Monthly Archives: June 2014

After Years of Searching, Finally, A Great Hawaiian Shaved Ice in Las Vegas

Our search has spanned a decade, but finally we have found a great Hawaiian-style shaved ice in Las Vegas. Where? At the place that also serves the city’s best ice cream: Lappert’s at the California in downtown Las Vegas.

We’ve long touted the ice cream at Lappert’s, but during a recent visit, another temptation  caught our eye. This bad boy stands nearly a foot tall, no joke.

Shaved ice Las Vegas

Summer just got schooled.

Yes, there are other places that sell snow cones in Las Vegas. Lame. Hawaiian-style shaved ice is the ultimate frosty treat.

How do we know? We grew up in Hawaii. And while we didn’t care for very much of the cultural cluster that is Hawaii, the shaved ice was truly epic. (Oh, and we’re fully cognizant of the fact they don’t call it “shaved ice” in Hawaii. There, it’s “shave ice.” But we think that sounds moronic, so we’ll stick with the English version. By the way, Lappert’s calls it “shaved ice,” too.)

Proper Hawaiian shaved ice doesn’t have big clumps of ice. It’s shaved finely, so when the colored syrup is poured over it, it sticks, rather than turning the ice into sludge.

Lappert's shaved ice

Come to daddy.

The massive serving of shaved ice at Lappert’s is a mere $3.50, a fact which makes it even more delicious.

You may not listen to a Las Vegas blog when it suggests you try a chicken parm sandwich somewhere, or if it steers you away from a nightclub (all of them) or show (“Defending the Caveman”).

But trust this one when it says you must put a visit to Lappert’s on your Las Vegas bucket list. Oh, and we’re right about that other stuff, too.

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Change Is the Only Constant at Plaza Las Vegas, And By “Change” We Mean “Meh”

Wow, there’s a lot going on at the Plaza in downtown Las Vegas. To a layperson’s eye, none of it seems to be amounting to anything, such as success or profitability, but you be the judge.

First up, the hotel’s Island Sushi & Hawaiian Grill restaurant has closed. The restaurant has struggled for some time, and somebody finally decided to pull the plug.

Island Sushi

Island Sushi is now sleeping with the fishes. The grapevine says a new hotel cafe is in the works.

Thanks to our friends at the Five Hundy by Midnight podcast for tipping us off to the closure of Island Sushi.

In another surprising turn of events, the hotel’s Z Lounge has also shuttered. If you don’t recognize the name of the lounge, that’s because it has had upwards of 17 names in recent years.

This is the lounge that was formerly the Swinger’s Club, an Anthony Cools’ production, featuring scantily-clad cocktail waitresses and miniature golf. (Cools is the comedy-hypnotist at Paris Las Vegas.)

After the Swinger’s Club came The Drink, which, yet again, failed. The latest attempt to throw spaghetti against the wall to see what sticks was Z Lounge. Today, all traces of this black hole of so-so ideas has been wiped clean.

Plaza casino

See that wall? That was the lounge. It’s much more difficult for a wall to tank than a lounge.

Further exploring the casino floor, you’ll find an ever-moving poker room. Not exactly a bustling hub of activity.

Plaza poker room

They should put the “room” in “poker room” in quotation marks.

The room is equipped with electronic poker tables. People still play against people, but these tables eliminate the need for dealers. Which, we’re sure, goes over great with those who make their living as dealers.

Plaza poker room

No dealers. No chips. No fun.

The poker room was previously located on the other side of the casino, enclosed, next to the now-closed Island Sushi. The vacated space seems to want to be a space for live entertainment. The space might be better used as a place to keep the hotel’s life support machine.

Plaza casino

On the right, Island Sushi. On the left, the saddest entertainment venue since the invention of the lounge lizard.

Upstairs, there’s more fail in store!

Exposed Salon, an idea we figured was foolproof, wasn’t. Even women doing manicures in lingerie couldn’t save this endeavor, another brainchild of Anthony Cools.

Exposed Salon

Oh, great, now where are we going to get our $50 haircuts?

