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Irresistibly Strange Dining Experiences in Las Vegas
The great philosopher Melanie Griffith once said (in one of her movies) that “Nobody ever went broke underestimating what Americans want to taste.”
That might have been true for Melanie, but it certainly isn’t true for the diners who swamp the many quirky, odd, and sometimes just plain cray-cray restaurants in Las Vegas. In Vegas, de gustibus non est disputandum translates to “man, these caviar tacos are freakin’ delicious!”
From wait staff that is hired specifically for their world-class rudeness to dinner in a treehouse (well, sort of), Vegas remains the undisputed world champion of inventing crazy stuff the rest of us just can’t seem to get enough of.
Here are a few of the cray-cray-est.
BLACKOUT Dining in the Dark
Okay, first off, let’s clear up a misconception here: They’re not going to put you in a darkened room and hand-feed you stuff you can’t see.
No. You’re going to do that yourself.
Served by waiters wearing infrared headlamps, diners are plunged into complete darkness and must rely on their other senses to eat, drink, and find their silverware. One thing you’ll notice is that this is not conducive to wild hand gesticulation or sudden movement of any kind.
Frankly, what I find bizarre is not the utter darkness, but the fact that the prix-fixe meal is all “plant-based.” I like plants, but they are what my food eats. But, try anything once, right?
BLACKOUT does not publish a menu because to reveal what they’re serving would sort of defeat the whole “in the dark” thing. To that end, they also ask patrons to store any light-emitting objects (such as cell phones, haunted skulls, and laser rifles) into lockers prior to entering the dining area.
Incidentally, they’ll take note of any food allergies members of your party may have, as well as delicately suggest everyone visit the restroom prior to entering the dining area. Good thinking, BLACKOUT. I personally wouldn’t have thought of that until I found myself blindly stumbling over what I assume are other diners on my panicked dash in the direction I recall the restrooms being.
You can learn more about BLACKOUT Dining in the Dark at their website. Or you can just eat a PB & J with the lights off. Yeah, that’ll be exactly like eating at BLACKOUT. Not.
Dick’s Last Resort
Snide, sarcastic, mean, snotty, catty. These aren’t criticisms; they’re bullet points on the resumes of anyone with a chance of getting hired to wait tables at Dick’s Last Resort.
I mean, what else can I say about a restaurant chain with the motto “Putting the F.U. in Fun since 1985”?
You wouldn’t think insult and ribaldry would be such a popular form of entertainment (go with me on this), but in fact, Dick’s Last Resort is so popular a concept that they now have 13 locations across the US.
Google calls Dick’s Last Resort a “Traditional American Restaurant.” I guess that refers to the fare itself, which is everything from baby back ribs to cheeseburgers to grilled sirloin. The drinks revolve around beer and margaritas. Festive fare, no doubt, to take your mind off those hurtful insults everyone else at your table is trying to pretend didn’t happen.
Incidentally, even their menu has attitude. Instead of providing a description for what it calls “Grilled Chicky Caesar” the menu only says “Figure it out, genius.”
Dick’s Last Resort is open for your dining embarrassment 11am to 11pm (Sunday through Thursday) and 11am to midnight Friday and Saturday. The bar, as they say, is open until later. By the way, most nights, they have dueling pianos for entertainment. You’ve been warned.
Dick’s Last Resort probably couldn’t care less whether you want more info from their website or not.
Heart Attack Grill
Continuing with our surprise theme of “places that abuse you while you eat,” if you don’t finish the cheeseburger you ordered at Heart Attack Grill, your nurse will spank you with a paddle.
Confused? You shouldn’t be. You know everything served at Heart Attack Grill is bad for you, if for no other reason than the names. Flatline Fries with your Octuple Bypass Burger? You know, they are fried in pure lard. Want a Butterfat Shake to go with that?
So it kinda makes sense, in a creepy sort of way, that all the waitresses at Heart Attack Grill are dressed as nurses. You’ll feel like you woke up in a Russ Meyers movie, the one about the buxom hospital workers. As opposed to the one about the buxom ranch hands. Or the one about the buxom cat burglars…
Incidentally, you can eat here free if you weigh at least 350 pounds (which you must prove by stepping onto a livestock scale). The restaurant has actually trademarked the names of many of the items on its menu, as well as the phrase “Taste Worth Dying For®.”
Heart Attack Grill is located in Downtown Las Vegas at the corner of Fremont Street and Las Vegas Boulevard and is open daily from 11am to 10pm.
Need more? Of course you do. Take a detailed look at Heart Attack Grill. Makes great pre-bypass reading.
Hi Scores Bar-Arcade
Want to enjoy an infernally good cheeseburger and play games, but not the kind of games that take your house payment and bend, fold, spindle, and mutilate it?
Then Hi Scores Bar-Arcade is the place for you. This is a bar that specializes in great bar food and vintage arcade games. Yeah, right, you say. Vintage. What’s that? Well, how about some Asteroid, smart guy? Mortal Kombat. Frogger. Freakin’ Donkey Kong, dude! If you don’t consider those games vintage, then I guess we’ll just have to agree that you’re wrong.
Of course, it wouldn’t be Vegas if they didn’t have video poker at the bar (which they do), but arcade games are definitely the draw at Hi Scores. Well, that and their Royal Sliders — four hamburgers topped with two kinds of cheeses and caramelized onions. Order your own plate, by the way. I’m not sharing.
