Category Archives: Las Vegas

Vital Vegas Podcast, Ep. 85: Rumors and Speculation Spectacular

You can get Las Vegas news just about anywhere, but we’ve got the scoop you won’t hear anywhere else.

We’re your source for Vegas WTF, and that goes for our wildly disappointing podcast, too.

In this episode, we talk about the demise of Fright Dome, a flaming tiki accident at Hell’s Kitchen, drone problems at Caesars Palace, Mat Franco’s third anniversary at Linq, struggles at Palms and the upcoming closures of AquaKnox and Public House at Venetian.

Vital Vegas Podcast

We spent upwards of $25 for this logo, so we’re damned well going to use it.

There’s a cavalcade of show and restaurant news, of course.

“Inferno” closed at Paris, “Baz” closed at Venetian and “Masters of Illusion” at Bally’s and “Imaginarium” at Tropicana will soon close as well.

Six new offerings are in the works at Cosmopolitan’s new food court, sorry, “food hall,” opening Aug. 31, 2018.

We also share scoop about W getting the boot at SLS, Aerosmith’s residency at Park MGM and the return of Diablo’s Cantina, once a fixture at Monte Carlo.

It’s the podcast your mother would warn you about if she knew what the hell a podcast was. Take a listen.

Fright Dome Haunted House is Done at Circus Circus

Popular Las Vegas haunted house Fright Dome won’t be back at Circus Circus and we’re your only source for behind-the-scenes scoop about the direful news.

Here’s the lowdown.

Fright Dome getting the boot at Circus Circus is the culmination of months of drama between Circus Circus (owned by MGM Resorts) and Egan Productions, the folks behind the lucrative Fright Dome attraction.

Fright Dome

Fear taps into our fight-or-flight response, releasing a hormone called epinephrine. Yeah, we still don’t get it.

The conflict centers around another attraction by Egan Productions, the Saw escape room.

Never heard of it? That’s part of the problem.

Rumor has it the Saw escape room attraction has been bleeding money for months. According to our sources, Saw’s investors have bailed and insiders believe the demise of Fright Dome could also signal a nail in the coffin for Saw.

It seems financial pressures from Saw resulted in Egan Production’s Jason Egan demanding a bigger cut of Fright Dome profits. While Circus Circus is said to have been open to negotiating Egan’s percentage, Egan stopped returning calls and tensions ran high.

In July, we heard things got so bad, Circus Circus staff began tossing out Fright Dome equipment and sets.

You know how ugly break-ups can be.

The ongoing conflict reached Defcon 1 levels when Circus Circus expressed it would run its own haunted house, essentially cutting Fright Dome out of the annual windfall it’s enjoyed for 15 years.

It’s unknown if Circus Circus plans to follow through on its threat.

For its part, Egan Productions isn’t saying much. In a statement, the company said, “Circus Circus has informed Egan Productions that it will not move forward with Fright Dome for 2018. While we regret this bad news, we are grateful to the people of Las Vegas for supporting Fright Dome over the past 15 years. We look forward to many successful Halloween events in the future.”

The long and mutually-beneficial relationship between Fright Dome and Circus Circus has, it seems, is done for good. In fact, it’s as if the attraction never existed. The plug has been pulled on Fright Dome’s Web site.

Fright Dome at Adventuredome was considered the premier Halloween haunted house in Las Vegas.

It featured five acres of space and six distinct haunted house experiences. Favorites included homages to the “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” and others. Other themes in the mix have included “Hillbilly Hell” and “Flesh Feast.”

Other recent haunted houses included “Zombie City” with a zombie theme, “Fright Dome’s Urban Legends” and “The Anniversary,” Fright Dome’s homage to itself, as far as we can tell.

Of course, no self-respecting haunted house would be complete without an ample supply of killer clowns.

While we are not a haunted house person, we suspect more than a few Las Vegas visitors will be disappointed by the end of Fright Dome.

Update (9/14/18): A representative of the Saw escape room contacted us with information that contradicts several of the things we’ve heard about the attraction. The rep says Fright Dome doesn’t store anything at Circus Circus, so that would presumably make it impossible for Circus Circus to throw anything belonging to Fright Dome out.  The rep also states the owner of Saw is a sole owner, with no other investors. Saw also claims it is not “bleeding money,” but is, in fact, selling out. The company claims Saw is one of the most successful escape rooms in the world.

