Annual Changing of the Sign Is Happening at Westgate Las Vegas Hotel

In what’s become a familiar ritual, the sign is again changing at the former Las Vegas Hotel (LVH), formerly the Las Vegas Hilton, formerly the International.

Westgate Las Vegas

Oh, the signs they are a’changin’.

The hotel was recently purchased by Westgate Resorts, and the letters for the new Westgate sign are on-site, ready to be hoisted into place.

Westgate

The LVH letters still haven’t left the building.

True to the rendering released by Westgate, the new sign will have no fancy font, and the lettering is yellow.

Westgate Las Vegas

It would be terrible if the installation guys screwed up and the new hotel was called “Mestgate,” wouldn’t it?

The sign will be illuminated by thousands of LED capsules. We have no idea if they’re called “capsules,” but “LED polyps” didn’t have quite the same ring to it.

Westgate Las Vegas sign

Related: The LED Polyps would make a great band name.

The Las Vegas Hotel was purchased for between $150 million and $170 million.

Westgate, of course, is the timeshare company, although the new resort is expected to be a mix of timeshares and traditional hotel-casino offerings.

Westgate

The aforementioned rendering. Not a whole lot of Vegas flair happening as far as we can see.

The wacky owner of Westgate, David Siegel, is a controversial figure. His financial ups and downs were chronicled in the documentary, “The Queen of Versailles.”

Siegel says he’ll invest a substantial amount to renovate the Westgate Las Vegas. He’s said the renovations will include the addition of a dayclub and nightclub (presumably because of the scarcity of those in Las Vegas), converting the hotel’s Shimmer Cabaret with a lounge and changing the Tempo Lounge over to a high-limit gaming area.

Westgate

Yes, we breached security to get these photos. Next time, we’re risking arrest for something cooler.

If the letters of the new Westgate sign look familiar, that’s because they were salvaged from another project in Las Vegas, the PH Towers Westgate (see below). Thanks to our friend John Katsilometes for that Vegas factoid.

Westgate PH

David Siegel lost PH Towers Westgate in a foreclosure. Which, we’re thinking, bodes well for Westgate Las Vegas, at least in Bizarro Rich Guy World.

Here are more photos for the Las Vegas sign nerds, among whom this blog counts itself.

 

 

Dismantling of Harmon Hotel That Never Was Continues

The Harmon tower, the never-occupied hotel in the CityCenter complex on the Las Vegas Strip, is coming down, piece by piece.

Harmon tower

Looks like a hotel tower, right? Let’s take a closer look.

Construction was halted on the would-be Harmon Hotel, at one time called the Harmon Hotel, Spa & Residences, in 2008 (two years into the building’s construction) due to construction defects. The hotel was originally supposed to be 47 stories tall, but the existing structure is 26, 27 or 28, depending upon whom you ask.

After construction stopped on the building, epic legal wrangling ensued. Ultimately, MGM Resorts was granted permission to take the building down.

Harmon demolition

Scaffolding and mesh keeps the demolition stuff off of passersby. The lawyers are busy enough.

The culprit for all this clustery goodness is a company called Pacific Coast Steel, which improperly installed critical steel reinforcements (rebar). Their screw-up resulted in a building that was deemed by engineers likely to collapse during an earthquake. So, yeah, the rebar was FUBAR.

Harmon HOtel

Fascinating fact: The demolition of the Harmon tower has more entertainment value than the show it advertises, “Zarkana.”

While historically hotels in Las Vegas have been imploded, due to its proximity to surrounding buildings, Harmon tower is in the throes of a year-long demolition involving gutting the structure and taking it apart in a more meticulous fashion.

The demolition is expected to cost $11.5 million. It’s estimated the Harmon tower cost $275 million to build, despite it never opening.

Harmon Hotel Las Vegas

Them ain’t balconies.

Evidence of the demolition can now be seen on the exterior of the building, dubbed by some as the “world’s most expensive billboard.” Windows are being removed on both the north and south sides of the building.

Harmon tower

The south face of the Harmon tower is nearly glassless.

The Harmon tower demolition has made finding one’s way a little confusing around the site.

Harmon hotel

This has nothing in common with the maze from “The Shining.” Probably.

