Vital Vegas Podcast, Episode 132: The One Where We Sports

It may sound crazy, but this episode of our podcast contains actual sports competition attendance!

That’s right, we went to the Raiders season opener at Allegiant Stadium and returned with the inside scoop to enthrall you and your tympanic membrane.


We couldn’t not go, it says Las Vegas right on the field. Actual results may vary.

Our new stadium is amazing, and our team won, so what’s not to love? (We cover that, too.)

We also ramble aimlessly about the new Olive Garden on the Las Vegas Strip. It’s a beauty, the values are tremendous for The Strip and haters are invited to don their finest attire and STFU.

Also in this week’s episode, the Neon Museum, Life is Beautiful, a sad end to the Mt. Charleston Lodge, a tiki bar planned for Mirage, Cosmo and Planet Hollywood sale rumors, the Dotty’s data breach, a million-dollar win at Cannery and more.

Stardust Neon Museum

You’ll never guess our favorite sign at the Neon Museum. Unless, you know, you look at this photo.

You know you’ll get a metric butt-ton of Las Vegas news, and this week’s listicle is our “Top 10 Favorite Casino Sounds.” Shout-out to fans of Buffalo and Heidi’s Beer Haus.

It’s all the Vegas news and reviews you could possibly want, all consensually inserted into your ears via your preferred speakers or buds.

Scratch your Vegas itch (there’s also a salve for that) and quench your Vegas FOMO, take a listen.

Glorious Olive Garden Opens on Las Vegas Strip, Haters Invited to Suck It

A new Olive Garden has opened on the Las Vegas Strip and it’s glorious.

Detractors enjoy poking fun at this popular restaurant chain, but there’s a reason it’s described as a “popular restaurant chain,” so the haters can suck it.

It’s Vegas, and everything’s cooler in Vegas, including this new Olive Garden.

Olive Garden Las Vegas Strip

This is really embarrassing to your local Olive Garden.

Olive Garden is located in the Showcase Mall, across from Park MGM.

It’s three floors up, above a Target store, and it’s not easy to find, despite a number of large video screens adorning the outside of the building.

This isn’t your grandpa’s Las Vegas, Targetwise, Rosswise or Italian restaurantwise. Get used to it.

On the night we visited, there was an Olive Garden employee helping people find their way to the restaurant via a special elevator.

Olive Garden Las Vegas Strip

This gentleman spared us 20 minutes of hangry.

Logisitics aside, this new Olive Garden is genuinely impressive. That’s understandable, as it cost $3.75 million to build.

The most impressive part of this 12,500-square-foot restaurant is the fact designers left the back of the aforementioned video screens visible to guests inside.

This creates a colorful, constantly shifting backdrop with a “Bladerunner” feel. The screens aren’t bright to the point of distraction, and add a striking and unique element to the interior design.

Here’s a hastily slapped-together video to give a sense of the eye candy Olive Garden is serving up.

Fact: Anyone hating on this Olive Garden hasn’t been to this Olive Garden.

The sexy doesn’t stop there. The entire restaurant is pleasing to the eye, including some cozy booths.

Olive Garden Las Vegas Blvd.

The perfect place to pitch some Olive Garden woo. Yes, that’s a thing.

A fun aspect of the Olive Garden’s decor are a number of video screens along the walls, presumably live feeds from Italy.

The feeds don’t appear to be live, but it’s a great nod to Italy, and is an enjoyable diversion for diners.

Olive Garden Las Vegas Strip

If you’re in a quaint Italian square and get the sense you’re being watched, well.

The restaurant is far more expansive than it looks, with at least three large dining areas. It seats more than 400 people and has two bars, because Las Vegas.

Olive Garden Las Vegas Strip

Eight bucks for a Captain and diet on The Strip is an increasingly rare find.

Beyond the winning design of Olive Garden, there’s the value.

We expected inflated prices given the restaurant’s Strip location and venue size, but were pleasantly surprised to find the same low prices for which Olive Garden is known.

You can view the Olive Garden menu on the restaurant’s official Web site, or squint at our photos. Whatever butters your bread.

Olive Garden Vegas

You may break your belt, but you won’t break the bank. Feel free to steal that line, Olive Garden.

