Last week I had the chance to tour the much anticipated and newly opened Horseshoe Casino Cleveland inside the historic Higbee building in downtown Cleveland. Like many other native Clevelanders, I have fond memories of our family’s yearly Christmastime trek downtown to have breakfast with Santa on the tenth floor at the famous Higbee’s Silver Grille. Needless to say, I was anxious to see the results of the $350 million transformation of this nostalgic icon into an urban casino.
Rock Ohio Caesars LLC (ROC), a joint venture between Rock Gaming LLC and Caesars Entertainment Corporation, has gone to great lengths to preserve and highlight the historic character of the 81-year old building, transforming four floors into a full-service gaming destination. The 96,000 square-foot gaming areas offer approximately 2,100 slot machines, 63 table games, a 30-table World Series of Poker room and a VIP players lounge and have breathed new life into the mostly vacant building. Much of the interior has been redone, but a definite nod to days-gone-by. It’s easy to get swept up by the glitz and glam of the sparkling casino, but beyond that you will see the details of the original building restored to its former self.
Upon entering the casino a sense of energy overtakes you. It’s the excitement of Clevelanders from all walks of life enjoying an afternoon downtown on what would otherwise be a quiet location. I was there on a Thursday afternoon and the casino was packed, and to my surprise the only line I saw was a group of hungry gamers at “The Spread,” the casino’s 400-seat, 12,000-square-foot buffet on the lower level. I could easily spend an afternoon there with all the culinary possibilities. Executive chef Steven Varga is a Northern Ohio native who returned from two decades spent as a chef in Las Vegas casinos. Seven themed food stations are filled with decadent desserts (including the revolving gelato station), hand-carved prime rib stations and global cuisine.
It was noted that the chefs, including Matthew Jankowski, formerly of Blue Point Grille and Rosewood Grill, and pastry chef Faye Foote of Foote Farms in Valley View take great pride in creating farm-to-table fresh dishes. And if that was not enough to make you hungry, the second floor of the casino hosts a food court setting with local favorites like Michael Symon’s B Spot Burgers, Rocco Whalen’s Rosie & Rocco’s and Corky & Lenny’s.
Additionally, the casino has partnered with nearly a dozen restaurants downtown to offer fine dining experiences to its guests through their Total Rewards program. Preferred relationships also allow the casino to offer guests overnight accommodations at three premium downtown hotels: The ROC-owned Ritz- Carlton, Cleveland, the Renaissance Cleveland and the Marriott at Key Center.
It’s an exciting time for Cleveland and the casino has added a much-needed burst of energy with officials estimating five million customers a year, adding to yet another reason why Cleveland ROCs.