Monthly Archives: December 2016

Virgil’s Real BBQ Debuts at Linq Promenade

The Linq promenade in the center of the Las Vegas Strip has a new restaurant offering to add to its already strong line-up, Virgil’s Real BBQ.

Virgil's Real BBQ

Let’s smoke something.

Virgil’s comes from a company called Alicart, the folks behind Carmine’s, an excellent Italian restaurant in the Forum Shops at Caesars Palace.

The original Virgil’s opened in 1994 in Times Square in New York City.

Virgil’s Real BBQ takes over the space formerly occupied by the F.A.M.E. Asian food court at Linq promenade, a shopping center between the Flamingo and Linq hotels.

Virgil's Real BBQ

Virgil’s is a spacious, two-level venue, seating around 450 people, most of them wishing they’d been seated farther from the band. Related: Get off our lawn.

There are two bars at Virgil’s, and the full menu is available at the bars, which works well for solo diners.

We tried the Virgil’s Old Fashioned, mainly because Virgil’s doesn’t serve Captain Morgan. As you might suspect, that’s a cardinal sin in our book, but we forged ahead. The things we do for you.

Virgil's Real BBQ

The Old Fashioned comes in a “flask” customers can keep. We’re still a little foggy on how a flask is different from a bottle.

So, how’s the barbecue at Virgil’s? Well, it didn’t blow us away, but we aren’t a barbecue expert.

Las Vegas is notoriously weak in the barbecue realm, and we suspect Virgil’s won’t do much to move the needle in that regard.

The official Web site for Virgil’s says the “meats are smoked at a low temperature over indirect heat for up to 10 hours with a unique mix of hickory, oak and fruit woods in order to impart the most flavor and to keep the meat from drying out.” We’ll take their word for it.

Virgil's Real BBQ

Yes, there are vegan and vegetarian options, but let’s get real, it’s not about the veggies.

The big selling point of Virgil’s is that it pulls together local styles of barbecue, such as Texas beef brisket (the high point of our meal), Carolina pulled pork and Memphis pork ribs and chicken.

Portions are ample, and there’s a healthy selection of about 10 sides, including baked beans, cole slaw, cheddar cheese grits, pickled beets and the like. We tried the buttermilk biscuit and mac and cheese, and neither were particularly memorable.

Virgil's Real BBQ

The bar for mac and cheese in Las Vegas is very high, so this falls firmly in the “meh” category.

The Virgil’s menu features salads, burgers, sandwiches and a solid roster of appetizers, including chicken wings, “Trainwreck Fries,” crab cakes, popcorn shrimp, onion rings and Texas chili.

The food prices aren’t outrageous for mid-Strip, with combination platters providing some of the best values. Our “Pick 2” combo, with “Trash Ribs” and sliced Texas beef brisket (along with two sides) ran us $24.95, and could’ve easily fed two people.

The drink menu is strong on variety, serving up whiskey drinks, “Porch Rockers,” margaritas, slushies and other tourist-friendly libations. Most drinks run in the $12 range. Our Old Fashioned was $15.

Virgil's Real BBQ

A little second floor action.

The service wasn’t stellar at Virgil’s, and at the bar it took ages to have our plate taken away after we finished dining. The food also wasn’t piping hot, possibly caused by some confusion about where the food was supposed to be delivered. The restaurant is still new, so it’s possible some of those service issues will be hammered out in the weeks to come.

As for the atmosphere, Virgil’s had live music during our visit, of which we are not a personal fan. We know, everyone loves live music, everywhere. It helps avoid having to “converse,” we get it.

Thankfully, Virgil’s is so big, you can make your way to the far end of the place (or upstairs), so it’s not as intrusive.

Virgil's Real BBQ

Virgil’s is so big, it’s like four restaurants, and two bars, in one. It’s important to always have an emergency back-up bar.

Virgil’s is yet another restaurant that’s fallen victim to the practice of having rock-hard chairs, making it clear you’re not expected to hang out for too long.

Overall, Virgil’s should fare well at Linq promenade. It’s not destination dining, but the liquor is strong and the food is adequate. Which is probably not a blurb they’ll be using in their advertising anytime soon.

