The 27th annual Best In the West Nugget Rib Cook-Off brought 500,000 barbecue lovers to the Nugget Casino Resort in Sparks over the Labor Day weekend. Under clear blue skies and moderate heat, they ate a quarter-million pounds of pork spareribs prepared by 24 professional cookers from around the nation.
The sprawling outdoor venue for the five-day feast, Victorian Square, was pandemonium. Meanwhile, inside the hectic Nugget, John’s Oyster Bar kept doing what it’s done for 56 years. It’s an old-school holdout from the 2013 sale of the former John Ascuaga’s Nugget to Global Gaming & Hospitality, which ended a half-century of family ownership.
You will no longer find a pu pu platter at the Nugget’s Trader Dick’s retro Polynesian restaurant that opened in the 1950s (it’s now a Gilley’s country-themed nightclub), but the four-star seafood pan roasts are still on John’s Oyster Bar menu. We dropped by.
The pan roast – an upscale cross between a bisque and a seafood stew – has long been a staple at the legendary oyster bar at Grand Central Station in New York City. The inspiration for the Nugget’s version came from there. Quoting from the menu: “This is the aristocrat of all stews and is cooked to your order with the very finest of spices, white wine, clam broth, cream, butter, special cocktail sauce, a drop of lemon and your choice of seafood.”
The fragrant lobster pan roast was chunky with pieces of succulent Maine lobster; we accentuated it with old-fashioned oyster crackers and dashes of Tabasco sauce ($17; options include oysters, shrimp, crab and a combo). You know the saying: “The next time you’re in town...”