Westgate’s Culinary Superstars: Executive Chef Steve Young

Meet the charismatic star of the incomparable Edge Steakhouse

In preparation for my ongoing series on the talent behind Westgate Las Vegas‘ Food and Beverage operations, I interviewed five amazing individuals. Each of them are standouts in their field, but only one had impressed me long before we actually met. That person is Executive Chef Steve Young.

Chef Steve Young Edge Steakhouse

My first dinner at Edge Steakhouse two years ago was part of a whirlwind series of experiences arranged by Westgate‘s management and PR teams so I could witness the stunning improvements they’d made since aquiring the property. To say that my dinner was the turning point of my opinions of Westgate would be putting things mildly. After that incredible meal (which ranks as one of my best ever), I developed what could best be described as a Pavlovian response.

From that evening forward, it has been impossible to walk through the off-Strip resort without encountering an Edge Steakhouse advertisement…and my mouth beginning to water. It is such that I often want to break from my path and head right for their reservation podium on Restaurant Row.

Chef Steve Young Edge Steakhouse

I arrived for my interview with Chef Steve as the Edge staff was in preparation to open for the evening’s business. Servers, bartenders and other staffers were efficiently going about their responsibilities. Young came over to greet me and we settled into an alcove near the entrance….far enough for some privacy but within reach if the Warren, New Jersey native was needed. As you’ll see, he’s a consumate professional.

The first personal detail I learned was that Young had been working since he was fourteen years old. Much of it was helping in the kitchen of a country club, developing cooking skills he’d learned from his family. That struck a chord, as working hard from a very young age was a common thread among others I’d interviewed…and a lesson on the virtues of ambition.

Chef Steve Young Edge Steakhouse

            James Beard guest chefs receive a photo book of their experience…

At only 34, Chef Young has already achieved what many in his profession can only dream of…to prepare a dinner at the prestigious James Beard Foundation. This not-for-profit culinary arts organization, created with the involvement of Julia Child, honors chefs who make America’s food culture more diverse, sustainable and delicious for everyone.

Chef Steve Young Edge Steakhouse

The theme last February 14th for the presentation was “Valentine’s Day with a Vegas Kiss”. Chef Young and six other members of Westgate Resort‘s culinary team traveled to New York City, along with 40 crates of food, dishes, utensils and equipment. They created an epic six-course dinner for over eighty guests, complimented by 132 bottles of wine that also traveled with the Westgate team.

In order to appreciate that honor, one needs to look backward to where it all began. Chef Young credits much of his success to a mentor – Chef Andrew Lattanzio of NYC’s Culinary Institute of America. He laughed that Lattanzio didn’t play games when the lessons kicked in:

Chef Steve Young Edge Steakhouse

“Chef Lattanzio was really tough and let us know it. He used to say things like ‘I’m tired of half-assed cooks!’. I didn’t want that directed at me” Young recalled. “He taught us the how’s and why’s of technique. That’s what he drilled. Technique. Technique is everything. No dish will turn out right without the proper technique”.

“Chef Lattanzio always encouraged us to seek out the best working environments, too. “You HAVE to work for good people’, he’d say”. And so Chef Steve did. After achieving his degree, Young received a position as Sous Chef for New Jersey’s Due Mari and Due Terre restaurants at the age of 22. Overseen by Chef Michael White, these seafood/authentic Italian restos were favorites of the area (Due Terri has since closed).

Chef Steve Young Edge Steakhouse

In 2009, Young relocated to Las Vegas and started the year as Master Cook for MGM Grand‘s Joel Robuchon. This flagship location of the Robuchon collection of French restaurants sets the standard for a dozen locations spanning the world from Paris and London to Shanghai and Singapore.

Young absorbed the influences of his famous mentors, merged them with his own style (and that all-important flair….er, “technique”) and forged a plan to take on something big and bold. This time that “new” was a pair of gleaming towers looking to make a name for themselves on the crowded Las Vegas skyline…the Cosmopolitan.

Chef Steve Young Edge Steakhouse

Opening up restaurants in a new resort would be a daunting task for anyone, but especially for someone relatively new to the Vegas scene. For Chef Young, that challenge was heightened by becoming part of the team that set out to redefine the Vegas buffet experience.

Edge Steakhouse Chef Steve Young

                        Wicked Spoon redefined the Vegas buffet experience…

The  Wicked Spoon Buffet was an immediate hit. Long lines and four-star reviews lauded the distinctive presentation of small plates, seasonal creations and cleverly-crafted original dishes. For nearly a year and a half, Young was Sous Chef for both Wicked Spoon and the resort’s massive in-room dining operations…until it was time to move upwards.