Virgil's sign

We stand corrected.

If you’ve tried Virgil’s and had a great experience, please share. We’d love to hear about your experiences with their meat.

Virgil's Real BBQ

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Like a Swift Kick, Glutton Closes in Downtown Las Vegas

We recently heard and shared rumors Glutton restaurant was closing downtown, but we’ve been in denial ever since. Now, we can confirm the popular eatery has served its final Brown Butter Gnocchi. Curse you, Capitalism.

Glutton opened on April 10, 2015. It’s last dinner service was Dec. 18, 2016.

Glutton

Downtown just got a little sadder, and a little hungrier.

Glutton was a key player in the downtown restaurant boom, along with VegeNation, Itsy Bitsy Ramen & Whiskey (which recently closed its kitchen), Therapy, PublicUs and others.

Glutton’s chef and owner was Bradley Manchester, who earned his culinary chops overseeing five restaurants at Red Rock Resort as well as serving on the opening team for Cosmopolitan.

Glutton consistently delivered delicious, creative food at a reasonable price, and it will be sorely missed.

Glutton

Happy trails to you, until we eat again.

We hope the crew of Glutton will transition into other positions quickly, as the holidays are an especially difficult time to be pounding the pavement.

There’s no word yet as to what might replace Glutton, and at the moment, it’s difficult to imagine what could.

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Vital Vegas Podcast, Ep. 36: “Xavier Mortimer’s Magical Dream,” Virgil’s Real BBQ, Hugo’s Cellar and More

It’s another girthy installment of the Las Vegas podcast earlier generations would’ve burned at the stake for being a witch. Or something.

In this episode, we gush over our latest favorite Las Vegas show, “Xavier Mortimer’s Magical Dream” at Planet Hollywood. We also wonder how this enchanting, imaginative show has managed to fly under the radar since it opened in July 2016.

We’re calling “Xavier Mortimer’s Magical Dream” one of our favorite things of the year, a show that’s part Cirque, part magic, part mentalism, part “How in the holy hell did he do that?”

Xavier Mortimer's Magical Dream

We welled up at the sheer creativity of “Xavier Mortimer’s Magical Dream.” And we don’t well. We are not a weller.

Naturally, we expel some juicy Vegas rumors, dive headlong into a perfunctory round-up of Sin City news and wrangle another “Listicle of the Week.”

We also provide a shower of pith about the just-opened Virgil’s Real BBQ at Linq promenade and our first visit to a Las Vegas institution, Hugo’s Cellar at Four Queens.

Hugo's Cellar

Remember when classy Vegas restaurants used to prepare salads table side? Neither do we. It’s one of the things that makes Hugo’s Cellar a stand-out.

Hike up your casino nerd pants and get some inside skinny from Rob Baker of Tre Builders, the guy coordinating all the upgrades at The D Las Vegas.

For all that and much, much less, put some Vegas in your ears, already.

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Diablo’s Cantina at Monte Carlo Expected to Close in 2017

While it hasn’t been officially announced, word has it Diablo’s Cantina at Monte Carlo, a popular Las Vegas Strip fixture, will close in April 2017.

The restaurant and bar is likely to be replaced with another venue more in line with the Monte Carlo’s rebrand to Park MGM in 2017.

Diablo's Cantina Las Vegas

“Diablo” is the Spanish name for the devil. The devil also goes by Beelzebub, Lucifer, Satan and Criss Angel.

It’s possible Diablo’s Cantina may not go away completely. There have been discussions internally about moving the establishment to a vacant spot in the nearby Park promenade, a restaurant row near the T-Mobile Arena.

Diablo's Cantina

Oh, hey.

Diablo’s Cantina’s two-story, Mexican restaurant and bar concept may have been deemed too rowdy for Park MGM’s new, higher-end vibe which employees have described as aspiring to be “more along the lines of Aria.”

Read more about the Monte Carlo rebrand to Park MGM.

