The Cuisine Scene
Brenda Hill

San Manuel Casino
Serrano Buffet
Highland, CA

What is the best thing to happen to a local grandmother who has two grandchildren in Florida? To have them move to California.

That recently happened. Not both, though, as Kyle, the sixteen-year-old, is still in high school. But Amanda, beautiful, willowy Amanda, who turned twenty-one in May, recently arrived to go to college. For now she’s staying with her dad, my son, and his wonderful new family. Now I have my new grandson, Sean, eleven, and Amanda. If it were possible for me, a short, matronly grandmother to do handsprings, I’d be springing down the street.

I love to catch up on all the latest news over food, which is why I’m so well-padded. Not sure of Amanda’s preferences, I suggested a buffet, and the place with the largest selection is a casino. After checking online, San Manuel looked like the best lunch bargain at $9.95. Armed with my camera and wearing elastic-waist slacks, off we went.

Taking I-10 W to CA-30W, we exited on Highland Avenue and turned right. Then left on Victoria to the casino. Since it was a hot, sunny day, I decided to splurge and go for valet service, well-worth the $3.00 to pull up to shaded front doors and have someone else worry about parking.

Once inside, we admired the amber ceiling fixtures then strolled by the jingling slot machines to the Serrano Buffet. I paid the cashier, and Amanda and I entered a food lover’s paradise. Muted amber and yellow lighting combined with shiny earth-toned tiles created a warm and cozy atmosphere. Tables and booths stood on each side of the dessert island directly ahead, and a variety of pies, cakes, and cookies let us know we were in for a treat. Some of our choices included carrot cake, lemon meringue pie, fruit pies, cobblers, cookies, and macaroons. They even offered a variety of sugar-free selections. But the crème de la crème was the tray of chocolate-covered strawberries.

On the far end of the island soups and salads sat beside fresh fruit. Rolls and muffins accompanied the two soups of the day. Just the soups, salads, and deserts would have been worth the trip, but knowing more delights awaited us, we headed for the food line in back.

Stretching from wall to wall, the buffet held steaming arrays of Asian, American, Italian, and Mexican dishes. Plates in hand, Amanda and I strolled from one end to the other, trying to decide what to sample. From the Italian section, we had our choice of four pizzas, including Shrimp Alfredo. If that wasn’t to our taste, we could select tortellini with roasted red peppers in cream sauce or another pasta dish with garlic bread. From the Asian section, there was sesame chicken salad, vegetable egg rolls, orange chicken and Goo Moo Gai Pan. They even had sushi.

As much as I enjoyed sampling some of the dishes, I went straight for the carving bar and the BBQ ribs, spicy and delicious with little fat. Also offered was a top round roast, ham, fried chicken, roast chicken, beef stew, fish, and vegetables. They even had meatloaf in gravy.

Since the casino requires a forty-eight-hour notice to snap photos, Amanda and enjoyed our lunch that day, catching up on her plans for work and school, and I made arrangements to return two days later. Oh, the sacrifices I make for my work . . .

Two days later, Gwen Kleist, Public Relations Specialist, escorted me to the buffet. We were greeted by Garrett McKeeman, the Food & Beverage Executive Chef, who was gracious enough to answer questions about the food and its preparation. I complimented him on the BBQ ribs, and he explained that they’re smoked on the premise and prepared Memphis-style with a dry rub. I also loved the fried chicken, which was tender and crisp without a heavy breading. He said they use a flour base and fresh chickens. All their soups are homemade and their pizza dough is handformed. Eighty-percent of their food, he said, is made from scratch.

And the desserts. The carrot cake was moist and not overly sweet, and even with the multitude of choices, I loved the cookies with a chocolate drop in the center. I'd wanted to try them because the dough had that look of freshness, as if they’d just come from the oven. And I was right—they were flakey and light. Chocolate Thumb Prints, Chef McKeeman called them. I called them delicious.

Left to Right:

Anthony Olivas--Pastry Chef, Garrett McKeeman, CEC--Food & Beverage Executive Chef, Joe Craighead--Food & Beverage Sous Chef.

I’ll return soon. With hamburgers and sandwiches running around five dollars and extra for drinks, the buffet is a delicious bargain.

Lunch buffet $9.95, Monday–Friday 11am–3pm
Saturday 10am–3pm

Dinner Buffet $14.95 Monday-Thursday 4pm-10pm, including Prime Rib, Rotisserie Chicken, Ribs.

Friday Seafood Night $21.95 4pm-11pm, including Peel & Eat Shrimp, Snow Crab, Smoked Salmon, Mussels, Clams, Shrimp
Scampi and Lobster Tail

Big Night Out! $21.95 Saturday 4pm-11pm Prime Rib, steaks Cooked to Order, Shrimp & Lobster

Sunday All Day Dinner Buffet $14.95 10am-10pm Prime Rib & Shrimp Buffet

777 San Manuel Blvd, Highland, CA 1-800-359-2464