Category Archives: Las Vegas Restaurants

Hussong’s Mexican Cantina Knows How to Throw a Party

Hussong’s Mexican Cantina in Mandalay Place doesn’t tend to get a lot of ink, but it’s a go-to for many Vegas visitors looking for memorable food and drinks in a festive atmosphere.

Hussong's Mexican Cantina Las Vegas

A great night out you’ll partially remember begins here.

While we’d heard of Hussong’s, we weren’t entirely sure what to make of the name, but we we fairly sure “Hussong” isn’t Mexican.

In fact, the founder of the original Hussong’s was John Hussong, a German. Hussong’s original cantina, in Ensenada dates back to 1892.

The Las Vegas Hussong’s opened in 2010 and has been putting livers to the test ever since.

Hussong's Cantina Mandalay Place

You’ll need to know this word in Spanish, “resaca.” You’re welcome.

Hussong’s Mexican Cantina’s claim to fame is it was allegedly where the margarita was invented, in 1941.

Nobody’s actually sure who made the first margarita, but we were damned well going to have one no matter who invented it.

Here’s the original margarita at Hussong’s.

Hussong's Cantina Las Vegas

It’s believed the margarita was based upon a popular Prohibition drink called the Daisy. Margarita is Spanish for “daisy.”

Naturally, there are quite a few variations of the margarita available. We’d like to say we remember the names, but margaritas.

There’s a small chance this is the Raspberita.

Hussong's

Ever see happiness in a glass? You have now.

An undeniable hit is the Bulldog. There’s not only a margarita of some sort involved, but also an inverted bottle of beer.

Even if you weren’t in the mood for a fiesta before you arrived at Hussong’s, the Bulldog is guaranteed to manhandle your maracas. Or something.

Hussong's Mexican Cantina Las Vegas

Consider your Vegas vacation underway.

The frosty libations are certainly a big draw at Hussong’s Mexican Cantina, but the restaurant’s “sing-along rock ‘n’ roll Mariachi band” tends to steal the show.

While we are famously not a loud, live music person, the energy of the performers is infectious so we’ll give Hussong’s a pass.

Hussong's Las Vegas

This bigass guitar is called a “guitarron.” Please remember that as it will increase your appreciation of a joke coming up.

The mariachi band roams from table to table, lingering at tables with bachelorettes, of course. The band plays an eclectic mix of tunes, many of which are funny takes on pop hits. Lots of places in Vegas tout their “interactive” entertainment, but the mariachi band at Hussong’s actually delivers.

Hussong's

Trumpets began as signaling devices in battle or hunting and only later were used as musical instruments. Because you can never have too much information you’ll never, ever need.

The food at Hussong’s Mexican Cantina, described as “authentic Baja cuisine” is consistently satisfying.

We started out with a taco threesome. Hey, it’s Vegas.

Hussong's Mexican Cantina

Taco can mean wedge, plug ramrod, short or even billiard cue. It can also mean “those things we stuff into our face when we have the drunchies.”

Also tasty was the carne asada, Spanish for “At this point, we were so drunk, we’d have enjoyed a bite of a guitarron.

Told you you’d need to know what.

Hussong's Mexican Cantina Las Vegas

The carne asada is a skirt steak with chimichurri sauce, mainly because you can’t not have fun if you say “chimichurri.”

See the full Hussong’s Mexican Cantina menu online.

Topping off the meal was the delicious fried ice cream.

There are nearly as many origin stories of fried ice cream as their are for margaritas, so let’s just say friend ice cream was invented by Saint Charles Borromeo, patron saint of big thighs.

Hussong's Mexican Cantina Las Vegas

There are few things in life that cannot be improved by frying.

If you’re looking for a tranquil, low-key evening out in Las Vegas, Hussong’s Mexican Cantina isn’t it.

But if you’re looking for strong drinks, filling fare at a decent price and a raucous good time, include Hussong’s at Mandalay Bay part in your Las Vegas escapades.

Block 16 Urban Food Hall Comes to Cosmopolitan

Cosmopolitan is ready to unveil its new Block 16 Urban Food Hall on Aug. 31, 2018, but we couldn’t wait.

It’s not the first time we’ve been premature, trust us.

The Cosmo was kind enough to pull down its construction curtains early so we could get our first look at this new batch of six distinctive restaurants.