 

W Hotel Shown the Door at SLS Las Vegas

It took longer than expected, but W Hotel is no longer a hotel-within-a-hotel at SLS Las Vegas.

SLS marquee

The W sign no longer sits atop the SLS marquee. Thanks a lot, Illuminati!

We were the first to share that SLS would discontinue its relationship with W Las Vegas.

Initially, the plan was to integrate W back into the SLS resort in May 2018, but talks between the two entities hit a snag.

Soon after, it was announced W would be “reincorporated back into SLS Las Vegas as the SLS Grand, a Starwood hotel” on July 20, 2018. Nope.

W hotel notice

The best laid plans.

At one point, W Las Vegas employees were let go, rooms were redecorated to remove W branding and a crane showed up to take down the W sign. Because a deal couldn’t be finalized, employees were invited back, all the rooms in the tower were reverted to the W branding and the crane was asked to turn around.

Finally, the deal between the new owners of SLS (Meruelo Group) and W Las Vegas was done and W is officially out as of Aug. 17, 2018.

Our eagle-eyed reader Michael A. captured the removal of the W sign from the SLS marquee.

W hotel sign removal

Paging M Resort. You should totally bid for this on eBay!

The W sign went up in Oct. 2016. Yep, less than two years ago, making it one of the weirder Las Vegas casino stories in quite some time. (We’re looking at you, The Quad.)

Here’s a shot of the W sign as it was being foisted into place with much fanfare back in 2016. Or maybe it was hoopla. We always get those mixed up.

W Las Vegas at SLS

Not awkward. At all.

So, W is out. Bygones.

All visible signs of W Las Vegas branding have been removed at SLS, and the W tower has been renamed The Grand Tower.

A news release explains, “SLS Las Vegas will assume full operational control of the resort’s reservations system from Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide and the SLS Las Vegas brand will discontinue membership as a Starwood Tribute Portfolio Hotel & Resort.”

We have only the most superficial understanding of what that means, so you’re on your own.

One of the more distinctive design touches at the W Hotel valet entrance was a wall fashioned from 20,000 poker chips.

W hotel Las Vegas

No, we didn’t count all 20,000 chips. We have a life. Sorry, we probably should’ve put quotation marks around “life.”

Now, SLS has taken a page from Park MGM playbook and replaced the chips with greenery.

SLS rear entrance

This isn’t the first time a Las Vegas casino has made chips disappear.

Otherwise, the W Las Vegas lobby and bar area remain largely untouched.

W hotel lobby

This is the Living Room at the former W. And just as with your own living room, there’s mismatched furniture, a bartender and possibly prostitutes.

Just in case SLS decides to overhaul the former W Las Vegas lobby area, we would like to call dibs on three decorative items.

First, this dice display.

W hotel dice

You’d be surprised how seldom “dibs” actually works once you reach adulthood. Sorry, we should’ve put quotation marks around “adulthood.”

Second, this textured wall accent, inspired by the bumps on a craps table. Glorious.

W Las Vegas

These “alligator bumps” run floor to ceiling and we absolutely love them.

Third, Belvis.

W Las Vegas Belvis

Belvis is like Zoltar, but much, much cooler.

Wresting back operational control of the W Hotel is just one of many changes happening at SLS.

Owner Alex Meruelo and his team have been aggressive at cost-cutting measures so far, and a $100 million “re-imagining” is planned.

How about this? Imagine being profitable for the first time in four years!

Fun fact: SLS opened on Aug. 23, 2014, so the hotel’s fourth anniversary is the very same day we’re publishing this story. You go, synchronicity.

Part of the resort’s re-imagining will undoubtedly involve a name change, most likely to Grand Sahara Resort. The new name plays off the Reno resort owned by Meruelo, Grand Sierra Resort.

Plans for the hotel’s venues haven’t been announced, but we’ve heard Bazaar Meat and the Northside Cafe are likely to be the only restaurants to survive the transition. It’s rumored Bazaar Meat will not only stay, but will get an expansion.

Bazaar Meat

How serious is Bazaar Meat about its meat? This serious.

Since SLS opened, it’s been rumored the resort’s restaurants generate more revenue than its casino.

Cleo is not only our favorite restaurant at SLS, it’s one of our favorites in Las Vegas. Sadly, our “Save Cleo” campaign hasn’t gained much traction, but only because you probably haven’t dined there yet. Ahem.

