Monday, June 18, 2012

Opry Mills Dining News: Claim Jumper and Dave & Busters

Posted By on Mon, Jun 18, 2012 at 5:49 AM

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I was always a big fan of Shopryland in the antediluvial days. I worked close by and spent many a lunch break enjoying the dining options in either the food court or the restaurants around the mall and then walked off some of those calories by taking a few laps around the race track. If nothing else, I developed assertiveness skills shaking off the kiosk vendors as they attempted to interest me in chamois cloths or Bavarian roasted nuts on each pass.

Now that Opry Mills has just about completely reopened, ( I don't know what sort of high-tech Johnny Rockets they're trying to build that has caused such a delay. ... ) I've returned as a frequent visitor.

I recently dropped into Claim Jumper to try out the new steak house option at Opry Mills. It's a member of the Landry Restaurants family roster, which includes Aquarium, Bubba Gump Shrimp Co., Morton's Steak House and Rainforest Cafe, so you would probably expect Claim Jumper to be a pretty corporate kinda place. And, in truth it is, but that's not necessarily a bad thing.

The dining room definitely looks like it was designed in a boardroom, with particular attention paid to details like huge Douglas Fir logs, natural rock, corrugated and pressed tin, huge fireplaces, authentic log chairs, moving fan systems and Tiffany lamps. The overall atmosphere is very lodgy, but not stodgy. If you can fake authenticity, you got it made.

Pricing is pretty reasonable and mall-appropriate, with most appetizers in the $10-$12 range and entrees ranging from a $15 Tri-Tip up to a $46 surf-and-turf filet and lobster special. On my visit, I really enjoyed the onion ring appetizer and a darned tasty Hickory BBQ Burger. I saw huge platters of salads going to nearby tables and the improbably massive Widow Maker Burger, which features smoked bacon, hand-battered onion rings, avocado, double-thick cheddar, mayo and red relish on top. It forced me to stare for a slightly uncomfortably long time at the adjoining table.

Claim Jumper also advertises an extensive vegetarian and gluten-free menu, but in honesty it looks like most of the options are appetizers, salads and pizzas rather than thoughtful alternatives for non-meat eaters. However, the restaurant is the recipient of an award for Top 10 Children's Menus from Parents magazine, so the whole family is welcome if you want to drop in for a break while shopping or maybe before a movie.

As an affordable higher-end dining option at Opry Mills, Claim Jumper is worth a gander. Sure, they're one location of a 37-restaurant chain, but you don't get that big without paying attention to the details.

Around the corner from Claim Jumper is another family favorite, Dave & Buster's. They have declared 2012 to be "The Summer of Games." Each location has added 10 new games to the dining and entertainment experience, and until July 1, Dave & Buster’s will be giving guests two free plays on three of the newest games with any PowerCard purchase that day. The three games included in the promotion are Dirty Drivin’ (a combat racing game), Speed of Light (a game that tests player’s speed and reflexes) and Quad Air Hockey (a four-person version of the classic game).

They're also introducing several new menu items, including Pretzel Dogs, an oversized Lawnmower Salad and the South Philly Burger –- a 100 percent Angus burger piled high with cheesesteak “imported” from Philadelphia. I know that few other food topics inflame debate like Philly Cheesesteaks, so I at least salute their bravery. I'll leave it to the experts to chime in if they try one. New beverages on the menu include new margarita flavors, “adult” milkshakes and snow cones.

So if you're looking for some new food and a little free fun, check out Claim Jumper or Dave & Buster's. Make sure you holler loudly if you see me walking around. I try to avoid eye contact when I pass the guy who's selling remote-control helicopters.

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