Those breadsticks, though. Endless breadsticks, salad and soup for $12.49 is easily one of the best deals in Las Vegas, and certainly on The Strip.

One does not live by breadsticks alone, but we’re up for trying.

We followed up with the iconic Tour of Italy, of course, which they’ll split, if asked.

This combo of chicken parm, lasagna and fettuccine Alfredo is hard to beat at this price and completely satisfying.

Olive Garden Tour of Italy

Endless bread sticks and salad means half an entree portion is twice as much as you’ll need. Olive Garden math.

Nobody’s claiming this is gourmet-quality food, and yes, there are tons of great, high-end Italian restaurants in Las Vegas, blah, blah, blah.

It’s dinner for two, including two wines and two cocktails, for $69. That’s the price of ice water and a napkin in some Strip restaurants.

Do you know this blog at all?

Our food was tasty and filling, and the service was top notch at the bar.

Big sections of the menu can be viewed on tabletop screens, including cocktails and desserts. Everything looks more delicious backlit!

Olive Garden doughnuts

Next time, you gorgeous carb squares.

The bottom line is our new Olive Garden is a winner, and Vegas likes winners.

If you drive, be forewarned parking is $12 for two hours in the fairly awful Showcase parking structure, and it’s virtually impossible to get to Olive Garden from there. (Guests are forced to walk around an entire block at street level. Oh, well, it helps burn off some of those calories returning to your vehicle.)

Here’s where you park. Wear comfortable shoes. It’s a cluster.

Awareness of the Strip Olive Garden hasn’t really kicked in yet, so there’s no waiting.

As mentioned, the restaurant has a visibility problem, and there’s some chatter about an awning out front to help catch the eye of visitors.

There’s a ton of foot traffic on that part of The Strip, and we suspect this will eventually be a go-to for value-seeking tourists.

We love an unpretentious, low-cost dining option on The Strip, and Olive Garden is that.

Yes, Olive Garden gets a good amount of razzing from food snobs, but this chain is laughing all the way to the bank.

Olive Garden Strip

This Olive Garden chair isn’t laughing. It’s sad because you’re leaving.

Olive Garden has consistently been named the “Best Italian Restaurant” in Las Vegas by readers of the Las Vegas Review-Journal. It’s not, of course, but that means something. It means what people are supposed to enjoy isn’t always what they actually enjoy, and we probably shouldn’t spend so much time telling people what they should enjoy or where.

Bloggers are exempt from this “not telling people what to enjoy” rule, of course.

Check out more photos of the new Olive Garden on the Las Vegas Strip, and if you’re in the camp that insists upon bashing a place without even trying it, feel free.

More breadsticks for us.

Beloved Mt. Charleston Lodge Destroyed by Fire

A longtime Vegas-adjacent landmark, Mt. Charleston Lodge, was destroyed by fire in the early morning of Sep. 17, 2021.

The Mt. Charleston Lodge is owned by the Ellis family who also own Ellis Island Casino. The family purchased the lodge in 2018.

Wood, a blessing and a curse.

The fire destroyed the main lodge building, constructed largely of pine logs, but nearby cabins remained undamaged.

The lodge wasn’t open at the time of the fire, which started in the venue’s dining room, and there were no injuries reported, other than to the saddened hearts of Las Vegas residents.

Here’s some drone video of the aftermath of the fire.

The old-timey Mt. Charleston Lodge was about 45 minutes from the Las Vegas Strip, and was a popular restaurant and lounge for those with the inexplicable desire to do outdoors things at Mt. Charleston.

You suck, combustion. Photo courtesy of Go Mt. Charleston/Southern Nevada Conservancy.

Our friend Christina Ellis, said in a statement, “It’s with a heavy heart that we announce the Mount Charleston Lodge burned down this morning. Most importantly, none of our team members nor any members of the Mount Charleston community were harmed in the fire. The surrounding area and the cabins were both left untouched. We’d like to thank all the first responders who assisted with keeping everything contained this morning. The lodge was a beloved landmark, and we plan on rebuilding and recreating the atmosphere and charm that so many were able to enjoy throughout the years.”

Sounds like we’ll be getting a shiny new Mt. Charleston Lodge, so there’s that.

