Category Archives: Las Vegas Restaurants

Grand Bazaar Shops Debuts Three New Venues: Redneck Riviera, Born and Raised, Giordano’s

There’s been a flurry of activity at Grand Bazaar Shops outside Bally’s Las Vegas in recent months, including the unveiling of three shiny new venues: Giordano’s, Redneck Riviera and the newest offering, Born and Raised.

It’s time to explore these new venues as only we can—superficially, and with generous amounts of snark so we don’t fall asleep at the keyboard.

First up is Redneck Riviera. Redneck Riviera is a country bar, founded by John Rich of the country duo Big & Rich.

Redneck Riviera

We are not a country music person, so we honestly wouldn’t recognize a Big & Rich song if it were stapled to our forehead.

Redneck Riviera is billed as “a Vegas experience like none-other.” No, they actually say that, in writing. What makes Redneck Riviera so different? “Great music, great drinks, great people!” We are not making this up.

If you want to stand out from other bars in Las Vegas, you have to give customers something they can’t get anywhere else, and you certainly can’t find great music, great drinks or great people, so Rednect Riviera is pretty much guaranteed to succeed.

Hey, we warned you about the snark.

Redneck Riviera

You know, just the typical Las Vegas marketing strategy of having young women stand on barrels.

Beyond the country music and any number of white people attempting to dance, Redneck Riviera also has some great decorative touches.

First, there’s a saddle-shaped disco ball over the dance floor.

Redneck Riviera

It’s like the love child of John Wayne and Liberace. Millennial translation: Oh, nevermind.

There’s also an American flag fashioned from beer cans over one of the establishment’s two bars.

Redneck Riviera

‘Merica.

In the men’s room, you’ll find urinals made from beer kegs. They’re so cool, we’re tempted to listen to a portion of a country song.

Redneck Riviera bathroom

This is going directly to the top of our list of offbeat Las Vegas photo ops.

Also in the restroom are sinks made from tires. The faucets are gas pumps. Seriously charming.

Redneck Riviera bathroom

You’re welcome, Asian tour groups.

One of the best selling points of Redneck Riviera is it doesn’t seem to take itself too seriously.

The vibe is casual and often rowdy, the staff is friendly, and Redneck Riviera serves a niche clientele likely to stray from Toby Keith’s restaurant at Harrah’s and Gilley’s at Treasure Island to give this new honky-tonk hangout a try.

Next, we move to Born and Raised.

Born and Raised is an offshoot of an existing, locally-owned bar and pub. Named Born and Raised. Please try and keep up.

Born and Raised

St. Paddy’s Day seemed a good day to visit, hoochwise.

Born and Raised at Grand Bazaar Shops is technically named “Born and Raised CRAFT PUB.” Seriously. The “craft pub” is capitalized in all the media and marketing materials.

It’s as if Born and Raised suddenly contracted Tourette Syndrome.

Born and Raised has a tiny footprint, even by Grand Bazaar Shops standards. The bar has seating for about 14 people inside, with another 12 seats just outside.

Born and Raised

Born and Raised is so small you could fit it in your pocket. But don’t. That’s shoplifting.

While other Born and Raised locations in Las Vegas serve food, the Grand Bazaar Shops outpost does not. Which is probably for the best, as we recently had our first encounter with Born and Raised’s food, and it fell firmly into the “Meh” category.

Yes, “Meh” is a category. Other categories include “Mind-Blowing” (Pizza Rock, downtown), “Forgettable” (Beerhaus at The Park), “Regrettable” (The Still at Mirage) and “It’ll Do in a Pinch, Especially If We’re Wasted” (everywhere else on The Strip).

Born and Raised

We look forward to getting to know each and every Born and Raised cocktail personally.

Born and Raised offers a menu of signature cocktails, each runs $13. There is also beer, although we have never personally had a beer, so we aren’t able to comment upon the breadth or quality of the selection.

Finally, we get all up inside Giordano’s.

Giordano’s is a name that may sound familiar. The chain is known for its Chicago-style stuffed deep dish pizza.

Giordano's Las Vegas

Giordano’s sits astride a Starbucks that once announced it would serve liquor. Never happened, to our chagrin, whatever a “chagrin” might actually be.

Giordano’s has gone malls deep into Grand Bazaar Shops, with what amounts to three locations. There’s the second floor main restaurant, another dining area and bar on the ground level (fancifully called the Grand Allee walkway), and there’s also a walk-up window.