While the demolition of the Harmon Hotel is sure to leave a strange gap in the Las Vegas skyline, there’s a bright side: It was intended to be a boutique hotel, with no casino, so meh.

Harmon hotel demolition

Dibs on the sign when the Harmon comes down.

As the Harmon demolition continues, it looks like “Zarkana” is going to have to find another way to advertise.

Golden Steer Steakhouse Nearly Loses Its Iconic Statue

A longtime fixture in Las Vegas, the gold steer statue outside the enduring Golden Steer Steakhouse, nearly met its demise recently in a quirky accident.

The gold steer has stood vigil outside the Golden Steer Steakhouse for an incredible 56 years, but was knocked from its platform when a lobster delivery truck hit the pole supporting the iconic statue (as well as the restaurant’s sign).

Golden Steer Las Vegas

A lobster delivery truck took down the golden steer, illustrating the timeless rivalry between surf and turf.

In a world exclusive, we’ve got the full story! Look, we take our world exclusives where we can get them.

Apparently, on his first day on the job, a driver for the Golden Steer’s lobster supplier, the reportedly excellent Supreme Lobster and Seafood, tried to make a delivery at the restaurant’s front entrance despite the fact deliveries are typically made at the rear.

The impact with the statue’s pole caused it to fall from its platform and it nearly crashed to the ground. Thankfully, the bovine’s feet got caught up in some electrical wiring and was spared oblivion.

To make the story even more dramatic, the statue’s nose came to rest just an inch from the ground. Not exaggerating.

Gold Steer

When we saw this empty pole, we’ll admit to having a bit of a freak-out.

Interestingly, the statue isn’t made of metal or another resilient material, but rather plaster, so there was a very real chance the statue’s number could have been up, for good.

To his credit, the delivery driver immediately reported the incident to the folks at Golden Steer, and Supreme Lobster’s insurance is expected to cover the damages.

For the time being, the statue is being kept in a small storage area just off the restaurant’s main dining room.

Here’s an exclusive photo of this irreplaceable piece of Las Vegas history, utterly safe and sound.

Gold Steer

Even after 56 years, the statue doesn’t have nickname. May we suggest Lucky?

Upon close examination, it should be noted the Golden Steer Steakhouse’s “gold steer” isn’t a steer at all. It’s a cow.

So, what’s next for the gold cow? Plans to resurrect the statue, and the restaurant’s vintage sign, are taking some time. The restaurant notes the permit process to restore the sign’s electrical wiring is more complicated than it was 56 years ago, so it may take a week or two to put the statue back in its rightful place.

Once she’s back, we promise to never take her for granted again!

Golden Steer Las Vegas

Golden Steer Steakhouse has hosted a slew of notable guests including Nat “King” Cole, Joe DiMaggio, Elvis Presley and many others.

The Golden Steer Steakhouse is just west of the Las Vegas Strip, on Sahara Avenue, not too far from Stratosphere or the new SLS Las Vegas.

Here’s a bit more about this much-loved Vegas throwback.


Find out more about the Golden Steer Steakhouse, which opened in Las Vegas in 1958, making it the oldest steakhouse in Sin City.

Get Your Sci-Fi Nerd On: Official “Star Trek” Convention Returns to Las Vegas

The official “Star Trek” convention will be back in Las Vegas, July 31 through Aug. 3, 2014, and it’s easily one of the most quirky, enjoyable Sin City gatherings of the year.

Star Trek costume

We’ll assume we have your attention.

The “Star Trek” legacy is alive and well, as this annual convention expects more than 15,000 Klingons, Vulcans and other life forms to attend the festivities at Rio Las Vegas.

The four-day event will feature appearances by four “Star Trek” captains: William Shatner (yes, that one), Scott Bakula (“Star Trek: Enterprise”), Avery Brooks (“Star Trek: Deep Space Nine”) and Kate Mulgrew (“Star Trek: Voyager”).

Star Trek

The Ferengi first made contact with the United Federation of Planets in 2364 on the planet Delphi Ardu. Related: What is wrong with us?

A slew of other celebrities will be on hand, including Walter Koenig and Nichelle Nichols.

The “Star Trek” convention will also have panel discussions, trivia contests, collectible auctions as well as an exhibit hall where fans can purchase “Star Trek” and sci-fi goodies.

