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VEGAS4VISITORS.COM WEEKLY COLUMN BY RICK GARMAN
December 15, 2014
The Countdown: Top 10 Vegas News Stories of the Week
10. Smashburger to Open New Caesars Food Court
The Cypress Street Marketplace at Caesars Palace was a favorite for many tourists, offering a different kind of food court experience - multiple types of cuisine with one check out and a common, upscale dining area. The details of the new food court have not been completely unveiled but we know that it will include at least a Smashburger, the locals' favorite making its debut on The Strip. That is set to open December 23 and hints that the new food court will be much more traditional than it used to be. I'll let you know as soon as I'm able to check it out. Read more about Caesars Palace.
9. ONJ to Stay through 2015
Olivia Newton-John has reportedly extended her residency contract with The Flamingo and will be continuing to perform at the hotel through at least September of 2015. New dates go on sale this Friday. That's good news for Vegas visitors - the greatest hits revue is a lot of fun and she sounds terrific. And I'm not just saying that because I had a huge crush on her when I was a teenager! Read the full review of Olivia-Newton John.
8. Robbery Suspect Shot, Killed at The Rio
A man suspected in a string of casino robberies over the last few weeks was shot and killed at The Rio last weekend. The incident occurred Sunday, December 7th just after 5am as police confronted 31-year-old Anthony Moore, inside the hotel near the guest elevators, just off the casino floor. Officers tried to take Moore into custody but a struggle ensued, the man reached toward the waistband of his pants for a gun, and he was shot. Nobody else was injured in the incident and the hotel resumed normal operations later in the day. Read more about The Rio.
7. Armed Standoff at MGM Grand Ends in Suicide
A man barricaded himself in his room at the MGM Grand threatening suicide, causing police to evacuate part of the hotel. It all happened in the early morning hours of Wednesday, December 10, when police received reports of a man with a gun who was threatening to kill himself. They evacuated nearby rooms, moving to guests to other parts of the hotel and tried for several hours to establish contact with the suspect. Police entered the room shortly after 8am and found 57-year-old Scott Allan Williams of Greenville, Texas dead of a gunshot. No one else was hurt in the incident. Read more about the MGM Grand.
6. Grand Bazaar Shops Opening Delayed
The new Grand Bazaar shops under construction outside of Bally's was supposed to be getting its big debut before the end of the year but it looks like February is more likely. The outdoor complex is designed to be a 21st century version of an outdoor marketplace and will have about 150 boutiques and eateries including Swatch, Havaianas, Swarovski, Sugar Factory, Uggs & Toms, Bettie Page, Rock & Religion, and more, plus a signature attraction called the Crystal Starburst - a Swarovski crystal ball that will descend at midnight every night along with an accompanying light show. And I swear I didn't write about this just so I could repeat the name Crystal Starburst, which I still consider to be the best stripper name ever. Read more about the Grand Bazaar Shops.
5. Mob Museum Gets New Exhibit Items From TV
New exhibit items have been added to the Mob Museum, all with connections to famed TV mobsters. The Nucky Thompson "Death Suit" is the suit actor Steve Buscemi was wearing when his mobster character was (SPOILER ALERT) gunned down in the series finale of HBO's Boardwalk Empire. A different kind of suit - a blue track variety - has also been added that was worn by actor Tony Sirico (aka Paulie "Walnuts") in The Sopranos. Both items are in the section of the museum that focuses on pop culture portrayals of the mafia. Read the full review of the Mob Museum.
4. Wynn Nightclub Staff Makes Record Toy Donation
The staff of XS and Tryst nightclubs at Wynn/Encore donated $195,468 in toys last week to the 16th Annual Chet Buchanan & The Morning Zoo Toy Drive. More than 300 staff members participated to make a record-breaking contribution of more than 12,500 toys, including 567 bikes along with much more, filling up a total of 12 semi-trucks. Raising funds through tips and personal contributions throughout the year, XS and Tryst staff members are consistently recognized as the largest donors to the Toy Drive. This year, the group raised the bar once again donating $4,770 more in toys than last year. Read the reviews of XS and Tryst.
3. New Year's Fireworks Hotels Set
Every New Year's Eve, Las Vegas has one of the biggest fireworks displays in the country set off from the roofs of various hotels up and down The Strip. The hotels for this year have been announced and include Aria Las Vegas, Caesars Palace, MGM Grand, Planet Hollywood, The Stratosphere, Treasure Island, and The Venetian. The fireworks start at just before midnight and run for about 10 minutes.
