Las Vegas Restaurant Review: Spiegel’s 1941

Spiegel’s 1941 is located inside the El Cortez in the heart of downtown Las Vegas. The restaurant takes its name from the gangster Bugsy Siegel, the famous mobster and man behind the Flamingo Hotel. His picture graces the walls of the restaurant, giving the restaurant an old-school feel. The restaurant is open daily and twenty-four hours a day.  I found this restaurant by accident one night wandering around Fremont Street, and decided to give it a spin. While I find it to be an affordable “high-end” steakhouse, I think you can find a better bang for your buck in the area.

Menu

Spiegel’s menu is simple. Most of the dishes are American in origin, but there are a few exceptions such as challah, poutine, fajitas and chow mien. The dinner menu features a number of steak and potato dishes, as well as deli items.

Parking

Parking is available at the El Cortez and the surrounding hotels. If you’re unable to find parking at the hotel, I would recommend the Fremont Street Garage. It’s easily accessible and cheap compared to the surrounding parking lots.

Service

The service was decent, but not extraordinary. I didn’t have to wait long for a table or my food, which is unusual on a weekend. The hostess and wait staff are pleasant, but not the sort of friendly I think you would find in more expensive, upscale restaurants.

Drinks

The drinks were a little too strong for me. The prices are reasonable based on downtown Las Vegas standards, but I prefer cocktails to have a flavor other than alcohol. I think you can find better drinks at Commonwealth, La Comida and the Downtown Cocktail Room.

 

I would give Spiegel’s a chance if you find yourself staying at the El Cortez, or if you want to try a steakhouse without completely emptying your wallet. Spiegel’s is also a good choice if you’re short on time and want to get a quick drink or meal. It’s not the best place I’ve eaten at in Las Vegas, but it’s decent.

 

 

Downtown Vegas Reviews: The Commonwealth

 
Downtown Las Vegas has undergone a major facelift in the last five years. In an effort to bring more business to the area, the Downtown Project has poured close to 350 million dollars into revitalizing the area. Commonwealth is one of many businesses that have the Downtown Project to thank.
 
The Commonwealth is unique, like every bar in the downtown area. Surrounded by neon signs and kitschy neighbors, the Commonwealth stands out with only its name and an art deco fan to draw in its patrons. Inside, the bar looks more like a Victorian-era pub or speakeasy than a modern Las Vegas bar. The bar stools, tables and the black and white photography give the bar a muted, relaxed atmosphere also unique to the Commonwealth.
 
Another plus about the Commonwealth is its space. The two story building offers an inside space on the ground level, and an open deck area on the top of the building. You’ll find more people on the deck where the DJ is set up; during the summer, it offers an unbeatable view of the downtown area. I prefer the downstairs space since there’s usually more available seating (and I am a lazy bar patron ).

Dress Code

There is no strict dress code at the Commonwealth, but I would stick to casual nightlife attire. I’ve been inside in jeans and never had a problem getting in. I would always say no to flip-flops (except in the summer), but you can always call ahead. It’s better to know ahead of time than get down there and get turned away.

 The Laundry Room

If you play your cards right, you can admission to the hidden gem – The Laundry Room. The speakeasy allows 10-12 people inside at a time, and photographs aren’t allowed. If you’re interested, ask one of the bartenders about admission.

Things To Do In Vegas: Visit Container Park

Container Park is part of the Downtown Project, an effort to give downtown Las Vegas a much-needed face-lift. The open-air shopping and restaurant plaza offers food, dining and entertainment options appropriate for the entire family throughout the entire year. Container Park is easily accessible on foot if you’re staying in the downtown area but if you’re coming from the Strip (or any other part of the city), but if you’re driving to Container Park, take the 95-South to Las Vegas Boulevard. You’ll find the Park at the corner of Fremont and 7th Street.

Photo from vitalvegas.com

Container Park offers a variety of dining options. If you’ve got a sweet tooth, you can stop in Jinju Chocolates, Sasasweets Chillspot, or Las Vegas Kettle Corn. Pinches Tacos or Cheffini’s are great places if you want something quick after making your rounds at the neighboring bars. If you’re with family, you can dine at Big Ern’s BBQ while your children stay busy at the playground in the Park.

