Category Archives: Las Vegas Restaurants

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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Uno Mas is a Step in the Right Direction for SLS Las Vegas

SLS has opened a new Mexican restaurant, Uno Mas, a step in the right direction for the casino likely to be rebranded as Grand Sahara Resort.

Uno Mas

If you don’t think of “Shanghai Noon” when you hear “uno mas,” we can’t be friends.

Uno Mas takes up residence in the space formerly occupied by Ku Noodle, near the resort’s Northside Cafe.

Uno Mas has a modest menu, but the tacos hit all the right notes, despite their being a tad on the pricey side. Three for $18 isn’t outrageous, though, for The Strip.

Uno Mas menu

It must be good if we cheated on Cleo.

We had the Pork al Pastor, Carne Asada and Vegetarian tacos.

You are so gullible! We had the Crispy Pollo.

Uno Mas SLS

A trifecta of tempting, titillating tastes. Alliteration not included.

The tacos are scrumptious, at the risk of sounding like we’re writing this blog post in 1830.

The tacos are served on fresh corn tortillas and the pastor is spit-roasted.

Beyond the tacos, there’s a healthy selection of specialty cocktails ($13). We tried the El Fuego, Spanish for, “Ah, so that’s what Jalapeno tequila tastes like.”

The El Fuego has Dulce Vida Pineapple Jalapeno tequila, banana liqueur, mango and ginger beer. The garnish is a pineapple kissed with Tajin.

Uno Mas SLS cocktail

This one’s like a brisk slap to the jowl.

The menu says there’s Tajin on the rim, but no such luck. If you’d like to try and make this cocktail at home, make sure to get a Tajin rimmer, which we didn’t know was a thing until just now.

Everyone who visits Las Vegas should make sure to get a rimmer!

Yeah, we should probably work for the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority.

Uno Mas has apparently done well since it opened March 23, 2019. The official opening date is April 12.

Uno Mas SLS

Solo-friendly counter seating gives guests a view of the open kitchen.

Expect more changes in the dining options at SLS Las Vegas as the resort transitions to Grand Sahara. (The new name hasn’t officially been announced, but all signs point in that direction.)

Another SLS restaurant, Katsuya, closed in March to make way for a relocated high limit room.

It’s expected Umami Burger and Cleo may also be replaced, as they are leftovers from an earlier era when the former owners of SLS partnered with SBE Entertainment. Now, these SBE licensing deals are just cutting into potential SLS profits, so out they go.

SLS Las Vegas

SLS isn’t looking much like SLS anymore, and that’s a good thing.

Word is Bazaar Meat will survive the resort’s evolution, and will even get an expansion.

One more juicy tidbit from SLS: We hear the former Foxtail nightclub space will be split up and part will be a lounge called Casbah, a throwback to the resort’s Sahara roots.

SLS Las Vegas

We love this snazzy new SLS tagline, and we hate everything.

Uno Mas represents a solid move toward more accessible, crowd-pleasing dining options at SLS, and we look forward to tasting what’s next.

Uno Mas at SLS Las Vegas

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Binion’s Announces Whiskey Licker Up Venue and Boutique Hotel Apache

Binion’s Gambling Hall has announced two expansion projects: Whiskey Licker Up and Hotel Apache.

Whiskey Licker Up will be a full-service saloon with a rotating bar as its centerpiece.

The new bar and restaurant will be 6,500-square-feet and will be located on the southwest corner of Binion’s, just above the existing Whiskey Licker Bar.

The new venue will feature drinks, food, dancing, live entertainment and a mechanical bull.

Binion's Whiskey Licker Up Bar

A new place to get bucked in Las Vegas.

While the venue will play up the casino’s western theme, a variety of music will be available, based upon feedback from guests.

There’s already evidence of work being done for Whiskey Licker Up.

Binion's facade

Be gentle with that gorgeous neon, please.

The second floor of Binion’s, formerly The Mint, has been gutted to make way for the new venue.

