Monthly Archives: October 2014

Our New Favorite Dessert: Ice Cream Sandwiches at Umami Burger Inside SLS Las Vegas

We’ve had a lot of Las Vegas desserts, perhaps too many, but dessert is a “carpe diem” thing, so ease up off us, bro.

Lately, we’ve been obsessing over a decadent new offering at Umami Burger at SLS Las Vegas, formerly the Sahara. It’s an irresistible combination of two of the best things, ever, cookies and ice cream.

Behold the object of our desire, the Mies Vanilla Rohe ice cream sandwich from the folks at a company called Coolhaus.

Ice cream sandwiches

Yes, we just licked our computer monitor. Don’t judge.

The company responsible for these treats, Coolhaus, bills itself as making “architecturally-inspired gourmet ice cream sandwiches,” so all the ice cream sandwich names have an architectural tie-in. Look, we don’t have to understand it to put it into our face.

The Mies Vanilla Rohe is named after Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, if memory serves, a German architect considered by many to be one of the pioneering masters of modern architecture. And by “memory,” of course, we mean “Wikipedia.”

The Mies Vanilla Rohe has chocolate chip cookies and Tahitian vanilla bean ice cream. The cookies are old-school, fresh and the perfect texture. The ice cream is unbelievably good and somehow manages to stay firm from the time it’s served to the time it’s devoured, which tends to be about 20 seconds.

That’s far-and-away our favorite of the four ice cream sandwiches on the menu. Each runs $7. That might seem like a lot for an ice cream sandwich. Please let it deter you from ordering one, because that will leave more for this Las Vegas blog.

The next Coolhaus option is the Mintimalism.

ice cream sandwiches

Cookies and ice cream go together like Las Vegas and bail bondspersons.

The Mintimalism is a play on “minimalism,” an architectural style that uses pared-down design elements. The ice cream sandwich has double chocolate chip cookies and dirty mint chocolate chip ice cream. This one went over exceedingly well with others in our party during a recent visit.

Also highly recommended is the Cara-Mia-Lehrer, with snickerdoodle cookies and salted caramel ice cream.

"Cara Mia" was a hit song in 1954, a time when singing groups were forced to wear matching turtle necks.

“Cara Mia” was a hit song in 1954, a time when falsetto voices were king and singing groups were forced to wear matching turtle necks.

“Cara mia,” by the way, means “my beloved” in Italian. The “Mia Lehrer” part of the name seems to be a nod to Mia Lehrer & Associates, a landscape architectural firm in L.A.

We sort of hate learning new things, but you can’t help but be curious when the desserts you lust for have such oddball names.

The final caloric delivery device is called the IM-Pei-Nut Butter. It has double chocolate chip cookies and peanut butter ice cream.

Coolhaus ice cream sandwiches

Chocolate and peanut butter seem a clever combination. Someone should look into making candy with those flavors.

Ieoh Ming Pei, known as I.M. Pei, is a Chinese-born American architect. He’s the one who built the glass-and-steel pyramid for the Louvre. The one in Paris. We knew that without looking it up, by the way.

So, you have your work cut out for you the next time you’re at SLS Las Vegas. There are no bad choices here, so choose your favorite architect or architectural movement and go for it.

As you’re diving into your ice cream sandwich (which can be served whole, but which is typically cut into quarters), it’s possibly you’ll hear a commotion nearby. That would be this blog’s significant other (she works at SLS) attempting to keep us from having a third ice cream sandwich in one sitting. Sorry, attempting in vain to keep us from having a third ice cream sandwich in one sitting. Or possibly fourth.

If you’re going to “carpe” something when you’re in Vegas, we say make it these bad boys. Leave us a comment to let us know how right we are.

Uncle Joe’s Pizza, A Downtown Las Vegas Institution, Closes

Restaurants come and go in Las Vegas, but few make an impression like the just-closed Uncle Joe’s Pizza, a Fremont East institution in Las Vegas.

The restaurant closed on Sep. 30, 2014, after 18 years of operation downtown. The owner, Xhindi “Bushi” Hazbi, sold the remaining 11 years of his lease to the Downtown Project.