Besides its dining and drink options, Container Park has a number of retail stores on site. Art Box provides local artisans a place to display their works, from jewelry to home furnishings. Kappa Toys and Uptown Children’s Boutique sells children’s clothes and toys, and Trikke Las Vegas offers tours of the city on their “trikkes”, an updated, stand-up version of the classic tricycle.

You can even get married at Container Park.

Parking is an issue when it comes to Container Park. There are a number of parking lots available in the area, with various rates per hour. The availability of these parking lots will depend on what is going on downtown, or the time of day. You can find free spaces to park at surrounding motels, but I would advise against that depending on the time of day due to safety concerns.

Container Park isn’t one of the top ten things to see in Las Vegas, but it’s a fun experience. In Container Park, you get a glimpse of where old school and new Las Vegas intersect. You’ll also support local artists, designers and vendors, which (I think) is great to do any city.

 

 

Places to Stay in Vegas: The South Point Hotel & Casino

The South Point, located at the very most southern end of the Las Vegas Strip, is for the most part, a local’s hotel. You can see this reflected in the prices of practically everything in the hotel, from the slot machines to the restaurants to the room prices. It’s a great alternative if you’re coming to Vegas and don’t want to shell out hundreds of dollars for a hotel room, especially since it’s just a few miles down the street from Mandalay Bay and the rest of the Strip.

The Showroom at the South Point offers surprisingly diverse entertainment throughout the week, and for very decent prices. The average price for entertainment on the Strip ranges in the hundreds of dollars, from Cirque du Soleil shows to comedy headliners. While you’ll find no resident Cirque du Soleil shows at the Southpoint, I’ve seen comedians Christopher Titus and Rob Schneider play there and the ticket prices range from 30.00 to 50.00 dollars. Resident performers of The Showroom include the Spazmatics, a popular 80s cover band, every Saturday night. I’ve never been a fan of cover bands but they are oddly entertaining and the drink prices are far better than at any nightclub or bar on the Strip.  If you find yourself near or in the South Point at night, you can always catch ‘The Dirty’. The Dirty at 12:30 is a free show that takes place every night at…12:30, of course. The caliber of entertainers differs from night to night, but you can’t beat the price for a few laughs.

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South Point view from pool

From The South Point’s website.

If you find yourself needing a budget-friendly hotel that’s close to the Strip, The South Point is going to be your best bet. The food is decent, the room prices are hard to beat and they offer a wide selection of entertainment. If you’ve ever been to the South Point, let me know what your experience was like in the comments.

Upcoming performers this month include Jerry Lewis, Crystal Gale and Zowie Bowie.

 

 

K

Things to Do in Vegas: Visit the Secret Garden

The Secret Garden has been a staple of the Las Vegas Strip for nearly twenty years. It’s a tourist favorite, especially among those with kids. The habitat started out in the late 90s as a sanctuary for the big cats that entertainers Sigfried and Roy rescued, and has since expanded to include a dolphin habitat. I recently took my first trip ever to the sanctuary, adjacent to the Mirage’s hotel pool area. It wasn’t quite what I imagined, but it was worth the experience.

Pricing: Tickets to the Secret Garden can be kind of expensive, compared to other family friendly attractions. They offer no discounts for local, seniors or military members on tickets, whereas Shark Reef does. Still, the ticket prices are on par with most other family activities in Las Vegas.

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Tours: They don’t offer guided tours throughout the sanctuary, which I found a little odd. There are a few attendants throughout the “garden” portion of the experience to answer questions, but there is no informational talk on the history of the tigers, which I think would enhance this part of the habitat. The dolphin specialists and trainers get together about twice an hour to give a talk and demonstration with the resident dolphins, which makes most of the ticket price worth it. The dolphin staff is knowledgeable, friendly and very patient with every question the kids in attendance may ask. This was by far my favorite part of the whole experience. The dolphins are incredibly friendly, intelligent and agile. If you will have kids, this will be where you spend the most time in the sanctuary.