Giordano's Grand Bazaar Shops

The Giordano surname has its roots in “Yarden,” the Hebrew name of the Jordan river. Yes, we have exhausted our supply of photo captions.

We’re not going to sugarcoat it, Giordano’s is disappointing on any number of levels.

First, the wait time if you order pizza is agonizing. It took nearly an hour to get our simple cheese pizza, and the restaurant was pretty much empty.

During our wait, staff was sweeping up and mopping, one of our biggest pet peeves in any restaurant. (We were there two hours before closing time, but it was obvious employees were champing at the bit to close up shop.) Adding to the unpleasantness of our visit, staff members were moving chairs around the dining room not by lifting them, but by dragging them, lending the restaurant roughly the same welcoming ambiance as a smoke detector testing facility.

Giordano's Las Vegas

We predict only one of the Giordano’s spaces will survive. It’s anybody’s guess which.

It was only after our pizza arrived that the WTF began in earnest.

Stuffed pizza isn’t actually pizza, it turns out. It’s 14 pounds of melted cheese ladled onto a flaky, flavorless crust. A layer of sauce sits on the cheese, clearly embarrassed to be part of such a bastardization of the world’s greatest food.

Giordano's pizza

Fun fact: The word “no” is the same in English and Italian. Apply liberally at Giordano’s.

We’d love to say we’ll be back to try the thin crust pizza at Giordano’s, but why would we when there are so many other, far-more-worthy pizza offerings in the neighborhood? We’d hit Pin-Up Pizza at Planet Hollywood, Martorano’s at Paris or The Pizzeria (also known as “Secret Pizza”) at Cosmopolitan 100 times before doing Giordano’s again.

Sorry, but pizza is serious business, and what they serve at Giordano’s barely qualifies. It’s more like fondue, although that’s probably doing a disservice to fondue.

Here’s a better look at the Giordano’s menu, and here’s the pizza menu, because you wisely don’t blindly trust the opinion of blogs when it comes to pies.

If you love Giordano’s, we love hearing differing viewpoints. Or at least pretend to.

Giordano's Las Vegas

When it doubt, margarita.

It’s great to see Grand Bazaar Shops bringing in new talent. The mall seems to churn through tenants (mall management would owe harsh penalties to Caesars Entertainment, owners of Bally’s, if Grand Bazaar Shops falls below a certain percentage of occupancy), but a few successful bars and restaurants could give some of the millions of people who walk by each year a reason to stop.

It was recently announced Philly Pretzel Factory is coming to Grand Bazaar Shops later in the year. We’re struggling to contain our excitement.

Our friends at Eater Vegas say another restaurant will open across from Giordano’s patio bar, Blue Ribbon Fried Chicken. We’ve tried it, and we’re filing that one in the “Forgettable” category, too.

Hey, not everything’s going to stick. Only time will tell which venues will thrive or expire. In Vegas, change is always on the menu.

Grand Bazaar Shops Debuts New Venues

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Lappert’s Ice Cream is So Very Back at The California

Our favorite ice cream place in Las Vegas closed for a renovation, but Lappert’s Ice Cream is back and making us swoon all over again.

Lappert's Ice Cream

Second floor of The Cal, next to the Ethel M chocolate store, because your thighs deserve a vacation, too.

We’re sort of at a loss to say what’s changed about Lappert’s following its renovation, as the current shop is virtually indistinguishable from the previous incarnation.

The Cal Lappert's

Oh, just pretend you see a big difference. The last thing you want is ice cream with hurt feelings.

Something that’s definitely changed is the fact our favorite ice cream flavor is back, specifically, chocolate chip (not mint chocolate chip, that’s as blasphemous as pineapple on pizza).

Lappert's Ice Cream

And all was right with the world.

A couple of the display cases have been upgraded, and it’s possible the decor has been spruced up a bit, but otherwise, it’s the Lappert’s legions of devotees know and love.

The menu remains the same, and Lappert’s still serves up the best shaved ice in Las Vegas along with the best ice cream.

The Cal Lappert's hours

Let’s call this an “infographic.” The kids love infographics.

Downtown’s California casino has been undergoing dramatic changes in its casino, bars and restaurants in recent months. It’s estimated the hotel has invested $40 million in upgrades.

It seems there are more changes to come, and we sleuthed one upon entering The Cal. One of the neon signs, for Dave’s Aloha Bar, has gone dark.

Dave's Bar California

True Vegas fanatics will notice the Main Street Bar remains lit despite it having closed months ago. Sleuthing is an imperfect science.

