Category Archives: Las Vegas Bars

Wolfgang Puck Teams With Vegas Golden Knights Players for Sports Restaurant

Doubt our sources at your peril, as we’ve broken yet another story and it’s probably a good time to remind you of the incontrovertible adage, “It’s not bragging if it’s true.”

We were the first to share Wolfgang Puck will close his Wolfgang Puck Bar & Grill in Downtown Summerlin (about 15 minutes west of The Strip) and the celebrity chef will re-open the venue as a sports restaurant and lounge.

Wolfgang Puck Downtown Summerlin

Solid food, prices a tad too high, good time for a refresh.

In addition, Wolfgang Puck will launch his new effort in partnership with team members of the Vegas Golden Knights. The hockey team. That’s the sport with the ice and the pummeling.
Some people are into it.

Our scoop was immediately confirmed by Tom Kaplan, Senior Managing Partner of Wolfgang Puck Fine Dining.

Wolfgang Puck Vegas Golden Knights

Props to Mr. Kaplan for making this announcement on Twitter. News releases can suck it.

Boom, as the kids say.

Let us be the first one to point out the fact someone with the last name of Puck is teaming up with hockey players. You’re welcome. (Yes, his real last name is Topfschnig. Don’t be a buzzkill.)

The official statement, of course, glosses over the fact restaurants don’t rebrand if they’re doing booming business.

The Downtown Summerlin shopping center is awash in dining options, creating business challenges for dozens of restaurants, even those bearing the names of bigtime chefs.

Downtown Summerlin has 30-plus dining options, and the neighboring Red Rock Resort has an additional 15 or so. Translation: That’s a lot, and a number of good restaurants have gone under, including Crave, Casa Del Matador, Fogo de Chao and others.

We were the first to share another struggling restaurant, Andiron Steak & Sea, will close for at least two months for an overhaul.

As for the new Wolfgang Puck concept, we can all agree the company’s assertion this effort will be “the city’s first true sports restaurant and lounge” is hooey. That aside, having Vegas Golden Knights players involved certainly won’t hurt the chances of success (the team’s practice facility is 30 seconds away).

It also can’t hurt to have a culinary icon doing the menu!

We met Wolfgang Puck a couple of times, he’s a hoot.

Wolfgang Puck

Wolfgang Puck is widely credited with making badass restaurants in Las Vegas a thing.

While details about the new Wolfgang Puck concept are few, we’re going to make a wild guess there will be TVs. In Las Vegas, it’s the law.

We trust there will also be puckball-themed food items like: “Barnburner Burgers,” “Clapper Snapper,” “Sin Bin Potato Skins,” “Goon Guac,” “Hat Trick Fish Sticks” and “Faceoff Beef Stroganoff.” Not too shabby for making up that list while inebriated.

We’re looking forward to checking out the new Wolfgang Puck sports restaurant and lounge when it opens, yes, despite the sports part. It’s flipping Wolfgang Puck.

The Next Big Change in Free Casino Drinks is Already Here

Back in the day in Las Vegas, drinks flowed freely. Emphasis on “free.”

You gambled, you drank free. Sometimes, you drank free whether you gambled or not.

Over time, though, casinos realized the cost of free hooch was affecting their profits, so they started paying more attention to whether guests were playing enough to warrant free drinks.

Stratosphere cocktail

Colorful cocktails are a great way to calm one’s nerves prior to diving into drink monitoring.

Here’s a quick overview of how drink monitoring has evolved.

1) Back in 2015, Mirage began using drink vouchers at its lobby bar. If you put $20 into the machine, you got a free drink. As you played more, you got a voucher which got you more free liquor. The Cosmopolitan’s Chandelier Bar still uses a similar voucher system.

Mirage Vegas comp drink voucher

Oh, look, a harbinger. We’re real big on harbinging.

