“Las Vegas Mixtape” Column
“A Vegas Tight Ten”
Might Las Vegas be to the 2020’s what Paris was to the 1920’s? Consider Vegas’ array of top-chef restaurants, the various Cirque du Soleil and Spiegelworld productions, the abundant music superstar artist residencies, and the growing number of outdoor music festivals.
Don’t leave out the EDM clubs with the major DJ’s, the immersive art experiences, the innovative modern hotel design, and the “Atomic City” vintage cool architecture. Plus, there’s all the marquee name comedians who appear here. Vegas simply can’t be beaten as a world-class electrifying city. And speaking of comics (see Kathy Griffin below), here’s my “tight ten.”
Sadelle’s at Bellagio
The secret to achieving world peace may well be found in a bite of “Strawberry Tall Cake.” If all the world leaders were fed a piece of this soft and creamy creation—on the menu at Sadelle’s at Bellagio—there might not be any more wars.
The opulent NYC-originated eatery (which opened in 2019) is also known for its divinely presented three-level “Sadelle’s Tower,” with Scottish salmon, bagel (baked in house), tomato, cucumber, and capers. There are also the dreamy views overlooking the pool and Bellagio’s dazzling Conservatory & Botanical Gardens. Add in the mood-elevating experience of being served by a gracious staff wearing old-school salmon-colored tuxedo jackets and green ties, and you won’t ever need therapy again.
Strawberry Tall Cake at Sadelle’s
Kathy Griffin, Mirage Theatre
It was absolutely breathtaking to see Kathy Griffin at the sold-out Mirage Theatre in her first show in five years. Griffin was greeted with a thunderous and lengthy standing ovation before her act began, and later she name-checked her famous friends—Stormy Daniels and Sia—who were seated in the first few rows.
In a 90-minute-plus seamless set, Griffin was as bold, defiant, and hysterical as ever. Her performance was both a compelling personal and comedic triumph. She walked us through—and found the humor in—her five years of hell, marked by lung cancer (which she acknowledged has somewhat weakened her speaking voice), pain med addiction (she’ll be three-years sober on June 25), PTSD, a three-day stay in a psych ward (where she learned there was no concierge to assist her), and the death of her mom.
Plus of course Griffin fended off lawsuits and death threats from the MAGA and QAnon followers for posing in 2017 with a mock-severed head of Trump. “That’s me, the face of Isis,” she cracked, rolling her eyes, and adding, “I would never cave to these suckers.” Griffin is truly one of comedy’s greats. Seeing her perform was like watching a masterful trapeze artist defy gravity. Long may she fly. She returns to The Mirage on October 6.
Kathy Griffin poster at The Mirage Theatre
Firefly Tapas at Hughes Center
When you don’t know exactly what you want to eat, tapas are a good way to go, and it helps that Firefly Tapas is open every day from 9:00am to 11:00pm. The long-running (20 years) and moderately priced Spanish eatery is in a new, bigger location on Hughes Center Drive (off-Strip) with multiple rooms, an outdoor patio, and imaginative, colorful décor.
On the night we dined there after 9:30pm (when restaurant choices are limited), it was delightful to move from the scene-stealing Patatas Bravas—“roasted red potatoes, aioli and spicy tomato jam”—to the smoked salmon toast, beet salad, and fish sticks. With its outstanding varied menu, Firefly is still a thrill.
Patatas Bravas at Firefly Tapas
The Beverly Theater, Downtown
It’s hard not to be impressed by Vegas’ newly built crown jewel, The Beverly Theater. It’s both an art house cinema where every seat is truly a great one, thanks to its smart design, and it doubles as a musical performance space. The downtown venue has elegant modern mid-century design and an upstairs outdoor terrace (called Segue) where a jazz ensemble plays for free on weekend nights.
I made two visits to The Beverly during its brilliantly curated multi-day program of music documentaries. I saw “Little Richard: I Am Everything,” which paints an intense portrait of the complex King of Rock and Roll via “interviews with family, musicians, and cutting-edge Black and queer scholars” (per the synopsis). It slayed, as the kids say, as did the revelatory “What the Hell Happened to Blood, Sweat & Tears?” It’s about how the superstar band fell from grace after they were essentially blackmailed by the US government to tour behind the Iron Curtain; by accepting this “deal,” the band’s Canadian lead singer, David Clayton-Thomas, avoided having his green card revoked. Upon their return to the US, the all-important counterculture media—without knowing at the time why the band did this tour—trashed the band for being a tool of Nixon, which led to the dissolution of the group’s most successful lineup.
Outside of The Beverly Theater
Pepper Club at The English Hotel, Arts District
If I was on death row, the following four dishes would comprise my last meal request, courtesy of The Pepper Club inside Todd English’s boutique English Hotel. Start me with their Cucumber Salad with ume vinaigrette, and plum sea salt. Bring on the Crispy Rice, consisting of coconut rice, spicy tuna, avocado, micro greens, and 23kt edible gold flakes. Seduce me further with the Orange Miso Salmon, plated with bok choy, mushrooms, serrano rings, fried garlic, and orange miso glaze. Then please take me right up to heaven with the Yukon mash and crushed wasabi peas dish that’s known as Wasabi Creamy Mash.
