Monthly Archives: June 2017

Austin “Chumlee” Russell’s Candy Shop Opens at Pawn Plaza in Downtown Las Vegas

Austin “Chumlee” Russell, one of the stars of the Las Vegas-based “Pawn Stars” reality series, has opened a new candy store, Chumlee’s Candy on the Boulevard.

The candy shop is located in Pawn Plaza, a shopping complex adjacent to the World Famous Gold & Silver Pawn Shop made, y’know, world famous, on “Pawn Stars.”

During our recent visit, Chumlee himself was greeting fans at the shop and said he expects to do so often.

Chumlee candy shop

Chumlee’s candy shop features classics like Turkish Taffy, Astro Pops and Niklnips, at least one of which sounds like a stripper name.

The shop is co-owned by Chumlee and his brother, Sage Russell.

Chumlee’s candy shop is diminutive, as it inhabits a shipping container, but has a solid collection of sweets, including many retro candies sure to strike a nostalgic chord with guests.

The candy selection reflects Chumlee’s personal favorites such as Bottle Caps and Razzles.

Chumlee candy shop

It seems somebody’s lollipop has delusions of grandeur.

The prices are a tad on the steep side, so don’t think of it as “candy,” per se. The candy is just an excuse to rub elbows with a reality TV star. They aren’t candy cigarettes, they’re “Pawn Stars” mementos, emphasis on the Mentos. Which we don’t recall seeing at the shop, but just play along.

Oh, that’s right, we went for the candy cigarettes ($2). We also snagged SweeTarts ($2.75, deep breaths), Red Vines ($2.45), Pop Rocks ($1.85) and candy buttons ($1.97).

Chumlee candy on the boulevard

Don’t judge us. It’s Las Vegas.

Chumlee and his brother Sage were helpful and friendly, indulging requests for autographs and selfies.

Our receipt said “Cashier: Austin Russell,” but his brother was actually the one pulling cashier duty.

There was a short line outside the shop during our visit, mainly because the store can only accommodate six guests at a time.

The shop is open noon to 5:00 p.m., Wednesday through Sunday (closed Monday and Tuesday).

Chumlee candy shop

The “Boulevard” in the name is Las Vegas Boulevard, the most glorious of all thoroughfares.

Pawn Plaza has had quite a bit of turnover in recent months, so it’s gratifying to see another new tenant in place.

We quite like the nearby Jared’s Old Fashioned Hot Dogs & Hamburgers, as one does not live by candy buttons alone.

Here’s hoping Chumlee and his brother can make a go of Chumlee’s Candy on the Boulevard. It’s unknown if “Pawn Stars” will be picked up by the History network for a 15th season, so it’s an ideal time for the show’s stars to explore other ventures.

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“Circus 1903” is Coming to Paris Las Vegas

Paris Las Vegas has found a replacement for the now-closed “Jersey Boys,” and it’s going to be an absolute circus.

“Circus 1903,” a family-friendly, circus-inspired production (with no live animals) opens July 25, 2017.

Circus 1903

“Circus 1903” is all the best parts of a circus, without the protestable parts.

The show features aspects of a traditional circus, including variety acts, but “puts a fresh, innovative and more humane spin on them.”

Here’s a look.

Expect fire-breathers, knife-throwers, jugglers, acrobats, aerialists and the like.

Bonus points if they can skip the clowns. They haven’t been funny since, oh, 1903.

Circus 1903

Oh, and there will definitely be bendy women. In Las Vegas, it’s the law.

Think “Absinthe” without the raunch.

A highlight of “Circus 1903” is puppetry from Significant Object, the team behind the Broadway show, “War Horse.”

The puppeteers bring realistic elephants to the stage instead of actual animals. We are personally a big fan of this.

The show currently traveling the country runs about two hours, but expect that to be shortened at Paris. Because Las Vegas.

The show’s official Web site says it will run through Dec. 31, 2017, but you can bet if it does well it’ll be around beyond that date.

