Category Archives: Las Vegas Restaurants

N9NE Steakhouse and Ghostbar Close Abruptly at Palms

Two venues at Palms have shuttered without notice, N9NE Steakhouse and Ghostbar, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

Ghostbar Palms closed

Ghostbar, the polar opposite of this blog since 2001.

The shuttering of N9NE Steakhouse and Ghostbar was sudden, but not unexpected.

The venues were originally opened by N9NE Group, founded by Michael Morton and Scott DeGraff.

Palms is in the process of overhauling its offerings following its purchase by Red Rock Resorts for $312.5 million. Red Rock Resorts is known to most as Station Casinos.

Palms steak

Hey, it’s a steak, and we had it at Palms. We couldn’t find a photo of N9NE on short notice.

It’s also been announced China House restaurant, The Lounge and the main casino bar, Social, will all close for new construction.

Other changes at Palms have included the opening of a new cafe, Lucky Penny (previously 24 Seven Cafe), and the addition of a temporary restaurant called Social Table, in the former Hooters space.

The Palms buffet closed on June 30, 2017, and is expected to open again (with a new name) after a $6 million makeover.

Expect more changes (so long, Nove Italiano), including lots of personnel changes, at Palms as the new owners purge old partnerships and bring their new acquisition into the Red Rock Resorts fold.

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Caesars Palace Security Breaches Reveal Hell’s Kitchen Progress, Fountain Mystery

Up for a couple of security breaches at Caesars Palace? We’ve got this.

The transformation of the former Serendipity 3 into Gordon Ramsay’s Hell’s Kitchen restaurant is well under way at Caesars Palace.

Hell's Kitchen restaurant

At the moment, it’s less Hell’s Kitchen and more “Who in the hell is going to clean this up?”

Caesars Entertainment is clearly sparing no expense on the new Hell’s Kitchen restaurant, as demolition work has stripped the building down to its steel beams.

Hell's Kitchen restaurant

We didn’t even have time to say “Dibs on the Tiffany lamp!”

The extensive demolition provides the Hell’s Kitchen restaurant designers, Jeffrey Beers International, a virtual “tabula rasa” where they can re-invent the venue unencumbered by the restraints of the previous space. Yes, we’re drunk.

Gordon Ramsay’s Hell’s Kitchen is expected to open by Dec. 1, 2017, and will be the celebrity chef’s fifth restaurant in Las Vegas.

Hell's Kitchen restaurant

Work your magic, Las Vegas construction elves.

While we’re excited to see further progress at Hell’s Kitchen, we were even more excited to get a peek behind the construction wall around the iconic Caesars Palace fountains nearby.

A peek over the wall shows an outcropping of pillar-shaped additions to the fountains, and we honestly have no idea what they are.

Caesars Palace fountains

Not gonna lie, we’re hyperventilating right now.

It appears the famous statue in the fountains is still standing, but the Winged Victory of Samothrace replica is now in the company of more than a dozen mysterious metal poles jutting up from the bone-dry fountain.

Caesars Palace fountains

We love a good mystery, but we’d like having this mystery solved even more.

The metallic protrusions, wrapped in packing material, rest upon a framework that sits at what will be water level when (or perhaps if) the fountains are filled again.

Is it temporary? Is it permanent? Is it related to Hell’s Kitchen restaurant? Are we looking at the next iteration of the Caesars Palace fountain experience, one of the best Las Vegas photo ops, ever? Will there be lights? Lasers? Fire? Are these questions getting annoying yet?

Caesars Palace fountains

Oh, like we weren’t going to dig up a “before” photo. Do you know this blog at all?

Remember, you saw it here first, whatever the hell it might actually be. We’d love to hear your guesses!

Update (9/11/17): Our friends at Eater Vegas say it’s a “temporary Samsung Galaxy Studio” being built over the fountain, where customers will be able to pick up orders and try the company’s products. When the “exhibit” closes, the fountains will return to their original state, and we’ll all need a Silkwood shower because, seriously, is nothing sacred?

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Wolfgang Puck’s Spago Will Close at Forum Shops and Open Again at Bellagio

Celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck is on the move. His flagship restaurant, Spago, will close at the Forum Shops and relocate to Bellagio.

Puck’s new restaurant will move into the space currently occupied by Todd English’s Olives, which definitely sounds like a euphemism for something.

Olives is slated to close this winter.

Spago opened in the Forum Shops at Caesars Palace 25 years ago, in 1992. You know, back when woolly mammoths and showgirls roamed the Earth.

Spago Forum Shops

“Spago” in Italian means “string,” slang for spaghetti.