Uncle Joe's Pizza

Now, you’ll have to address your drunchies elsewhere. Uncle Joe’s is no more.

For years, people have mistakenly called Bushi’s “Joe.” In fact, though, Joe was the name of his uncle.

When Bushi first came to America from his native Albania, he worked for his uncle Joe in San Diego. Bushi says, “I came with my uncle to Las Vegas because he liked to play baccarat at the Stardust casino. While he played, I took the car and drove around and saw Las Vegas. Two hours later I told him I wasn’t going back to San Diego with him. I told him I love Las Vegas.”

Uncle Joe's Pizza

Being good-natured means you answer to Joe, even if it’s not your name.

Bushi’s first job in Las Vegas was a busboy, then took on another job as a cabbie. While working the two jobs, he often got just three hours of sleep a day.

In time, he met the owner of the space where Uncle Joe’s came to be, and in 1995 bought the place. Uncle Joe’s opened in August, 1996.

Uncle Joe's

Arrivederci, Uncle Joe’s. Or whatever the Albanian version of “arrivederci” is.

The day he opened, a Friday, Uncle Joe’s made more money than the previous establishment had made in months, and Bushi never looked back.

“I’ve been in the food business for almost 25 years,” says Bushi. “I’m sad to be going, but it’s time to go.” In other words, Downtown Project finally made Bushi an offer he couldn’t refuse.

As for whether Downtown Project paid enough for Bushi to retire, it’s unlikely. Bushi says, “To buy out an 11 year lease is a lot of money. I was very happy. The people from Downtown Project were very reasonable.”

Uncle Joe's

Yes, there was a Zappos pizza. Downtown Project is financed by Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh.

What’s for certain is while Bushi may open another business in Las Vegas, after taking some time to travel, it won’t be in the restaurant business.

What else will he do during his time off? “I love to write and read,” says Bushi.

As for the employees of Uncle Joe’s, they’ve all found other work. The dishwasher at Uncle Joe’s has moved over to Eat restaurant, also downtown.

Uncle Joe’s night manager, Jeff, found another gig based largely on the goodwill other businesses have toward Bushi and Uncle Joe’s. Jeff is moving to a position at Hennessey’s, nearby.

“Bushi is the best boss I’ve ever had,” says Jeff. “And probably the best boss I ever will have.”

Uncle Joe's

Our symbolic last slice(s) at Uncle Joe’s.

As for what’s next in the Uncle Joe’s space, nobody knows for sure. Bushi thinks it will be another pizza place, as Downtown Project also purchased his kitchen equipment.

Others at the restaurant have heard it could be a Zappos retail store or even a nightclub. Apparently, the next tenant will have to be on a 30-day lease, so no more decade-long commitments will be in the offing.

Downtown Project has also purchased the Kabob Korner restaurant next door, but no closing date has been set.

Uncle Joe's

Both places will soon be closed to make room for what’s next.

Uncle Joe’s closure means the end of a beloved neighborhood fixture, one that often payed it forward in the form of random acts of kindness, giving free pizza to homeless people and others in need.

“For a long time,” Bushi says, “from 1997 to 2002, the bus used to come and drop off inmates being released from jail, that used to be on 1st Street, right outside the door. They came in and ate for free. I never charged anybody, ever. Just to help.”

“Why not?” says Bushi, smiling ear-to-ear. “This place made so much money, you wouldn’t believe it. I worked very hard. We had nothing to worry about. Back then, Uncle Joe’s would make $20,000 a month. I couldn’t believe it. Back in Albania, my father made $70 a month.”

Bushi’s generosity was on display in the days leading up to Uncle Joe’s closing. He gave away a lot of slices and Philly cheesesteak sandwiches during those final days, and deeply discounted meals to lots of loyal customers who came to bid farewell to Bushi and his employees.

As a final act of generosity, Bushi plans to take dollar bills customers placed on a giant map of the U.S. and Europe through the years (denoting where they were visiting from), and will give the money to the homeless. He and his wife, Bona, will keep one dollar bill each from the wall as keepsakes.

Uncle Joe's

Customers from around the world have left money on the map to signify their hometowns.

