MORE VEGAS INFO
VEGAS4VISITORS.COM WEEKLY COLUMN BY RICK GARMAN
March 10, 2014
Palms Offering 24 Hour Checkout
After years of Vegas hotels doing things that make it more difficult and more costly for you to stay there, a move last week by The Palms to make things easier is almost shocking. The hotel has instituted a new 24 hour checkout policy, meaning you get to stay in the hotel for 24 hours from whatever time you checked in. That's right... now when you book a day at The Palms you get an actual, full day.
Most hotels have check out times of 11am or noon, a policy that requires many people to be up and out of their rooms sometimes hours before they actually want to leave Las Vegas. That check out time has always been regardless of when you checked in, so for instance if you sat in traffic from Los Angeles on a Friday to come to Vegas for the weekend and didn't get there until 10 o'clock at night, you still have to be out by 11 o'clock on Sunday. That means you're paying for two full days but only getting about a day and a half.
In the scenario above at The Palms, now you'll have until 10pm on Sunday to vacate your room.
There is no additional charge for the 24 hour checkout but you do need to book the hotel room via The Palms website. Rooms booked over the phone or through a third party reseller like Travelocity will not get the same consideration. The only other limitation than that is that 11pm is the latest checkout time available, so if you come in at midnight, you'll only get 23 hours.
I love this idea and hope that it catches on around Las Vegas.
The Quad to Get a Room Makeover
When Caesars Entertainment announced plans to revamp the aging Imperial Palace into a more modern hotel named The Quad, the one piece the specifically left off the list of things that would get redone were the rooms. Critics, like myself, rolled our collective eyes since that was the part that needed the most attention. The accommodations here had reached the point that I could only recommend them if you absolutely had to stay on The Strip and absolutely couldn't afford something better.
Now that the bulk of the public areas have been completed and The Quad is mostly open for business, the rooms are finally going to get the makeover they have needed for a long time. Caesars is going to throw more than $200 million at finishing off the remodeling of the hotel and the project goes beyond just the bedspreads.
That's where they will start, with several of the room towers expected to close within the next couple of months so they can do full rehabs on the rooms. Word on the street is that it will be a major makeover, stripping the rooms down to the bare concrete and redoing everything including the bathroom fixtures. Expect new carpet, decor, furnishings, and technology. The new digs should start coming online later this year.
The exterior of the hotel will continue to get revamped, with the remaining Imperial Palace era Asian touches going away; the pool and spa will get a complete overhaul; and new restaurants and bars will be added including the long-awaited Guy Fieri eatery, which is going into the space facing Harrah's Carnaval Court.
If you haven't been inside The Quad since the changes have been instituted, it's worth a visit. The new look is a huge improvement over the old with modern appointments and a sleek look and feel. Since they are still working on it - big chunks are still walled or draped off while they make changes - it has a bit of a disjointed feeling, made more complicated by the fact that they are working within the footprint of the old, rambling casino. But overall it has a much better vibe than it used to. The addition of The Linq next door between this hotel and The Flamingo has helped breathe new life into the joint as well.
No renderings yet on what the new Quad rooms will look like but as soon as I get them I'll share.
One Night For One Drop Set for March 21
For the second year in row Cirque du Soleil is shutting down all of its Vegas shows for one night to bring performers from them together for a good cause.
One Night for One Drop will be held March 21 at the Michael Jackson ONE Theatre at Mandalay Bay and will feature artists from all of the Cirque shows around Vegas including O, Mystère, KÀ, Love, Michael Jackson ONE, Believe, Zumanity, and Zarkana. The production will not be simply bits and pieces from those shows. Instead it will be a brand new show, performed only once. The evening will feature special guests including the award-winning vocal group The Tenors, violinist and YouTube sensation Lindsey Stirling, "America's Best Dance Crew" Season 6 Champions IaMmE Crew, and award-winning spoken word artist IN-Q.
One Night for One Drop is a joint effort between Cirque du Soleil and MGM Resorts International, which includes Mandalay Bay among its resorts, with proceeds supporting One Drop's worldwide safe water access and education programs. A portion of the proceeds raised this night will also go to the Las Vegas Springs Preserve and its ongoing effort to support water conservation and sustainable living in the Las Vegas Valley.
