MORE VEGAS INFO
VEGAS4VISITORS.COM WEEKLY COLUMN BY RICK GARMAN
November 3, 2014
The Countdown: Top 10 Vegas News Stories of the Week
10. South Point Bowling Expansion opens
The South Point hotel already had 64 lanes of bowling and an equestrian center but apparently that wasn't enough because their new bowling/equestrian events pavilion opened last weekend. The two story facility features an indoor pavilion on the first floor for equestrian events to supplement their big arena and has the bowling alley on the second floor for tournaments. It has 60 lanes and all of the latest high-tech score keeping stuff plus some fancy touches like a 167-foot-long video wall. Read more about South Point.
9. Broadway Style Show Heading to Vegas
Casino mogul Steve Wynn has always considered himself a bit of a showman with a flair for spectacle - just look at his hotels - so it should be no surprise that he has written and is staging a new musical called "Showstoppers" that will debut this December at Wynn Las Vegas. The production will feature more than 2 dozen dancers, a 30-piece orchestra, singers, and more doing some of the biggest hits from Broadway (and more) put together in one show with a story that links them all together. It is set to start in previews in December and then open for a permanent run in January. Read more about Wynn Las Vegas.
8. Gordon Ramsay's Millionth Burger
Fiery Chef Gordon Ramsay surprised New Orleans resident Dana Jeandron by hand delivering a very special burger to her table at his Gordon Ramsay Burgr restaurant at Planet Hollywood Tuesday. It was the 1 millionth burger the eatery had served since it opened last year and they made it a "golden" burger with fontina cheese, raclette cheese, goat cheese, truffle aioli, seared foie gras, roasted chanterelle mushrooms and shaved fresh white truffles. Jeandron also got a two-night stay at Planet Hollywood, gift certificates to all of Ramsay's Vegas restaurants, an opportunity to tour "Hell's Kitchen" in Los Angeles, and more, while everyone in the restaurant at the time got free champagne. Read my review of Gordon Ramsay Burgr.
7. Celine Definitely Coming Back to Vegas
Celine Dion shook up the Las Vegas entertainment scene back in August when she announced that she was cancelling all of her upcoming shows at Caesars Palace and all of her appearances worldwide so she could focus on helping her husband fight cancer. Lots of folks are breathing easier (for a lot of reasons) now that Dion, in a recent interview, has said she is definitely going to be coming back to her residency at Caesars, she just hasn't decided when. Her husband is reportedly doing better but don't expect to see new Celine concerts until sometime next year.
6. Mob Museum Launches "Mobcast"
Fans of the Mob Museum have a new way of accessing the history of organized crime through the new Mobcast, a series of YouTube videos featuring historians, authors, veterans of law enforcement agencies and others. The first video debuted last week featuring former Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman, who was a lawyer for various high-profile mob figures in the 1970s, and others who discuss Nevada's 150th anniversary and the impact of the mafia on the development of the state. The museum is planning on doing two videos per month moving forward on a variety of topics. Visit the Mob Museum's YouTube page to follow along and read more about the Mob Museum on Vegas4Visitors.com.
5. Uber Update
After a week of drama involving ski-masked enforcement agents seizing vehicles and threats of lawsuits, the ride-sharing app Uber got the go ahead from a judge to continue to operate in Las Vegas last week, but it may not help the drivers. The judge said the Nevada Taxi Authority can continue to cite vehicles they say are violating the law by acting as what they call unlicensed cabs. The service is not available for pickup on The Strip or at the airport, only for drop off to those areas for now. Another hearing is scheduled for November 16 on the matter and I still say wait until after the legal drama is sorted out before you take an Uber ride in Vegas. Read more about the Uber War in last week's column.
4. Airport Runway Rebuild Make Cause Travel Delays
Las Vegas has one of the nation's longest runways and it is about to get a $67 million makeover, ripping up the asphalt and replacing it with sturdier concrete. The airport has three other runways to absorb the traffic but it could still mean some delays at peak times and during inclement weather. The project is expected to take at least a year. Read more about traveling through McCarran International Airport.
3. AT&T Offering Free Wi-Fi on The Strip
Just about everyone is paying resort fees these days that include Wi-Fi service at the major hotels on The Strip, but if you want to avoid using it just for the principle of the matter you now have an option, providing you are an AT&T customer. The company is offering free Wi-Fi for all of its customers on The Strip from Tropicana Avenue (where the MGM Grand and New York-New York are located) to Sands Avenue (where Treasure Island and Palazzo are at). More than 60 access spots have been installed along the two-mile stretch of road and accessing it will not count against your data allotment.
