Monthly Archives: May 2019

The Strat Has a Winner With Blvd. and Main Taphouse

The Strat is in the middle of a $140 million renovation, and that means lots of new offerings, including a new bar and restaurant, Blvd. & Main Taphouse.

We dove headlong into the menu at Blvd. & Main Taphouse and can happily report this new venue serves up hearty bar food (sorry, “pub cuisine”) with lots of satisfying twists.

Strat Blvd. & Main Taphouse

It’s always smart marketing to include your restaurant’s address in the name of the place. The “Blvd.” is Las Vegas Boulevard, of course.

Blvd. & Main Taphouse spans about 6,000-square feet and sits near the resort’s shiny new sports book and a new lounge, View Lounge. Yep, The Strat is pulling out all the stops.

Oh, and The Strat is now The Strat rather than The Stratosphere. Please try and keep up.

Blvd and Main Taphouse

We’d tap that again.

The menu at Blvd. & Main Taphouse was concocted by Executive Chef Johannes Bernau. His name makes him sound like one of those fancy, snoot chefs, but he’s down-to-earth and has a great sense of what guests are looking for, especially given the proximity of the restaurant to the sports book.

Real food for real people, with a little something for everyone.

Hell, we even liked the salad, which is no small feat. This is the Super Food Salad and it was as pretty as it was tasty.

Strat Blvd. & Main

Destination salad, actually.

It didn’t take long for us to notice the cocktail menu, of course, and we made quick time of In the Clouds, with Don Julio Blanco, La Pinta pomegrantate tequila, lime sour and cantaloupe juice.

Strat Blvd & Main

No, we’re not going to make a melons joke. It’s called maturity. Check out those balls, though!

You won’t want to miss the meatball appetizer, half beef and half Nueske’s bacon, which is apparently a thing for bacon lovers.

Strat Blvd & Main

Nueske’s bacon is “smoked 24 hours over smoldering Applewood embers.” We’re so turn on right now.

Another must-try are the Bierocks (pronounced bee-ROKs).

The dish comes with three rolls filled with stout-braised short ribs. There’s also a Pilsner beer cheese dipping sauce for good measure.

Blvd. & Main restaurant

Bierock can also be spelled beerock, berrock, bierox and beerrock, which can be very confusing when a bierock renews its drivers license.

Here’s a peek inside that bad boy.

Blvd & Main Taphouse

Your salivary gland are working just fine.

Next up, some delicious BBQ short rib sliders with chipotle BBQ sauce, a sauce so good they named a restaurant chain after it.

Blvd and Main Stratosphere

How are these not a thing everywhere?

We definitely didn’t have room for the fish and chips, but wouldn’t want to let you down, so we powered on. The fish and chips were great, we’re pleased to report.

Blvd and Main Stratosphere

Kneel before cod.

We felt compelled to try several desserts on your behalf, so we went for the butter toffee cake.

There’s a whole production around the butter toffee cake, as the buttered rum-toffee sauce is poured tableside. There’s creme fraiche ice cream inside.

Blvd & Main dessert

Remember, Vegas calories don’t count.

A fine finish to our visit was the “Fondue for Sharing.” What’s not to love about dipping things into melted chocolate? Our only suggestion for this dish would be to include Rice Krispie Treats as one of the dippable treats.

Strat fondue

Oh, yes, we fondid.

All in all, Blvd. & Main Taphouse delivers a diverse selection of accessible snacks and entrees, all in a welcoming, casual atmosphere.

Yes, there are sports on the TVs, but the volume isn’t intrusive, and during our visit there was live entertainment, a lone singer with a guitar.

The decor features art pieces commissioned by local artists, too, so make sure to explore.

Check out the full menu on the official Stratosphere site.

You’ll also want to pop next door to View Lounge.

Strat View Lounge

View Lounge serves up drinks and small bites. Yep, the bar has video poker.

Here’s a look at the Strat’s William Hill sports book, in case you’re into sportsball.

Strat sports book

There’s a lot of new, with more to come. That’s just how we roll in Vegas.

