Located less than an hour from Tunica, Mississippi is one of the South’s hottest casino properties, Southland Casino Hotel. From what was once a greyhound track, the property has been completely transformed into what is today a luxurious casino resort with a 300-room hotel and plenty of dining options to enjoy.
We had the opportunity to catch up with executive chef, Josh Marling, to hear more about what he and his team do to deliver great dining experiences time and time again.
Listen to the full interview:
Douglas Dreisbach: Casinos are known for having premium dining options and Southland has certainly raised the bar in that space over the last few years. Tell us a little bit about yourself and how long have you been a chef and been at Southland?
Chef Josh Marling: I started with Delaware North in the casino about 20 years ago as a dishwasher in Wheeling, West Virginia, and worked my way up through the ranks with the company. I have been at Southland for about eight years now. The team has worked very hard to get the property up to where it is now, and it shows. We are excited to showcase it.
GDD: How do you ensure the best quality of food for your guests?
JM: We spend a lot of time looking for locally sourced items for Southland. We put a lot of effort into going to farms and making sure their farming practices are where they should be. Then we try to feature those items on the menu on a consistent basis with the seasons and push that quality forward.
GDD: When you are looking at farming practices, what kind of practices and standards are you looking for?
JM: We look for several things when we visit, and really try to use locally sourced product from within an hour of the property. When we look at our pork, we make sure it is humanely raised in a pasture, not in a pen, so we look at those kinds of things as well, and how they’re actually raised and taken care of.
GDD: Can you taste the difference from what you just mentioned, ranged free, to non-range free or cage kept?
JM: Absolutely. Our thought is that if it’s a happy pig, it’s more tender and more flavorful. We know that they did everything right just to get it to the table.
GDD: The property has undergone many enhancements over the last few years. Tell us about some of the updates and additions that guests will see from a dining perspective and if they haven’t been in a few years, why they should come back.
JM: Well, every restaurant in the building is new, except for one. You can go to the Ignite Steakhouse, which is our upscale steakhouse, and the moment you walk in, you see everything that’s on the menu in a meat display case making for a great first impression and dining experience. Everything is cooked on charcoal. Steaks are cooked on charcoal, which is locally sourced from Missouri. You can also go to the Fry House, and everything is cooked to order, nothing is frozen. Everything is fresh. The buffet, which is called The Kitchens, is also a unique dining experience as everything is cooked to order on the line. We employ that everything stays hot and fresh, so we cook to order based on the crowd and we really strive for freshness and quality in our buffet. We also have The Grind and Seasons Café, which is our coffee bar and our casual breakfast area, as well.
GDD: At Ignite Steakhouse, what are some of the menu items that are popular with your guests?
JM: Our 12-ounce center-cut filet is popular. We have a hickory molasses rub that goes on the steak before it hits the charcoal. We throw a couple pieces of pecan wood on there to get a little flavor into the steak. You can literally cut it with a fork. It is that tender. We really strive for a 23-day wet age for the steak, so it adds an extra flavor to the steak. Also, our chicken is fantastic. It is from a local farm out of West Tennessee, and we serve it with Mississippi grits, also locally sourced, and a pan sauce.
GDD: In your opinion, what is the perfect dining experience, and how do you try to provide that for your guests at Southland?
JM: At Southland, from the moment that you walk in the steakhouse you are welcomed with a greeting, and we show off the meat cooler to familiarize the guests with what they are about to order. When they walk into the dining room, they can see the glass enclosed kitchen and the chefs preparing the food they are about to enjoy from when it goes onto the grill, see it cooked, get onto the plate, and served. So, we try to strive to provide the best experience for guests from the moment they walk in the door.
DD: In closing, why should guests come to Southland for a great dining experience?
JM: We really strive to bring the freshest quality food to you, as quick as possible, as fast as possible, and as fresh as possible.
For more reservations and more information, visit SouthlandCasino.com or call 1-800-467-6182.