Rainforest Cafe Restaurant Opens at Harmon Corner

The recently-closed Rainforest Cafe at MGM Grand has found a new home.

A new Rainforest Cafe opened on Sep. 2, 2015 at Harmon Corner, a shopping center at the corner of Las Vegas Boulevard and Harmon, across from City Center.

Rainforest Cafe Las Vegas

It’s back, and more in need of a weed-whacker than ever.

As we’d never dined at the now-closed Rainforest Cafe at MGM Grand, we didn’t know what to expect, but were pleasantly surprised at the lush, jungle-themed interior complete with animatronic creatures, realistic sound effects and all.

Rainforest Cafe

Please resist the urge to lick the decor, thanks.

The menu features lots of comfort food, but the whole atmosphere is sort of comforting, actually. That’s probably due to the fact the decor and animals register as familiar to those who visited Disneyland in their youth. In other words, to everyone.

Here’s a look at a parade of elephants (yes, that’s what a group of elephants is called) doing their thing.

Other animatronic creatures include a talking tree, a boa constrictor (no comment on the name “Julius Squeezer”) and a 14-foot-long crocodile, pictured below.

Rainforest Cafe

When you see a crocodile with its mouth open, it’s not being aggressive. They sweat through their mouths.

We suspect one’s ability to enjoy the Rainforest Cafe experience will directly correlate to: 1) having kids, or 2) appreciating whimsy.

As an example, there’s a simulated thunderstorm every 20 minutes or so at Rainforest Cafe. Adults will either find this charming or incredibly annoying. Kids, universally, will deem it a blast.

Rainforest Cafe

Fans of Rainforest Cafe at MGM Grand will notice the absence of aquariums. We’re relieved to report the displaced fish have been relocated, not flushed.

The new Rainforest Cafe Las Vegas at Harmon Corner sits in the space formerly occupied by the ambitious but financially disastrous Goretorium, a horror attraction from “Hostel” director Eli Roth.

The food we sampled at a preview event was delicious, as were the cocktails. We love sugary slushy drinks, and Rainforest Cafe has those down cold.

Rainforest Cafe

The tropical Tiki Punch cocktail says, “We’re in Vegas!” A half dozen say it even more effectively.

Find the full menu on the official Rainforest Cafe site.

Rainforest Cafe, while family-friendly, features a bar on its first floor, the Lava Lounge.

Rainforest Cafe Lava Lounge

How lava relates to a tropical forest, we have no idea. Just go with it, it’s a bar.

Also on the first floor of the two-level venue is a large gift shop.

A highlight of the restaurant is a balcony with plentiful seating.

Rainforest Cafe Las Vegas

This patio is going to catch on like gangbusters, despite the fact no one has used that word since 1974.

The patio offers one of the most spectacular views in all of Las Vegas. We should know, we compiled the definitive list of the 10 best views in Las Vegas.

View from Rainforest Cafe Vegas

You thought we were kidding about the view? Do we seem like the kind of Las Vegas blog that would kid?

The balcony adjoins its neighbors Twin Peaks, a “breastaurant” that’s home to the best chicken strips in the contiguous United States, and Bubba Gump Shrimp Co., owned by Landry’s Inc., the same folks who own and operate Rainforest Cafe and downtown’s Golden Nugget resort.

Rainforest Cafe’s restaurant and bar will operate from 11:00 a.m. to midnight, with the retail store open from 9:00 a.m. to midnight.

Enjoy more photos from the new Rainforest Cafe Las Vegas at Harmon Corner. And, please, work on the whimsy. Just saying.

Rainforest Cafe at Harmon Corner

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Mirage Las Vegas Tests Comped Drink Voucher System and Everything is Ruined

Seriously, Mirage, are you trying to make this blog’s head explode?

On a recent episode of the Five Hundy by Midnight podcast, the hosts discussed a new system for issuing comped drinks at Mirage Las Vegas. The system sounded so horrific (for Vegas, anyway), it couldn’t possibly be true.

Off we went to investigate. As usual, this Las Vegas blog’s “investigations” involve drinking and gambling, the only kind of investigating worth doing, if you ask us.

We sidled up to the Mirage’s Lobby Bar (yes, we’ve been known to sidle) and slipped $20 into a video poker machine. A very friendly bartender immediately took our order and comped our Captain and diet. (Yes, Captain Morgan from a bottle, not a gun. Long story.)

Mirage Lobby Bar

It’s actually called Lobby Bar. Because naming things is hard.

