Monthly Archives: June 2018

Golden Gate is Shaking Things Up Again

Golden Gate is back in action again with some dramatic changes and a new casino expansion.

We took a peek behind-the-scenes at what were, until recently, walled off areas of Golden Gate’s casino floor.

The casino’s floor is expanding into the space previously occupied by Du-Par’s restaurant.

Golden Gate expansion

The Du-Par’s kitchen was at left, counter and tables to the right. Yes, we all miss the pancakes. Bright side: Pancakes never gave anyone a jackpot.

Du-Par’s made an abrupt exit from Golden Gate when the restaurant’s owner got into hot water with the I.R.S. for tax evasion. There are no plans to have a restaurant at Golden Gate anytime soon.

The new floor space will accommodate an additional 50-60 slot machines, a significant number for a casino with a very small footprint.

Golden Gate

The door at back leads to Main Street, the one on the right to Fremont.

Here’s one more look at the work-in-progress. The area will be accessible to the public in a few days, and slot machines will be brought in within a week.

Golden Gate

Golden Gate regulars will notice another big change to the casino floor, a move of the casino cage.

It’s moved closer to the hotel’s registration desk and valet entrance. Don’t forget to check out the old-timey slot machines on display nearby.

Golden Gate

Due to strict rules about capturing images of casino cages, we are unable to share this photo, sorry.

Next up at Golden Gate, an expansion of the high limit room.

Currently, high limit is table games only, but with a move into the previous cage space, the high limit room will now include high limit slots.

Golden Gate

More room for high limit slots, or what we commonly refer to as our “retirement plan.”

Here’s a look at the current high limit room.

Our favorite part: The fringe on the walls was inspired by the fringe on the uniforms of the casino’s dancing dealers.

Golden Gate

This is the den we’d have if we were ambitious or even moderately successful.

The high limit room revamp is set to include some intriguing elements inspired (and necessitated) by the building’s original design features.

Here’s a look at the other side of the construction wall. Golden Gate’s original arches will play a part in the design of the new high limit room. Now you know.

Golden Gate arches

There’s a chance these arches were around when Golden Gate opened in 1906, but we aren’t sure. We are a blog, not that guy in the Amish hat on “Pawn Stars.”

The latest changes at Golden Gate follow on the heels of another recent, multi-million dollar expansion that integrated the former La Bayou casino space.

That expansion also included a new entrance, loyalty club desk and beer distribution room. Of course, we got photos. Do you know this blog at all?

Golden Gate has managed to do a lot with a little, and we hear there are still more surprises in the works.

Update (7/11/18): Golden Gate owner Derek Stevens has shared one of the “surprises,” a new sports book. We got a look at the space.

Golden Gate sportsbook

It’s not much to look at now, but give it a minute.

The future sports book space sits behind a temporary wall at the south side of the recent casino expansion into the former La Bayou space.

While we’re providing updates, here’s a look at the most recent casino expansion as slot machines were being installed.

Golden Gate

Not too shabby for a place that’s been around since 1906.

There’s more to come.

Update (7/12/18): We said there was more to come!

Here’s a look at the expanded Golden Gate casino, complete with shiny new slot machines.

Golden Gate expansion

The newest casino space in Las Vegas in the oldest casino in Las Vegas.

Oh, all right, just one more.

Golden Gate casino

Everyone loves that new slot machine smell.

See you at Golden Gate.

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Beloved “Old Man” of “Pawn Stars” Reality Series Dies

A beloved member of the cast of reality juggernaut “Pawn Stars,” Richard Benjamin Harrison, has died at 77.

An announcement of Harrison’s passing was made on the Facebook page of the Gold & Silver Pawn shop made famous in the History Channel series.

Pawn Stars Old Man

Amount of your crap put up with: Zero.

The statement read, “It is with heavy hearts that we acknowledge the passing of Richard Benjamin Harrison (known as ‘The Old Man’ to ‘Pawn Stars’ fans the world over) this morning. He was surrounded by loving family this past weekend and went peacefully.”

