Monthly Archives: June 2017

Major Changes In the Works for SLS Las Vegas Restaurants

Following word of the sale of SLS Las Vegas to Alex Meruelo a few weeks ago, we surmised there would be major changes to the resort’s line-up of restaurants, and we were right.

While many of the plans are still in flux, all the restaurants at SLS are being scrutinized. It appears any restaurant with ties to former investor Sam Nazarian and his SBE Entertainment will be flipped to new concepts.

From what we hear, the new owner of SLS, Alex Meruelo, has strong opinions and likes having creative control of his various companies. This extends to what his restaurant offerings will be, and he has apparently already been very involved in selecting what dining options will ultimately stay or go at SLS.

As for the specifics of the restaurant changes, Umami Burger will go.

Umami Burger

You can kiss these lips goodbye.

The vibe of the restaurant is likely to stay the same, though, as it dovetails nicely into the sports book bar vibe. There’s been some discussion with Buffalo Wild Wings to move into the space, but even if that deal doesn’t materialize, the venue is likely to remain a wing and burger restaurant.

The reliably unremarkable 800 Degrees Neapolitan Pizzeria will also go, becoming a restaurant with similar cuisine, La Pizza Loca.

SLS pizza

Pizza is like sex. We prefer it with utensils.

La Pizza Loca is a chain in southern California. It’s owned by (wait for it) Meruelo Group. That should be a fairly seamless transition.

Cleo, our favorite restaurant at SLS Las Vegas (and possibly on the entire Strip), is, tragically, also not long for this world.

It’s believed the Mediterranean restaurant (again, licensed from SBE Entertainment) may soon become a Mexican restaurant, along the lines of Michoacan, a popular Las Vegas favorite.

Cleo SLS Las Vegas

Eating at Cleo is like sex. It’s actually better than sex, but when we tell people that, we get odd looks, so we’re sticking with that it’s like sex.

Sushi restaurant Katsuya, another SBE Entertainment-licensed joint, is also likely to go away as the ownership change approaches. Its replacement hasn’t been determined.


“Katsuya” is a Japanese words meaning, “Don’t look now, but your food involves suction cups. And possibly sex, just to keep these photo captions consistent.”

A big question mark is, of course, Bazaar Meat by Jose Andres. It’s regarded as the crown jewel of the SLS restaurant portfolio. We can’t share what’s in store for Bazaar Meat at the moment. All we can say is all the SBE-licensed restaurants are likely to end their run at SLS Las Vegas in the months to come.

Bazaar Meat is an SBE-licensed restaurant.

Bazaar Meat

Bazaar Meat defies description, especially when we’re drunk.

Word has it there are no plans to re-open the space that was the former home of Ku Noodle. The restaurant has been walled off, and the typical visitor wouldn’t even know it ever existed.


Ku Noodle is camouflaged much like the a pygmy seahorse resting upon Malaysian red coral. What, you thought we were kidding about the drunk thing?

The one restaurant that isn’t going anywhere is the resort’s 24-hour restaurant, Northside Cafe. Northside Cafe is managed in-house after a partnership with The Griddle Cafe and its owner Jodi Hortze ended with lots of drama nobody ever talks about.

Northside Cafe at SLS

No need for the flop sweat, Northside. You’re safe.

That’s all we know at the moment.

If you read this blog on a regular basis (and why would you?), you know better than to form emotional attachments to anything in Las Vegas. The sole exception is Cleo, of course.

The bottom line: We recommend you hit Cleo and Bazaar Meat at SLS Las Vegas while you can.

Update (6/19/17): An alert reader passes along that Aria is surveying guests about their familiarity with Jose Andres (Bazaar Meat). The tipster suggests the possibility Bazaar Meat could move to barMASA, a Japanese venue which previously set two closing dates.

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Red Rock Resorts Will Reportedly Jettison Five Restaurants and Clique Hospitality

There’s a shake-up on the way, and it could mark the end of five restaurants at Red Rock Resorts casinos in Las Vegas.

Rumors are Red Rock Resorts, also known as Station Casinos, will sever ties with one of its main restaurant partners, Clique Hospitality Group, at the end of 2017.

In the parlance of Las Vegas restaurants: This could be a really big deal.

Red Rock Resort

If you guessed we wrote this entire article as an excuse to share this kick-ass photo we took of Red Rock resort, you could be right.

The change in relationship between Station Casinos and Clique Hospitality is going to mean a number of restaurants will be rebranded or replaced.

If the rumors are true, Hearthstone Kitchen & Cellar, Salute Trattoria Italiana and Libre Mexican Cantina will soon be out at Red Rock resort.

At Green Valley Ranch, Bottiglia and Borracha Mexican Cantina will be getting a swan song as well.


It sounds like Bottiglia is one of the restaurants about to get whacked.

Clique Hospitality was founded by Andy Masi, founder of Light Group, and his partners Brian Massie and Shane Monaco.

