Robert Arends

Winning! Chic New Viejas Hotel Opens in East County

Viejas Casino and Resort
Viejas Casino and Resort

Viejas Casino & Resort

Yours truly was invited to the grand opening of the new Viejas Hotel, located in the rolling foothills of Alpine next door to Viejas Casino and across the street from the popular Viejas Outlets.

Their new name is Viejas Casino & Resort. Did you know: the Viejas Band of Kumeyaay Indians becomes San Diego’s fifth tribe to open a hotel connected to its casino.

The shindig will include a ribbon cutting, traditional Kumeyaay songs and a Native American blessing, and sneak peek of “Rise,” a dramatic new Cirque-style show that premieres at the hotel this Saturday, followed by a spectacular fireworks display. I can’t wait!

What to Expect at the New Viejas Hotel

Rendering of chic new Viejas Hotel

Rendering of chic new Viejas Hotel

The sophisticatedly modern $36 million hotel is 5 stories high and features 128 rooms (including 29 suites), a pool and hot tub with cabanas (SO SoCal!), state-of-the-art fitness center, free Internet/WiFi, and an expanded all-you-can-eat buffet next door. Each room has 40″ Samsung TVs, locally made furniture and art, nightly turn down service, his and her robes (nice touch!), iPod clock radios and Gilchrist & Soames bath and body products. Some suites even include fireplaces, tubs with whirlpool jets (just say ahhh!) and wet bars (I’ll toast to that 😉 ).

Rendering of Presidential Suite at Viejas Hotel

Rendering of Presidential Suite at Viejas Hotel

A few months back I explored the model guestrooms and I’ve got to say, they’re swanky, warm and inviting, with a metropolitan touch that reminds me of chic boutique hotels in Manhattan. There’s nothing else like it in these parts!

More to do near Viejas Casino & Resort

This spring as you explore the wildflowers of East County, stop by Viejas Casino & Resort to play the slots, shop 60 name-brand outlet stores, indulge at the buffet and rest your head for a memorable overnight stay amidst the beautiful backdrop of Alpine’s rural setting.

Insider tip: While you’re there, pick up a $5 bag of fresh avocados or oranges from one of the roadside vendors!

Sage & Songbirds Festival - Butterflies

Butterfly releases at Sage & Songbirds Festival.

And planning ahead… Time your visit to also check out Alpine’s 16th Annual Sage & Songbirds Garden Tour on May 3-5, featuring a free festival at Viejas Outlets that includes a live butterfly exhibit and daily butterfly releases, plus an outdoor plant and art sale. There will also be garden tours of local bird- and butterfly-friendly home gardens and the Sky Hunters raptor rehabilitation facility, home to magnificent hawks, owls and other bird of prey. Cost for the gardens/Sky Hunters tour is $15 per person before April 1.

Brent Bernasconi

Dana Carvey’s World Ticket Giveaway

That is right ladies and gentlemen, Dana Carvey, the man who brought us the ever frowning Church Lady and the awkward but lovable Garth, is coming to Sycuan Casino on Friday, June 17th.

As a bonus for those who love San Diego, Sycuan has given us two tickets to giveaway. To enter, all you need to do is leave a comment by Sunday,  June 5 at 11:59 pm, on this blog telling us your favorite Dana Carvey celebrity impersonation. If you need some reminding, Wikipedia has a great list for you. Mine would be George Bush, “Not Gonna Do It.”

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Make sure to “Like” Sycuan Casino on Facebook, using the button above, to show them a little love for giving away these great tickets! If you are not the winner, you can always order tickets for what is going to be a great show.

To order tickets for Dana Carvey’s standup show on Friday, June 17th, click here.

Now for your viewing pleasure, below is a comedy routine involving Dana Carvey and a guitar (warning, there is some explicit material, this may not be suitable for folk singers or lead guitarists).

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5 To Try New Restaurants

bandiniFrontMediumHungry?  Just a little?