2. Ice in the Desert?
When MGM Resorts announced plans to build a $350 million sports arena behind Monte Carlo and New York-New York one of the big questions was, um, "what sports?" Las Vegas doesn't have an pro teams in any major sport, mostly because the big leagues are afraid of being associated with gambling. But now there are reports that the company is in early negotiations with the National Hockey League to bring a team to arena when it opens in 2016. There's a long skate ahead to make it a reality but MGM Resorts seems intent on seeing it through. Read more about the development that will include the new arena.
1. Strippers are Employees, Too!
At least that's what the Nevada Supreme Court has said in a ruling against Sapphire Gentlemen's Club last week. A class-action lawsuit from an estimated 6,500 dancers against the club has been winding its way through the courts for years in which the strippers who worked at the club said they should be considered employees and not independent contractors and therefore owed minimum wage salaries. The decision could cost the club millions of dollars in back pay. Read more about Sapphire Gentlemen's Club.
Linq Hotel Debuts
For years, this hotel operated as The Imperial Palace, a stalwart, if not particularly nice, hotel/casino that catered to budget minded travelers. Then, a couple of years ago, they started remodeling the place, giving it a whole new look and feel in the public areas including a completely revamped casino, new restaurants, bars, and more. That new look came with a new name: The Quad. Nobody knows why.
Now, the hotel has gotten even more remodeling and yet another new name, becoming The Linq Hotel & Casino in deference to the neighboring shopping plaza of the same name. In fact, it is all considered one big thing now - The Linq is the hotel, the casino, the shopping and entertainment plaza and the giant High Roller observation wheel out back.
Almost all of the public areas of the hotel received an extreme makeover designed to remove all traces of the IP's worn Asian theme with something lighter, brighter, and more modern. The exterior has gotten an eye-searing multi-hued paint job that is capped off by a light feature at the front that appears to spin and twirl like a vortex (which is what the thing is called) but rest assured that the inside is much more subdued than that.
The porte cochere was relocated to the north side of the building facing Harrah's, which means you can't enter from Las Vegas Boulevard anymore - you have to drive in through the rear of the property. That may be a bit of an inconvenience for those who aren't familiar with the back ways to get around town. It is done with sleek metal and multi-colored lights giving the first hint of the contemporary digs inside.
The lobby was relocated and expanded, with a new lobby bar and gaming area adjacent. It features a smaller copy of the exterior vortex light feature and a few gaming tables, all done in a the same blue, purple, gold, and green hues that look, um, "interesting" on the outside of the building. It's a nice enough looking space but perhaps one of the best features of it is that there are electrical outlets and USB charging stations at almost every seat, making it a great place to grab a drink and take care of the drained battery on your phone at the same time.
The casino was fully revamped as well. The new look is all muted earth tones and modern furnishings with a bigger footprint owing to an expansion into the space that used to be neighboring O'Shea's and out to The Strip where the main driveway and Rockhouse nightclub used to be. It's a billion times nicer than the old IP but kind of bland. They have plenty of table games and more than enough of the latest slots, although it's important to note that most of them are of the penny and nickel variety. Dollar and above denominations are hard to find here.
There are several other casino bars and a new version of the O'Shea's, complete with its own gaming tables, cheap drinks, and their traditional "leprechaun mayor."
The food lineup changed with almost every old restaurant thrown own in favor of new ones, led by an insanely popular restaurant from an insanely popular Food Channel star in the form of Guy Fieri's Vegas Kitchen. Good news - fabulous Hash House a Go Go is staying put and is reason enough to visit the place right there. Amazing news - now you can get Hash House delivered as room service in the mornings! Dinner can be ordered from any of the restaurants in the shopping promenade including Brooklyn Bowl.
The pool area is getting completely redone to add a second pool and multiple levels with cabanas that lead into full hotel rooms. That should be done in time for the pool season in 2015.
Some portions of the hotel have not been touched yet and it is unclear if they will. For instance the main showroom and the public areas near it are just as old school as they used to be. The good news there is that the hotel still features relatively affordable productions including the terrific comic juggling form Jeff Civillico, the gender bending female impersonator show Divas Las Vegas, and the really loud (but still fun) Recycled Percussion.
The classic cars on display at the Auto Collections are still chugging along.
But of course the most important part of the remodel is the rooms and they have gotten a similar extreme makeover. The first place where you can see the difference is as soon as you step off the elevators. These areas used to be almost utilitarian, with exposed concrete walls and tile floors. Now they have nice wood walls, carpeting, paint, and lighting that immediately create a much nicer impression.
The rooms themselves are all sleek and modern, with wild iconic Vegas inspired murals, contemporary (albeit simple) furnishings, and interesting, almost whimsical touches throughout. For instance, the Do Not Disturb signs say "Yep" and "Nope" and you can even order up classic board games like Yahtzee or Jenga or Twister just in case the games in the casino downstairs aren't doing it for you.
