Category Archives: Las Vegas Restaurants

Lucky Dragon Abruptly Closes Casino and Restaurants

The struggling Lucky Dragon resort has closed its casino and restaurants.

We were the first to report Lucky Dragon was recently put up for sale, and while the resort’s hotel continues to take reservations, entrances to the casino have “Casino Temporarily Closed” signs.

Lucky Dragon closed

“Temporarily” sounds a little optimistic at this point.

Lucky Dragon’s casino and restaurants closed on Jan. 4, 2018.

Lucky Dragon has had a tumultuous history, including ongoing questions about whether the Asian-themed, boutique resort would be financed or completed.

Lucky Dragon

Even a massive dragon couldn’t change Lucky Dragon’s fortune.

Lucky Dragon officially opened Dec. 3, 2016, thanks in great part to EB-5 financing. With EB-5 financing, investors (typically from Asia) contribute funds to projects and get green cards in return. In the case of Lucky Dragon, those investors will henceforth be referred to as “the monumentally screwed.”

Here’s a statement from Lucky Dragon.

Lucky Dragon closed

Every time a Las Vegas casino closes, an showgirl loses her tassels.

Optimism for the win!

Despite a strong opening, Lucky Dragon failed to attract its intended customers (including snagging local Asian customers who frequent casinos like Gold Coast and Palace Station), and has made a number of changes to its restaurant offerings.

Lucky Dragon

Normally, this would provide some consolition, but not so much.

Lucky Dragon’s challenging location, on Sahara, just off The Strip, near the Bonanza Gift Shop and SLS Las Vegas, made the resort an long shot, but sometimes in Vegas those pay off.

A Lucky Dragon insider says wild swings in baccarat were major factor in the closure of the casino. Whales (however few) would win big, then leave for bigger resorts on The Strip with more amenities. Casinos obviously rely on guests staying on-site for a chance to win some back.

Lucky Dragon

Remember, Las Vegas was built on miracles. We hope that’s what the future holds for Lucky Dragon.

We were rooting for Lucky Dragon, but haven’t visited in some time, despite the great rooms (we were quoted a rate of $45 for early February), welcoming casino and top-notch (although limited) cuisine.

We’ve heard Lucky Dragon would need at least $90 million from a buyer to cover its first and second (EB-5) tier investors.

It’s unknown what’s next for Lucky Dragon, but here’s hoping employees find other options as the resort tries to change its luck.

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Naked City Pizza Takes Over for Pizza Lotto at El Cortez

Pizza Lotto is out at downtown’s El Cortez casino, Naked City Pizza is in.

Pizza Lotto always hit the spot, even with superior pizza in the neighborhood at Evel Pie and Pizza Rock. Pizza Lotto was never able to deliver on its marketing hook of providing lottery-style scratch-off discount cards, and now we’ll never know what might have been. Pizza Lotto has moved on to that big pizzeria in the sky.

Without skipping a beat, Naked City Pizza has opened in the Pizza Lotto space.

Naked City Pizza El Cortez

We dare you to tell the difference between Pizza Lotto and Naked City Pizza, even with the naked.

By our layperson’s estimates, Naked City Pizza spent roughly zero dollars to move into El Cortez.

Virtually nothing in the space has changed, beyond the removal of a couple of symbolic video poker machines.

Naked City Pizza is a known quantity in Las Vegas. The chain has been featured on “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.”

While Naked City Pizza has been well-received at its other Las Vegas locations, our first visit to the El Cortez location was decidedly forgettable. Our cheese slice was 90% cheese, reminiscent of the awful Chicago-style “pizza” at Giordano’s. And not in a good way.

The one benefit of the disappointing pizza was it gave us the opportunity to test the “pull” of the cheese. The cheese pull is a big deal in the pizza world, a long-standing advertising trope where a slice is slowly lifted from a hot pie, resulting in a gooey waterfall of cheese.

Our pal Marc Meltzer, of, was along for our Naked City Pizza visit, and he generously volunteered to demonstrate Naked City Pizza’s world-class cheese pull.

Naked City Pizza El Cortez

Marc’s going to need longer arms.

While our first Naked City Pizza slice was underwhelming, we were immediately smitten with the restaurant’s Grandma’s Meatball, a mind-boggling half pound (that’s not a typo) of sheer succulence.

Naked City Pizza meatball

Grandma’s Meatball is a meal for two. At least.

Naked City Pizza’s menu is simple, with some favorites from other locations, as well as original pizzas created just for the El Cortez location.

The new pizza styles include Bugsy’s Bianco, 6th Street, “Freemont” Street and (wait for it) the El Cortez.

Naked City Pizza El Cortez menu

Spelling it “Freemont” is a rookie gaff. It’s Fremont.

Determined to have a slice that’s worthy of Naked City Pizza’s reputation, we visited again, and found just that.

The slice was vastly better proportioned, and if Naked City Pizza can deliver that quality on a consistent basis, we’ll be back.

Naked City Pizza El Cortez

Nice recovery, Naked City Pizza.