We poked around a bit and were informed the bar has, indeed, closed, although it’s occasionally used for special events. We couldn’t get anyone to fess up about when, or if, it might be closed for good.

Dave's Bar California

The video poker machines at Dave’s Bar still function, but you’ll need to find a cocktail waitress to get your hooch.

It’s possible the bar is being phased out since the nearby sports book has moved to a new sports book and lounge downstairs.

California sports book

There are no traces of the former sports book at The Cal. Las Vegas is magical like that.

The California is about a block off of Fremont Street, and Lappert’s Ice Cream is well worth the short stroll.

We consider Lappert’s Ice Cream a Las Vegas must-do. Let us know if you agree. If not, keep it to yourself and think about seeking medical assistance because your taste buds may have taken a severe blow to the head.

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Best Ice Cream Shop in Las Vegas, Lappert’s Ice Cream, Closes at The California for Renovation

Lappert’s Ice Cream at the California casino is our favorite ice cream shop in Las Vegas, and it recently closed for an overhaul.

Lappert's Ice Cream renovation

Just when you thought it was curtains for Lappert’s, it’s only temporary.

Lappert’s closed at the Cal on Feb. 7, 2017, and will open again at the end of March 2017.

Naturally, we stopped by for a security breach of this beloved enabler of our ever-expanding waistline.

Lappert's Ice Cream renovation

This is what it takes to make us stop eating Lappert’s ice cream for a minute.

Lappert’s is a hidden gem downtown. In addition to its stand-out ice cream, the shop also makes the best shaved ice in Las Vegas. Sometimes, the shaved ice is piled so high, it gives the Stratosphere an inferiority complex.

While the specifics of the Lappert’s upgrade haven’t been announced, we have our fingers crossed the renovation will include the return of our favorite flavor, chocolate chip.

If chocolate chip isn’t added back to the list of flavors, we’ll be forced to reduce our visits to a mere five times a week. No pressure, Lappert’s.

Lappert's Ice Cream California

If you ever want to make us weep openly, show us this photo.

The renovation of Lappert’s is the latest in a series of upgrades at the California hotel-casino. The entire casino has been renovated over the past year, as has the Cal’s registration area, Redwood Steakhouse and Aloha Specialties restaurant, just across from Lappert’s on the hotel’s second floor.

The Cal recently opened two new bars, the Holo Holo Bar and Cal Sports Lounge.

It’s rumored the California has invested more than $40 million in its renovations and new venues, which, coincidentally, is about what we personally spent on ice cream at Lappert’s during 2016.

When Lappert’s Ice Cream re-opens at the Cal, you can rest assured we’ll bring you (wait for it) the scoop.

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Reaping the Harvest At, Y’Know, Harvest at Bellagio

There are so many great restaurants in Las Vegas, we tend to take some of them for granted. Harvest at Bellagio is one of these unsung Las Vegas restaurants, despite the fact we’re about to sing its praises. Look introductory paragraphs are hard, so let’s keep moving.

Harvest at Bellagio

The seafood platter ($50) will get things off to a rousing start. There’s gulf shrimp, oysters, clams, lobster salad, poke, king crab and snow crab.

Harvest’s full name is actually Harvest by Roy Ellamar. We tend not to call it that, however, because we honestly wouldn’t know a Roy Ellamar if we tripped over him.

Whoever he or she might be (it’s Vegas, you just never know), Roy Ellamar puts out a fine spread.

Harvest at Bellagio

Tear yourself away from the seafood for a minute to take part in a time-honored Las Vegas restaurant tradition, filling up on bread.

Harvest hasn’t been around too long. It opened in December 2015. Harvest was the result of an expensive renovation of a space previously occupied by Sensi. Roy Ellamar was a chef at Sensi.
Ah, the circularity of the restaurant universe.

Harvest at Bellagio

It’s fun seeing your food being prepared, although it can lead to feelings of inadequacy in one’s cooking ability. Or what we like to call “juliennenvy.”

Harvest at Bellagio is touted as a “farm-to-table” restaurant concept. We don’t entirely get the whole “farm-to-table” thing. Doesn’t everything in a restaurant come from a farm? Personally, we’d like to see a “farm-to-plate” concept instead, because the only place you should eating off a table is that “Tournament of Kings” show at Excalibur.

Harvest Bellagio

The Harvest salad is like an edible work of art, and we are not even a salad person.

