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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Palace Station Rises Rapidly From The Rails


The frequently-overlooked locals hotel is climbing to the sky…and back into relevance…

Sure, sure….all the north Strip talk continues to center around Resorts World. And whether Fontainebleau will ever open. And if SLS will  have its name restored to Sahara….or totally close. Nobody talks about Lucky Dragon anymore, because….ZZZZzzzzz…..

But if you peek over the interstate, just a stone’s throw from the legendary Golden Steer Steakhouse, you might see a little action worth paying attention to. That’s because the scene of OJ’s crime (no, the other one) is getting a lot more than a fresh coat of paint. Palace Station on West Sahara Avenue is getting an infusion of some big bucks…and a brand spanking new hotel tower.

PalaceStation1

 

         The train is pulling into the Station with a few more sleeping cars…

If you’re an infrequent visitor to Sin City, you might not even be familiar with Station Casinos. The railroad-themed chain has destinations sprinkled throughout the valley, carrying such catchy names as Sante Fe Station, Sunset Station, Boulder Station, Texas Station. And of course Palace Station, the original and very first stop on the line.

Locals casinos such as this are usually pretty low on the luxury stylings, offering great value and lots of casual entertainment and food selections. In more recent years, the chain has gone upscale and shaved away the choo-choo theming, erecting more modern palaces (sorry, couldn’t resist) like Green Valley Ranch and Red Rock Casino.

Not all of them succeeded (bye bye, Aliante Station) but the ones that did raised their profile, and apparently their bottom line, allowing for the acquisition of Palms Casino in 2016. Now they’re looking backwards and refreshing those themed resorts of the past.

How do they do that, exactly? Well, in the case of Palace Station, it’s so long railroad theme. And the removal of outdated motel-style “Courtyard Rooms”. In their place is a new 27-story, 600-room hotel tower, rising from the ground at a pretty epic pace (take that, Resorts World). Those will be in addition to the existing 576 rooms and suites.

PalaceStation1

PalaceStation4

                           Above photos taken on September 2nd, 2017

With a new porte cochere already in operation for arriving guests, updating taking is place inside as well (new Bingo Room and restaurants, modernized look and an impending re-do of the lowest-priced buffet anywhere). There will be a new multi-screen theater coming with the expansion.

While all that construction activity may not currently be the best atmosphere for a stay, you might want to check things out once construction is completed (nobody enjoys the sound of jackhammers with one going on in our heads already – thanks, Mr. Bartender).

PalaceStation3

PalaceStation

    Pics from October 22nd, 2017 demonstrate the speedy progress being made…

With conventions being the future hot ticket for Vegas, it isn’t surprising that Palace Station is erecting a new meeting space as well. Again, they’re way ahead of the announced expansion of Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority aka the Vegas Convention Center. Those plans flattened my beloved Riviera Hotel more than a year ago, with nary the slightest evidence of new construction activity. Not even a hammer.

It will be several years before Resorts World greets its first guest, so enjoy all those photos of construction cranes on other sites. In the meantime, I’ll be marking my calendar for a stay at the reborn Palace Station.

The project is slated for completion in late 2018. But don’t be surprised if they beat that deadline by a wide margin. All aboard!

Photos courtesy of Greg C.

 

 

 

Hidden Vegas: Aladdin’s Desert Passage Shops


Looking skyward for curiosities that make up “Hidden Vegas”…

Finding remnants from the bygone days of Vegas is always a treat. I’ve been scouring the mezzanines, peering under tarps and poking my camera through keyholes to find curiosities that sail under the radar for most people.

Last night while meeting friends for drinks and a show, I looked to the skies…from the inside of Miracle Mile Shops of Planet Hollywood. There I found remains of the formerly Arabian-themed Desert Passage Shops.

Desert Passage

I started coming to Las Vegas in 2005, and had only been through the Aladdin Resort once or twice. At that time, the Planet Hollywood restaurant chain was in deep trouble with closures taking place around the country.

Desert Passage

The announcement that Aladdin would be re-branded as Planet Hollywood Hotel Casino seemed very foolhardy. Sure, the movement to de-theme Strip resorts was in full swing and Middle-eastern-flavored places like Aladdin and Sahara had fallen out of fashion in a post-9/11 world. But Planet Hollywood??? That decision seemed as out-of-touch as renaming it after dying restaurant chains like Chi-Chi’s or Kenny Roger’s Roasters.

Shows how much I knew, as Planet Hollywood Hotel is now a hip, popular middle-tier destination, with stars like Jennifer Lopez and Pitbull frequently on the marquee. Of course their biggest draw is Britney Spears, so there’s still plenty of dried-up cheese on the Planet Hollywood menu.

Desert Passage

The existing hotel is the second Aladdin to be built on this part of the Strip. The original opened in 1966 and was imploded in 1998. A new Aladdin was rebuilt from the ground up and opened its doors in 2000. Seven years later it officially became Planet Hollywood Resort.

Desert Passage

The Arabian motif was gradually stripped from both the hotel and adjoining Desert Passage Shops, which received a new frontage and glossy modern exterior. Inside, the corridors got a top-to-bottom makeover. Most of the ceiling was painted into a matte-gray finish, discouraging shoppers from gazing upward at the former faux skies.