Block 16 Food Hall

Some security breaches are easier than others.

Each of the six restaurants at the new Cosmo food court is an import, as far as we can tell, and each has a unique story we don’t have the energy to research. Thanks, YouTube!

First up is District, described as a “cult favorite” from New Orleans. District has doughnuts, sliders and brews. Hard to go wrong there.

Block 16 Food Hall

District says they use “real food made with integrity.” We prefer massive amounts of sugar, but whatever.

District will also serve biscuit sandwiches and “kolache,” a sweet pastry “filled with a selection of sweet and savory ingredients.” A little vague, but we’re in.

Here’s an endearing video about District, which, sadly, only had 74 views when we wrote this story. Come on, show some love and watch the damned thing.

Next up is Hattie B’s Hot Chicken. This restaurant comes from Nashville. It’s all about the fried chicken as far as we can tell.

Block 16 Food Hall

Sorry we caught you without your sign, Hattie B’s. Welcome to Vegas!

Here’s the video for Hattie B’s. Please watch it. The video has 75 views, and somebody went to a lot of time and trouble to produce this thing. Make it worth their while.

Then, there’s Lardo.

The Cosmo Web site says Lardo has a “ruthlessly bold and flavorful approach,” which is dumb, but the food looks so good, we’re willing to overlook it.

Block 16 Food court

Don’t make eye contact. Don’t make eye contact. You made eye contact!

We sort of can’t wait to hang out with the Lardo guy because he seems like he’s been places.

Here’s the video. It has 65 views. Don’t embarrass us. Watch it.

There’s also Pok Pok Wing. Don’t roll your eyes until you know the whole story!

See, “pok pok” is the sound of a mortar hitting a pestle. Or possibly a pestle hitting a mortar. We can never keep those straight.

Block 16 Urban Food Hall

You’d be surprised how few Las Vegas restaurants use pestles.

Here’s the video for Pok Pok Wing, with 79 views.

Pok Pok Wing, which we’re pretty sure should be pluralized, is based in Portland and, man alive, we’re hungry.

You can’t tell much from a short video, but all these folks seem passionate about what they do which bodes well for Block 16.

Here’s a first look at Tekka Bar: Handroll & Sake.

Block 16 Urban Food Hall

Tekka has the best location of the bunch. No pressure, Tekka.

We couldn’t find a video for Tekka Bar, but assume it’s in the works.

We already like Tekka Bar because the name is taken from “tekka ba,” which translates as “old gambling place.”

Tekka Bar is poised to print money because it not only has handrolls, which we trust is a form of sushi, but also sake.

Last, there’s Ghost Donkey Mezcal & Tequila Bar. We’re a little concerned about Ghost Donkey because it was nowhere to be found at Block 16.

We also couldn’t find a video for Ghost Donkey.

We trust Ghost Donkey is just playing coy and wants to make a grand entrance.

The emphasis at Ghost Donkey appears to be beverages, but the words “Truffle Nachos” kind of jumped out at us.

Block 16 Urban Food Hall

Pace yourself.

We have never been all that excited by a food court before, but Block 16 Urban Food Hall seems like anything but a typical food court.

The universally hard chairs at all the Block 16 restaurants telegraph its grab-and-go sensibility, perfect for those seeking party fuel before a Vegas foray or a cure for their drunchies as the evening wears on.

A key element of the success of Block 16 will be the price points. It won’t be cheap, but here’s hoping the prices are reasonable while delivering a value.

The new Block 16 Urban Food Hall is located on the second floor of the Cosmo, just across from Holsteins and next to the Marquee nightclub.

It’s worth noting “Block 16” is a nod to the early days of Las Vegas. Block 16 was located in what is now downtown, on 1st Street between Ogden and Stewart. Block 16 was the only place that could legally sell liquor in Las Vegas, but also became known for its rampant prostitution. For whatever reason, that tidbit has been left out of Cosmo’s marketing for its new food hall.

Here’s an oddity to look for while you’re making your way to the new Cosmopolitan food court, just because it’s bad luck to write a story with only seven photos.

Cosmopolitan Tyrannosaurus rex skull

We got up close to this T-rex skull and we think it could be real. Then again, we are a blog, not a paleontologist.

Block 16 is set to add some welcome variety to the dining mix at Cosmopolitan and we can’t wait to give this eclectic sextet of dining and drinking venues a go.

