Monthly Archives: October 2015

Guy Fieri’s El Burro Borracho to Open at Rio Las Vegas, Buzio’s Seafood to Close

TV host and restaurateur Guy Fieri has announced he’ll open a new restaurant, El Burro Borracho, at Rio Las Vegas in early 2016.

The new El Burro Borracho will be near the hotel’s VooDoo Beach pool in the under-performing Buzio’s Seafood restaurant space, which will close by the end of 2015.

El Burro Borracho

“Sombrero” in Spanish literally means “shadower.” Photo captions aren’t easy, you know.

El Burro Borracho is Fieri’s second effort in Las Vegas, following on the success of Guy Fieri’s Vegas Kitchen & Bar at the Linq Hotel. There’s also an El Burro Borracho at Harrah’s Laughlin.

We had a great experience at Guy Fieri’s Vegas Kitchen & Bar, so we’re optimistic El Burro Borracho (Spanish for “drunken donkey”) will have the same indulgent fare and festive atmosphere.

Rio Las Vegas

Rio Las Vegas opened on January 15, 1990 and is the home of the Chippendales. The flair bar in the lower right of this photo is where women hang out after seeing the show. Hint, hint. Seriously, though. Hint.

The menu at El Burro Borracho, as you might suspect, will feature Mexican-inspired dishes including: Crispy Mahi Mahi Juan Tacos, Flaming Queso Fundido, Acapulco Gold Salad, Drunken Fish Tacos, Lava Rock Shrimp, tortas, enchiladas, burritos and house-made salsas.

See the Harrah’s Laughlin El Burro Borracho menu here.

Guy Fieri

Guy Fieri was born Guy Ramsay Ferry. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

Expect a robust selection of hooch, including imported beers, tequilas, margaritas and cocktails at Guy Fieri’s new Las Vegas restaurant.

Given the imminent closure of Buzio’s Seafood, it’s also worth mentioning the hotel’s Village Seafood Buffet also closed, as reported by our friends at Vegas Bright.

Rio Village Seafood Buffet

The Rio’s Village Seafood Buffet serves 25, 000 pounds of lobster each month. Good riddance, say lobsters.

There are lots of other restaurant options at Rio, of course, including Hash House A Go Go, Voodoo Steak, KJ Dim Sum & Seafood and an exceptional Indian restaurant conspicuously absent from the hotel’s news release for whatever reason, Royal India Bistro.

Also missing from the roster of Rio restaurants in the El Burro Borracho news release was Martorano’s. We’ve long suspected the opening of a Martorano’s at Paris Las Vegas signaled the beginning of the end for the Rio location, but no word on that to-date. (Update: A testament to this blog’s otherworldly prescience, Martorano’s closed at Rio Las Vegas on Nov. 1, 2015.)

We’re looking forward to El Burro Borracho opening at Rio, although the name is going to be challenging. There’s a chance guests will end up calling it the “Drunken Donkey,” or another variation like the “Hammered Ass,” but if the food and drinks are memorable, the name of the place shouldn’t hinder its success.

The Rio could use a little attention, and perhaps a new restaurant with a celebrity tie-in will help. We’d especially like to see the neglected Rio sign brought back to its true neon glory.

Rio Las Vegas sign

It’s not blinking. Those are just out.

Guy Fieri keeps busy with his gig at the Food Network, so it’s unlikely you’ll see him a lot at El Burro Borracho.

Still, Caesars Entertainment (the company that owns Rio Las Vegas) has a history of successful collaborations with the likes of Fieri, Gordon Ramsay (we see a “donkey” cross-promotion down the road), Giada De Laurentiis, Bobby Flay and others, so El Burro Borracho will be a welcome addition to the Rio’s restaurant line-up.

“Real World” Las Vegas Update: Cast and Twist Revealed, Audition Videos and Random Sightings

When we first dropped the news “Real World” would be taping at downtown’s Gold Spike, the reaction was more “That’s still on?” than “Go on.”

Now, though, the cast and crew of the reality series’ third stint in Las Vegas are getting settled in and have become a downtown fixture.

