Category Archives: Las Vegas

Golden Gate’s New High Limit Room Boasts Historic Surprises

Golden Gate has unveiled its new high limit room and guests can expect several surprises that highlight the casino’s colorful past.

Golden Gate high limit room

Same number of blackjack tables as before (three), but quite a bit more elbow room.

While the previous high limit room had only table games, now it boasts high limit slots as well. Note: Downtown, “high limit” is relative. Several of the slots are $1 machines.

The new high limit room (specifically, the slot machine area) integrates space previously devoted to the casino’s cashier cage. The cage has been relocated closer to the hotel’s registration desk.

But the games aren’t necessarily the most interesting aspect of Golden Gate’s new high limit room. That distinction belongs to several hidden gems guests are invited to discover during their visit.

For starters, there’s an unmarked door with an inconspicuous knob which serves as a sort of portal back in time.

Spoiler alert!

Golden Gate high limit room

Coincidentally, Inconspicuous Knobs was the name of our band in high school.

Behind the door is a section of the original brickwork of the Hotel Nevada, predecessor of the Golden Gate.

Hotel Nevada opened in 1906. The address: 1 Fremont Street.

Golden Gate high limit room

When it was built, Hotel Nevada was the only concrete hotel in southern Nevada.

Another charming surprise awaits nearby, tucked away in a hidden corner of the high limit room.

There’s an eye-catching photo op, a floor-to-ceiling “flapper,” but that’s not the surprise.

Golden Gate flapper

Fun fact: When the hotel opened, rooms cost $1 per day.

Next to the flapper, make sure to check out a fountain from the earliest days of the hotel.

It’s estimated the fountain was added in 1909.

Golden Gate fountain

It took hundreds of hours to painstakingly put these ceramic tiles into place. Then again, what the hell else did they have to do in 1909?

It’s unknown if the fountain was used for drinking, or if it was merely decorative, but it’s an utterly unique Las Vegas curiosity.

As you explore the Golden Gate’s high limit room, take special note of the archways.

Golden Gate arches

Arches utilize rigid, curved members to support loads. Architecture is hot.

The archways, too, are a nod to the casino’s history. Work crews realized early on the arches were an integral part of the building’s structural integrity.

Here’s a behind-the-scenes look at two of the arches before the build-out.

Golden Gate arches

“Best Las Vegas Blog” awards don’t just magically happen, you know. Things must be breached.

The arches inspired the design of the doorways—practically and aesthetically—between the table games area and slot machine area.

Golden Gate high limit room

If you’re a dude, you have to love dark wood. It’s the law.

Golden Gate’s new high limit room won us over immediately, not only because of its clever throwbacks, but because some of our favorite old-school Top Dollar reel slots were relocated from the main casino floor.

Hint: Never take the first offer!

Golden Gate high limit

You know where to find us.

The high limit room’s dark wood is very appealing, and the space manages to feel private while providing “windows” into the lively casino.

We especially like this framed window that looks out into the dice pit.

Golden Gate high limit room

You can call it “craps,” but the cool kids call it “dice.”

Another benefit of the new high limit room is it’s a good 30 decibels quieter than the main casino.

There are more surprises to come at Golden Gate.

The casino recently expanded into the former La Bayou casino, and another expansion took up the space previously occupied by Du-Par’s restaurant.

Next on the agenda at Golden Gate is a new sports book.

The casino is making the most of its tiny footprint, and remains one of our favorite places to play (and drink) in downtown Las Vegas.

Kudos to the Golden Gate for finding a way to provide shiny new things while giving a hat tip to history.

Golden Gate High Limit Room

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Block 16 Urban Food Hall Comes to Cosmopolitan

Cosmopolitan is ready to unveil its new Block 16 Urban Food Hall on Aug. 31, 2018, but we couldn’t wait.

It’s not the first time we’ve been premature, trust us.

The Cosmo was kind enough to pull down its construction curtains early so we could get our first look at this new batch of six distinctive restaurants.

Block 16 Food Hall

Some security breaches are easier than others.

Each of the six restaurants at the new Cosmo food court is an import, as far as we can tell, and each has a unique story we don’t have the energy to research. Thanks, YouTube!

First up is District, described as a “cult favorite” from New Orleans. District has doughnuts, sliders and brews. Hard to go wrong there.

