Graton Resort & Casino Hits Jackpot with Sonoma County Chefs

For the new Graton Resort & Casino coming to Rohnert Park this fall, one thing is a sure bet: The restaurants will be awesome.

The $800 million, 320,000 square-foot project at Highway 101 and Wilfred Avenue has signed up Douglas Keane (the former Cyrus), Tony Gemignani (Tony's Pizza Napoletana, Tony's Coal Fired Pizza of San Francisco), Martin Yan (M.Y. China of San Francisco), and others, for a total of four standalone restaurant plus nine casual eateries in a 500-seat marketplace.

While some of the names are national, what we love is that several of the restaurants are local. That’s thanks to the casino owner, Graton Rancheria Federated Indians, led by tribal leader and chairman Greg Sarris, who handpicked all the eateries.

Keane is homegrown Sonoma County, of course, and he will be headlining the marketplace, with his DK Wings offering gourmet chicken wings, fried chicken and a pickle bar, anchored by Sonoma Brinery pickles plus Keane’s own fermented recipes.

In fact, Keane chose to do the project because it allowed him the opportunity to stay in his favorite Sonoma County. He’s been invited to open restaurants in other large cities, but favors Wine Country.

And chicken.

“I’ve wanted to do a casual concept with lots of value for a long time,” said the James Beard “Best Chef” award winner. “I love crispy, hot and juicy chicken, and it's a new challenge for me.”

Signatures will include Petaluma bird dressed in Thai chile, ponzu or tamarind glazes, and breading will be traditional style, or a blend of potato and flour for extra crispiness, plus a “naked,” gluten-free option with no batter or skin.

Other marketplace restaurants from local talent La Fondita of Santa Rosa, and Boathouse Sushi of Rohnert Park.

La Fondita chef-owner Maria Elena Reyes is well known for her chicken mole, chile-cheese tamales, cochinita pibil and chilaquiles, served at their storefront on Sebastopol Road west of Dutton Avenue and also out of their Delicias Elenitas taco truck.

Boathouse, meanwhile, is beloved for its creative Japanese food, like a signature peppered tuna roll of tempura avocado and tuna tataki inside, topped with spicy crab salad, albacore tuna, green onion and ground black pepper unagi sauce.

Besides the glamorous setting of the 3,000 slot machine casino, the chefs may be drawn by a little jackpot action, too.

“I love craps and video poker,” said chef Tony Gemignani. “And I shouldn’t say this, since it makes me sound like an old lady, but I love keno, too.”

The Reyes family enjoys games of chance, as well, said Reyes, noting that his grandmother in particular is a fan of casinos.

“Nope, I’m not a gambler,” said Keane, however. “Sure, I’ll throw a couple of dollars down, but I’d rather save my money for great food and wine.”

Details: Graton Resort & Casino, 630 Park Court (at Hwy. 101 and Wilfred Ave.), Rohnert Park.

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