Here’s where things went exponentially south.

See, the Mirage is testing a new system for monitoring and dispensing comped drinks. Free drinks, of course, are one of the most hallowed of all Las Vegas casino traditions, despite recent trends where casinos swap out liquor brands without informing customers, but that’s a rant for a different time.

As with most casino bars, you’re comped your first drink at Mirage’s Lobby Bar, as long as you put at least $20 in the machine. After that, however, you have to earn your drinks, and the decision as to whether you’ve played enough to earn a comp is no longer in the hands of your bartender.

That’s right, your video poker machine decides when you deserve another drink. Not a person. Mirage now employs cocktail-deciding robots from Hell.

How often you earn a comp depends upon several factors. The denomination you’re playing is a key factor. We played quarters, but a higher denomination game spits out drink vouchers more frequently, allegedly.

Mirage Vegas comp drink voucher

“We gave our lives for this abomination?” ~Trees

Also, your length of play is part of the comped drink calculation. Take any kind of break while you’re playing (to Tweet or converse with a friend) and your comp is delayed further.

Brace yourself.

After our first free drink, we played more than an hour (one hour and five minutes, to be exact, with a couple of five minute breaks in play) before we got a voucher for another comped drink. In other words, an eternity in drinking years.

Yes, this happened in Las Vegas. The one in America.

It’s worth noting your drink voucher is valid for 24 hours from the time it’s issued. Big, meet whoop.

Not surprisingly, this new system is universally loathed, not just by customers, but also by bartenders.

Imagine being a Vegas bartender faced with customers who are gambling (holding up their end of the player-casino bargain), and you can’t serve a drink because a machine hasn’t deemed your customer worthy of one. Let the disgruntlement begin, assuming that’s an actual word.

Now, granted, most casinos have standing policies about how much you need to play to get comped drinks.

Bartenders know how much you’re playing, and they have some discretion as to when your next comped drink is allowed. Not at the Lobby Bar at Mirage. And it’s just a matter of time before this virus infects other casino bars, mark our words.

The drink voucher system at Mirage, if allowed to expand to other Mirage casino bars, or other resorts in the MGM Resorts family, is the beginning of the end of comped cocktails in Las Vegas as we know them.

Now, the good news! The video poker machines at the Mirage Lobby Bar are flipping loose. While waiting the hour for our second cocktail, we nailed two four-of-a-kinds and won more than $200. Suck it, The Man.

Video poker four aces

Mojo is the best revenge.

This comped drink voucher system has flown under the radar in Las Vegas, and we can only hope it goes the way of other short-lived, ill-considered penny-pinching strategies.

Does Mirage care about the black eye this could give the resort? Not really, it’s being sold. But it should care. And in this case, caring needs to take the form of killing.

As with any misguided Las Vegas experiments, the best way to make sure it dies is to vote with your dollars. Ask your bartender if they’re on the voucher system, and if so, take your business somewhere else. You deserve better for your gambling spend.

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Sneak Preview: Flippin’ Good Burgers & Shakes Comes to Downtown’s Fremont East

The long-awaited arrival of Flippin’ Good Burgers & Shakes on Fremont East in downtown Las Vegas has arrived.

The new burger joint opens Aug. 29, 2015.

Flippin' Good Burgers

Downtown Las Vegas: You sort of get used to the WTF.

Because the new restaurant hasn’t officially opened yet, it’s not really fair to review it just yet. Then again, the food was good, so what the hell.

Flippin’ Good Burgers & Shakes is nothing too fancy, but it’s a solid addition to the new offerings downtown and should do a booming business given its price points and location.

Flippin’ Good Burgers & Shakes sits in the space formerly occupied by two downtown fixtures, Uncle Joe’s Pizza and Kabob Korner. The space is leased from the Downtown Project, but Downtown Project isn’t an investor as it is with several other downtown bars and restaurants.

Let’s dive in, shall we?

Here’s a look at the Flippin’ Good Burgers & Shakes menu. Streamlined but satisfying.

Flippin' Good Burgers menu

You’re adorable when you squint.

Here’s the menu in a size humans can read without their retinas imploding.

The menu keeps it simple, with burgers, sandwiches, along with sides like hand-cut French fries, cheese fries and onion rings. Shakes and frozen custards round out the menu.

Flippin Good Burgers onion rings

Onion rings, mortal enemy of the mozzarella stick.

During the soft opening, we tried multiple items and liked them all. As the burgers are in the name of the restaurant, they will probably get the most scrutiny.

