Monthly Archives: November 2014

Security Breach-a-Palooza: Catching Up On a Metric Ass-Ton of New Things at Caesars Palace

Wow. What a difference a few weeks makes in Las Vegas.

During a recent visit to Caesars Palace, we were so overwhelmed with all the Vegas newness, we nearly swooned. And we’re not typically a swooner, except in the presence of Kim Kardashian magazine covers.

First, the hotel’s Race & Sports Book has sprouted a serpentining $1.6 million bar. It’s impressive, and has completely transformed this beloved sports book. Unfortunately, photos aren’t allowed in the casino, so we won’t be able to share the photo below. Or it would be considered a security breach.

Caesars Palace bar

TV screens for the thrill of victory. Video poker screens for the agony of defeat.

Behind the new bar is a two-level seating area. The sports book butts up against the casino’s poker room. Note: Typically, in Las Vegas, butting up against things costs extra.

Caesars Palace sports book

Caesars Palace has always been a popular spot for sports bettors, many of whom like to be called “bettors” because it sounds fancy.

Next to the Caesars Palace sports book is a gigantic construction wall. This is either the space where Pure nightclub will transform into Omnia, or an open invitation to Banksy.

Caesars Omnia

Technically, if enough people buy hot dogs at that stand, Omnia nightclub will never need to open. Hey, we can dream.

A few feet farther is the space formerly occupied by Munchbar, which we always thought sounded a little dirty, but we didn’t want to say anything.

Munchbar will be replaced by Searsucker restaurant. The restaurant is being brought to Caesars Palace by Hakkasan Group, the nightclub company that’s also shape-shifting Pure into Omnia (for nearly $40 million). Unless everybody in Las Vegas buys, like, a thousand hot dogs each.

Caesars Searsucker

Munchbar, ashamed by its failure, tries to hide behind a pillar.

Searsucker, in the running for “Worst Restaurant Name, Ever,” will be 7,500-square-feet and have “design highlights that include coarse rope chandeliers that look like lassos, neon ‘Eat’ signs, tumbleweed-shaped light fixtures and rustic wood and marble tables, as well as several large whimsical paintings on the subject of food.” A cowboy culture theme in the middle of a Roman-themed hotel sounds like a match made in heaven, because we all know how well things went in “West World.”

Read more Searsucker. Moving on.

Elsewhere in the casino, there’s a new Starbucks where Java Coast used to be, near the former Cypress Street Marketplace food court. Don’t jump ahead.

Starbucks

Given the proximity of this Starbucks to the casino (four feet away) we predict a fistfight between coffee and cigarettes for fragrance domination.

And, yes, the Cypress Street Marketplace has been walled and curtained off. A $2.9 million retooling of the space is in the works.

Cypress Street Caesars

Say “Ciao!” to Cypress Street Marketplace. Unless “ciao” means “hello.” Or maybe “ciao” is the Italian “aloha.” We are a blog, not a linguist.

How far along is the renovation? How would we know? Did you skip the part about there being walls around the construction area? What are we, serial security breachors? (Don’t answer that.)

Cypress Street closed

First, blank slate, then more Vegas newness.

Why we’re fascinated by behind-the-scenes construction photos, we may never know. Stop with the psychoanalysis and just enjoy.

Cypress Street closed

We have learned exactly nothing from this security breach.

Time to head into the Forum Shops at Caesars Palace.

You know the Forum Shops. It’s that shopping complex we tend to only mention when we have a photo we want to show off. Yeah, that Forum Shops.

Forum Shops Las Vegas

We could look at this all day. Just like your mom. Meaning, your mom could also look at it all day. Why, what were you thinking?

First, there’s some newness in the form of what’s not there anymore.

The Gods of the Festival fountain has vanished. (Thanks to our friends at Vegas Chatter for the heads up.) This was the mall’s other lame talking statue attraction. The main lame talking statue attraction is the Fall of Atlantis, renovated in 2013, but no less lame for having been renovated.

Festival Fountain

Here’s the Festival Fountain before it was removed. Yes, we have a time machine. That explains why this blog looks perpetually young.

Now, there’s whole lot of nothing. Unless you consider a void something. Then, you’re just being impudent. The void is pictured below.

