“Less ice—more tequila!” says Hussong’s Las Vegas operator, Scott Frost. The Ensenada, Mexico, cantina that claims to be the birthplace of the original margarita has found a new second home in Las Vegas at Mandalay Place, thanks to Frost’s Titan Nightlife Group and partners Jeffrey Marks and Jeff Denecke.
Hussong’s Cantina was founded in 1892 by German immigrant Johan Hussong. Frost says Hussong’s is known as “the bar that built a town” and remains a popular destination in Mexico to this day. Key elements from the original location have been incorporated into the eclectic décor, such as a mounted eland head (an African antelope), replica paintings and photos from Hussong’s in Ensenada, along with souvenirs from the Mandalay Bay plot’s former incarnation, the Hacienda Hotel.
With its grand opening slated for January 21 and service-industry night for February 1, the approximately 3,700 square-foot, 150-person capacity cantina is looking to be Vegas’ “Official Headquarters of Hangover Recovery” during its 10 a.m. to 2 a.m. reign over day and night. Whether you’re filling up on their assortment of Mexican sopes, pulled goat meat or pan-seared lobster tacos, build-you-own nachos or chasing the hair of the dog with Hussong’s twist on a Bloody Mary, the staff aims to pull customers into the Baja experience.
The rock ’n’ roll mariachis will help the crowd get into the spirit, as will games of liar’s dice and dominos, but it’s the slammer cart made from a bisected Casa Noble tequila barrel that’s sure to propel you to get acquainted with everyone else in the venue. Shot glasses of equal parts tequila and the carbonated beverage of your choice are key to a slammer. But for the drinker who wears his or her imbibing ability like a badge of honor—and plans on walking home—opt for the shot-glass bandoleer to display the slammers you’ve consumed. Or, if you’re feeling a bit more artistic, order up the Liberty or Death cocktail and doodle a mustache on the skull-shaped souvenir glass.
“It will be an approachable and friendly atmosphere, and have value,” Frost says. Just don’t ask for a frozen margarita or you’ll be informed—albeit politely—that that’s against tradition. There are no blenders at Hussong’s.
“There are a lot more ‘Joe Iowas’ in Vegas, and the middle market has been ignored as far as entertainment/beverage-driven food concepts,” he says. So at Hussong’s, Frost says, there won’t be cover charges or celebrity hosts—and you’ll get your money’s worth with strong drinks and reasonably-priced food. Plus Mexican beers on draft and over 50 tequilas for your sampling and sipping pleasure. Hooray!