Chef Steve Young Edge Steakhouse

                                       “Technique technique technique”…

Next up was a promotion to Chef de Cuisine for Cosmo‘s massive “Pool District”, a collection of three different daytime experiences which includes Boulevard Pool‘s Overlook Grill and the mega-popular Marquee Dayclub.

During his pre-Westgate tenure, Young estimates he was involved in the opening of 9-10 restaurants, most notably spending two and a half years as Chef de Cuisine at The Henry, Cosmo’s 24-hour casual eatery.

Edge Steakhouse Chef Steve Young

“I started to get a little bit cocky while at the Cosmo“, he laughed. His handsome face flushed a little bit while recounting this. “It was time for the people around me to offer a little bit of attitude correction“.  He didn’t go into details on the matter, but seemed thankful that things course-corrected to everyone’s satisfaction. As a result, Young spent five successful years at the fledgling property.

Chef Steve Young Edge Steakhouse

                      Chef Steve and wife Sara enjoy the active life in Las Vegas…

This phase of his career was filled with two very special personal events – marrying sweetheart Sara (a teacher for the Clark County school district), and the birth of their daughter, who just turned six years old.

Even though the youthful Young was taking on the toughest responsibilities of his life, he still managed to revel in the thrills of Vegas. That included racing go karts, target-shooting in the desert…and having a blast in nightclubs around the city. I can’t provide proof, but rumor has it that the master of steak is a closeted fan of Vegas favorite In-N-Out Burger.

Chef Steve Young Edge Steakhouse

In 2015, the newly-reborn Westgate Las Vegas was attracting some the Strip’s best and brightest culinary wizards to become a part of their new team. Noteworthy food/beverage stars like Chef Bruno Morabito and master mixologist Eddie Perales came aboard, and Young left Cosmo to launch the Sin City incarnation of Edge Steakhouse.

Chef Steve Young Edge Steakhouse

Chef Steve Young Edge Steakhouse

                 Westgate Park City is home to the original Edge Steakhouse…

You might recognize the name of Edge Steakhouse if you’ve visited Park City, Utah. The award-winning original location at Westgate Park City is considered to be one of the best steak restaurants in the United States. Having just dined there, I can testify that Edge Park City is a superlative experience with impeccable service and some of the absolute best dining in the region.

Chef Steve Young Edge Steakhouse

Stepping up from Chef de Cuisine to Executive Chef for Edge presented an entirely new set of challenges for Chef Young…from redesigning the existing space to laying out the extensive kitchen. Then of course came the hiring/training of his staff and creating his own Vegas-style version of Park City’s menu.

Chef Steve Young Edge Steakhouse

Chef Steve Young Edge Steakhouse

One eye-catching example of his contributions is the dry-age room. Installed in full view of the restaurant’s exterior, visitors can check out the various meats, which are labeled and displayed in a beautiful tasteful presentation. The effect is impressive, much like the bottles of wine that line the walls of the dining room.

Chef Steve Young Edge Steakhouse


Now that Edge Steakhouse of Las Vegas has become a runaway success (matching or perhaps even exceeding the standards set by its Park City parent), the recognition and awards have been flowing in.

Chef Steve Young Edge Steakhouse


Chef Steve was chosen as “Best Rising Chef/Rising Star” for 2017 in the culinary categories of Silver State Awards, which recognizes excellence and achievements in Nevada’s exemplary individuals and companies.

He has since become a somewhat regular face on local talk shows, where he shares his newest dishes, often created around seasonal favorites.

Chef Steve Young Edge Steakhouse

Chef Steve Young Edge Steakhouse

Once our conversation was over, Chef Steve escorted me to my table, where he shared some of his favorite dishes. Instead of describing my impressions, I’ll just let the photos do the talking.

Chef Steve Young Edge Steakhouse

                Baby Beets Salad with burrata cheese and pistachio ($14)

Chef Steve Young Edge Steakhouse

      Silk Road Spicy Shrimp appetizer with sweet chili reduction ($16)

Chef Steve Young Edge Steakhouse

     Sunchoke Ravioli with parmesan foam is one of Chef Young’s favorites…

Chef Steve Young Edge Steakhouse

       Sea Scallops with butternut squash, pomegranite and pine nuts ($37)

Chef Steve Young Edge Steakhouse

Edge Steakhouse Chef Steve Young


                                                      Wagyu ribeye cap ($75)

Chef Steve Young Edge Steakhouse

From what I’ve seen, Chef Young and Westgate are an impeccable pairing. Building a new restaurant “from the ground up” is a difficult achievement on its own. But together, this team has taken a recognizable brand, given it their own unique stamp and made it into one of the most fabulous and award-winning dining spots in the city.