Forum Shops

Ah, the memories. Which we didn’t exactly ever have, but just play along.

There’s some new construction in the area near Casa Fuente, a cigar lounge and nausea emporium. Sorry, not a fan of foul-smelling, oral cavity cancer-causing penis substitutes. All due respect.

Anyway, the Forum Shops escalators are being improved and a water feature is being installed.

Forum Shops construction

Let’s just say this fountain won’t give the fountains at Bellagio any sleepless nights.

Learn more from our friends at Eater Vegas.

Here’s a preview of what this area will look like soon.

Forum Shops

This rendering, in another part of the Forum Shops, shows the finished product of the construction above. We should get a P.I. license.

Our last bit of newness is the recently-opened Border Grill, at the base of the Forum Shops’ spiral escalators. Border Grill replaces the struggling P.J. Clarke’s.

Mesa Grill Caesars Palace

This Border Grill is the sister restaurant of the one at Mandalay Bay. And, since they’re sisters, we trust they’ll be wearing each other’s sweaters.

What have we learned from the ever-evolving Caesars Palace? That Las Vegas is like a shark. Specifically, it has a covering of dermal denticles that protects its skin from parasites.

Or perhaps we’ve learned Las Vegas is like a shark in that it must keep moving to survive.

We may also have learned “posting lots of photos in a Las Vegas blog” is almost like “having a life.”

Why do we always have to learn things, anyway?

Can’t we just enjoy this time together. You in your cubicle, us in our underwear. Unless that’s awkward. The cubicle part, that is.

If you stumble across new or interesting things during your Las Vegas adventures, we’d love to hear about them. Leave a comment. Drop us a line. Or just tell our sister. She’s a world-class gossipor.

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Downtown’s Carson Kitchen Warrants Venturing Off the Eaten Path

Chef Kerry Simon’s Carson Kitchen has gotten some great reviews since it opened in June of 2014, and it’s well worth venturing a block off Fremont East to enjoy a menu that’s full of quirky, surprising dishes with a focus on shared plates.

Carson Kitchen

Not everything downtown has to have neon on it, you know.

Carson Kitchen is at the intersection of Sixth Street and Carson Avenue, in the renovated John E. Carson Building. The building is also home to O Face Doughnuts, Bud & Vine (a flower shop), the new Bocho Downtown Sushi and other small businesses.

Carson Kitchen can be a little tough to spot at first, but again, well worth finding.

Carson Kitchen

No, they didn’t forget to finish the ceiling. In Vegas, that’s a thing.

The restaurant has two levels, including a charming upstairs patio. There’s a full bar both upstairs and downstairs, so either works fine for this blog.

Carson Kitchen patio

The patio is awesome during the two weeks in Las Vegas when it’s not 120-degrees or 20-degrees.

In case you’ve never heard of Kerry Simon, he’s the chef behind a couple of Las Vegas restaurants, KGB: Kerry’s Gourmet Burgers at Harrah’s and Simon Restaurant & Lounge at Palms Place.

Simon was once dubbed the “Rock ‘n’ Roll Chef” by Rolling Stone magazine (because of all his musician friends and customers), and he stepped into the national spotlight when he won a hamburger battle on “Iron Chef America” in 2005.

The ailing chef (Simon was diagnosed in 2013 with Multiple System Atrophy, a terminal illness) was very much involved in creating the menu at Carson Kitchen, and it reflects his thoughtful, often-playful culinary sensibilities.

Kerry Simon

We took this pic of chef Kerry Simon back in 2010.

If you’d like to know more about chef Simon, here’s a story in Esquire, as well as a story we did about him for Today in Las Vegas magazine.

On with the food.

Because the menu features lots of small plates, called “Social Plates” on the menu, you’ll get to try a few dishes and explore flavors you may never have experienced before.

Carson Kitchen

You’ve probably had crispy chicken skins before, but have these.

Nothing too crazy or exotic, and since it’s downtown, nothing pretentious. Just some food that’s fun and value-priced, especially when compared to similar restaurants on The Strip.

Carson Kitchen devils eggs

The Devil’s Eggs, with pancetta and caviar ($8). Don’t worry, they’ll make more.