2) In 2016, we dropped the bombshell Caesars Entertainment was rolling out drink monitoring machines (we informally referred to them as “red light, green light” machines) at its video poker bars. Again, guests who played a minimum bet (usually $1, or four quarters a hand) at a steady pace got a steady supply of free drinks. For bartenders, traditionally the free drink gatekeepers, these machines took the guesswork out who got a free drink, and how often. Green light, you’re good. Red light, keep playing until you meet the freebie criteria.

Everyone freaked out, including us.

Caesars Palace sports bar comps

These drink monitoring systems are ubiquitous now and we aren’t just saying that to prove we finally learned how to spell “ubiquitous.”

3) In 2017, we shared drink monitoring would be coming to casino floors. (That’s still in the works, but systems are still being field tested in Laughlin.) In 2018, Westgate implemented drink monitoring on slot machines across the resort, but the program didn’t pan out.

4) Earlier in 2019, we made sort of an awkward prediction based upon discussions with industry insiders. Hold onto something.

Free drinks in casinos

Yes, it’s overly dramatic. It’s the Internet. Get used to it.

If you haven’t heard about MGM 2020, it’s an initiative that’s taking a long, hard look at the way MGM Resorts does business with the goal of saving hundreds of millions of dollars. Read more.

We’d seen some red flags related to comp drinks at Park MGM, formerly Monte Carlo. When Park MGM opened, drinks weren’t being comped for video poker players. The casino quickly reversed course on that, thankfully.

Now, though, we think MGM Resorts is putting a new system into place that will fundamentally put quotation marks around “free” in the phrase “free drinks in Las Vegas casinos.”

In Park MGM’s West Bar, patrons are no longer getting comped drinks if they are not members of the MGM Resorts loyalty program, M Life.

Guests still get a drink when they put a minimum of $20 into a video poker machine, but only if they use a player’s club card.

Park MGM bar

This bar at Park MGM is ground zero for the way free drinks will work in casinos, mainly because “ground zero” sounds pretty badass.

After that first drink, a player must either pay for their drink—yes, even if they’re gambling—or earn 10 session points. A bartender shared the program originally required 25 session points, but customers shared their displeasure, so the number was reduced.

On the bright side, it’s easy to tell how much longer you need to play before your next comped drink. Here’s what’s displayed on the machine.

Park MGM drink monitoring

Even if you can’t pace yourself, this bad boy can.

What we’re seeing is a practice we’re fairly sure is going to become the new normal. Not just at MGM Resorts casinos in Las Vegas, but at all of them.

The era of free drinks in casinos, without limits, is done.

Comped drinks will be closely tied to gambling, as has always been the case, but now play will be tracked more closely and free drinks will have to be earned.

Here’s the thing, though.

Our view of drink monitoring has changed dramatically since the inception of such practices. Our outrage subsided when we realized the threshold for free drinks is still relatively low. Monitoring is really just an attempt to prevent people trying to get something for nothing.

We have no problem with that. Casinos aren’t charities.

Drink monitoring ensures seats at video poker bars are available for people who want to play, as opposed to people who slip a $1 bill into the machine and immediately demand free liquor.

Drink monitoring serves a secondary purpose for casinos, too. It keeps customers from being over-served. The average time between comped drinks is about 20 minutes, or three cocktails an hour.

The long-standing practice of giving away free drinks in Las Vegas casinos is remnant of a time when gambling subsidized everything. Now, as gambling revenue declines and casino stock prices slip, casino companies are faced with the reality giving free liquor costs them millions.

Oh, and if you think the issue of casinos scrutinizing the return on their comped drinks, check out this memo from a casino comptroller at the El Rancho in 1955. Thanks to our friends at Classic Las Vegas for this amazing find.

El Rancho comps

The more things change, the more bean counters stay the same.

Moving forward, even if your drink is “free,” expect to earn it.

At the bar, in the sports book, at the slots and table games and anywhere else free hooch is served in Las Vegas casinos.

Our advice: Sign up for the loyalty club. always use your card. Find a machine with a decent pay table and have a blast.

That’s why you’re in Vegas in the first place.

