The Horseshoe Casino, close to the South Baltimore spot where sports fans roar and highways crisscross overhead, is worth a visit—even if don’t have a taste for gambling. The carpets pulse in hues of brown and gold, the chandeliers drip glittering light, live lounge music bounces from the landings and the parking is free. Did I mention the dizzying choice of eateries? Welcome to sensory and gustatory overload. The Horseshoe planners, headed up by Caesars Entertainment, fought hard for permission and spent more than $442 million to build the place. The ground floor is buzzy with gambling machines and heavy with food choices.
The Marketplace, a food court proffering Baltimore goodies, curves around the Russell Street side in the shape of, well, a horseshoe. B’more Beers, a bar specializing in local brews like Union Craft, Brewer’s Art and Stillwater (and yea, Natty Boh) sits at its center, while a Heavy Seas burger joint, Tark’s at the ’Shoe, and a Lenny’s Delicatessen outpost offer short-order windows. Mallow Bar—a dessert and coffee shop featuring local entrepreneur Nikki Lewis’ gooey variations on Rice Krispie treats—has a brightly lit café area where you can sip a frothy drink or share a sweet. Try, for example, fondue for two—pots of chocolate and caramel with marshmallows and strawberries for dipping (you can also have it spiked with wine).
Johnny Sánchez, a brand new concept from chefs John Besh and Aáron Sánchez (who met as youngsters working in New Orleans and later competed on the Food Network’s “Iron Chef”), is a brightly colored taqueria with menu items like squash blossom quesadillas, goat stew and suckling pig tacos. The margarita list is inventive—try the prickly pear or blackberry and mezcal—and there’s a Bulleit Rye cocktail with ancho chili and chocolate bitters. The restaurant is decorated with colorful light fixtures and fiery red abstract paintings, and a DJ spins every night beginning at 9.
Jack Binion’s Steakhouse, named for the Dallas native and Horseshoe founder, is just what you’d expect: slabs of beef (many single servings are 16 ounces) and pricey sides ($8 for a baked potato). But save room for dessert. Seriously. Baltimore’s own Duff Goldman’s Charm City Cakes dominate the dessert menu, including Bananas Foster cake, white cake with berries and white chocolate ganache, and red velvet cake. It’s like Jack Binion himself is admonishing us all to eat cake.
Guy Fieri’s is as brash as you’d expect with in-your-face options like the Off-da-Hook Burger, higher than it is wide with a fat fried onion ring crunch in the middle. Even the turkey sandwich (here called Pic-a-Nik), is described as “chillin’” on its “awesome pretzel hoagie smeared with donkey sauce.” After reading a certain New York Times review, aren’t we all just a little bit curious about what the host of “Diners, Drive-ins and Dives” shovels up for Charm City?