I know that someday you'll find better things.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Local Luxe

Kenny's Wood-Fired Grill in Addison has been our special-occasion celebration venue for the past few years. While it is reasonably priced, the service and food at Kenny's is of an unparalleled decadence.

Servers transfer your martini to an ice-cold fresh glass every ten minutes to maintain the integrity of that Grey Goose on tap, ready and waiting for you at precisely 28 degrees. 

Let's not forget those fat blue-cheese-stuffed olives. If you happen to finish yours within the ten minutes between glass-transfers, they bring you a whole new skewer of them. YUM!

Then there's the tenderloin crostini with the bearnaise sauce and demi glace and the oh-so-delicately-fried portabella appetizer. Every entree is a winner, too. And while there are several dessert options, the only one we've ever tried-- ever needed to try-- was the bread pudding, which I am pretty sure is made from the previous day's fluffy, eggy popovers.


When Russ asked if he should make a reservation for my upcoming birthday, he was surprised when I declined.

"You know how accommodating they are-- I'm sure they can do all kinds of gluten-free things for you if we ask," he said.

"It doesn't matter. I'd still have to see all those lovely delicacies being delivered to other tables nearby. I'd be green with envy if you ordered any of our old favorite things, but I don't want to hold you back, either. And I'd feel stupid asking them to periodically transfer my iced tea to a new cold glass. Forget it. It's just not the same."

Russ countered with a completely different proposition: spending a day at Spa Castle.

Oooh, now that would be a treat.


Spa Castle is an exotic paradise located only twenty minutes from our house. It's what I imagine a five-star all-inclusive resort in Korea (the good Korea) might be like. I say this because depending on the day or time of day that you're there, yours might be the only non-Asian face in the whole resort. This is not a bad thing-- you just literally feel as though you've traveled to another country.

Minus the annoying jet lag, of course.

There are ten saunas and even more pools and hot tubs. I'm honestly not sure how many-- maybe 15? Some are co-ed and swimsuit-mandatory, while the au naturale in-the-nude pools are segregated by gender. Many lounges, social areas, and even a fitness room round out the day-admission area. Spa services (massages, accupressure, manicures, etc.) are also available for an extra cost.

The facility is incredible, and the entrance fee of $35 is reasonable. I've heard that sometimes there are $17 deals available on Groupon and Living Social, though I've yet to encounter any. Rumor has it that you can also purchase a reduced-price ticket ($20, maybe?) if you spend a certain amount of money (again, $20, maybe?) at an Asian grocery store called H-Mart, which is located directly across the street from the Carrollton facility.

The entrance fee allows you to be there for a full 24 hours. While this may seem implausible, the amount of lounges and luxurious nap-areas make it a genuine possibility. Additionally, a very snazzy place referred to as the "locker room" offers all the creature comforts you could possibly need for a multi-hour stay and are available free-of-charge.

I don't just mean drinking water and towels, either.
Shampoo, soap, conditioner, detangler, toothbrushes, toothpaste, lotion, razors, deodorant... 

If you are starting to think this sounds like a dream-come-true, there are a few drawbacks that anchor Spa Castle firmly in reality.

1. The Food Options

The facility has several dining options including at least two sit-down type restaurants, a Starbucks stand, a frozen yogurt stand, and a snack bar. While the cost of the menu items is a little on the high side, my greatest challenge was finding gluten-free/msg-free options. The nature of Asian cuisine, compounded by the language barrier, made this part of the experience a bit discouraging. I had the best luck interacting with the staff at the snack bar, as most of their menu items are more "Americanized" as are the teenagers staffing that area. They understood the problem and came up with some creative options-- I ended up having a modified Philly cheese-steak sandwich on corn tortillas, and it was delicious.

Later that day, my hopes soared when I saw a family unpacking a makeshift picnic from an assortment of tupperware containers.

During checkout, I asked the manager about the possibility of bringing in outside food, and apparently it is against the rules. I tried to explain about the gluten/msg problem, but I am not sure she understood.

Language barrier.