Here’s five new eateries to whet your appetite:

  • Claire’s on Cedros, an eco-friendly bakery and café, opened in Solana Beach earlier this month as the first freestanding restaurant in the U.S. to receive Platinum LEED certification. The laid back, dog-friendly restaurant offers organic eats (natch) for breakfast and lunch. 
  • Also in August, The Red Door opened in Mission Hills with affordable New American comfort food for dinner daily, lunch on weekdays and brunch on weekends. Priced below $20, dinner entrees include cornmeal-crusted Cajun catfish with sweet potato-crab hash and a surf & “cheeky” turf with sea scallops, braised pork cheek, roasted garlic jus and crispy polenta.  Um, hello?  Yum. 
  • Here’s a double – Barona Resort & Casinoin San Diego’s East County opened two restaurants in July and both are great values (and good for those of us playing the penny slots).  Italian Cucina serves classic Italian dishes, pizzas, calzone and pasta all priced under $20 while Seafood Plaza offers grilled items, priced from $6.95 to $12.95, oysters at the raw bar and signature rolls at the sushi bar. 
  • In June, Cucina Urbana opened in Banker’s Hill adjacent to Balboa Park serving affordable Italian regional cuisine with a local farm-to-table ethos (no menu item tops $20). Crazy good starters include seasonal pickled vegetables, pate and other spreads served in mini mason jars and antipasti like amazing fried squash blossoms with ricotta, purple basil pesto and lemon aioli.  Innovative pastas and modern spins on classic Italian entrees round out the menu.  The restaurant is open daily for dinner. 
  • Also in June, a long-time San Diego favorite returned with the opening of Casa de Bandini in Carlsbad.  For more than 25 years, the restaurant was a fixture in Old Town and, once again, diners can enjoy the ambiance of Old Mexico with strolling mariachis, brightly colored umbrellas on a sunny outdoor patio, authentic regional cuisine and giant, frosty margaritas. Open daily for lunch and dinner.

Okay, I can’t stop at just five.  Just one more because, in San Diego you can never have too many great new restaurants.  Especially when they’re serving up frosty margaritas.

  • Casa de Reyes in Old Town State Historic Park reopened in May with a new chef, menu and bright cheerful design. The restaurant has always been popular for outdoor dining so they doubled the size of the patio and added a new shade arbor and dramatic fire pits.  Salsas are made fresh daily; each burrito is served with a specially prepared sauce, and chili rellenos are made the old fashioned way with a creamy, homemade cheese sauce. The restaurant is open daily for breakfast, lunch, dinner and – yes! – margaritas. 
Benjamin Eastman

This Is Why They Don’t Call It San Diego Hold Em’!

The other weekend, the guys and I took a little trip to a destination famous for its gambling opportunities and had a great time.  But in truth, I spent very little time at the tables and slots.  Why did I forgo this intregal part of the trip, you ask?  ‘Cause I’ve got plenty of opportunities to gamble here in San Diego when the mood strikes!

Barona Casino

Barona Casino

San Diego has numerous Indian Casinos in our East and North county regions. In all honesty, I’m not a huge gambler but do enjoy it for the entertainment value every once in a while. After a few months of playing poker online, I work up the courage to head over to one of the Indian Casinos and try my luck with some real money.  San Diego casinos that I’ve visited and enjoyed are:  Barona Valley Ranch Resort & Casino, Sycuan Resort & Casino and Viejas CasinoOutlet Center.

My last casino visit was to the Barona Valley Ranch Resort & Casino a couple of months ago. Barona recently won like 25 awards for their casino, so I figured I should roll someplace recognized as a leader in their field.  Unfortunately, my online Texas Hold ‘Em skills weren’t quite honed to perfection that night, and the fine ladies and gentlemen at my table quickly added my $40 to their stacks of chips.  Vowing to return one day and sweep the table, I cheered myself up with an amazing steak dinner at Barona’s Oaks Steakhouse – absolutely fantastic!  Definitely one of the better steakhouses that I’ve eaten at.

Ranch House Buffet at Barona Ranch Resort & Casino

Ranch House Buffet at Barona Ranch Resort & Casino

If you’re a casino regular, you’re also well familiar with the concept of the casino buffet.  I’ve had the pleasure of eating at Barona’s Ranch House Buffet, and I gotta say that my mouth still waters thinking about it.  Now, I’m not a huge buffet guy, but when I do a buffet, I do it big!  The Ranch House Buffet has multiple islands of different types of foods (I think my first plate had sushi, macaroni & cheese, salad and carne asada on it). I definitely ate my fill that day!  In fact, I’ve even been tempted to drive out to Barona just to do Sunday brunch there!