Category Archives: Las Vegas Bars

All Fremont Street Casinos Open June 4, Fremont Street Experience on June 3

All the casinos along Fremont Street in downtown Las Vegas have confirmed they’ll open on June 4, 2020.

That sound you hear is this blog becoming fully engorged.

Fremont Street

Let’s Fremont again.

The casinos along Fremont Street are The D, Golden Gate, Plaza, Golden Nugget, Fremont, Binion’s and Four Queens.

Just-off-Fremont Downtown Grand and The Cal will also open on June 4.

In the case of some casinos, not all dining options or other amenities will be available upon reopening. The casinos and bars are really the important things, anyway.

As for the Fremont Street Experience pedestrian mall, officials say they’ll be open on June 3 at 9:00 a.m.

Fun fact: Virtually no one has ever gotten up early enough to see Fremont Street Experience at 9:00 a.m. If they have, they’re doing Vegas wrong.

Fremont Street closed

There’s a light at the end of the sad.

At the moment, the newly-renovated Viva Vision video screen, is playing a countdown to the reopening of casinos downtown and on The Strip. Specifically, June 4 at 12:01 a.m.

While the Fremont Street Experience mall opens June 3, it will do so without its signature live bands. Announcement of the venue’s free summer concert series was derailed by the COVID-19 crisis, and there’s been no word as to whether any of the planned concerts will happen this year.

In related news, the SlotZilla zipline will reopen on June 4 at 4:00 p.m.

SlotZilla Las Vegas

Time flies when you’re in lockdown. Welcome back, SlotZilla.

Demand is expected to be strong downtown (including ours) upon reopening. The buzz is hotels both downtown and on The Strip are receiving unexpected levels of room bookings, despite the fact hotels and casinos are currently limited to 50% occupancy.

Downtown Las Vegas is much less reliant on conventions and Asian visitors than The Strip, so it’s expected downtown could recover more quickly than other destinations.

We are personally going to leave our stimulus money in a variety of slot machines and bars along Fremont the minute they reopen. You know, to support Las Vegas. We’re selfless like that.

Two Miller’s Ale House Locations to Close

We hate having to report bad news, but lately, much of the news seems to fall into that category.

We’ve learned a couple of popular local restaurants won’t be back following the COVID-19 shutdown, Miller’s Ale House in Town Square and Henderson.

The messaging on the Miller’s Ale House Facebook page was sadly too optimistic given the current crisis.

Miller's Ale House Las Vegas closed

Miller’s apparently couldn’t overcome what aled it.

When we shared the scoop on Twitter, several longtime customers chimed in about the closures.

“This really sucks. I was a regular at the Henderson location. Great people…food and drinks.” ~@SkylarJameson1

“This place had great specials during football Sunday. I’m going to miss that mountain melt.” ~@JeremyandZimmer

“Great big game parties.” ~@Lewisromanowich

“Damn. Their drink specials were underrated.” ~@SirDreDeux

“Those wings were the bomb!” ~@chelseafanSTL

“I loved their food and UFC/fight parties.” ~@msmelibby

We enjoyed our visits to Miller’s Ale House a lot, and we wish the laid off employees (notified May 18, 2020) the best with job-hunting during a particularly challenging time.

Front Yard at Ellis Island Is Worth the Wait

It’s taken a minute, but Front Yard at Ellis Island is ready for its debut. The new restaurant and bar opens Dec. 6, 2019.

Here’s a first look inside. Although, if you follow us on Twitter, it’s a second look inside, but let’s not get bogged down by details.

Ellis Island Front Yard

You know we like a place if we like it even when sports are on.

The Front Yard was announced all the way back in July 2017 and broke ground in April 2018.

We’re pleased to report it was worth the wait, as Ellis Island’s new venue offers top-notch food, ample booze and great values. So, it’s pretty much Ellis Island, expanded.

You sort of can’t miss the Front Yard. First, it’s in front of Ellis Island. Second, the exterior of the
Front Yard constantly changes colors, a clever marketing tool sure to catch the eye of drivers-by.

Ellis Island Front Yard

Ellis Island just got 400% more fleek or whatever the kids are calling it now.

The Front Yard is a two-story affair described as an “outdoor dining, drinking and entertainment venue.” It’s a temperature controlled structure with a fabric roof and capacity of about 300 people.

Front Yard boasts two bars (one with 15 video poker machines) and approximately 4,700 televisions.

One of the TVs is roughly the size of Lancaster, Michigan and nearly blinded us when hockey was on the screen.