The basic burger, The Old Fashioned, is $4.25 ($8.05 as part of a combo). The price is right, the ingredients are fresh and it’s a burger comparable in quality to In-N-Out, but thicker and more filling. If you know anything about In-N-Out, you know we mean that comparison as a compliment, and In-N-Out does really, really well.

Flippin' Good Burgers Vegas

Consider your gullet sated.

While we’re comparing, the burgers at Flippin’ Good Burgers & Shakes wallop the over-hyped burgers at Shake Shack, hands down.

Also good are the turkey sliders and burger, as well as the crispy chicken sandwich.

It's no Chick-fil-A, but nothing is, really.

It’s no Chick-fil-A, but nothing is, really.

Here’s a little insider tip: Make sure to check out the list of items labeled “Sandwich Toppings Always Free” on the menu. Here, you’ll find some extras that allow you to customize your burger or sandwich. Easily overlooked, but swapping out BBQ sauce or hot sauce for mayo could make your meal even better, depending upon your culinary bent.

Before we move on, here’s another insider tip you won’t find elsewhere: If you’re a die-hard vegetarian, there’s slim pickings. (Again, the word “Burger” is in the name of the place.) However, there’s a secret menu and if you ask nicely, you can get a grilled cheese sandwich. Don’t say we never did anything for you. We’ll be ferreting out the rest of the secret menu in the weeks to come.

Onward and fullerward.

The shakes are pretty good, but Vegas is home to a lot of spectacular shakes. We’ll be back to try other flavors. They’re offered in huckleberry, strawberry, pineapple, chocolate, vanilla, banana and peanut butter.

Flippin' Good shake

If you ask nicely, you can get it with whipped cream. Something not uncommon in Vegas, if you get our drift.

The frozen custard and concretes (think Blizzards at Dairy Queen) are outstanding.

In the case of the concretes, which we’re fairly sure we’ll never get comfortable calling them, you can stick with the house specialties or create your own. Signature concretes include Mom’s Apple Pie, Macadamia Crunch, Banana Monkey and Brownie Delight. They run a reasonable $3.45 for eight ounces and $6.45 for 16 ounces.

Flippin' Good Burgers

The Brownie Delight can be summed up in four words: Ghirardelli. Look, we’re a Las Vegas blog, not an abacus.

As we are on Fremont East, there’s some liquor, but not a huge selection.

See below for the beer on tap, and there are also wine coolers. Flippin’ Good Burgers & Shakes doesn’t pretend to be a bar. There are already a few of those downtown.

Flippin' Good beer

Banger Brewing is about a block away, at Neonopolis. Ask about the free tour.

The interior of Flippin’ Good Burgers & Shakes is simple and clean. There are a mix of uncomfortable chairs (required by city ordinance in new downtown restaurants) and cushy booths.

While you can sit, this isn’t a sit-down restaurant, per se. No servers. You order at the counter, which ends up being a money-saver, as you can skip the tip.

Flippin' Good Burgers & Shakes

A fine place downtown to chillax, or whatever the kids are doing now.

Ultimately, Flippin’ Good Burgers & Shakes gets the job done and is sure to be a regular haunt for folks who work downtown (like this blog), and value-conscious bar-hoppers. Those party animals and hipsters with cocktail-driven cravings often hit up Radio City Pizzeria’s walk-up window for a slice because it’s right across the street. That restaurant closes Aug. 29, 2015. Flippin good timing!

Once it opens, we expect Flippin’ Good Burgers & Shakes will join our regular rotation of downtown restaurants. Las Vegas blogs do not live by Pizza Rock alone.

Flippin’ Good Burgers will be open 10:30 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. Sunday through Thursday; 10:30 to 3:00 a.m. Friday and Saturday.

Give it a try, mention we sent you, and let us know what you think.

Flippin' Good Burgers & Shakes

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Little Darlings Strip Club Makes Dramatic Play for Asian Tourists

The love affair between Las Vegas casinos and Asian gamblers has been well-documented.

For example, Chinese travelers stay longer in Las Vegas than other international gamblers and when they’re here, they spend more (about $3,200 per person, per trip). Recently, the Bellagio even went so far as to mount a multi-million dollar theatrical production to woo Asian tourists.

Now, a Las Vegas strip club has made an ingenious move to attract Asian customers. Little Darlings, an all-nude strip club just off The Strip, has altered its name (or at least its signage) to appeal to Chinese tourists.