The statement continued, “The team at Gold & Silver Pawn and the Pawn Stars family is grieving his loss. He will be remembered as the best father, grandfather and great grandfather you could have by his family and by fans as the sometimes grumpy (always loving, however), often wisecracking, and voice of absolute reason on the History television show ‘Pawn Stars.’ Services are pending and the family appreciates your prayers and kind words.”

Pawn Shop Live

The “Old Man” was immortalized as a puppet in the ill-fated “Pawn Shop Live.”

While Harrison’s appearances on “Pawn Stars” had decreased in recent seasons, fans of the show will remember him as a funny, no-nonsense curmudgeon who kept his co-stars, most of them family, in check.

Of Harrison’s passing, co-star Austin “Chumlee” Russell shared, “It’s hard to believe he is gone. He was such a big part of my life and treated me like family. I will miss him greatly and carry the lessons he taught me throughout my life. You could always count on him to straighten you out or make you laugh and both of those things I need every day.”

Richard and Rick Harrison

This sort of says it all.

The Las Vegas-based “Pawn Stars” has been on the air since 2009, and the “Old Man” opened the pawn shop with his son, Rick Harrison, in 1988.

The show recently celebrated its 500th episode.

Richard Harrison will be missed by legions of “Pawn Stars” fans, us among them.

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Vital Vegas Podcast, Ep. 82: We Don’t Listen to This Podcast, Either

It’s time for another disappointing episode of the only Las Vegas “podcast” that deserves to be in quotation marks.

This week, we dive headlong into the best fine dining deal you’re going to find in Las Vegas, the prix fixe menu at Golden Nugget. You won’t actually find it on the menu, but here’s a .pdf that will come in handy.

Vic & Anthony's dessert

You won’t have room for the creme brulee, but that’s no reason not to have it. You’re in Las Vegas.

That’s just the beginning of the fun. Or possibly all of it. You’ll have to listen to find out.

You’ll also hear us entertain ourself with stories of a string of slot machine jackpots in recent weeks. We’ll tell you exactly where we got ours so you can grab one of your own.

We chat about Park MGM and the end of free drinks in Las Vegas. Sort of.

There’s a slew of exclusive news you won’t hear anywhere else. Which is basically the definition of “exclusive,” but whatever.

Learn more than you could ever want to know about the return of the Smith & Wollensky steakhouse, “Baz” closing at Palazzo, a $3.2 million jackpot at the Silverton and more.

Smith & Wollensky

Say adios to the former Smith & Wollensky.

We’ve got rumors up the wazoo (not an actual body part) about Marquee at Cosmopolitan, a possible suitor for Hooters, what’s going into the Grand Wok & Sushi space at MGM Grand and why the folks at the 18 Fremont casino project are calling their new parking structure the “Garage Majal.”

Of course, there’s a hastily slapped-together “Listicle of the Week” and an overview of the main causes of upset. Yeah, it’s as random as it sounds.

Join in the fun for our final episode of Season One of the Vital Vegas Podcast.

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Resorts World Rolls Out New Rendering Complete With Sphere

Not to be outdone by the MSG Sphere, Resorts World shared a new rendering complete with an orb of its own.

Resorts World Las Vegas

A clear dome in 120-degree heat? Now, we know where Resorts World will be baking its Bao buns.

The $4 billion Resorts World is an Asian-themed resort being built on the Las Vegas Strip near Wynn Las Vegas.

The proximity to Wynn is relevant because, based upon the new rendering, some have noted similarities between the Resorts World design and that of Wynn and Encore.

The design of Resorts World has been refined since it broke ground in May 2015. The original opening date was, wait for it, 2016. Awkward.

Earlier renderings of Resorts World (see below) featured older Chinese architectural elements, but has been revamped to have a more modern feel.