Check out the full Carson Kitchen menu.

Carson Kitchen

Think you know Spam? Try these Spam Croquettes with jalapeno creamy mustard ($8). You don’t know everything.

We hear Kerry Simon still visits Carson Kitchen often, but the day-to-day duties are left to Executive Chef Matt Andrews. Read an interview with Andrews.

Carson Kitchen gyro tacos

The Gyro Tacos with lamb, tzatziki, cucumber and tomato ($10).

Also on the modest menu are burgers, flat breads, “Meat and Fish” items and “Farm and Garden” selections.

Carson Kitchen Butter Burger

Kerry Simon shines when he does burgers. This is his Butter Burger ($14). Bonus: Tots.

One of our favorites was the Wellington Empanada ($10).

Carson Kitchen

This dish has duxelle, an item we looked up on the Internet and still don’t quite grasp. We are a Las Vegas blog, not a food ingredient grasper.

The menu also features desserts like a Bourbon Fudge Brownie and Glazed Donut Bread Pudding.

Oh, and Kerry Simon’s take on Twinkies.

Carson Kitchen Twinkies

Less sweet than real Twinkies, but some people seem to like that.

Overall, the service is friendly, although a little inconsistent at times. As we mentioned, there’s liquor, so who even notices such things?

Carson Kitchen bar

There’s a solid variety of beer, wine and specialty cocktails. See the beverage menu.

Carson Kitchen joins an ever-growing list of must-try restaurants in downtown Las Vegas, including Pizza Rock, Nacho Daddy, La Comida and others.

At Kerry Simon’s Carson Kitchen, the prices are right, the vibe is laid-back and the menu is a testament to a chef whose personality shines through even in the midst of the fight of his life.

Kerry Simon's Carson Kitchen























 

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Two Games You Should Flee in Las Vegas Casinos

Gambling is fun. We even know people who think gambling is more fun than a lap dance. These people are what’s known as either “gambling addicts” or “people who don’t particularly have a clue.”

As much as gambling is, there are two games in Las Vegas casinos that should trigger an immediate flight response, keno and the Big Six wheel. Here’s why.

Keno comes from a French word, “quine” (pronounced “keen”), which means “five winning numbers.” An alternate definition of “quine” might also be “What in the hell are you thinking?”

That’s because keno has the worst odds in the casino, with a house edge of 25%. That’s spectacularly awful, even to the math-challenged, like this blog.

keno

An anagram for “play keno” is “yank pole.” We are not kidding.

So, unless you are looking for a way to rid yourself of all that pesky currency in your pockets, avoid keno at all costs.

Big Six wheels, also called the “Wheel of Fortune,” are often placed at the front door of a casino, out where the newbie gamblers can see them. That’s because the house edge is huge, and casinos (the aforementioned “house”) tend to love when that happens.

Depending upon the number you’re betting on, the house edge on the Big Six wheel can range from a terrible 11% to an appalling 24%.

Big Six wheel

If you insist upon playing the Big Six wheel, ask the pit boss if the casino will comp you some lube. You’ll need it. And not in a good way.

Just do yourself a favor and walk right by any Big Six wheel, even if a scantily-clad woman with lots of cleavage is serving as a dealer. It’s a trap. Or, should we say, they’re a trap.

Find yourself a game with better odds, like blackjack, craps or baccarat, and make your money last. You’ll need it for that lap dance.

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Comedy-Juggler Jeff Civillico Proves, Again, He’s Got the Biggest Heart on The Strip

Comedian and juggler Jeff Civillico, who performs at The Linq Hotel & Casino (formerly The Quad) gives until it hurts.

He recently rappelled from the top of Planet Hollywood, while juggling, for charity. He also started his own inspired nonprofit, Win-Win Entertainment, which helps Nevada charities connect with Las Vegas entertainers for their events.

Jeff Civillico is the king of loveable goofballs. Emphasis on balls.

Insert your favorite “balls” joke here. Jeff won’t mind.

Now, Civillico’s started what he’s calling “Give Back Sundays,” a program where he partners with community organizations and donates 50% of his ticket sales to worthy nonprofits.