Harvest at Bellagio is touted as featuring “New American cuisine and seasonal menus inspired by regional farms.” The dishes are also said to be “creative, market-driven dishes that celebrate regional produce in spectacular Sin City fashion.”

Oh, just put some food in our collective face, already.

Harvest restaurant at Bellagio

It’s entirely possible this was the smoked salmon toast. Note taking is for suckers.

The menu at Harvest is carved neatly into digestible sections: Pre-game dishes are divided into Garden, Ocean and Boards. Entrees are categorized as Ranch, Ocean or Vegetarian. Entrees run in the $35-50 range.

There’s a lot to love at Harvest, so pace yourself.

Bellagio's Harvest restaurant

This lobster just flew in from Maine, and boy were its pereiopods tired.

The signature cocktails at Harvest are irresistible, and showcased on an iPad menu. That’s a thing at Vegas restaurants at the moment.

Harvest Bellagio cocktail

The Pear Harvest ($17) won the night with Gray Goose La Poire vodka, Rekorderlig Pear Cider, Pallini Limoncello, Madagascar vanilla syrup, southwest prickly pear juice, lemon juice and brûléed pear, which seemed to be showing off a little with all the accent marks.

The only weak element of our meal was the filet mignon ($50). It was under-seasoned, but a lone less-than-stellar dish can’t diminish a meal consisting of so many others that are outstanding.

Harvest at Bellagio

The filet was pretty good, but in Las Vegas, it’s tough to impress when the bar is so high.

You’ll want to save room for dessert, although, good luck with that. Try the apple doughnut. We cut it open for your viewing pleasure.

Harvest Bellagio dessert

Apples only have about 40 calories, so if you ignore the “doughnut” part, you’re keeping to your diet.

You’re sure to love Harvest, especially if you love seafood. The mood is mellow and refined, and the service is what you’ve come to expect from a restaurant with entrees in the $50 range on the Las Vegas Strip. Specifically, your server will be professional, knowledgeable and possess just the right about of “leave us alone when we want to be left alone.”

Harvest at Bellagio

Notice how we foreshadowed the bar in that earlier photo caption? You’re not dealing with a gulf shrimp here.

Harvest is located at Bellagio’s Spa Tower, past the Essentials store. Yes, every Las Vegas hotel has a shop named Essentials. It’s the law.

Find out more about Harvest at Bellagio at the restaurant’s official virtual crib. Or something.

Enjoy more photos from Harvest by Roy Ellamar, and sorry about the hunger pangs. We’ll try to make the photos a bit more out-of-focus next time.

Harvest at Bellagio

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Tasty-As-Hell Jared’s Old-Fashioned Hot Dogs and Hamburgers Opens at Pawn Plaza

Pawn Plaza has been shuffling its deck of shops, with most of its restaurants closing in recent months. Now, it’s doubling down on classic American fare in the form of Jared’s Old-Fashioned Hot Dogs & Hamburgers.

Jared's Hot Dogs & Hamburgers

Hungry? Oh, you will be.

Jared’s has taken up residence where Smoke’s Poutinerie used to be, right next to the closed Inna Gadda di Pizza. The delicious Rita’s Italian Ice also closed as well, but the owner of Jared’s, Jared DeBehnke, is undeterred.

If anything’s going to succeed at Pawn Plaza, we’d put our money on Jared’s Old-Fashioned Hot Dogs & Hamburgers.

Fair prices. Scrumptious, fresh, tried-and-true favorites. Quick, friendly service. That’s a recipe for kicking ass in our book.

Jared's Old-Fashioned Hot Dogs and Hamburgers

Just like at the Downtown Container Park, Pawn Plaza’s shops occupy shipping containers.

The hot dogs at Jared’s are sourced out of a farm in Wyoming, but DeBehnke won’t spill about which one. We have our team of investigators on the case, though, because we’re calling these bad boys the best hot dogs in Las Vegas at the moment.

Jared's hot dogs and hamburgers

Our tastes are simple, and Jared’s knocks it out of the ballpark, frankly.

The hot dogs are 100% beef with a natural casing, and the chili is top-notch. There’s no cheese sauce, it’s grated fresh daily.

Jared's Pawn Plaza

Loved the chili, and we aren’t a chili person.

The burgers are excellent as well, and that’s saying a lot in a town where there are so many stellar hamburger joints.

The burgers are a third-of-a-pound, never frozen and the selection of a dozen or so toppings are included in the price. We enjoyed the mushrooms and onions, despite the fact we tend to like our burgers naked. Like our truth.