We’ve long been a cheerleader for SLS, as the quirky spawn of the classic Sahara has a lot to like, despite its challenging location.

SLS casino chip

The crane will be back for this guy. Dibs.

Here’s hoping the new owners and management can defy the odds, turn plans for a turnaround into action and make the north Strip resort a success.

Including keeping Cleo. Yes, we’re saying it again. Traction doesn’t just magically happen, you know.

Cafe Bellagio Closes to Make Way for Sadelle’s

Cafe Bellagio has closed after 20 years at Bellagio Las Vegas.

The beloved restaurant closed at 9:00 p.m. on Aug. 19, 2018, and will be replaced by Sadelle’s, a restaurant and bakery touted as “a New York brunch institution located in the heart of SoHo.” That’s in New York City. You really need to get out more.

Cafe Bellagio

If you thought we wouldn’t go to Bellagio to take two photos because we have a life, you would be wrong.

Cafe Bellagio has been around since Bellagio opened in Oct. 1998.

Staffers at the restaurant say they’ve been overwhelmed with an outpouring of appreciation from longtime customers. Some, they say, have cried and written letters to MGM Resorts brass to ask that the restaurant be spared, but to no avail.

Business has slowed at Cafe Bellagio in recent years. We know this because, in Las Vegas, successful restaurants don’t close. It’s not rocket science.

A good number of Cafe Bellagio employees will take positions at another Bellagio restaurant, Harvest by Roy Ellamar. Harvest recently started serving breakfast and will do so until Sadelle’s opens in Dec. 2018.

Other displaced Cafe Bellagio employees will have to apply for positions at Sadelle’s.

Sadelle’s comes from Major Food Group, the folks behind Carbone restaurant at Aria.

Cafe Bellagio

So long, old girl. Yes, “girl.” Because referring to a restaurant as an “old guy” is awkward.

Of Sadelle’s, the Bellagio Web site says, “Serving the best bagels in New York City, Sadelle’s offers quintessential classics like sliced-to-order salmon and sturgeon, chopped salads, and other New York classics in an updated, fun-yet-refined fashion.”

The site also states, “Sadelle’s was voted 23 Best Restaurants for Brunch in New York City by Harper’s Bazaar, 2017 Best Brunch Spots in NYC by Cosmopolitan, and our sticky buns were named as one of the Best Dishes in 2015 by The New York Times, among other accolades.”

While Cafe Bellagio was popular for many years, some Vegas regulars report the appeal and quality of the restaurant declined recently, so something new was in order.

It’s bittersweet to see a treasured Vegas classic go away, but given the venue’s view of the Bellagio Conservatory, we’re confident Sadelle’s will beget legions of loyal new fans.

Bellagio Conservatory

We may have taken a third photo. It happens.

That’s right, we said “beget.” It’s Bellagio, so one has to up one’s fancy game.

Lego Reveals Tweaked Las Vegas Set

Lego has unveiled its revamped Las Vegas set, including the replacement of Mandalay Bay following the shooting of Oct. 1, 2017.

A previous version of the Las Vegas Skyline Lego set (referred to as “Lego Architecture 21047 Las Vegas” by Lego aficionados) featured the Mandalay Bay as part of the skyline, but the set was redesigned to avoid sensitivities around the shooting.

Mandalay Bay has been replaced by Bellagio.

Lego Las Vegas set

If you thought stepping on a Lego was painful before, try stepping on the Stratosphere.

It’s worth noting the Bellagio is assembled using something Lego nerds call the SNOT technique. You might think that’s something we made up, but it’s SNOT.

We’ll wait.

SNOT stands for “Studs Not On Top.” And we are, apparently, 12.

The Las Vegas Lego set is expected to sell for about $40, with nearly 500 pieces.

The Las Vegas Lego set features the “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas” sign, Luxor, Wynn, Stratosphere and Fremont Street Experience.

Lego Architecture Las Vegas

In our day job, we work at Fremont Street Experience, and we personally helped write a portion of the booklet that accompanies the set. Please, no autographs.

Images of the new Las Vegas Lego were shared by Brothers-Brick.com. Find a review of the new set at BrickArchitect.com. It got a “good” rating (three out of five). Ouch.

The set definitely would be better received if it included a miniature strip club. Just saying.