Although roughly nine billion times nicer than the old rooms, there are still a few downsides when comparing them with newer, nicer resorts. They are smaller and darker to start and the old-school wall-mounted air conditioner reveals its 1970s origins. It's also a bit of a bummer that they got rid of the balconies but I'd trade the outside experience any day for the nicer digs inside.
Bathrooms were completely revamped as well with new fixtures, marble tile, and rainfall showers. They aren't very big but a sliding pocket door improves the space issue a little bit.
Of course, all of this updating means that the prices will be updating as well. The IP and Quad era rooms may not have been much to talk about but they were darned cheap - you could get them for as low as $29 a night. The pricing on the new ones are higher than that but still relatively affordable compared to other nearby Vegas accommodations. I'm seeing rates as low as $64 during the week and you'll rarely pay more than $100. While you can find rates a low as $80 on certain weekends, double and even triple those prices is not uncommon. And that's before they tack on the mandatory $20 per night resort fee.
So do all of the changes make the higher prices worth it? I'll have a full review of the hotel soon.
Restaurant Review: Carson Kitchen
Chef Kerry Simon has been a fixture in Las Vegas since 2002, first with his eponymous restaurant at The Palms and then later with his fantastic burger joint KGB at Harrah's. Now he is striking out where few celebrity chefs have dared to tread: Downtown Las Vegas.
Carson Kitchen is located in the former John E Carson motel building, which was revamped in 2014 to contain a bunch of small businesses in the former motel room spaces. Although the address is 6th Street, the restaurant actually faces Carson Avenue and there isn't much in the way of signage so forgive yourself if you can't find it immediately.
Inside you'll find a warm space that feels like how a hipster would do a club room - exposed concrete and ceiling joists with brick, wood, and substantial furnishings in between. There are only a handful of tables (some of which are communal so you may be eating with strangers but maybe they'll let you share what's on their plate), a bar, and an open kitchen. You can get maybe four dozen people in there if you try really hard.
There is also a full patio on the roof that offers full food service and a full bar where a similar amount of people as downstairs can sit.
The menu doesn't have an overarching theme - it feels a little pub grub, a little foodie indulgent, and a lot farm-to-table fresh. Start with the social plates with things like bacon jam with baked brie on a toasted baguette or a Beef Wellington empanada with tenderloin and duxelle. We sampled a bunch of things from this section of the menu including the "Devil's" Eggs - hard boiled with pancetta and caviar; the veal meatballs with a sherry foie gras cream; and the gyro tacos, with lamb, tzatziki sauce, and diced cucumber and tomato in a soft taco tortilla. The latter was amazing and took me back immediately to my vacation in Greece a million years ago, with an insanely flavorful punch. The only disappointment we had from here was the crispy chicken skins, which were a little too heavily breaded and crunchy for my tastes. Kudos on the smoked honey dipping sauce, though.
Sandwiches include a burger, a fried green tomato with crab, a jerk turkey burger with mango chutney slaw, and short rib sliders. We tried the latter and they were fantastic, both sweet and tangy with a root beer glaze and topped with crispy onion straws.
Farm and garden selections including some veggies along with a couple of pasta and risotta dishes. We sampled the tomato stack, made with goat cheese and a balsamic reduction that was hard to deconstruct but delicious to eat, and the baked mac and chees, which is a secret chef family recipe that even our server has tried to get and failed. It was creamy perfection so I don't blame her for asking.
A couple of flat breads plus some larger entrees like swordfish, chicken, and a cocoa and espresso rubbed NY strip steak round out the offerings. We were so stuffed from all of the small plate things that we just didn't have room for any of that - we'll sample those the next time around, and there will be a next time.
Of course you have to leave room for dessert. The bourbon fudge brownie with brown butter bacon ice cream was just as decadent as it sounds and the glazed donut bread pudding with rum caramel and vanilla creme was so rich it almost defied belief. Both were things you're going to want seconds of.
Prices a bit deceptive - at first glance they seem almost insanely cheap. There is nothing on the menu over $18 and most items hover in the $8-$12 range. But remember that since many of these are meant to be shared, small plates you'll need to order a couple per person to get a full meal. While this may make the final check a little higher than you may be used to paying at a Downtown Las Vegas restaurant, it is still probably half of what you'd pay for a similar meal on The Strip so stop your complaining.
The service was great - the people helping us at our table were friendly, fun, and energetic and it wasn't just because I was there to review the restaurant.
I was already a fan of Chef Simon for serving up what I think are the best burgers in Vegas at KGB but now I'm an even bigger fan for this fantastic outpost of culinary excitement in Downtown Las Vegas.
