Kelly Lamrock takes you on part 2 the Ultimate Vegas Strip Drink Crawl…
Last month I started an article with a simple premise – that one of the best Vegas Strip experiences is not a particular spot on the Strip, but the Strip itself. Because I like to begin my Vegas trips by strolling from resort to resort, stopping for drinks and snacks as I go, I decided to find those spots where I love to stop and take in my surroundings.
I am apparently far from alone in this. There was a considerable response to Part One, which started at Mandalay Bay and traveled north, stopping for a place where a comestible and the atmosphere can create that happy “now I am in Vegas!” feeling.
This time, I will cross the street and start at the Wynn properties for a southerly return. Recall the disclaimer from last time – I am not proposing this as a true, unified Strip crawl. To do all of this at once might leave you queasy, tired and possibly beyond your boozy limits. I have not worried about the cumulative effect of mixing liquors or adding snacks. The point is to share some places worth a stop wherever you may start and to give my fellow nomads of the Strip some additional happy places to soak it all in.
SLS may not be here long. The resort attempted to bring Miami club chic to the aging shell of the Sahara. The unintentional theme is empty space – my visits here have felt odd because there are very few people wandering around a place that is crying out to feel buzz and oontz and many other things that I am not cool enough to know about. The new owners seem to be more “Buffalo Wild Wings” types than “The Sayers Club” so the celebrity joints may be moving on. But if you want to get the last look (and you should), have a martini at the Center Bar and look at the changing 3D faces and images coming out of the ceiling. It will be a true WTF experience for a resort that inspired mostly WTF reactions. And if you want to try something a little less like a recruitment center for extras in a Pitbull video, the beer garden at Umami Burger has a wonderful beer menu.
The Wynn and Encore are themselves unique places to stop. They are instantly recognizable, beautiful, and works of art in themselves. Because of their clear love of art, like art itself, these properties can lead to many questions, such as: What is beauty? Is there objective superiority in aesthetics? Who pays $18mil for a Popeye sculpture? Why does this pina colada cost $20? Seriously, is that Popeye thing high art or just a comic book store collectible gone nuts? Did they shoot Paul Blart 2 here? Why?
But I digress. The point is, it is a beautiful resort and uniquely Vegas even if you walk through without stopping. But if you stop, and you are prepared to shell out for the privilege of drinking amidst such splendour, where to stop? One would be tempted to draw you to Parasol Down, which allows you to go down a funky escalator, gaze at the Lake of Dreams, and generally feel like Alice in Wonderland amidst the Dali-meets-Katy-Perry décor. And that’s a good choice. But for drinks, I loved the infusion vodka experimentation going on at VDKA, which has 150 types of ice cold vodkas and a rotating list of inventive cocktails. I see it has been renamed the Encore Players’ Bar but appears to have the same mission and description, so go ahead. Plus, if we call Wynn and Encore two separate properties then you can do both. Why not? Oh, wait, just saw the bill….but, still….Vegas!
The Venetian and Palazzo offer more stunning visuals and more elevated prices. I have not tried The Dorsey yet, so I cannot validate the great things I have heard about their craft cocktails on the casino floor. So I am going to steer you to two options. If you want to drink in the atmosphere of a resort that really is a love letter to Venice, then find the Bellini Bar and order a Rossini. The details of the bar and the atmosphere will definitely give you a feel for the Venetian. If by now you are feeling a bit tired of the pricey pretensions of these north Strip, you could also go to Rockhouse for a $2 beer and play some games – it is fun. If you get the all-you-can-drink bracelet and end the tour here, I won’t tell.
Now we leave the land of the Venetian, SLS, and Wynn for some more blue collar joys. Hello, Casino Royale! You’re getting the $1 Michelob, right? No? Then why are you here? Move along. (Note: if you stop and play $3 craps and have a White Castle burger, I won’t tell. Not that I do that. Shhhh.)
Harrah’s gets a bad rap, but I find it kind of fun. It is laid back, and the new food court is decent. If Big Elvis is playing in the Lobby Bar, stop what you are doing and watch him. Have a beer. If he isn’t playing, stop outdoors at Carnival Court and enjoy live music, whoever it is. Have a beer here, too. It’s that kind of place — a fun place that gets underappreciated sometimes.
Now we come to The Linq, which is both a resort and an area adjacent to a resort. If you stopped at Rockhouse, this would confuse you. But there is a lot of great stuff here, in both, the resort and the street venue. In the resort, Bar 3535 has great little alcoves for your group to sit. The awesome infusion cocktail menu was discontinued, which sucks, but some holdovers remain. I really recommend the Rum & Raisin cocktail. Exit through O’Shea’s and grab an Irish Car Bomb if you like. On the Linq promenade itself, I love to stop at the Yard House and sample a draft beer or the day’s sampler plank – they have over 100 taps. If you have the munchies, it’s time for something sweet at Sprinkles, where the cupcakes are soft, indulgent and have cool flavours your mom did not make for your birthday.
The Flamingo oozes Vegas history, but I haven’t found a great cocktail spot here. The tropical theme justifies a stop at the 5 O’Clock Somewhere bar, where you can have a fine (if chain restaurant-inspired) boat drink and listen to Jimmy Buffett, the official soundtrack of giving up. Or, you can sit at the just-seedy-enough Bugsy’s Bar. Have a beer, play some old school video poker and lose money while you’re drunk, just like Bugsy would have wanted. If he hadn’t have been shot in the face.
I love Bally’s as a sensible home base on Vegas trips, and the redone Indigo Lounge has some comfy couches if you are tired. Like the resort itself, the lounge is old school and sneaky fun. I always spend more time here than planned, especially if they have live music. The cocktails have been good – they have one called the Speakeasy which was quite good. I also tried something called a Mezcal fashion here once, and it must have been strong because afterward, I played roulette for an hour. I never play roulette.
Take the inner passage to Paris. You may want a quick snack at J.J.’s Boulangerie, where the baguette sandwiches are always great. Then take in the great theming on the casino floor by sitting in the redone Bar Le Central, which really does have some beautiful details to give it a Parisien feel. The small list of house cocktails is very good. I loved the Basil-basil, with bourbon, Cointreau, and strawberries. The Dignitary has absinthe. Do NOT mix it with the Mezcal thing or you’ll do more than play roulette, I fear.
You can cross the street to Planet Hollywood, which offers a lot of good choices. In the Million Mile Shops, there is a Sin City Brewing shop where you can try one of their brews on tap. I also love a beer on the “patio” part of Blondie’s. But if you want to keep moving on the Strip, then have a beer and one of Pink’s Hot Dogs and people watch on their patio.
You could wrap up here and take all three suggestions because it is a bit of a walk from here to the MGM. Maybe a traveller drink before leaving Pink’s is wise because you have to make it past the Travelodge and Hawaiian Marketplace before reaching the MGM Grand, which also has a lot of options and a lot of room to wander around in. If you want to be quick and cross the street to resume Part One of this article, I do find Centrifuge captures the Vegas feel very nicely. A cocktail here feels like you are in Vegas, and I enjoyed the Purple Haze (I hope I have the name right). Our table had four different drinks, and the reviews were all good.
I realize there is still the Tropicana. I have been to the Tropicana. I want to like the Tropicana. Yet I remember nothing about the Tropicana that stands out. If you want to, see if you can find something. Otherwise, cross the street and check out Part One of this article, because in Vegas, walking around and drinking is a renewable resource.