And not just because we’re 12 and were looking for an excuse to use the word “sextet.”

W Hotel Shown the Door at SLS Las Vegas

It took longer than expected, but W Hotel is no longer a hotel-within-a-hotel at SLS Las Vegas.

SLS marquee

The W sign no longer sits atop the SLS marquee. Thanks a lot, Illuminati!

We were the first to share that SLS would discontinue its relationship with W Las Vegas.

Initially, the plan was to integrate W back into the SLS resort in May 2018, but talks between the two entities hit a snag.

Soon after, it was announced W would be “reincorporated back into SLS Las Vegas as the SLS Grand, a Starwood hotel” on July 20, 2018. Nope.

W hotel notice

The best laid plans.

At one point, W Las Vegas employees were let go, rooms were redecorated to remove W branding and a crane showed up to take down the W sign. Because a deal couldn’t be finalized, employees were invited back, all the rooms in the tower were reverted to the W branding and the crane was asked to turn around.

Finally, the deal between the new owners of SLS (Meruelo Group) and W Las Vegas was done and W is officially out as of Aug. 17, 2018.

Our eagle-eyed reader Michael A. captured the removal of the W sign from the SLS marquee.

W hotel sign removal

Paging M Resort. You should totally bid for this on eBay!

The W sign went up in Oct. 2016. Yep, less than two years ago, making it one of the weirder Las Vegas casino stories in quite some time. (We’re looking at you, The Quad.)

Here’s a shot of the W sign as it was being foisted into place with much fanfare back in 2016. Or maybe it was hoopla. We always get those mixed up.

W Las Vegas at SLS

Not awkward. At all.

So, W is out. Bygones.

All visible signs of W Las Vegas branding have been removed at SLS, and the W tower has been renamed The Grand Tower.

A news release explains, “SLS Las Vegas will assume full operational control of the resort’s reservations system from Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide and the SLS Las Vegas brand will discontinue membership as a Starwood Tribute Portfolio Hotel & Resort.”

We have only the most superficial understanding of what that means, so you’re on your own.

One of the more distinctive design touches at the W Hotel valet entrance was a wall fashioned from 20,000 poker chips.

W hotel Las Vegas

No, we didn’t count all 20,000 chips. We have a life. Sorry, we probably should’ve put quotation marks around “life.”

Now, SLS has taken a page from Park MGM playbook and replaced the chips with greenery.

SLS rear entrance

This isn’t the first time a Las Vegas casino has made chips disappear.

Otherwise, the W Las Vegas lobby and bar area remain largely untouched.

W hotel lobby

This is the Living Room at the former W. And just as with your own living room, there’s mismatched furniture, a bartender and possibly prostitutes.

Just in case SLS decides to overhaul the former W Las Vegas lobby area, we would like to call dibs on three decorative items.

First, this dice display.

W hotel dice

You’d be surprised how seldom “dibs” actually works once you reach adulthood. Sorry, we should’ve put quotation marks around “adulthood.”

Second, this textured wall accent, inspired by the bumps on a craps table. Glorious.

W Las Vegas

These “alligator bumps” run floor to ceiling and we absolutely love them.

Third, Belvis.

W Las Vegas Belvis

Belvis is like Zoltar, but much, much cooler.

Wresting back operational control of the W Hotel is just one of many changes happening at SLS.

Owner Alex Meruelo and his team have been aggressive at cost-cutting measures so far, and a $100 million “re-imagining” is planned.

How about this? Imagine being profitable for the first time in four years!

Fun fact: SLS opened on Aug. 23, 2014, so the hotel’s fourth anniversary is the very same day we’re publishing this story. You go, synchronicity.

Part of the resort’s re-imagining will undoubtedly involve a name change, most likely to Grand Sahara Resort. The new name plays off the Reno resort owned by Meruelo, Grand Sierra Resort.

Plans for the hotel’s venues haven’t been announced, but we’ve heard Bazaar Meat and the Northside Cafe are likely to be the only restaurants to survive the transition. It’s rumored Bazaar Meat will not only stay, but will get an expansion.

Bazaar Meat

How serious is Bazaar Meat about its meat? This serious.

Since SLS opened, it’s been rumored the resort’s restaurants generate more revenue than its casino.