The Mt. Charleston Lodge employs about 30 people, many of whom have worked there for many years.

Mt. Charleston Lodge was sort of the opposite of Las Vegas, yet we liked it, anyway.

There’s been an outpouring of support from the community about the loss of the Mt. Charleston Lodge, and our thoughts are with the Ellis family.

Thankfully, there was no loss of life, but that doesn’t mean the loss of the lodge isn’t heartbreaking.

In town full of flash and spectacle, Mt. Charleson Lodge was a place where locals and visitors could find a good deal, unpretentious people, fresh air and trees that weren’t imported from somewhere else.

We hadn’t visited in some time, so the Mt. Charleston Lodge fire serves as a painful reminder to not put things off as life can take surprising, sometimes tragic, turns.

We’ll say it, call your grandparents, already.

Steak ‘n Shake is Done at Oyo Casino, Per Staff

Employees are informing guests of Oyo casino that its Steak ‘n Shake┬árestaurant has closed permanently.

The restaurant never reopened following the shutdown of March 2020, due to the pandemic.

Steak N Shake Oyo

It sounds like the Steak ‘n Shake at Oyo is fried.

The permanent closure of Steak ‘n Shake leaves slim pickings for dining options at Oyo, although Hooters is reliably good, even during our national chicken wing crisis.

There’s also the Splash Cantina (we’ve never seen it open) and Southside Eatery (more of a snack bar, and currently closed).

So, yeah, Hooters.

While Steak ‘n Shake is closed, the video poker bar out front is still in operation. We trust that part’s owned by Oyo.

Steak ‘n Shake is part of a national chain, with more than 600 locations.

The owner of Steak ‘n Shake, Biglari Holdings, was in trouble prior to the pandemic, and it was reported the company could file Chapter 11 bankruptcy. That was avoided, following an infusion of cash.

Steak ‘n Shake permanently closed 82 locations in 2020. There are 57 locations temporarily closed, with the company saying it intends to reopen “most of them.”

According to staffers at Oyo, it seems their location won’t be one of the restaurants reopening, although Oyo hasn’t confirmed the closure is permanent yet.

We enjoy our visits to Oyo, and the values are strong.

Oyo Las Vegas casino

Let’s just say you can’t get lost in Oyo’s tiny casino. Sorry, “boutique.”

Oyo is one of the few places in Las Vegas where you can still find $1 blackjack, for example.

Oyo is the former Hooters, formerly Hotel San Remo, formerly Polynesian, formerly Pacifica, formerly Treasury, formerly 20th Century, formerly Paradise, formerly Howard Johnson’s Motor Lodge.

Let’s just say it’s been a wild ride and leave it at that.

Oyo reopens

Our liver has been impatiently waiting for this cocktail spot at Oyo to open for some time now.

Hooters became Oyo on September 16, 2019. Yes, we broke the story. Do you know anything about this blog at all?

Even though Oyo is a petite hotel, it could use another restaurant or two. Pizza springs to mind, as the typical guest is a value-seeker with modest dining requirements.

Oyo may not feel the pressure to bring in another restaurant, because for many the hotel is an inexpensive altrenative to The Strip, and Oyo tends to be their jumping off point for nearby resorts.

For those hankering for some Steak ‘n Shake, there’s another location just 415 miles away from Oyo at South Point Hotel.

Also, there’s an In-N-Out a minute away across the freeway on Tropicana. They also have excellent shakes. Just saying.

Update (9/17/21): Dawn Wolf, Oyo’s Directory of Marketing, says the casino plans to reopen Steak ‘n Shake, but no date has been set. Per Wolf, “We are monitoring our future occupancy forecast very carefully to determine the right period of time to reopen.” Hope lives for Steak ‘n Shake fans, but time will tell.

Downtown’s New Peyote Restaurant Is a Trip

A trendy new restaurant, Peyote, opens in downtown Las Vegas on Sep. 24, 2021.

Thankfully, you have us, so you don’t have to wait to get a taste.

Peyote restaurant Las Vegas

In Vegas, everything’s better with sparkle.

Peyote is located at Fergusons Downtown Motel, sort of just east of Fremont East.

Look for the bigass tractor trailers doing a mating dance.

