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I have nothing against casinos, but honestly, gambling is not really my thing. Do you know what is my thing? Restaurants. And the still relatively new Saracen Casino Resort in Pine Bluff has one–Red Oak Steakhouse–that should provide a real shot in the arm to the area.
The steakhouse is the crown jewel eating experience of the resort, but with that said, there is no shortage of fast-casual options scattered throughout the facility. Red Oak resides in the back, so prepare for a short jaunt through a huge hall filled with gambling folks and the faint aroma of cigarette smoke.
Fortunately, Red Oak itself is smoke-free. It is a beautifully modern space, highlighted with various works of art and stone accent walls. The bar is in the front, and the kitchen, filled with chefs and cooks doing their thing, is in the back. There is even a meat chamber on a side wall, showcasing the aging process of Red Oak’s prime beef.
As with most steakhouses, Red Oak’s menu is small, focused, and appropriately steak-centric. Our group shared appetizers of Arkansas Root Beer Glazed Pork Belly, Jumbo Lump Crab Cake, and Tuna Poke. While I would rate each as successful meal starters, the crab cake, with its heavy hand of sweet crab and accompanying slightly spicy remoulade, was my clear-cut favorite. The unctuous pork belly needed some heat to balance its sweetness, and the poke could have done well with a little less aioli.
For my entrée, I went with the Mixed Grill, which allowed me to sample a few of the menu’s proteins like the 6-ounce filet, pork sausage, and a lamb chop, all on one plate. The $55 price tag proved to be a reasonable value for the well-prepared meats. The filet was cooked just a touch over my medium rare request, but had a nice crust and was something I would not hesitate to order again. Carnivores with a bigger appetite might want to consider a bone-in ribeye, which can be upgraded to an A5 Kobe. Red Oak also features a signature bison tenderloin that I came very close to ordering. Maybe next time. I passed on dessert, but my tablemate’s deconstructed cheesecake was a fun play on another steakhouse classic.
Overall, my first experience at Red Oak was a good one. Service, as expected, was attentive and professional. Were there a few missteps with the food? Yes, but all were easily correctable, and nothing was so egregious as to prohibit a future visit. Red Oak is a restaurant that has left a little meat on the bone in terms of improvement. As time goes on, I envision this restaurant will get better and better.
However, one thing is certain right now: Red Oak is a huge addition to Pine Bluff and the surrounding areas.
Red Oak Steakhouse
1 Saracen Resort Drive (Pine Bluff)
Hours: Thursday-Sunday 5 p.m.-10 p.m.
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