Diablo's Cantina wheel

If you’re a fan of Diablo’s Cantina, its margaritas and “Wheel O’ Sin,” you may want to stop by before April.

As we said, this closure hasn’t been confirmed, but it would be wise to drink up while you can.

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Roos-N-More Zoo Near Las Vegas Closes Amidst Controversy

The Roos-N-More Zoo near Las Vegas has closed after years of uncertainty about its future.

Roos-N-More Zoo was located in Moapa, about 45 minutes northeast of Las Vegas.

Roos-N-More

There’s a better than average chance we’re only writing this story as an excuse to share our photos of animals.

Closure of the zoo came after a meeting of Clark County Commissioners where former zoo employees painted a damning picture of the treatment and housing of animals at the zoo. For some time, Roos-N-More has butted heads with commissioners about zoning issues.

Roos-N-More

They’re black with white stripes, not white with black stripes. We get that a lot.

Employees described conditions at the zoo “deplorable,” but a current member of the zoo’s Board of Directors claimed the zoo was making strides in providing better care for the animals. The zoo has received numerous citations from the U.S. Department of Agriculture for violations of the Animal Welfare Act.

Roos-N-More zoo

There had to be one photo like this in the mix. This is the one.

Roos-N-More’s final day of operation was Dec. 17, 2016. It’s unknown how or where the zoo’s approximately 300 animals, including kangaroos, otters and sloths, will be relocated.

Roos-N-More zoo otters

The otter playpen was one of the best parts of Roos-N-More.

A statement on the Roos-N-More Facebook page said, “We truly appreciate your support and patronage, yet the time has come to find our beloved animals new homes where they can continue to thrive.”

The closure of Roos-N-More is bittersweet for many in Las Vegas. The zoo provided a sanctuary for a menagerie of exotic animals, and guests were able to interact with a number of the residents.

Roos-N-More

This otter helps answer the question, “How close could visitors get to the animals at Roos-N-More?”

Roos-N-More is family-owned. The owners, Jay and Valerie Holt, began collecting exotic animals in 2002 and the zoo opened to the public in 2008. The Holts declined a request for an interview about the closing of the zoo.

Roos-N-More zoo

You know it’s a sad story when a donkey cries.

Our experience at Roos-N-More was completely pleasant and the animals seem healthy and well-treated.

The level of interaction with the animals was extraordinary, although we’re fairly sure that level of interaction isn’t the best for the animals.

Roos-N-More

We’d adopt this bad boy in a second.

Here’s hoping the animals find new homes, and enjoy more photos from Roos-N-More.

Roos-N-More Zoo

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10 Tips for Taking Photos Inside Any Las Vegas Casino

Las Vegas casinos have a reputation for having strict policies prohibiting photography. Those policies can suck it.

Photography is a great way to capture and remember our experiences, so knowing how to dance around antiquated guidelines can be very useful during a Las Vegas visit.

Here, then, are 10 tips for taking photos in any casino while avoiding run-ins with casino security, law enforcement and The Man. Let the security breaches begin!

Photos in casinos

One of our favorite things to do is take photos of “No Photos” signs in casinos. Yes, we need to get a life.

1. Use the Smallest Camera Possible

In Las Vegas, size matters. One of the keys to taking photos in casinos is to avoid being noticed. The smaller the camera, the better. Smartphone cameras tend to blend in, while larger, DSLR cameras can draw unwanted attention. Casino security is on the lookout for what’s considered “professional quality equipment,” so use your phone’s camera whenever possible.

2. Take Stills, Not Video

Just as a small camera is preferable to a larger one, still photography is less problematic than video, even if it’s taken on the same camera. Don’t push your luck. A snap is less likely to be noticed than a pan.

Casino craps dealers

Reactions to photography in casinos varies widely. Thanks to these dealers at Cosmo for not having a freak-out.

3. Turn Off Your Flash

This is a biggy. Using a flash is like a giant neon sign over your head that screams, “This person is violating the rules. Use your Taser on them immediately.” Every camera has the ability to override the automatic flash, so simply turn the flash off. It means you’ll have to hold the camera still to avoid motion blur, but you’ll get better at it with practice. (Try resting your camera on something to keep it steady, or tuck your elbow in and use your arm like a tripod.)

