Category Archives: Las Vegas Restaurants

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.

Bomb Tacos Restaurant Closes Abruptly Downtown

A downtown taco spot, Bomb Tacos, has closed in what has proven to be challenging for any restaurant that opens in the space.

The place was fairly busy whenever we visited for lunch (both times), but a busy lunch doesn’t necessarily translate into a financially successful eatery.

We’re hearing there was some behind-the-scenes drama that led to the closure, with tensions running high between the partners in the business.

Bomb Tacos

Adios, tacos de bomba.

Bomb Tacos, owned by chef Robert Solano, was located a block off Fremont Street on Carson Avenue, near Vegenation and 7th & Carson restaurant.

Given the deliciousness of the fare, we hoped the third time would be a charm for this location in downtown’s “restaurant row.” Bomb Tacos is the third establishment to close in recent memory. Previously, it was Zydeco Po-Boys and Two Bald Brothers.

So, the location has hosted Mexican, Cajun and Mediterranean cuisine to-date. Time for some Italian, already. Or at least something with booze.

Downtown doesn’t have a vast assortment of taco options, but La Comida is nearby and Pinches Tacos, at Downtown Container Park, will do in a, well, pinch.

Farther west on Fremont Street, try Taqueria El Buen Pastor or Wana Taco at Four Queens.

Thanks to Twitter follower John L. for sending this tip our way. As John observed, “If they couldn’t make it, not sure anyone can.”

You can find another Bomb Tacos location at 3655 South Durango Dr., wherever that might actually be.

Vital Vegas Podcast, Ep. 90: Stuff Your Face With Vegas

It’s time for a new installment of the Las Vegas podcast that’s nearly as annoying as being issued a W2-G form.

We kick off the show with an irredeemable holiday poem, “A Very Pappy Christmas.”

There’s also an interview with chef James Trees, owner of Esther’s Kitchen. The downtown restaurant has gotten great buzz, and listening to the chef it’s fairly clear why.

Esther's Kitchen

The flatware at Esther’s Kitchen is from the Dunes. ‘Nuff said.

You won’t want to miss our “12 Days of Las Vegas Christmas,” or our perfunctory round-up of Las Vegas news.

Bond at Cosmo will be Barbershop Cuts & Cocktails in 2019, “Totally Twisted Brunch” is coming to SLS, investors are working to bring Major League Baseball to Las Vegas, Salt and Pepa are on hiatus at Paris, Palms is making moves in nightlife, target dates for Resorts World and The Drew are pushed back, same for Criss Angel’s new show at Planet Hollywood, “Fuerza Bruta” comes to Excalibur, Sadelle’s opens at Bellagio in December, 322 Pizza Bar opens on Fremont and Rob Lowe brings “Stories I Only Tell My Friends” to Planet Hollywood in April.

We pop into Bellagio’s Conservatory, too, because podcasts are the perfect vehicle to share something so visually stunning.

Bellagio Conservatory Christmas 2018

It’s not Christmas until the Bellagio Conservatory says it is.

Just for good measure, we also review Holsteins at Cosmopolitan, as well as the cookies in the casino’s completely awesome high limit lounge.

It’s all the Vegas you can stomach, so let out your belt a notch and take a listen.

Esther’s Kitchen Lives Up to the Hype

Whenever a Las Vegas restaurant gets as much hype as Esther’s Kitchen has, we brace for disappointment. Thankfully, Esther’s Kitchen not only warrants its good buzz, it makes us wonder why it hasn’t garnered even more.

Casual diners and serious foodies alike have given Esther’s Kitchen glowing reviews, and the place has pretty much been packed since the day it opened (Jan. 3, 2018).

Esther's Kitchen

Reservations are tough to come by during peak hours, so try the bar. Actually, try the bar whether you have a reservation or not.

The restaurant’s accolades include being named Best Italian Restaurant by Desert Companion in its “Best of the City” issue. The magazine recently named it one of the city’s best restaurants of the year.

Desert Companion, published by Nevada Public Radio, is a brilliantly written and insightful magazine, and not just because we love being a frequent guest on KNPR. Probably.

Esther's Kitchen

Easily one of the best things about Esther’s Kitchen is the flatware is from the Dunes. No, really.

Every dish we tried at Esther’s Kitchen is a revelation, familiar but new, all from a chef who exudes passion for food, drink and community.