Don’t look for Naked City Pizza’s hours on the El Cortez Web site, as Pizza Lotto is still listed (it’s also in the hotel’s on-hold messaging system and featured in its internal P.A. rotation).

Yes, you can pay for your pizza with your Club Cortez player’s club points.

Oh, and Naked City Pizza’s liquor license is still in the works, so head to a casino bar first for libations.

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Demolition is Underway on Diablo’s Cantina at Monte Carlo

It seems like ages since we first shared Diablo’s Cantina would close at Monte Carlo.

Nearly a year after our initial story, the popular restaurant and bar is being demolished. It closed Nov. 7, 2017.

Diablo's Cantina

Whenever a bar closes in Las Vegas, a showgirl loses her pasties. Which, upon reflection, may not be a bad thing.

Diablo’s Cantina is one of many venues closing at Monte Carlo as the Strip resort transitions into Park MGM.

We’ve got a look at all the changes at Monte Carlo. Sorry, Park MGM. That’s going to take some getting used to.

Here’s another look at the current state of Diablo’s Cantina.

Diablo's Cantina

Ah, if this rubble could talk.

For a decade (it officially opened in Oct. 2007), Diablo’s Cantina thrived with an innovative strategy: Have attractive women serve liquor.

Now, it’s thought the boisterous atmosphere of Diablo’s Cantina could clash with the more upscale Park MGM customer. That customer doesn’t exactly exist yet, but MGM Resorts hopes it will once the resort’s renovations are complete.

Why, look, Diablo’s Cantina has a new drive-through window.

Diablo's Cantina

You say “demolition fetish” like it’s a bad thing.

While we were checking out the Diablo’s Cantina demolition, we got a peek at other changes being made to the exterior of the resort.

Monte Carlo

Down with the Monte Carlo signs, up with the room rates.

The Monte Carlo sign is undergoing work, too.

Monte Carlo

Don’t get too sassy, you’re next.

In 2018, Monte Carlo is expected to be unrecognizable. Work continues on the hotel’s facade.

Monte Carlo

Today’s job we don’t want. That’s 32 floors up.

Thanks to Twitter follower Xhaust for letting us know work has begun on demolishing Diablo’s Cantina.

Diablo’s Cantina was a beloved party spot for many Vegas visitors, and many will miss the sexy devil statue that has kept watch over the venue for years.

At one time, we heard Diablo’s Cantina might move next door to The Park, but there’s been no such chatter for some time.

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Lotus of Siam Restaurant Opens New Location

It’s been a roller coaster of emotions for fans of Lotus of Siam, considered by many to be the best Thai restaurant in Las Vegas.

Others say it’s the best restaurant, period. While we appreciate their enthusiasm, they’ve never been to Pizza Rock. Moving on.

The original Lotus of Siam is located in a seedy shopping center (sorry, Commercial Center) on East Sahara Ave., and recently suffered a roof collapse after an intense rainstorm in September. Yes, it’s rained in Las Vegas. But just that one time.

A new Lotus of Siam is here!

Lotus of Siam

Siam was once an exonym for Thailand. We’ll wait while you look up “exonym.”

As repairs continue on its longtime location, Lotus of Siam has opened a second location at 620 E. Flamingo Road. Just go east on Flamingo (away from The Strip), past Silver Sevens casino, it’ll be on your left. It used to be Roy’s restaurant.

The only “downside” to the new Lotus of Siam location is it’s virtually on top of another fantastic restaurant, Mint Indian Bistro. You’ll survive.

Lotus of Siam

It’s what’s on the inside that counts.

Lotus of Siam has an expansive menu of northern Thai foods we can’t pronounce, but everything we’ve ever tried has been delicious.

You can check out the menu on Lotus of Siam’s fancy new Web site.

One caveat of the new Lotus of Siam: They don’t have their liquor license yet, but it’s in the works. The bar is perfect for solo dining.

Lotus of Siam

The service at Lotus of Siam is preternaturally good. Getting a lot of use out of Google today, aren’t you?

The new Lotus of Siam is about half the size of the original location, and features a number of colorful murals imported from Thailand.

Lotus of Siam

How one orders a mural from Thailand, we may never know.

The company that built out the new Lotus of Siam location, Breslin Builders, can now focus all its attention on the closed venue, and it’s expected the original restaurant will open again in March 2018.

Lotus of Siam is well worth seeking out, as the restaurant’s legions of die-hard fans will attest.

Lotus of Siam

We prefer American broccoli on our Pad See Ew, don’t hate.

Welcome back, Lotus of Siam! And we are reminded of an old Thai proverb, “Don’t borrow another’s nose to breathe with.” We don’t entirely know what that means, but it was the best Thai proverb we could come up with on short notice, other than “Frog in a coconut shell.”

So, yeah, the nose thing.

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Sneak Preview: A.Y.C.E. Buffet at Palms

The new A.Y.C.E. (“All You Can Eat”) buffet at Palms doesn’t officially open until Dec. 22, 2017, but who the hell can wait? Did we mention it’s an all-you-can-eat buffet?