Real World Las Vegas

Time to brush up on our paparazzi-slash-stalker skills.

While the production was secretive at first, things have loosened up, and now the cast’s names can be named.

The seven “Real World” Vegas cast members are Dione Mariani of Massachussets, Dean Bart Plange of California, Christopher Ammon of New York, Jenna Thomason of North Carolina, Kailah Casillas of Florida, Sabrina Kennedy of Massachusetts and CeeJai Jenkins of Georgia.

Real World Vegas

The “Real World” cast and crew head toward Fremont East.

Members of the cast, along with the production crew, have been spotted around downtown over the last few weeks.

Real World Vegas

Here, the cast cruises toward Nacho Daddy, our other home.

Because only certain venues have given “Real World” access, the cast shows up in several places repeatedly.

Regular haunts now include Therapy restaurant, The D Las Vegas, Banger Brewing and Golden Nugget, in addition to home case, Gold Spike (formerly with gambling).

Real World

Cast members have become regulars at Longbar inside The D Las Vegas. Then again, who hasn’t?

While the various venues can’t talk openly about the production of the “Real World,” it’s not hard to spot where they’re hanging out.

Real World downtown Vegas

It’s not rocket science.

The “Real World” cast is also attending more public events, such as a fundraising event at Penn Jillette’s home, the Slammer. It was our first opportunity to get a closer look at several cast members.

Penn and Real World

The cat’s out of the bag when you’re taking selfies with Penn Jillette.

The cast members we rubbed elbows with at Penn’s house seemed young, stylish and outgoing. As you might suspect. “Real World” tends to shy away from casting introverts.

Real World Las Vegas

Left to right: Christopher Ammon, Dione Mariani and Kailah Casillas. Mariani has a tattoo inside his lower lip that says “ECDLV.”

We don’t entirely know what to make of this. Then again, this blog is not young, stylish or outgoing.

Real World Las Vegas

All the cast members seemed particularly well accessorized.

There’s been a lot of buzz about this man bun since “Real World” arrived in Las Vegas.

Real World man bun

It could be that this configuration is just cooler, so lay off.

Here’s Kailah Casillas, listening intently to something we probably should’ve been paying attention to rather than trying to take photos of the “Real World” cast.

Real World Las Vegas

At least somebody was paying attention. Listening skills will serve Kailah well, as she is an aspiring journalist.

While members of the cast are currently in social media blackout mode (three month’s worth), some sleuthing reveals they indeed had lives before entering the “Real World” universe.

For example, one of the cast members, Jenna Thomason, is a singer and songwriter.

Dione Mariani (man bun) put his audition tape online. It’s special.

We would generally judge the hell out of such hijinks, but from what we’ve heard, the cast members are nice people and exceedingly polite to their various hosts, so we’re going to wait until the show airs before judging them. Probably. Dude. Dione. You’re not helping with our not judging.

Here’s another cast member audition tape. He calls himself Chris Hall in the video, but also goes by Christopher Ammon. He’s a former Mormon, and very interesting back story.

Ammon is the one with the dramatic eyebrows and adornment.

Real World cast

It’s as if he can see into our very soul.

Beyond who’s in the cast, there’s also been some online chatter about this season’s twist. The theme this time around is “Go big, or go home.” Like another “Real World” offshoot, “Road Rules,” this season is supposedly filled with challenges or missions. If a cast member refuses to do a challenge, or fails the mission, they can be given the boot.

Real World Fremont

We waited 45 minutes for the cast to come out of Banger Brewing. We really need to get a new hobby.

It’s been fun watching the buzz building about this season of “Real World,” and even more fun seeing some of the logistics of taping a reality show.

Denizens of downtown have differing opinions about seeing the “Real World” cast pop up in their favorite places to hang out, but mostly it’s been positive.

We also got a little scoop about a key element of the show, the “confessional.” Apparently, there’s a confessional at Gold Spike, but also another at the downtown offices of Wendoh Media, the company behind Vegas Seven magazine. If the rumors are true, only sober confessions happen at Wendoh, and others happen at Gold Spike.

Real World Fremont Street

The “Real World” camera guys are really, really skilled at walking backwards.