Front Yard at Ellis Island is Looking Like a Thing

One of our favorite Las Vegas casinos, Ellis Island, is getting an expansion, The Front Yard.

To put it simply: It took less time to build the Great Wall of China.

Now, however, we are pleased to report The Front Yard is starting to look like a thing and we even have a new timeline for the venue to open. We’ll leave you in suspense as you look at this photo we took.

Ellis Island Front Yard

Hey, if you were a construction worker, would you rush to finish a job six feet from a brewery?

The Front Yard, a two-story dining and entertainment venue, was originally announced way back in July 2017. It was supposed to open in late 2018.

Emphasis on “late.”

Look, Ellis Island is a family-owned casino and not like those monolithic corporate entities on The Strip. It’s one of the reasons we love the place, beyond the fact you can get a beer and a Captain Morgan and diet for $8.

Ellis Island just moves at a different pace, and The Front Yard is no exception. Yes, this expansion has taken forever, but here’s the thing: Ellis Island is sort of in on the joke.

Ellis Island Front Yard

We love this new venue because it’s as far away from Ellis Island’s karaoke lounge as possible.

We asked for a comment from our friend, Christina Ellis, Director of Marketing for Ellis Island, she said, “We’ve been promoting the project for over a year-and-a-half at this point, so it’s no secret The Front Yard has taken a bit longer than expected! When we first started brainstorming the beer garden we were basically just adding a patio, now it’s a huge, beautiful structure that we’ll be able to keep open close to 365 days a year.”

She also shared, “We added a larger kitchen, more seating and some structural changes. All great things, but things that required new permits, new drawings, etc. This is really the first construction project I’ve been a part of, so I’m learning a lot and it’s exciting how eager everybody is for us to open!”

That we are.

Ellis Island Front Yard

Yes, it’s basically the same photo again. Get your own blog if you don’t like it. We’re trying to keep the words from slapping together.

The revised open date for the Front Yard is September 2019, and that’s the story they’re sticking to.

In the meantime, there’s already a lot to love about Ellis Island. There’s the cheap-ass drinks, and the fact they brew beer on the premises.

Ellis Island BBQ is easily some of the best in all of Las Vegas, all at a rare value. Visit their Web site for all the details.

Here’s a model of the Front Yard for good measure.

Ellis Island Front Yard

You can sort of see miniature us being thrown out by miniature security for having too many miniature cocktails.

We can’t wait to have our first Captain and diet at the Front Yard at Ellis Island, and thanks to the utterly lovable Ellis family for their ongoing patience with our drunk Tweets about the construction delays.

We kid because we love! Let’s get this place did, already!

10 New Things Happening in Downtown Las Vegas Right Now

It’s time to dive headlong into a metric ass-ton of downtown Las Vegas updates. The alternative is for us to get a life, and you know that’s not happening.

Enjoy this hastily slapped-together list of things going on downtown at the moment, including some new things to do in downtown Las Vegas, in no particular order.

1. Flamingo at Lyft Art Park

The Lyft Art Park, in the parking lot next to Park on Fremont restaurant, has updated its collection of “Grammable” art with Phoenicopterus Rex, a 40-foot flamingo. The giant flamingo made its debut at Burning Man in 2017.

Flamingo Lyft Art Park

About 750 pounds of steel are used for each of the flamingo’s legs.

2. Circa Las Vegas Gets Its Pour On

Circa Las Vegas, a new casino resort coming to Fremont Street, has already made significant progress, including a couple of recent, massive concrete pours. Here’s the latest from the site.

Circa

While Circa is expected to eventually have 777 rooms, it will open with 500 rooms and 71 suites.

On Apr. 9, 2019, 205 concrete trucks lined up to deliver 2,050 cubic yards of concrete for the foundation of Circa. Here’s where some of it went.

Circa

We will not bore you with the technical details of what’s happening here, mainly because we don’t know what those are. We do know these are elevator shafts. One bank will go halfway up Circa, the other will go all the way up.