“Circus 1903” would seem to be a great fit for Las Vegas. It’s visual, like a Cirque show, there’s not a lot of dialogue or story to follow (important for international visitors), and variety acts allow the ability to swap out acts to keep the show fresh over time.

And what’s not to love about a baby elephant? We’re ready to “step right up”!

We look forward to our first look at “Circus 1903” when it opens at Paris Las Vegas, and thanks to John Katsilometes for giving us just enough clues to solve a long-standing Las Vegas show mystery.

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Vital Vegas Podcast, Ep. 54: Chumlee’s Candy, Front Yard Preview and Vegas Fun for Old Folks

Once more unto the podcast, dear friends, once more. It’s time for another disappointing episode of the Vital Vegas Podcast!

In this installment, we regurgitate all the Las Vegas news you’re too lazy to read in this blog.

First, we hit Chumlee’s new candy store, Chumlee’s Candy on the Boulevard, at Pawn Plaza. The modest enterprise serves up a variety of classic candy, and the “Pawn Stars” star himself was on-hand during our recent visit.

Chumlee candy shop

While the candy isn’t cheap at Chumlee’s Candy on the Boulevard, you might just bump into a bona fide reality TV star.

We’ve also got an interview with Roei Klein, one of the owners of Two Bald Brothers Mediterranean restaurant which recently opened in the former Zydeco Po-Boys space in downtown Las Vegas.

We share the latest about the new display at Bellagio’s Conservatory, land acquisitions by casino owner Derek Stevens downtown, Mercato Della Pescheria at Venetian, automated paid parking at Main Street Station and The Cal and more.

Listen for the latest about the Front Yard coming to Ellis Island.

Here’s a peek at a recently-unveiled model of this new addition to a value-seeker’s mecca just off The Strip.

Ellis Island Front Yard

The new Front Yard at Ellis Island will have food, drink, social games, entertainment and our security breaches all along the way. Sorry, Ellis Island.

There’s a metric ass-ton of Las Vegas news: Taxi trips are down, the Tipsy Robot automated bartender opens June 30 at Miracle Mile Shops, Amazing Johnathan returns to Las Vegas for two shows, “Absinthe” will get a spin-off at Bally’s, a new restaurant is coming to the former Glutton space (called 7th & Carson), Pronto by Giada is coming to Caesars Palace and other goodies.

The “Listicle of the Week” floats some fun things for old people to do in Las Vegas. Remember, that saying about “You’re only as old as you feel” is idiotic. But it’s entirely possible “You’re only as old as you feel when you’re in Las Vegas.”

Take a listen to our podcast or spend quality time with your annoying in-laws. It’s up to you.

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Bellagio Conservatory Embraces Italian Roots With First-Time Capri-Inspired Display

Bellagio, the Las Vegas resort inspired by a town in Italy, has tapped into its Italian roots again with a new Conservatory & Botanical Gardens display transporting guests to the island of Capri.

Bellagio Conservatory Italy

The new Italian display at Bellagio Conservatory is like a vacation from your vacation.

Bellagio’s Conservatory rarely disappoints, but it’s great to see an all-new display.

As always, Bellagio’s Conservatory is a free attraction and remains one of the best free things to do in all of Las Vegas.

Bellagio Conservatory 2017

Bellagio’s horticulture teams has pulled out all the stops for this first-time display. Bellissima, as the kids say.

Bellagio’s new Italian display, which runs through Sep. 9, 2017, covers a lot of ground, with water features, colorful villas and a metric ass-ton of flowers, of course.
IMG

Guests enter the vibrant new exhibit through a 26-foot archway. Inside, there’s an eight-foot fountain.

Bellagio Conservatory Italian display

This is a wonderful place to freshen up, as well as to meet some helpful Bellagio security guards.

