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Your guide to going out in Las Vegas

Rockpool’s Vickie O’Malley shares her off-strip picks to help you get the most for your dollar.

Heading to Licensing Expo next week and looking for a bargain when it comes to a night out? Well, Rockpool Licensing’s Vickie O’Malley has a host of suggestions for restaurants and bars which are off-strip to help you get the most from your budget.

Bloody Brexit. Last year I checked out of my hotel on the day after the referendum. To add to my general sense of despair, that extra 24 hours in Las Vegas cost me £300 in exchange rate plummet alone [Insert Expletive Here]. A year on, our £pound remains as weak as a kitten and prices in Las Vegas continue to soar.

There’s only one thing for it, you gotta get off-strip. If you stray even just a block away from Las Vegas Boulevard, there are delights, adventures and even bargains to be found. This year, we’re looking at places to eat, drink and be merry where your precious quid can join hands with your sense of adventure, and go a little further.

VickeiChinaTown

There’s a Chinatown?

Did you even know there was a Chinatown in Las Vegas? I must confess that I only found out last year. Some of the most highly acclaimed restaurants in LV can be found in the strip malls of Spring Mountain Road.

Yes, I said Strip Malls and yes, you will panic on arrival. Your taxi will pull up to a row of shops and it will take you a minute to spot your restaurant sandwiched between the dry cleaners and the nail bar. It will look uninviting. Fear not, once inside, marvellous things will happen.

VickieRaku

I was Googling ‘best restaurants in Las Vegas’ to take out clients and very lovely people. I kept seeing amazing reviews for a place called Raku but hesitated as it was off the beaten track and it didn’t look expensive enough… I was looking to impress rather than alarm.

Eventually, after the umpteenth review said it was ‘The Place’ where chefs from the Strip go after work, I booked it. I rang JC in a ‘let’s test the water and if he sounds embarrassed for me, I’ll cancel’, kinda way. Thankfully, he’s hugely knowledgeable about Japanese food and was very excited. This being all the encouragement I need, I called them back and made a second booking for later in the week for another business dinner.

Regrets, I have a few… but this isn’t one of them; outstanding and creative food with spectacular service. On my second visit, our waitress recognised me and made sure I remembered all the cool stuff JC had suggested from Dinner #1. Both nights we ate like kings. The bill, much like the size of the restaurant, was a tiny fraction if it would have been on the Strip. If you want to go, book, it really is very small. I will have done so before this goes to print.

Other off-strip gems include Echo & Rigg in Tivoli Village. A butcher with restaurant attached and first class rib eye at less than half the price you’d pay in a major casino steakhouse; Marche Bacchus, a lakeside French restaurant that feels a world away from the strip; and Other Mama, a seafood haven where I for one, am headed this year. They have an oyster happy hour for goodness sake.

VickieDowntown

So, Go Downtown!

… The lights are much brighter there! Oh Petula, you’re right! Well, they are at least as bright and you can certainly “forget all your troubles”. The gambling, food and drinks are practically free! Ahem.

My love affair with Downtown began a few years ago. I came to Vegas on holiday with my dear friends Rich and Lisa (whom many of you will have met as Lisa now helps me with PD for Rockpool). I’d read about a place where the cocktails were graded 1 ‘Universal Appeal’ to 5 ‘Acquired Taste for the Connoisseur’.

Thing was, I couldn’t remember what it was called. My only two pieces of information were 1: it was a Cocktail Room and 2: it was Downtown. We asked our new best friend, the bartender at the Golden Nugget and, based on the scant clues I had provided, he suggested that I probably meant the Downtown Cocktail Room.

We weaved our way there and oh what a night! Everything was delicious and/or exciting. And I mean everything. I can’t imagine we left a single bottle of spirits unmolested. One of their creations tasted like a bonfire. No, really. You couldn’t say it was pleasant, but it was impossible to stop drinking it. The guy at the Golden Nugget was relegated to runner-up in the ‘new best friend stakes’ right there and then, not least because, when the bill was presented, they’d knocked about 70% off because “you guys are fun.”

VickieMama

We staggered out of there and a few doors away (it’s hard to be exact at this point) we found Don’t Tell Mama. We knew we’d hit pay dirt as we opened the door and the guy was playing Piano Man. Eyes closed, it WAS Billy Joel. There were only a handful of people, each taking turns at the mic/piano and performing, like pros. Turns out that’s because they were.

We discovered that Don’t Tell Mama is where local acts head on their night off. They embraced us wholeheartedly and even rocked out some Radiohead for Rich. We’d became like family and, when Lisa requested ‘Eldorado’, they somehow knew that this was just the Bonfire cocktail talking and played ‘Desperado’ instead.

Rich still says it’s in his top three nights out ever and, believe me dear reader, there’s quite some competition.

VickieAtomic

Downtown is filthy with great places to go and others you may wish to try include Atomic Liquor, the oldest bar in LV, where they used to watch atomic blasts from the roof-top terrace. A Rat Pack hang-out and, apparently, Barbra Streisand had her own seat at the bar. Yes, I was surprised too.

There’s Insert Coin where you can play Donkey Kong and have a cocktail at the same time or Commonwealth with a great roof top terrace and its own secret-door bar called the Laundry Room. You need a code to enter, can only stay for two hours and aren’t allowed to take photos.

Well, what happens in Vegas kids…

This feature originally appeared in the summer 2017 edition of Licensing Source Book. Click here to read the full publication.

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