Don't let the doors fool you.
Entering The Pines Steakhouse and Lounge at the San Manuel Casino can be surprising to newcomers. The wall of frosted glass with two almost invisible door handles in the middle separates the intimacy of The Pines from the hustle and bustle of the casino action. Once you find those handles and open the doors, it's like entering a whole different world.
That world can best be described as retro-romantic, the type of place Frank Sinatra would have taken Ava Gardner some 50 years ago.
You can almost hear The Chairman warble a couple of "doo-be-doo-be-doos." In fact, five minutes into a recent visit, Sinatra began crooning "I've Got My Love to Keep Me Warm" on the sound system in the background. Get into that '50s mode and enjoy this intimate dining area that includes red leather-like seating and a lot of chrome and glass. There are several semi-private booths spread throughout the restaurant that are perfect for a romantic dinner.
And, in case you aren't a total romantic, 30 televisions can be found overhead playing that night's big or not-so-big sports event.
And if you are a romantic, stick around until 10 p.m. on weekends as they convert the quiet, romantic restaurant into an animated ultra lounge with dancing. DJs and Latin dancing are featured certain nights of the week.
The food is brought to the table in ample portions with a tantalizing presentation. The menu offers a wide variety of steaks with a few other options for those not so keen on red meat. The steaks range from a top-of-the-line petit filet mignon to a ribeye (above) a 24-ounce Porterhouse. Each entrée comes with the choice of baked or mashed potato or French fries.
Even better than the presentation is the taste of the food. The appetizer salad was tossed in the perfect amount of ranch dressing and garnished with tomatoes and watermelon radish. The petite filet mignon was cooked just as asked and tender to the bite. The pan-seared chicken breast was moist and flavorful; you can tell a lot about a chef by how well he or she prepares chicken.
To finish off the meal, there are a wide variety of dessert choices created by an in-house pastry chef. The chocolate mousse cake was presented at one end of a long sample plate with a quinnell of fresh whipped cream sprinkled with berries at the other end.
If you are looking for something to drink along with your meal, the restaurant offers an extensive wine list to please any palate or pair with any meal.
The Pines offers high-end service from the moment you walk in the door. From the immediate greeting by the host to the constant but not overpowering attention from the waitress, the service hits the right note - just like Sinatra.
If you like the casino action, or even if you don't, and want a high-end restaurant full of romance and a lot of well-prepared and well-presented food, The Pines Steakhouse is your place.
Just don't let those frosted doors fool you.
Where: San Manuel Indian Bingo & Casino, 777 San Manuel Blvd, Highland
Hours: 5-10 p.m. Thursday through Sunday
Entrees: Various steaks, chicken, seafood, lamb, appetizers, $20-$42. Prix fixe dinner for $32.95 includes choice of shrimp scampi, prime rib, Chilean sea bass or free-range chicken.
Drinks: Extensive wine list
Phone: (909) 425-4889