Resorts World Las Vegas

Resorts World has become “more Shanghai than Beijing.” It goes without saying that, since we’re American, we are only pretending to know the difference between those two places.

Resorts World has taken its sweet time, presumably in no hurry to open a resort with 3,000 rooms before there’s more certainty about whether demand can accommodate such inventory.

Those watching the construction project closely have noted the addition of several floors to the hotel, but the pace of construction is still agonizingly slow for those of us who love shiny new things.

We got all up in Resorts World’s business recently, but 5-6 floors have been added since then.

Resorts World cranes

You go, Resorts World. This was taken in March 2018.

Here’s a segment on KLAS about Resorts World and other projects slated for 2020. Yes, we’re featured in the segment, but that’s not why we’re sharing it. Probably.

While 2020 seems optimistic for a Resorts World opening at this point, anything’s possible if the casino’s owner, Genting Group, opens the financial floodgates and uses those cranes for something other than show.

Update (7/2/18): Here’s a look at the progress at Resorts World.

Resorts World update

Hey, it’s not nothing.

And here’s a basic of comparison from Jan. 7, 2018.

Resorts World 2017

Slow but sure.

We’re seeing nine floors added in the first half of 2018. You go, Resorts World.

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The Latest From Park MGM, Plus Bad News About the Future of Comped Drinks

It’s been awhile since we popped into the Park MGM. In fact, the last time we visited, it was Monte Carlo.

All that’s changed, because Monte Carlo is no more.

Park MGM

Park MGM might have less character than Monte Carlo, but we love that new hotel-casino smell.

That’s right. Monte Carlo, after two decades, is officially Park MGM, a member of the MGM Resorts family.

The company is investing $550 million in the rebrand.

While the hotel’s name has changed, the resort is still in transition, so we snapped some pics to keep you in the loop about what’s up. No thanks, necessary, although we are a big fan of foot rubs. Just saying.

Park MGM

Yes, you’re suppressing a yawn, but it gets better.

We’re pleased to report Park MGM isn’t in the rough shape we’d heard rumors about. The rebrand of Monte Carlo started in 2016, if you can believe that.

Business at the Strip resort has taken a huge hit because guests encountered extensive construction for months on end, with lots of venues closed and walled off, and word spread.

Now, though, things are starting to take shape at Park MGM, including the unveiling of new offerings like Juniper Cocktail Lounge and Money Line sports bar.

Let’s take a look at Park MGM, back to front.

The rebrand has included the build-out of a new reception area.

Park MGM

Vegas hotels have castle themes, circus themes, Egyptian themes and Venice themes. Park MGM is foliage themed.

Nearby, there’s a new restaurant and bar, Primrose.

Park MGM

Primrose comes from a Scottish word meaning “tree of the moor,” moor or less.

The hotel’s pool area has been completely done over. Now, there are three small pools, with lots of seats and umbrellas and people wishing they’d hit the treadmill a bit more often before their Las Vegas vacation.

Park MGM pools

The pool complex offers a number of ways to spend money, including reserved lounge chairs ($15), daybeds ($75), cabanas and Baja loungers ($15).

There’s a new high limit slots room, where we made sure to donate some of our disposable income.

Park MGM high limit

The high limit table games are awkwardly out on the casino floor nearby, but we suspect they’ll have a new home soon.

A very new addition to Park MGM is its new West Bar. It’s a fairly typical casino bar, with 19 video poker machines.

Park MGM bar

Only about half the seats at West Bar have video poker, presumably because guests aren’t gambling like they used to.

We played some video poker and were given comped (that’s Vegas for “complimentary”) drinks during our play. And, yes, they even poured Captain Morgan spiced rum from a bottle.

Yes, we’re touting the fact a casino bar 1) comps drinks, and 2) pours liquor from a bottle. You’ll see why in a minute.

Making our way through the casino, we got to see the new Juniper Cocktail Lounge. We’re pretty sure this was the same space as Monte Carlo’s Hit Lounge.

