2013 promises a delicious dining comeback — all over the valley
It’s too easy to look back at 2012 at brush it off as an uneventful year across the Las Vegas restaurant landscape. Lots of tasty things happened, and if you disagree, maybe you’ve been spoiled. Consider the December Casino Theory: The Cosmopolitan opened in December 2010, chock full of fresh, alluring dining experiences — more than enough to keep tourists and locals alike busy for the duration of 2011. Prior to that, CityCenter opened in December ’09, Encore in December ’08, and Palazzo in December ’07. Get it? And what was that giant, delicious resort that sparked our appetites for 2012? Oh yeah: nothing.
We did get a few new stars on the Strip, including a trifecta of high-powered steakhouses at Caesars properties: Old Homestead where Nero’s used to be at Caesars Palace, Center Cut at the Flamingo, and Gordon Ramsay Steak at Paris. Wynn twisted its quiet Japanese room into the stunning new Mizumi, which emerged as a much better restaurant than anyone thought it would be. Gourmet gastropubbery continued to build momentum with the arrival of Public House at the Venetian and Culinary Dropout at the Hard Rock, but ultra-casual party spots, in all their economically friendly glory, made super-strong moves, manifesting in the form of Señor Frog’s at TI and Carlos ’n Charlie’s at Flamingo.Clearly, the Strip is not where all the food excitement was this year. Things got hot in the neighborhood in the fourth quarter. Just as we were toasting the news that Rosemary’s would return (in 2014) with a new downtown café, awesome local eats were popping up all over. Pastry chef supreme Megan Romano’s Chocolate & Spice landed on West Sahara Avenue. Another tremendous baker, Chris Herrin, followed up last year’s Bread & Butter with Meat & Three, a homey southern-style cafeteria in Henderson with game-changing fried chicken. And then, the ultimate neighborhood score: Dynasty-builder Elizabeth Blau and hubby chef Kim Canteenwalla planted Honey Salt in
Summerlin, a farm-to-table fantasy come true. These three openings proved Strip restaurant talent was getting comfy in the ’burbs, a trend that should continue in 2013. The big question: Where in our burgeoning food city will the next great neighborhood restaurant bloom?
Soft, chewy center
Downtown Vegas was big on buzz but weak on eats this year, but those days are over. The joyous new breakfast/lunch spot Eat set a new standard in our original ’hood. On deck is Mingo Kitchen & Lounge, a colorful small plates-and-booze concept from the guys behind Mundo, opening any day now in the Arts District. Back on Fremont East, along with upcoming watering holes Commonwealth and Park on Fremont, a yet-unnamed rock-and-rollish Mexican eatery and bar is being prepped by none other than N9NE Group mastermind Michael Morton. Across the street, Radio City Pizzeria is ready to take another swing after striking out at Tivoli Village. The Ogden, aka the House of Hsieh, is slated to add healthy local lunchery Rachel’s Kitchen and innovative pizzeria Slice from New York City.
The Downtown 3rd area, home to stalwarts like Triple George Grill and Hogs & Heifers, got a boost this year from the arrival of the Mob Museum and the exceedingly fresh Downtown 3rd Farmers’ Market. But the big boost is coming — the rebirth of the Lady Luck as the Downtown Grand, slated to open in late 2013. There’s no overstating how big a deal this will be for downtown’s continued resurgence, a 30,000 square-foot casino coming back to life with who knows how many bars, restaurants and stores attached. We do know that Pizza Rock will be taking over the Third Street spot formerly known as Celebrity Theater. Man, that’s a lot of downtown pizza coming. Works for me.
Nibbling at the edges
It’s much harder to guess what’ll appear in the suburbs in the coming months, as smaller business is utterly unpredictable. Bachi Burger, which doubled down with a second location in Summerlin this year and a planned third in Southern California, is set to open Henderson ramen joint Shoku. Rumor has it that the beloved barbecue truck Top Notch Barbeque will be settling into a bar-and-grill type space along Eastern Avenue. In the northwest, where Metro Pizza recently expanded with its fifth store on Sky Pointe Drive, its companion Lulu’s Bread & Breakfast should lure the neighbors with sweet smells soon. Considering how long this place has been in the works and the fact that its consulting chef is “Top Chef Desserts” champ Chris Hanmer, luckier-than-lucky Centennial Hills residents must be salivating in wait.
Over in Summerlin, the six-and-a-half-year-old Red Rock Resort is still beautiful, aging well, but ready for a restaurant refreshing. So it’s sprucing up its Lucky Bar, completely renovating Cherry nightclub, turning that tiny sports book deli into a savory new outlet of Pink’s famous hot dogs from L.A., and installing Lucille’s Smokehouse BBQ where the Cabo Mexican restaurant was. And what about Tivoli Village? This year’s dining additions Bottles & Burgers, Kabuki sushi and View Wine Bar & Kitchen are about to be joined by Cantina Laredo, a modern Mexican joint, and Poppy Den, a pan-Asian gastropub. And now cooking a mere dough-toss away is Marc Sgrizzi's stone-oven pizza palace, Novecento.
We locals will be lucky in the new year, but the Strip is coming back, too. Granted, a single big casino isn’t coming to save the day. The name of the game now is reinvention. SLS Las Vegas — you know it as the Sahara — isn’t gonna open until 2014, but late next year is when the LINQ should arrive. That’s Caesars Entertainment’s $550 million indoor-outdoor retail complex connecting Harrah’s, the Flamingo and Imperial Palace, er, The Quad. There’ll be a big-ass Ferris wheel, too, but we know a project like this doesn’t work without plenty of stops to eat and drink. The LINQ’s announced tenants include trend-starting Sprinkles Cupcakes, the Tilted Kilt Irish bar, another Yard House beer emporium, a second location for locals’ favorite Off the Strip, party-ready Chayo Mexicano, and brick oven pizzeria Flour and Barley, which comes from the boys at Block 16 Hospitality (Holsteins, Barrymore, LBS Burger). The project also brings the first Western states location of Brooklyn Bowl, a nightclub, bar, bowling alley and restaurant from the Brombergs (Blue Ribbon) that will take up a quarter of the LINQ’s space, and FAME (for food, art, music, entertainment), an expansive Asian market with all kinds of grub (noodles, dim sum, sushi) and, evidently, all kinds of cultural fun. This will be something very different from what Vegas has come to expect.
But we don’t have to wait that long. This month, celeb chef extraordinaire Gordon Ramsay busts out his second and third restaurants here, Gordon Ramsay Pub at Caesars and Flame Burger at Planet Hollywood. The new Strip trend is the supper club, combining dinner and nightlife, kicked off with Bagatelle at Tropicana. Next is Andrea’s at Encore, primed for a New Year’s Eve opening, and then even bigger is Hakkasan, the five-story, 75,000-square-foot restaurant and club venue at MGM Grand that picks up where Studio 54 left off. Nobu will do chapter two at Caesars, except this time, the standard-bearing Japanese restaurant will live in its very own boutique hotel. The Light Group is taking over Mandalay Bay, allowing chef Brian Massie (Fix at Bellagio, Stack at Mirage) to open Citizens Kitchen & Bar and chef Akira Back (Yellowtail at Bellagio) to open an Asian restaurant where China Grill once stood. And in the summer, Mirage will debut its new steakhouse from the man himself, Tom Colicchio. That’s pretty big time, huh? Be ready, Vegas.