Circa is slated to open in 2020, and the good folks at Circa have thoughtfully put up a schedule so we can keep abreast of what’s happening when.

Circa

Thanks, Circa. Suitable for lamination.

Here’s a bonus new thing you need to know about: If you’re a fan of the Project BBQ truck, please know it’s relocated. You shouldn’t have any trouble finding it, as it’s only moved 20 feet.

Project BBQ

Consider your visit to the Circa site a catered affair.

Oh, and here’s a bonus bonus: In a nearby location, we spotted some early exposure tests of the Circa windows.

Circa windows

Fun fact: The spots without glass are LED panels. So, the entire side of Circa will essentially be a video screen. The mind reels.

3. Golden Gate Sports Book Underway

Just across from the Circa site, Golden Gate is quickly working on its news sports book. We popped our head in, because that’s sort of how we roll, despite it’s being related to sports. The new sports book at Golden Gate will open June 1, 2019, under the Circa Sports brand.

Golden Gate sports book

While the sports book at Golden Gate will be one of downtown’s smallest, the one at Circa is being billed as the world’s biggest.

4. Santos Tacos & Beer Opens

We’ve spoken often of “Restaurant Row” on Carson Street downtown, as it boasts several popular dining establishments including Carson Kitchen, Vegenation, 7th & Carson and Eat. Now, Santos Tacos & Beer has taken up residence in the former Bomb Tacos space.

Santos Tacos downtown

This space has hosted a string of restaurant concepts. Let’s hope this one sticks.

Santos Tacos is a solid offering, and well worth a stop to help manage those drunchies. One of the quirky aspects of this new restaurant is its “Saint of the Day.”

Santos Tacos

The day we visited, Celine was the “Saint of the Day,” and we can all get onboard with that.

5. Cat’s Meow Karaoke Bar in the Works

Despite our best efforts to keep karaoke from being a thing in Las Vegas, Cat’s Meow at Neonopolis actually seems to have potential.

Cat's Meow

In case you’ve wondered what’s going on in there. This is that.

Cat’s Meow has its roots in New Orleans, and will take over a massive, 10,000-square-foot space on the second floor of Neonopolis.

Cat's Meow

Curiosity is the only thing we have in common with cats.

You can see Cat’s Meow from the street, and the owners say they’re trying to get approval for a staircase from Fremont Street. Access has proven a challenge for a number of businesses in Neonopolis.

Cat's Meow Las Vegas

Cat’s Meow will have multiple bars, a necessary amenity when there’s karaoke.

It sounds like Cat’s Meow will open in May 2019, and another sing-along business, OD’s, will follow in a adjacent space.

6. Don’t Tell Mama on the Move

In other Neonopolis news, Don’t Tell Mama, a piano lounge with a passionate following, has moved to the retail complex. Don’t Tell Mama originally opened in 2009.

Don't Tell Mama

Now, you know where that place you know nothing about is.

7. Downtown Grand’s Gets a New Tower

While Downtown Grand’s casino is often under-peopled, the hotel side of the business is apparently booming, so Downtown Grand is building a new hotel tower. The new tower will sit in the space where the hotel’s porte cochere used to be and construction will add 495 new rooms to the hotel.

Downtown Grand construction

Rest assured, we’ll be keeping an eye on Downtown Grand’s new erection.

8. Whiskey Licker Up at Binion’s

Construction continues in dramatic fashion at Binion’s, making way for a new venue called Whiskey Licker Up.

Whiskey Licker Up Binion's

Binion’s lost a little neon, but there’s plenty left.

Of course we poked our head inside. Do you know this blog at all?

Whiskey Licker Up Binion's

Walls are highly overrated.

Whiskey Licker Up will be a bar and lounge with a rotating bar as its centerpiece. There will be food, dancing and live entertainment as well. Read more.

Whiskey Licker Up

Consider this the “before” photo.

The new bar will wrap around one corner of Binion’s providing a sweet view of the festivities below. Whiskey Licker Up is expected to open summer 2019.