Juniper has a pretty swanky design, and features a number of video poker machines at the bar.

Park MGM Juniper Cocktail Lounge

Don’t try to read that sign or you’ll put an eye out.

As you might expect at a lounge called “Juniper,” there are a ton of gin-based cocktails on the menu. Gin gets its main flavor from juniper berries, a reminder how much you can learn while hanging out in Las Vegas cocktail lounges.

Most of the cocktails at Juniper Cocktail Lounge are in the $15-17 range.

We were dismayed to learn no drinks are comped (free) for those who play video poker at the bar. Hey, we warned you in the headline there would be bad news. There’s more to come.

Park MGM Juniper Lounge

We say either have video poker and comp drinks, or don’t have video poker. Otherwise, you’re just being annoying.

Closer to The Strip, there’s the new Money Line Sports Bar & Book.

Money Line Sports Bar & Book has a welcoming layout, with a pool table and a couple of mini bowling lanes.

Park MGM sports bar

When you bet on a “moneyline,” you’re betting on the outright winner of your favorite sportsball game.

The bar, of course, is lined with video poker machines.

As we started to play, we were informed (again), there were no comped drinks for video poker players. Not even a soda.

Park MGM sports bar

The Moneyline sports book and bar was almost entirely empty during our visit. On a Saturday night. Coincidence?

Our earlier dismay turned to annoyance as we realized this isn’t a fluke, but a trend, and not the good kind.

It seems MGM Resorts is taking a page from the Wynn Las Vegas playbook, as Wynn stopped comping drinks at its video poker bars some time ago.

This “trend” is troubling because while Wynn and Encore are just two hotels, MGM Resorts has a slew of them on The Strip. Don’t be surprised if this is a glimpse at things to come.

Denying video poker players comped drinks is getting some customer backlash, according to staff we spoke to, but whether this policy will spread remains to be seen.

Oh, well. We’re not going to let a misguided policy put a damper on our visit. Probably. We’ve got more exploring to do.

Much of the negative buzz about Park MGM has had to do with the temporary entrance from the Las Vegas Strip.

It’s fairly easy to see why.

Park MGM

Not optimal.

Again, these are growing pains, so adjust your expectations accordingly.

Let’s head out front. Who needs comped drinks when we’ve got a security breach to lighten our mood?

Here’s a look at the construction on the Strip side of Park MGM.

Park MGM

Former home of 800 Degrees Pizza, Blvd. Creamery, Yusho Japanese Grill and Sambalatte. Hey, they were all four years old, so time to go!

There are a ton more photos in the gallery, so hang out awhile.

Park MGM Las Vegas

Our first Park MGM security breach. You always remember your first.

This front structure is supposed to be Eataly, a “vibrant marketplace with cafes, to-go counters and sit-down restaurants from Mario Batali, the guy accused of sexual misconduct.”

We added that last part ourself.

This whole Eataly thing is complicated.

MGM Resorts says the $13 million project will continue despite explosive allegations against Mario Batali, but we’re thinking the company is probably looking for another partner for the venue.

Las Vegas Sands (owner of Venetian and Palazzo) recently pulled the plug on three Batali restaurants, despite his company’s claims Batali is no longer involved.

Set to close July 27, 2018, are B&B Ristorante and Otto at Venetian and CarneVino at Palazzo.

Park MGM Eataly

If you miss the Monte Carlo casino, we hear there’s another, less interesting one, in Europe somewhere.

MGM Resorts has been very public about its zero tolerance policy for sexual misconduct, so they’re in an impossible position at the moment.

The space is looking pretty good, though, and here’s what it’s supposed to look like when it opens.

Park MGM resort rendering

They’re definitely trying to class up the joint. Just ask the former Diablo’s Cantina.

So, that’s our whirlwind tour of the new Park MGM, a work in progress.

While we’re not thrilled about the comped drink policy at Juniper Cocktail Lounge and Money Line sports bar, there’s a lot to like about Park MGM, including the staff.