The flavors and textures from this meal, which we enjoyed on their sprawling outdoor patio, are still dancing in my head, so I’m giving a major thumbs-up to the restaurant’s wondrously conceived and skillfully executed “Asian Ocean Fusion” menu.
Wasabi Creamy Mash at The Pepper Club at The English Hotel
“OPM” at The Cosmopolitan
You’ve got to hand it to the Spiegelworld folks. With their three hit Vegas shows—”Absinthe,” “Atomic Saloon,” and “OPM” (formerly known as “Opium”)—they’ve perfected an absolutely winning, hyper-paced, and seamlessly choreographed mix of the imaginative and the naughty. And they throw the best parties in town. At The Cosmopolitan, home to both “OPM” and Spiegelworld’s “Italian American Psychedelic” restaurant Superfrico, Spiegelworld honored the so-called “Star Wars Day” (May 4) with a “modified take on the show’s romp through space” (their words). This was followed by an open-bar bash with Superfrico’s terrific “Ultimate Pepperoni Square” pizza (love that “pickled chili”). Some came attired in “Star Wars” costumes; others simply dressed to the nines.
The show itself was mesmerizing, teeming with jugglers, body contortionists, acrobatic dancers, and sexy arial acts, with a dose of magic and wickedly funny sexual humor. Bonus point: hearing “Heads Will Roll” by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs smartly integrated into the show’s musical mix.
Moia Peruvian Restaurant, near Downtown
Everyone needs a Comfort Food Night, and for mine, I chose the new Moia Peruvian Restaurant over on Bonanza Rd. I went for the excellent steak with the pasta and pesto sauce—and I didn’t look back. My guests also happily threw caution to the wind by choosing the Pollo Saltado entrée that came with both rice and French fries. You can do the same and (why not?) add in a side of their soul-satisfying beans.
Next time, I plan on surrendering to the Duo de Arroz con Mariscos y Cerciche, a seafood combination with sweet potatoes and Peruvian corn. Remember, this is your night to indulge, and Moia is the place to do it.
A fantastic dish at the Moia Peruvian Restaurant
Iggy Pop at the Palms’ Pearl Theater
“I’m worth a million in prizes,” sang Iggy Pop at the Pearl Theater. Damn right. The man whose “Lust For Life” is stadium size delivered a thrillingly ferocious show from start to finish. Even though the Godfather of Punk is somewhat hindered by a twisted spine, the 76-year-old performer remains a “streetwalking cheetah with a heart full of napalm,” to quote his poetic lyrics from the lethal chestnut “Search and Destroy.”
The gig was packed with other highlights including “T.V Eye,” “Nightclubbing,” “I Wanna Be Your Dog,” and a surprise cover of Lou Reed’s “Walk On The Wild Side.” At one point, Iggy asked the sold-out throng—“If I was hitchhiking, would you pick me up?”—before launching into “The Passenger.” Hell yes, Iggy—please get in the car and show us the “city’s ripped backsides.”
Upcoming shows at The Pearl include Keith Sweat August 4 and 5.
Dam Roast House & Browder Bookstore, Boulder City
For a perfect Sunday afternoon in Vegas, try leaving it—for historic Boulder City, a gambling-free small town located around 25 or so miles southeast of Vegas. We stopped into antique stores like Goat Feathers Emporium and the charming Dam Roast House & Browder Bookstore which serves exceptional coffee. The iced Spumoni Latte—a blend of pistachio, cherries, and chocolate—and the vanilla-and-lavender-flavored Day Dreamer Latte lifted us immediately. Their vegan banana bread and blueberry scone also hit the right pick-me-up notes on a lazy afternoon.
Next, we drove through the mountains overlooking Lake Mead and crossed into Arizona. I want to return to Boulder City to not only eat tapas at Casa Don Quixote, but to pick up a copy of the book “Cartel Wives,” which I neglected to buy at the bookstore.
Outside of Dam Roast House & Browder Bookstore
Dom DeMarco’s Pizzeria & Bar in Summerlin
In a city where are at least hundreds of happy hour deals, it doesn’t take a scientist to figure out why the one at Dom DeMarco’s Pizzeria & Bar is consistently packed weekdays between 2:00pm-6:00pm. Their pizza is transcendent—they “proudly serve the same pizza made famous at a quaint little place in Brooklyn, DiFara Pizza”—and the price is more than right.
At a recent happy hour, I ordered the 12-inch “DiFara Special,” with DiFara sauce, mozzarella, pepperoni, grana Padano, and basil. It’s ordinarily $14, and it was half off—costing only $7. That, my friends, is cheaper than most fast food. Plus the eatery boasts a “$9 menu and 50% off all beer, well drinks, and wine by the glass” for happy hour.
Dom DeMarco’s also has one of the best outdoor patios in the city, recently upgraded with a new pergola that has ceiling fans and a portable air conditioner, so you won’t melt like cheese this summer.