Dania buffet opens, so it’s date night for the Sortals

Last year, back when CEO Scott Savin was wearing a hard hat and scrambling underneath the skeleton of what is now The Casino @ Dania Beach, he stopped for a moment and mapped out what kind of place he thought the casino would become.

He saw the casino as somewhere a couple might come and have a bite to eat, listen to some music and drop a few bucks into the machines.

And that pretty much describes the experience Mrs. Sortal and I had Saturday night. We wanted to try the buffet, and were attracted by the promise of a dueling-piano set and some time on the machines. (She likes video roulette, I prefer video poker.)

After many delays, the buffet is open. Saturday night’s main meal featured brisket, pulled pork, baked ziti, corn, broccoli, roasted potatoes and pizza squares, with stir-fry and pasta stations nearby. There’s also a salad bar, with peel-and-eat shrimp and soups.

But the clear winner to me was the dessert station, with outstanding chocolate mousse, oatmeal cookie sandwiches, chocolate chip cookies, a sundae bar, fruit and other items. Let’s just say my Weight Watchers points system took a big, big hit. Dania’s press release cites Hedy Goldsmith as pastry chef.

Although the room never even drew 20 patrons in it (discouraging for 7 p.m. on a Saturday), I’d like to point out that it’s very nicely decorated and arranged. Everything is easy to get to, the second floor location is secluded just enough from the main-floor slot action and the décor is modern. (A group of Argentine businessmen bought the casino in 2013, it opened in 2014 and then totally shut down after eight months and the Havenick family, owners of Magic City Casino, bought one-fourth of Dania and now operate it. My hunch is that the Havenicks, who run the market leader in Miami-Dade, might have experienced several change requests and input from their partners.)

I also want to point out an impressive staff at the buffet, named Luxe Gourmet Buffet. (Gourmet = hyperbole.) We were greeted by a woman who apparently is a manager, was walked to our choice of a table or booth and quickly addressed by a server. The shrimp station was manned by a guy who encouraged me to “take some more” and the sundae station was staffed by a young woman who clearly enjoyed her job. The buffet is open from 6-11 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays for $25 and for brunch 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sundays for $21.

Anyway, we enjoyed the free piano show (guys, email me a link to NickSortal@BellSouth.net and I’ll link you), who drew a crowd to the free staging area on the first floor, and when they took a break, we headed to the video poker-blackjack-roulette room, a little separate from the main slot floor. I had a little more luck than Mrs. Sortal, hitting quads twice on my usual $1.25-a-push Jacks or Better, so we left with a few more bucks than we came with.

Mrs. Sortal’s lament, which I agree with, is that it would have been nice to also have had jai-alai action running. The players are on their annual hiatus back to Spain for big tournaments, and action resumes in mid-September. (But a caution that the sessions are booked at odd times, so check before you go.)

I also need to write the obligatory paragraph that Dania’s business (less than $2 million per month in slot action) is lagging at about half of southeast Broward rivals Mardi Gras Casino and Gulfstream Park). I enjoy all three, and we have made each of them date night venues. (I know, she’s a lucky, lucky woman.) But, hey, isn’t this the idea of a local casino?

Twitter: @NickSortal