However, not everything was taken away. There are two distinct areas within the mall where the original decor survives. One surrounds the V Theater complex and fountain show.

Desert Passage

Desert Passage

Desert Passage

The other is nestled under the indoor rainstorm.

Desert Passage

Desert Passage

Desert Passage

Desert Passage

Perhaps it’s telling that the domes, citadels and faux village structures that comprise the Desert Passage remnants exist where other attractions demand your attention…and offer a convenient distraction. You’ll find be hard-pressed to find any mention of them on the glitzy, contemporary Miracle Mile website.

Desert Passage

The Arabian architecture of Desert Passage is clearly…and hilariously…out-of-sync with the rest of the Mile.

Desert Passage

Until very recently, the south-facing exterior of the mall along Harmon Avenue still carried the Aladdin facade. The removal of Krave nightclub and opening of Buffalo Wild Wings and another Nacho Daddy finally jump-started the finishing of that section.

Hidden Vegas

Desert Passage

It’s uncertain if the remaining Arabic interior will eventually get stripped out and de-themed. But for the time being, it’s another chapter in our book of Vegas curiosities.

This article previously appeared in a different form on another website.

Images: Sammasseur with additional stills from Miracle Mile Shops via Facebook, wishuwerehere.com and Greg C.

Looking Down on Fremont’s “Ground Zero”

Downtown demolition zone signals changes that aren’t necessarily improvements…

A familiar phrase regarding Las Vegas is “The only constant is change”. That observation has traditionally applied to the Strip, but historic Downtown is undergoing its own cycle of reinvention…at the cost of what made it unique.

While revitalization of the Fremont East zone has brought a welcome influx of new ideas (cool restaurants, hip bars and Downtown Container Park), that same influence has resulted in dramatic differences to the Fremont Street Experience corridor that aren’t necessarily welcome.

Fremont Street Ground Zero

Demolition and construction on and around Fremont Street now faces the same scrutiny that took place when it was closed to vehicular traffic and topped with the current video canopy. Purists lamented losing the ability to drive their cars down Fremont Street to bask in historic hotel architecture and glorious neon.

In 2017, that same area is now choked with outdoor bars/patios, vendor kiosks, street performers, homeless beggars and a hideous eyesore known as SlotZilla. That thrill ride re-purposed the Viva Vision screen as a tunnel for the zip-line attraction.

For this writer, one of the saddest developments on Fremont was the closure of longtime favorites Mermaids Casino, sister operation La Bayou and the Las Vegas Club Casino Hotel. All were sentimental go-to’s that represented value, history and a true vintage-Vegas feel.

Fremont Street Ground Zero

Now two of them, along with “gentlemen’s club” Glitter Gulch, are being leveled along with nearby structures for construction of a brand-new casino/hotel. La Bayou‘s demo resulted in the soon-to-open expansion of adjacent Golden Gate Hotel, the oldest remaining building on Fremont Street. That one-time favorite had already gotten a major modernization and expansion a few years back that resulted in removal of wonderful Bay City Diner and the beloved 99-cent shrimp-cocktail counter.

It seems that whenever I fall for a business or landmark in Las Vegas, my affection guarantees it’ll wind up in the demolition cross-hairs. Sure, renovation brings new visitors and attention to an area, but for some of us, “progress” feels like a slap in the face.

Mermaids was an absolute must on my Fremont Street stops. Cocktail waitresses Gabriella and Ling Ling were bright spots each and every time. They took care of me like nobody on the Strip ever would.

Now, 99-cent hot dogs and the endless supply of free drinks have been taken away. Those friendly ladies who once recognized me from trip to trip have literally disappeared.

Fremont Street Ground Zero

The grungy smell of Las Vegas Club hotel, along with its creaky elevators and humble rooms, was a minor but tolerable drawback of staying there. LVC was a serviceable option whenever I needed clean, simple budget lodging. Just a few years back I was able to stay there for only $14 a night…with no resort fee, free parking and gloriously-easy in/out access.

The newer North Tower, which I got upgraded to on that particular stay, was easily on par with the rooms at 4 Queens and Fremont Hotel. Plus, they were absolutely massive by Downtown standards and a had recently been modernized. Both towers of Las Vegas Club were fortunate enough to get refreshed up with the same carpeting and furniture that Plaza Hotel had obtained from the failed Fontainebleau project.

This summer, the Las Vegas Club is being brought down by the same ambitious innovators who added $20 resort fees and intensely-loud music to their Downtown hotels. While many view Derek and Greg Stevens as saviors, to myself and many other historic Downtown fans, they’ve become mixed blessings.

Nobody enjoys seeing the places they fall in love with being torn down for the sake of progress. No matter what rises in those locations, it won’t be the same. They’ll be expensive, more Strip-like and less of what made Fremont Street an alternative.

Fremont Street Ground Zero

So say goodbye to Vegas Vickie and other glorious pieces of neon art that once shone down on visitors. No matter when or where they end up, they won’t be in their original home.

As for the structures that will eventually rise from the footprint of Las Vegas Club and Mermaids…they’ll only be “lip-service improvements”. New hotels can never fill the void left by long-lost favorites that were just fine back in the day.

Photos: [A friend]