Brought to you by the owners of the Slippery Noodle Inn, Hal's beckons with its own take on Vegas' familiar diamond-shaped neon sign. But don't look for it during the day. Hal's isn't open for lunch.
Inside, the atmosphere screams high-roller, with dark furnishings and photos of the Rat Pack everywhere. Unlike Vegas, though, there were no crowds. We blamed our early arrival, but business hadn't picked up when we left about 7 p.m. Another difference: Vegas offers some of the best food on the planet. Hal's was OK, but nothing I'd want to blow a night's poker earnings on.
The menu, although sprinkled with corny gambling terms 7 Come 11 Filet, anyone? is ambitious. We started with an "Opening Wager," the Crab Stuffed Mushrooms ($9), tasty caps topped with a mixture of crab meat, celery and green peppers. The spicy remoulade was tasty, but serving the appetizer on a bed of shredded lettuce from a bag was a definite downgrade.
Feeling flush, I tried the Double Down Surf & Turf ($21), drawn by the little poker chip icon that I assumed meant it was a house specialty. Turns out it adorns dishes intended for diners with a lighter appetite. Bad bet on my part.
The beef was tender, if not particularly seasoned, and the shrimp was fine but a far cry from jumbo. An oxymoron it may be, but jumbo shrimp to me means more than one bite.
Our other choice was the Chicken Piccata ($16), another light selection but filling enough for leftovers. Lemon pepper chicken topped penne and bowtie pasta tossed in a parmesan cream sauce, with plenty of capers and garlic adding flavor. Jackpot.