Blvd. & Main Taphouse is a solid addition to the restaurant line-up at The Strat, and big thanks to the folks at The Strat for hosting our visit.

While you’re at The Strat, one more item of interest: The hotel recently unveiled a statue out front called “Look.”

Strat Look statue

It was originally called “Point,” but they didn’t want to be rude.

Stratosphere’s transformation into The Strat is ongoing, and the marquee is getting an upgrade at this very moment.

Stratosphere Strat

A refresh isn’t official until it makes its way to the marquee. It’s the law.

Let us know what you think of all the changes at The Strat! Especially if you agree with us about the Blvd. & Main Taphouse. We’re a big fan of being agreed with.

Blvd. and Main Taphouse at The Strat

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Hakkasan Nightclub to Get Multi-Million Dollar Light Installation

Hakkasan Nightclub at MGM Grand is about to get some new eye candy in the form of a multi-million dollar light installation dubbed the “Hakkasan Grid.”

The new kinetic display will be made up of 57 triangles that can be manipulated by 169 winches into a virtually unlimited number of shapes and colors.

Hakkasan Grid

Spectacle, with a side of oontz.

The Hakkasan Grid is touted as being the largest kinetic light installation in the country.

The Hakkasan Grid will debut during EDC (Electric Daisy Carnival) week. The EDC music festival happens May 17-19, 2019.

Hakkasan Grid

Our top Las Vegas nightclub tip: Be an attractive young woman. It’s not rocket science.

Per a news release, “Each triangle was custom designed and 3-D printed with premium materials from the brand Kinetic Lights located in Berlin, Germany and features pixel mapping and color-mixing technologies, making the grid the only structure of its kind that allows fully-customized images and patterns to flow seamlessly across all of the triangles both individually and collectively.”

We don’t have to understand it to think it sounds awesome.

Here’s a video with a similar light installation that might provide some idea of what’s in store at Hakkasan. But better, because Las Vegas.

While we are not necessarily a nightclub person, we’re fascinated by them and love shiny new things. The Hakkasan Grid certainly qualifies.

We can’t wait to see it in action. Let us know what you think if you get there first.

Wynn and Encore Announce Free Parking, All Over Again

It’s a surreal headline if you think about it. For decades, parking was free in Las Vegas. Now, paid parking is the norm.

Thankfully, the folks at Wynn Las Vegas have come to their senses and self-parking is once again free.

The new policy went into effect on May 1, 2019.

Wynn Las Vegas

Free parking, a thing again.

The truth is, parking has been free at Wynn for some time, but there was a condition: Guests had to spend $50 inside Wynn or Encore to get their parking ticket validated. Now that annoyance has been kicked to the curb.

Valet parking is still free, but the $50 spend requirement and validation process remains in place. Valet parking is free for registered guests of Wynn and Encore. Valet fees can be found on the Wynn Web site.

Why the sudden change of heart at Wynn? Well, there was the typical public relations horseshittery in the announcement about free parking: “Creating a seamless experience is a cornerstone of the five-star service we provide.”

Chances are Wynn decided their validation system was annoying guests and their staff members, plain and simple.

It’s also Wynn Resorts saw the impact of paid parking with decreased visitation to the resort, including to its new shopping complex, Wynn Plaza.

Wynn Plaza

We hear Wynn Plaza could use some additional foot traffic. Free parking could help.

With free parking, Wynn is removing an obstacle to visiting and gambling and shopping and dining and liquoring.

The announcement of free parking was also a strategic diversion, as it happened just days before news the company would be fined $35 million by gaming regulators in Massachusetts. The fine was the result of sexual misconduct allegations that brought down a Vegas titan, Steve Wynn. The CEO of Wynn, Matt Maddox, was fined $500,000.

Regardless of the timing or motives, the move by Wynn Resorts to roll back paid parking is a pretty big deal.

Wynn parking

The best paid marking machines are former paid parking machines. And we do feel more welcome, thanks.

The hope would be others, like Caesars Entertainment and MGM Resorts, will follow the company’s lead, although it doesn’t appear they will at the moment.

That could change if Las Vegas visitation remains flat or goes down. Some casinos have already started hotel promotions waiving resort fees.