Special ticket prices for these Sunday shows are a great deal for everyone. Discounted tickets are $20 for general admission, $30 VIP and for $1,200 Jeff Civillico will personally massage your feet with coconut oil. Unless we’re just making that last part up.

Even the normal ticket prices are one of the best family-friendly show values in Vegas at $38.50 (general admission) and $49.50 (VIP).

Here’s a peek at one of our favorite parts of Jeff’s show.

Our pal Jeff has already lined up nonprofit partners for “Give Back Sunday” well into 2015, including Three Square Food Bank, Miracle League, UNLV Foundation, Foundation for an Independent Tomorrow, Trauma Intervention Program, Special Olympics Nevada and a group this blog has personally worked with for years, Spread the Word Nevada.

Find out more about “Give Back Sundays at Jeff Civillico’s official site.

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Richard Petty Driving Experience Will Satisfy Your Need for Speed and Then Some

We’ve heard about the Richard Petty Driving Experience at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway for years, and figured it was about time to grow a pair and test our mettle with a little heavy pedal.

It turns out, the Richard Petty Driving Experience is easily one of the most heart-racing things you can do in Las Vegas.

Here’s how it all goes down.

Richard Petty Driving Experience

Let’s YOLO, already.

The Las Vegas Motor Speedway is about 10-15 minutes from the Las Vegas Strip. The trip just got shorter because the Richard Petty Driving Experience recently announced it will provide customers complimentary transportation to and from the Speedway.

Aspiring racecar drivers have the option of being picked up at any of five Strip resorts: Excalibur, Paris, Treasure Island, Mirage and Harrah’s.

Richard Petty Las Vegas

We love the way the Speedway is painted as it makes it easier to imagine you’re driving in front of thousands of race fans, several of whom aren’t named Bubba.

Once you arrive a the Las Vegas Speedway, you’re greeted by lots of smiles. Those smiles become critical as you approach the moment when you’re zipping around a racetrack at more than 100 miles an hour. They’re a source of comfort to those of us who may have skipped the daredevil gene. Moving on.

The staff at the Richard Petty Driving Experience are an amazing bunch. You start off with an orientation, and from minute one you get the sense these folks have seen it all, so you’re in good hands.

Richard Petty driving Vegas

This stick shift simulator makes it easier for instructors to identify Millenials.

At the orientation, for starters, you learn more about Richard Petty. Petty, it turns out, won a record 200 races during his career, including seven NASCAR championships. The good news is Petty is still going strong at 77.

You also learn more about the car you’ll be driving. Yes, you. While the Experience offers ride-alongs, the majority of the packages involve actually driving an authentic racecar. With a 600 horsepower engine. Which, even though we have no idea what that means, is a whole lot according to the experts. (By way of comparison, our Honda Accord has a 177-horsepower engine and can only go 81 miles per hour. Downhill. With a tailwind.)

Richard Petty Driving Experience

Guests get a sweet lanyard. We live for lanyards.

Safety is of the utmost concern, of course. The briefing is detailed enough to instill confidence, but not particularly long or lecturey, which we’re fairly confident is not a word.

Soon, you’re out in a staging area next to the track. The same track professional drivers use. To drive at speeds approaching those of commercial aircraft.

Richard Petty experience

Racecar driving can be intense. (We’ll wait.)

You’re geared up, with a fireproof suit and helmet. They go on over your street clothes. And there are lockers nearby for your valuables.

Driving experience Las Vegas

Yes, we took a photo of the lockers. If you don’t like it, get your own Las Vegas blog.

Next, you meet your co-pilots. These intrepid individuals sit in the passenger seat, possibly praying harder than anyone’s ever prayed.

Richard Petty Driving Experience Las Vegas

Bravery, thy name is these people.

Seriously, though, these drivers-slash-instructors-slash-cheerleaders are some of the bravest people we’ve ever met. They get into racecars with strangers, with no idea of their driving skill or penchant for having freak-outs. Which this blog definitely didn’t have more than six or seven times during our time on the track.

Just before getting into our car, we asked for any last minute instructions, and were told: “No right turns.” Race driver humor, apparently.

Richard Petty

The doors don’t open. You enter through the window. Told you the cars are authentic.