If you’re hungry for more skinny, we recommend the excellent “Real World” forum at Vevmo.

Also doing an excellent job of chronicling the “Real World” in Vegas is our online chum, “Totes McGotes.” Find him on Twitter for the latest bird’s-eye pics of the cast.

Our prediction is this most recent edition of “Real World” will be the show’s most successful in years. Because Las Vegas!

Smashed Pig Nears Completion, Joining Downtown’s Booming Restaurant Scene

Fremont East in downtown Las Vegas is about to get an new addition to its growing line-up of restaurants, The Smashed Pig Gastropub.

The new restaurant recently got its sign, including some requisite neon, and the owners say the official opening can be expected within a month.

Smashed Pig Las Vegas

The Smashed Pig sign is officially lit, as we can only assume many of its customers will be when it opens. It’s Fremont Street, after all.

We bumped into Smashed Pig’s husband and wife restauranteaurs, Martin Swift and Linda Rodriguez, and the couple says the restaurant has been a two-year labor of love. These are the same folks behind the underrated Hachi restaurant, once at Red Rock Resort.

The Smashed Pig is an intimate space, long and narrow (just 15 feet wide and 110 feet deep), taking up the space formerly occupied by a tattoo shop. The restaurant is next to the newly-opened Flippin’ Good Burgers & Shakes.

Smashed Pig Fremont Street

Expect a wide selection of ales, stouts, lagers and other things we don’t entirely know the difference between.

The eatery, a partnership with Zappo’s CEO Tony Hsieh’s Downtown Project, will have a British bent, and a prominent bar that seemingly takes up half the floor space of the restaurant. Just the way this Las Vegas blog likes it.

The “smashed” in Smashed Pig makes us think libations will play a prominent part in the experience.

Smashed Pig

Cushy seats, purse hooks and charging stations. Downtown necessities, baby.

The English pub-inspired menu holds great promise as well, as both Swift and Rodriquez were trained by Nobu Matsuhisa. Yes, that Nobu.

Probably the best way to stay abreast of the latest Smashed Pig news is to like the restaurant’s Facebook page.

We’re always happy to see a new restaurant and bar offering on Fremont Street, and if the charm and experience of the owners are any indication, Smashed Pig is set to be a smashing success.

Eccentric Collector Lonnie Hammargren Opens Home to the Public Again on Nevada Day

Last year, collector (and borderline hoarder) Lonnie Hammargren said he’d never again host a Nevada Day open house at his sprawling estate as he’s done for the last 29 years. Never say never, because Hammargren is once again welcoming guests to view his more than 10,000 pieces of Nevada and Las Vegas memorabilia.

Join in the fun Oct. 31 and Nov. 1, 2015. Read more at the official Hammargren Home of Nevada History site.

Hammargren Home of Nevada History

If it’s hoarding, it’s the most organized hoarding, ever.

We finally made it to the Hammargren open house last year, and it surpassed our wildest dreams.

It’s hard to capture the magic of Hammargren’s home, but we tried. There were so many photo ops, we ran out of pixels.

Hammargren House

There are full-scale planes, trains, automobiles and submersibles.

You’d think such an incredible array of rare curiosities would be a massive tourist attraction in Las Vegas. The problem lies with the fact Hammargren’s home is in a residential neighborhood. At some point, Hammargren tired of battling with his neighbors, and limited access to two days a year on and around Nevada Day (Oct. 31). In a way, it made visiting even more special.

Hammargren museum

We lean toward the Vegas.

We’d take a stab at listing all the discoveries in Lonnie Hammargren’s collection, but it’s easier to simply say this: What’s not in it?

There are room after room of things you’ve never seen before, and didn’t know existed. Many of the rooms show off Hammargren’s love of science, space travel, exotic cultures and history. Everything in the compound serves to showcase Hammargren’s imagination and sheer tenacity, four decades of collecting later.

Hammargren, a former Nevada lieutenant governor (not to mention neurosurgeon) estimates he’s spent about $10 million collecting one-of-a-kind artifacts, trinkets and items that can really only be described with three letters: WTF.