On Aug. 2, more than 2,000 attendees are expected to attend in costume. Trust us, these folks are really, really serious about their “Star Trek” costumes.

Star Trek

This blog was there when the world record was broken for “Most People Dressed Up in ‘Star Trek’ Costumes,” and we don’t care who knows it.

Hanging out with thousands of people this enthusiastic about anything is an absolute blast.

Star Trek

If you didn’t immediately think of “Let This Be Your Last Battlefield,” you should be ashamed of yourself.

To find out more or to purchase tickets, visit the convention’s official site.

Oh, just stop your judging and come join in the fun, already.

“Mamma Mia!” to Close at Tropicana Las Vegas and Not Nearly Soon Enough

It’s been announced “Mamma Mia!” will close at Tropicana Las Vegas on August 3, 2014.

The show opened at the Tropicana on May 16, 2014, which means the show’s run lasted only slightly longer than it will take to read this blog post.

Mamma Mia

Define “smash hit.”

The closure of the show comes as a surprise even to those of us who would rather run naked through the Ethel M cactus garden than see a Broadway-style musical, mainly because a former iteration of “Mamma Mia!” ran for more than six years at Mandalay Bay.

That means either this version of the show sucked (the reviews were solid), or the marketing did.

In any event, the curtain’s coming down on “Mamma Mia!” If you insist upon seeing a Broadway-style musical, there’s really only one in Las Vegas worth seeing at the moment, or possibly ever, “Jersey Boys” at Paris Las Vegas.

Hidden Gem: Our New Favorite Happy Hour Is at Chicago Brewing Company Inside Four Queens

Now that this blog works at Fremont Street Experience, we’re downtown more than ever, and we get to explore new places to whet our various whistles and indulge our cravings.

Our new favorite happy hour is in an unlikely place, the Four Queens. Specifically, at Chicago Brewing Company.

The restaurant-slash-bar is in the deep recesses of the downtown casino, but it’s more than worth the search, especially between 3:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m.

Chicago Brewing Company

Don’t try to hide from us. We know a great happy hour when we taste one.

Downtown values are plentiful, but happy hour at Chicago Brewing Company is exceptional because appetizers are half-off already low prices.

For example, the delicious potato skins, are loaded with bacon, cheddar and green onions, are normally $5.50. Half off? Irresistible.

Potato skins

If potato skins were a religion, these would convert us. Or something.

Also outstanding are the Michigan Avenue Garlic Knots. The humongous, fluffy knots are slathered with Parmesan-garlic butter sauce, and there’s some fantastic marinara for dipping. There are about eight of these bad boys, and they’d be a steal even at the regular price of $4.95. In the $2.50 range, we’d put them among the best dining values in all of Las Vegas.

Chicago Brewing garlic knots

There goes our career as a ballerina. Oh, well.

Other appetizers include filet mignon sliders, chicken tenders, wings, calamari, mozzarella sticks and a blackened chicken quesadilla. We have no reason to believe those aren’t tasty, too.

There are, of course, drink specials, including $1 off house beers and $5 for something called India Pale Ale. We have no idea what that is, but we do know when we ordered our Captain and diet tall, it was truly tall. (Unlike those thimble-sized glasses you tend to get in casinos.)

The only downside is Chicago Brewing Company, aside from being a restaurant and bar, bills itself as a “Cigar Lounge,” so that’s not for everyone. In situations like this, it’s helpful to remember you’re in Las Vegas, and it sort of goes with the territory.

Otherwise, we love the place. There’s a comfy bar, with video poker machines, so when you’re playing the drinks are “free” and solo dining isn’t awkward.

Chicago Brewing Company at Four Queens is a hidden gem, and we expect to hit this happy hour frequently from here on out.

Giada’s at The Cromwell Makes Good on the Buzz

Giada’s at The Cromwell is one of the most buzzed-about restaurants to open on The Strip in some time, and, it turns out, for good reason.

Giada's

Giada’s proves once and for all Giada is more than just a pretty face.

The restaurant’s titular Giada is, of course, Giada de Laurentiis, best known for being a Food Network star and a hottie.

Her new collaboration with Caesars Entertainment is a winning combination of attentive service, a creative menu and flawless execution, as well as a great view. It currently takes a couple of weeks to get a reservation for a Friday or Saturday night, so all indications are this restaurant is a certified hit.