If you know how to drive stick, you’re set. If not, no worries, there’s a truck that pushes your car to get it up to speed (photo, below). At that point, there’s no shifting, you never leave the fastest gear (fourth, from what we remember).

Richard Petty

You go, Millenials!

Driving a NASCAR racecar is truly surreal.

The “white-knuckle” part is true to the Experience’s marketing materials, but as you take to the track, you have the comforting voice of your instructor in your ears. In our case, the instructor’s voice mainly said, “You can speed up.” We tended to not listen. Because if something were to happen to us, where would you get your Las Vegas news and baseless rumors?

Richard Petty Driving Experience

This is the command module of your rocket. The steering wheel goes in after you do.

Speeds on the 1.5-mile tri-oval track can get up to 165 miles per hour. It’s a pure rush of adrenaline, no matter what speed you hit.

Your speed is recorded for each lap, so you can review how you did when you’re done.

How fast did we go? Well, in the words of our ever-patient instructor, “We weren’t giving out any speeding tickets here today.”

Here’s a look at the promotional video for the Richard Petty Driving Experience.

The Richard Petty Driving Experience offers a variety of packages, mainly based around how many laps you’d like to do. Prices go up the more laps you do.

A ride-along, which we suspect is its own source of adrenaline, runs $109. Packages run from $499 for eight laps up to $2,699 for 50 laps. See details.

Richard Petty

To take this promotional brochure home, you’re going to need bigger pockets.

At first, we figured the Richard Petty Driving Experience was a novelty, primarily for NASCAR fans. (They are legion.)

But after our visit, it’s clear the Richard Petty Driving Experience is for anyone interested in driving really, really fast while having a once-in-a-lifetime blast in Las Vegas.

Richard Petty Driving Experience Las Vegas

Make sure to pick up your photo plaque wall hanging experience thingy.

Thanks to the team at the Richard Petty Driving Experience for hosting this blog’s visit, and special thanks to our in-car instructor, Mark Skinner, for not letting us burst into flames.

Richard Petty driving instructor

Given time, we may even find that speeding ticket joke funny.

Find out more about this unique thing to do in Las Vegas at the official site. More pics below, because that’s how we roll. Sometimes, literally.

Richad Petty Driving Experience























 

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Confirmed: Gordon Ramsay Fish & Chips Opens at The Linq Promenade in 2015

It wasn’t exactly a well-kept secret, but Caesars Entertainment has now confirmed Gordon Ramsay Fish & Chips will open at The Linq shopping promenade in the spring of 2015. Here’s some rendering goodness.

Update: As of August 2015, there’s been no news whatsoever about this restaurant. We’re predicting financial troubles at the Linq promenade have resulted in Ramsay and his team pulling the plug on plans for a restaurant at this location. Inquiries with Caesars Entertainment have gone unanswered.

Gordon Ramsay Fish & Chips Las Vegas

British phone box trivia: Other phone boxes can be found at The Mirage (where “Love” is performed) and at Caesars. There, a British phone box serves as a secret entrance to “Absinthe.”

The new restaurant is described as a “grab-and-go British comfort food venue.”

This will be the “Hell’s Kitchen” star’s third restaurant in Las Vegas. In descending order of how much we like them, there’s also BurGR at Planet Hollywood, Gordon Ramsay Steak at Paris and Gordon Ramsay Pub & Grill at Caesars Palace.

Gordon Ramsay Fish & Chips will be a petite 740-square-feet, and will be located adjacent to the High Roller Ferris wheel.

Gordon Ramsay Fish & Chips

Don’t get too comfortable, this is “takeaway-style.” Bonus trivia: Fish and chip shops are sometimes called “chippies” in British slang.

Fish and chips will obviously be the star of the show at Gordon Ramsay Fish & Chips, but other British comfort food will also be served, including bangers and mash, chicken planks, sausages and seafood chowder. So, yeah, this blog will be having the fish and chips.

Gordon Ramsay has a strong track record in his Las Vegas collaborations with Caesars Entertainment, so we expect Gordon Ramsay Fish & Chips will be a successful addition to the already strong dining options at The Linq. As long as Gordon Ramsay doesn’t call us a donkey for not eating our mushy peas.

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