Category Archives: Downtown Las Vegas

Downtown Las Vegas is a quirky alternative to the Las Vegas Strip, with good gambling, a grittier vibe and a diverse collection of restaurants, bars and casinos.

Behold the Biggest Circa Las Vegas Resort Preview Photo Gallery in the World

Circa Las Vegas, the first new downtown casino resort for decades, opens Oct. 28, 2020.

As usual, we couldn’t wait, so we’ve put together the biggest pre-opening photo gallery of Circa in existence.

Vickie Circa

Nearly done, but Vegas Vickie’s already a knock-out.

During our recent visits, we got the witness the resort putting the final touches on Circa (which is why you’ll see some ladders, exposed wires and plastic-covered tables in the pics).

We can’t thank Circa enough for letting us get an early look at this amazing new Las Vegas destination.

The bottom line: We loved every inch of the place. If you get our drift.

Circa

This isn’t even her best side.

We were literally breathless seeing Circa’s massive sportsbook for the first time, and we are not even a sports person.

Rumor has it the manufacturers of Circa’s sportsbook screen, upon seeing it for the first time, were equally stunned. And they made the thing!

Circa sportsbook

Come get your swoon on, sports fans.

Circa’s restaurants were cranking out delicious food during an employee play date as bartenders and dancing dealers were put through their paces.

Thanks to Circa owner Derek Stevens, we were given the honor of being the first to share Circa’s chips (photo below).

The reveal of the chips was topped by Stevens’ “secret” project, the creation of casino plaques. He was giddy to share these beauties he describes as “highly desirable.”

Circa's casino chips plaques

One of each of Circa’s chips and plaques, please.

There was some truly unique and remarkable moments at the Circa play date, as Derek Stevens actually got to gamble at his own casino, a no-no for owners when actual money is being wagered.

Stevens tried his hand at video poker, roulette and craps.

Derek Stevens slot machine

Top casino tip: You don’t have to be a casino owner to get freebies. Always use your players card.

Fun fact: Stevens and his wife Nicole won $183,000 in pretend money at dice thanks to his wise choice to find a “virgin” shooter, his executive assistant, Yivi.

Circa is as beautiful as the renderings, and Circa has pretty much delivered on the hype, much of it ours. Yes, we’ve been a Circa cheerleader. That’s because beyond loving what we’ve seen and consumed so far, it’s objectively awesome. Circa is also the good news Las Vegas could use right now.

Mega Bar

Let’s just say Circa isn’t “under-barred.”

The only asterisk is Circa’s much-touted “adults-only” status isn’t technically accurate. A contractual loophole means kids will be allowed into the resort’s steakhouse, Barry’s. Hey, nobody’s perfect.

The centerpiece of Circa features the long-awaited return of Vegas Vickie, an iconic Las Vegas neon sign which sat above the former Glitter Gulch strip club.

She is absolutely glorious, and Circa is making the most of this newly-refurbished blast from the past.

We are confident enough in our masculinity to admit seeing Vickie lit up for the first time was one of several times we started opening weeping during our initial visits to Circa. Ditto our first Captain Morgan and diet.

Circa cocktail

Seal broken.

There’s far too much ground to cover in one blog post, so we’ll set you on your visual journey through Circa via our photo gallery.

There, you’ll get an inside peek at Circa’s special places (hello, high limit slot salon), its restaurants and menus, its artwork and its casino floors.

Circa screens

Want behind-the-scenes? You’ve got it. This is the hidden area where technicians can replace modules in the sportsbook’s video screen without the use of cranes.

We’ve made no effort to hide the fact we’re smitten. We love what Circa co-owners Derek and Greg Stevens (more from the latter on our next podcast episode) have done downtown and Circa is the crown jewel.

Big socially-distanced hugs to Circa for letting us share these work-in-progress, unretouched, plastic-wrapped, home stretch blemishes-and-all images.

Circa casino

Nothing beats that new felt smell!

Circa has already exceeded expectations and it hasn’t even opened yet! Say “hello” to our new home away from home, Circa Las Vegas.

