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VEGAS4VISITORS.COM WEEKLY COLUMN BY RICK GARMAN
August 17, 2015
The Countdown: Top 10 Vegas News Stories of the Week
10. Sugar Factory Restaurant Coming Back to The Strip
The Strip is about to get a little more sweet with the return of a Sugar Factory restaurant. The new venue will go into the front of The Fashion Show Mall, taking up more than 16,000 square-feet on two levels. It will have a full-service restaurant, a candy store, and a chocolate lounge where guests can get tastings paired with various alcohol offerings. The Sugar Factory used to have a restaurant at Paris Las Vegas but it closed and has been renovated into Hexx, a similar concept but not exactly the same. The new Sugar Factory should open by spring of next year. Read more about The Fashion Show.
9. Flash Floods Hit Vegas
It doesn't rain often in Vegas but when it does, it doesn't mess around. A big storm moved through the city Thursday with thunder and lightning and a deluge that beat the all-time single day rainfall record - some areas of town recorded and inch and a half in under 2 hours (Keep in mind that Vegas only averages about 4 inches of rain per year!). The Golden Nugget had some problems with water coming through the ceiling into the casino as you can see in the video below.
8. Theater Redux Completes Linq Renovations
After a couple of years' worth of work, they are now calling the renovations that turned the old Imperial Palace into The Linq (with a stop at the Quad along the way) complete. The last bit was the showroom, now called the Theater, which features seating at different heights and styles, including barstools, bucket style chairs and club couch style booths, giving every guest what they say is a great view of the stage and a unique and theater-going experience. Other changes include new Edison LED bulb lighting and pipe handrails to give the Theater a modern New York City loft feel; state-of-the-art lighting, video and sound; and a stage featuring an enlarged opening and a runway that extends into the audience. The showroom hosts Divas Las Vegas and an upcoming residency from magician Mat Franco. Read more about The Linq.
7. Divas Star Celebrates 30 Years on The Strip
September 19th will mark the 30 year anniversary of the day that Divas Las Vegas star Frank Marino first put one of his high heels on a Las Vegas Strip stage. The female impersonator and self-proclaimed "Queen of The Strip" is best known for his Joan Rivers homage, which he honed during his 25 year run in An Evening at La Cage at The Riviera starting way back in 1985. To celebrate, The Linq is adding a Divas themed gaming pit with custom tables and Marino is even launching his own commemorative doll. Read more about Divas Las Vegas.
6. Choreographer Mandy Moore to Revamp Fantasy Opener
If you watch So You Think You Can Dance you'll definitely know Mandy Moore, the Emmy Award nominated choreographer who is a staple on the show with her often dramatic contemporary style. Moore is going to be revamping the opening number of Fantasy, the long-running topless revue at Luxor. The new moves will be set to a mash-up of Little Mix's "Salute" and Jordin Sparks' "I Am Woman" and will be one of four new numbers going into the show. Read the review of Fantasy.
5. Red Rock Revamps Sports Book
If you're into the high-tech wizardry of Vegas sports books you may want to consider a drive out to Red Rock Resort where they have just unveiled some of the most cutting edge technology in the city with brand new video displays. The 2.5 MM Nanoslim Engage LED displays are the largest of their kind ever installed in North America, measuring 17 feet tall by 31.5 feet wide. The screens show 4K video content in Ultra HD so you can see every single hit, block, and tackle in vivid detail. Read more about Red Rock Resort.
4. America's Got Talent Winner to Get Vegas Showcase
Could Piff the Magic Dragon be headlining in Vegas? He will if he wins America's Got Talent. The upcoming winner of the show will be rewarded by headlining an exclusive engagement of America's Got Talent Live, a stage show version of the NBC talent competition. The show will play October 22-24 at Planet Hollywood and will feature many of the acts seen this season including Vegas favorite Piff, who currently appears in X-Comedy at The Flamingo. Tickets will go on sale to the public after the winner is announced during the America's Got Talent season finale on Wednesday, September 16. Read more about Planet Hollywood.
3. KA Offering Free Open House Tours
Cirque du Soleil's KÀ at MGM Grand features some of the most eye-popping visuals of any show in Vegas. Now, you have the chance to go behind the scenes with a free open house they are calling the K#192; Theater Spectacular. The event will happen every Tuesday starting at 11am and will feature a 30-minute exploration of the history, background, and science of how they put on the show. There is no need to get an advance ticket - just show up at the theater and seats are first come, first served. Read more about KÀ.
