Category Archives: Las Vegas Restaurants

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.

Red Square Restaurant and Vodka Bar Closes at Mandalay Bay

A longtime Las Vegas fixture, Red Square Restaurant and Vodka Bar at Mandalay Bay, has closed.

The Russian-themed restaurant closed Nov. 17, 2019. It opened back in 1999.

Red Square lounge

When we heard Red Square was closing, we were just sickle about it.

We honestly have no idea what made Red Square last 20 years, but we’re betting there was vodka involved.

At one time, Red Square boasted what was billed as the largest collection of vodka in the world.

Perhaps Red Square’s most recognizable feature was its headless Vladimir Lenin.

Lenin statue Las Vegas

Lenin had a head when Red Square opened. It was lopped off after the hotel was criticized for glorifying the Communist leader.

Red Square was taken over by Disruptive Restaurant Group, a division of SBE (the folks involved with SLS at one point), in Feb. 2019.

It’s likely MGM Resorts, owner of Mandalay Bay, realized what the new owners of SLS—now Sahara—did: Paying licensing fees to a third party can take a hefty bite out of profits and leave a restaurant (wait for it) in the red.

While plans for the Red Square space haven’t been announced, we’d wager the new restaurant will be managed in-house.

Dasvidaniya, Red Square.

11 Reasons You Need to Visit The Strat Again

There’s a lot more to love about The Strat since the last time you visited.

Golden Entertainment bought Stratosphere back in 2017, and a $140 million renovation and rebrand ensued. Now, Stratosphere is The Strat, which totally spoils the surprise of item number one on our list. Oh, well.

Please enjoy our hastily slapped-together list of wildly compelling reasons you need to go back to The Strat.

1. Stratosphere is The Strat

Stratosphere became The Strat in Feb. 2019. Lots of folks already called it The Strat, but the rebrand made it official. Golden Entertainment saved a ton of money by giving Stratosphere a streamlined name rather than having to start from scratch with an entirely new one.

Strat casino sign

The Strat’s official new name is The Strat Hotel, Casino and SkyPod. The “SkyPod” is just the tip. And, yes, some photo captions write themselves.

2. Sexy New Chips

Along with the resort’s new name came a roll-out of some fancy new casino chips. We love them, and yes, we understanding loving a casino chip is a little weird, but the heart wants what the heart wants. Worth noting: Your previously-issued Stratosphere chips expire on Dec. 9, 2019, so cash ’em if you got ’em.

Strat chips

We can only afford to collect the $1 chips. We are not an Adelson.

3. Sparkly Table Games Area

Golden put its money where its casino is with the unveil of a new casino table games area. We hit the new table games area on the day it opened, being the first person to roll the dice on a beautiful new craps table. Over the next 24 minutes, we personally contributed financially to the renovation of The Strat. Note: We’ve since made it back, and much more, on video poker.

Strat casino

Light blue is associated with health, tranquility, understanding and doubling down on blackjacks, or at least those first few things.

And adjoining section of the casino has a different look. We try not to play favorites.

Strat casino

The Strat has its groove back.

4. Enlightened Selfie Policy

While The Strat has a lot of great changes happening, this is one of our most beloved: You can take photos in the casino. Shocker, right? The Strat is one of the few casinos in town that has an actual clue when it comes to allowing guests to take selfies at the tables. It says so right on the felt, and it’s a huge step in Las Vegas casinos moving away from outdated policies that only serve to annoy customers. Bravo, bigtime, Strat.

Strat selfie

Common courtesy still applies, of course. No photos of guys with their mistresses.

5. Blvd. & Main Taphouse

We’ve been working our way through the menu at Strat’s new Blvd. & Main Taphouse restaurant and we’ve yet to have anything that wasn’t great. We look forward to tapping that again soon.

Strat Blvd. & Main

The fish and chips are consistently fleek. Stop rolling your eyes, we’re using “fleek” ironically.

6. View Lounge

We’re not entirely sure how the new View Lounge became one of our favorite places to play in all of Las Vegas, but it has. This casino bar and lounge not only looks great, but the machines feel loose, the bartenders are top notch (and visually appealing) and you can get anything on the Blvd. & Main menu at the bar. There’s honestly no reason to leave View Lounge, ever.

View Lounge Strat

Your video poker and hooch needs are handled: It’s View on The Strip (at The Strat) and Vue downtown (at The D).

7. Remix

As if one great casino bar and lounge weren’t enough, The Strat built two. Behold Remix.

Remix

You can never have too many casino bars. Or just bars, come to think of it.

Remix made its debut very recently and, again, the video poker machines feel generous and the drinks are far better than they have to be. The signature cocktails are well worth exploring, including this gorgeous purple thing called the Jumping Empress.

Remix

The sacrifices we make to bring you all the latest cocktail news.

8. Top of the World Revamp

The Top of the World restaurant at Strat has long been on the short list of must-do restaurants in Las Vegas. The restaurant recently got an overhaul, including an entirely new menu. Combined with the stunning views, and Messermeister steak knives (whatever those might be), Top of the World isn’t just a restaurant, it’s an experience, and it’s not to be missed.

Top of the World

Our photography is so good, we should start a blog of some sort.

9. “Celestia”

Simply put, “Celestia” is a Cirque-style show without the Cirque-style price (tickets start at a ridiculously low $29). This show, in a 30,000-square-foot tent, features dozens of acrobats and variety performers and bendy people. It also has the “Wheel of Death,” which is worth the price of admission on its own. The show has mercifully little clown, is unburdened by a plot and is a great night out for the whole family. Here’s the official Web site.

 

10. Free Parking

No, free parking isn’t new at The Strat, but it’s worth mentioning because, well, free parking.