Little Darlings strip club

In Chinese, the name Ling can mean “spirit” or “chime,” either of which would make a solid stripper name, come to think of it.

Las Vegas seems to have an insatiable appetite for big spenders from Asia, so this move by Little Darlings comes as no surprise to seasoned Sin City observers.

The jury’s still out about whether Little Darlings plans to permanently change its name to “Little Lings,” and some question whether such blatant marketing gimmicks will have their intended effect.

We’d love to hear your thoughts, so please leave a comment if you’d like to wèi in.

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Downtown’s VegeNation Restaurant Is So Good You Might Consider Switching Teams

Let’s get this out of the way right up front. This blog is not a vegetarian and we know next to nothing about vegetarianism or its derivations.

We also know nothing about Veganism, Fruitarianism, Pescetarianism, Flexitarianism or Pollotarianism. About the only “ism” we’re familiar with is Captain Morganism, and we don’t actually remember too much about it, for whatever reason.


You always remember your first time. In a vegan restaurant. Without it being some kind of fraternity hazing.

That said, we support the humane treatment of animals and aspire to consuming less meat, so the recent opening of VegeNation (pronounced VEDG-uh-nation) restaurant in downtown Las Vegas perked up our ears.

We finally took the leap and tried this new dining offering downtown, mainly because we heard there are menu items resembling food real people eat. We’re pleased to report VegeNation has all that and more.

VegeNation Las Vegas

VegeNation has its fair share of stylish, painfully uncomfortable chairs. It’s the law in new Vegas restaurants. There are cushy booths, too, so there’s something for every kind of badonkadonk. If that’s still a thing.

VegeNation is a vegan restaurant, describing itself as “a community-based restaurant serving fresh, global street food.” But don’t hold that mumbo-jumbo against it.

Here’s the part that’s both daunting to carnivores and exciting for those on the other team: Everything at VegeNation is 100% plant-based. Don’t freak out. Like we did. Just go with it.

The word-of-mouth is strong with VegeNation, and we heard raves about the spaghetti and meatballs. It’s the dish that got us in the place and it didn’t disappoint.

The Mama Mia entree was delicious and is pretty much going to be our go-to dish downtown when we’re in the mood for making the world a better place for animals.


We were told it’s the wheat gluten in the soy that gives the meatballs their meat-like texture. When it comes to vegan food, the less you know the better.

We’d recommend trying VegeNation based upon the Mama Mia alone, but there are many other tempting dishes, too. We have no idea if they’re any good, because we weren’t adventurous enough to try very many, but people with more of a vegan bent said flattering things about them, so we’ll go with that.

The Bao Wow had Asian BBQ tofu, spinach and mushroom on a bao bun. These were flying out of the kitchen at VegeNation.

VegeNation restaurant Vegas

We have not personally had spinach or mushrooms since the early ’90s, so we defer to our fellow diners.

Next up was the Casa Blanca. In the menu, it’s described with these words: “Moroccan Tagine Harissa Spiced Veggies.”

Seriously, the only part of that we recognize is “Moroccan.” We’re pretty sure the “tagine” is either what the dish is called, or the pot in which it’s served, or both. There should probably be a comma somewhere. Anyway, we tried it, and again, the dish was bursting with interesting, unfamiliar flavors.

You’ll have to tell us if you like it.

VegeNation Las Vegas

Harissa often contains cumin, coriander, caraway and mint. Which we’re pretty sure was the name of a popular folk band during the Nixon administration.

While light, the meal was filling. Almost too filling to consider dessert. After all, dessert in a vegan restaurant sounds about as appealing as taking a charisma class from Criss Angel.

Thankfully, we ordered the Brownie Sundae, and it’s pretty much as life-altering as a bean-based dessert can be. Seriously, the brownie is made from black beans.

And it’s absolutely scrumptious.

VegeNation brownie sundae

VegeNation’s Brownie Sundae is officially our thing of choice to be stranded with on a deserted island that’s not Stratosphere headliner Claire Sinclair.

You can check out the full VegeNation menu online.

Since we often have difficulty telling pomegranate molasses from a hole in the ground, you may want to check out a review from our mohawk-sporting foodie friend Al Mancini.

We are confident in conveying that the service at VegeNation was flawless. Shout-out to Levi, who made it known the restaurant does not limit its hires to vegetarians. There’s a lot of not judging going on at VegeNation it seems.


Not judging doesn’t mean you can’t take a stand.