Nearby is a 22-foot moss-covered fountain that pays tribute to the Fontana dell’Ovato located in Villa d’Este, a 16th century residence in Tivoli.

In case there was any doubt, we knew all that off the top of our head and definitely did not copy and paste it from a news release.

Bellagio Conservatory

Villa d’Este is a 16th-century villa near Rome and Fontana dell’Ovato means “oval fountains.” Look at you, inadvertently learning things from a Las Vegas blog.

The eight-foot plate, showing an Italian village, is made of lentils, something we never would have known was a thing except for our enduring love of a 1980’s British sitcom, “The Young Ones.” You bet it’s random.

Bellagio Capri display

In Greece or Turkey, this would be broken by now.

In the north section of the Conservatory, there’s water streaming from lion and monkey sculptures, as well as four lemon topiaries, whatever those might be.

Bellagio Capri display

Bellagio’s horticulture department employs nearly 160 people, all of them with a greener thumb than we’ll ever have.

The lemon topiaries are made of about 1,400 flowers.

Bellagio topiary

“Topiary” comes from the Latin word for an ornamental landscape gardener, “topiarius,” a creator of topia. No, really.

The centerpiece of this seasonal display is a miniature village with 50 villas, each with a terrace.

Bellagio Capri display

You can’t spell “Bellagio” without “bella.”

There’s a bell tower, unbrellas, boats and other flourishes like a 50-foot lemon tree and “Lover’s Rock.”

Bellagio umbrellas

Umbrellas were once called “bumbershoots.” Yeah, we’re spending way too much time on Wikipedia.

Overhead, there’s a sun and moon, each 16 feet tall.

Bellagio Italian sun moon

Every guy in every bar in Las Vegas with sports on. Dude, priorities.

The entire Italian display uses an incredible 57,000 flowers and 560 shrubs. Shrubs never get any of the glory at Bellagio’s Conservatory. While they play a supporting role, without shrubs, the Conservatory would be like “Goodfellas” without Joe Pesci or “Jaws” with Robert Shaw.

Shrubs should really look into getting a better P.R. agency.

Bellagio boxing gloves

You can find this piece in the back of the Conservatory. We’d say this was a clever promotion for the Mayweather-McGregor fight, but it was in the works long before the fight was announced.

Bellagio’s Conservatory & Botanical Gardens are a must-do in Las Vegas, and the first-time Italian display makes it a must-do all over again.

Bellagio Conservatory Taste of Italy 2017

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Mercato Della Pescheria at Venetian Is a Las Vegas Must-Try

There’s an old Italian saying, “Il savio non s’imbarca senza biscotto.” It means, “A wise man never boards a ship without biscuits.”

We have no idea how that phrase relates to the captivating Mercato Della Pescheria at Venetian Las Vegas, but it was the best we could manage after a one-minute Google search.

Let’s eat!

Mercato Della Pescheria

Here’s a fun fact: Guests prefer to sit on the “patio” at Mercato Della Pescheria, despite the fact it’s not, technically, outdoors.

Mercato Della Pescheria has somehow managed to fly under the radar, but it’s easily one of the best Italian restaurants on the Las Vegas Strip.

The restaurant is tucked neatly in a corner of St. Mark’s Square in the Venetian’s Grand Canal Shops. The space was previously occupied by a Wolfgang Puck restaurant, Postrio.

Mercato Della Pescheria

Yes, we made a beeline to the bar. Do you know this blog at all?

Mercato Della Pescheria is Italian for “fish market,” a much less romantic term than “Mercato Della Pescheria.”

Mercato Della Pescheria is a mouthful, and is probably one of the reasons you don’t hear more about it. We’ve taken to calling it “Mercato” for short, or just “Rinaldo,” mainly when we’re drunk.

Mercato was inspired by an Italian coast seafood market. The vast majority of the ingredients in the dishes are imported from Italy, as are the servers, hostesses and managers at Mercato Della Pescheria.

You can see one of those Italian imports at the end of our walk-through.

