SHRPO: Away from the Tables

The life of a travelling poker reporter forces you to adapt to on-property options for food, drink, and entertainment. This is usually quite the challenge, especially for long engagements, but that’s never a problem when covering tournaments at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino.

This trip I’m in town to cover the Seminole Hard Rock Poker Open and I love exploring the many experiences away from the poker room. I could go the entire three weeks without ever doing the same thing twice, but this doesn’t happen because certain favorites have a way of making their way back into my “eat, drink, and be merry” rotation.

Food options range from a quick, casual meal in the food court to fine dining at one of the many top restaurants and this trip I was able to cross two new ones off my list.

14SHRPO Bongos Cuban CafeBongos Cuban Café is located in the heart of Seminole Paradise. The venue appeared twice on my visit list, once as a dining destination and once as a hangout stop. It was a mistake to wait so long to try it out. I dined like a rock star (crispy pork appetizer, Churrasco A Lo Cubano, and a pitcher of red Sangria) while listening to solo acoustic guitarist play from above before moving up to their rooftop cabanas to enjoy a few more cocktails in the open-air environment Sky Lounge.

The Bōl is located just inside the main casino entrance and a fine place to start your visit. They offer a variety of Asian dishes and I have no valid excuse for not visiting before this series. Over the course of three weeks I enjoyed every appetizer on the menu then randomly picked any of the Pho options for dinner. They were perfect every visit, prompt service and great food. Perfect spot for the player taking a quick breather away from the tables.

Regular stops from past visits include Blue Plate for 24/7 dining, Shake n’ Burger in the Food Court for a respectable Cheesesteak (high praise coming from a Philly boy), and Council Oak for a world-class steak dinner. Also do yourself a favor, Martorano’s is worth the trip just for a single meatball.

There are also plenty of places to enjoy an adult beverage while relaxing with friends, coworkers, or strangers. My tastes lean more towards the casual hangout establishments, which means Hard Rock Cafe, the Center Bar, and the Lobby Bar receive the majority of my business while in the casino.

The Center Bar is the chameleon of casino bars; transforming from a casual gathering spot during the afternoon and weeknights to a club-like atmosphere on weekends right in the middle of the casino. The Lobby Bar was temporarily closed midway through the SHRPO series but for a very good reason. Next time I return there will be bigger, better version in its place.

This trip I discovered a new stop in Seminole Paradise, Murphy’s Law Irish Pub. It is a gathering place popular among service industry types and poker players, a regular stop for those with a happy hour later than your average Joe. The staff is top-notch, friendly, and they pour a fine pint. It quickly became our destination for after-work unwinding.

Entertainment is an important component of any casino but you can expect world-class lineups with “Hard Rock” in the name.

The Improv Comedy Club hosted Dom Irrera and Jo Koy while I was in town but I’ll be missing Eddie Griffin coming next weekend. The line just to get into Koy’s show was impressive and daunting at the same time. The comedy show of the trip was the entire Wayan’s brothers onstage for a few hours of gut-busting insanity.

Ralph Notaro08292013SLASH101One show jumped off the page when I was looking at the entertainment schedule during my visit, a concert by rock’n’roll guitar master Slash.

It was my first time inside Hard Rock Live and the venue was a nice surprise. It was a cross between an intimate rock club and big production arena show. I was close enough to really feel the power yet surrounded by a couple thousand like-minded Slash fans not acting our age. It was a great show and one of the highlights of my trip.

The new places I visited during this trip are just a small taste of what can be found at Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, great times from a three-week stay during the SHRPO. My visit began with a USA/Brazil beach soccer match and ended with a concert, great book-ends for my stay.

I sauntered past far more shops or boutiques than I could count and there’s an entire section of Seminole Paradise I still need to explore including the Piano bar or Passion night club. I’ve spent six weeks on property in the last year and I have yet to witness everything there is to see or do. I was able to cross a few more off my list this trip but I’ll be back for more.

One quick note before rolling to the next series; you don’t have to be away from the table to enjoy some great food. The Poker Room at Seminole Hard Rock offers a menu with some of the best food you can enjoy while still sitting at the table. And the options are not limited to the high-rollers. Whether playing 2-4 Limit games or 25-25 Pot Limit Omaha, you can eat well while trying to play well.