A cocktail or three helped us recover. The Welcome to Jamrock cocktail features Bacardi Silver rum, Malibu rum, melon liqueur, pineapple and cranberry.

Front Yard Ellis Island

These are better by the half dozen.

The signature cocktails at Front Yard will run $8-12, with big-ass shared drinks (for 2-3 people) a bit more. For context, a Captain and diet in the casino is around $5, a freakish anomaly for a casino on or near The Strip.

The food at Front Yard continues the Ellis Island tradition of hearty, approachable, old-school offerings including bar food, sandwiches and burgers.

Nothing fancy, everything satisfying. Yes, Ellis Island, feel free to put that in your advertising.

We dove headlong into the chicken wings appetizer.

Ellis Island Front Yard

Fun fact: The average American eats 90 chicken wings a year. Not so “fun” for chickens, probably, but don’t be a buzzkill.

The Front Yard burger was awesome, too, and bacon fanatics will not be disappointed.

Front Yard burger

Ellis Island’s burger game is strong.

As for the food prices, still being finalized, we’re talking $6-10 for appetizers, $16-20 for main courses, with flatbreads (that’s pizza to us regular folk) in the $12-15 range.

Ellis Island is known for its beer, much of which is brewed on the premises.

While we are not a beer person, we know a value when we see it. During our visit, prices weren’t available, but if the cost of beer inside the casino is any indication (in the $2 range for a massive glass), beer lovers are in for a treat.

And speaking of the casino, Ellis Island continues to offer some of the best gambling near The Strip, and there’s easy access to and from the Front Yard.

Oh, and there’s free parking.

Ellis Island Front Yard

Hit the second floor so you can say you did a stair workout in Vegas.

You know we got a panorama of the second floor, so check it out.

Our love of Ellis Island is fairly obvious, due in no small part to the above-mentioned values, but also the absolutely charming family behind Ellis Island. The Ellis family, in case that wasn’t clear.

A family-owned casino is a rare breed and Ellis Island’s unpretentious vibe, and commitment to great fun at a great price, make it a Las Vegas must-visit in our book.

For the record, Ellis Island is a block east of The Strip, just off Flamingo on Koval Lane.

Front Yard Ellis Island

Front Yard at Ellis Island is our new favorite hang.

We’re excited about the long-awaited opening of the Front Yard and Ellis Island has a winner on its hands. Be strong, liver, be strong.

Updated (11/29/19): We went back to Front Yard and the restaurant is officially open. We got a look at the menu, and you can click here for the Front Yard food menu and drink and dessert menu. Prices may change, so don’t get emotionally attached.

Front Yard Ellis Island menu

Please don’t try and read this, it’s for illustrative purposes only. Click on the links.

We also discovered another surprise at Front Yard. The restaurant’s sound system is connected to the Rockbot app. That means you get to be the DJ at Front Yard.

Front Yard Ellis Island

Oh, yes, there was a hell-ton of Duran Duran.

Guests get to add their favorite songs to the queue, and give the whole venue an interactive vibe. Give it a try, it’s free.

Here are more photos from Front Yard at Ellis Island.

Binion’s Nails It With New Whiskey Licker Up

It’s been a busy few months at Binion’s Gambling Hall.

In July 2019, the downtown casino opened (technically re-opened) the historic Hotel Apache, with a modest 81 old-timey rooms. The original Hotel Apache opened in 1932.

Now, Binion’s has opened a new restaurant, bar and nightlife venue, Whiskey Licker Up. And, no, we honestly never thought we’d use the words “Binion’s” and “nightlife” in the same sentence.

Whiskey Licker Up

Yes, it’s open during the day, too, but “nightlife” just sounds sexier.

Whiskey Licker Up officially opened on Sep. 30, 2019, with some perfunctory hoopla, which is the best kind of hoopla in our humble opinion.

Where to begin? With the bar, naturally! Do you know this blog at all?

The centerpiece of Whiskey Licker Up is a sweet revolving bar. It was inspired by Carousel Bar, a hot spot in the French Quarter in New Orleans.

You’re familiar with New Orleans. It’s like Las Vegas, but stickier.

Whiskey Licker Up

Our newest happy place.

The revolving bar has variable speeds and rotates counter-clockwise. We talked to an engineer who said bars that rotate clockwise can cause people to feel woozy. We honestly have no idea what difference that would make, but we are a blog, not an engineer.

Here’s a look at the revolving bar during construction.

Whiskey Licker Up Binion's

Heavy drinking precludes us from sharing any fun facts about the revolving bar, sorry.

