Restaurant review: Casino's 2 One 8 deals aces“I really like this place.” That was the first thing that came out of my mouth around a spoonful of the extraordinary, not-to-be missed tomato basil soup served at 2 One 8, the latest restaurant in the Shooting Star Casino in Mahnomen, Minn.
By: Eric Daeuber, Special to The Forum, INFORUM
“I really like this place.”
That was the first thing that came out of my mouth around a spoonful of the extraordinary, not-to-be missed tomato basil soup served at 2 One 8, the latest restaurant in the Shooting Star Casino in Mahnomen, Minn.
I don’t say “I really like this place” often, at least not after a single spoon of soup. But soup is where most restaurants make their first mistakes. But not here, and not with the tomato basil, which is served with every entree.
It’s true that the experience of this restaurant is easily dulled by the inevitable chaos that casinos and their restaurants are heir to, but the food shines nonetheless.
There are ways to begin a meal at a casino restaurant, and one seems to be the traditional shrimp cocktail ($10). But a better choice for an appetizer is the walleye strips that bring a little Northwoods into the pine-paneled dining room off the main casino. The strips are crisp, lightly seasoned and a good introduction to the care that goes into each dish coming through the kitchen door.
For entrees, the best place to start is the section of the menu called “2 One 8 Favorites.” Two dishes from this specialty section are unique interpretations.
The red wine pork is a beautifully presented and well-executed combination of wine, caramelized onions and a nice cut of pork. And at $16 it’s a bargain to boot.
The same can be said for the New York strip with cognac sauce, a pleasant twist on traditional pepper steak.
For $24, including soup and side dishes, it’s more than you might expect both in flavor and portion size.
Dessert is the weakness of this otherwise excellent kitchen. No extra effort in stylish presentation, and the presentation is certainly stylish, can make up for its mediocrity. The key lime pie arrived beautifully plated but a little worse for the wear. It’s understandable that not every kitchen can afford a pastry chef and not every dessert can taste like it was made in-house. But, still, it was a curious disappointment after uncommonly good entrees.
The wine list is nothing special but very well priced. Canyon Road has produced consistently good, moderately priced wines and you can find them all over the list for less than $20. Skip dessert and order a bottle of Nachtgold eiswein, an agreeable way to end the meal at $30 for a half-liter bottle.
Outside the kitchen, things don’t fare quite so well. The atmosphere is really quite comfortable in a dark, Spartan sort of way. The bare pine walls and the simple appointments with their repeated star motif are set off by fun, backlit menus and wine lists. It’s a very chic, downtown feel. But the room itself and the simple mistakes in service can put a damper on the evening.
Our entrees came before the first two spoons of soup were down and, at the end of the evening, I wasn’t sure our dessert would arrive at all.
Plus, there’s no place for people waiting for a table to, well, wait. And wait they often did, even when there were empty tables.
The room does a good job of keeping the casino noise out, but a loud dining table could be difficult to ignore.
Still, while it’s hard to put the terms “value,” “excellence” and “casino” all in the same sentence, there’s no question they belong together when it comes to what matters most – the plate in front of you. I don’t go to casinos often, but the Shooting Star has hosted at least two winning fine-dining establishments over the years.
I’ll certainly be back.
2 One 8
Shooting Star Casino
777 Casino Road
- Food: three and a half stars
- Service: two and a half stars
- Ambiance: two and a half stars
- Hours: 5 to 10 p.m. Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday; 5 to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday
- Phone: (800) 453-7827 or (218) 935-2711
- Reservations accepted: Yes
- Alcohol: Full bar
- Dress: As you like
- Credit cards accepted: Visa, MasterCard, Discover, American Express
Eric Daeuber is an instructor at Minnesota State Community and Technical College. Readers can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.