Giada's Las Vegas

Let’s nosh, already.

Giada’s sits on the corner of two iconic thoroughfares, Las Vegas Boulevard and Flamingo Road. For many, the view will be an essential part of a visit to Giada’s. That being the case, make sure you get a table where you can enjoy the view best, along the window. There are 10 tables for two along the window, and demand for them is great, so don’t be shy about slipping a hostess or manager $20 to ensure you’ll get the table you’d like.

It’s Las Vegas, after all, and in Vegas, cash is the quickest way a conversation goes from “Sorry, we don’t have anything available,” to “Let’s see what we can do.”

Giada's

Insider tip: Giada’s is located in the part of the hotel with the giant Giada’s on it.

Once the view is taken care of, it’s time to dive into the selection of signature cocktails. The servers are extremely knowledgeable about not just the menu, but also the cocktails, and are happy to make recommendations.

Giada's cocktail

It’s called the Blue Velvet. First, because it’s blue. Second, because Giada’s grandfather was the producer of the movie, “Blue Velvet.”

As is common at celebrity-driven restaurants operated by Caesars Entertainment, cocktails are presented on iPads (see below), so you can get a visual before you order, as well as learning more about the ingredients of each cocktail.

Giadas

Libations at your fingertips.

They’re distinctive and tasty, and run in the $15 range. If that seems an extravagant price for a cocktail, hold onto your hat, because the prices here are all a bit inflated. Call it the “Giada experience surcharge.”

We quite enjoyed the Hannibal. It’s called that because the garnish looks like a brain. Which is pretty awesome. This drink has generous portions, and lasted our entire meal.

Hannibal cocktail

That inside-out citrus peel is sort of brain-like.

At first, we couldn’t figure out what a cannibal movie had to do with the Giada theme, then remembered Martha de Laurentiis is the executive producer of “Hannibal” on NBC. A stretch, but one of many references to the de Laurentiis clan found on the menu and in the restaurant. Martha de Laurentiis was the second wife of Giada’s grandfather, bigtime movie producer Dino De Laurentiis.

As it turns out, most if not all of the signature cocktails were inspired by hallmarks of Giada’s grandfather’s career. We enjoyed the Flash Gordon (below), another film produced by Dino De Laurentiis. He was a busy guy.

Giada's

The lightning bolt garish is a nice touch.

While looking over the menu, bread is delivered, and it gets your meal off to a fine start.

Giada's bread

A little loaf of bread comes in a little bread pan thingy. Adorbs.

A whole half of the menu is devoted to “Antipasti & Pizzette.” We are not a food expert, so we’re not sure what those are, other than to say the ones at Giada’s are consistently wonderful.

The “Antipasti & Pizzette” portion of the menu is divided into vegetable, meat, seafood, cheese, crostini and pizzette sections. See the full menu on the official Giada’s site.

The Bacon-Wrapped Dates had a kick to them because of some Italian sausage. The waiter described them as “our most masculine dish.” It’s probably the bacon.

Giada's

Your taste buds are just going to have to learn to multi-task.

Presumably, a “pizette” is a fancy way of saying pizza, which we had to try. The pizza at Giada’s is well worth a visit, even if that’s all you have. The crust is unlike any other crust we’ve had on a pizza, and we’ve had pizza in about 16 countries and at least 30 states. The crust is light and fluffy, and the sauce and cheese make this appetizer a must-try.

Giada's

This pizza is going to inspire more crushes than Giada.

Most of the appetizer items are in the very reasonable $10-15 range, although the portions are fairly small. Think of them as Italian-themed small plates.

The other half of the menu is a mix of dishes which are somewhat familiar, but with some intriguing twists that pay off big.

Giada's

Please feel free to insert your favorite “happy to see you” and/or “G-spot” joke here.

There are soups and salads, plus a selection of pastas. (The menu is even thoughtful enough to provide pronunciations of the past names, like “ree-gah-TOH-neh” and “spah-geh-tee.)

We went for the ravioli (rah-VEEOH-lee), which features lobster, asparagus tips and tarragon. We winced at the $34 price, but got over it pretty quickly when we tasted this perfectly-prepared dish. And we’re not even really a lobster person.

Giada's

Worth every lira. Which we’re pretty sure Italy doesn’t have anymore, but you get our point.