2. Wayne Newton Museum Back On?
Las Vegas Review Journal entertainment columnist John Katsilometes is reporting that machinations are afoot that will return Wayne Newton and his family to his beloved Casa De Shenandoah estate in Las Vegas and transform the property into a museum in his honor. Original plans to convert the estate into a mini-themepark, complete with a mansion tour, theater, and even a car wash, collapsed a few years ago into bankruptcy and lawsuits. Newton had to move out and the whole place was sold recently to a developer who said the estate would be demolished and the land subdivided into small home sites. If what Katsilometes is saying actually happens it'll be a remarkable turnaround but because of all the drama I'm going to have to place this one firmly in the "I'll believe it when I see it" file.
1. Hangover Experience to Open at Madame Tussaud's
In an excellent example of using content in context, Madame Tussaud's Las Vegas at The Venetian is going to debut a new room themed to the movie "The Hangover" on National Hangover Day, January 1, 2015. There will be a replica of the movie's trashed hotel suite, a wrecked police car, and a wedding chapel plus a new wax figure of the character Alan, as played by Zach Galifianakis, who will join the already existing Phil (Bradley Cooper). The exhibit opens to the public at 4pm on 1/1/15 and will be a permanent part of the attraction included in the regular ticket price. Read more about Madame Tussaud's Las Vegas.
Sweets Review: O Face Donuts
The extreme donut craze has been popular in various cities around the country for awhile now but it hasn't really caught on too well in Vegas yet. Perhaps it's because everything is so extreme that a blinged out donut just doesn't seem like that big of a deal. O Face could very well change all that with their wild creations that could make even the most jaded of Vegas visitors sit up and take notice.
Although their offerings aren't as crazy as the famed Psycho Donuts in San Jose, they are still much more than your typical glazed affair. Well, they have a glazed donut but it's a creme fraiche glaze so that kicks it up a notch. Their old fashioned, chocolate, and chocolate glazed are similarly upgraded with high quality ingredients and lots of them.
After that things start to get more crazy with options like apple bacon fritter, Mexican chocolate, key lime, lemon rosemary, peach with spicy pecan brittle, and more. I sampled the strawberry shortcake and the cereal donut, the latter of which will vary but was Cap'n Crunch on the day I visited. It had a few chunks of the cereal on top in a sugary glaze and then more of it turned into a filling in the center of the donut. Both were good although fell a little bit short of fantastic in my opinion. Perhaps it was because I hit the place when they had been sitting for awhile - I think they would've been better hot out of the oven but that's a general rule for donuts of any type.
They also have some savory options including a caprese with roasted tomato and mozzarella, Monte Cristo with ham and cheese, and a pizza with marinara and pepperoni. Yes, a pizza donut.
Several vegan options are available including apple pie, Almond Joy, and vanilla or chocolate glazed.
An extensive coffee lineup completes the short menu.
Prices are more than what you'd pay for a typical donut but not too crazy for the amount and quality, ranging from $1.25 up to $3.75 for the savory varieties.
The place is popular so there is often a line, which in combination with the coolly efficient staff put a little bit of pressure on the ordering process for newbies. Don't be afraid to take your time to look at all your options - screw the people waiting behind you.
Note that there are only a couple of seats inside the restaurant so it might be best to get yours to go. It's Vegas - you have better things to do than sit in a donut shop.
You'll find O Face on pretty much any "best donuts in Vegas" list and it is easy to understand why. Just try to get 'em while they are hot!
O Face Donuts
Downtown Las Vegas
124 S. Sixth St., Suite 140
Las Vegas, NV 89101
Vegas4Visitors Grade: B+
Sweets Review: Corner Cakes
Just in case you haven't been paying attention, I am a fan of desserts. Chocolate, cookies, candy, cakes, cupcakes, cheesecake... any kind of cake, really, but also pies, pastries, donuts... well, I could go on and on and I do whenever I can.
So I love it when people put sweet treats right in my way like the MGM Grand has done with Corner Cakes. It's a tiny slip of a place located on the hallway that runs from the casino near the lobby to the room elevator bays, so if you are leaving your room and heading toward the parking garage or valet you can't miss it. There's another location in the Street of Dreams shopping arcade at Monte Carlo that took over the old Cupcakery space.
The cakes they serve come in a bunch of different varieties including all manners of cupcakes but also individually sized traditional cakes like German chocolate, carrot, Black Forest, and the like. Jars of chocoloate and candy covered things (nuts, fruits, etc.) are available, too, but it's the baked goods that you should really pay attention to.
I have sampled several of their cupcakes on multiple occasions and keep coming away impressed. The cake is moist and the icing is sweet but not too sweet (if there is such a thing) and in a good ratio to one another (almost 50/50). My favorite so far has been the salted caramel, which has delicious ribbons of the stuff throughout.