Most members of the Monte Carlo staff have made the transition to Park MGM with their friendliness intact. They’re not shy about admitting there’s been some chaos during the rebrand, but they’re starting to see former Monte Carlo customers return.

The reality, though, is those Monte Carlo customers aren’t really the target customer of Park MGM. Park MGM has aspirations to attract younger, more affluent customers.

A prime example is Bavette’s Steakhouse & Bar. While we’ve heard it’s good, it’s not really for the value-conscious.

Juniper seems more along the lines of Skyfall at Delano and Clique at Cosmopolitan than fans of the Hit Lounge.

Park MGM

Although it’s not on the sign, Park MGM will have a boutique hotel, NoMad. NoMad needs a better agent.

It’s odd to think of the Las Vegas Strip without Monte Carlo, but Las Vegas is always throwing something new against the wall to see if it will stick.

Enjoy more photos from our recent foray to Park MGM.

Update (7/3/18): We hear Moneyline sports bar and Juniper cocktail lounge have revisited their policies and now comp a limited selection of drinks for video poker players.

Park MGM Progress - June 2018

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Hell’s Kitchen at Caesars Palace is a Qualified Success

Our favorite celebrity chef, Gordon Ramsay, has another Las Vegas hit on his hands.

Hell’s Kitchen is currently one of the hottest restaurants in Sin City, so we had to check it out.

Hell's Kitchen restaurant

Fun fact: Gordon Ramsay toyed with naming his Las Vegas restaurant “Hell’s Vestibule,” but that didn’t have the same ring to it.

Hell’s Kitchen opened at Caesars Palace on Jan. 26, 2018, and was an immediate hit. The restaurant claimed to have received 12,000 reservations in 10 days.

In restaurant parlance: That’s a metric hell-ton.

So, why are we saying it’s a “qualifed” success, rather than an “unqualified” one? Well, to be honest, we didn’t really get it.

Hell's Kitchen Las Vegas

“Donkey!” Sorry, we had to get that out of our system.

First, the place is really, really loud.

Hell’s Kitchen moved into the former Serendipity 3 restaurant space, and it’s pretty much a big, square box. You know, like a speaker box. The place is packed, so the sound reverberates, and you end up having to shout throughout your meal.

Some people enjoy that cacophony in restaurants, as it can create a feeling of high energy and excitement. We are not one of those people.

A minor quibble at the start of our meal: It was odd when our waiter informed us we couldn’t order our appetizers unless we knew our whole order. It made the evening feel like we were there for the convenience of the restaurant staff, rather than the other way around.

Next, while Hell’s Kitchen restaurant was inspired by one of our favorite reality shows, wait for it, “Hell’s Kitchen,” there wasn’t too much of “Hell’s Kitchen” to be found.

Hell's Kitchen wall of winners

This wall is devoted to past “Hell’s Kitchen” winners, a mere 80% of whom are in therapy following their appearance on the show.

Yes, the walls of the show kitchen are half red and half blue, and there are lots of pitchforks to be found, that’s about it.

There’s no real tie-in to the show, other than as a marketing hook.

Hell's Kitchen

Everyone in the Hell’s Kitchen kitchen seemed to be working in harmony. What fun is that?

Our real issue, though, was with the food and drink. (We’ll resist grumbling about the fact the menu looked like it was produced by a printer running out of ink. Well, sort of resist.)

The bottom line: The food and drinks were good, not great.

Let’s start with a cocktail, as most nights out in Las Vegas do.

We tried the Meet Your Maker ($15), with Maker’s Mark bourbon, Domaine de Canton ginger liqueur, mint, apple, strawberry and cinnamon. It was perfectly acceptable.

Hell's Kitchen cocktail

In a town full of amazing cocktails, this was certainly a cocktail.

Next up, the Wagyu meatballs ($18), featuring slow-roasted tomato sauce, polenta croutons, parmesan cheese and basil. The meatballs, too, were passable, but nothing to write home about.

