Casino Cookbook: Bubba Gump Shrimp Co.

When a restaurant’s existence stems from a movie, it stands to reason the place will reflect fun, southern hospitality, whimsy, and a “not particularly serious” casual atmosphere—especially if that movie is Forrest Gump. The food, however, is taken very seriously.
Stepping into Bubba Gump Shrimp Company is a bit like stepping into a scene from the movie with all of the references scattered around—like “Stupid is as stupid does” slogans. Those, along with film memorabilia and chotchkies all around the room, a rustic southern bayou feel invites diners to load up on all the fish and shrimp they can stuff themselves with.
When temperatures cool down there is also patio dining with the Colorado River as a perfect Mississippi River substitute backdrop, minus the gators, of course.
It is a place to gather with friends, family or that special person, relax, be comfortable and get a little messy with the food. Using your fingers is encouraged with plenty of menu items to indulge upon.
While some diners might hesitate to eat here because of allergies to shell fish and because the menu consists predominately of seafood, it also contains items that appeal to all diners from vegetarians to those who prefer hooves instead of fins when it comes to their entrees.
Southern cuisine is also some of the best comfort food to be found anywhere, so those dishes have to be prepared with the same attention to detail as their fishy counterparts. Hello—made from scratch hush puppies and cole slaw.
Some of those “going-the-extra-mile” entrees include their Texas Chicken Sandwich, Veggie Mushroom Burger, All-American Burgers, Angus Top Sirloin steak, and Mama’s Southern Fried Chicken with mashed potatoes and gravy.

On a recent visit to the restaurant for this installment of Casino Cookbook, we discovered how their kitchen prepares one of those popular entrees, the Dixie Style Baby Back Ribs. Like any southern barbecue worth it’s salt, preparation starts with a marinade that takes about 24 hours.
Chef Doug Abernathy explained the all-ready completed marinade process while Laughlin entertainer staff members invaded the kitchen to see first-hand how the dish comes together.
“We have one pound of baby back ribs here,” Abernathy said. “What we do is we take each rib and we do a score along the back of them, to get through the membrane in the back. Then what we do is marinade them.
“We go with a barbecue sauce and we season the meat with our Bubba Cajun seasoning which is minced garlic and a salt and pepper mix (it’s a kosher salt). We also do minced garlic on top of the ribs and we let them marinate for 24 hours,” he said. “The next day we put them in a roasting pan, put liquid smoke with them and we let them cook for four hours at 225 degrees.
“Then we pull them out, individually wrap them and they’re ready to be served the next day.”
Once the grill is hot and ready, the ribs are put over the coals to finish, meaty side up to start.
“We put barbecue sauce on the top of them once we put them on the grill and we let them start warming up. We let them cook for a minute or so on one side and then flip them over with the meat side down. We barbecue the backside for about 5 to 7 minutes.
Because the ribs are popular, Abernathy said the ribs show up on the menu in a couple of different configurations.
“We have them on a couple of different dishes,” he said. “We do have the full size baby back ribs, then we do an early bird special offered between 1-5 p.m. that’s a half rack, and then we also have our ribs combo with shrimp.”
Ribs seemed like an unlikely item to have on a menu heavy with seafood options, until Abernathy explained why they make an appearance.
“We wanted to make sure people who are allergic to seafood have other options,” he said. “We’re known for our seafood, of course, and we have the ribs, but we also have chicken, we have steaks, we do our chicken sandwiches, and we also do fried chicken. Coming from a seafood restaurant our fried chicken is a “die-for” item also.”
All the photos, words and video fail to capture how good those ribs were smelling about the time Abernathy was taking them off the grill to plate.
“The whole process is time consuming, but there is a point to all of it—aroma and taste.”
He flips the ribs a bit again on the grill.
“We want to criss cross ’em so we get those nice X marks on the meat.”
Abernathy finished off the dish with a side of fries and homemade coleslaw.
Along with the meal, we were treated to two non-alcoholic beverages, a mango-strawberry chiller and a watermelon lemonade, served in fun drink glasses with blinky lights, and a signature Corona-rita. Those really hit the spot after a particularly hot day and time spent in the hot kitchen.
Having the opportunity to go behind the scenes of Bubba Gump’s was made even better by the laid-back attitudes, the sense of humor and camaradie of the people who work there and their warmth and hospitality towards our staff members.
It was a very pleasant way to be introduced to the philosophy behind their menu items—be completely serious about the food they prepare, but also make it a fun experience for everyone involved.
Maybe our next trip should be to discover more about that fried chicken.
So when it comes to checking out Bubba Gump’s what else can we say but, “Run, Forrest, run.”