Another highly-recommended pasta dish is the risotto (ree-ZOHT-oh), with scallops. It’s easily the best risotto we’ve ever had.

Giada's Las Vegas

The scallops will dance on your tongue. So, ask it to take off its stilettos first.

One of the most pleasing aspects of a visit to Giada is how quickly all the dishes arrive. Specifically, lightning fast. We have no idea how it’s possible given how packed the place is, but it’s consistent throughout one’s meal.

You won’t have room for anything else at this point, but there are also main dishes galore, including a 28-ounce bone-in Tuscan rib-eye ($68), Veal Chop Saltimbocca ($43), rack of lamb ($45), salmon ($37), cacciatore-style chicken ($55) and porter house for two ($78).

Hey, you’re either up for a fancy night out on The Strip or you’re not. This ain’t In-N-Out.

Giada's

The place whence the antipasti comes.

The dessert cart at Giada’s is a big attention-getter, and not just because it’s too wide to easily navigate between the restaurant’s tables.

Giada's

We’re pretty sure these are called “Nipples of Venus,” but we’re too mature to milk that joke.

There’s one eye-pleasing delight after another, and the carbs just keep on coming.

Giada's dessert

Gold leaf doesn’t digest, so you’ll have some keepsakes from Giada’s. At least temporarily.

Desserts are served right off the cart, so that means no delayed gratification required.

Giada's dessert

What happens in Vegas often stays on your thighs.

Giada’s is an all-around great time, and an almost entirely pleasurable dining experience.

If there’s a downside at all, it’s the slightly pretentious vibe, but in a way, it contributes to the feeling you’re somewhere special.

Cromwell Las Vegas

With the success of Giada’s, The Cromwell appears to have its act together.

Caesars Entertainment has hit another home run with this celebrity-branded restaurant, quickly becoming a successful formula for the company. Similar partnerships have brought some exceptional dining to Las Vegas, such as with Gordon Ramsay Steak at Paris Las Vegas, BurGR at Planet Hollywood (another Gordon Ramsay joint) and Guy Fieri’s Vegas Kitchen & Bar at The Quad (soon to be The Linq Hotel).

Giada's photo booth.

Before you leave, don’t forget to visit this understated photo booth to create some (free) Giada’s memories.

Here are a few more photos from our visit to Giada’s, and hope you enjoy it as much as we did.

Giada's at The Cromwell

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Demolition at The D Marks Coming Downtown Las Vegas Events Center

Demolition is picking up speed at The D Las Vegas, downtown, in preparation for the new Downtown Las Vegas Events Center just across the street.

The D

Las Vegas doesn’t implode things anymore. It sort of just dismantles them. Less dust that way.

The small building, near The D’s valet area, has been getting its insides gutted for several weeks, but now the demolition is moving to the exterior of the building.

This corner, at the southwest side of the hotel, will soon be built out as a portal to the new events center. A complementary entrance will be built on the event center side. Each will feature video displays and other decorative flourishes giving the two entryways a cohesive flow.

The D demolition

The crane is a Volvo, so you know the construction site is super safe.

Here’s what the building looked like before the work started.

The D

Through the years, this building has been a market, a shoe store, a men’s store, a drugstore and a jewelry store.

See our previous post for a look inside this little chunk of downtown Las Vegas history.

Kitty-corner from the demolition, site of the former courthouse, the new Downtown Las Vegas Events Center (the preferred initialism is DLV, for future reference) is looking more and more like a concert venue every day.

Downtown Events Center

We understand we enjoy our photography more than anybody else, and we’re OK with that.

The stage area recently got several trusses, with the stage roof expected to arrive soon. Trust us, this won’t be the last time they’ll be raising the roof at the Downtown Las Vegas Events Center. Several events have already been booked, although none have been officially announced. We’d tell you who’s been booked so far, but we really, really love The D and would like to be asked back sometime.

Let’s just say this new venue is going to be yet another reason to visit downtown Las Vegas. As if we needed another reason.

Downtown events center

That little church will soon be in a great position to hear a joyful noise coming from the Downtown Las Vegas Events Center.

More updates soon. This new event venue is definitely one to watch.

Speaking of updates, we’ve got a photo from the demolition site from July 22, 2014. Workers are making quick work of the building at The D.