We’ve learned exclusively that Exposed Salon will be replaced by (wait for it) a beef jerky store. Because there’s nothing quite like a beef jerky store when it comes to generating excitement about a Las Vegas hotel-casino.

In another exclusive, we’ve learned the beef jerky store at the Las Vegas Club is the one moving to the Plaza.

In our final exclusive, we’ve learned this beef jerky store, Las Vegas Jerkys, Inc., may be the only remaining business on planet Earth without a Web site.

Here’s a photo of the store at Las Vegas Club.

Las Vegas Jerkeys

Exclusives are exhausting.

So, what does all this shuffling mean? It means the Plaza (and Las Vegas Club, as they’re owned by the same company, the Tamares Group) are run by people who have all the business acumen of Larry, Moe and Curly. But without the charm.

It means there’s not much reason to visit the Plaza except for the excellent street tacos at the Zaba’s Mexican Grill in the hotel’s food court.

The only other saving grace of the Plaza is probably its rooms. They’re a great value, large and clean, making them the perfect place to keep your stuff while you venture off to other, better casinos.

Plaza Las Vegas

Oh, Plaza. Please don’t screw up Oscar’s.

The location of the Plaza is a tricky one. It’s at the end of Fremont Street, so it’s very visible, but it feels just outside of the party going on under the Fremont Street Experience. (This feeling has been exacerbated by the building of a landing platform for the SlotZilla zip line, pretty much trashing the Plaza’s view of the Viva Vision light shows.)

Awhile back, the Plaza got into a sparring match with Fremont Street Experience, refusing to pay a monthly assessment used to maintain the popular attraction. As such, the hotel doesn’t benefit from Fremont Street Experience’s marketing efforts and assistance. Obviously, given the state of the Plaza, it could use whatever assistance it can get.

We’ll keep an eye on all the latest at the Plaza and, hopefully, the joint can get its act together. Rumors are still rampant that a sale of the Las Vegas Club may be in the works to the CVS Pharmacy folks. Because nothing says Las Vegas excitement like DayQuil and condoms.

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Jeff Civillico Celebrates Two Years at The Quad, Adds New High-Tech Flair to Family-Friendly Show

Comedian, juggler, escape artist and all-around nice guy, Jeff Civillico, recently celebrated his second anniversary at The Quad Las Vegas.

Civillico’s 4:00 p.m. show, “Comedy in Action,” is easily one of the best family-friendly entertainment values on the Las Vegas Strip, and we’re not just saying that so he’ll use our quote in his advertisements.

Jeff Civillico

Jeff Civillico, in front of his inflatable, crowd-sourced set, “The People’s Arch.” No, really.

In honor of his second anniversary, Civillico showed off a flashy new addition to his already winning show.

Civillico and his team somehow hacked a GoPro camera (affixed to his head) so it displays his juggling prowess in real time on a giant screen behind him.

Jeff Civillico

Because jugging isn’t dorky enough, this.

Oh, and did we mention he does this routine in the dark?

The effect is mesmerizing and takes juggling, which Civillico makes look deceptively easy, to a whole new level. Take a look.

Jeff Civillico is one of the hardest-working performers in Las Vegas. Each day, after his 4:00 p.m. show (dark Tuesdays and Fridays), he drives to Laughlin, Nevada to perform at Harrah’s Laughlin.

Civillico deserves all the success he gets, as he has not only endured the seemingly endless construction at The Quad, but also created a Las Vegas nonprofit, Win-Win Entertainment, that connects Las Vegas entertainers with other charities making a huge difference in the community.

Jeff Civillico

Just another day at the office for Jeff Civillico.

So, check out his show, and take advantage of the free meet-and-greet after each show. And tell Jeff how good he looks in those tight black pants of his. He’ll love that.

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Pop-Up Casino at Former Moulin Rouge is Awesome, Announcement of New Moulin Rouge, Not So Much

It’s one of the quirkiest aspects of Las Vegas casino culture.

Owners of defunct casinos are obligated to have gaming on the site of their former casino every two years to avoid losing their unrestricted gaming license. (Nevada stopped issuing such licenses in the 1990s, so they’re highly coveted.)

Recently, the former Moulin Rouge opened for a day, with 15 video poker machines inside an unassuming trailer.