Hammargren House Las Vegas

The voodoo lounge. Possibly with actual voodoo.

We have no idea if this “last” Hammargren Home of Nevada History open house is actually going to be the last, but we’re treating it like it very well could be.

Do not miss this opportunity to see one of the Seven Wonders of Las Vegas. (There’s no official Seven Wonders of Las Vegas, but we’re pretty sure “Pin Up” star Claire Sinclair takes up a couple of spots.)

Hammargren tomb

This is the Egyptian burial chamber where Lonnie Hammargren will be buried. He’s a good planner like that.

The Hammargren Home of Nevada History open house happens Oct. 31 and Nov. 1, 2015, in case you were skimming when we mentioned it earlier. The open house happens 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

The address is 4318 Ridgecrest Drive, and admission is $15 for adults. It’s free for children 12 and younger.

Lonnie Hammargren

Thanks, Lonnie. We know it’s a pain having to dust everything when guests are coming over.

Here’s a look at just a few of the wonders to be found at the Hammargren Home of Nevada History.

Hammargren Nevada History House

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SLS Las Vegas Evolution Continues With New Foundry Theater and Restaurant Shake-Up

The times they are a-changin’ at SLS Las Vegas. Again.

SLS Las Vegas is making some dramatic moves to adjust to a number of business challenges,
including converting its former Life nightclub space into a full-fledged, 1,800-seat theater. The new theater will reportedly be called Foundry Hall, and the venue will be a collaboration with a music and live events company, Live Nation.

SLS Las Vegas

Life at SLS will get a new life as the Foundry Theater.

It remains to be seen what kinds of entertainment will find its way to the Foundry Hall theater, but a ticketed concert venue seems to make sense in terms of attracting new blood to the financially-struggling resort.

Foundry Hall sits in the space formerly occupied by the Sahara Theater. It was once
believed nightlife would be a key to the success of SLS, so things have come full circle. Life
nightclub never met expectations and closed in July 2015, as this blog reported first, because that’s how we roll.

While we can’t share the details of the restaurant changes at the moment, the overall strategy
will be to eliminate the weaker performing offerings and introduce more value-oriented fare.

At first, we feared our favorite restaurant at SLS, Cleo, would get the axe.

Cleo SLS Las Vegas

If you’re not doing the Chicken Tagine at Cleo on every visit, you may be doing Vegas wrong.

It was recently announced SBE Entertainment CEO Sam Nazarian would sell his 10 percent ownership stake in SLS. When SLS opened, it was steeped in SBE brands and partnerships.

As Nazarian moved away from direct involvement in SLS, some of the partnerships shifted, too. For example, all seven Fred Segal shops closed at the hotel, with several being replaced by internally-managed retail stores.

SLS concierge lounge

The former Fred Segal jewelry store has been converted into a swanky concierge lounge.

Other changes have been less noticeable, but we noticed, anyway.

SLS Las Vegas

When SLS opened, this wall was adorned with executive bios. Now, not so much.

In July 2015, there were also reports SBE was going sell off its Cleo and Katsuya brands. Rumor
has it that deal isn’t actually going to happen, which means Cleo and Katsuya, are likely to stick around. The plan is for SBE to continue to license its brands to SLS Las Vegas’ owner, Stockbridge Real Estate.

Here’s more about Cleo, a Mediterranean restaurant we fully realize we shouldn’t form an emotional attachment to, yet definitely have.

Cleo SLS Las Vegas

Yes, we have deep feelings for Cleo’s flatbread. Want to make something of it?

There’s no word on what will happen with Bazaar Meat, but it does not appear to be part of the
upcoming changes. Again, Bazaar Meat opened at SLS due to an existing relationship between chef José Andrés and Sam Nazarian’s SBE. The bottom line is it’ll stay at SLS as long as it’s
profitable, and we’ve heard it’s doing well.

Bazaar Meat SLS Las Vegas

We can’t overstate how much you’ll never forget your visit to Bazaar Meat.

What other changes will happen at SLS now that SBE and Sam Nazarian are out of the picture? Who knows?