Cleo is not only our favorite restaurant at SLS, it’s one of our favorites in Las Vegas. Sadly, our “Save Cleo” campaign hasn’t gained much traction, but only because you probably haven’t dined there yet. Ahem.

We’ve long been a cheerleader for SLS, as the quirky spawn of the classic Sahara has a lot to like, despite its challenging location.

SLS casino chip

The crane will be back for this guy. Dibs.

Here’s hoping the new owners and management can defy the odds, turn plans for a turnaround into action and make the north Strip resort a success.

Including keeping Cleo. Yes, we’re saying it again. Traction doesn’t just magically happen, you know.

AquaKnox and Public House to Close at Venetian

Two well-regarded restaurants at Venetian Las Vegas are slated to close, AquaKnox and Public House.

The closures haven’t been officially announced yet, but we have no interest in waiting for news releases. (Update: Our story has been confirmed. See below.)

AquaKnox

Fun fact: AquaNox is a series of submarine-based first-person shooter video games. And, yes, we’re using the term “fun” very loosely.

An employee confirmed via phone AquaKnox will close in January following a large convention. We can’t remember which one because, honestly, we drink heavily.

AquaKnox is a Forbes Travel Guide Four-Star Award recipient located in restaurant row at Venetian. The restaurant has been at Venetian since 1999.

The AquaKnox staffer also confirmed Public House will close.

A rep of Public House said the restaurant isn’t allowed to provide any information at this time, but did mention the restaurant’s contract is expiring “soon.”

Public House AquaKnox

Here’s where everything sits.

Public House, a gastropub, opened in early 2012.

Public House comes from Billy Richardson, a well-known restaurateur whose company, Gen3 Hospitality, also operates Holsteins at Cosmo, Flour & Barley and Haute Doggery at Linq Promenade, The Barrymore at Royal Resort and recently-closed Pink’s Hot Dogs at Planet Hollywood.

Public House Venetian

Public House at Venetian should not be confused with Public House at Luxor. Or, for that matter, Public House at Tropicana. Because naming things is hard.

Thanks to our Twitter pal @FYMYAWF for the tip on this story.

It’s apparent Venetian and Palazzo are shaking up their restaurant line-up.

Three Mario Batali restaurants were closed at Venetian and Palazzo in July 2018, Carnevino Italian Steakhouse, B&B Ristorante and Otto Enoteca e Pizzeria.

There’s no official word on what might replace AquaKnox and Public House, or if employees have even been notified of the closures, but Las Vegas always has something new up its little black dress.

Unless that’s offensive in some way, then nevermind.

Update (8/22/18): Our story has been confirmed. Both restaurants will close Jan. 16, 2019.

Cafe Bellagio Closes to Make Way for Sadelle’s

Cafe Bellagio has closed after 20 years at Bellagio Las Vegas.

The beloved restaurant closed at 9:00 p.m. on Aug. 19, 2018, and will be replaced by Sadelle’s, a restaurant and bakery touted as “a New York brunch institution located in the heart of SoHo.” That’s in New York City. You really need to get out more.

Cafe Bellagio

If you thought we wouldn’t go to Bellagio to take two photos because we have a life, you would be wrong.

Cafe Bellagio has been around since Bellagio opened in Oct. 1998.

Staffers at the restaurant say they’ve been overwhelmed with an outpouring of appreciation from longtime customers. Some, they say, have cried and written letters to MGM Resorts brass to ask that the restaurant be spared, but to no avail.

Business has slowed at Cafe Bellagio in recent years. We know this because, in Las Vegas, successful restaurants don’t close. It’s not rocket science.

A good number of Cafe Bellagio employees will take positions at another Bellagio restaurant, Harvest by Roy Ellamar. Harvest recently started serving breakfast and will do so until Sadelle’s opens in Dec. 2018.

Other displaced Cafe Bellagio employees will have to apply for positions at Sadelle’s.

Sadelle’s comes from Major Food Group, the folks behind Carbone restaurant at Aria.

Cafe Bellagio

So long, old girl. Yes, “girl.” Because referring to a restaurant as an “old guy” is awkward.

Of Sadelle’s, the Bellagio Web site says, “Serving the best bagels in New York City, Sadelle’s offers quintessential classics like sliced-to-order salmon and sturgeon, chopped salads, and other New York classics in an updated, fun-yet-refined fashion.”