In an L.A. Times story, Puck said, “Twenty-five years ago when we opened in the Forum (Shops), that was the place to be. A lot has changed since then.”

As they say in the restaurant business, ouch.

Then again, we aren’t sure how much to trust a story that repeatedly includes an apostrophe in “Caesars.” Moving on.

Wolfgang Puck is widely credited with sparking the restaurant revolution in Las Vegas that continues to this day.

Wolfgang Puck

We took this photo of Wolfgang Puck flipping something back in 2012. As you might suspect, we are not a “taking notes” kind of person.

According to our friend John Curtas (a Las Vegas food critic who shared rumors of the Spago closure a month before anyone else), Spago is moving because the relationships that brought the restaurant to Caesars Palace no longer exist, as well as “rent issues.”

Apparently, there have been some discussions about the potential of Wolfgang Puck using the existing Spago space for a casual cafe, but that remains to be seen.

Wolfgang Puck

We’re always looking for an excuse to show off our food photography.

Bellagio is pulling out all the stops in anticipation of Spago’s arrival, including hiring high-powered architects Massimiliano Locatelli and Annamaria Scevola. At least we assume they’re high-powered, because they have exotic-sounding names. They also have a Web site that takes 14 minutes to load, and only the coolest architectural firms can get away with that.

The new Spago will have brass fixtures, leather seating and smoked-oak wood floors,
which sounds absolutely mouth-watering if you ask us.

No specific closing date for Spago has been announced, but it’s likely to happen in
January 2018, as that’s when the restaurant’s lease runs out.

Wolfgang Puck

The original Spago restaurant opened in West Hollywood in 1982 and boasted California cuisine and a mullet.

Spago is an excellent restaurant, although it’s been on autopilot for some time now, and a move to Bellagio could shake things up and return Spago to its former glory.

The new Spago should provide amazing views of the Bellagio fountains, as does Lago by
Julian Serrano.

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Fremont Street Gains White Castle Restaurant, Loses Classic Trader Bill’s Sign

There’s been a lot of great buzz about a new White Castle coming to Fremont Street. We should know, we started it.

Recent developments at the site of the new White Castle, however, have been more buzzkill than buzz.

They involve a classic sign for Trader Bill’s.

Trader Bill's sign

Spoiler alert: Now would be a great time to start not getting emotionally attached to things.

For comparison purposes, here’s a look at the Trader Bill’s sign during the day, in other words, without its make-up.

Trader Bill's sign

That’s not old and faded. That’s character.

The first sign, ahem, of trouble came when we noticed the arrow on the Trader Bill’s sign being painted blue. All of the sign’s bulbs and neon were removed. (From what we can tell, the bulbs will be back.)

Trader Bill's

The journey of a thousand WTFs begins with one coat of paint.

The next day, workers began covering up the gloriously distressed sign.

Trader Bill's sign

The Trader Bill’s sign, redacted.

Within just a few days, the Trader Bill’s sign transformed into a White Castle sign, and everything was ruined.

White Castle Fremont sign

White Castle has but one location in Las Vegas, at Casino Royale. When it opened, the restaurant had to temporarily shut down due to overwhelming demand.

The conversion of the Trader Bill’s sign to a White Castle sign probably wouldn’t have been as jarring were it not for where the sign sits. For many who frequent downtown, the sign’s location is what amounts to the “entrance” to the Fremont Street Experience (where we work in digital marketing as our day job).

Once lit up, the White Castle sign is likely to be an eye-catching focal point for anyone looking down, or taking photos of, Fremont Street and what’s billed as the world’s largest video screen.

That’s great news for White Castle, but we’re not convinced it’s great news for our street. Yes, it’s ours, but we let millions of people borrow it each year.

For many, White Castle will now be the first impression visitors get of what the street is all about. Not the circus-like atmosphere of the Fremont district. Not the casinos and their neon facades. Not the history of “Glitter Gulch.”

Rather, a fast food restaurant.

White Castle Fremont Street

We’re going to need a lot of sliders to get us through this period of adjustment. It’s expected Fremont’s White Castle will open at the end of August or in early September.

This latest loss of a distinctive downtown sign follows on the heels of the removal of Vegas Vickie on the other end of Fremont Street. She’ll soon be followed by demolition of the Golden Goose, the Glitter Gulch sign and the baseball player statue atop the former Las Vegas Club.

On the bright side, Vegas Vickie is likely to return. That’s not in the cards for the Trader Bill’s sign.

In searching for some background about Trader Bill’s (it began operating at the corner of Fremont and 4th Street in the early 1930s), we came across an intriguing quote from an article written in 1997.