SLS Las Vegas statue

We have serious questions about the possible fate of the Sam Nazarian-inspired statue in front of SLS. We kid because we love.

One recent change at SLS was the addition of a party pit with go-go dancers, which this Las Vegas blog universally supports as a casino marketing strategy.

SLS party pit

Any casino can benefit from more party.

SLS Las Vegas is at a critical juncture at the moment.

The resort lost $83.9 million in the first six months of 2015, so there’s a good deal of pressure for the resort to kick revenue-generation into high gear.

SLS Las Vegas suite

We’re a big fan of the SLS suites, and not just because of the mirror over the bed. Probably.

There’s been a fair amount of time to see what works (Cleo) and what doesn’t (SBE managing the place), and to re-evaluate the resort’s core customer base (it’s a far cry from what management thought it was at opening).


One of the few remaining traces of SBE at SLS can be seen in the hotel’s valet area.

We’re rooting for SLS Las Vegas to find its mojo, to continue to get leaner and to become the
success Las Vegas fans continue to hope it can be. Foundry Hall seems like a step in the right direction.

Tacos El Gordo to Re-Open Its Las Vegas Strip Location

When Tacos El Gordo abruptly shuttered its Las Vegas Strip location in November 2014, there
was a collective freak-out. Now, there’s likely to be another one, because the popular
restaurant is re-opening at its former location in mid-November 2015.

Overnight, the restaurant is sporting a new sign, and work is being done to restore Tacos
El Gordo to its former glory.

Tacos El Gordo is back! How do you say "Pavlovian response" in Spanish.

Tacos El Gordo is back! How do you say “Pavlovian response” in Spanish?

When Tacos El Gordo closed, to the dismay of its legions of fans, the odds of it returning
to the same location were somewhere between “remote” and “when Hell freezes over.”

At the time, we reported on all the behind-the-scenes drama, specifically a long-simmering
feud between the general manager of the Gold Key Shops mall (in the shadow of the Encore
hotel, at 3049 Las Vegas Blvd.) and the ownership of Tacos El Gordo.

Now, clashes have been unclashed, a truce has been called, Hell has frozen over and it’s full steam ahead for the re-opening of this beloved eatery.

Tacos El Gordo

Tacos El Gordo may seem to translate as “the fat tacos,” but if that were the intention, it would’ve been called “Los Tacos Gordos.” The name most likely means “tacos by El Gordo,” whomever that might actually be.

News of the re-opening of Tacos El Gordo is good news not only for diners, but also for
other businesses in the Gold Key Shops shopping center. Apparently, when Tacos El Gordo
closed, traffic at the mall nose-dived, and surrounding businesses suffered. While some of
the conflicts that caused the restaurant to close revolved around traffic caused by the
restaurant’s popularity, busy equals money, and it’s infinitely better to have problems
related to drawing too many customers than not enough.

This time around, Tacos El Gordo is set to deal with the challenge of large crowds and long
lines. (No word yet on whether the restaurant will have an outside tent for overflow as
it did prior to its closure.) If wait times warrant it, the restaurant will shuttle
customers, at no cost, to an alternate restaurant location, at 1724 Charleston Blvd.

Tacos El Gordo

You thought we were kidding? Tacos El Gordo is really, really popular.

Tacos El Gordo is a family-owned and run company. The company’s first restaurant opened in 1972 in San Diego, California. The first Las Vegas outpost opened in 2010.

The Tacos El Gordo menu boasts a dizzying array of options. Warning: Attempting to read the following list of featured items may cause salivation and deep-seated cravings—carne asada, adobada, suadero, cabeza, buche, lengua, tripa, sesos, chorizo, azteca and mulas.

We have no idea what most of those words even mean, but seriously, let’s get this place open again, inmediatamente. Here’s the official Tacos El Gordo site.

Thanks to ever-vigilant taqueria fan @LasVegasLocally for tipping us off to this news.

We look forward to welcoming a Las Vegas institution, Tacos El Gordo, back to its Las Vegas Strip location! And by “welcoming,” of course, we mean gorging ourselves until we require an industrial forklift to get back to our car.