Those bills will serve as a memory of a time when people in downtown Las Vegas had many fewer dining options. As other pizza places and other restaurants opened, business was never the same at Uncle Joe’s.

Now, Uncle Joe’s sits empty, with brown paper inside the windows.

Uncle Joe's

We licked the window. It’s not as good as the pizza.

It was never flashy or high-profile. Just a simple pizza joint in a neighborhood that’s changed dramatically in recent months, and continues to evolve.

Uncle Joe's Pizza

We’re sorry, too.

Downtown won’t be quite the same without Uncle Joe’s. So long, and thanks for all the pies.

Uncle Joe's Pizza

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Our Single Best Las Vegas Strip Parking Tip, Ever

This Las Vegas Strip parking tip is so inside, it’s nearly beside itself.

If you’re visiting Paris Las Vegas or any of the resorts nearby, you can either make a mile-long trek from self-parking to where you’re going or take advantage of one of the most convenient parking areas in town, if you know how to: 1) find it, and 2) work it.

See, there’s a small number of parking spaces outside the sports book entrance at Paris Las Vegas. The area is tucked away on the north side of the hotel, and typically serves as a shuttle bus drop-off. The turn-in from Las Vegas Boulevard is just past Mon Ami Gabi.

There’s often an attendant who will ensure only authorized guests park in these glorious spaces. By “authorized,” of course, we mean anyone with a smile and a few bucks to tip the parking lot attendant.

Paris parking tip

You have just been given the key to the kingdom. You’re welcome.

Using these spaces gets even easier because there’s no attendant at all after 5:00 p.m.

Now, The Man keeps those black, plastic “grabber tubes” (yes, that’s what they’re called) in the spaces after 5:00 p.m., but it doesn’t take a science whiz to figure out they can simply be moved aside. Fortune favors the bold!

Why are these spaces so coveted? They’re mere steps away from the casino and restaurants at Paris, but also just off Las Vegas Boulevard, making access to The Strip an absolute breeze.

No, they don’t tow! You think the Paris wants to risk towing the car of a high roller who could be in the casino?

Paris Sports Book

Remember, this is just between us. Well, us, and anyone with an Internet connection of some sort.

Now you know one of our most closely-guarded Las Vegas secrets!

Please feel free to leave a comment expressing your appreciation, or make some snarky comment about how you just use the valet. Either one will make us smile.

Grand Bazaar Shops Project is Why the Las Vegas Strip Needs an HOA

Las Vegas does so much right, it’s truly painful to see it doing something very, very wrong.

Some flair at the Grand Bazaar Shops shopping center outside Bally’s Las Vegas is being installed, and all our deepest fears are coming true, right before our traumatized eyes.

Grand Bazaar Shops

We are so, so sorry for sharing this.

We took lots of photos of this eyesore-in-the-making in a failed attempt to acclimate to the hemorrhage of hues, but to no avail.

Grand Bazaar Shops

On the bright side, Hemorrhage of Hues would make a pretty good band name.

The Grand Bazaar Shops shopping complex is scheduled to open before the end of 2014 and will presumably have 150 retailers. Then again, if a merciful God exists, it’s possible He could intercede with a lightning strike or two. Hey, we can dream.

Grand Bazaar Shops

A virtual kaleidoscope of WTF.

In a residential neighborhood, this is where an HOA would enter the picture. Home Owners Associations, after all, have a mandate to “enhance livability, safety, welfare and interests of the owners.”

In other words, you don’t get to paint your house purple. In the case of the Grand Bazaar Shops, you don’t get to foist a garish monstrosity on the millions of people who stroll up and down The Strip each year, and you certainly don’t get to spoil the view of everyone in a fountain-facing room at Bellagio, just across the street.

Grand Bazaar Shops

From the looks of it, these color patches could easily be peeled right off. Fingers crossed.

Maybe there’s something we’re not seeing? Maybe we’re like one of those critics who didn’t get Van Gogh’s art when he was alive.

Then again, maybe this.

Grand Bazaar Shops

Tell us more about these class action lawsuits.

Here are more photos of The Strip’s latest attempt to terrorize children and┬átraumatize feral cats. Share your thoughts in the comments section.

Grand Bazaar Shops Update

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