"In 2014, there are still at least 780 million people around the world who do not have access to a safe and steady water supply," said Cirque du Soleil and One Drop founder Guy Laliberté. "It is one of our planet's most urgent problems, but there are sustainable solutions to be had if we focus our efforts and our resources.:
VIP ticket holders will be invited to attend an exclusive after-party at Moorea Beach Club. The celebration will be hosted by New York Times best-selling author and "Chelsea Lately" comedienne Heather McDonald with special guest performances by Mary Wilson of The Supremes, renowned "kissing" artist and painter Natalie Irish, piano sensation William Joseph, and contemporary rock band Blues Traveler, among others.
Individual, tax-deductible VIP tickets which include the after-party extravaganza are available for $1,800, with show-only tickets starting at $225. It is expected that an online version of the show will be available to view after the event for a donation to One Drop. More information is available at onedrop.org/onenight or by calling 702-778-3772.
Vegas4Visitors Weekly Awards
The Booooooo Award of the Week goes to The Quad, Bally's, and The Flamingo, all of which have raised their nightly resort fee to $20, up from $15, $18, and $18 respectively. You don't get anything more for the increased fee, other than a few extra dollars taken out of your wallet.
The 7-10 Split Award of the Week goes to Brooklyn Bowl, the new entertainment venue now open at The Linq. The 80,000 square-foot venue is a sister to popular NYC and London outlets and features a restaurant, a bar, a bowling alley, and a performance space that will be hosting concerts from artists like The Roots, Elvis Costello, Cake, Jane's Addiction, Fishbone, and many other bands that could make this into one of the coolest live music spots in the city.
The Slip Sliding Away Award of the Week goes to Wet n'n Wild, which will be opening a new extreme water slide this Memorial Day. The Tornado is a four-person raft attraction that catapults riders from 36 feet in the air through a 110-foot tunnel before dropping them into the 45-foot-wide funnel where they spin back and forth through swirling water before plummeting into the eye of the storm. As the raft sweeps up the Tornado wall and crosses its centerline, guests experience weightlessness or zero gravity.
The Wacky Lawsuit Award of the Week goes to the California man who is suing the Downtown Grand hotel for allegedly getting him so blindingly drunk that he took out half a million bucks in casino credit and lost it all in the casino. The hotel is counter-suing, saying the guy is an idiot who just doesn't want to pay back all the money he lost. I'm paraphrasing, but that's really the crux of it.
The Mmmm Pancakes Award of the Week goes to Hash House a Go Go, which is having a celebrity charity pancake competition in March. Each of the main shows at The Rio, where the newest Hash House has opened, have created special pancakes including Penn & Teller's Penncakes & Teller, a soft and custardy honey-orange juice pancake with a yogurt tang, served with warm maple syrup and honey butter; Chippendales Mint Chocolate Chippendale, an original flapjack with mint chocolate chips, green M&Ms and sprinkles, served with warm maple syrup and butter; and X Rocks Rockstar, a rich and red flapjack topped with fresh whipped cream and edible sugar glitter, served with warm maple syrup and butter. $1 from each purchase goes to charities picked by the acts including Opportunity Village, the American Cancer Society, and Fight MSA. The special pancakes are available until March 31 at all Hash House locations.
Restaurant Review: Bobby's Burger Palace
The burger war rages on in Las Vegas with this, the latest front in the attack with no less than celebrity chef Bobby Flay leading the charge. If you don't know Flay from the Food Network, maybe you know his othere Vegas restaurant: the fantastic Mesa Grill at Caesars Palace. The question for the burget battle is whether or not Flay's burger joint it a valiant warrior or so much meaty cannon fodder? Definitely a warrior in my opinion.
At my count there are now more than 8,000 burgers joints on The Strip. I may be rounding up on that figure but pretty much every major hotel has at least one and many of them have recognizable names behind them like Gordon Ramsay (BurGR at Planet Hollywood) and Kerry Simon (KGB at Harrah's). Setting yourself apart from the crowd requires some original presentation and a high quality, both of which Bobby's has in spades.
Before I get to the food, it's probably important to talk about the location. The restaurant is on the ground floor of the Mandarin Oriental at CityCenter, facing The Strip. It is not accessible through the hotel or the adjacent Crystals mall. Instead, you have to enter from either the sidewalk on The Strip or off the main driveway for the Mandarin Oriental. Your best bet if you are walking north from Monte Carlo you'll go right by it. If you are walking South, cross the bridge over the Aria main driveway, turn left, and go down the escalators toward The Strip. If you are driving, it's probably best to park in the Aria parking garage and walk down to The Strip. I'm making it sound harder than it really is but it's not as easy as most, which are located in or adjacent to casino floors.
