Matt Villano is JCK’s very own Las Vegas travel consultant. The Healdsburg, Calif.–based freelance writer has written our annual print feature on the best new dining and entertainment options in Sin City for as long as we can remember.
Connected with chefs, bar owners, and promoters across town, Matt is a super-nice guy with an enviable talent: He knows how to party (hard) without compromising his work ethic. Which is why we couldn’t resist asking him for three iconic evening itineraries covering both new and established places on and off the Strip, designed for showgoers who are ready to let loose after a day of shopping for jewelry.
Try the one that most appeals to you—or go crazy and do all three. And let us know which spots you liked best in the comments!
Night 1: Downtown Las Vegas
“I’m a huge fan of downtown Vegas and the number 1 coolest new thing downtown, on the south end of the downtown corridor, is the Beverly Theater. On its face, it’s an incredible art house theater that just opened in early March. They have great live programming, cinema, and poetry slams, all really eclectic.
“The coolest thing they’re doing outside the theater is on the second story mezzanine, where they have outdoor jazz and an outdoor wine and beer haven. It’s not really a lounge because it’s outdoors, but it’s a great spot to sit and have a glass of wine. That would be a place to start the night.
“The downtown restaurant scene continues to grow. There are lots of great classic spots for dinner downtown. Barry’s at Circa is probably the best steakhouse meal you can have downtown in terms of overall experience, both food and vibe. And Circa is just cool because it’s the sports betting capital of Vegas.
“At the end of the night, there’s no better place to be than Atomic Liquors. It’s the oldest freestanding bar in Vegas—its liquor license is 00001. They used to charge 2 bucks for a beer and a lawn chair you could take up to the roof to watch the mushroom clouds. It’s a dive spot, open til 3 a.m. on weekends. It’s dark and you can smoke in there. It’s Vegas in the way it was in the ’90s and also the ’50s, a cool throwback.
“Another cool place is the Red Dwarf. It’s a Tiki bar in the middle of nowhere, on the east side of downtown. It’s not a safe neighborhood to walk in so you definitely want to Uber. They’ve got a full drink menu and Detroit-style pizza, the only things they serve. It’s nothing fancy, but it’s a really great place to end the night.”
Night 2: On the Strip
“Resorts World is a really great spot. Brezza just received an award as one of the best Italian restaurants in the West and they now have a lunch menu. And Carversteak finally seems to have its act together as far as food is concerned. And they just turned the Genting Palace Lounge there into an Asian-style Tiki bar of their own called Golden Monkey. It’s gotten surprisingly positive reviews.
“Closer to where the show is, the Palazzo opened this new darts place called Flight Club, a London-based business. It’s like a cross between Top Golf and a dive bar. It’s bright so it’s not dive-y but they’ve got a cocktail program. The areas where you sit are called oches.
“You’re paying for this computerized dartboard with a sequence of games you can play, and your area comes with tables for food and drinks. It’s your own private spot. Even for those of us who play darts, it’s very unfamiliar, but it’s really fun. The computer keeps score and has a camera that plays videos of you back to you.
“I could see having dinner at Resorts World and having a drink at the Golden Monkey, then playing darts at the Palazzo. And for late night, if you’re still up for it, the bar program at Area15 is really cool: Lost Spirits is open late. There are a couple new speakeasies, including one behind the Easy Donuts doughnut bar at Aria in the food court: It’s called Easy’s.”
Night 3: (Way) Off the Strip
“I’m a huge fan of venturing way off the Strip. There’s a bunch of cool stuff going on in Summerlin, about 30 minutes west. The best steakhouse in the city is called Harlo. It’s a real experience, and highly regarded. It’s more of a place that locals are going to, but there’s enough other stuff going on there to warrant a night out. You could eat at Harlo and maybe you pre-game at one of the places on the way.
“We’ve written about the Golden Tiki in Chinatown. Or Herbs & Rye, a classic bar on the west side would be worth a stop. There’s still some cool stuff going on at Palms, which has reopened, and Ghostbar up at the top has reopened. And that’s a great way to pre-game too, since it’s on the west side of the freeway.
“And afterward, there’s a super duper velvet rope–type club called Rouge Room at Red Rock Resort. It’s like a throwback to the old art deco clubs: live music, chandeliers, tufted leather couches. That would be a good progression. Stop and take in a view at Ghostbar, dinner at Harlo, and finish the night at Rouge Room for cocktails and maybe some gambling at the casino.
“As an aside, Red Rock has put in millions of dollars to renovate the casino floor. The coolest part of the renovations is they’ve added a couple new high-limit bars. So there are a number of places to sit and get a fancy drink in the casino. If there’s a line to get into the Rouge Room, or you’re tired of the dark ambience, there are plenty of places to sit down inside those high-limit bars, get a martini, and relax.”
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