After our interview, one of Westgate’s other chefs jokingly shared with me his admiration for Chef Young:

Steve Young is a very, very methodical man. He plans out everything, writes it all down…as if it’s his own “Bible”. He has very strict way of operating a restaurant. Some of us chefs are wild cards, but not Chef Steve. He’s totally by the books and everything has to be perfect. It drives me crazy, but it clearly works. That’s just the way he is…and I love him.

Chef Steve Young Edge Steakhouse

Edge Steakhouse Las Vegas is open Tuesday through Saturday from 5 pm. Call 702-732-5277 for reservations or more information.

Photos: Sammasseur, James Beard Foundation, Westgate Las Vegas, Steve Young via Facebook, KTNV via YouTube, lasvegasnow.com, Yelp!






Hamburger Mary’s Is Ready To Serve Up Some Prime Beef…and Quirky Charm

Category-defying burger spot plans grand return to the Vegas scene…

Vegas is big on burgers. Every major resort has at least one gourmet hamburger restaurant. Even celebrity chefs like Bobby Flay and Gordon Ramsay have gotten in on the act. Then there are the bargain places like In-N-Out and Checkers that almost always seem to be busy.

Yet one burger palace that Sin City conspicuously lacks is a Hamburger Mary’s. The freewheeling, no-holds-barred fun spot that celebrates quirky culture in so many progressive cities has been absent from Las Vegas for quite some time (2006 to be exact). But now Mary is set to make a grand return to the valley in a new location.

Hamburger Mary's Las Vegas

                         The former Hamburger Mary’s on Harmon Avenue…

Once situated on the corner of Harmon Avenue and Paradise Road, the new Hamburger Mary’s is currently under construction on East Flamingo Avenue, not far from UNLV and the Atomic Testing Museum. A planned summer 2017 opening was heavily delayed due to permit and construction issues, but the current target date of late March 2018 now seems likely.

Hamburger Mary's Las Vegas

                Owner Lou Placencia is excited to bring Mary back to Las Vegas…

Hamburger Mary's Las Vegas

The eatery, whose slogan of “an open-air bar and grill for open-minded people” understandably draws a strong LGBTQ clientele. Hamburger Mary’s will occupy a building currently home to Flair Nightclub, a large gay-themed dance club. The two should compliment each other nicely. And since they share the same owner (Lou Placencia) Flair and Mary’s together can offer a complete night out.

Hamburger Mary's Las Vegas

This writer has long been a fan of Hamburger Mary’s. When living in Fort Lauderdale, there was one within walking distance on Wilton Drive (the gay mecca of South Florida). It was THE place to see and be seen. Eventually a franchise disagreement led to a renaming of the restaurant (it’s now called Rosie’s Bar and Grill), but the food and good times remain generally the same. I visited just a few weeks ago and it was still a blast.

Hamburger Mary's Las Vegas

Hamburger Mary's Las Vegas

During the same trip to the east coast, I hit up a Hamburger Mary’s in downtown Orlando. It was absolutely freezing on that Saturday night…but inside, the crowd was standing-room-only for an outrageous drag show that entertained gay and straight diners alike. It was nice to see the mixed crowd having such a great time.

Hamburger Mary's Las Vegas

Hamburger Mary's Las Vegas

Hamburger Mary's Las Vegas

Depending on when you visit Mary, you might encounter a Broadway revue, trivia night or even some twisted variation on bingo. Being an adult-skewing establishment with a full bar and occasionally risque entertainment, you aren’t likely to see children here at night (or at least you shouldn’t). But Mary’s “Little Lambs” are gladly welcomed during the daytime hours with their own menu.

Hamburger Mary's Las Vegas

It was a special treat to visit Vancouver BC a few years back and discover a Hamburger Mary’s a few blocks from my hotel. Being the first guests upon opening gave the place an entirely different feel…but allowed me to savor the delicious food without the distraction of constant eye candy.

Hamburger Mary's Las Vegas

Each location is franchised and the owners are encouraged to develop a character reflective of its home city. So expect larger-than-life sights and sounds when Mary comes to Vegas. You can be sure that the menu, quality of ingredients and service will be superlative. There will be outdoor seating and the restaurant and bar are totally nonsmoking.

Hamburger Mary's Las Vegas

The spirit of Hamburger Mary’s extends beyond food and fun. Their dedication to local communities by way of fundraisers, charity functions and sponsorship of the arts and sports leagues is a tradition. More recently, franchisees have made strident efforts to address environmental concerns by moving towards energy and water efficiency, using recycled paper products and starting programs for composting and recycling waste.

Hamburger Mary's Las Vegas

One thing that won’t be wasted is the food on your plate. Everything I’ve ever selected through the years has been absolutely wonderful, from fresh salads to towering turkey burgers, sumptuous soups to mouth-watering meatloaf. Each location has a unique menu and daily food and drink specials, so have fun finding your own favorites.