While we are not a food critic, we can attest to the authenticity of the dishes, as we have eaten in the actual country of Italy.

To start, try selections from the menu’s “Salumeria” section (or “delicatessen”). Here you’ll find exceptional cured meats and Italian cheeses, almost all of which have names with ample vowels.

Mercato Della Pescheria

Stick to the small board. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. Sorry about the sports analogy, we won’t let it happen again.

Appetizers include bruschetta (it’s the law), beef carpaccio, fried calamari, meatballs, marinated vegetables and other items.

Oh, and wood-roasted octopus. This is why you bring someone with you to Italian restaurants. They can tell you it’s delicious, and you can just trust their judgment.

Mercato Della Pescheria

Octopuses are soft-bodied, eight-armed molluscs. We can certainly sympathize with the soft-bodied part.

Before you get too far into the menu, you’ll want to try one, or several, of Mercato Della Pescheria’s signature cocktails.

As further proof we are not a restaurant reviewer, we have no idea which signature cocktail this is. We do remember it was absolutely delicious, so take a leap of faith, order something the waitress recommends and know you’ll get something good.

Mercato Della Pescheria cocktail

There’s a chance this is an “Italian Highball,” with Skyy Infusions Georgia Peach vodka, Aperol (an Italian aperitif), white peach puree, lemon and San Pellegrino blood orange soda.

Mercato has a dizzying selection of fresh pasta dishes, which sort of made us wish we were a cow. Because they have four stomachs. Please try and keep up.

If you’re like us, most of the pasta you eat comes out of a “box” or “bag” from a “grocery store.” This is blasphemy to Italians, and once you have pasta made in-house, you may never go back.

Mercato pasta

Fresh pasta, suitable for inhalation.

The rest of the menu is devoted to meat and seafood, from the “coal-fired Josper oven and grill,” whatever that might actually be.

Simply put, every damn dish is better than the next at Mercato Della Pescheria. The veal osso buco was impressive, and we are not personally a veal person.

Mercato Della Pescheria

Sometimes, food is so pretty, you don’t want to eat it. The amazing part is we nearly wrote that with a straight face.

The shining star at Mercato Della Pescheria was the lasagna, the “Lasagna Della Mamma.” It’s easily among the best we’ve ever had. In our lives. And we have lived a fairly long life. Don’t rub it in.

Mercato Della Pescheria

Do not covet our lasagna. We can totally tell you’re coveting.

You will absolutely not have room for dessert, but have it, anyway.

Ask about the tiramisu (sorry, “Il Tiramisu”), as it’s prepared fresh, tableside, with homemade lady fingers, mascarpone cream, coffee and chocolate.

Mercato Della Pescheria

“Grazie!” we exclaimed. “I’m from Poland,” she replied, as we nearly caused an international incident.

While Mercato Della Pescheria isn’t cheap, you get what you pay for, and given the quality and freshness of the food, we consider it a value as well as an upscale dining experience you probably can’t find back home. Unless your home is Milan.

Mercato Della Pescheria

One more panty-dropper cocktail, the Cosmo Bianca, with Skyy Bartlett Pear vodka, St. Germain, lime sour and white cranberry.

If you’re visiting Las Vegas, it’s all about finding unforgettable experiences, and Mercato Della Pescheria is a “bellissima” example of just that.

Find out more at the official site, and make sure to check out the full menu.

Mercato Della Pescheria at Venetian

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Derek Stevens Land Buy Opens Up Possibilities for Downtown Vegas

While Vegas-watchers had their eye on a classic neon sign, Vegas Vickie, coming down on Fremont Street, they missed news of much greater significance.

Derek Stevens, owner of The D, Golden Gate and a new resort on its way to the former Las Vegas Club site (referred to as “18 Fremont”), recently closed a land deal that opens the door for dramatic changes to downtown Las Vegas.