Here’s a look at the initial version of the set.

Lego Las Vegas architecture

Mandalay Bay and Bellagio are owned by the same company, MGM Resorts, so it’s a wash.

The replacement of Mandalay Bay for Bellagio is understandable, but the set feels out of whack. Presumably, rejiggering the design to put the hotels in their real-life order would’ve been too troublesome or expensive.

You can bet there was a heated debate at Lego about whether to replace Wynn Las Vegas following revelations about its former CEO, Steve Wynn. Making toys is a lot more complicated than you’d think.

The Las Vegas Skyline Lego set will be available in the U.S. on Sep. 1, 2018, and we’ll probably be among the first to buy it.

Because Las Vegas.

Shinya Maru Ramen & Izakaya Opens on Fremont East

A new Asian restaurant has opened on Fremont East, Shinya Maru Ramen & Izakaya, and we fully know what one of those words means.

Ramen.

Because we went to college. Not that you’d know it from our writing, of course.

Shinya Las Vegas

Hard seats, one demerit. Bar seating for solo diners, bonus points.

Shinya is located in the Emergency Arts Building, just around the corner from another new dining option, Eureka.

Shinya is just off Fremont Street, facing El Cortez.

Shinya Las Vegas

This location is easy to miss. The murals, not so much.

“Shinya,” it seems, can mean either “truthful one” or “late at night.”

We would’ve asked the owners which definition applies, but we were too busy stuffing our face with the amazing potstickers.

Shinya Las Vegas

It’s possible these are named “I’ve Been Waiting for a Gyoza Like You.” We were drinking.

Yes, we know potstickers are Chinese and gyoza are Japanese. We were not born yesterday. We also have the Internet.

Shinya’s menu is teeming with cleverly-named appetizers (“Izakaya”) inspired by song titles and bands, from “I Slaw Her Standing There” and “Sgt. Shishito Peppers” to “Belly Jean Slider” and “Poutine on a Show.”

There’s also a Yakitori menu if you like your food simple and served on sticks.

Shinya menu

While we strive to avoid learning things, we now know what Izakaya means.

While ramen is a bit of a tough sell on a 110-degree day, we weren’t going to visit a ramen restaurant without trying it, despite the fact we aren’t particularly a hot liquid person.

We’re pleased to report that the ramen is top-notch, and the fried chicken in our “Let’s Get Physical” fried chicken ramen could could go toe-to-toe with some of the best fried chicken in town.

Shinya Las Vegas ramen

One test of a good restaurant is whether they make you like things you don’t usually eat. Shinya qualifies.

Here’s the rest of the Shinya ramen menu.

Shinya Las Vegas ramen menu

“Ramen” is a Japanese word that comes from two Chinese words meaning “to pull” and “noodles.” Which reminds us to make an appointment for a massage.

Shinya has a full bar, of course, because in Las Vegas it’s the law.

Shinya Las Vegas bar

“Maru” means “circle” in Japanese. Which is what we do when we enter a restaurant with a bar.

The signature cocktail menu only has five options, but they cover a lot of ground. Cocktails include berry sangria, Caribbean sangria, mojito (strawberry, peach and mango), Mai Tai and
margarita.

Shinya cocktail menu

Bonus: All the signature cocktails are less than six bucks.

There are also non-alcoholic beverages, although if you order something on this side of the menu, you’re doing Vegas wrong.

Shinya cocktail menu

You’re not boring, you’re just alternatively interesting.

Desserts come in the form of macaron ice cream. They’re kept in a freezer just inside the entrance so they’ll be on your mind the whole time you’re dining. At just $3.50 a pop, we’ll be back to try all five flavors.

Shinya macaron ice cream

This may require some late night raiding.

The hours at Shinya are all over the place, so keep this blog post handy at all times if you expect to crave Ramen for some reason.

Shinya is open from 11:00 a.m. to midnight, Sunday through Wednesday, and open until 2:00 a.m. Thursday and Friday. Saturdays, it’s 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 a.m. There will be a quiz.

Shinya Fremont Street

Just to keep you on your toes.

We love new things, and Shinya Maru Ramen & Izakaya is a new downtown Las Vegas dining option well worth a “maru.”

If you hadn’t skimmed, you’d know what “maru” means. It wouldn’t make sense in that sentence, but you’d know what it means. Let that be a lesson to you.