Hamburger Mary's Las Vegas

One reason Hamburger Mary’s Las Vegas is already dear to my heart is that they’ve extended an invitation for me to host a certain gathering that I wrote about last month. That celebration for hunky show performers and award recipients was denied by an uptight public relations exec for Cafe 6 at Palms Place in December. Well, their loss is Mary’s gain.

Hamburger Mary's Las Vegas

Be sure to look for me…enjoying some grade A beef (and some prime beefcake) when Hamburger Mary’s opens at the end of next month. “Eat, Drink and Be Mary”.

Hamburger Mary’s/Flair Nightclub will be located at 1700 E Flamingo Rd, Las Vegas. Flair is currently closed due to construction. You can keep tabs on their opening date by clicking here. 

Photos: Sammasseur, Hamburger Mary’s Las Vegas/Orlando, CBS Daytime via YouTube













Westgate’s Culinary Superstars: Chef Bruno Morabito

Sid’s Cafe’s “Master of Brunch” is serious about the joys of casual dining…

Part Two in my series on the fabulous culinary family of Westgate Las Vegas

Sometimes you talk at length with someone whom you’ve previously encountered only in passing…and they blow your expectations away. That’s what happened during my recent morning sit-down with Chef de cuisine Bruno Morabito of Sid’s Cafe. And it was a surprise that made my day.

Chef Bruno Morabito Westgate

Being a semi-regular diner at Westgate’s casual-dining restaurant, I’d seen Chef Bruno strolling by from time to time, greeting patrons at their table to check on their experience. This mild-mannered gentleman was personable, professional and seemed somewhat reserved. But give Chef Bruno the opportunity to relax for a bit of private conversation and this native of Rochester NY will light up the room.

Chef Bruno Morabito Westgate

Perhaps it’s the dazzling white coat that keeps his bubbly personality in check. Maybe it’s the presence of dozens of diners enjoying his creations. Or the years of disciplined experience in world-class kitchens around the city. Whatever the reason, when this veteran of the Las Vegas dining scene gets a moment away from the focus of responsibility, an entirely different person shines through.

Chef Bruno Morabito Westgate

The two of us got acquainted in a corner booth on the tail end of a Sid’s Cafe breakfast rush. Both of us had just returned from visits to Italy, so it was a nice ice-breaker. I confessed that I’d just watched one of his cooking segments about brunch on a local network affiliate page. “Oh, No! I can’t stand doing those!”, he chuckled with a mild flush. “I’m not a TV kind of guy. But I do like to talk about my food”.

Chef Bruno Morabito Westgate

    Jennifer Jean Snyder of KTNV Morning Blend reacts to Chef Bruno’s creations… 

Indeed he does. As is the case with many artists, Chef Bruno beams when discussing how he began to create delicious dishes…and which inspirations set him on the path to success. For Chef Morabito, it was exposure to a combination of many different cultures.

During his culinary school days at Lougheed College in Kitchener Ontario, this descendant of Italian immigrants was affectionately known as “The Yank”. He was nicknamed that by program director Wolfgang Stutz (one could safely assume that Stutz was German). But it was years of experience at a famous French restaurant that secured his place on the Valley’s list of superb culinary masters.


Visiting the Amalfi coastline of southern Italy with brother Phil…               

After coming to Las Vegas with his wife, Morabito began a 17-month stint as Sous Chef for renowned Charlie Palmer at Mandalay Bay‘s gorgeous Aureole. Then came his first really big opportunity – a position at Venetian‘s world-famous Bouchon Bistro. Tucked away inside an exclusive area of the resort’s Venezia Tower, Bouchon is where Westgate‘s “Master of Brunch” developed his reputation for morning-meal brilliance.


Chef Bruno (fourth from right) with Chef Thomas Keller and the team at Bouchon…               

Challenged by Bouchon founder Chef Thomas Keller to create a pork-belly BLT from a sketch, Morabito went “off the menu” and took a detour to the unexpected. With free reign to create any special he wanted, Chef Bruno added a personal “why not” favorite of Chicken and Waffles as a special.

A succulent serving of roasted chicken atop a bacon and chive waffle, sauce chasseur (aka “Hunter’s Sauce”), Tahitian vanilla bean butter and maple syrup, Chicken and Waffles was a runaway hit…and continued to grow in popularity. It became the cornerstone for an entire brunch menu that Morabito urged Kelly to try.

Chef Bruno’s brunch menu remains his legacy there and is now served in every Bouchon Bistro nationwide. It was also Forbes Travel Magazine‘s pick for Best Brunch in Las Vegas.


                  Chef Bruno flanked by his lovely 14-year-old daughters….

