Saratoga Casino debuts summer BBQ buffet
By Vi Cooper
The Colorado Gambler has a confession: We never met a grand opening we didn’t love. This time, we ventured to Black Hawk to visit the summer barbecue buffet on-site at Saratoga Casino’s Garden Buffet.
The brainchild of Executive Chef and Director of Food and Beverage Brian Grzyb, the season-long menu offers a host of home-style American favorites, ranging from miner’s slow smoked pulled pork and big home-style smoked brisket to fire-pot baked beans and hot roasted sweet corn and much, much more.
Chef Grzyb believes his spread is the only complete barbecue menu in town, but, he adds, “If anyone else does it, they don’t do it as well as we do.”
The Chicago native was driving to Evanston to enroll at Northwestern University, when, he recalls, he realized he preferred a career as a chef and turned around and headed for culinary school at the Cooking and Hospitality Institute of Chicago. His first job was washing dishes and mopping floors, graduated to cooking at a number of well-known restaurants in Chicago and ultimately, from sous chef to executive chef and director.
He says the secret to the deep, rich flavor of the variety of food on the menu can be traced to the careful attention afforded each dish and the development of the special sauces that accompany them. For example, the Carolina-style pulled pork is slow roasted eight full hours and served with an accompanying apple cider vinegar, sugar and mustard sauce we found unique.
“We cook it all right here, starting from scratch, every day,” Grzyb said.
The buffet’s mountain-style beer brats are served with caramelized onions and a beer glaze that imparts a smoky tang to the dish. The chef spent some time at the holy grail of barbecue, Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi.
A work of art is the blast cap bacon explosion, an Italian sausage and ground beef combination that is then wrapped in lattice-laced bacon and glazed with a smoked barbecue sauce, creating a moist yet meaty hearty entree. The sweet Baby Ray’s barbecued spare ribs are another product of patient, long-term roasting, resulting in meat that literally falls off the bone.
For traditionalists, the menu includes garden-herb grilled chicken breasts, Mississippi honey barbecue chicken quarters, fried chicken, turkey and stuffing, fried catfish, Cajun smoked sausage and skewered beef.
Besides the baked beans and corn, side dishes include cowboy potato casserole (a combination of grilled potatoes and special seasonings), spicy collard greens, baked macaroni and cheese, mashed potatoes, roasted vegetables, lima beans and cabbage with bacon.
There is a range of salads, including a fully loaded salad bar. There are special soups daily (with corn bread and rolls) and for dessert, there’s Auntie B’s bread pudding, Sweeties’ strawberry shortcake, Granny’s old-time apple cobbler and a wide selection of slab-mixed ice cream. Non-alcoholic drinks are included in the $10.99 price (with player’s card, $12.99 without card). A full bar is also on site.
Saratoga Casino’s Garden Buffet will feature the barbecue menu through Labor Day, although Chef Grzyb could probably be persuaded to extend the season if demand warranted a longer stay. The 124-seat dining room is open Monday through Thursday from noon until 7 p.m.; Friday and Saturday from noon until 10 p.m.; and Sunday from noon until 8 p.m. There is a rooftop outdoor dining space that seats 30 people, with reservations recommended to ensure prompt seating.