Jared's Pawn Plaza

Beyond the meats, we’re a big fan of the buns on both the burgers and the dogs. So much so, we’re currently licking our computer monitor.

Anything you’re able to get that you can dip into Jared’s Sauce, do.

It rocked our onion rings, but we suspect it would also be fantastic on the fries or tater tots, too. It’s a little bit honey mustard, a little BBQ. We’d put it right up there with the signature sauces at Chick-fil-A or Raising Cane’s.

Jared's Pawn Plaza

Yes, we made a Jared’s Sauce joke. Thank you for the courtesy laugh, Jared.

If Jared DeBehnke looks familiar, it’s because not only is his face on the signage, he’s the same guy who owns the Slingshot rental stand at Pawn Plaza.

When DeBehnke saw the space become available, he jumped a the chance to give a restaurant a go, and we’re happy he did, as it’s going into our lunchtime rotation.

Hear our interview with Jared DeBehnke on episode 41 of the highly-overrated Vital Vegas Podcast.

Jared's Pawn Plaza

Simple, yet all the bases are covered. Yes, that’s two sports analogies in one blog post. Hint: We’re drunk.

At the moment, Jared’s Old Fashioned Hot Dogs & Hamburgers has limited hours, during the aforementioned lunchtime, from 11:00 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. We suspect those hours will be expanded once positive word-of-mouth starts to spread.

For now, the only competition for Jared’s is the solid Rick’s Rollin Smoke BBQ & Tavern. The prices at Jared’s are roughly half of what Rick’s Rollin Smoke charges. Then again, Jared’s doesn’t have hooch.

Jared's Pawn Plaza

At Jared’s, it’s not about ambiance. You can’t slather mustard all over ambiance. At least not legally.

Here’s hoping the quality and prices at Jared’s Old-Fashioned Hot Dogs & Hamburgers help it thrive as Pawn Plaza sorts out its line-up of shops and restaurants.

Jared's Old-Fashioned Hot Dogs & Hamburgers

“Tasty-as-hell” apparently wouldn’t fit on the sign.

The throngs of visitors to the Gold & Silver Pawn Shop, featured in “Pawn Stars,” provide a steady supply of customers (DeBehnke says they’re getting lots of downtown denizens, too), but in the past, it’s been challenging to get them to stay and spend at Pawn Plaza. We’re thinking Jared’s Old Fashioned Hot Dogs & Hamburgers is a great reason to stick around.

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Zydeco Po-Boys to Close in Downtown Las Vegas

Mere weeks ago, a downtown favorite, Glutton restaurant, closed its doors. Now, its neighbor, Zydeco Po-Boys has announced it, too, will shutter.

Zydeco Po-Boys closes on March 3, 2017.

Zydeco Po-Boys opened mid-2015, a partnership between its owner Brandon Trahan and Zappos CEO Tony’s Hsieh’s Downtown Project. The restaurant is located a block south of Fremont Street, on Carson Ave.

Zydeco Po-Boys

How do you say “This sucks” in that funky Cajun French talk?

The restaurant announced it will close in a Facebook post. The post read, “It’s with a heavy heart that I announce Zydeco Po-Boys will be closing its doors on March 3rd.”

The post from owner Brandon Trahan continues, “On behalf of my staff and I, we wish to thank Tony and the staff of Downtown Project for the opportunity to be part of the downtown revitalization. We wish to thank all of our loyal supporters who came out over the last year and a half to dine with us. It has been a pleasure to share my Cajun heritage and cooking with y’all. We wish the continued success of our friends and downtown neighbors and to all of the projects efforts.”

Zydeco Po-Boys closed

For awhile, Downtown Project dumped a ton of cash into businesses losing money. Now, not so much.

Zydeco Po-Boys served casual, reasonably-priced southwest Louisiana gumbo and po-boy sandwiches.

Trahan opened Zydeco Po-Boys after losing his home and business to Hurricane Rita in 2005.

Downtown has experienced a restaurant boom in recent years, but even a boom has casualties. Beyond Glutton and Zydeco Po-Boys, other downtown casualties include Itsy Bitsy Ramen & Whiskey (at The Ogden), Inna Gadda di Pizza and Smoke’s Poutinerie at Pawn Plaza and F. Pigalle on Fremont Street.

When it comes to Las Vegas restaurants, it’s dog eat dog, which, if you think about it, is a truly inane cliche. The original phrase was “Dog does not eat dog,” which makes a good deal more sense. We blame it on the millennials.

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