Even for the La Center area, known in the region for its collection of casinos, the Cowlitz Indian Tribe’s ilani Casino Resort can at times seem alien where it sits in the rolling hills of North County.
The same is true once inside, with the 100,000-square-feet gaming floor — made up of 2,500 slot machines and 75 gaming tables — dwarfing smaller gambling destinations in the area like the Last Frontier Casino or the Oak Tree. Furthermore, with its three other locations in New York City, Chicago, and Connecticut, Michael Jordan’s Steakhouse doesn’t exactly put off the air of a family-style diner one might expect in rural America.
But it isn’t all big city glam and glitz. The Cowlitz Tribe has made a concerted effort to integrate local culture and the tribe’s history in a number of ways — from design elements of the $510 million project, down to the artwork on playing cards.
One foremost way the Cowlitz Tribe has connected locally is through food, a perfect example of which is Line & Lure.
Line & Lure Seafood Kitchen and Tap, one of the first major restaurants ilani announced last spring, is in many ways a tribute to Pacific Northwest bodies of water.
The walls are lined with light colored wood as though they spent years holding together a fisherman’s skiff before a change of careers to the restaurant industry. Menus are displayed on wall-size chalkboards among an assortment of drawings including the skeletal motif of a Northwest Coast Art-styled salmon, the Cowlitz Tribe logo, and a boat with “L&L” plastered on its main sail. Beach chairs adorn the patio and some surround an electric outdoor fire pit — a scene one might encounter along the Columbia River at Frenchman’s Bar or Willow Grove. If patrons still haven’t caught on, a quick glance to the sky should get the point across. A small sailboat hangs in the rafters, maybe 12-feet long with watermarks still on the hull and keel — the “Miss Haley,” a name that presumably came with the used boat when it was acquired to adorn the restaurant's rafters, according to the general manager and wait staff.
The fish and crustaceans served by some of the 30 employees at Line & Lure are pulled off the coasts of Washington and Oregon.
The rockfish they use for their “Fish & Tots” comes from Newport, Oregon; the oysters on menu when The Reflector visited were from the Hood Canal and the mussels came from Prince Edward Island; the dungeness crab served with a burger first called Tillamook, Oregon home; their salmon and sturgeon often come from the Columbia River.
Line & Lure even picked a locally grown executive chef, Ryan Ziegler, who grew up in Vancouver before a culinary career took him around the region.
Ziegler said they try to pull from local waters as often as possible and that the restaurant plays an important role for the casino by giving visitors to the casino an option for a wide selection of local seafood, given its prevalence in the region.
“I think we have the best seafood in the area and we’re the best restaurant in the casino,” Ziegler said.
Although void of overhead boats, the front section of the restaurant features a long bar coupled with a line of sea-wo rn style bar chairs, facing four televisions running sports and four open cabinets of spirits. A plethora of local beers and wines are also available.
The entire restaurant is spacious, seating 254 at its max, and has a 28-person private dining room in the back.