Related: We get the question about how much Circa Las Vegas cost often. Since we’re the only one with the answer, here it is: While it’s never been officially announced or confirmed, our information is Circa resort cost $1.156 billion to build.

Downtown Grand Offers $1 Blackjack, It’s Complicated

Downtown Grand is serving up a rare deal for its casino guests, blackjack with a $1 minimum.

Downtown Grand Tweeted the news on Oct. 16, 2020, along with the fact it’s the only downtown casino to offer $1 blackjack.

Downtown Grand $1 blackjack

How’s this for a little throwback action?

The response to this news has been counter-intuitive, to say the least. Responses to Downtown Grand’s Tweet include the following.

“Oh, dear.”

“That’s terrible.”

“That’s gonna reel in some quality patrons.”

“I feel for the dealers.”

“Poor dealers.”

That’s because $1 blackjack is a little, well, awkward.

Downtown Grand has struggled to be profitable for years, and offering $1 blackjack could be perceived as a little bit desperate.

The only other casino we can think of with $1 blackjack is Oyo, formerly Hooters.

The economics of a $1 blackjack table are such it’s pretty much a loss leader for a casino due to labor costs.

If everyone at a $1 table actually plays that amount per hand, a $1 6-to-5 blackjack table will only generate about $43,300 in an entire year.

A 6-to-5 $5 minimum blackjack table generates a meager $25 per hour in revenue, or $216,000 a year. A $5 3-to-2 table earns about $86,000 a year.

Now you know the answer to the question, “Why can’t I find any $5 3-to-2 blackjack tables?”

The general idea is to lure players into a casino for $1 blackjack hoping they’ll spend money on other games, whether at other tables or slots or restaurants or the bar.

blackjack

Fun fact: Playing blackjack is the closest we get to liking math.

While a $1 blackjack table may seem enticing, the games often have rules that hurt players.

For example, $1 minimum tables tend to be 6-to-5 payouts for blackjacks, rather than 3-to-2. (It’s worth noting a lot of higher limit tables are 6-to-5 as well.)

In low minimum blackjack games, dealers also hit soft 17, not optimal for players.

Value-seekers should take note of the $1 blackjack at Downtown Grand and enjoy it while it lasts.

We always enjoy Downtown Grand, as we like the generous video poker pay tables and frequent drinks (from the bottle, not the gun) at Furnace bar, and if you like a mellow, quiet casino, Downtown Grand’s hard to beat.

Also, one of our favorite restaurants, Triple George, is mere feet away.

Checking in On Downtown’s New Gateway Arch

We haven’t shared an update on downtown’s new welcome arch in, oh, several minutes, so let’s do that.

Downtown’s $6.5 million gateway arch is nearing completion. You can tell by the funny look on its face.

Downtown archway

Vegas loves it some giant parabolas. For the newcomers, that was a boob joke.

The arch has been delayed a bit (it was supposed to be done in Sep. 2020), and now we know why.

There are a metric hell-ton of bulbs to install!

The thousands of bulbs are likely to give downtown some eye-catching bling, but holy crap, somebody at YESCO’s going to get carpal tunnel.

Downtown archway

So. Much. Screwing.

YESCO, of course, is the legendary Las Vegas sign company tasked with building the arch.

We get the feeling YESCO didn’t discourage the City of Las Vegas from using the aforementioned metric hell-ton of bulbs, as they’re the ones who will be maintaining the sign.

YESCO Tweet

Why do you always have to make things awkward? And by “you,” we mean “we.”

On the bright side, literally, bulbs add a flair LEDs just can’t replicate. (Just as LEDs can’t outshine the visual appeal of neon.)

Downtown archway

We tried counting all the bulbs, got to four trillion and quit to drink at Strat’s View Lounge.

The archway sits at the foot of The Strat on Las Vegas Boulevard.

Actually, drivers must go through the legs of the archway to get into The Strat’s porte cochere.

The arch should be completed in mid-to-late November 2020, because, beyond the bulb installation, there’s still quite a bit of electrical work to be done, per the City of Las Vegas.