9. Hotel Apache Takes Reservations

See what we did there? Back in February, which never seems correctly spelled, Binion’s announced it would open about 80 rooms in a boutique, hotel-within-a-hotel, Hotel Apache. The rooms are decorated in a vintage style, and Binion’s isn’t being shy about how some believe the place is haunted. Rooms can now be booked online.

Hotel Apache

We’ve heard Hotel Apache, like its sister hotel, Four Queens, won’t have a resort fee, so there’s that.

10. First Fremont Street Experience Canopy LEDs Arrive

Fremont Street Experience, where we work in marketing as our day job (opinions are our own, as if that weren’t readily apparent), is getting a $32 million renovation of its Viva Vision screen. The canopy upgrade is a huge undertaking, and the first shipment of LEDs were recently delivered.

Fremont Street Experience canopy upgrade

These crates hold just 1/16th of the LEDs needed for the Viva Vision upgrade.

We poked our camera into one of the crates to get a look at the new LEDs. The Viva Vision canopy renovation starts around May 6, 2019, and the upgraded video screen will debut on New Year’s Eve.

Viva Vision modules

These LEDs will give the Viva Vision screen seven times the brightness and four times the resolution.

The light shows at Fremont Street Experience will continue to play throughout the upgrade. Installation of the new LEDs will happen in the late evening through early morning in 150-foot sections (from the west end of the street, near Golden Gate, to the east, near White Castle), but the shows will play with little interruption.

This Doesn’t Fit With the Rest of the List, But We’re Sharing Anyway

We figured it was worth mentioning, Beauty Bar on Fremont East has closed and isn’t coming back. The entertainment venue didn’t go down without some drama, but the curtain has fallen for the last time on this beleaguered venue.

Beauty Bar closed

Beauty Bar opened in 2004, and was once co-owned by Corey Harrison of “Pawn Stars” fame.

We trust our list satisfies your thirst for downtown Las Vegas updates.

Downtown offers a distinct and idiosyncratic, to say the least, alternative to the Las Vegas Strip.

We do our best to keep you in the loop on all the latest news, mainly because it gives us an excuse to drink and gamble downtown more. We also love keeping you informed. But mainly the drinking and gambling thing. Just keeping it real.

Oscar’s at Plaza Endures as Stand-Out Vegas Steakhouse

While Oscar’s Steakhouse has been around since Dec. 2011, we figured it was time to loop back around to see how the joint’s doing.

We’re glad we did.

Oscar's Steakhouse

A touch of class without pretense, that’s Oscar’s.

In the early days of the restaurant, it was called Oscar’s Beef, Booze & Broads, but downtown’s Plaza has perhaps wisely backed off of using that saucy name. Now, it’s pretty much just Oscar’s Steakhouse.

The “Oscar” in “Oscar’s,” of course, is former Las Vegas mayor and mob lawyer, Oscar Goodman. Goodman spent a dozen colorful years as mayor, 1999 to 2011. Now, his wife, Carolyn Goodman, is mayor and just won re-election. Vegas loves its Goodmans.

In the spirit of Oscar Goodman, literally, let’s have a cocktail.

The signature cocktails at Oscar’s are reliably top-notch, including the Q 1908. The Q 1908 has Empress gin, fresh lemon and simple syrup.

Oscar's Plaza

We aren’t personally a gin person, yet we enjoyed this a lot, anyway.

We’re fairly sure every meal at Oscar’s should begin with the crab cakes. They’re a sight to behold.

Oscar's crab cakes

Oscar’s crab cakes are big enough to be dinner, but that’s not how appetizers work. Pace yourself, for once.

The official name of the appetizer is Johnny Quinn’s Crab Cake, by the way. Lots of dishes at Oscar’s have creative names, often inspired by Oscar Goodman’s life and sometimes controversial career.

Johnny Quinn was a raconteur and head of the hotel’s race and sports book when the Plaza was called Union Plaza. How do we know this? Oscar’s has thoughtfully put together a “List of Included Persons” booklet, a nod to the famous “Black Book” authorities use to keep track of folks unwelcome in casinos.