Moulin Rouge

The porte-cochère and grand entrance of the temporary Moulin Rouge.

These pop-up casinos aren’t all that uncommon, but what is uncommon is that people actually showed up to play.

That’s because the Moulin Rouge is a hotel with some serious Las Vegas history. It’s renown has come, in large part, from the fact it was the first desegregated casino in Las Vegas. It was built in 1955.

Moulin Rouge

Would it kill them to set up a craps table for a few hours?

Here’s a great story about the history of the Moulin Rouge.

Below is the temporary conditional gaming license used to keep the unconditional gaming license alive. Told you it was quirky.

Moulin Rouge

This is as close as it gets to public art in a pop-up casino.

It was great seeing people filing in and out to donate a few dollars to the temporary Moulin Rouge.

The day seemed especially meaningful to African-American visitors. It’s astonishing to think casinos were segregated in Las Vegas for five decades. (The first casino in Las Vegas, downtown’s Golden Gate, opened in 1906.)

The Moulin Rouge was home to some of the most talented performers ever to take the Las Vegas stage, including Sammy Davis Jr., Ella Fitzgerald, Nat “King” Cole, Harry Belafonte, Count Basie, Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington.

These iconic performers could do shows at other Las Vegas hotels, but were not permitted to socialize or stay at those hotels. Seriously, what in the hell is the matter with people?

Moulin Rouge

Suck it, racism.

Much of the buzz inside the one-day Moulin Rouge on June 11, 2014 was the simultaneous announcement of the supposed return of the Moulin Rouge. A company called GCA Leisure says it’s “currently in discussions with several potential partners for the Moulin Rouge.”

The news release about the comeback of the Moulin Rouge says “the GCA Leisure team is comprised of casino industry and Wall Street veterans with decades of experience in developing and executing complex projects.”

So, yeah, not going to happen. While we appreciate this company’s enthusiasm, as we’ve said on many occasions, it’s vastly easier to announce something than to make it a reality.

Not only does GCA say the Moulin Rouge will be back, against all odds, they claim it will be “one of the premier entertainment, hotel, dining and gaming destinations in Las Vegas.” Don’t make us come over there and slap you on the back of your head, GCA.

The site of the Moulin Rouge is in one of the worst neighborhoods in Las Vegas, unfortunately, and the site has pretty much been a dump since the original Moulin Rouge burned down in 2003. There’s no foot traffic whatsoever, no marketing database, and getting lost in the vicinity tends to make your life flash before your eyes.

Still, miracles happen in Las Vegas all the time. Nobody figured the SLS would happen on the site of the former Sahara, and that hotel will be opening even sooner than anticipated.

So, we’ll wait and see, but we won’t be holding our breath. In the meantime, we tip our hats to this feisty casino that changed Las Vegas forever, the Moulin Rouge, gone but never forgotten.

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One of Those Magical Las Vegas Moments

One of the reasons we love Las Vegas so much is its undeniable magic. Not the kind of magic with doves or mirrors. The real kind. The kind that keeps the dream that is Las Vegas alive and kicking.

So, we were recently at the California casino, downtown, and had been playing roulette about an hour. We were up about $100. Which is pretty magical, but that’s not the magic we’re discussing here.

California Hotel

Unrelated: Was that traffic light really necessary? It messes with our neon mojo.

After that hour, we’d gotten to know the dealer a little, and our fellow players. Building that rapport makes the game even more fun. Then a young guy strides up and slaps a green $25 chip on one number.

After you’ve been in casinos awhile, you get used to seeing that kind of random behavior. Often, it’s annoying. Those “hit it and quit it” gamblers can disrupt the flow of the table, and often don’t tip, for whatever reason. You also kind of get used to those one-off players getting spanked, hard. Especially if someone bets on just one number in roulette.

That $25 bet was the only one this guy made, just the one, out of the blue. On 23. Then this happened.

roulette

Boom. The casino staff was so taken aback, they forget to kick us out for taking a photo.

There was a collective stunned silence as the number 23 was called. Then there was bedlam. The other players at the table roared, and this guy’s friends roared. He just sort of smiled, as if he’d known what was going to happen all along.