Downtown archway

Our favorite part of any Las Vegas sign? Googie stars!

We’re still trying to get a sense of where people might want to stand for a photo op with the new archway.

It’s not a stellar part of town, but doesn’t feel dangerous. Because the northern side of the sign will be in the shade during daylight hours, you’ll want to park at The Strat and walk to just south of the sign for your photos.

Downtown Vegas arch

As with most things in Vegas, this will look much sexier after dark.

Here’s a closer look at the dangling part.

Vegas archway

The sign features the City’s abandoned logo. Also, pretty sure we’re using the word “abandoned” wrong.

You can also stroll a bit north to another welcome display featuring larger-than-life chips, dice and showgirls.

Fun fact: Showgirls don’t like being referred to as “larger-than-life.”

Downtown gateway display

We’d have bet against it, but this photo op has actually become a thing.

You know we’ll be there when the downtown archway is lit. We’re pretty much guaranteed to be the same, if you get our drift.

Circa, The D and Golden Gate Revamp Players Club, There’s a Twist

The casino loyalty club for The D, Golden Gate and upcoming Circa is getting an overhaul, including a new set of tiers.

The new One Club tiers have been officially announced, but we’re even more intrigued by one that hasn’t. Been announced. Please try and keep up.

Here’s a look at three of the four new One Club tiers: Gambler, Maverick and Legend.

One Card loyalty club Circa

Fun fact: One Club’s tier names were inspired by characters from “Top Gun.” Additional fun fact: We may have just made that up.

Among other things, it’s refreshing to see a casino calling it “gambling” rather than “gaming.”

If you look closely at the graphic, the colors of the cards correspond to the circles in the background. Three cards, four colors.

Teases!

We hear there’s another tier, for elite players, that won’t be available to the general public. Invite only. Or as it’s called in the business, an “aspirational tier.”

We already have our eye on you, aspirational tier.

Word is the name of the highest tier is a nod to Vegas Vickie, the iconic neon sign making her return to Fremont Street when Circa opens on Oct. 28, 2020, kicking leg and all.

Vegas Vickie Circa

Not a rendering! Thanks to our friends at Circa for letting us be the first to share their amazing photo of a restored Vegas Vickie on the Twitters. Yes, we got weepy.

While we couldn’t ferret out details about this “mystery” fourth tier, we did snag specifics about the three official One Club tiers.

Here’s an exclusive first look.

One Club benefits

Who brings the boom? We’ll wait.

We asked, and One Club has no plans to tier match at the moment. (That’s where casinos match an existing tier status at a competing casino to get your play.)

It’s worth noting players get cash back at the Legend level. We’re pretty sure that’s new.

We’ve found One Club to be very generous with its perks, and it appears that won’t be changing with the new players club structure.

We play at The D and Golden Gate fairly often, and actually find it challenging to use all our free play and dining benefits. We seem to rack up comp dollars quickly, too, hence the embarrassingly large number of branded clothing items in our closet acquired from The D’s gift shop.

The new loyalty club tiers for Circa, The D and Golden Gate debut Oct. 23, 2020.

The Oct. 28 opening of Circa Las Vegas is the most exciting thing to happen in Las Vegas in 2020, and the new loyalty club tiers and perks are icing on the cake.

See you at Circa! And The D. And Golden Gate. We don’t want to play favorites.

Saltgrass Steak House Opens at Golden Nugget

Golden Nugget officially has its second steakhouse, Saltgrass Steak House.

The steakhouse joins the popular Vic & Anthony’s Steakhouse at Golden Nugget, taking over the former Grotto Italian Restaurant space.

Grotto has moved into the former Lillie’s Asian Cuisine restaurant space, in the hotel’s Carson tower. Lillie’s closed in Oct. 2019.

There will be a quiz.

Saltgrass Golden Nugget Vegas

As the old Vegas adage goes, you can never have too much meat.

Saltgrass was poised to open several months ago, but then the pandemic happened.

It appears casino officials now believe demand has returned enough to sustain both its steakhouses.