The room has high ceilings and big windows giving it a very airy feel. There are a handful of tables outside along The Strip while inside has a bunch of long communal tables, meaning you'll be sharing your eating space with total strangers most likely. That's okay - it's a good way to meet people.
The menu is mostly burgers, unsurprisingly, although you could be a rebel and get one of the handful of salads or sandwiches like a grilled cheese with five different kinds all melted together or the deluxe version of same with upscale inclusions such as brie and goat cheese thrown into the mix.
But burgers are the primary lure - hence the name - and here you get about a dozen options including a classic with American, lettuce, and tomato; a blue cheese variety; a spice crusted patty topped with coleslaw and BBQ sauce; the Philadelphia with onions and hot peppers; a Miami, which is basically a Cuban sandwich pressed with ham; one with avocado and watercress; and more. Any of them can be made with beef, turkey, or chicken.
Their signature is the Crunchburger, which puts potato chips atop the patties and American cheese.
We sampled a bunch of them and couldn't find a bum note in the group. The Crunchburger is a little odd at first but grows on you and the blue cheese burger is drenched in the stuff - a good thing in my opinion. The burgers themselves are thick, juicy, perfectly cooked, and seasoned "just so" to give them a nice, smoky flavor. I approve.
Sides include regular fries, sweet potato fries, and some fantastic, thick-cut onion rings.
And don't forget about the shakes. Hand scooped ice cream in a bunch of different flavors with whipped cream and even booze of various types if you want.
Prices are about typical for a burger joint on The Strip, which is to say more than McDonald's but less than most lunch buffets. Figure around $10 for the burger, another few bucks for sides, and shakes all under the $10 mark unless you get one with alcohol. You can easily do this for under $20 including tax and tip.
Service is usually limited to your interaction with the staff at the counter where you place your order but everyone we met was friendly and more than willing to help.
So how does it stack up in the burger war? Although I really enjoyed it, I still have to tip my hat to KGB for the best burgers in town. I'd put Bobby's in a tie for second place alongside Gordon Ramsay's BurGR.
Resturant Review: The Commissary
The original concept for this place is that it would be a food court serving up different cuisines but with one central cashier for all of them. What it became is similar but with a more unified menu that focuses on Latin dishes with a few burgers and salads thrown in for good measure.
Located at the base of the north tower of The Downtown Grand, the room is fantastic; a fun, cozy space with an eclectic vibe - like the whole thing was furnished with finds at a thrift store (albeit a really nice one). A wall of windows faces a sidewalk patio, which will be lovely on nice weather days. There are several ordering counters for different parts of the menu and the staff brings your food to wherever you have chosen to sit.
Check out the tortas first - especially the Cubano with ham, pork carnitas, and Swiss cheese. It's one of the best sandwiches in town as far as I'm concerned. The straight up carnitas with pickled red onion is great as well as is the more tame, but still delicious "Pepito," done with carne asada and chipotle mayo.
Their big draws are the rotisserie chicken and the Latin smoked brisket, both of which are served in single portions or in larger family style sizes. The chicken is moist and perfectly seasoned, with just a hint of spice keeping it from being just another chicken. The brisket is a fiery delight and would be great in the larger sizes to share with a group around the table.
If you'd prefer you can make your own tacos, burritos, and bowls with a choice of tortillas, beans and rice, toppings, salsas, and meat - either the chicken or the brisket.
They also have huge, juicy burgers (beef, turkey, or portabello) that you can do old-fashioned with cheese and bacon or can be Latin-ized with a variety of options like pickled jalapenos, habenero salsa, guacamole, and more. Hot dogs (including bacon wrapped) and a few salads round out the menu.
The prices are almost shockingly cheap. The burgers start at $5 and max out at $9, tortas $8-$13, salads all under $10, and tacos, bowls, and burritos also all under $10. The only time this gets pricey is if you get the larger portions of chicken or brisket but even the biggest sizes max out at around $20 and they will feed a small army.
Be sure to save room for the milkshakes made from real gelato and, if you need something stronger, mosey on over to the full bar, which features a variety of mixers made from scratch.
This is now one of my favorite eating spots in Downtown Las Vegas. Heck - it's one of my favorites in the entire city.