AJ's Restaurant  & Triple Crown Buffet AJ's Restaurant  & Triple Crown Buffet AJ's Restaurant  & Triple Crown Buffet 4151300Large6.jpg

AJ's Restaurant & Triple Crown Buffet


The Prairie Meadows Racetrack & Casino is home to two well-known eateries, located next door to one another: AJ’s Steakhouse and Triple Crown Buffet. During evening hours, the bar area of AJ’s Steakhouse was heavily used – but had very limited seating. The steakhouse wanted to expand its bar area so more patrons could use it at one time.

Because of its evening-only hours, the steakhouse often hosts community meetings and events during the day. During mealtimes, people using the space needed to access the Triple Crown Buffet next door. With no easy way to get from the steakhouse to the buffet, customers had to weave their way through a back-of-house route that was never intended to be used as a thoroughfare. The casino wanted to improve the connection between the two spaces, and create visual design consistency as well.


Dealing with height restrictions in AJ’s Steakhouse, Shive-Hattery incorporated design elements that worked with the low ceiling but still made the area seem large and welcoming. A mix of black, white, and charcoal gray colors with stone and dark-wood tones replace outdated burgundy and medium-oak colors; glass tile was applied in a linear fashion on columns and the hostess station to maintain a classy yet open feeling.

To provide more steakhouse seating and add approximately 18 feet of bar space, Shive-Hattery came up with a design concept that expands the bar area into the buffet area. Large-format, 5-foot by 10-foot tiles were used along the bar to minimize the use of grout and maximize durability.

With hundreds – sometimes thousands – of people using the Triple Crown Buffet every day, design decisions were made to extend interior durability. Ceramic tile and carpet materials were chosen to hide floor stains and stand up to heavy foot traffic.

Tile and quartz were used along the buffet line; these materials are not only resilient, but also hold up well to hot and cold food storage. The buffet was designed with built-in plate areas so dishes don’t take up valuable food space on the counter. A double-tiered sneeze guard, suspended from the ceiling over the buffet line, allows staff to create unusual and unique food displays on the second tier.

Gray and taupe colors – along with wood tones – help the buffet area blend with the steakhouse, while splashes of green and orange throughout ensure that it still maintains its own identity. A dividing wall helps separate eating areas in the buffet, providing dining options for private conversations or secluded meals.

Shive-Hattery also created a dedicated area that could be used by meeting goers who needed easy back-and-forth access between AJ’s Steakhouse and the Triple Crown Buffet. The area holds between 10 and 12 people, and can be closed off with a sliding barn door when it’s not needed.


The renovation of AJ’s Steakhouse and Triple Crown Buffet takes these two popular eating destinations to the next level, visually and physically connecting them by providing a pathway for easy access between the two spaces when necessary. People are now able to travel easily back and forth from one area to another without getting lost or going through back-of-house areas to get there.

By adding more seating in the bar area, the steakhouse can accommodate 44 people at once vs. seven or eight. This allows AJ’s Steakhouse to increase revenue by making room for more people to enjoy food and beverages each evening.
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