The boonies are good enough
Heading out of town (nearly) in search of a few good cocktails
Thu, Jul 24, 2008 (midnight)
The Silverton Hotel & Casino has an off-the-beaten-path sort of feel to it, which is odd considering it’s just off of Las Vegas Boulevard—an exceptionally well-beaten path. But the Blue Diamond Road location is just far enough south to make it feel like it’s out in the boonies, and as I approach the lodge-like, wooden exterior, with the electrical buzzing of cicadas filling my ears, I feel outdoorsy—about as outdoorsy as one can feel while traversing crosswalks on his way from a parking lot.
This makes the first glimpse of the interior somewhat jarring. Passing through the front doors is like entering a Western lodge to discover the lost city of Atlantis inside. I’m greeted by the gill-flapping denizens of a crowded, 117,000-gallon aquatic metropolis. The impressive aquarium houses 4,000 tropical fish, including stingrays and sharks. The tank is also host to a recurring mermaid show and several fish feedings, which—if alternated properly—don’t occur simultaneously, safely keeping the performers off the sharks’ menu.
Sidling up to the bar in the Mermaid Restaurant and Lounge, I wait for the show to begin while perusing the menu. It has all the fried calamari and fish and chips you’d expect to find in an aquatic-themed bar, but as appetizing as it all looks, it seems kind of twisted to dine on sea life directly in front of their brethren—especially when you consider that all the fish have names (like “Flipper,” “Moby Dick” and …“Craig”), which are stenciled on the backs of the chairs that fill the bar. I settle for a morally neutral cocktail.
After 20 minutes of watching the hypnotic undulations of jellyfish behind the bar, I realize the mermaid show I came to see has been inexplicably cancelled. This isn’t the first time I’ve been stood up at a bar, but it is the first time it’s been done by a woman who’s half fish. Oh, well. I suppose this is why they invented bar crawls. As they say in The Big Lebowski, “F--k it, dude. Let’s go bowling.”
And whaddaya know? I can. Shady Grove Lounge, the first bar I migrate to, has two miniature bowling lanes housed within an elongated, silver Airstream-like trailer. This used to be “Hootie and the Blowfish’s Shady Grove Lounge,” but the Hootie connection endured about as long as the band’s 15 minutes of fame, so now the décor is limited to a map of America, made up entirely of state license plates.
Kory, the friendly and attentive bartender, offers to bring me a drink, and after a moment of contemplation, I go with wine rather than beer. After all, I am bowling … in a trailer … and beer is pretty much the last thing I’d need to fully embody the white-trash stereotype. After achieving a bowling score so low I have to credit it to the divine intervention of Bacchus, the god of wine, I move on to the next bar.
Twin Creeks is about as classy as bowling in a trailer is not. While most of the establishment is filled with an upscale restaurant, serving the most decadent of surf ’n’ turf delicacies, there is also a lounge with a bourbon-heavy cocktail list, courtesy of master mixologist John Dupont. Taking a seat at one of the sleek, snakeskin-patterned tables, I sample the Casino Royale (Van Gogh Acai-Blueberry vodka, Pama Liqueur and a champagne float) and the Frank Sinatra (Right Gin, Blue Curacao and sweet and sour with a lemon twist). They’re both colorful and tasty enough to completely conceal the booziness that will undoubtedly punish me come morning. But I’ve come this far, and there’s one more bar on my crawl.
At this point, I can barely stand to read, let alone sample, Mi Casa’s list of 50-plus tequilas. Out of sheer curiosity, I try the cucumber/watermelon-infused margarita, which is best drunk without a straw, to enjoy all of the watermelon pulp. It virtually begs me to order the tamales, carnitas and tacos normally available in the cantina, but alas, the hour has grown late, and the restaurant is closed.
Clearly, the Silverton offers a variety of watering holes to appeal to a multitude of tastes. However, they’re probably best savored one at a time. Otherwise, you may be waking up the next morning, vaguely recalling a quest for mermaids that took you on a path through trailer parks, fancy restaurants and Mexico, all within the confines of a lodge out in the boonies. At least, it feels like the boonies if you have to pay for cab fare home.