After a decade with Chef Thomas Keller, this thoroughbred horse-racing enthusiast (he’s attended the last eight Breeder’s Cups and owns several horses back in New York) was now the proud father of twin girls.

The increased responsibilities of being a parent and husband to wife Tracy didn’t deter Morabito from taking on a new challenge, though. In 2014 he was recruited by celebrity Giada De Laurentis to be her new Chef de Cuisine at Giada inside The Cromwell.


Chef Morabito and Giada De Laurentis remain friends…                     

History repeated itself a bit at The Cromwell. Morabito’s reputation for success allowed him to create a brunch menu for De Laurentis at the trendy eatery. If you seem to recall Chicken and Waffles in the Giada line-up, you aren’t mistaken…although he gave the dish a new distinctive Italian twist. It came as no surprise when the new offerings were lauded by Las Vegas Review Journal readers as “Best Brunch”.

Nearly two and a half years later, the visionary “Master of Brunch” joined the ever-growing list of superlative chefs at Westgate Las Vegas. And now he’s serving his award-winning food at Sid’s Cafe.

Sid’s Cafe is named after Westgate founder David Siegel‘s father, who absolutely loved Las Vegas. Sid’s may be the most casual of Westgate‘s restaurant, but the home-style menu is meticulously prepared and served with pride. Chef Bruno runs the entire operation, from kitchen to staffing. He’s a hands-on kind of man when it comes to ensuring quality:

What goes out on that plate has my name on it. I personally answer Yelp! and other guest reviews, both positive and negative. Kindness is an easy way to build rapport with our guests. I want you to be satisfied with what we bring to your table.

Bringing things to the table is exactly what Chef Bruno had planned for me. Being a frequent visitor, I was already familiar with lunch and dinner offerings at the Cafe (Matzo Ball Soup, Free-Range Turkey Burger and Chopped Italian Salad are my personal favorites). So it was with a bit fortuitous that I’d be sampling his brunch creations for the first time during our meeting.


 Mojito Fruit Bowl with lime juice, mint and toasted coconut…                    


Smoked Salmon Platter…                 

My host could scarcely hide his enthusiasm when describing each dish that arrived at the table.That carefully-hidden smile of his surfaced frequently…and it continued to grow with each visit back.


Grande Cinnamon Roll is big enough for the entire table…                   


Cinnamon Roll French Toast and several hearty skillet breakfasts…                 


As Chef Bruno promised, everything he creates is fresh, delicious, gorgeous to look at and downright satisfying. Brunch is available at Sid’s Cafe every Thursday through Sunday from 7 am until 2 pm. You can add unlimited mimosas for $10.

Echoing sentiments from other Chefs I’ve spoken to at Westgate, Sid’s chef de cuisine is thrilled with the opportunity to add, fine-tune and elevate his cafe’s line-up. And no doubt the resort is pleased to have attracted another major player to their team.

As with all members of the Westgate culinary family, Chef Bruno Morabito aims to bring happiness to your table and a smile to your face. Be sure to ask for him when you visit…and don’t you dare miss that Chicken and Waffles masterpiece.


Sid’s Cafe is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Hours are 7 am to midnight Sunday through Thursday, 7 am to 2 am Friday and Saturday. Call 702-732-5755 for more information. Dress code is casual, restaurant is non-smoking.

Photos: Sammasseur, Bruno Morabito via Facebook/Instagram, KTNV Morning Blend





I’m Too Sexy For My…Burger?

Award-winning hunks turned away from Palms poolside cafe…

UPDATE 12/16/17: After sitting down with Cafe 6 management yesterday and numerous emails and back-and-forth phone calls to Stations Casinos marketing, public relations and members of Palms food and beverage dept., my private lunch gathering for Hot Hunks of Vegas has been turned away by the rarely busy Cafe 6 at Palms Place for a second time. This is despite my agreeing to their initial concessions and getting as far as them discussing a final date and time. Make no mistake. Corporations by and large have NO CONCEPT of “Sin City” frivolity whatsoever. The “What Happens In Vegas” slogan is outright bullshit. 

Sin City. The name alone suggests wild, outrageous parties, outlandish behavior and sex galore. In most cases, the city delivers on that promise. Mobile billboards offer “Ladies Direct To Your Room”. Puppetry of the Penis is a runaway hit at Erotic Heritage Museum. Porno conventions take over entire resorts. But shirtless guys eating burgers at a poolside cafe? That’s apparently too graphic for one Las Vegas restaurant.

Screenshot 2017-11-29 at 11.32.29 AM             

You may be scratching your head and wondering “How could this even be an issue?”. That’s a legitimate question, but don’t get bogged down by the specifics. I’ll elaborate on the details in a moment. Instead, allow yourself to digest this fact: A private luncheon for shirtless Vegas celebs is considered “unacceptable” by Station Casinos…specifically Palms Place.