There are several Las Vegas Strip casinos with free parking:
Tropicana
Planet Hollywood
TI (Treasure Island)
Venetian/Palazzo
Casino Royale
Circus Circus
SLS/Sahara
The Strat (Stratosphere)
Wynn and Encore

It’s so great having Wynn and Encore on that list again!

A return to free parking would go a long way toward reminding visitors Las Vegas is intent upon making them feel welcome and appreciated.

Downtown Grand to Open New Showroom, The Spare Room

Downtown Grand is getting into the comedy game with the opening a new showroom dubbed The Spare Room.

The new showroom hasn’t officially been announced yet, but give it a minute.

Downtown Grand

You can find Downtown Grand downtown. Hence, why were are considered a Las Vegas expert.

The new showroom will be located in the former Mob Bar space, just across the street from the Mob Museum.

For the showroom launch, The Spare Room will feature two shows, “Hypnomania” and “Delirious.”

“Hypnomania,” a comedy-hypnosis show featuring 20-year comedy veteran Don Barnhart, runs at 7:00 p.m.

“Delirious,” with traditional stand-up comedy, happens at 9:00 p.m.

The showroom will be open Wednesday through Sunday.

The Spare Room will have a full bar, thankfully, and a capacity of around 100 people.

Comedy fans will be able to find tickets at the official Downtown Grand Web site once they go on sale.

Downtown Grand has faced some challenges in the past due to its location, but the resort has recently perked up with the beginning of construction of a new hotel tower.

Downtown Grand construction

Downtown Grand’s new hotel tower is coming along nicely.

If you’re checking out the new showroom at Downtown Grand, we recommend making it dinner and a show by stopping in either at Pizza Rock or Triple George, a few steps away.

Update (6/20/19): Our scoop has been officially confirmed, of course. Learn more at the official site.

What’s Next: Gift Shop at Excalibur Rolls Out Surge Pricing

It seems like we’re often the bearer of bad news, but somebody has to do it.

A guest of Excalibur has informed us the resort’s 24/7 gift and sundry shop is now using surge pricing. We stopped by to confirm, and it’s true.

Surge pricing, of course, is most closely associated with Uber, the rideshare service. At times when demand is highest, Uber bumps up their prices.

We’ve shared some Las Vegas restaurants and bars use surge pricing, but we’ve never heard about it happening at a hotel gift shop.

Excalibur 24/7 store

The last time we were at 24/7, we were admiring the tiaras. No, really.

There are virtually no prices on the items in Excalibur’s 24/7 sundry shop, including on things like toothpaste, sunscreen, bottled water, Pepto and snacks.

Guests are only informed of prices when they check out. Surprise!

We asked a cashier, “How do customers know how much things cost?” She replied, “They ask me and I tell them.”

No, really.

surge pricing Las Vegas

Enjoy gambling? That’s what you’re doing when you purchase these items, because you have no idea what they cost until check-out.

Employees at the store communicated to one customer prices are based upon demand, specifically, hotel occupancy. The higher the occupancy, the higher the prices.

From what we can tell, this reeks of bean counters (commonly referred to as “consultants”) and MGM 2020. MGM Resorts owns Excalibur, by the way.

MGM 2020 is a massive cost-saving initiative. The plan is supposed to save the company $200 million by 2020 and another $100 million by 2021. Dozens of top executives have left the company, and hundreds of managers and directors were recently laid off, with 1,000 more to be let go in the weeks to come. Read more.

We’ve also shared machines will be replacing service bartenders as part of MGM 2020.

MGM Resorts has been scrutinizing every aspect of its business to increase profits, and we suspect they’ve done market research showing tourists don’t particularly care if their sundry store dental floss is $3 or $4 when they’re on vacation. If they don’t seem to care, why commit yourself to the lower price when demand goes up? (Related: If people still play triple zero roulette, why not make it even more of a thing?)

Excalibur

Has anyone ever actually seen a sundry?

While incredibly annoying, we can’t really fault MGM Resorts for trying to increase revenue and profit, but there’s just something that seems wrong about surge pricing.