2. Bellagio Fountains Host Kabuki Show
This past weekend was the big kabuki spectacle that took over the Bellagio Fountains. A stage was constructed in the lake that featured traditional Japanese performers doing a mini-play about a man battling the spirit of a giant carp. The production used the fountains as a backdrop, projecting animations onto the water as a part of the story. There are no plans to do this particular show again but there may be more special takeovers of the Bellagio Fountains like this one in the future. Here's a video with highlights of the show:
1. Las Vegas Club To Close
The Las Vegas Club, one of the oldest casinos in the city, will close this week after being purchased by the Stevens brothers, owners of The D Las Vegas and Golden Gate, who plan to revitalize the property but aren't sure exactly how yet. The business dates all the way back to 1930 when it opened as a "social club" on Fremont Street in Downtown and then officially became a casino the following year when gambling was legalized in Nevada. It was originally located across the street but moved and expanded into its current location on the corner of Fremont and Main Streets in 1949. The new owners bought the building and the land but not the gaming operations and will be closing the casino by this Thursday and then decide what to do with the property. The hotel portion with more than 400 rooms has been closed for more than two years.
Casino Cage Match: SLS vs. The Linq
The question I get asked the most is some variation of "what's the best hotel in Vegas?" That's a tough one to answer since it totally depends on why you are going, when you are going, and how much you are paying (which can vary dramatically from week to week at any given hotel). On a macro level, comparing the vastly different hotels is tough but when you narrow it down to specific examples it gets easier and more entertaining.
Hence the Casino Cage Match, where I pit two similar hotels against one another and compare what they have to offer in several categories, eventually leading to a winner.
We're going to call this the Remodeling Edition by looking at two old hotels that have been given new looks and new identities in the last year: the former Imperial Palace, which has been revamped into The Linq, and the former Sahara, which is now the SLS Las Vegas. The bulk of the former IP dates back to the 1970s although its DNA can be traced all the way back to a hotel known as the Flamingo Capri, which debuted in 1959. The Sahara opened in 1952 but most of the property that still stands was built from the 1960s into the 1980s. Both have gotten top to bottom remodels that makes them virtually unrecognizable from their former incarnations. So which one will take the Cage Match crown? Let's get ready to rumble...
The SLS Las Vegas is located on the far north end of The Strip, with not much else around it so that means you'll have a hike to get to most of the places you want to go. The Linq, on the other hand, is in the heart of the Center Strip action, just steps away from a dozen other hotels.
The Linq wins this category by a mile (no pun intended).
Getting in and out of The Linq can be a giant pain in the you know what. The Strip driveway was removed so if you are arriving via cab or car you'll need to enter from the back of the property off of Audrie Street and wind your way under the hotel and either into the parking garage or up to the valet at the front. On busy weekends, this can be a gridlock nightmare.
There is a monorail station out back, but who rides that?
Once you get inside, it depends on which hotel tower you are in but most are pretty conveniently located to the front desk.
The SLS Las Vegas has one main entrance off of The Strip, which normally would be a hassle, but since this part of it is fairly sparsely populated, traffic is not a huge concern. Once you pull in the valet and the main garage are right there and both are conveniently located to the casino and the front desk.
There is also a monorail station behind this hotel, but see the note above about my feelings on that.
As with The Linq, there are multiple towers so which one you stay in will dictate how far you have to schlep your luggage after you check in, but none of the treks are onerous.
I'm giving this category to the SLS Las Vegas.
The SLS Las Vegas has a stylish front desk area that is nicely isolated from the casino and most of the heaviest foot traffic, which provides a welcoming, low-key first impression. It's a little small for a hotel of this size and the queues can get long but, to be honest, the hotel isn't usually that busy so you'll probably get through the process relatively quickly.
The Linq has a check in desk that is open to the casino and a nearby bar and is right along the main path to most of the guest room elevators. Add in fewer than needed stations and this can result in a human traffic jam that can often rival the car one outside. I have seen check-in lines on busy Fridays that were 100 people long and none of them looked happy to be there.
The SLS Las Vegas takes this one.
If you discount the larger suites, The Linq really has one room configuration with slightly different color schemes. They are not big by just about any standard and the furnishings are not much more substantial than what you get from Ikea, but they have a light, modern feeling that makes them seem more open than they actually are. The highly functional closet and the tiny, but efficient, bathrooms are bonuses. It is a bummer that they removed the balconies when they redid the rooms.
There are three different styles of rooms at The SLS Las Vegas from the microscopic Story rooms to the slightly less microscopic World rooms up to the smallish Lux rooms. Each has its own design scheme but in all cases they cram so much furniture, decoration, and ornamentation into them that they feel even smaller than they actually are (and they are pretty darned small to begin with). Everything feels more solid here and there are funky touches like light-up headboards in some rooms.
