Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Restaurant Reboot at the Cal - The Latest

The California Hotel and Casino, lovingly known as the Cal, is a wonderful low-key old school Las Vegas property that has hardly changed in thirty years.

So, let's change it completely, they thought.

Boyd Gaming, who owns many gaming establishments including the Cal, Main Street Station, and the Fremont, has given the casino proper, the lobby, the sports book, and the bars a top-to-bottom eyebrow arching tight-cheeked Wayne Newton facelift. Not that a casino actually has a face to lift, but you get the metaphoric idea.
The wonderful low-key old school IFOR, lovingly known as the Cal.
They aren't stopping there, though - the past couple of years have seen a retooling, revamping and rebooting of most of the drinkin' and eatin' places in the Cal.

And some of the changes are surprising.

Let's start back where this all began - with the Pasta Pirate, which was hit with a broadside a couple of years ago.

Pasta Pirate - Sunk

Image courtesy of thecal.com, from back in the day.
The Pasta Pirate was a lovely, small, strangely-named steak, pasta and seafood room, dark and cozy, with an open kitchen surrounded by glass and neon.

What a Pirate ever had to do with pasta, or a perfectly grilled steak, I never figured out. The seafood part is a walk (on the plank), but I just don't imagine hook-handed shiver-me-timbers pirates bent over a hot stove happily seasoning the marinara sauce. Then again, I suppose it makes as much sense as calling a hotel that caters primarily to Hawaiians the California .

A parrot proudly appeared in the Pasta Pirate's promotions, presumably because a parrot's pay is a pittance compared to pirates. And now that I look at it, the parrot doubled as a pirate, and was somehow sporting a snappy blue sport coat, and steering a mighty ship. Just like in real life.

Many people loved this place, including yours truly R.F. They had a steak and seafood special that couldn't be beat, and the staff was terrific. So there was quite an outcry when the P.P. closed its doors for good.

Replacing the P.P. was something new for the Cal, the California Noodle House, a chic, modern space serving chic, modern takes on asian classics, featuring, rather obviously, noodles.

It was quite a leap from deep dark booths, Lobster Thermidor and carafes of red wine to sleek, re-imagined Asian fare and Vietnamese coffee, and the Noodle House had to fight to get people in the door. Some have had a hard time accepting this change but those folks will come around once they try the Noodle House.

And the good news is that management made sure that the Pasta Pirate staff kept their jobs and were placed in the new Noodle House. (Shout out to Beatrix, and good on ya, Cal.)

About this time, the makeover of the entire casino started, a section at a time. And that's when the Restaurant Reboot took its next victim - the Cal Club.

Cal Club

I used to love playing the Shaka Five-way Progressive, which was just outside the exit to the Cal Club. I have a lingering memory of the smell of hot fry oil permeating the air in that part of the casino. Anyone who's played there knows exactly what I mean.

Actually, I think its still in my clothes.

Anyway, the big-wigs decided to close the Cal Club snack bar, taking away something that filled a unique spot - that place to get a quick, delicious, sleazy chili dog (Only Three Bucks!!!!), or some fries with gravy, or a juicy sultry plate of teriyaki (choice of Chicken or Beef), or that Island Specialty "I don't know how to pronounce it" Saimin Bowl.

Where will drunk people fill that gap with freshly-made fast food now?! Some of the more popular goodies were moved to the menu at the Market Street Cafe coffee shop, but there is really no replacement for the Cal Club.

And what is in the Cal Club's place? Slot machines. Now it allllllllllll makes sense.

Redwood Bar & Grill

This room was (yes, was) a gem. The subdued lighting reflected off deep, buffed, reddish but not too dark wood, and classic fine dining service offered all the standard steakhouse fare, and did it very well indeed.
Cozy, elegant, and pretty much wonderful in every way - the old Redwood Grill.
I've eaten perhaps a dozen times at the Redwood and it is one of my favorite spots in Vegas.

Or was.

Yes, it is rebranded as the Redwood Steakhouse and is completely renovated as well, due to re-open in September 2016. The dining room was 'moved' temporarily to the Pullman Grill at Main Street Station, giving diners a chance to enjoy that long shuttered, incredibly beautiful room, which is used mainly as a staging area for Hawaiian gamblers and their luggage, getting ready to jet back to the Islands.
This food at the Redwood Grill is long gone.
But damn it was delicious.
What will it look like? Will it be as cozy and comfortable? Will the menu be the same or perhaps even better? We will see!!!
Sneak peek at the Redwood Steakhouse Secret Mirrored Door, and some food cuisine gustations.
Image courtesy of the California Hotel and Casino.

(Try the lamb chops. If they still offer them.)

Market Street Cafe

Now that I think about it, perhaps it was the revamp of the Market Street Cafe some 4 or 5 years ago that kicked off this Cal reno-spree*.

*I've just invented a new word! Reno-spree. I'm sure it will catch on.

Just like a foe that has been mercifully spared by the sword-wielding bad guy, the Market Street Cafe was allowed to stand - but not without the cur leaving its mark on its cheek before sending it out of the castle.

My wonderful, beloved all-purpose line-up defeating counter has, according to reports, been reduced by as much as half.
Fortunately, these love birds are at the half of the counter that was spared.
This is extremely upsetting to someone who regularly used the counter to cut the line for the restaurant proper. I presume they've used the space to enlarge the Redwood Steakhouse.

Aloha Specialties

As if that weren't enough, Aloha Specialties was also renovated and upgraded.

Located on the second floor of the Cal - or can I say... the mezzanine, as it's known in Swedish (or something), right next to the walkway to MSS, is Aloha Specialties, which primarily serves, well, Aloha specialties - Hawaiian favorites, made fresh, quick and hot, authentic and delicious.
Your butt could be in one of these chairs eating delicious Island delicacies off of one of these tables!
Image courtesy of the California Hotel and Casino
As far as I know, the only thing that has happened here is that the place has been nicely upgraded.

San Francisco Pub

In the drinkin' department, the San Francisco Pub was actually a fairly dingy worn out bar with video poker machines embedded in it, just like every other bar in Las Vegas. The beer was cold and the service great.

Even it was not spared the renovating ball - it has been reworked and revamped as the (clears throat) Holo Holo The Happy Hilariity Helium and Ho-hos Hoverboard Bar.
The Holo Holo is molto mondo loco moco cocoa moka.
Image courtesy of the California Hotel and Casino.
Holo Holo means 'get out there and have some crazy-good fun' in Hawaiian, so this bar is aptly named.

I've never seen a bar so aptly named in my life.

When they named this bar, everyone agreed "that is so awesomely apt!!!"


Let's recap, using this incredibly detailed and colorful visual aid that my pal Jimmy Poon put together for me. Jimmy Poon likes to mess around with the eee-lectronics that run the site, with my VCRs, with my car ignition, and with Powerpoint. Here's what he came up with:

And that's the round up.

Overall, I think the Cal has really upped their game.

You can be sure I will be tasting, licking, slurping and drinking all that the Cal has to offer very soon now, and letting you know if the Oxtail Soup is as good as it used to be, and if the Redwood Steakhouse has gone too Holo Holo.

Stay tuned!!!

Update: Redwood Steakhouse is now open.

Update: New Noodle House Menu

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