Clique Hospitality is, at its heart, a relatively well-regarded nightlife company. The firm’s expansion into restaurants has been less successful. (Don’t even get us started about our experience at their “restaurant” at Mirage, The Still. It was so disappointing, we couldn’t even bear to write about it.)

Replacements for the outgoing restaurants have yet to be finalized. Red Rock Resorts could seek other partners, or just retool the restaurants and manage them in-house.

An interesting side note is Red Rock Resorts recently bought the Palms resort. We predicted Clique Hospitality would play a key role in rebranding the resort’s restaurants, but that now
seems an unlikely scenario.

Palms recently announced it will open a new 24-hour cafe, Lucky Penny, on July 1. The Bistro Buffet at Palms closes June 30, with a new food hall concept coming in December 2017. In the meantime, a temporary offering, Social Table, will operate in the hotel’s former Hooter’s space. Clique is nowhere to be found in plans for the Palms.

Clique Hospitality

What doesn’t kill us can still be fairly awkward.

The falling out with Red Rock Resorts means a hefty chunk of Clique’s restaurant portfolio could be wiped out by the end of the year.

We quite enjoyed Clique Bar & Lounge at Cosmopolitan, so here’s hoping Clique Hospitality will continue to seek out nightlife opportunities around town with other resort partners.

Update (6/15/17): According to Lori Nelson, Vice President of Corporate Communications for Station Casinos, the rumors in our story are unfounded. She states, “The rumors in your blog about the restaurants at Red Rock Resort and Green Valley Ranch Resort are false. We value and enjoy a great relationship with Andy Masi and Clique Hospitality.”

Thanks to the folks at Station for taking the time to reach out.

Update (11/2/17): It’s been confirmed Salute is closing by the end of 2017, just as we originally reported, despite Stations Casinos being full of crap.

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Caesars Entertainment Explores Restaurants From Jennifer Lopez and “Deadliest Catch”

Caesars Entertainment, the casino giant that operates 10 resorts on or near the Las Vegas Strip, loves it some surveys.

A recent survey provides a gold mine of information about restaurant partnerships being explored by Caesars, including Jennifer Lopez and the reality series, “Deadly Catch.”

The first question mentions a potential new restaurant created by a celebrity or performer, and asks customers which celebrity’s dishes the restaurant should feature.

Caesars survey

Just a random list of celebrities, right? Have you learned nothing from this blog?

If you’ve seen enough of these surveys, you know that while Caesars appears to be fishing, they’re actually leading survey-takers down a path. That path leads to Jennifer Lopez.

How do we know? Ponder this question: Which celebrity, out of all the celebrities listed, has a super successful residency at Planet Hollywood, a Caesars Entertainment resort?

Hey, we can make up leading questions, too.

Answer: Jennifer Lopez.

Jennifer Lopez

We’re fairly sure Jennifer Lopez would spend about as much time cooking in her Las Vegas restaurant as Guy Fieri does in his.

While Lopez has no culinary training we know of, Caesars Entertainment has had a lot of success creating restaurants with folks like Gordon Ramsay, Guy Fieri and Giada De Laurentiis. Jennifer Lopez would seem a good fit for a restaurant offering, although we’d love to see what hottie Chrissy Teigen or golfer Phil Mickelson might bring to the table. Literally.

Next on the survey is an intriguing question about a buffet inspired by a TV show.

Caesars survey

Just some random shows, right? Ah, now you’re getting it.

While this blog loves it some Pioneer Woman, Caesars is actually hoping our gaze lands upon “Deadliest Catch.”

How do we know?

Caesars survey

You’re getting the hang of this. You should start a Las Vegas blog. The hours are awful, but the groupies.

That’s right, Caesars Entertainment is considering a buffet inspired by one of the best reality shows of all time, “Deadliest Catch.”

The answer to the question, of course, is “crab.”

Rio buffet crab legs

Fun fact: The Rio’s buffet serves up 1,200 pounds of crab legs every day.

While we can’t know which resorts might be getting a Jennifer Lopez restaurant or a “Deadliest Catch” buffet, we figure it’s about time for a rebrand of the Spice Market Buffet at Planet Hollywood.

What conclusions do you draw from this survey? We’d love to hear your thoughts, so leave a comment.



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Golden Entertainment to Buy Stratosphere, Three Other Casinos for $850 Million

The Stratosphere is set to be sold, along with three additional casinos, to Golden Entertainment, owners of the PT’s Pub chain.

The deal includes Stratosphere, locals casinos Arizona Charlie’s Decatur and Arizona Charlie’s Boulder, and the Aquarius in Laughlin.

In case you’re unfamiliar with it, Laughlin is very much like Las Vegas, but in sweatpants and without makeup.

The sale of the four casinos will cost $850 million.

Funny Stratosphere chip

Please, Golden Entertainment, make this collectible chip a reality.