We popped in for a security breach on an employee “play DAY,” and A.Y.C.E. looks great.

AYCE buffet Palms

Gluttony has a new home, A.Y.C.E. buffet at Palms.

Palms, part of Red Rock Casinos (a/k/a Station Casinos) has undertaken a massive $485 million renovation, including new restaurant offerings, and A.Y.C.E. is part of that plan.

Check out our epic overview of 22 new things coming to Palms resort.

As is the law in Las Vegas, Palms says of the new buffet: “Worldly cuisine presented in an innovative, technique-focused fashion will be the signature of A.Y.C.E., which will host guests in an open food hall setting.”

AYCE buffet Palms Vegas

During NFR, “A.Y.C.E.” stands for “All y’all, come eat!

Seriously, Vegas can’t help itself. Here’s more: “A.Y.C.E. will define the Vegas buffet not only with elevated and eclectic food displays but also in its modernized presentation, where we focus on the method of preparation.”

So, yeah, it’s a Las Vegas buffet.

Thankfully, Las Vegas tends to get buffets right. Judging by the interior design, A.Y.C.E. is hitting a lot of the right notes.

AYCE Palms Vegas

Decor touches include old-timey portraits with playful graffiti.

A.Y.C.E. features seven food stations, all of which sound like varieties of weed.

1. The Greenery features seasonal salads and fruits. This station is right up front, but don’t fall for that old trick! Buffet pros skip salads and head for all things meat.

2. The Hearth features a brick oven for casseroles, pizzas, whole fish and English pasties. English pasties, of course, are very popular with pole dancers in London.

AYCE buffet Palms Las Vegas

We love pizza, so at A.Y.C.E., home is where The Hearth is.

3. The Roastery has a rotisserie and wood-burning grill to make a variety of international fare like braised oxtail poutine, French onion beef sliders, calamari steaks, chicken teriyaki and quesadillas.

4. World Pan has more international fare like vegetable paella, Moroccan lamb, dim sum and other Asian favorites.

AYCE buffet

The World Pan station may be familiar because of its famous father, Peter.

5. Smoke & Fire is for meat-lovers, with glazed ham, ribs, hot links, smoked brisket and others.

6. Revival will focus on healthy dishes, with vegan, vegetarian and anti-inflammatory cuisine. Personally, we prefer our buffets inflammatory, but we’re open to trying it!

7. Sweet & Light is the dessert station, also known as “Where this blog begins and ends every all-you-can-eat buffet.”

AYCE buffet

Biggest. Earrings made of plates. Ever.

A.Y.C.E. will be open seven days a week from 8:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.

We can’t wait to put on our expandable-waistband pants and try the new A.Y.C.E. buffet at Palms. The resort’s former Bistro Buffet was in need of a serious do-over, and this appears to be one of those.

Before you visit A.Y.C.E., don’t forget to check out our 10 Ways to Make the Most of a Las Vegas Buffet.

A.Y.C.E Buffet at Palms

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Security Breach: Westin’s Jake and Eli Restaurant and Bar

This is probably the last post we’ll ever do about Westin Las Vegas.

That’s because the hotel closed its casino this summer, and if your hotel doesn’t have a casino, why does it have to even be in Las Vegas? Be in Cleveland, all due respect.

The Westin still has sign outside touting its Max Casino, so we stopped by to make sure it’s gone. It’s gone.

What the Westin does have is a sign for a new bar in the works, Jake & Eli.

Westin Las Vegas Jake and Eli

Nothing makes us thirstier than a made-up story about a historical event that never took place.

The blurb on the sign says something we can’t believe we’re taking the time to type: “Two guys meeting to toast a great day and gorge on the best sirloin in town, arguing over who’s [sic] bourbon is better. The name Jake and Eli is based on the historic tales of two different men who are credited with being the first to create the concept that we now know and love as American Bourbon. This is an authentic American story that gives a vintage elegance like a worn club chair, and combines the mood with the savory smells and tastes of grilling meat and hearty laughter.”

As far as we can tell, the “Eli” in the name is Elijah Craig, sometimes (almost certainly erroneously) credited with the invention of bourbon. The “Jake” seems to refer to Jacob Beam, one of the forebears of Jim Beam.

Whatever, it’s all a tremendous load of manure, reminiscent of Downtown Grand’s misguided attempt to fabricate an “authentic” historical basis for the name of its original restaurant, Stewart & Ogden.

To help is get through the agonizing amount of marketing bullshittery, we did a security breach of the new restaurant.

Westin Jake & Eli

It’s no fun doing a security breach when there’s so little security. Again, no casino.

The Westin seems to cater mainly to businesspersons, so if you’re one of those, feel free to get excited about Jake & Eli.

Fun fact: Originally, the Westin was called the Maxim. It was in front of the Maxim that rapper Tupac Shakur was shot. The crime remains “unsolved” despite the fact every damn fool knows who did it.

Hey, not all fun facts are equally fun. Just go with it.

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