Located in Henderson on Stephanie Street (in Henderson, if a business isn’t on S. Eastern Avenue, then it’s on Stephanie Street), Hi Scores also opened a location in 2016 on Blue Diamond Road (as the crow flies, about a mile and a half northwest of South Point Hotel, Casino & Spa).
By the way, the two locations host a mutual Pub Trivia Night every Tuesday in which patrons of each of the two bars compete to win the eternal battle of Who Knows The Most Useless Yet Interesting Facts. As a Grand Master of Boorish Cocktail Party Holding Forth, I heartily endorse these competitions.
You can start getting your Frogger on with a visit to the Hi Scores Bar-Arcade website.
Mastro’s Ocean Club
The oddness of Mastro’s is all in the venue; the food and service itself are deliciously “normal.” Yes, the restaurant is mostly housed in a treehouse-like structure inside The Shops at Crystal. Great views.
As you might imagine, Mastro’s has something of a dress code. Nothing out of the ordinary for a linen-dinner kind of place — men must wear collared shirts, and please (this applies to everyone), no shorts, or jeans with holes in them. Oh, and no flip-flops or sneakers. Anything from business casual to fancy-schmancy is fine.
Come on, this is a nice, fancy place with seafood dishes fit for royalty. Speaking of which, hats and other headwear are frowned upon, so all you princes- and princesses-in-exile will have to check your crowns at the door. They had trouble accommodating my astronaut helmet, but they managed. They are, after all, professionals.
Seafood is king at Mastro’s Ocean Club. Crab legs, oysters on the half-shell, seared ahi — they even have escargot on the appetizer menu. Now, last time I checked, you don’t find much escargot in the ocean, but I love escargot, so imma give them a pass.
In any case, you’ll find more than fine seafood here, from petite filets to rack of lamb (I usually have lamb; I grew up in cattle country, and mutton was sneered at — altogether unwarranted and unfair sneers, I have since discovered).
The lounge at Mastro’s opens at 4pm, and dining begins at 5pm, running until 11pm every night. You can browse Mastro’s Ocean Club menu here.
minus5º Ice Experience
If you fancy freezing your tchotchkes off while dining and eating some excellent stuff, then you’re in luck. minus5º Ice Experience has not one but two locations in Las Vegas — in Mandalay Bay and at the Venetian (and they’re talking about opening a third at the Linq Promenade).
Part of the fun is getting into your complimentary arctic wear (it’ll be on all the runways next year in Paris and Milan, I hear). Once you’re bundled up appropriately, you can take your seat (made of ice) at the bar (also made of ice) or a table (again with the ice) and order a drink, which will be served to you in a glass made of — wait for it — ice.
I’m going to be painfully honest with you: minus5º does not serve food, which might seem like a poor fit in an article about dining experiences. But most restaurants in Las Vegas have a lounge that opens hours before the dining room does, and it takes only a tiny bit of imagination to see minus5º as the lounge to any number of nearby restaurants. In fact, if you’re unable to find an excellent restaurant within easy stumbling distance of any of the minus5º locations, well, I can’t even.
If that doesn’t help, then just think of it as a dining experience so strange they don’t even feed you.
In any case, enjoy all the 23 degrees Fahrenheit air you can stand. A Frosty Mojito or a Frozen Apple should warm you right up. If not, well, have another.
A visit to the website of minus5º Ice Experience can be chilling. But in a good way.
Rose. Rabbit. Lie.
Where else could a modern interpretation of the old-school supper club call home but the Cosmopolitan Las Vegas? That’s where you’ll find Rose. Rabbit. Lie.
The restaurant bends all the rules j-u-s-t enough to keep you amazed and entertained while serving up such treats as caviar tacos and foie gras beignets. And those are just appetizers.
You can also try a 24-ounce porterhouse steak or one of their other signature entrees, like beef wellington or sole meuniere (pan-roasted dover sole served with a sauce so special Ronald McDonald still cries himself to sleep).
They also offer a “Rose. Rabbit. Lie. Experience” package for $125 per person, which serves a variety of the restaurant’s signature dishes and various “seasonal creations.” Or you can pair your dining experience with tickets to Opium, the indescribable space oddity presented at Cosmo by Spiegelworld, the same folks who do Absinthe.
Rose. Rabbit. Lie. features live entertainment every night; it’s open for business Wednesday through Sunday, 5:30pm until midnight.
Sparrow + Wolf
Off the Strip (about a block west of Chinatown Plaza on Spring Mountain Road), Sparrow + Wolf opened in 2017 and has been serving adventurous diners ever since. The food is not all that odd, unless you think sweetbreads and roasted bone marrow and braised lamb neck are odd. I don’t, but I’ve eaten street vendor food in the Philippines, so I’ve paid my dues.
This is a great place to bring someone with too narrow a view of what’s edible and what’s not. Everything but the food itself (and the drinks, now that I think about it) is surprisingly normal — classy, even, from the linen-dinner venue itself to the punctual and efficient wait staff.
Sparrow + Wolf is open seven days a week from 5pm to 11pm. Reservations are highly recommended. Discover (and fall in love with) the dishes the snobs don’t want you to know about — you can get started with a visit to the website of Sparrow + Wolf.
God, I hate puns, especially the ones that occur to me and then I can’t seem to get them out of my head until I pass them on to some unsuspecting passer-by such as an anonymous internet browser. You wouldn’t happen to know one of these, by any chance…?
That’s me, putting the P.U. in Pun since the turn of the century.
Seriously, Las Vegas exists to entertain, feed, and slake the thirst of adults. I believe the above-discussed establishments perform expertly at each of these. And once you’ve visited a few, I believe you’ll agree.