Neither hotel has rooms you will write home about but in a head-to-head comparison, I have to give this category to The Linq for its slightly less claustrophobia-inducing accommodations.
Both of the former gaming spaces were gutted and redone and in the case of the SLS Las Vegas part of the former Sahara casino was actually torn down and rebuilt. The trouble at the SLS Las Vegas is that the already small footprint is crammed with so much stuff - tightly packed machines, lots of tables, intrusive interior design - that it feels chaotic and overwhelming to me.
The Linq has a confusing, meandering layout but the high ceilings and some welcome natural light in certain areas gives it a much more welcoming vibe. It is worth noting that there isn't much to do here for dollar or above slot players.
The Linq takes this category.
Hotel Amenities & Facilities
The SLS Las Vegas has several really good, foodie-heaven restaurants including Bazaar Meat by Jose Andreas, Katsuya, Cleo, and the fabulous Umami Burger. Their buffet is closed as of this writing but it may come back someday. They also have multiple nightclubs and bars, a few stores operated by Fred Segal, pools, a spa, and more.
The Linq, though, really blows it out of the water with just as many restaurants - many of which are more affordable and accessible to those with less adventurous tastes such as Guy Fieri's Vegas Kitchen and Brooklyn Bowl - a pool, several bars, a shopping and events promenade, and the world's largest observation wheel, The High Roller.
No contest here: The Linq wins this category.
Cost & Value
Rates at the SLS Las Vegas have come down a lot from what they were charging when the property first opened. You can get a weekday room for as low as $59 and weekends from around $129 plus the mandatory $25 per night resort fee. Things can get pricey quickly, though, so don't be surprised if you see double those costs when you check rates.
The Linq seems to be more dependable in its price structure. While some days will be significantly more, you can usually get a weekday room for $50 or less (before the $25 resort fee) and sometimes as low as $36. Weekends will range from $100-$200 depending on when you're going.
Not quite a knockout, but close. The Linq took five of the seven categories including the most important ones such as rooms and value, while the SLS Las Vegas only got the stuff related to getting there instead of actually being there.
The winner of the Remodel Edition of the Casino Cage Match is The Linq!
Dining Review: Glutton
I'm just going to keep saying this until you listen to me: if you want high quality, interesting, and original food at reasonable prices, go to Downtown Las Vegas. The once barren wasteland of 24-hour coffee shops and low-priced buffets has become the home of some of the city's best restaurants including this one.
Glutton is the brainchild of chefs Bradley Manchester and Joseph Kudrak who earned their Vegas restaurant bona fides at Red Rock Resort where they oversaw the culinary programs of the hotel's various dining establishments including T-Bones Chophouse. This may not mean a lot to people who are bound by the limitations of The Strip, but trust me when I say that it's impressive - Red Rock has been widely considered to have one of the best restaurant lineups of the locals casinos in town.
Glutton is located in a storefront space at the corner of Carson and 7th Street, directly across from the Downtown Container Park and diagonally across from another fantastic restaurant Eat Downtown Las Vegas. It's just a block off of Fremont Street and two blocks from Las Vegas Boulevard so it's an easy walk if you're in the neighborhood and there is plenty of metered parking around if you are driving yourself.
The space is bright and airy with big windows on two sides and a warm industrial design inside. Brick walls, exposed wood rafters, and polished concrete floors work well together and give it an eclectic, almost BoHo feel. The one and only complaint is the wood and metal chairs, which are not at all comfortable - a pad would be nifty.
They serve a weekday lunch and weekend brunch plus a nightly dinner so you have several options of when to visit. There is no explicit theme to the menu but if you demand to categorize it I'd probably toss it in the farm to table genre. Produce is locally sourced, pastas are made in house, and the meats and seafood are brought in fresh enough to make you think it was wrangled or caught just before they cooked it and served it to you at your table.
Visiting at lunch I considered starting with the spicy pork rinds, done with cayenne and cheddar, because pork rinds but a heavy meal the night before drove me instead to the Japanese street corn. Lightly roasted with miso butter and chives, it was a refreshing way to begin the meal. For the record you can opt out of the furikake, a seaweedy flavoring that wasn't to my particular liking.
We skipped over the salads, although the watermelon with tomatoes, ricotta, and a vanilla basil vinaigrette certainly sounded tempting. Instead we went for the a couple of the sandwiches including the Glutton burger and the chicken salad. The former was a thick, unbelievably juicy patty topped with house-made American cheese and pickles while the latter was done in a light dressing with bacon and pickled tomatoes on a cranberry grain bread. Both were simply fantastic and we were pleased with our choices. Other options include a charcuterie panini with several Italian meats and fig preserves and togarashi chicken with a miso aioli and pickled veggies.