At the time, Trader Bill’s was transitioning from being a souvenir store to a jewelry store, and the then President of Fremont Street Experience, Mark Paris, is quoted as saying, “The thing that’s important to us is the streetscape—how it looks—and the owners of Trader Bill’s have maintained the neon and lights that we feel are in keeping with the spirit of Fremont Street.”

While a White Castle restaurant fits the “spirit” of Fremont Street perfectly, we can’t say the same for the White Castle sign.

We’ve said often in this blog that the only constant in Las Vegas is change. That doesn’t mean we have to like it.

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Mercato Della Pescheria at Venetian Is a Las Vegas Must-Try

There’s an old Italian saying, “Il savio non s’imbarca senza biscotto.” It means, “A wise man never boards a ship without biscuits.”

We have no idea how that phrase relates to the captivating Mercato Della Pescheria at Venetian Las Vegas, but it was the best we could manage after a one-minute Google search.

Let’s eat!

Mercato Della Pescheria

Here’s a fun fact: Guests prefer to sit on the “patio” at Mercato Della Pescheria, despite the fact it’s not, technically, outdoors.

Mercato Della Pescheria has somehow managed to fly under the radar, but it’s easily one of the best Italian restaurants on the Las Vegas Strip.

The restaurant is tucked neatly in a corner of St. Mark’s Square in the Venetian’s Grand Canal Shops. The space was previously occupied by a Wolfgang Puck restaurant, Postrio.

Mercato Della Pescheria

Yes, we made a beeline to the bar. Do you know this blog at all?

Mercato Della Pescheria is Italian for “fish market,” a much less romantic term than “Mercato Della Pescheria.”

Mercato Della Pescheria is a mouthful, and is probably one of the reasons you don’t hear more about it. We’ve taken to calling it “Mercato” for short, or just “Rinaldo,” mainly when we’re drunk.

Mercato was inspired by an Italian coast seafood market. The vast majority of the ingredients in the dishes are imported from Italy, as are the servers, hostesses and managers at Mercato Della Pescheria.

You can see one of those Italian imports at the end of our walk-through.

While we are not a food critic, we can attest to the authenticity of the dishes, as we have eaten in the actual country of Italy.

To start, try selections from the menu’s “Salumeria” section (or “delicatessen”). Here you’ll find exceptional cured meats and Italian cheeses, almost all of which have names with ample vowels.

Mercato Della Pescheria

Stick to the small board. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. Sorry about the sports analogy, we won’t let it happen again.

Appetizers include bruschetta (it’s the law), beef carpaccio, fried calamari, meatballs, marinated vegetables and other items.

Oh, and wood-roasted octopus. This is why you bring someone with you to Italian restaurants. They can tell you it’s delicious, and you can just trust their judgment.

Mercato Della Pescheria

Octopuses are soft-bodied, eight-armed molluscs. We can certainly sympathize with the soft-bodied part.

Before you get too far into the menu, you’ll want to try one, or several, of Mercato Della Pescheria’s signature cocktails.

As further proof we are not a restaurant reviewer, we have no idea which signature cocktail this is. We do remember it was absolutely delicious, so take a leap of faith, order something the waitress recommends and know you’ll get something good.

Mercato Della Pescheria cocktail

There’s a chance this is an “Italian Highball,” with Skyy Infusions Georgia Peach vodka, Aperol (an Italian aperitif), white peach puree, lemon and San Pellegrino blood orange soda.

Mercato has a dizzying selection of fresh pasta dishes, which sort of made us wish we were a cow. Because they have four stomachs. Please try and keep up.

If you’re like us, most of the pasta you eat comes out of a “box” or “bag” from a “grocery store.” This is blasphemy to Italians, and once you have pasta made in-house, you may never go back.

Mercato pasta

Fresh pasta, suitable for inhalation.

The rest of the menu is devoted to meat and seafood, from the “coal-fired Josper oven and grill,” whatever that might actually be.

Simply put, every damn dish is better than the next at Mercato Della Pescheria. The veal osso buco was impressive, and we are not personally a veal person.

Mercato Della Pescheria

Sometimes, food is so pretty, you don’t want to eat it. The amazing part is we nearly wrote that with a straight face.

The shining star at Mercato Della Pescheria was the lasagna, the “Lasagna Della Mamma.” It’s easily among the best we’ve ever had. In our lives. And we have lived a fairly long life. Don’t rub it in.

Mercato Della Pescheria

Do not covet our lasagna. We can totally tell you’re coveting.

You will absolutely not have room for dessert, but have it, anyway.