The site also states, “Sadelle’s was voted 23 Best Restaurants for Brunch in New York City by Harper’s Bazaar, 2017 Best Brunch Spots in NYC by Cosmopolitan, and our sticky buns were named as one of the Best Dishes in 2015 by The New York Times, among other accolades.”

While Cafe Bellagio was popular for many years, some Vegas regulars report the appeal and quality of the restaurant declined recently, so something new was in order.

It’s bittersweet to see a treasured Vegas classic go away, but given the venue’s view of the Bellagio Conservatory, we’re confident Sadelle’s will beget legions of loyal new fans.

Bellagio Conservatory

We may have taken a third photo. It happens.

That’s right, we said “beget.” It’s Bellagio, so one has to up one’s fancy game.

Shinya Maru Ramen & Izakaya Opens on Fremont East

A new Asian restaurant has opened on Fremont East, Shinya Maru Ramen & Izakaya, and we fully know what one of those words means.

Ramen.

Because we went to college. Not that you’d know it from our writing, of course.

Shinya Las Vegas

Hard seats, one demerit. Bar seating for solo diners, bonus points.

Shinya is located in the Emergency Arts Building, just around the corner from another new dining option, Eureka.

Shinya is just off Fremont Street, facing El Cortez.

Shinya Las Vegas

This location is easy to miss. The murals, not so much.

“Shinya,” it seems, can mean either “truthful one” or “late at night.”

We would’ve asked the owners which definition applies, but we were too busy stuffing our face with the amazing potstickers.

Shinya Las Vegas

It’s possible these are named “I’ve Been Waiting for a Gyoza Like You.” We were drinking.

Yes, we know potstickers are Chinese and gyoza are Japanese. We were not born yesterday. We also have the Internet.

Shinya’s menu is teeming with cleverly-named appetizers (“Izakaya”) inspired by song titles and bands, from “I Slaw Her Standing There” and “Sgt. Shishito Peppers” to “Belly Jean Slider” and “Poutine on a Show.”

There’s also a Yakitori menu if you like your food simple and served on sticks.

Shinya menu

While we strive to avoid learning things, we now know what Izakaya means.

While ramen is a bit of a tough sell on a 110-degree day, we weren’t going to visit a ramen restaurant without trying it, despite the fact we aren’t particularly a hot liquid person.

We’re pleased to report that the ramen is top-notch, and the fried chicken in our “Let’s Get Physical” fried chicken ramen could could go toe-to-toe with some of the best fried chicken in town.

Shinya Las Vegas ramen

One test of a good restaurant is whether they make you like things you don’t usually eat. Shinya qualifies.

Here’s the rest of the Shinya ramen menu.

Shinya Las Vegas ramen menu

“Ramen” is a Japanese word that comes from two Chinese words meaning “to pull” and “noodles.” Which reminds us to make an appointment for a massage.

Shinya has a full bar, of course, because in Las Vegas it’s the law.

Shinya Las Vegas bar

“Maru” means “circle” in Japanese. Which is what we do when we enter a restaurant with a bar.

The signature cocktail menu only has five options, but they cover a lot of ground. Cocktails include berry sangria, Caribbean sangria, mojito (strawberry, peach and mango), Mai Tai and
margarita.

Shinya cocktail menu

Bonus: All the signature cocktails are less than six bucks.

There are also non-alcoholic beverages, although if you order something on this side of the menu, you’re doing Vegas wrong.

Shinya cocktail menu

You’re not boring, you’re just alternatively interesting.

Desserts come in the form of macaron ice cream. They’re kept in a freezer just inside the entrance so they’ll be on your mind the whole time you’re dining. At just $3.50 a pop, we’ll be back to try all five flavors.

Shinya macaron ice cream

This may require some late night raiding.

The hours at Shinya are all over the place, so keep this blog post handy at all times if you expect to crave Ramen for some reason.

Shinya is open from 11:00 a.m. to midnight, Sunday through Wednesday, and open until 2:00 a.m. Thursday and Friday. Saturdays, it’s 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 a.m. There will be a quiz.

Shinya Fremont Street

Just to keep you on your toes.

We love new things, and Shinya Maru Ramen & Izakaya is a new downtown Las Vegas dining option well worth a “maru.”

If you hadn’t skimmed, you’d know what “maru” means. It wouldn’t make sense in that sentence, but you’d know what it means. Let that be a lesson to you.