Oh, who are we kidding? Nobody actually writes home anymore, but you know what we mean.

Hell's Kitchen meatballs

We didn’t know polenta croutons were a thing, but they were a pleasant surprise.

Time for the entrees!

While we didn’t try Gordon Ramsay’s most famous dish, the Beef Wellington ($49), our new friends at the next table did and they raved about it.

Hell's Kitchen beef wellington

Beef Wellington looks like a steak wrapped in pastry, but it has to be more complicated than that. Probably.

We ordered the filet mignon (eight ounces for $47), and it seemed to be prepared properly. Not especially flavorful. Not awful. Just there.

Hell's Kitchen filet mignon

Sadly, our mind wasn’t blown. A state we’re all too familiar with, actually.

Same for the roasted rack of lamb ($39). It was entirely adequate.

Hell's Kitchen Caesars Palace

We’re pretty sure they’re not going to use “Entirely adequate!” on their advertising.

You can check out the full Hell’s Kitchen menu on the restaurant’s official Web site.

Again, we don’t claim to be a food critic. Hell’s Kitchen is a smash.

Hell's Kitchen

Are you going to get mad if we say the potato gratin was just average, too?

Let’s talk about some bright spots at Hell’s Kitchen.

The service was top-notch. Friendly, knowledgeable servers were attentive without being intrusive.

Also, the restaurant has a bar. Always a good thing.

Hell's Kitchen bar

Yes, they carry Captain Morgan spiced rum. Don’t you ever think about anything else?

There’s also a life-size video of Gordon Ramsay that greets guests as they arrive. We are a fan of the chef, so that was fun.

Gordon Ramsay

Gordon Ramsay has said he’s a fan of In-N-Out Burger, so he can’t be all bad.

We hesitated about dessert, so the waiter brought one, anyway. A gratis dessert is a wonderful way to make a good impression.

The sticky toffee pudding ($9) was selling like crazy, so people obviously liked it. Other people.

Hell's Kitchen sticky toffee pudding

We wouldn’t know sticky toffee pudding from spotted dick pudding, but we do know ice cream, and this got a resounding “just all right” from us.

Another positive: While the prices are steep at Hell’s Kitchen, they don’t seem outrageous. After all, Caesars has to pay Gordon Ramsay his five percent commission on gross sales (it’s six percent if sales top $15 million a year).

Ultimately, Hell’s Kitchen was worth a visit, just to see what all the buzz is about.

The place is getting solid reviews on Yelp, with much of the criticism related to the experience not living up to the hype.

Our bottom line is that “good, not great” doesn’t really fly on the Las Vegas Strip, especially at these elevated prices.

Still, lots of Las Vegas visitors are going to check out a new restaurant no matter what they read in blogs. Have at it!

If you have limited resources, though, drop by Hell’s Kitchen for a photo op, then make your way to one of the exceptional restaurants nearby that’s more worthy of your time and money.

Hell's Kitchen Las Vegas

The Hell’s Kitchen logo uses a trident, but devil’s are traditionally depicted with bidents. Yes, we have officially run out of photo captions.

If you’re a Gordon Ramsay fan, head to Paris Las Vegas for Gordon Ramsay Steak.

Even his Gordon Ramsay Burger at Planet Hollywood is better, and Gordon Ramsay Fish & Chips restaurant at Linq promenade is a much less expensive and equally satisfying offering.

If you’re just looking for an amazing steak, go inside Caesars Palace to Old Homestead Steakhouse.

If you’re a meatball person, some of the best in town can be found at Rao’s, also at Caesars Palace.

For the record, the best meatballs in Las Vegas call Pizza Rock home, downtown.

If you’ve tried Gordon Ramsay’s Hell’s Kitchen and disagree with our level of “meh,” we’d love to hear your thoughts. Leave a comment, or whatever people are doing to share their thoughts these days.

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