Ask about the tiramisu (sorry, “Il Tiramisu”), as it’s prepared fresh, tableside, with homemade lady fingers, mascarpone cream, coffee and chocolate.

Mercato Della Pescheria

“Grazie!” we exclaimed. “I’m from Poland,” she replied, as we nearly caused an international incident.

While Mercato Della Pescheria isn’t cheap, you get what you pay for, and given the quality and freshness of the food, we consider it a value as well as an upscale dining experience you probably can’t find back home. Unless your home is Milan.

Mercato Della Pescheria

One more panty-dropper cocktail, the Cosmo Bianca, with Skyy Bartlett Pear vodka, St. Germain, lime sour and white cranberry.

If you’re visiting Las Vegas, it’s all about finding unforgettable experiences, and Mercato Della Pescheria is a “bellissima” example of just that.

Find out more at the official site, and make sure to check out the full menu.

Mercato Della Pescheria at Venetian

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Major Changes In the Works for SLS Las Vegas Restaurants

Following word of the sale of SLS Las Vegas to Alex Meruelo a few weeks ago, we surmised there would be major changes to the resort’s line-up of restaurants, and we were right.

While many of the plans are still in flux, all the restaurants at SLS are being scrutinized. It appears any restaurant with ties to former investor Sam Nazarian and his SBE Entertainment will be flipped to new concepts.

From what we hear, the new owner of SLS, Alex Meruelo, has strong opinions and likes having creative control of his various companies. This extends to what his restaurant offerings will be, and he has apparently already been very involved in selecting what dining options will ultimately stay or go at SLS.

As for the specifics of the restaurant changes, Umami Burger will go.

Umami Burger

You can kiss these lips goodbye.

The vibe of the restaurant is likely to stay the same, though, as it dovetails nicely into the sports book bar vibe. There’s been some discussion with Buffalo Wild Wings to move into the space, but even if that deal doesn’t materialize, the venue is likely to remain a wing and burger restaurant.

The reliably unremarkable 800 Degrees Neapolitan Pizzeria will also go, becoming a restaurant with similar cuisine, La Pizza Loca.

SLS pizza

Pizza is like sex. We prefer it with utensils.

La Pizza Loca is a chain in southern California. It’s owned by (wait for it) Meruelo Group. That should be a fairly seamless transition.

Cleo, our favorite restaurant at SLS Las Vegas (and possibly on the entire Strip), is, tragically, also not long for this world.

It’s believed the Mediterranean restaurant (again, licensed from SBE Entertainment) may soon become a Mexican restaurant, along the lines of Michoacan, a popular Las Vegas favorite.

Cleo SLS Las Vegas

Eating at Cleo is like sex. It’s actually better than sex, but when we tell people that, we get odd looks, so we’re sticking with that it’s like sex.

Sushi restaurant Katsuya, another SBE Entertainment-licensed joint, is also likely to go away as the ownership change approaches. Its replacement hasn’t been determined.

Katsuya

“Katsuya” is a Japanese words meaning, “Don’t look now, but your food involves suction cups. And possibly sex, just to keep these photo captions consistent.”

A big question mark is, of course, Bazaar Meat by Jose Andres. It’s regarded as the crown jewel of the SLS restaurant portfolio. We can’t share what’s in store for Bazaar Meat at the moment. All we can say is all the SBE-licensed restaurants are likely to end their run at SLS Las Vegas in the months to come.

Bazaar Meat is an SBE-licensed restaurant.

Bazaar Meat

Bazaar Meat defies description, especially when we’re drunk.

Word has it there are no plans to re-open the space that was the former home of Ku Noodle. The restaurant has been walled off, and the typical visitor wouldn’t even know it ever existed.

SLS

Ku Noodle is camouflaged much like the a pygmy seahorse resting upon Malaysian red coral. What, you thought we were kidding about the drunk thing?

The one restaurant that isn’t going anywhere is the resort’s 24-hour restaurant, Northside Cafe. Northside Cafe is managed in-house after a partnership with The Griddle Cafe and its owner Jodi Hortze ended with lots of drama nobody ever talks about.

Northside Cafe at SLS

No need for the flop sweat, Northside. You’re safe.

That’s all we know at the moment.

If you read this blog on a regular basis (and why would you?), you know better than to form emotional attachments to anything in Las Vegas. The sole exception is Cleo, of course.

The bottom line: We recommend you hit Cleo and Bazaar Meat at SLS Las Vegas while you can.

Update (6/19/17): An alert reader passes along that Aria is surveying guests about their familiarity with Jose Andres (Bazaar Meat). The tipster suggests the possibility Bazaar Meat could move to barMASA, a Japanese venue which previously set two closing dates.

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