Our only complaints at VegeNation were of the liquid variety. First, the restaurant doesn’t serve beverages in the Coke or Pepsi families. At one point, we were forced to say the words, “Everything is locally-sourced, right? Please locally source a can of diet Coke!”

Also, VegeNation doesn’t have a full bar. This isn’t a crime unless you’re a restaurant in downtown Las Vegas. There is some liquor available, but only the kind made by the boutique Las Vegas Distillery. So, no Captain Morgan. We’ll survive.

Vegenation is located in a booming “restaurant row” downtown, sitting adjacent to Glutton and Zydeco Po-Boys, all backed by the Downtown Project and Zappos’ Tony Hsieh. See more.


The streetside patio will be lovely when it’s not 140-degrees in Las Vegas. At night.

VegeNation is a worthy addition to the downtown dining explosion, even for those who would never set foot in a vegetarian or vegan restaurant. While we’re not ready to “change teams” just yet, it’s great discovering there are far more tasty, animal-free dining options than we ever knew existed.

You’re sure to find something to love at VegeNation, and you’ll feel better about yourself and your place in the food chain when you do.

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Bellagio Resort Delivers on Promise of Spectacle With High-Tech Kabuki Show

Bellagio’s making some bigtime moves on Japan at the moment, and recently pitched some woo as only Las Vegas can, with a world-class spectacle.

The hotel built a 165-foot stage on its lake, home of the famous Bellagio dancing fountains, and hosted five performances of “Koi-Tsukami,” or “Fight With a Carp,” a classic kabuki piece starring Japanese actor Ichikawa Somegoro.

Kabuki at Bellagio

The plot: Samurai meets maiden. Samurai realizes maiden is a carp spirit who’s taken human form to avenge the death of her carp lover. All hell breaks loose.

Each of the 30-minute shows, staged Aug. 14-16, 2015, were attended by about 10,000 people, according to hotel reps.

Bellagio kabuki spectacular

Kabuki began in the 17th century when Japan was under the control of the Tokugawa shogunate, enforced by Tokugawa Ieyasu. Which we knew without looking at Wikipedia, probably.

The true star of the kabuki show at Bellagio was the technology.

A series of 15 Panasonic projectors, synchronized by computers, were used in the performances. Walls of water were backlit, turning the Bellagio’s fountains into a giant movie screen.

Bellagio kabuki show

The 20,000-lumen projectors had a 10,000:1 contrast ratio and WUXGA resolution, whatever those might actually be.

It was an impressive, and expensive, effort. The cost of the production was estimated to be in the millions.

Here’s a look at part of the show with the widest damn lens we could muster.

While people showed up in droves to watch the free show, the logistics of the production made it fairly difficult for most people in the audience to see what was happening on the stage. The best vantage point was in temporary risers, reserved for a few VIPs and members of the media, directly in front of the stage.

The difficult sight lines and overwhelming crowds led some to express disappointment in the shows. But here’s the thing. The shows, ultimately, weren’t for the crowds in attendance.

The kabuki shows at Bellagio were intended for Japanese audiences, in Japan.

MGM Resorts, owner of Bellagio, has for some time expressed interest in opening a casino resort in Japan. These shows on Lake Bellagio were the latest in a series of overtures to the people and government of Japan to legalize casinos in that country and let the good times roll, already.

Bellagio kabuki

Western audiences sometimes don’t appreciate the nuances of kabuki, saying, “The music is not unlike several wet cats being tossed into a crate full of random musical instruments.” Get a clue, Western audiences!

Other Las Vegas casino companies would love to build resorts in Japan (like Caesars, Wynn and Las Vegas Sands) but none have a “Kabuki Spectacular” under their belts.

And spectacular it was.

Bellagio and MGM Resorts have put their money where their collective mouth is and staked their claim to the Japanese market in a grand, highly-visible way.

Bellagio kabuki

“Fight With a Carp” ends unhappily, but let’s pretend the Samurai and carp spirit maiden live happily ever after. It’s America!

Whatever the motivation behind the kabuki shows at Bellagio, it was a great reminder Las Vegas always has something new in the works and possesses an endless capacity for pulling out all the stops in order to surprise and amaze.

While some of the Vegas “wow” factor has given way to commerce (translation: pharmacies) recently, there’s still nowhere else in the world like Sin City when it comes to pizzazz and hooplah. Hell, even our pharmacies have their own hooplah. (Pizzazz, not so much.)

Enjoy more photos from the kabuki production at Bellagio Las Vegas, several of which are nearly in focus.

Kabuki Spectacle at Bellagio

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