The D demolition

Going…going…

Classic Flame Steakhouse at El Cortez Will Close in August

A beloved downtown restaurant, the Flame Steakhouse at El Cortez, will close Aug. 31, 2014. Because there wasn’t quite enough WTF happening in Las Vegas already.

Flame Steakhouse

New of the Flame closing is sure to spark a firestorm of burning questions. As well as lots of puns related to fire and flames.

A new 24-hour restaurant is planned for the Flame space, Siegel 1941.

The name is a reference to mobster Bugsy Siegel who was one of the co-owners of the hotel (although Siegel and his pals didn’t get involved in the hotel until 1945).

A news release from El Cortez, distributed the day following our initial report about the Flame’s closing, says, “Encompassing the spirit of classic Vegas, Siegel’s 1941 will seamlessly blend the authentic vintage feel of the El Cortez with a modern interpretation of your traditional Las Vegas 24-hour dining establishment. The space will boast a historic look utilizing original design elements and an impressive display of archival artwork throughout the restaurant.”

The release adds, “New chef-driven menu items will be highlighted while favorites from The Flame, such as the classic roasted prime rib and seasonal stone crab, will be available for guests to enjoy.”

The new restaurant will open by the end of the year.

Flame Steakhouse

The Flame Steakhouse is being snuffed out. Told you about the pun thing.

Given it would make little sense to have two 24-hour offerings, we’ve heard the Cortez Cafe may be used for the addition of a new nightlife offering. Yes, a nightclub at El Cortez.

A first glance, the idea of opening a nightclub at El Cortez is akin to opening a nightclub at your grandma’s assisted living community. Then again, El Cortez has a prime location in the booming Fremont East District, and it’s possible a night spot could bring in a more youthful, affluent crowd. El Cortez has certainly managed to endure a lot of social and economic trends since it opened in 1941. We’ll hold off judging until we can learn more. (First time for everything.)

While we’re scratching our head about that potential turn of events, we’re going to take a moment to think about the delicious bread balls at The Flame.

The Flame

Opening a nightclub at El Cortez will also take some balls, actually.

Before it was called The Flame, the steakhouse was called Roberta’s, after the wife of recently-deceased former El Cortez owner, Jackie Gaughan (pronounced “gawn”).

Gaughan passed away March 12, 2014, and while he sold the El Cortez in 2009, he continued to reside there until his death. It’s been suggested the timing of the closure of The Flame could be related to Gaughan’s passing, but it’s just conjecture at this point.

The bottom line is restaurants in Las Vegas don’t tend to close if they’re wildly successful, so while beloved, it was probably time for a change.

But, damn, those steaks.

The Flame

Nothing too fancy, but one of this blog’s favorite steakhouses in downtown Las Vegas.

The Flame has a loyal following. The live piano music lends the restaurant a refreshingly mellow vibe, in stark contrast to so many Strip restaurants that feel the need to blast music to convince diners they’re having a good time.

At The Flame, the focus is flavorful food, conversation and old-school service. In fact, several of the servers at The Flame have been at the restaurant for decades. Hearing the restaurant is closing, with relatively little notice, seems to have sent them into shock. The good news is they’ll be able to work in the Cortez Cafe until it closes, then they’ll move over to the new restaurant when it opens.

The Flame

On a happier note, let’s not forget one of the best chocolate cakes in Las Vegas. A must-thigh. Must-try, sorry.

So, if you love you some Flame Steakhouse, make a reservation before August 2, 2014. You won’t want to skip tasting this slice of vintage Sin City.

Once The Flame is gone, the already-short list of good steakhouses downtown will be even shorter. Your best bets are Andiamo at The D Las Vegas (as good as people say), Oscar’s at The Plaza (reliable), Hugo’s Cellar at Four Queens (haven’t been, but good buzz), Vic & Anthony’s at Golden Nugget (again, good buzz), Triple George (in transition) and Top of Binion’s Steakhouse (overrated).

We were so upset during our visit, we may have dry-humped a chair. Is that wrong?

We were so upset during our most recent visit to The Flame, we may have dry-humped a chair. Is that wrong?

Find out more about the Flame Steakhouse at the official El Cortez site, strangely devoid of information about the impending closure. Quite possibly because they don’t want people humping their chairs. Just a hunch.