Downtown Las Vegas
124 S. Sixth St., Suite 100
Las Vegas, NV 89101
Vegas4Visitors Grade: A
Rock in Rio Streets Unveiled; New Acts Added
The Rock in Rio music festival heading to Vegas in May of 2015 is shaping up to be a massive event for the city. Last week several additional acts were announced and organizers unveiled the details of the festival grounds that are expected to host upwards of 300,000 people.
Bruno Mars, Ed Sheeran, and Joss Stone have been added to the lineup joining the previously announced No Doubt, Taylor Swift, John Legend, and Metallica. This is not the end of the announcements - the Rock in Rio concerts in other countries usually have dozens of big name acts so you can expect some more big names to be added in the coming months.
The event will be staged in a new festival facility called City of Rock being constructed on the corner of The Strip and Sahara Avenue, across the street from the SLS Las Vegas (formerly The Sahara). Created through a partnership between MGM Resorts, Cirque du Soleil, and the Rock in Rio festival, the ground will cover more than 37 acres with multiple stages, a Ferris Wheel, and a zip line that will allow riders to soar above the crowds in front of the main stage.
The whole thing will be connected by a series of themed street scenes with "houses" filled with shops, restaurants, and small stages.
Rock Street USA will have a New Orleans theme featuring street-side cafes, an all-American diner, jazz bands, dance crews, and more; Rock Street UK will celebrate London and Ireland with traditional pubs, Irish bagpipers, Beatles and Rolling Stones tribute bands, and even a Buckingham Palace guard; and Rock Street Brazil will have Samba music, Brazilian street food, Latin ballroom dancing, and more.
A special VIP area will be able to hold up to 4,000 people and will include air conditioning and a buffet.
The one thing the festival ground will NOT have is parking. Fest guests will be bused in from parking lots at other MGM Resorts on The Strip. Almost everyone except the festival organizer believes that will probably wind up being a disaster but maybe they'll be able to pull it off.
The Rock in Rio festival will take place across two weekends. May 8-9 will have a rock music focus with the concerts from No Doubt, Metallica, Linkin Park, and Deftones while May 15-16 will be more pop influenced with sets by Taylor Swift, Ed Sheeran, Bruno Mars, John Legend, and Joss Stone.
General admission tickets will cost $300 per weekend while VIP will cost $500 per day(!!). They are not on sale yet but you can fill out a form to be notified when they are on the event's website at rockinrio.com.
Mob Museum to Host Annual Repeal Day Party
December 5th, 1933 is an important date for all of you fans of the drink out there - it's the day the United States officially repealed Prohibition. Now known as Repeal Day, it's a handy excuse to party a little harder especially in Vegas where the Mob Museum and various Downtown properties are trying to be the most "spirited" place in nation to celebrating the anniversary.
Mayor Carolyn G. Goodman and former Mayor Oscar B. Goodman will host the at the Museum's Repeal Day Party, where guests are encouraged to don their finest Prohibition-era attire while they imbibe craft cocktails from some of the city's best mixologists, play casino table games, and enjoy live entertainment by cabaret dancers and a Jazz swing band.
A public toast by Oscar Goodman commemorating the anniversary of Repeal Day will take place at 7 p.m. and anyone who wants to join gets a souvenir shot glass.
But the fun doesn't stop there. The Second Annual Boss of the Bars Cocktail Competition will take place during the Museum's Repeal Day festivities. Open to all Downtown area boozeries, the winning bar will receive the custom-designed Repeal Day Cup to display on their premises until next year's competition, taking it from last year's winner Oscar's Steakhouse. Competitors will craft Prohibition-era-inspired cocktails for a panel of judges.
There will also be a Roaring 20s Costume Contest with gift baskets and show tickets as prizes.
Tickets for the event, which runs from 7 p.m. to midnight, are $40 and include Museum access, Boss of the Bars Competition, food, cigars for purchase, casino table games, entry into the costume contest, and entertainment. VIP Party tickets are $60 and include all aspects of the Repeal Day Party, as well as early access (at 6 p.m.), a commemorative Repeal Day flask, two free drink tickets, and 1920s dance lessons.
The Downtown Grand Hotel & Casino is offering a Repeal Day Hotel Package for Friday, December 5, including one deluxe room night for two, two general admission tickets to Repeal Day 2014 at The Mob Museum, two signature cocktails and, the next day, two soothing bowls of Hangover Oxtail Soup - made from a tried-and-true traditional hangover-curing recipe - at S+O restaurant. To allow guests to sleep their revelry off the next morning, the package also includes a 2 p.m. checkout. The price of the package is $189 for a Deluxe Room with two general admission tickets and $249 for a Premium Room and two VIP tickets.
For more information and to make reservations for The Mob Museum's Repeal Day events, visit the museum's event page or call 702-229-2734.