Saltgrass Steak House fills a need for value-oriented customers who prefer their fare casual, while Vic & Anthony’s is considered fine dining. We consider it flipping delicious. Bonus: Casual Meat would make a great band name.

Saltgrass is also more kid-friendly than the fancier Vic & Anthony’s, despite our best efforts.

Saltgrass Las Vegas

The genus name for saltgrass is “distichlis,” which sounds like it could very well be the German word for “distillery,” so we’re good with it.

The price points at Saltgrass are appealing, with our go-to (nine-ounce) filet for $34.49. There’s also a crowd-pleasing selection of chicken and ribs entrees, as well as sandwiches and seafood.

Find the full menu on the official Golden Nugget site.

We’re anxious to try some of the signature cocktails at Saltgrass. Oh, who are we kidding with “some.”

Saltgrass Vegas

Please stop putting calorie counts on cocktail menus. It’s buzzkill.

Saltgrass is in the Landry’s family of restaurants, owned by Tilman Fertitta, as is the Golden Nugget. The chain has more than 80 locations across the country.

Golden Nugget cowboyed up its Grotto footprint for Saltgrass. It’s now replete with wood paneling, steer horns and rodeo photos.

Saltgrass Golden Nugget

Vegas Vic is next door to Golden Nugget, so they’d better stock up on Howdy Podner Burgers. Which should be a thing.

At the moment, reservations are by phone, but will soon be available on Open Table.

For now, Saltgrass is closed Monday through Wednesday. Thursday through Saturday, hours are 4:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. Saltgrass is open Sundays, 10:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.

It’s worth noting the Saltgrass bar is open until 11:00 p.m. Thursdays, 2:00 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays and 10:00 p.m. on Sundays.

Saltgrass

Saltgrass kept Grotto’s little side dining area with a great view of the pool, with its shark tank and a number of people with a little too much body confidence, all due respect.

While we haven’t been to Saltgrass yet, we’re looking forward to a visit. Landry’s has the mid-level restaurant game down, and Golden Nugget has one of the best dining mixes in town.

Other restaurant options include the reliable Claimjumper, excellent Cadillac Mexican Kitchen, Red Sushi (recently rebranded to Red Asian Cuisine) and even Chick-fil-A.

Anticipate our clumsy review of Saltgrass Steak House at Golden Nugget soon!

Four Queens Confirms It’s Not Smoke-Free

Park MGM recently announced it will be a completely smoke-free casino. Four Queens can’t say the same.

A five-car fire in the popular downtown casino’s parking garage caused about $500,000 worth of damage on Sep. 17, 2020. The fire happened at about 1:40 a.m.

Four Queens fire

Here’s the damage viewed from Golden Nugget’s porte cochere.

The cause of the fire is unknown, but a chemical reaction involving oxygen, fuel and heat has not been ruled out.

There were no injuries, so we get to make all the smoking jokes we want. All due respect to car nuts.

Damage to the west side of the Four Queens garage is dramatic.

Four Queens fire

Even with fire damage, the Four Queens garage is still cleaner than many casino parking structures. You know who you are.

Four Queens is one of our favorite downtown casinos and we’re glad nobody was hurt during the car fire.

Usually the hottest things at Four Queens are our winning streaks on Wheel of Fortune.

Here’s a last look at the fire damage, because public interest about this has been off the charreds.

Four Queens garage fire

We’re fairly sure that “charred” joke would’ve been funnier if spoken aloud. Fairly.

There’s no way we’re writing a story about Four Queens without a gratuitous fun fact.

The builder of Four Queens was Ben Goffstein. The “four queens” were his daughters. Their names: Faith, Hope, Benita and Michele.

Four Queens is currently owned by Terry Caudill, who purchased the casino in 2003.

Caudill also owns Binion’s, another one of our favorite Las Vegas casinos, and not just because the chicken tenders at Whiskey Licker Up are one of the best things we’ve ever placed our mouth on.

Shout-out to our Las Vegas firepersons who showed this fire who’s boss.