Binion's Whiskey Licker Up

That entire back wall is going away so guests get a bird’s eye view of the circus that is Fremont Street.

Here’s another shot of the space, just because nobody else has them and that makes us look cool.

Binion's

A number of the venue’s design elements are built around structural features of the original casino. Yeah, we should’ve taken notes.

And speaking of The Mint, easily one of the best features of Whiskey Licker Up will be the integration of an original wall from The Mint, complete with petrified wood.

Binion's Mint

These stairs will give guests easy access to the venue via a new entrance off Fremont.

Here’s a look at the location of what will be the entrance to the upstairs bar and restaurant and mechanical bullery.

Binion's

A new entrance will help guests avoid having to navigate their way to Whiskey Licker Up via the casino.

Whiskey Licker Up will overlook Fremont Street Experience’s 1st Street stage.

Here’s the view from the balcony, likely to become a go-to spot for people-watching. This will all be seating, with arena-style levels so everyone can enjoy the views.

Binion's new bar

See more photos from behind the facade in our photo gallery thingy.

In anticipation of your question, yes, the new venue will mean a loss of some drop-dead gorgeous neon, but there’s a matching facade on the east side of Binion’s, so don’t have a freak-out.

Binion's facade

No pain, no gain. You’ll survive.

Construction of Whiskey Licker Up will be completed by the summer 2019.

The second expansion project is the opening of a boutique hotel, Hotel Apache.

The concept was inspired by the colorful history of the casino. The original Hotel Apache opened on the site in 1932.

Benny Binion purchased the Apache Hotel (and Eldorado Club) in 1951, and re-opened them as Binion’s Horseshoe. The rest is history. History we don’t have time to research because we are busy playing Wheel of Fortune, so cut us a break.

During our eight seconds of research, we did determine the hotel at Binion’s closed in 2009. You’re welcome.

Hotel Apache will have a modest 81 rooms, decked out with old-timey decor.

Hotel Apache Binion's

Hotel Apache, where every day is Throwback Thursday.

A unique element of the Hotel Apache project is it will play up rumors of the hotel tower being haunted. Ghost hunters and true believers will have the opportunity to explore a hotel owners claim has a “long history of eerie occurrences.”

Trust us, there are a lot of people who are really, really into this.

As with the new saloon, it’s expected Hotel Apache will be open this summer.

We know how you are: No word yet about whether Hotel Apache will have a resort fee, but its sister hotel, Four Queens, doesn’t have them, so fingers crossed.

The new offerings at Binion’s follow on the heels of a number of projects slated for downtown, including the new Circa Las Vegas resort (on the site of the former Las Vegas Club), as well as new hotel towers at Fremont casino and Downtown Grand.

Binion’s has always been one of our favorite Las Vegas casinos, with some of the best dining (try the BBQ) and drinking (generous pours) values in town, and we can’t wait to check out the new saloon and hotel.

But especially the saloon. Do you know this blog at all?

Whiskey Licker Up Vegas

This rendering is a lot like the other one, but we will never let a rendering fail to fulfill its destiny of being on this blog.

Begrudging props to VegasChanges.com for ferreting out some of the Binion’s news prior to the official announcement.

Full disclosure: Binion’s is a partner casino of Fremont Street Experience for whom we do digital marketing. Our opinions are our own.

If you’re into historic Vegas architecture, check out the Nevada Preservation Foundation. They have an event coming up that includes a “backstage tour” of Binion’s, The Mint and Hotel Apache.

Whiskey Licker Up and Hotel Apache at Binion's

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Stratosphere Confirms Rebrand to The Strat Hotel, Casino and Skypod

Confirming a story we first shared nearly a year ago, Stratosphere has officially announced it will be rebranded to The Strat Hotel, Casino and Skypod.

We’ll give you a minute on the whole “Skypod” thing.

Strat Las Vegas

Out with the old, in with the thing we’ve been calling it for some time now.

While people have been calling Stratosphere “The Strat” for some time, the whole “Skypod” thing could take some getting used to.

