Eating old-school in modern Vegas
At these classic restaurants, serious food and service haven’t gone out of style
Wed, Jul 20, 2011 (6:18 p.m.)
Photo: Beverly Poppe
When the Sahara closed a few months back, Las Vegas lost more than another one of its iconic casinos. Its House of Lords Steakhouse was one of the few restaurants left in town to re-create a bygone era of dining. Think Rat Pack and martinis, high-backed leather booths, steak and seafood, tuxed-out maitre d’s and table-side preparations. Extra effort with service and classic eats were always part of the package at House of Lords, even if, like the casino it called home, time had passed it by.
In the Strip’s never-ending mission to renew itself, this epicurean experience has nearly gone extinct. The Golden Steer Steakhouse, located across the street from the shuttered Sahara and open since 1958, is probably the only restaurant near the Strip where you can stay cool and old school. It may sound funny, but if you want to find some fun food with that vintage vibe, you need to get off Las Vegas Boulevard.
The El Cortez is celebrating its 70th anniversary this year, and fancy food at the Flame Steakhouse is part of the show. The food and beverage staff literally researched decades of menus to build a special Vintage Menu available for a limited time, including antiquated-yet-tasty dishes like oysters Rockefeller, hearts of palm salad with lemon vinaigrette, chicken Kiev and strawberries romanoff or peach melba for dessert. It’s a lot of fun, but don’t let it take away from the regular menu at the Flame, which serves great blue crab cakes, steaks, chops and, when they’re in season, stone crabs. It’s also one of the coziest places to eat Downtown, conveniently located near the great bars of East Fremont.
But that’s Downtown. Of course there’s a great old-school steakhouse in our city’s center. What about Summerlin? The Carmel Room has you covered. This joint is a straight-up time machine, full of tiny private rooms for an intimate dinner with exceptional service. There already were plenty of throwbacks on this menu, from escargot Bourguignon to Dover sole finished at your table. The kitchen has made some stellar new additions, most notably a special Wagyu beef menu and a starter of shrimp and scallops dijon on a pastry shell. It’s one of the best classic-to-modern bites you’ll ever have.
And then there’s the South Point. Michael Gaughan is the epitome of old school Vegas, and that’s why he moved his classic namesake restaurant from the then-Barbary Coast when he opened this place. Michael’s serves up the same menu it always has, all shrimp cocktail, French onion soup, Chateaubriand and rack of lamb. Check out the extra classy touch: There are no prices on your wife’s or girlfriend’s menu. There’s another South Point spot that takes you back, the unfortunately named and oddly positioned Primarily Prime Rib. It’s upstairs in the casino mezzanine, next to a Mexican restaurant and tequila bar, hidden behind a wall of Victorian antique glass, and yeah, the specialty is prime rib. But there’s also crazy hard-to-find stuff like weinerschnitzel (pan-fried breaded pork cutlet), liver and onions, and medallions of beef sauteed with mushrooms, tomatoes and red wine reduction.
Sometimes it’s hard to look past what’s new and hip, especially when it comes to the restaurant world. But it’s nice to know—especially in a city as young as ours—that you can still get a taste of what was hip 45 years ago. And hey, you can’t complain about the Sahara and the House of Lords closing up shop if you never visited. Get old-school Vegas while you can.