Screenshot 2017-11-29 at 11.32.39 AM

If you’re a regular reader, you know that I’ve written many columns saluting the Hot Guys of Vegas. Performers, bartenders, a popular celebrity publicist…even a well-known lawyer. Respected, hard-working gentlemen, one and all. They are great sports and have had plenty of fun with my columns.

Out of gratitude, I thought it would be a wacky idea…and make another great article…if I gathered a few past and future recipients of that series for lunch. My group included performers from the likes of Absinthe, WOW – World of Wonder, DIVAS, Men of the Strip, Jubilee and Men of Sapphire. The idea was to allow them to network with one another, take some photographs and share an “only in Vegas” experience with you, the readers.

Screenshot 2017-11-29 at 11.30.05 AM

I invited several guys to revel in gratuitous shirtlessness. They’d arrive sans tops and remain that way for a meal, drinks and laughs….a positive social experiment. Every invited guest agreed to join in on the fun and yours truly would pay the bill. The location would be my favorite casual-dining spot in the city: Cafe 6 at Palms Place.




This awesome, secluded burger joint on the sixth floor of the Palms Place tower is serviced by a dedicated elevator (directly from the parking lot to the cafe entrance). It sits next to a lovely pool and hot tub with only walls of glass separating the swimmers and the diners. The effect is that of eating at the pool deck while remaining indoors.


 Entrance to rarely-used private dining room…                


Private dining room sat empty on the day I requested to use it…                 

Another reason for choosing Cafe 6 is that they have a private meeting room immediately to the left of the entrance. My guests would be able to arrive discreetly with only an infinitesimal chance of being spotted by patrons in the main dining area. Nobody who could be potentially offended would be affected. Perfect, right?



I then chose a weekday afternoon in the middle of December, historically the slowest week of the year in Vegas. It’s so slow that many shows shut down and restaurants send their staff on vacation. So you’d think that any restaurant would welcome hundreds of dollars of guaranteed business during those days.



 “Lunch rush” on 12/15/17, the day after my proposed event…               

With a plan in place, I emailed a known contact at Palms Casino Resort who is involved in food and beverage operations there. I described our gathering, the number of people in our party, our willingness to order from the regular menu and other assorted details along with a few possible dates. For the sake of anonymity, I won’t specifically name anyone involved here.

It never crossed my mind that our lunch party would be denied. After all, Palms was until recently home to the “World’s Largest Hooters”. Because, you know, female breasts sell chicken wings…


Anyway, the person I wrote to copied another individual on their team when replying back. They informed me that they would discuss my request, then they passed it on to a third person in their public relations department for final disposition.

It should be noted that in the follow-up correspondence, our group promised to be respectful and behave discreetly. I even suggested the name of a particular server who is very outgoing and enjoys male eye-candy. Nevertheless, our party was refused with a curt denial:

“Hi Sam, thanks for considering us, at this time we are going to politely pass on the opportunity.”

That was it. No questions, no offer of alternate conditions., no mention of potential code violations..and most importantly, no explanation of any kind. While it’s safe to assume that bare chiseled torsos were the deciding issue here, how can we know for sure? And WHY is a sexy guy forbidden to show his abs in a poolside cafe?

20170915_143100 (1)

View from inside the main dining room of Cafe 6…                   

As you might imagine, I found this response to be quite ludicrous. Cafe 6, as I mentioned earlier, is my favorite lunch place in town. I gave it a stellar review in a previous column, chose Cafe 6 as my “Best Vegas Bargain of 2016” and even hosted my most recent birthday party there. So what gives? And should I have even bothered to describe our reason for gathering in the first place?

Luckily, Dave Wahlen, General Manager of Flair Nightclub and the soon-to-open Hamburger Mary’s on Flamingo Avenue, caught wind of this absurd situation and welcomed us with open arms…and shirts.

Sam, I’d love to have them…anytime you want! The city gave us the final approved plans a week ago Tuesday. We have been balls to the walls. We have a night and a day crew working on the kitchen. It has taken nearly 8 months to get this done. Come see us as we love these guys at Mary’s. I miss seeing you buddy. I hope you’re doing well!

And that, dear readers, is how you do good business and promote healthy public relations. I understand that Cafe 6 and Palms Place are undergoing a transition of ownership and management. But their response to a simple request has successfully alienated an entire group of Vegas influentials…and one beef-loving blogger.


Thanks for being such a soggy pile of wet blankets, Palms. Let us know when you’ve removed that stick from up your _____. As for me and my guys, it’s “Next stop…Hamburger Mary’s”!

