Although the 13 restaurants at the Graton Resort & Casino are now up and running, the chefs and owners are still tweaking menus and hours to cater to the vagaries of supply and demand.
But it's clear that so far, customers are willing to wait in line for the chance to experience the food at the four sit-down restaurants as well as the nine counter-service restaurants in the 500-seat Marketplace.
"I was so hungry, and I couldn't make up my mind," said Mo Tajik, who drove up from San Jose last weekend to check out the casino. "I'm gluten-sensitive, so I got enchiladas with the corn tortillas (from La Fondita)."
Tajik waited in line for 10 minutes; his enchiladas took about 30 more minutes to arrive. Still, he was pleased with the dish.
"It's different," he said of the Enchiladas Michoacanas, served with sauteed potatoes, carrots, jalape?s and chicken ($11). "I like it."
La Fondita has a taco truck and a restaurant on Sebastopol Road in Santa Rosa.
Some diners who live in the region said the casual casino restaurants offer better value than the original, Sonoma County eateries. Others said they preferred the food at the original.
"It was good quantity, but the quality is better at the other restaurant," said Rosa Alvarez of Santa Rosa, who ordered enchiladas from La Fondita Taqueria at the casino.
On the other hand, Alma Boardman of Santa Rosa was pleased with both meals she ate last weekend: two kinds of Chicken Wings ($8 each order) from Douglas Keane's DK Wings on Saturday night, and a combination plate ($11) from Boathouse Sushi, which included Orange Chicken, Chicken with Jalape?s, Beef with Broccoli plus a side of Chow Mein on Sunday.
Boathouse Sushi has a another restaurant in Rohnert Park and a sister eatery, Kettles Vietnamese Bistro, in Santa Rosa.
"It's more affordable here than at the restaurant in Rohnert Park," said Boardman, who dined with her husband and two young daughters. "I'd love to go to M.Y. China, but you can't get in."
Both Boathouse Sushi and Roadhouse BBQ in the Marketplace serve food buffet-style, which gives the impression of quicker service. But it was obvious that the quantity of food on their plates also made them popular with diners looking for good value.
Heath Nall of Santa Rosa and his girlfriend, Carolyn Carpenter of Los Angeles, shared a lunch last Sunday from Roadhouse BBQ that included four kinds of barbecued meat — chicken, ribs, pulled pork and sausage — as well as sides of mac 'n' cheese, coleslaw and French fries. The total tab was $36.
"The chicken was dry and bony, but the mac 'n' cheese was delicious," Carpenter said. "I would come back when it's not as crowded."
Trevor Hewitt, a spokesperson for the 277-seat Tony's of North Beach (a sit-down restaurant) and The Slice House by Tony Gemignani (in the Marketplace), said the first week was "incredible."
Due to high demand, The Slice House plans to extend its late-night hours from midnight until 3 a.m. once more staff can be hired, he said.
Keane, who recently won Bravo's "Top Chef Masters" show, said his first week of dishing out chicken wings, wraps and salads at DK Wings was "unbelievable."
"In my 20-plus years, I have never seen anything like it," he said. "We did over 1,000 people on Friday and over 1,500 people on Saturday. We could have done the same amount on Sunday, but I actually ran out of chicken."