Oscar's Plaza Las Vegas

This entertaining booklet will keep you company while your date is on her phone. Ahem.

Let’s get into the entrees, already.

We had to get the filet mignon (sorry, Joey C’s Filet Mignon), and it was excellent.

Oscar's filet mignon

We’re more into “eating our steak” than “taking notes about the sauce,” sorry.

The sides were also outstanding, and Oscar’s serves what we’d call destination mac and cheese.

Oscar's mac and cheese

Again, a whole meal, but that’s not how sides work, either.

Our dining companion braved a dish with a face only a mother could love, the whole roasted branzino. Branzino, of course, is European sea bass. The dish involved brown butter-caper beurre blanc and arugula, but mainly we were left wondering what is wrong with people. She loved it, though, so to each their own.

Oscar's Steakhouse fish

Oh, just cover up the face with your arugula.

Time for another delectable cocktail!

We’re a fan of sweet, tropical drinks, so we went with the Jungle Bird. The Jungle Bird has Real McCoy three-year rum, simple syrup, Campari, fresh lime and pineapple juice.

Oscar's Las Vegas

We may not be into fish faces, but we sure as hell are into Jungle Birds.

When you dine a Oscar’s, you won’t have room for dessert, as if that’s going to stop you from having it.

The chocolate mousse prevailed in the dessert battle royale, with a trio of imported chocolates in mousse terrine. No, we don’t have any idea what half those words mean. Don’t judge, just gawk.

Oscar's mousse

Now, that’s a Vegas threesome.

Oscar’s is a traditional Las Vegas steakhouse with a twist. What’s the twist? The restaurant sits in a spot that was once the hotel’s pool.

Here’s what Oscar’s looks like from the outside.

Oscar's Steakhouse

There’s no place like dome.

The service is old-school charm, the atmosphere is warm and welcoming (no need to scream over intrusive live or piped-in music, thankfully), the drinks are strong and the prices are quite reasonable.

You can check out the full Oscar’s menu online.

Big thanks to the Plaza for hosting our visit, and Oscar’s is a worthy addition to your Las Vegas must-try list.

Oscar's Steakhouse at Plaza

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Hyde Bellagio Nightclub to Close for Rebrand

As we were the first to share back in March, Hyde Bellagio nightclub will close for a rebrand.

We told you to follow us on Twitter!

MGM Resorts has officially confirmed our scoop, saying Hyde will close July 6, 2019.

Hyde Bellagio

What a waste of a perfectly baffling logo.

While Bellagio hasn’t said what will take Hyde’s place, our source says the concept will be along the lines of Annabel’s, a popular nightclub and bar in London. Here’s a look.

The closure of Hyde isn’t just a way to update an aging nightclub, it’s also a way to boot out a partner in the club, SBE Entertainment, as a cost-saving measure.

Hyde is just too valuable a location to let others share in the windfall, so it’s believed the new club will be managed in-house.

Hyde Bellagio

The view from Hyde is about as Vegas as it gets.

MGM Resorts recruited some high-priced nightlife talent in Sean Christie, President of Events and Nightlife, and it’s time for Christie to show his mettle. Christie formerly worked at Wynn Resorts. At one time, he was a managing partner of Encore Las Vegas Beach Club, Surrender and Andrea’s Restaurant at Wynn. Prior to that he was managing partner of The Light Group.

Before Hyde, which opened in 2011 (or 1860 in Las Vegas nightclub years),
the space was occupied by the Fontana lounge.

One of Hyde’s claims to fame is its $250,000 bottle service package that let guests control the Bellagio fountains with the touch of a button. Oh, the package also comes with a 30 liter bottle of Ace of Spades champagne, so totally worth it.

The new nightlife concept in the Hyde footprint is expected to open in winter of 2019.

This spot at Bellagio has one of the most magnificent views in all of Las Vegas, overlooking the resort’s iconic fountains, so we expect something impressive to take Hyde’s place.