Strat free parking

The Strat’s doing a lot right, and it starts and ends with free parking.

11. Make Sahara Mad

This reason to visit The Strat isn’t something new, it’s just something fun. See, Sahara has started positioning itself as one end of The Strip. They’re even using a new tagline, “The Strip starts here.” Hooey. The Strip isn’t based upon legal boundaries, it’s based upon what structures are depicted on keychains. The Strat is part of The Strip. So, when you visit The Strat, you’re sending a clear message to Sahara (formerly SLS) to get over itself. We love that.

Strat Las Vegas

Sorry, Sahara, The Strip begins (or ends) right here.

While our list covers our favorite new things, there are actually quite a few more.

The resort unveiled its “Elevate” room, a complete remodel of 311 rooms with new decor, furniture and amenities.

Strat also recently opened Strat Cafe & Wok, its 24-hour restaurant which replaced Roxy’s Diner.

Strat Cafe Wok

Roxy’s had singing. ‘Nuff said.

The Strat also has a shiny new sports book, if you’re into that kind of thing.

Also new is The Strat’s Link Lounge, named for Aristocrat’s “Link” game series, which will make fans of Lighting Link, Dragon Link and Liberty Link very happy.

We’d also be remiss if we didn’t mention 108 Eats and 108 Drinks, two new venues on the hotel’s 108th floor. These spots are courtesy of chef James Trees, our culinary hero because of his Esther’s Kitchen downtown and Ada’s in Summerlin.

Oh, and we can’t forget the Strat’s sweet new carpeting. We probably should’ve done a top 20 list, but we are often both drunk, lazy or both.

Strat carpet

One for the casino carpet fetishists, and they are legion.

The bottom line: It’s time to visit The Strat again. Let us know what you think of all the upgrades and we’ll see you at The Strat.

Tacos El Gordo Original Strip Location Closes, But Don’t Freak Out

The original Strip location of Tacos El Gordo, a restaurant with a cult-like following, has closed. But don’t freak out.

Luckily, there’s another Tacos El Gordo a mere 300 feet away.

Here’s a look at the closed location fans know and love.

Tacos El Gordo

Following your crushing disappointment, walk 12 seconds to the other Tacos El Gordo. It’s good to work up an appetite.

This isn’t the first time this location of Tacos El Gordo has closed. It closed in Nov. 2014 and returned a year later.

Tacos El Gordo has long battled with the management of the strip mall where it’s wrangled some serious drunchies for years.

Recently, Tacos El Gordo has operated two Strip locations simultaneously, a testament to the popularity of the brand.

Now, the newer of the two locations has prevailed.

Tacos El Gordo

“Tacos El Gordo” is Spanish for “The Gordo Tacos.” We are a blog, not a universal translator.

Here’s more about the gloriousness that is Tacos El Gordo. Find the menu, as well as information about other locations, on the official Web site.

What makes the place special? Well, for one thing, we love it and we are not even really a taco person.

The address you seek is 3041 S. Las Vegas Blvd., Las Vegas. If you’ve never tried Tacos El Gordo before, you’re welcome.

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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Golden Nugget Las Vegas Confirms Chick-fil-A is On the Way

Golden Nugget has confirmed it will soon boast a Chick-fil-A restaurant, the first in downtown Las Vegas.

The new Chick-fil-A was announced by Golden Nugget via social media.

Golden Nugget Chick-fil-A

We love when a juicy rumor pans out! Emphasis on “juicy.”

While this item was news to the world, it wasn’t new to us, because we know things.

We also have access to the Internet.

We originally got wind of the new Chick-fil-A because of a job posting on LinkedIn a few months back.

Golden Nugget Chick-fil-A

Great gig (average salary is $53,000), except for the “always having to be nice to everyone” thing.

Scant details have been announced about the Chick-fil-A at Golden Nugget, but we’ve got a few additional unconfirmed, ahem, nuggets to share.

Golden Nugget has said the new restaurant will open “this winter,” but we’ve heard Dec. 2, 2019 as the slated opening date.

The location, from what we understand, is the hotel’s Carson tower. We scouted the area in question, and employees said Chick-fil-A will move into the location currently occupied by a gift shop next to one of Golden Nugget’s two Starbucks. See more.

Golden Nugget

Out with the keychains, in with the waffle potato fries.

Employees claim the Essentials gift shop will move right next door.

If this location skinny pans out, it’ll be a surprisingly low profile spot for such a high profile restaurant. Carson tower is deep inside Golden Nugget, past its restaurant row, and about as far as you can get from all the foot traffic on Fremont Street.

Still, we predict this Chick-fil-A is going to print money, and having large numbers of chicken sandwich fans making their way through hundreds of slot machines is bound to be a boon for
Golden Nugget.

Golden Nugget has already gotten a start on creating visibility for its new offering. Specifically, this big-ass sign on Fremont.

Golden Nugget Chick-fil-A

We are currently pre-salivating.

As with all Chick-fil-A announcements, there’s been some “hate chicken” chatter, but relatively little compared to when Chick-fil-A first came to Las Vegas in 2017.

Yes, we droned Chick-fil-A. We were excited, don’t judge.

Here’s some background on the Chick-fil-A controversy. Bottom line: We believe in the separation of church and chicken.

We honestly can’t wait to add Golden Nugget’s Chick-fil-A to our lunch rotation.

You can bet we’ll be watching this one closely! We would be remiss if we didn’t use this opportunity to remind you we were the first to share Chick-fil-A was coming to Planet Hollywood on The Strip.

Full disclosure: We work in digital marketing at Fremont Street Experience, and Golden Nugget is one of its member casinos. Opinions and snark are our own.