They have a few entrees at lunch including linguine with capers and roasted garlic, a salmon dish, and steak frites, which we sampled. The meat, served with a pepper aioli, was tender and flavorful and the herb fries were yummy.
The dinner menu adds items like a bacon and fig flatbread, small plates such as curried cauliflower with almond butter or wood roasted shrimp with bacon scampi, and steak, a half-chicken done with jalapeno and spicy maple, and a pasta with crab and peppers. Brunch throws in fresh pastries and a variety of breakfast dishes like pancakes with maple cider syrup, peaches and cream waffles with a bourbon caramel sauce, roasted chicken hash, and an egg white fritatta as examples. If it is all half as good as the stuff we sampled at lunch, you're in for quite a treat.
And the staff wants to treat you. The service was great and Downtown Vegas friendly, with a knowledgeable crew ready to guide you through the more esoteric parts of the menu.
Prices are exceedingly reasonable especially considering the quality. Most items at lunch are under $15 with only the larger plates going over that by a few bucks. Main courses at dinner run from $14 to $25 and brunch items are mostly in the $10-$15 range. The bill for the three of us worked out to be about $20 per person with tax and tip.
High quality, interesting, and original food at reasonable prices - like I said, come to Downtown Las Vegas if that's what you want and include Glutton on your list of places to get it.
616 E. Carson Ave. #110
Las Vegas, NV 89101
Sat Sun 9am-3pm
Vegas4Visitors Grade: A
Show Review: Evil Dead The Musical 4D
I'm not sure why someone thought it would be a good idea to turn the gory Evil Dead movie franchise series into a musical but it's probably worth noting that, according to the production's website, the concept was dreamed up in a Toronto bar.
The show takes plot points mostly from the first two movies, The Evil Dead (1981) and Evil Dead II (1987), and kind of nods at the third one Army of Darkness (1992), all of which were written and directed by Sam Raimi who later went on to direct all three of the Tobey Maguire Spider-Man movies. It involves a group of young adults at a remote cabin in the woods, who prove that going to a remote cabin in the woods always ends poorly by accidentally unleashing an ancient demonic force that winds up possessing and/or killing pretty much everyone because, you know, evil. You don't have to have seen the films to follow what's going on here but if you have they throw lots of fan-favorite moments into the mix, from the possessed hand to S-Mart to the chainsaw prosthetic, all of which delighted the Evil Dead faithful in the audience.
While the films were campy (unintentionally or not), the stage version goes for full-on silly satire of both the movies and musicals in general with broad performances, groan-worthy jokes, and generic Broadway-style tunes. Oh, and blood. Lots and lots and lots of blood.
The first few rows are designated as the "Splatter Zone" and the Evil Dead-heads get t-shirts to soak up the sprays of fake gore that rain down on them every time someone - or some-thing (mwah-ha-ha) - gets stabbed, shot, disemboweled, beheaded, chain-sawed, or otherwise mutilated on stage. Sit here and you will get wet. Get up to go to the bathroom during the show and you will be punished. At the performance I saw, one young woman was literally chased around the theater by a "zombie."
There are moments of demented genius here. Songs like "Look Who's Evil Now," "Cabin in the Woods," and "What the F*** Was That?" do a great job of poking fun at horror movie tropes and the overall zaniness is hard not to smile at. But despite having played Off Broadway and in cities and countries around the world, this is not something you're going to see at the Tony Awards anytime soon. Then again, people looking for a "real" Broadway production will probably be next door at Jersey Boys anyway so it probably won't be a surprise that the caliber of the material is not necessarily first class.
So I'm willing to go along with the camp aspect of the show and did enjoy myself to a degree, but problems with this particular production were disappointing. All of the performers wore microphones but they were, at best, ineffective and at times not working at all. Masks are employed to represent the "possessed" state of being and they interfered even further, leaving some portions of the show completely inaudible. I'm sure there were some pretty funny bits in there but I couldn't hear a lot of them to be able to laugh.
The broad overacting, the occasionally off-key singing, the muddy lighting, the high-school drama club sets, and the bargain store props didn't help but they would have been forgivable, and even embraceable as part of the shtick of the show, if the sound quality was better.
I'm being hard on the production because despite its problems I had a good time and I'd actually recommend the show for anyone who has seen the movies or just wants a goofy good time. I just wish I could recommend it more.