We had just enjoyed the three-day weekend celebrating Independence Day, Tampa Bay Lightning was to play game four of the Stanley Cup finals and Tropical Storm Elsa, which kept threatening to become a Cat 1 hurricane, was on her way.
Chrissy reminded me that she had received a free night stay at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Tampa. I had only been there once before for about an hour, not nearly enough time to really give it a chance. We decided to do a little gambling, check out the vegan scene and (hopefully) watch Tampa Bay win the Stanley Cup.
One of the main draws of the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino is gambling. They have both smoking and non-smoking sections filled with a large variety of slot machines, poker tables, black jack tables, roulette wheels and so much more. We spent the entire evening trying different slot machines.
I tended to like the bigger machines with more vibrant graphics, like with bright green dragons. Chrissy seemed to like the smaller slots. She also did quite well on those, whereas I not only didn’t have a good night gambling, it turns out that I might just be a slot jinx. Every time Chrissy got a big win, I had walked away.
Vegan Dining Options
The vegan options at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino are embarrassing! While the casino offers fine dining, casual dining and a food court, vegan options would have to be arranged and ordered off-menu.
Furthermore, the woman I spoke to trying to order room service (from Rise Kitchen and Deli) did not seem to understand what vegan is, suggesting a pasta dish with a cream sauce for example and recommending the tomato basil soup come to find out that it had cheese in it.
People were quick to mention that the Hard Rock Cafe offers the Impossible burger, a product I don’t particularly like. But, to actually made this dish vegan, I would have to ask them to hold the cheese and ask if there was milk or honey in their bun, as well as ask how the onion rings that come on top were cooked. What a hassle! Every restaurant was like this or worse. I could get the edamame or lil Tokyo veggie roll at Rock n’ Raw or the chips and salsa from the Pool Bar and Grill, but couldn’t find any substantial meal on any of the restaurants’ online menus.
So, we decided to go to the Rise Kitchen and Deli and order the garden pasta (rigatoni, roasted peppers, grilled squash, wild mushrooms, light cream sauce with toasted pine nuts, parmesan) and ask them to substitute the cream sauce and remove the parmesan. The waitress arranged for a sauce of oil and fresh garlic. She quickly came back, however, reporting that the chef claimed there were eggs in the pasta (so glad someone knew what vegan means!) We opted then for just the roasted veggies and pine nuts in the garlic sauce. I must say that despite all the trouble in getting it, this dish did have good flavor and was well-prepared.
While walking around (trying to find that perfect slot machine), we stumbled upon the food court, located in the corner of the first floor between Julbao Palace and the high limit slots. I checked out the four stands there: Shake N’ Burger, Sirrco’s, Asian Palace and Healthy.
I was delighted to see that Healthy had several vegan options and appeared to be the only food establishment in the entire Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino that had anything vegan without having to substitute or order off-menu. Healthy offers a quinoa bowl (shaved vegetables, hazelnuts, orange and chimichurri sauce), a green lentil bowl (baby arugula, avocado, cauliflower, pine nuts, kale and chimichurri sauce) and wild mushroom and tofu with hummus, roasted red bell peppers and baby arugula.
Oh how I wish I had come across Healthy earlier in the evening! While they are open until midnight during the week (and 2am on the weekends), I had already eaten. I was eager to try their food the next day, but they open at 11am and I had to check out earlier to get home and prep my house for Elsa. Next time, however, I know exactly where to go to find vegan food!
Watching the Stanley Cup Finals
Our visit to the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino coincided with game four of the Stanley Cup finals. Tampa Bay had won the first three games, so game four could have been monumental. The wish, of course, was to sweep the rival team (Montreal Canadiens), an event that NHL fans hadn’t witnessed in 23 years.
Game 4 did not disappoint! Montreal was the first to score and was leading 1-0 at the end of the first period. The Lightning tied it up by the end of a very lively second period full of power plays and plenty of attempts to get shots on net. We entered the third period with an even score of 1-1. Then, the Canadiens score! We needed one goal to tie it and two to win the Stanley Cup. Everyone at the bar was on the edge of their seats knowing that we were possibly only minutes away from sweeping our way to the Stanley Cup!
Then, Tampa Bay Lightning scored!!! I loved the mutual cheers from everyone at the bar, save that one irritating guy rooting for the Habs all night! We went into overtime!
Unfortunately, Tampa Bay did not take advantage of the power play in the first two minutes and the Canadiens easily scored shortly after all the men were back on the ice. So, we didn’t sweep Montreal, but the silver lining is that the next game (Game 5) will be back at home in Tampa Bay. Go Bolts!
Learning About the Seminole
One very enjoyable aspect to the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino was learning a bit about the local Seminole tribe. The linguist in me loved seeing the prominent sign Sho-Na-Bish (Thank You) on the wall, which prompted me to look up more about the Seminole language. I discovered that most Seminole speak Maskókî and/or Mikisúkî.
If you park in the Draper Place Garage, it’s hard to miss this very vibrant display accompanied by a video in the corner as you first enter the building. This scene depicts Ruby Tiger Osceola, a matriarch of the Seminole Tampa community.
While walking from the non-smoking to the smoking casino floors, I stopped into the Rainmaker, a store featuring a variety of Seminole handicrafts, Indian Pride hats, clothing and souvenirs.
I am eager to continue learning about the Seminole history, cuisine, music, traditions, religion and so much more. I never expected to learn anything about anything at a casino to be honest, so this was a wonderful surprise for me.
Spending the Night
The hotel room was spacious with a comfortable bed, nice shower with excellent water pressure and a small lounge area perfect for sitting. It also featured a small fridge, a robe and a Keurig. Checking out was super easy with a drop off box right at the elevators on the casino floor.
There are three complimentary parking garages at Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino (Draper Place, Winners Way and Lucky Street). The one closest to the hotel check in is Lucky Street Garage. It would have been much easier had we parked there.
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