Big Rig Jig

You thought we were kidding?

Peyote is a boutique restaurant from the awesome Ryan Doherty, founder of Corner Bar Management.

While Peyote is Doherty’s latest venture, he’s got his fingers in a plethora of other popular spots.

He’s got Commonwealth, Park on Fremont, Discopussy, Lucky Day on Fremont Street and Oddwood lounge at Area 15.

Peyote is further evidence Ryan Doherty believes in downtown, and has built a team so good you’ll want to try this out-of-the-way spot even if you’ve never visited downtown before.

If you’re a Vegas virgin, hit Circa and the Viva Vision light show first, but after that, Peyote.

Peyote Las Vegas

It’s not a patio, it’s “al fresco dining,” rube.

Some of the players at Peyote include Hall and Kim Owens, the folks behind Main St. Provisions; Jolene Mannina, managing partner; Max Solano, beverage and cocktail program consultant; and Juyoung Kang, general manager and lead mixologist.

Peyote is 3,400-square feet of great food, drink and eye candy, including a patio with a custom 3D-mapped LED bistro-light canvas.

There’s also a ton of quirky art.

Peyote Fremont East

It would be difficult for us to love this hippo balancing on its tongue more.

It’s telling that at Ryan Doherty’s venues, staff are given cheat sheets about the artwork in case guests inquire. They inquire.

We knew you’d ask.

Naturally, we tried a cocktail first, and it was awesome. It doesn’t come backlit like this. That’s a blogger thing.

Peyote cocktail

We love telling friends we had a Peyote cocktail. This one’s called the Big Bliss.

The Big Bliss has Volcan de Me Tierra blanco tequila, Giffard Pamplemousse liqueur, fresh strawberries, lime-orgeat sour and fresh sage. We don’t know about you, but if they didn’t have lime-orgeat sour, we’d have been out of there.

Here’s a look at the cocktail menu.

Gird your liver, you’re downtown.

One does not live by cocktails alone, of course. Although, we have expressed a willingness to try.

We don’t entirely know how to describe the cuisine at Peyote, we just know we liked it.

Here’s the menu.

Peyote downtown menu

It sounds snootier than it is.

Here’s a bigger version of the menu so your eyes don’t implode.

We’ll let the news release do the talking. “Peyote’s upscale dinner menu will offer a decadent arrangement of appetizers, such as an heirloom tomato summer squash tart; mini shrimp toast topped with wild smoked salmon roe; American country ham on toast served with tangy pickled mustard seed, carrot aioli and wild arugula topped with red eye gravy; and more. Savory main dishes include Carolina Gold rice risotto with grilled corn, sunflower seeds, leeks and almond milk; heritage pig sandwich with grilled pork belly, grass-fed butter, radish, plum mustard, rouge creamery cheese and red pepper pickles; Santa Maria vintage tri-tip grilled on oak served with grilled baby gem, corn salad, pickles, chili preserved radish, butter ball potatoes and fry bread designed to feed three to six guests; and more.”

Which all sounds great, but our tastes are a tad simpler. So, during our media visit, we let our host, Ryan Doherty, order.

Two words: Pork chop.

Simple, effective and grilled to perfection. If you’re 80 or older, insert a Peter Brady reference here.

Even the weird food (we aren’t exactly a tangy pickled mustard seed type) ended up being delicious, and we hate everything.

We even accidentally had vegetables thinking they were French fries.

Peyote veggies

Best way to make kids eat their veggies, ever.

One of the best surprises was the Heirloom Tomato Tart, something we typically never would’ve ordered unless we were being water-boarded. It was great, despite the presence of tomatoes.

Peyote tart

Thanks to Ryan Doherty for making us eat this thing we ended up loving despite our best efforts.

There aren’t any desserts on the menu, but you won’t have room for them, anyway.

It’s worth mentioning, Peyote adds a five percent fee to its checks. We aren’t a fan of such service charges, and asked owner Ryan Doherty about the fee. He said it’s temporary, and has to do with the big price fluctuations for products (liquor and food) at the moment due to the pandemic. Because prices ebb and flow so much (he noted chicken wing pricing “is like the Bitcoin index” half the time), the fee was deemed a better way of addressing those challenges, as opposed to changing the menu prices every week. Just a heads up.