Photos: Sammasseur, CBS Daytime, KTNV.com, Hamburger Mary’s



Binion’s Cafe Gets a Menu Upgrade

Fremont’s struggling casino gives you new reasons to visit….

A few weeks back I wrote about the trend of casinos pushing their dining and retail operations to the very front of their properties. In many cases, they even go out onto the sidewalks themselves. Binion’s historic downtown property is one of those I mentioned in the piece.

Binion’s is the best example of how Downtown casinos shifted their focus from interior to the sidewalks. Exploring the property, you’ll find numerous examples of a time when guests stayed and played indoors. On the second floor, a buffet and the Gee Joon Asian restaurant are collecting dust. In the basement, a once-popular 24-hour Coffee Shop is abandoned as well.

As visitor habits changed, the once-popular Binion’s Gambling Hall shuttered their lodging operations along with my go-to favorite, the downstairs Coffee Shop. The casino-floor cafe, which was basically a lunch counter surrounded by slot machines, was best known for its fresh-ground Binion’s Burger and not much else.

Eventually the space was enclosed and converted into a full-service restaurant with improved seating and an expanded menu. That successful expansion was the springboard for another re-invention when Benny’s Bullpen (a cigar lounge/sports bar) became Benny’s Smokin’ BBQ and Brews.

While Binion’s has seen casino traffic dwindle with the closure of a short-lived bingo room and their historic Poker Room (original home to World Series of Poker), Binion’s Cafe continues to draw in long-time visitors and new guests.

Binion's Cafe

                                       Classic Pot Roast with corn bread…


                                Linguine and all-beef meatballs…

This week, Binion’s Cafe rolled out an updated version of their menu with lots of new items to dive into. Added dishes include Classic Pot Roast ($14.99), Linguine with all-beef Meatballs ($12.99) and Poached Shrimp Alfredo over Linguine ($14.99). Entrees come with a choice of salad or soup.

Binion's Cafe

                                   Shrimp alfredo…

Binion's Cafe

                                       Mo’s Poutine…

If you’re looking for something smaller, try a plate of Mo’s Poutine ($5.99), crispy fries topped with molten cheese curds and gravy. Health nuts like myself will appreciate house-made Fire-Roasted Red Pepper Hummus ($5.99) served with warm pita bread, cucumber slices and celery sticks.

Binion's Cafe

                                                         No more chili….

I was shocked to see one of my favorite Vegas indulgences, Binion’s famous truckstop-style chili, missing from the new menu. That greasy-spoon bowl of tomatoes and beans had gotten this fellow through many a night of partying in the past. I later learned that it’s still available at nearby Binion’s Deli, but only from 12pm-8pm.

Of course, mainstay Binion’s Burger remains ($5.99) on the menu and comes with their delicious potato salad (fries and cheese are extra). Also, the Club Binion’s Player’s Card will get you special discounts on select items.

Binion's Cafe


          Ham Steak and Eggs is only $8.99 with your Binion’s Club Card….

It’s worth mentioning that meats and poultry at the Binion’s Cafe are cut daily at their own in-house butcher shop. Symbols identify these dishes, along with those designated as “heart healthy” and selections available only during limited hours.

Click here for a PDF copy of the full menu.

Binion's Cafe

Binion’s Cafe is open daily from 7am to 2am. Be sure to ask for Alicia when visiting…and tell her that Sam sent you.

Photos: Sammasseur, Alicia P., Binion’s, TripAdvisor

Westgate’s Superbook Lands a Slam Dunk at “The Court”

New dining outlet at world’s largest sportsbook is a hit with the fans…

In the past couple of years I’ve reported on the numerous improvements that have taken place in and around Westgate Las Vegas, best known as the former Las Vegas Hilton. Along with renovated rooms, modernized amenities and a new approach to customer service, a big focus of the current owners has been in food and beverage offerings.

Since the inception of VegasUnfiltered this summer, I’ve reviewed Fresco Italiano and Bar Sake, two immensely gratifying offerings along Westgate’s “restaurant row”. Last week I was invited back to experience the new, improved quick-bite outlet in Westgate’s enormous Race and Sports Superbook betting complex.

Westgate Superbook

Unlike those other two meals, The Court was anything but a formal experience…and that’s the idea. Focusing on tried-and-true favorites with elevated quality, moderate pricing and rapid service, the venues that make up The Court aim to satisfy by way of the food as much as the convenience.

Cordovano Joe’s NY-style Pizza, Drafts Sports Bar & Grill Express and Nacho Tacos Authentic Mexican are all created by Westgate’s own food and beverage team. The three share one main dining area and an additional space for overflow, which came in very handy on the Tuesday afternoon that I visited.