Nobody searches your bags upon entry, but I do like to follow the rules. I don't mind not eating--especially if it keeps me out of gluten-pain-- but if hunger sets in, it could really put a damper on the pleasure of the experience and the length of our stay.

2. Kids, Especially the Unsupervised Variety

We'd read on Yelp that unsupervised children ran amok in herds (I still can't fathom who would cough up $35 per kid to be in such an adult-oriented environment) and we tried to build our experience around this factor. 

Our visit took place during Spring Break. We reasoned that Monday would be our best bet for a peaceful day-- hopefully most folks wouldn't galvanize their troops until later in the week. Furthermore, we predicted that the presence of children would increase throughout the day, and that they'd probably be most drawn to the outdoor bade pools, so this is where we began our adventure when we arrived shortly before 9 am. 

Once the children swarmed the area, that would be our cue to head indoors to Sauna Valley.

Because how many kids would want to run amok in small, 185-degree huts, right? More than you would think.

Our plan was semi-effective, but by nightfall, the unsupervised herd was primarily indoors and running from hut to hut. 

Open the door, giggle, slam the door closed. 

They seemed to be playing some sort of game involving who could complete the open-giggle-slam cycle the fastest, the loudest, and the most enthusiastically.

With our nerves unraveling and our tension-levels moving toward pre-spa restoration, we decided to separate and try out the naked pool/bath experience.

Which was fine, until Russ encountered some of his middle school students.

Lesson here? It's probably better to come here on a school day.

And that is precisely what we intend to do.

If you plan to visit Spa Castle, here are a few tips:

-Aim for a school day and arrive early.
Avoid weekends, holidays, and (as we learned the hard way!) school vacation days. 

-Bring your own beach towel.
Actually, bring several-- some to dry off with and some to use as "liners" in the saunas, on the lounge chairs, and on the nap mats. Even though they provide towels, you'll be more comfortable with your own. You'll have an assigned locker where you can store them. Same thing with bathing suits-- pack several. I hate the feeling of a damp suit when I am ready to feel dry, so I was glad to have a back-up suit when we switched to the saunas. Next time I plan to pack three or four suits along with some gallon-sized ziplock bags to put the wet ones into so that my regular clothes and other dry items don't get damp.

-Prepare for your visit the way you might prepare to be a contestant on Survivor.
a.) Leave your jewelry at home. Even your wedding ring. There are so many pools, it would be impossible to find it if it slipped off of your finger.
b.) Don't bother with makeup-- you'll probably just sweat it off, anyway. 
c.) Wear something loose and comfortable that you can change into and out of quickly and easily. They'll provide a "uniform" for you to wear while you're actually there, so no need to dwell on fashion.
d.) Choose a hairstyle that is low maintenance AND comfortable for lying on your back in the saunas (goodbye, traditional ponytail!) I had good luck with Heidi-style braids. 
e.) If food sensitivities are an issue, eat a big meal before you go and keep some snacks ready in the car for the trip home. Note: they will not let you go out to the parking lot and re-enter. Once you're out, you're out for good.
f.) Sunscreen and sunglasses!
g.) Be ready for the nudity factor, and don't dwell on it. I noticed that those who went to extremes to conceal their bodies ended up attracting even more attention because of the theatrics. Just go with the flow.

If you are in the area, I would definitely recommend giving this place a try. I'm very eager for our return visit. If Dallas isn't in your future, I've heard there is a second location in College Point, New York. A third location is currently under construction in Manhattan.

To learn more about the sauna options and their effects, click here: http://spacastleusa.com/tx/sauna-valley/

Here is a promotional video I found for our Texas location:

(If you are viewing this on a mobile device and it doesn't load, use this link to go straight to youtube:

Here are some screen-shots from the Spa Castle website:

There's some wide-angle camera-trickery going on here.
Also, the pool on the right is clean. It is that color due to its green tile.

And finally, here are my favorite saunas:

1 comment:

  1. I want to be there right now! Sounds great! Awesome review, certainly very helpful if we ever get out there!