The bar takes 15 minutes for a complete revolution.

Here’s a badass time lapse video of the revolving bar at Whiskey Licker Up.

It’s downtown, so the venue has a back-up bar, of course. This one doesn’t rotate, but the long pours are still in effect.

Whiskey Licker Up

Proof a person can have more than one happy place.

Video poker players will note that Whiskey Licker Up has none. Video poker, that is. You’ll survive. We were surprised about that, too, but the bars were built so they can accommodate video poker machines should they be installed in the future.

For now, it’s just food, hooch and a section of the restaurant that can be used as a dance floor.

Whiskey Licker Up Binion's

Everyone asks where one can go to dance downtown. This will apparently be that.

The food we’ve tried has been delicious, including the wings, beef sliders and meatballs. The pork sliders were a disappointment, but the chicken tenders more than made up for them as they are some of the best we’ve had in Vegas.

Here’s a look at the meatballs.

Whiskey Licker Up Binion's

These meatballs are far better than they have to be.

The fact Binion’s gets meat right shouldn’t come as a surprise if you’ve have the hamburger in the Binion’s Cafe. It’s also one of the best in Las Vegas, possibly because they use meat trimmings from their steakhouse, and that often means your burger is made from filet mignon.

Here’s a look at the Whiskey Licker Up appetizer menu. Please don’t strain your eyes, click here or possibly here for a larger image of the full food menu.

Whiskey Licker Up Binion's

Please don’t call them “tapas.” Downtown hates that pretentious crap.

The liquor is ample at Whiskey Licker Up, which probably wasn’t difficult to predict given “whiskey” is right in the name of the place.

The signature cocktails are $12 ($18 for a double), and there’s an extensive beer selection. Again, click here (for the cocktail and wine menu) and definitely here (for the beer menu).

Yes, they have Captain Morgan from the bottle. Don’t you ever think about anything else?

The original plan for Whiskey Licker Up was to have a mechanical bull, but apparently it was nixed. Instead, the venue features one of those new-fangled virtual reality machines. Isn’t it funny you never hear about things being old-fangled?

The VR machine is a four-seater. Here’s a look.

Whiskey Licker Up

If you start to freak out, just close your eyes. This isn’t rocket science.

The VR machine, the X World 360, has the option of 89 different rides. We, naturally, chose a mellow one. It was awesome, and we are not even a ride person, virtual or otherwise. Here’s more about the X World 360 if you’re into that kind of thing.

Rides are $15 a pop. The mellow rides last 7-9 minutes, the more intense ones last 3-4 minutes.

On the service front, Binion’s has wisely hired a bevy of model servers. They’re like your typical servers, but are younger, more attractive and less roboty.

The theme of Whiskey Licker Up is a little bit country, but without the bull, they have the flexibility to feature a variety of music styles. We suspect, though, country will be prominent when the rodeo is in town. There’s even a rodeo gate (slash advertisement) for photo ops.

Whiskey Licker Up

It’s hard to beat this bucking chute. Which sounds far more inappropriate than it really is.

Whiskey Licker Up is bigger than you’d think, and there’s tons of seating at tables, at the bars, on the outdoor balcony (enclosed by windows that can be rolled open) and in VIP booths.

Again, never expected to say “VIP booths” in a story about Binion’s, but we’re always open to surprises.

Whiskey Licker Up Binion's

No paper straws for the win.

One of the absolutely best things about Whiskey Licker Up, of course, is it’s at Binion’s, and Binion’s is an iconic part of Vegas history.

Part of that history has been exposed at the street entrance to Whiskey Licker Up. Guests go up a flight of stairs, and can see a wall of petrified wood that dates back to the Mint. It’s downright old-fangled.

The Mint was absorbed into Binion’s in 1988.

Vegas fanatics will enjoy the fact a portion of the Mint’s famous facade has been left exposed. Prepare yourself for engorgement, if you get our drift.

Whiskey Licker Up Mint

Swoon fodder. Which, come to think of it, wouldn’t be a bad band name.

Preliminary hours are 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 a.m., except for Friday and Saturday, when the place will stay open until 4:00 a.m.

It’s gratifying to see Binion’s doing this new venue right. We’d love to see some video poker, but the prices are reasonable and the service is perky, so we expect to be back soon and often.

Full disclosure: We work in digital marketing at Fremont Street Experience and Binion’s is one of its member casinos. Opinions are our own.

Of course, we’ve got more photos of Whiskey Licker Up, so mosey on through them or whatever the kids are doing.

Whiskey Licker Up

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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.