I also love that they serve them in cups with a spoon, like you are getting a scoop of ice cream and don't want to deal with the cone mess. I also have to give them credit for being open 24 hours a day, so if you have a sweet tooth craving at 3am, you're covered.
Prices are on the high side. Figure around $4 for a cupcake and couple of bucks more for the individual dessert cakes. That's even more than the prices at The Cupcakery, which are a bit better than these (but not by a lot).
But for sheer convenience and the sheer sugar rush of it, Corner Cakes is worth a stop the next time you are at the MGM Grand.
Sweets Review: Ronald's Donuts
This donut shop is pretty much just like the one in your hometown. No, not the chain like Krispy Kreme or Dunkin' Donuts, but the one owned by the nice local family in some random strip mall or storefront somewhere that has cheap, but really good donuts and bear claws and apple fritters and coffee that will give you that kick start you need in the morning. Yeah, that one - Ronald's Donuts is just like that and so it is safe and comfortable and really good if you what you really want is a tasty, old-fashioned donut experience.
It's located in the Chinatown section of Vegas, which should appeal to fans of ironic stereotypes, just a couple of miles west of The Strip on Spring Mountain (that's the road between Treasure Island and the Fashion Show Mall). It's in a little strip mall (as all good donut places should be) and is kind of easy to miss if you aren't paying attention. For reference purposes, it is between Arville and Decatur on the north side of the street.
Some might describe the interior as a bit rundown but let's just agree to call it "lived in" and leave it at that. There are a few booths and tables, a big display case, and some fake wood paneling on the walls that I'm pretty sure came from the basement rumpus room of my childhood home. This part we will call "retro."
They have all the usual donut goodness that involves things like glaze, sugar, jelly, custard, chocolate, sprinkles, and the like. There are fritters and donut holes and bear claws (oh my) and all of the other things you would find in that aforementioned donut shop in your hometown.
Prices are stupid cheap - I got two donuts and a bottle of water and change back for the $3 I handed the very nice lady behind the counter.
I sampled a traditional glazed and a chocolate filled with custard and was very pleased. These are not revolutionary, extreme donuts but will satisfy exactly the craving you had when you woke up and said "Wow, I really could use a donut this morning."
If you get such a craving, this is absolutely the place in Vegas to go. Just note that this is a popular place and they often sell out of items early.
West of The Strip
4600 Spring Mountain Rd.
Las Vegas, NV 89102
Vegas4Visitors Grade: B+
Sweets Review: Carlo's Bakery
Buddy Valastro is best known as the "Cake Boss," the brain behind the pastries at Carlo's Bakery in New Jersey featured on the TLC show of the same name. Valastro came to Vegas with his fantastic Italian comfort food joint Buddy V's at Palazzo and has now opened up a branch of Carlo's Bakery right across the hall.
My expectations were high. I love Buddy V's and they have a whole TV show about the guy's cakes so it had to be amazing, right? Well...
The shop is small, with a few display cases, a cashier stand, and a counter a couple of stools that could accommodate five or six people max. In other words you're most likely going to be getting your goodies to go.
Of course that's after you actually get to the place. At peak times they have lines that run all the way down the hall and waits can go over an hour just to get in the doors. I highly recommend going at an off time - mid to late morning or afternoon on a weekday is going to be your best bet. Go on a weekend and I'd stop somewhere on the way to get something to snack on while you are in line to get something to snack on.
They have a wide variety of options from breakfast pastries like turnovers and Danishes to cookies, cupcakes, tarts, tortes, individual serving fruit pies and cheesecakes, cannoli, Napoleans, small cakes, big cakes, and of course their famous "lobster tail" (a flaky pastry stuffed with cream).
Following my own advice, I visited in mid-morning and so I was in a breakfast pastry mindset. This was probably where I made an error in judgment; after all, if you are going to visit a bakery run by a guy known as the "Cake Boss" perhaps you should have cake instead of a Danish. Still, I expected more from said cherry Danish and from the apple turnover that I got with it. Both were room temperature, the pastry itself was dry, and the fruit seemed processed. It was the kind of thing you would expect to get in your local supermarket and not much else.
Just because I'm not a total glutton, I didn't make it to the cupcakes or mini-cakes or big cakes or any of the other types of cakes they had there so maybe one of those will change my opinion of the place. If you twist my arm real hard I promise to go back for another sample or three!
Prices are significantly higher than your local supermarket. You'll pay anywhere from $3-$8 for the individually sized items and $20-$30 for the full sized cakes depending on what's in them and how extravagant they are. Worth it? After my first try I'm going to say not really but again, maybe the cakes will change my mind.