memphis blogger

Night-trippin’ to Tunica…for Steak!

Jack Binion’s steakhouse held its grand opening July 16 at Horseshoe Casino in Tunica, Miss. The addition is part of a multi-million dollar renovation by Caesars Entertainment to make Horseshoe a destination for the region and (of course), to attract gamblers old and new. I was invited to attend a media preview for the occasion. Here’s my review:

Atmosphere: I’ll admit that when I first heard of a Tunica steakhouse, I had visions of peanuts, rawhide, and Texas hold ’em. It couldn’t be further from the truth. While the restaurant is located on the whistling casino floor, one quickly feels transported to a wine bar in downtown SoHo. There’s “floor seating” for those who like to watch gamblers wince as they shoot craps, and then there’s the bar that’s downright classy. They didn’t just mask old trappings. They gutted the place and pulled out all the stops to create a relaxing and sophisticated experience.

The wine was fresh. “Barrel-fresh!” I ordered and stayed with the Mark West Pinot Noir. It was silky smooth and a few degrees below room temperature (Exactly how reds should be served!) Binion’s is the first establishment in the state of Mississippi to offer a selection of wines straight from the aging barrel. The distributor places the wine in kegs and so you drink straight from the tap, which keeps the wine fresher longer. Bacchus would be thrilled.

The menu offers hefty seafood and steak options, yet its tapas are diverse and intricately assembled. For example, the smoked duck with blackberries and three-onion marmalade (photo below) boasted a sweet and savory finish to warm up the palate.

The executive chef, Bruce Ford, spent months writing Jack Binion’s menu. Chef Ford, a coastal native from Savannah, has injected flair into the steakhouse that he hopes will strongly appeal to women. “A steakhouse is typically male dominated. I’ve added lighter food options primarily for women. They’re still flavorful and nice, and they can feel comfortable ordering,” Ford said.

And to prove his commitment to going against the grain of a traditional steakhouse, Ford told us that an adjacent party included a vegan. Now that’s a new joke to tell! ‘So a vegan walks into a steakhouse…’ (Post punchlines below.)

Did the chef cop out and safely serve a salad? No, he got creative and empathetic. “They usually only get served steamed vegetables. They still want to taste food,” Ford said. The result? Sautéed mushrooms and leeks inside of a roasted heirloom, Ripley tomato. Improv cooking on an opening night.

For the main course, I chose the filet mignon that was butterflied to medium-well. I’ve never gone wrong with this cut of steak. And it was a satisfying choice. The corn pudding was my favorite side, which is like eating a sweet cornbread casserole. I wasn’t a fan of the creamed spinach because of its soupy, soft texture. (I suppose I prefer it a bit more firm.)

Now for dessert. I have a massive sweet tooth and Chef Bruce told our table that dessert was not optional but mandatory. Bless him. Like good Southern citizens, we ordered four and shared. The key lime pie, chocolate torte, bread pudding, and the crème brûlée taster. Thank God the others weren’t as interested in the brûlées because I devoured every spoonful (photo below). Each flavor – coconut, chocolate, mocha, and saffron – was congealed and slightly torched to perfection. Whatever saffron is, I’m a believer.

The prices for steak entrees begin in the $40 range. One could get by with two drinks and a couple of appetizers for $50, but if you’re trekking from the Bluff City, you might as well be a Grizzly. In my opinion, Jack Binion’s attention to detail, charming service, diverse offerings, and fresh quality put it on par with other “special-occasion” restaurants. Thus, I wasn’t surprised by the cost to dine.

Whether or not you’re feeling lucky enough for Blackjack, give the new Binion’s a whirl.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

P.S. Here are more Jack Binion’s reviews from others who attended the preview:

Take 5: Caroline Carrico

Meet a millennial mom who’s into urban gardening, museums, and ethnographing Memphis’ past and present.

Canning Caroline

With baby in tow, Caroline can can!

Stage name: Caroline Mitchell Carrico

Starring roles: Pink Palace Museum Project Coordinator; Adjunct Professor; and Mother to Noah

Daily script: Caroline researches, plans, and helps launch exhibits at the Pink Palace. “I have a lot of very different interests and I get to explore all of them at work….be it aquifers, dinosaurs, basket weaving, chocolate, and even beer.”

Behind the Scenes? “I’ve been working on the redesign of the permanent Pink Palace exhibit. People can now walk up the grand staircase.” Visitors can learn about the mansion’s former owner, Clarence Saunders, as well as various accounts dating back to 1926.

Favorite part? “I love the people that I work with. You have anthropologists, historians, scientists, and educators all working together. There’s nowhere like it in the city…it embodies the spirit and history of Memphis.”

Canning? “I started three years ago but I was always intimidated by it – afraid I would blow up my kitchen. Canning is something I can share with the ladies in my life. My grandmother was always canning, it gives us something really great in common like trying out her dill pickle recipe.”

Where do you get your vegetables? “The Shelby Farms community garden. Greg and I have a plot next to my mom’s. We plant different things on them and help each other out. We’ve got so many green tomatoes on them just waiting to turn.”

Hobby or hard work? “I love going out there in the morning at 5:30; it’s invigorating. I’m using my body to do something. It’s very productive and we get a lot of food out of the garden.”

And bartering? “We trade with our neighbors. They have chickens so we never buy eggs in exchange for bread.”

Thanks, Caroline! For more on mommying, slow food, and historical tidbits, peruse her writings at “Ideas and Thinks.”