When the sale gets did, Golden Entertainment will operate about 15,800 slot machines, 114 table games and more than 5,100 hotel rooms across eight casinos, including the world’s most phallic, Stratosphere Las Vegas.


Well, hello to you, too.

While Golden Entertainment isn’t the best-known name in Las Vegas, their influence is undeniable given they have about 50 bars and restaurants (known in the business as “taverns”) with a gambling component, many of which we personally frequent for the Caesar salad wraps and Captain Morgan, poured from a bottle. Our favorites include PT’s Gold and Sierra Gold.

Golden Entertainment owns several casinos in Pahrump (Pahrump Nugget, Lakeside, Gold Town), as well as the Rocky Gap gap casino in Maryland.

We’re thinking the Rocky Gap and Stratosphere are going to get along just fine, if you get our drift.


Value of this view from Stratosphere: Priceless.

The sale of Stratosphere and the other casinos is expected to be a done deal by the end of 2017.

The sale of Stratosphere follows on the heels of news another distressed north Strip casino will be sold, SLS Las Vegas. Casinos in that neighborhood continue to face challenges, with rumors the nearby Lucky Dragon is also struggling to find a foothold.

It’s telling that, in 2008, the Stratosphere alone was sold to Goldman Sachs for $1.3 billion.

Sorry we weren’t able to ferret out this story before everyone else, but we have to sleep sometime.

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Vital Vegas Podcast, Ep. 53: Let’s Talk Vegas Vickie, SLS Restaurant Scoop and the “Dark Side” in Craps

It’s time for the Vital Vegas Podcast, a yard-long slushy for your earholes.

In this installment, we lay down some SLS Las Vegas restaurant scoop you won’t get anywhere else. As predicted, everything about the SLS dining scene is about to change, so best to just roll with it.

Cleo SLS Las Vegas

We’ll soon have to bid farewell to our favorite restaurants at SLS, including Cleo, we wept.

We’ve also got the inside skinny on Vegas Vickie, the vintage neon sign being removed from Glitter Gulch to make way for a new downtown resort.

We also get into the “dark side” in craps, and why you should never bet it unless you like icy stares and unpopularity.

Don't pass craps

Just pass on the “don’t pass.”

As always, we’ve got a perfunctory round-up of Las Vegas news, a listicle of the week and all the mindless rambling you’ve come to expect from the eighth most popular Las Vegas podcast!

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Downtown Grand Snafu Reaps Big Wins for Players

It’s a Las Vegas story almost too good to be true, but it happened, and it’s sure to become the stuff of casino legend.

Recently, an error in Downtown Grand’s loyalty club system resulted in thousands of dollars in unearned free play for customers and tens of thousands in losses for the downtown casino.

Here’s how it went down.

On Mother’s Day, May 14, 2017, guests using their player’s cards noticed something strange when they accessed their Downtown Grand Rewards loyalty club accounts.

Rather than the typical free play offered by the casino, customers realized they were being given hundreds of additional dollars in free play for no apparent reason.

Ultimately, a system glitch resulted in each slot player receiving nearly a thousand dollars in free play ($970, to be exact), irrespective of their previous level of play. Or, to put it into the parlance of casino management, “Aieeee.”

Downtown Grand $1,000 rebate

They weren’t kidding.

Word of the snafu spread quickly, with customers alerting friends and relatives by phone and text so they, too, could take advantage of the administrative fluke.

While casino free play has no cash value, players are allowed to keep winnings resulting from the use of free slot play.

Downtown Grand’s incident (most likely caused by human error, according to casino insiders) resulted in players cashing out for substantial sums as a result of the gaff.

There’s no way to know how many players took advantage of Downtown Grand’s mistake or how long the glitch was in effect before casino management rectified it, but it’s safe to say the casino took a hit for tens of thousands of dollars.

One customer inquired about the abnormally generous free play and a Downtown Grand employee claimed a similar aberration had transpired a week prior, but players had mistakenly received free play in the $100 range.

Downtown Grand

We totally got a photo release from this guy and his suspenders, so no worries.

While magical for gamblers, errors like the one at Downtown Grand can do serious damage to a casino’s bottom line. Casino computer systems are sophisticated, but remain vulnerable to human fallibility.

The good news is Downtown Grand seems to have found its footing in recent months. We’ve heard the resort’s room bookings are strong and there are plans to add more room inventory soon.

The resort has also announced it will transform a nearby parking structure into The Quad (don’t get us started about the name), an entertainment district featuring a tavern, concert venue and fitness center. Read more.

Downtown Grand The Quad

Yay, new.

Here’s a better look at the plans for The Quad at Downtown Grand.

So, here’s the question: If you realized you were getting a thousand dollars in free play you hadn’t earned, what would you do? Would you keep playing or report the error to casino officials?

Let us know. We’re a Las Vegas blog, so we won’t judge. Probably.

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