Las Vegas casino

One of the great ironies of Las Vegas casinos is they don’t want you to take photos, yet they make them so darned pretty.

4. Never Use a Tripod

Speaking of tripods, they’re an absolute no-no in casinos. This is the one rule that makes sense on the part of casinos. Tripod legs are a danger to other guests who are often either drunk or distracted by all the shiny things in a casino. Tripods also fall into the “professional quality equipment” category, so leave them in your hotel room so they’re handy for the homemade porn. Not that anyone would do that kind of thing in a Las Vegas hotel room, of course.

5. Work Quickly and Keep Moving

It’s easy to discreetly take a few photos and move on, but if you linger, you risk being stopped and questioned by security. Think through where you need to be for your photo so you get it right the first time. It’s not a photo shoot, and the longer it takes the more likely you’ll be chastised by an employee or security.

Vegas go-go dancer

Under no circumstances should you take photos in a casino’s party pit, unless you have every intention of sharing your photos with this Las Vegas blog.

6. Play Dumb, Drunk or Pretend You’re Hard of Hearing

Seriously. These strategies are the key to successful photography on a casino floor. Hit your spot and start snapping. Chances are someone on staff will say, “No photography!” Yes, it’s almost always with an exclamation point. Do not acknowledge the person. Keep snapping. They’ll shout again, probably louder. As you continue snapping (you should have dozens of photos by this time), turn and say, “I’m sorry, what did you say?” You’ll get the “No photography” thing again. Then say, “I didn’t realize I couldn’t take a photo here.” You get bonus points if you add this to help smooth things over, “I’m so drunk, I can’t figure out how to use the camera, anyway.” You have your photos, the employee has done their due diligence and everyone’s happy.

7. Never Shoot the Cage

While these tips apply to 99% of a casino, all bets are off when it comes to the cashier cage. Most casinos use security concerns as an excuse to ban photography, but that reason is outdated and misguided. Casino thieves don’t need photos to case a joint. These tips might work for cage photos, too, but why tempt fate? Steer clear.

Riviera cashier cage

One of our favorite rules is never obey rules. You’re a Vegas pro if you recognized this cage as Riviera’s.

8. Avoid Photographing Guests

As mentioned, casinos often cite security as the reason photography is prohibited, but the real reason they don’t like photography is related to customer privacy. Casinos know people are often in casinos that shouldn’t be, and are often with people they shouldn’t be with (like mistresses or even prostitutes). We’ve taken thousands of photos inside casinos, often including guests, without incident, but do as we say not as we do.

9. Find Photography-Friendly Casinos

Bans on photography aren’t universal in Las Vegas casinos, and some casinos are downright welcoming of photography. Harrah’s Las Vegas, for example, welcomes photography as long as the photos aren’t of customers. Four Queens, downtown, actually has signs encouraging photography.

Four Queens photography welcome

Possibly the best thing since brothel gift certificates.

10. Always, Always Be Polite

If you’re approached by a casino employee, always be polite and never let the interaction get confrontational. Security guards tend to get overzealous, and tensions can escalate quickly. If it does, you’ll lose, so just be nice. If asked, explain your photos are for personal use, not commercial. Never offer to delete photos you have already taken, and do not let security review your photos, as they do not have the legal right to do so. Odds are you’ll be treated like a child being scolded, but keep calm and don’t take it personally. Ask to speak to a manager, and sort it out with someone higher on the food chain. In the vast majority of cases, if you’re nice, and avoid acting like you’re doing research for an “Ocean’s Elven”-style robbery, you’ll be reminded of the rules about photography and be sent on your way.

Here’s the bottom line: We’ve never heard of a case of someone being kicked out of a casino for taking photos. Turn off your flash, stay away from the cage, work quickly, act dumb and keep things light if you’re confronted by a casino employee.

We’d love to hear your casino photography stories, especially if they involve pretending to be drunk. Because you’re nearly as adorable when you’re pretend drunk as when you’re actual drunk.

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