceiling ? from which a seaplane is suspended ? palm trees, a bar shack with corrugated metal roof, and stilt walkers dressed in pirate outfits tying up balloon animals. Buffett videos play. The restaurant is one of a couple at the casino that can be entered directly from the street. If you park in the casino garage, you do have to walk all the way through the gambling floor. There are big windows and a nice outdoor dining area.
I ordered a margarita. Obviously. There are several on the menu. I went with the ?perfect,? ($9.50) and it was pretty good. The other tropical drinks are, as they should be, cold and fruity.
We had been ogling the nachos ($13.99) at other people?s tables as we walked in. They come piled high ? really high ? on the plate. We decided not to tackle them, but all evening we watched them come out of the kitchen over and over, and then watched them taken back in, shortened by just a few inches. Wretched excess has its place, as Parrotheads know, but it seemed tacky and wrong to me to serve all that food that no one could eat.
It took quite a while for the appetizers we did order to show up. We had the crab, shrimp and mushroom dip ($11.99) which was just OK, with a thick blanket of cheese. The peel and eat shrimp ($11.99), which came out of a spicy boil, were firm and tasty, and the best things we had all evening. After that first wait for a server, he was prompt and did a good job.
The jambalaya ($15.99) was packed with sausage, shrimp and chicken, in a thick spicy sauce on top of rice ? fairly spicy but not that interesting.
The catch of the day was catfish, which was unbelievably bland, even with a mango-pineapple salsa on the side. There was a hard-to-identify sauce in a small cup, which turned out to be a garlic sauce, I think, which didn?t help much either.
The teriyaki sirloin ($18.59) was not bad at all, tender and cooked just a little under the medium my friend ordered, and the teriyaki sauce wasn?t overwhelming. I would not have served it with mashed potatoes, though, and it wasn?t a good idea to serve mashed potatoes with an ice cream scoop. It makes them more reminiscent of a school cafeteria than a beach shack.
More excess for dessert: the chocolate hurricane ($6.99) is a huge hot fudge sundae. Like many such concoctions, it didn?t have enough chocolate sauce so ended up being a big dessert of vanilla ice cream and redundant whipped cream. We barely made a dent. The rest went back to the kitchen.
Wastin? away again in Margaritaville.
Where: Horseshoe Casino, 1000 Broadway, Downtown
When: 11 a.m.-2 a.m. daily
Prices: Specialty drinks $7.50-$9.50; Appetizers $9.99-13.99, Entrees $15.99-22.99, burgers and sandwiches $9.99-11.99, desserts $5.99-$6.99
Vegetarian choices: Very little: veggie burger, fried pickles, salad. And fruity drinks.
Reservations: Not taken
Miscellaneous: Live music and dancing, accessible to disabled, outdoor dining area (with view of concert area)
Posted in: Restaurant Reviews, Updates
Tags: Contemporary American, jimmy buffett, margaritaville, Restaurant Reviews