James Trees is the chef behind downtown’s Esther’s Kitchen, a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York.

Trees earned his stripes as places like the Mirage, and has worked with chefs like Michael Mina and Bradley Ogden.

He even worked with up-and-coming chef Gordon Ramsay, who apparently has a couple of popular TV shows and approximately 26 successful restaurants at Caesars Entertainment resorts in Las Vegas, give or take.

We chatted up James Trees, so check out the interview via the SoundCloud thingy at the bottom of this blog post.

Before we dive into the food and drink, we should get the name of the place out of the way.

Esther's Kitchen

Fun fact: This neon sign is in the chef’s handwriting.

Esther was the chef’s great aunt. She not only paid for him to attend the Culinary Institute, when she passed away in 2016, the inheritance helped pay to open his restaurant. The chef’s site says Esther’s Kitchen is “named in her honor because everyone has someone like Aunt Esther, and whoever that person was, when you walk in the door we want you to feel like you’re at their house.”

Dry your tears, it’s time to eat.

Esther’s Kitchen is all about seasonal Italian cooking, with dishes prepared from scratch, in-house.

That includes the bread ($4), the reputation of which preceded our visit by nearly a year. The housemade sourdough bread was lovely. It comes with butter and olive oil, with the option to get anchovy garlic butter or burrata all panna and basil oil for a small additional charge.

Esther's Kitchen

You know how people say, “Don’t fill up on bread”? Those people are morons.

The menu offers fresh pastas, pizzas to order, antipasti and entrees.

The menu also has a “Verduras” section, or “vegetables.” Yes, we actually tried the vegetables, despite the fact the last time we did that Ronald Reagan was President.

The salad ($13) had kale, apple and squash, and yet we enjoyed it, anyway.

Esther's Kitchen

Kale is a leafy crucifer, which, coincidentally, was the name of our band in high school.

Naturally, the entire time we were eating the kale, we had our eye on the pizza, and man alive, it was great.

The pizza ($15) had sourdough crust topped with tomato, Greek sausage and salumi, fennel, charred peppers and orange.

Before typing that last sentence, we didn’t entirely know “salumi” existed, so we thought it might be a misspelling of “salami.” We are, come to find out, and idiot.

Salumi are Italian cold cuts mainly made from pork. “Salumi” comes from the Italian word “salume,’ meaning “salted meat.” We would typically slip in a meat joke here. But we are nothing if not mature.

Esther's Kitchen

We are typically a cheese person. Now, we are more of a this pizza person.

The Margherita ($10) was solid, with fresh mozzarella, basil and Chris Bianco’s tomatoes. Chris Bianco is arguably the country’s most revered pizzaiolo. Again, the crust was epic.

Esther's Kitchen pizza

Yeah, that’s the first time we’ve heard the word “pizzaiolo,” too.

The pasta was equally memorable. We tried three.

First, it was the rye tagliatelle ($24), with braised duck, mushroom, greens and cracklins (fried pieces of pork fat).

Or, as we like to call it, pasta.

Esther's Kitchen

Following an ugly break-up of the Leafy Crucifers, we later formed a band called the Rye Tagliatelles.

We also cozied up to the rigatoni carbonara ($17), with guanciale, peas, egg yolk and grana padana, whatever that might be. Hey, we are not a food critic.

Esther's Kitchen

Simple, yet satisfying. Or, basically, the same thing we keep telling our girlfriend we are.

We also had to try the spaghetti ($15), with Sungold tomatoes, pomodoro (“tomato” in Italian), Parmesan (“Parmesan” in Italian) and basil. Add Italian meatballs, called “polpette,” for $6.

Esther's Kitchen spaghetti

The singular of “polpette” is “polpetta.” Vital Vegas, raising the bar for useless photo captions.

The prices are very reasonable, and some may experience reverse sticker shock, especially if they’ve dined at comparable restaurants on The Strip.

While it’s not on the dinner menu, we got to try this mushroom panini. A sentence we never in a million years thought we would be typing.

Esther's Kitchen

We’re unclear how the chef made mushrooms this good, especially given the fact we’d rather eat an our own foot than mushrooms.

Make sure to try these house-made taro and sweet potato chips.

Esther's Kitchen

No, they’re not French fries. You’ll survive.