Block 16 Food Hall

District says they use “real food made with integrity.” We prefer massive amounts of sugar, but whatever.

District will also serve biscuit sandwiches and “kolache,” a sweet pastry “filled with a selection of sweet and savory ingredients.” A little vague, but we’re in.

Here’s an endearing video about District, which, sadly, only had 74 views when we wrote this story. Come on, show some love and watch the damned thing.

Next up is Hattie B’s Hot Chicken. This restaurant comes from Nashville. It’s all about the fried chicken as far as we can tell.

Block 16 Food Hall

Sorry we caught you without your sign, Hattie B’s. Welcome to Vegas!

Here’s the video for Hattie B’s. Please watch it. The video has 75 views, and somebody went to a lot of time and trouble to produce this thing. Make it worth their while.

Then, there’s Lardo.

The Cosmo Web site says Lardo has a “ruthlessly bold and flavorful approach,” which is dumb, but the food looks so good, we’re willing to overlook it.

Block 16 Food court

Don’t make eye contact. Don’t make eye contact. You made eye contact!

We sort of can’t wait to hang out with the Lardo guy because he seems like he’s been places.

Here’s the video. It has 65 views. Don’t embarrass us. Watch it.

There’s also Pok Pok Wing. Don’t roll your eyes until you know the whole story!

See, “pok pok” is the sound of a mortar hitting a pestle. Or possibly a pestle hitting a mortar. We can never keep those straight.

Block 16 Urban Food Hall

You’d be surprised how few Las Vegas restaurants use pestles.

Here’s the video for Pok Pok Wing, with 79 views.

Pok Pok Wing, which we’re pretty sure should be pluralized, is based in Portland and, man alive, we’re hungry.

You can’t tell much from a short video, but all these folks seem passionate about what they do which bodes well for Block 16.

Here’s a first look at Tekka Bar: Handroll & Sake.

Block 16 Urban Food Hall

Tekka has the best location of the bunch. No pressure, Tekka.

We couldn’t find a video for Tekka Bar, but assume it’s in the works.

We already like Tekka Bar because the name is taken from “tekka ba,” which translates as “old gambling place.”

Tekka Bar is poised to print money because it not only has handrolls, which we trust is a form of sushi, but also sake.

Last, there’s Ghost Donkey Mezcal & Tequila Bar. We’re a little concerned about Ghost Donkey because it was nowhere to be found at Block 16.

We also couldn’t find a video for Ghost Donkey.

We trust Ghost Donkey is just playing coy and wants to make a grand entrance.

The emphasis at Ghost Donkey appears to be beverages, but the words “Truffle Nachos” kind of jumped out at us.

Block 16 Urban Food Hall

Pace yourself.

We have never been all that excited by a food court before, but Block 16 Urban Food Hall seems like anything but a typical food court.

The universally hard chairs at all the Block 16 restaurants telegraph its grab-and-go sensibility, perfect for those seeking party fuel before a Vegas foray or a cure for their drunchies as the evening wears on.

A key element of the success of Block 16 will be the price points. It won’t be cheap, but here’s hoping the prices are reasonable while delivering a value.

The new Block 16 Urban Food Hall is located on the second floor of the Cosmo, just across from Holsteins and next to the Marquee nightclub.

It’s worth noting “Block 16” is a nod to the early days of Las Vegas. Block 16 was located in what is now downtown, on 1st Street between Ogden and Stewart. Block 16 was the only place that could legally sell liquor in Las Vegas, but also became known for its rampant prostitution. For whatever reason, that tidbit has been left out of Cosmo’s marketing for its new food hall.

Here’s an oddity to look for while you’re making your way to the new Cosmopolitan food court, just because it’s bad luck to write a story with only seven photos.

Cosmopolitan Tyrannosaurus rex skull

We got up close to this T-rex skull and we think it could be real. Then again, we are a blog, not a paleontologist.

Block 16 is set to add some welcome variety to the dining mix at Cosmopolitan and we can’t wait to give this eclectic sextet of dining and drinking venues a go.

And not just because we’re 12 and were looking for an excuse to use the word “sextet.”

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 is cancelled at Circus Circus and we’re your only source for behind-the-scenes scoop about the direful news.

Here’s the lowdown.

Fright Dome being canceled 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.

Before Fright Dome closed at Adventuredome, it 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 closing 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.