While a news release from Golden Entertainment, owners of The Strat, says the resort will “begin its transition to The Strat” on Feb. 3, 2019, the rebrand has actually been underway for some time.

Although, the changes have been subtle.

Like the massive “Strat” in the hotel’s revamped porte cochere.

Strat casino

The Strat telegraphed its rebrand a little.

Golden Entertainment bought Stratosphere in late 2017. Renovations of the hotel-casino began in mid-2018.

One of the more visible changes was the replacement of the casino’s high limit slot room with a Starbucks.

That’s a strong statement, either about the state of The Strat’s casino or the direction of Las Vegas casinos. Let’s just go with it being a statement about coffee.

Strat Starbucks

We don’t get it, but we’ve literally never had coffee. It’s funky.

In Nov. 2018, Strat closed its Roxy’s Diner, replacing it with the Strat Cafe and Wok.

Roxy’s went from annoying (servers sang ’50s songs) to bland, but at least an effort was made to change up the dining offerings.

Strat Cafe

Everything in Las Vegas should pretty much have “Wok” slapped on the end of it.

Here’s a peek inside the Strat Cafe.

Strat Cafe

De-theming is a thing.

A nice addition to the Strat’s restaurant line-up is the addition of 108 Eats on the hotel’s Observation Deck.

108 Eats Strat

Nothing fancy, but guaranteed to hit the spot.

We stopped by right away because the grab-and-go restaurant is from the same chef behind downtown’s Esther’s Kitchen. 108 Eats doesn’t disappoint. The sandwiches and paninis are top-notch.

We also just like saying the word “panini.”

108 Eats Strat

So much better than it has to be.

There’s also a Froot Loops ice cream. That tastes exactly like Froot Loops. Well worth a visit when you’re checking out the view from the hotel’s 108th floor.

Don’t forget: There’s a fee to visit the Observation Deck, but just tell them you’re going to the lounge. You’ll want to take advantage of the happy hour, anyway, but your elevator ride will be free.

There’s more on tap at Stratosphere.

The Strat Stratosphere

At the moment, The Strat is straddling its current and future name.

The resort will introduce Blvd. & Main Taphouse in 2019. Here’s a rendering.

Blvd. and Main Tavern Strat

We trust “Blvd.” refers to Las Vegas Blvd. “Main” refers to Main Street. Strat is at the intersection of these streets. Hey, this isn’t rocket science.

Here’s another Blvd. & Main Tavern rendering, because you can never have too many renderings.

Blvd. & Main Tavern

We’re going to put that whole “you can never have too many renderings” thing to the test.

All right, just one more.

Blvd. & Main Tavern Strat

We love new.

Also in the mix will be a new View Lounge overlooking the casino floor and a fully remodeled race and sports book, which construction walls are already teasing.

Strat casino

Are we the only one who thinks this “Rising Soon” tagline is a little awkward given The Strat is the most prominent phallic object in Las Vegas?

Here’s a look at what’s the come at the race and sports book at The Strat.

Race and Sports Book Strat

Nice photo bomb, golf dude.

Here’s a rendering for the View Lounge.

View Lounge Strat

The rendering person at The Strat has been really busy.

Blvd. & Main Taphouse and View Lounge will be located on the northwest corner of the casino, basically at the bottom of the escalators as you enter from the self-parking garage.

Oh, and parking is still free at The Strat.

Another new addition will be 108 Drinks, a sister venue to 108 Eats. Rendering alert!

108 Drinks Strat

We were voting for 108 Dranks, but this will do.

Also in the works is a Links Lounge, a partnership with Aristocrat Technologies.

The lounge will offer Aristocrat’s popular “Link” slot machine series, including Lighting Link, Dragon Link and Liberty Link.

Strat Easter egg

Here’s a fun Easter egg. All the custom videos featuring The Strat contain something gold in honor of the resort owner, Golden Entertainment. We thought it was a faulty pixel. Hey, we can’t be right about everything.