Westgate Las Vegas

The Court‘s trio of offerings are overseen by Jeffrey DiVito, Westgate’s new VP of Food and Beverage. DeVito came to Westgate Las Vegas by way of L’Auberge Lake Charles and Station Casinos (and was involved in the design and opening of both Red Rock and Alliante resorts). He joins a growing list of talented execs and chefs who have come to Westgate from other big-league Vegas properties.

Westgate Food Court

Westgate Food Court

            The previous incarnation invoked a truckstop/diner atmosphere…

The Court takes over an area previously known as Superbook Deli. Glaringly-bright diner decor has been toned down with softer lighting and mellower colors, bringing the Superbook atmosphere into the service and seating areas.

Westgate Food Court

Westgate Food Court

Westgate Food Court

                  So long, stadium hot dog stand…hello, neighborhood pub…

To accentuate the tavern atmosphere, pool tables and dart games have been installed at one side of The Court, making it appealing for those who may want to hang out around the Superbook without actually betting.

The Superbook’s unique placement within the resort allows for direct access via the casino or a dedicated entrance and parking lot. Those looking to drop by for casual eats and brews should be pleased by the variety of selections that The Court now offers.

Westgate Food Court

Assistant Executive Chef Aaron Losch, who made a name for himself at both Red Rock and Wynn, invited me to sample some of the new menu items that he created for The Court. We mostly focused on Nacho Taco‘s menu, with an item or two from Draft’s (I’ll have to come back for pizza during my next visit).

Being a fitness buff who tries to eat cleanly, I was a bit shocked by my mouth-watering response to the items that the staff brought over. It’s actually hard to upload the photos into this article without the same thing happening again.

Westgate Food Court

                                             Carne Asada Street Tacos…

My tasting started with selections from the Nacho Tacos kitchen. I began with a trio of Carne Asada Street Tacos ($13), served with cotija cheese and salsa on warm corn tortillas with beans and rice. All main dishes on the Nacho Tacos menu start with the basics ($8 for vegetarian), then are priced upwards according to toppings/fillings.

Westgate Food Court

                   Quesadillas with a side of Philly Cheesesteak, eh?

Grilled Chicken Breast with paprika, cumin and lime adds $3 to your dish, Carnitas (braised pork with chili and cumin) or Al Pastor (pork marinated in orange and pineapple juices) add $4, and Carne Asada (marinated skirt steak with garlic and lime) adds $5 more.

Westgate Food Court

                         Taqueria Fries topped with braised pork carnitas…

Instead of tacos, you can design your plate with a Tortilla Salad, traditional Nachos or a Quesadilla. For really hearty appetites, I’d recommend indulging in Taqueria Fries, a layer of crispy string potatoes topped with queso, pico de gallo, sour cream and jalapenos. All entrees at Nacho Tacos are priced the same way as street tacos, each according to the filling.


Sandwiches, Caesar salads and chicken wings/tenders are the main offerings at Drafts Sports Bar. My favorite was the Philly Cheesesteak ($14), smothered in melted provolone with grilled onions and peppers.

Drafts also has a NY Pastrami Reuben on Rye ($13), 1/3lb. Grilled Angus Burger ($13) and a Grilled Nathan’s Foot-long Dog on a poppy seed bun ($9). All sandwiches include fries or coleslaw. You can make your meal a combo by adding a 20-oz fountain drink for $4 or a 16-oz draft of Budweiser or Bud Light for $5.

Cordovano Joe’s has sandwiches as well, like an Italian Hoagie ($13), Shaved Italian Beef ($14), Sweet Sausage with roasted peppers and carmelized onions ($12) and Meatball with mozzarella and marinara ($13). Joe’s specialty is individual authentic New York-style pizza. Basic 8-inch cheese pies run $6, Veggie or Pepperoni for $7, Meat Lover for $8 and finally $9 for Supreme.

Losch stated that many of Superbook Deli‘s core customers were regulars, so many favorites have remained at The Court with room for continued tweaking. He recounted how one frequent customer complained when a favorite disappeared…and just like that, they brought it back. “We’re not going to turn away people who helped to keep us going all these years” he said.

Westgate Food Court

The Court‘s newfound popularity might keep sportsbook customers off the betting floor for extended periods, but there could be a simple fix. Chef Aaron told me that they’re looking into various methods for guests to order food from the Superbook seats. “We may be able to provide cocktail servers with electronic pads so you can place a request from your seat”. And there’s always those handy smartphone apps…

Westgate Food Court

The sooner that remote ordering can be set up, the better. It’s obvious from the long lines I witnessed that The Court is serving up just what Westgate Superbook guests want. “We’ve only been open for a few weeks” said Chef Losch, “but we’ve already had some of the busiest days this space has ever seen”.


Photos: Sammasseur, Deli pics via TripAdvisor