We’re fairly sure Esther’s Kitchen doesn’t have an official dessert menu, but if you ask your server to bring you a caramel budino, you won’t be disappointed. “Budino” is Italian for pudding. Man, is there anything this blog doesn’t know right off the top of its head without the use of Google, at all, whatsoever?

Esther's Kitchen

The best way to describe this dessert is “Heaven shot.”

Esther’s Kitchen also prides itself on its beverage program. Original and classic cocktails are refreshingly inexpensive ($8), beer is $5 and wines by the glass are around $10 (no bottle costs more than $40).

During happy hour, nothing’s more than $5.

Esther's Kitchen

This is the Burning the Witches cocktail, which we recall virtually nothing about, which is a wonderful attribute of a cocktail.

Our only complaint with the place would have to be the lack of Captain Morgan, but all was forgiven when the bartender improvised a rum-based drink that made our eyes roll back into our head. In a good way, in case that wasn’t clear.

From the prices to the quality and originality of the food to the top-notch service, Esther’s Kitchen simply nails it and by the time you read this, we’ll be back at the downtown restaurant stuffing our face with delicious things made from ingredients we can pronounce.

Esther’s Kitchen deserves to be in your Las Vegas rotation. Your taste buds and your bank account will send you a thank-you note.

We should note the place can get loud when it’s busy, but that’s par for the course with many restaurants, in Vegas and beyond. Solution: Visit during non-peak hours, or just suck it up.

Frankly, Esther’s Kitchen isn’t easy to find, even using the latest in GPS technology. We know everything, but we drove past it at least six times. While there’s not a lot of outdoor signage, that’s not the issue. It’s that the restaurant doesn’t seem to be on the same street given as its address.

Here’s the official address: 1130 S. Casino Center Blvd., Ste. #110, Las Vegas, NV 89104.

The restaurant is actually on East California Ave., though, halfway between Casino Center and Main Street.

We’d say it’s in the Arts District, but nobody really knows what, or where, that is.

Just hold this photo up until you see a building that matches.

Esther's Kitchen

Any restaurant can have signs. It’s better to have awesome.

Our newfound hunger for all things James Trees couldn’t have come at a better time, as the chef is set to open two new eateries, one at Stratosphere and another at Tivoli Village, about 15 minutes west of The Strip.

The chef’s new place in the Strat will be in its observation tower, 108 Eats. More to come on that one, and we can’t wait to give it a taste.

In the meantime, get to Esther’s Kitchen, and we can’t thank them enough for inviting us to sample the menu. Vegas has some stellar Italian, and Esther’s Kitchen ranks among the very best.

All the good things we’d heard about Esther’s Kitchen were confirmed during our first visit, and it’s a sure thing it won’t be our last.

It’s worth noting the restaurant’s chicken parm is only available on the lunch menu, so our take on that much-talked-about dish is pending.

Learn more about Esther’s Kitchen, check out the menus here and take a listen to chef James Trees through the miracle of the Internet.

RM Seafood and Rx Boiler Room Close at Mandalay Bay

Two restaurants from noted chef Rick Moonen have closed abruptly at Mandalay Bay, RM Seafood and Rx Boiler Room.

Chef Rick Moonen has been called the “Godfather of Sustainability,” possibly the least imposing nickname, ever.

Seriously. The guy uses knives constantly. Why not the “Godfather of the Monarch Steampunk Dragon Knife”? So much cooler.

Rx Boiler Room

We never dined at Rx Boiler Room, but we sure as hell libated there, if that’s a thing.

Anyway, RM Seafood (the RM stands for Rick Moonen, in case that wasn’t obvious) opened at Mandalay Bay—The Shoppes at Mandalay Place, to be more exact—in 2005 and Rx (pronounced Rick’s) Boiler Room opened in 2013.

It seems the chef couldn’t hammer out a mutually agreeable deal on the lease, so Moonen packed it in, to the great delight of a good many Spanish octopuses which will now avoid being sustainably charred.

Rick Moonen

Take a few days off, Rick. Years of pan searing can take a lot out of a person.

Fun seafood fact: The fish people know as “Chilean seabass” is actually the Patagonian toothfish. The sexier name was invented by a fish wholesaler named Lee Lantz in 1977 to make it more appealing to Americans.

Moonen says he’ll be back soon with a new restaurant concept in Las Vegas, which we also won’t visit because we are not a seafood person.