Also new in 2019 will be a new loyalty program, True Rewards. The Strat will be the first Golden Entertainment venue to roll out the new program.

True Rewards will also be available at 130 venues operated by Golden, including about 60 PT’s pubs and several casinos in Las Vegas (Arizona Charlie’s), Laughlin (Aquarius, Colorado Belle, Edgewater), Pahrump and Maryland. Learn more.

True Rewards Strat

These adorable tier names, though!

So, about the “Skypod” in The Strat Hotel, Casino and Skypod.

It’s a little unclear why Strat would need to carve off the top of its tower with a different brand, but given the financial success of its thrill rides, it makes sense to try and make the most of those offerings.

Translation: The thrill rides at Strat print money.

In fact, we wouldn’t be surprised if the thrill rides at Strat make more than its casino, just as the restaurants at SLS make more than its gambling operation.

The “Skypod” refers to anything at the top of the Strat’s tower, including the revolving Top of the World restaurant (a must-do in Vegas), 107 SkyLounge and the thrill rides: Sky Jump, Big Shot, Insanity and X-Scream.

107 SkyLounge

There are happy hours, then there’s this happy hour.

We’ve heard rumblings of other thrill rides in the works for the Strat, but there have been no official confirmations to-date.

Buzz about The Strat’s name change has ranged from “We already call it that” to “When I hear ‘pod’ I think of ‘Invasion of the Body Snatchers'” to “The guitar people aren’t going to be happy abou this.”

“Strat” is a common way to refer to Fender Stratocaster guitars, of course.

We added you to Wikipedia’s disambiguation page, Strat. You’re welcome.

Strat resort Las Vegas

The Strat uses all caps in its new name. Please don’t. It will just encourage them.

Props to The Strat for its refresh. We’re always up for new things to see and do, and look forward to seeing what’s next.

We’ll be by to get a Strat-branded chip for our collection, too.

Here’s the latest from The Strat, including even more renderings!

Update (2/3/19): Tipster Jim C. shares Fellini’s Ristorante Italiano will close at The Strat in April 2019. No word about what might replace it.

Fellini's Stratosphere

Arrivederci, Fellini’s.

Bobby Flay’s Next Restaurant to Land at Flamingo

While it hasn’t been officially announced, word is celebrity chef Bobby Flay will bring at new dining concept to Flamingo Las Vegas.

Flay’s rumored new restaurant will take up residence in the space currently occupied by Center Cut Steakhouse.

Bobby Flay

It’s time to plan your next Flaycation. All due modesty, Bobby Flay should use that line to advertise his new restaurant.

Center Cut Steakhouse opened in March 2012. Prior to that, it was The Burger Joint.

Center Cut Steakhouse

With all the amazing steakhouses in Vegas, Cut just didn’t make the, well, you know.

Center Cut is an adequate steakhouse, but Caesars Entertainment (owner of Flamingo) no doubt sees greater opportunity in a restaurant with a recognizable name associated with it.

Bobby Flay’s Mesa Grill has done well at Caesars Palace for its impressive 14 years of existence.

Mesa Grill Las Vegas

Mesa Grill. The place with a logo that appears to have been vandalized.

Flay’s Bobby’s Burger Palace is a forgettable effort at The Shoppes at Crystals, and he also has a restaurant in the works for Palms, Shark. That venue will focus on seafood and opens March 2019.

Caesars Entertainment has had some stellar successes when it comes to celebrity chef collaborations.

Gordon Ramsay’s numerous Strip outposts, most recently Hell’s Kitchen at Caesars Palace, are making everyone involved wealthy.

As is common with these celebrity restaurant deals, the chef gets five percent of gross sales up to $10 million in revenue, and more if the restaurant exceeds that threshold. Learn more.

Giada’s at Cromwell has been another smashing success for Caesars, and is a must-try in Las Vegas. There’s also a fast casual offering from Giada De Laurentiis at Caesars Palace, Pronto By Giada.

Giada

Any excuse to share a Giada photo will do.

