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Just Opened: Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville
Horseshoe Casino 1000 Broadway
Cincinnati, OH 45202 (513) 250-3318
Last month I covered the Horseshoe Casino restaurants. But, I wasn’t able to get into Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville, nor Binions Steakhouse. Binion’s was closed and Margaritaville was lost in an overcrowded chaotic fog much to aggravating for me to deal with. On my return trip I was able to sample Jimmy’s Key West namesake. I hoped it would be good as I’ve been to the original in the Keys. That one could never be repeated here. The view, the breeze, the lack of any notion of a dress code, the dining area crawling in stray cats tableside. Servers wear as little as they care (or dare) to. So, what would this homogenized Margaritaville knock off turn out to be?
I walked in with mild fear. I was savagely bent of shape on my previous visit for reasons I’ll not get into (read it online) again. Some of that angst was recurring as we walked up to the host stand and were ignored from two feet away. Basically I had to walk on past them to get their attention. Those hostesses can certainly keep themselves entertained. One job... greet and seat guests. The theory seems to escape them.
Once we settled into our sunny patio table things got better. The sun was shining, the menu seemed interesting and drinks were on the way. A companion was ordering a Lobster, Crab, & Shrimp Salad (“Salad greens, tomato, cucumber, and onion topped with lobster, lump crab, and shrimp salad”). The salad order was comically confusing. When asked what type of dressing does it have, the server was flat out stumped. She tried to explain it’s inner workings but confusion still reigned supreme. I spoke up and suggested perhaps it’s a tuna salad style dish rather than a leafy greens salad. The server immediately agreed and it was passed over. I would have liked to try it.
Fish tacos were ordered in place of the salad. Margaritaville advertises them as “Two flour tortillas filled with blackened catch of the day, shredded cabbage, Baja cream sauce, and fire roasted tomato salsa. Served with black beans and rice”. The fish of the day was grouper. The tacos were decent for a corporate joint, but lacked all authenticity aside from a similar appearance. The cabbage and cream made for a good marriage of bold crisp crunch and silky smooth cream. The fish was well cooked and highly seasoned. Not authentically “Blackened” but seasoned well nonetheless. The beans & rice, again, far from the real deal “Monday Beans” found down South but enjoyably edible in their own right.
The $10 Veggie Burger (“A hand formed veggie patty made with Edamame, peas, corn, broccoli, celery, garlic, carrots, and red and green peppers. Served with lettuce and tomato”) was expensive by Bobby Flay burger standards. But veggie burgers are pricey. And few places even serve veggie burgers. The fact they are offered at all is appreciated. Jimmy’s veggie burger was chock full of visible carrot & pepper chunks. It fell apart under normal handling but the flavors had merit. All & all it was a damn decent burger. The fries were the frozen variety and hardly worth mentioning.
I ordered Jimmy’s Jammin’ Jambalaya® (“Cajun rice dish loaded with shrimp, chicken, and andouille sausage simmered in a spicy broth. If it is good enough for the ‘Ville in New Orleans, it’s good enough for us”). That’s all quoted straight off the menu.
Right off I noticed the small - moderate portion would leave most still hungry. Digging deeper revealed the true process. Great jambalaya is tediously cooked together in stages. The flavors are married well and the deep red color of the rice proves it. Margaritaville’s was more of a fast food version. Sliced sausage, chicken chunks and unseasoned shrimp showed me this was a sauteed style dish. By no means authentic but still satisfying as an entree. Overall it was quite tasty but at $15.99 not priced as petite as it’s portioned.
The food was satisfactory but not impressive. Our drinks were slow in getting to the table. Our server was a bit unfamiliar with the details of the dishes. And the afore mentioned giggling hostesses are far from on the ball. Those complaints were true. Yet the visit wasn’t a bust. As the evening wore on the band took the stage, tables were pushed aside and Margaritaville the restaurant turned into Margaritaville the bar. That’s when it came into it’s own. Staffers on stilts stood towering over tables doing magic tricks. Plates were cleared and replaced by tall colorful Boat Drinks. Girls got up and danced. Guys filed around and flirted.
In the end I wasn’t disappointed like I expected to be. Sure, it’s priced at top dollar considering the quality and authenticity, but it is flavorful and fun. The food is worth eating, the drinks are decadent and they have a damn good band line up. Overall the most fun place in the Horseshoe (besides the craps table of course).
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