Stevens purchased a site known as P/Q, part of Symphony Park. Here’s a look at the parcel from a perspective you know you’re only going to get on this blog.

PQ site Derek Stevens

Pretty much the first dirt lot that’s ever made us giddy. Just keep reading.

Symphony Park is a rather nebulous name for a district downtown Las Vegas has long had high hopes for. Symphony Park home to The Smith Center for the Performing Arts, Discovery Children’s Museum and Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health.

The roughly 6.4-acre site sits behind the Plaza casino, not far from another parcel Stevens purchased in October 2016. That parcel sits between the Plaza and Main Street Station casino. Vegas-watchers missed that sale, too. Hey, we do what we can.

Here’s another look.

The more you know about the latest land purchase, the more intriguing the possibilities become.

Here’s a useful map to help sort out what’s where. At left, the latest acquisition. The land in the center, next to Plaza, will be used for parking for the new resort at 18 Fremont. The new casino at 18 Fremont will be connected to the parking structure by a bridge.

Derek Stevens land purchases

Remember how we kept calling the purchase next to Plaza casino “strategic”? We’re not just randomly typing words, you know.

Derek Stevens has shown he has a vision for his business ventures and downtown Las Vegas, so it’s not surprising these purchases aren’t random.

For now, the new parcel will serve as a “laydown” yard during the construction of 18 Fremont, a place for construction materials to be delivered and set out before being used in the resort. The lot next to the Plaza would seem to be a good staging area, but it’s expected a parking structure will be built simultaneously to the new resort, so the P/Q parcel will serve that purpose.

Several trailers are already in place at P/Q, and those will be offices for the companies doing demolition and construction on the 18 Fremont project.

18 Fremont laydown yard

Stick with us and we’ll help you impress your friends with terms like “laydown yard.”

But, wait, there’s more.

It’s interesting to note the site purchased by Derek Stevens is the only parcel in Symphony Park zoned for gaming.

That’s worth repeating. The land recently recently purchased by the owner of The D, Golden Gate and a new casino resort at 18 Fremont is zoned for gaming.

If you’re thinking that’s the point in our story that gets us giddy, you’d be right.

While plans for the land, beyond its utilitarian use during the construction of the 18 Fremont project, haven’t been specified, there’s no denying it’s a strategic move and one that could very well mean much, much bigger plans are in the works.

But, wait, there’s more.

In all the plans for Symphony Park, a 61-acre district that stalled during the economic downturn, the parcel abutting the P/Q lot has been slated for a sports arena or, most recently, soccer stadium.

Plans for a stadium have not taken off, but if such a stadium came to pass, it would mean Derek Stevens, his brother and business partner Greg Stevens, and their company, are in the best possible position to take advantage of that development and any resulting boom in business.

downtown arena

Let’s just say the Stevens would probably not be disappointed if someone built a stadium 15 feet away from their newly-purchased site.

If you look closely at that map, you’ll see the P/Q site was previously supposed to be the Forest City Casino-Hotel. The best laid plans and all that.

But, wait, there’s more.

We’ve learned Stevens’ company has invested millions in lobbying efforts toward to the creation of a new off-ramp that will lead from the nearby U.S. 95 freeway directly into W. Ogden Ave.

Apparently, the lobbying has paid off because the off-ramp project is happening.

That’s right, the road that runs along the P/Q site, past the parking structure next to Plaza and right to the back door of the new 18 Fremont hotel and casino. You can see Ogden emerging from a tunnel to the left of the shaded area (the parcel owned by the Stevens), below.

Stevens parcel

Maybe we just like putting shaded areas on things.

Freeway off-ramps are powerful and transformative things, and have helped shape the economic futures of more than a few American cities.

All this from a land sale that’s flown largely under the radar. Until now. You’re welcome.

Full disclosure: Our day job is in digital marketing at Fremont Street Experience, the marketing arm of a group of casinos, including The D and Golden Gate. Our opinions are our own.

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