Caesars has also partnered with Guy Fieri for restaurants at the Linq and Rio. Both Vegas Kitchen & Bar at Linq and El Burro Borracho at Rio are far better than you might suspect.

Guy Fieri dessert

Any excuse to share a photo of this Guy Fieri dessert will do.

The only constant in Las Vegas is change, and possibly regret, but mostly that first thing. So, we welcome a change-up in Flamingo fare.

Expect official word of a Bobby Flay joint at Flamingo soon, and remember you heard about it here first. As if we’d let you forget you heard about it here first.

Tracking the About-Face of SLS Las Vegas

The overhaul of SLS Las Vegas is underway.

Despite the fact we were summarily given the boot for taking photos during our last visit, we’re determined to keep you apprised of developments, so here’s the latest.

Summarily, it should be noted, is the worst kind of boot to be given. By far.

Grand Sahara Las Vegas

SLS is in a state of flux. We just hope they know what the flux they’re doing.

The new owner of SLS, Alex Meruelo, has said he’ll invest $100 million in “revitalizing” the former Sahara. That’s a whimsical number, but there’s no question a dramatic facelift is taking place in the resort’s casino.

There’s been a dramatic shift in the look and feel of the perennially under-patroned casino, including new carpeting and a rethinking of the dark, unfinished industrial ceiling of SLS.

Grand Sahara SLS

They’re apparently going for the classic portobello mushroom look.

The interior design of SLS was distinctive, but SLS was an unmitigated financial flop, having never made a profit since the day it opened.

Was the decor a contributing factor? Hard to say.

Alex Meruelo and his team clearly believe so, hence their decision to try a more traditional vibe.

SLS Grand Sahara Las Vegas

Nothing new or edgy here, but SLS was new and edgy, and we know how that went.

While changes in the SLS casino are most visible, Meruelo has been chipping away at the resort’s challenges behind-the-scenes as well.

Cost-cutting has been a big priority, with a number of departments pared down to shore up the bottom line.

SLS Grand Sahara lounge

In most casinos, chairs don’t generate nearly as much money as slot machines. This chilling area’s days may be numbered.

The restaurant line-up at SLS has also been scrutinized. Holdovers from the SBE Entertainment era of the resort, Cleo and Katsuya, are unlikely to survive the summer from what we hear.

Look for the introduction of new dining concepts, including a food hall concept, expected to be a welcome addition for value-seekers.

We’ve also heard a buffet could be in the works. SLS had a buffet on the hotel’s second floor when it opened, but it was underwhelming it didn’t last long.

SLS Grand Sahara Vegas

Low ceilings in casinos fosters intimacy. We are always on the lookout for intimacy in casinos, which is one of the reasons we have a bailbondsman.

When the time is right, SLS will presumably get a new name: Grand Sahara Resort. (Alex Murelo also owns the Grand Sierra Resort in Reno.)

It remains to be seen if the changes at SLS will help turn the struggling casino around.

SLS

Anybody seeing a Park MGM influence here? Just saying.

The resort’s location continues to be an undeniable challenge, as a number of north Strip projects are on hold (Wynn West), dead on arrival (Lucky Dragon) or plodding along at a snail’s pace (The Drew, Resorts World, All Net Resort).

Little foot traffic means the casino needs to get creative with marketing. Easier said than done.

SLS Grand Sahara

Casino carpets typically have busy patterns to better conceal stains. Now you know.

A casino refresh at SLS can’t hurt. Ultimately, though, casino resort fundamentals need to be in place for a venue to succeed.

Loosen up those machines. Give loyal customers generous perks. Pour liquor from the bottle (rather than the gun). Provide value. Keep parking free. Dump the goofy statue out front. Bring back the awesome video screen that was above the casino bar. (That’s the plan, by the way.)

Oh, and let people take photos.

SLS Grand Sahara

Las Vegas casinos resemble its roadways more with each passing day.

We’re rooting for you, SLS.

Sorry, Grand Sahara.

That may take some getting used to.