Beyond the walls and patio of Peyote, it sounds like there will be some live music in a small amphitheater that sits just outside.

Ryan Doherty doesn’t just create bars and restaurants, he creates experiences. He makes places people want to hang. Peyote is that.

Just because we don’t eat something doesn’t mean we can’t take pictures of it for you.

Peyote will be open from 6:00 p.m. to 2:00 a.m. on Wednesdays and Thursdays, from noon to 2:00 a.m. Fridays through Sundays.

There’s some free street parking nearby, but rideshare is recommended. That way you can explore the cocktail menu more thoroughly, if you get our drift.

Riseshare also sidesteps the fact it’s not the best neighborhood, although we’ve never had any issues. The area around Peyote is well-lit and there’s security at the main entrance to Fergusons.

Peyote could very well be a thing.

While Peyote is a little out of the way, it’s a great excuse to explore the Fremont East Entertainment District.

This wayfinder should help, should you choose to make the trip. See how that tied back into our headline? This isn’t our first rodeo.

It’s a challenging location for a new venture, but if you flame broil it, or create the right cocktail menu, they will come.

Enjoy more Peyote images in our expansive and poorly-focued photo gallery below.

See you there. We’ll be the one balancing on our tongue.

Little Tony’s Out at Palace Station, Tacos & Tequila Moving In

Little Tony’s, a sister restaurant to downtown’s popular Pizza Rock restaurant, has closed at Palace Station.

The off-Strip casino has announced Little Tony’s will be replaced with Tacos & Tequila.

Tacos & Tequila will be familiar to Luxor fans, as the restaurant and bar operated there for more than a decade.

It’s really about the tequila.

After some extensive research, we have determined Tacos & Tequila features both tacos and tequila.

There will also be an ass-ton of high-def TVs.

According to Palace Station, “The menu will include the ‘#1 Alambre,’ made with filet mignon, applewood smoked bacon, Oaxaca cheese, poblano chili, onion and cilantro served on a corn tortilla; the shrimp quesadilla, made with grilled shrimp, black beans, Oaxaca cheese, pico de gallo, chipotle aioli, crema fresca and avocado wrapped in a flour tortilla; and beef barbacoa enchiladas, made with slow-roasted brisket, roasted Guajillo-tomato sauce, gouda, Oaxaca and
jack cheese, pickled onion and sour cream made with corn tortillas.”

Tacos & Tequila will also serve vegan and gluten-free selections so weirdos have something to occupy themselves while other customers eat the delicious food. All due respect.

Signature cocktails include margaritas and more than 100 different tequila selections. Pace yourself, hombre.

We trust Tacos & Tequila will not transfer over its annoying CNF charge to Palace Station. Locals would put up with that crap for about zero seconds.

According to Palace Station, Tacos & Tequila will open near the casino’s sports book “later this year.”

It’s a little strange to think about how little “later this year” is left in this year.

Photo via the Station Casinos blog, and props to them for being one of the few Las Vegas casinos that understands the value of having a blog. Looking at you, Caesars Entertainment.

If you’re looking for another Mexican option at Luxor, you can still hit Diablo’s Cantina. We visited recently and it did the trick.

So, what happened with Little Tony’s at Palace Station? Well, it wasn’t that great, for one thing. Tony Gemignani, the pizza god behind Pizza Rock, hasn’t been able to translate the downtown restaurant’s sucess at other locations. The same goes for the Pizza Rock at Green Valley Ranch. It’s just O.K.

Either Little Tony’s wasn’t meeting expectations or the lease ran out and Palace Station, owned by Station Casinos, just didn’t care for the existing deal and found a new partner.

Let’s just say successful restaurants rarely close in Las Vegas, unless there’s a sex scandal. This wasn’t that.

Dibs on one of these sweet booths at the former Little Tony’s.

It’s hard to go wrong with casual Mexican fare and booze with locals.

For visitors, Palace Station is well worth a short trip, as the values (including table minimums) are a refreshing departure from The Strip. The place is full of reasonable dining options, including the Charcoal Room steakhouse, the always-packed Oyster Bar and relatively new Tailgate Social.

Palace Station recently got a $192 million facelift, and it shows.