The bet paid $875. He tipped the dealer $25, and began to walk away. The dealer said, “Sir, you have a $25 chip still on the table.” The player said, “Keep that, too.”

After this magical moment, we learned the guy’s name is Ken, and he and his friends were visiting from West Covina, California.

The whole episode had us all shaking our heads for the rest of the session.

Yes, the odds are stacked against us. Everyone knows that. Yes, the casino almost always wins. But sometimes, Lady Luck intercedes, and that “almost” clears the way for us to win, too.

When those moments happen, and they happen more frequently than you’d think, it’s as close as it gets to real magic. Voila.

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The D Begins Construction on New Gateway to Downtown Las Vegas Events Center

The D Las Vegas, and its owner Derek Stevens, have big plans in store for downtown, and those include a new entertainment complex, the Downtown Las Vegas Events Center.

Just recently, demolition began in The D’s valet area. This entire “annex” of the hotel (formerly employee office space) will be retooled and transformed into a five-lane porte-cochère as well as an eye-popping gateway to the shiny new events center.

The D Las Vegas

This is where some Las Vegas magic will soon appear. The events center will be kitty-corner from this. That’s “diagonally opposite” for the direction nerds.

The new Downtown Las Vegas Events Center will be on the site of the former Las Vegas courthouse.

Stevens purchased the building, and a city block of land, at a cost of $10 million.

Las Vegas City Hall

This is the “before” photo of the former courthouse. Well, more of a “during.”

Demolition was finished in short order, and the site is currently being used as parking lot.

The orientation of the new events center is already pretty apparent. You can see both the location of what will be the stage (upper left in the photo below, next to the two blinged-out buses), as well as VIP cabanas and seating (currently a structure used as covered parking, near all the palm trees, on the right of the lot).

Downtown Las Vegas Events Center

When the Downtown Las Vegas Events Center opens, there will be fewer cars and lots of people bobbing their heads in unison.

At the moment, the focus is on The D’s southwest facade.

While we can’t share the renderings of the new facade at The D, or the entryway to the events center on the other side of the street, we can say they’ll be slick, snazzy without being over-the-top, and create a natural, symmetrical flow to and from The D and Fremont Street Experience to this new sporting and concert venue.

Each gateway will be framed by large video displays and other decorative flourishes, including what appears to be a large art piece front-and-center on The D side.

The D

You go, guys using a crane when a ladder would probably have been more suitable.

Much of the work currently being done will be invisible to guests, as a false wall has been put up so work can go on behind it. It’s hard to explain, so let’s see a pic.

The D

The construction wall runs the length of the hotel’s valet area. There’s an even better angle below. Have we every disappointed you? Wait, don’t answer that.

Here’s a shot of both sides of the construction wall simultaneously, because sometimes we rock it as much as we say we do.

The D

Demo on the left, valet on the right.

One of the interesting aspects of the demolition taking place is that before The D was The D, it was Fitzgerald’s, and before that it was at various times a market, a shoe store, a men’s store, a drugstore and a jewelry store.

At some point along the way, a massive safe was installed, and the safe still stands in the part of The D being renovated (see below). We would say “dibs,” but we have already had several hernias, and this safe is going to be a pain to move. Security breach!

The D safe

Why not salvage this and turn it into an exclusive, intimate bar? Maybe call it Safe Haven, and to get in, you have to know the secret combination. You’re welcome, The D.

A handful of events have already been nailed down for the new Downtown Las Vegas Events Center, but The D wants to ensure their initial line-up has a “wow” factor, so they’re being tight-lipped as more events are being finalized.

One thing is for sure. Derek Stevens and his team are people who make good on their promises, and they know how to create offerings people don’t merely like, but love. (Stevens is also co-owner of Golden Gate, another of our favorite places to play and imbibe.)

Longbar at The D Las Vegas

Speaking of things people love at The D, Longbar is this blog’s home away from home and quite possibly the happiest place on Earth. (Sorry, Disneyland, it doesn’t cost $100 to get into Longbar.)

There are exciting things in the works at The D and the Downtown Las Vegas Events Center, and we can’t wait to see what’s next.

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