It feels like being nickel-and-dimed.

Resort convenience stores have always been a bit of a price gouge, and it compounds the frustration not knowing what you’ll be paying until you check out.

We’ve been beating the drum that visitor perceptions about nickel-and-diming are changing visitation patterns, and in combination with increased competition across the country, Las Vegas casinos are suffering.

It’s unknown if other gift shops at other MGM casinos will being implementing surge pricing (hint: they will).

Update (5/20/19): We’re hearing surge pricing is now common at resort gift shops both at MGM Resorts hotels and Caesars Entertainment. Two hotels mentioned specifically were Flamingo and Rio.

In Vegas at the moment, analytics drive everything. MGM Resorts has said MGM 2020 will include “key investments in technology” which will “lay the groundwork for the company’s digital transformation to drive revenue growth.”

Excalibur surge pricing

The name of this store could be 27/4 or 274, you just don’t know. Visual metaphors for the win!

Surge pricing is all about collecting data and determining what the market will bear, then adjusting prices based upon demand. “Dynamic pricing” is how MGM Resorts referred to this pricing in an earnings call.

It may be smart business, but it’s likely to be perceived as just another way Las Vegas is squeezing every penny from visitors.

There are glimmers of hope, of course. Wynn and Encore recently announced they’re rolling back paid parking (no validation needed). Other Las Vegas resorts are offering room packages that drop dreaded resort fees.

We’d love to hear your thoughts, and if you find yourself in a casino gift shop with surge pricing, let us know.

Cirque du Soleil’s “R.U.N.” to Open at Luxor

Cirque du Soleil has announced a new production, “R.U.N.,” is set to debut at Luxor on Oct. 24, 2019.

“R.U.N.” is described as a “live action thriller,” featuring “live action performance, cutting-edge technology and multimedia to explore the world of stunts.”

We should say the show’s official name is actually “R.U.N,” but that missing period was driving us nuts, so we fixed it.

RUN Cirque Las Vegas

Shout-out to our OCD brethren! And, yes, we’re not obsessing about whether OCD should have periods in it.

It’s worth noting the name of the show can be read as “Are you in?” The show’s observation, not ours.

“R.U.N.” is being billed as a departure from the typical Cirque show. For starters, the production won’t have any acrobats.

In addition, the show was written by Robert Rodriguez, director of quirky feature films like “El Mariachi,” “From Dusk Till Dawn” and “Spy Kids.” Read more.

Imagine that, a Cirque show with a script!

RUN Cirque Luxor

This isn’t the first time we’ve gotten the jitters because someone skipped a period.

Don’t worry, we don’t suspect “R.U.N.” will be too bogged down by story. Here’s the logline from the news release: “The show will follow two clans in an adrenaline-filled adventure where a striking bride leads a series of fast-paced chases, combat and stunts through the fictional dark underground of Las Vegas.”

This is the 10th collaboration between Cirque du Soleil and MGM Resorts, owners of Luxor.

“R.U.N.” will take up residence in the theater formerly occupied by Criss Angel. When “R.U.N.” was announced, Angel wasted no time throwing some shade at Cirque on Instagram.

Criss Angel

It’s entirely possible asshat Criss Angel believes he invented fire.

We have no idea what that’s about (although Criss Angel might not love the fact he was shown the door at Luxor following flagging ticket sales), but an account that appears to be the official Instagram account for “R.U.N.” chimed in with some thoughts of their own.

RUN shade

Emphasis on “own.”

Entertaining and gloriously awkward!

Drama aside, “R.U.N” has all the makings of a Vegas spectacle, which has become increasingly rare with the high cost of over-the-top production values and large casts.

The show will run just 75 minutes, light even by Las Vegas standards.

Tickets for “R.U.N.” will start at $69, because that’s the best ticket price, ever, if you get our drift. Find out more at the official “R.U.N.” Web site.

Many of the existing Cirque shows in Las Vegas are awesome, but we’re ready for a little less conversation (not to mention creepy clowns) and a little more action.

Don’t miss our one-minute guide to all the Cirque shows in Las Vegas.