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Café to Café


Tulalip Resort Casino

Dining Options

Historically, casino food hasn't been fantastic. That has changed: the emphasis on quality food and beverage has gone up amazingly. Tulalip Resort Casino has made it one of their missions to offer an unforgettable dining experience. It's worth the drive just to eat there (although it's worth a stay: see part 1 of this story).

For Tulalip, it's first and foremost about what their guests want. As Director of Food and Beverage Lisa Severn explains, "We have a passion for creating a quality and memorable dining experience for whatever our guests crave. Marketing surveys of our guests tell us what they want. Once we have an understanding, we start to work on analyzing the feasibility of the concepts and build from there. We also stay abreast of current restaurant trends and see what might fit at Tulalip. Then we have our culinary team put their special spin on it."

Tulalip Resort Casino opened in 2003, with a major food outlet expansion in 2008. Executive Chef Perry Mascitti (photo) arrived in 2007 prior to the expansion. The Resort team had him hire a chef for each outlet. "Adding these positions allowed us to make Tulalip a culinary destination; when the hotel was added in August 2008, a number of additional changes were made to food and beverage options," says Perry. Before he arrived, guests were introduced to Tulalip's coffee blend, Killer Coffee. Then a new espresso bar was added to the hotel lobby; Cedars Café was moved from the gaming floor to a new location; Blackfish was designed and built in the former Cedars location; Eagles Buffet had a major renovation (new food, large dessert and salad island, Mongolian grill station, with a redesign of the dining room itself); major menu changes were implemented at The Carvery; Destinations Lounge was added to the hotel lobby, including a full bar and lounge setting with piano; new banquet and catering facility/kitchen was created; the former nightclub was turned into The Draft Sports Bar and Grill; Journeys East was designed and built; and most recently Blazing Paddles Pizza outlet was added. "As the Executive Chef, it was difficult for me to watch pizza delivery made to our hotel guests. From my suggestion to the opening of Blazing Paddles was 18 months. Now our focus is on planning a new dining concept, it will be fun and big. BIG. Right now, we're in the planning stages."

New concepts are not easy. "Ideas are discussed in group meetings, looking at who our guests are and what they want. Then we develop diagrams of the concept. Based on that, I develop a suggested menu outline and the F&B management team does restaurant layouts. It goes to the Tulalip Board of Directors for review. Once approved, the plans go to an architect, and the restaurant is built. The staff does menu tastings in one of our existing kitchens to finalize the menu. A new management team is hired and trained; then they hire new team members. Simple, right?" laughs Perry.

Sourcing wise, "Each concept has a different demographic and it wouldn't make sense to serve imported truffles at $300/pound at Eagles Buffet," says Perry. "The chefs' number one consideration is good, wholesome quality whatever the outlet. We source locally, but also from imported product carriers, and broad-based carriers for things like yellow onions and celery."

In addition to restaurants, they do many events. According to Lisa, what to do is based on seasonality and partnerships with vendors. "We're in the entertainment business, and it's crucial that our events provide an exceptional and memorable experience," says Lisa. Sommelier and Wine Buyer Tom Thompson adds, "We enjoy introducing guests to the A-list spirits/wine/beer we offer, giving them the opportunity to experience what we're doing and where we'll continue to go to make their Tulalip visits memorable. We bring people in from all types of backgrounds who are well known in their industries. Their time is valuable and they are selective about where they present their product, which speaks volumes to their quality."

With many restaurants and events, the job of procuring beverages is vast. "Oh, this is the worst part of my job," Tom (at left) laughs. "Not really! I taste regularly and listen to background stories of the products. In our search to find unique pours, I don't wish to duplicate what someone else is doing at their property nearby. I'm a huge fan of supporting local products whenever possible. This is reflective in our wine program property-wide; we have upward of 1,000 different wine selections and over 60% of these are from Washington and Oregon. This is how we've been able to secure some extremely hard-to-find, limited wine offerings, allowing us to offer "cult" wines by the glass, and verticals from these wineries. I also love international wines and they are well-received by our guests. We are fortunate to be able to offer some of the most sought-after wines in the world, from DRC 'La Tache,' to Screaming Eagle, Chateau Lafite, and beyond. Our list features wines from France, Italy, Greece, Portugal, Spain, New Zealand, South Africa and more."

In terms of pairing wines to menus, Tom tries to create a list that will complement each of the restaurants' culinary programs. "In addition, I see from monthly recaps what our guests prefer to drink. It's a balance between those two things creating an ever-evolving program, which is why it's so enjoyable for me. Spirits are the same as wine: local is on fire from organic vodka, craft whiskeys, and amazing liqueurs. And just look around: everyone is making beer now. You'll find a vast selection of local craft beers available at our outlets."

You can see that at every level, the people of Tulalip Resort Casino want to offer guests a fun culinary experience. People leaving happier than when they arrived is job one. As Chef Perry says, "Tulalip is not just a casino with food, it is a fun, culinary destination with endless creative possibilities!"

Blackfish restaurant


Tulalip Resort Casino
10200 Quil Ceda Blvd
Tulalip, WA 98271

Connie Adams/October 2017

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