Amenities: Snacks and drinks are available inside the habitat; all of the amenities inside the habitat itself are eligible for discounts.  There are two gift stores located inside the habitat, but they are in separate buildings, apart from the dolphin habitat and the garden. If you have kids, you’ll appreciate this; you won’t find yourself exiting a portion of the experience and getting bombarded with toys and souvenirs. If you choose, you can bypass the gifts shops entirely.

Staff: The staff is very friendly and available to answer any questions you have about the animals. As stated above, I wish they would have some more information available about the cats in the habitat. The dolphin specialists went above and beyond to entertain the guests and answer questions, for both the kids and adults in the audience.

Other Notes: I went through the park on a general admission pass, but there are a number of other activities available to do with the dolphins. For extra fees, you can pet the dolphins, do yoga with them, swim with them and paint. The most reasonable activity is petting the dolphins, but the rest of the activities vary in price.

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Overall, I would say the Secret Garden is worth visiting. You don’t get as much for your money as you would at similar experiences, but it’s still interesting and entertaining. There are shows available in the dolphin sanctuary at certain times, but I didn’t get to see one during my time there. But show or not, the Secret Garden is a unique, memorable experience to share with the family.

The Smith Center – Bringing Culture to the Desert

While I was growing up here in Las Vegas, there was very little in terms of “mainstream” culture. Sure there were shows – there have been headliners on the Strip since the Strip existed – but those were showgirls, singers, comedians, etc. If you wanted to see ballet, a live play, opera, or anything like that, you were out of luck. The university would put on student productions, occasionally, but that was about the extent of it. Thankfully, the Smith Center has come along and changed that.

Built in 2012 in the downtown area of Las Vegas, the Smith Center has given Las Vegas a little bit of life in an area that was lacking. Since it’s opened, it has hosted off-Broadway plays, ballets, musicals, wedding, and concerts, among numerous other special events. Some of the productions that have graced its stage thus far include Wicked, The Book of Mormon, The Nutcracker, Beauty and the Beast and Giselle. I have been fortunate enough so far to attend two productions – Romeo and Juliet and Cinderella. While The Smith Center may not have the reputation of the Walt Disney Concert Hall, Carnegie or Royal Albert, it’s the first of its kind in this city. That alone makes it worth visiting.

My Breakdown of The Smith Center

Pricing: Prices for most of the shows are on par with what you will pay on the Strip. Personally, I think it’s worth the extra money to sit in either the mezzanine or orchestra level, only because the balcony level will affect your view (literally and figuratively) of the performance. I found myself more distracted by breaks in formation or miscounted steps sitting up higher, and I don’t want you to experience the same! J

Dress Code: I was surprised to find that The Smith Center doesn’t enforce a dress code. If you’ve been to Vegas before, you know how dress codes can make or break an experience so this is a welcome change. Most people will still dress properly for the occasion, but you won’t be kicked out if you’re wearing sneakers or jeans. (Special Note: I did not wear jeans or sneakers. I didn’t want to risk it.)

Performances: Both productions (Cinderella and Romeo and Juliet) were gorgeous. I have no background and little knowledge in ballet, so I can’t give an in-depth review of the technical aspects of the performance. But I can tell you, the costumes were breathtaking, as was the scenery and the choreography. The entire aesthetic of Cinderella reminded me of a watercolor painting, and the final dance between Romeo and Juliet almost brought me to tears. I was nervous prior to seeing Cinderella, since I had never been to a ballet before and wasn’t sure if I would be able to appreciate it. My fears were quickly quelled, and I found myself moved by the emotion and the grace of the dancers.

Parking: Parking isn’t as big of an issue as it might be on the Strip, but it’s still a good idea to get there early. There’s usually no shortage of spaces, but you don’t want to cross giant parking lots in your best theater attire if you don’t have to.

Special Notes: They will sell snacks and drinks in the lobby, but be sure to not take the food into the theater. I was scolded for having M&Ms prior to Romeo and Juliet by an usher, whom apparently had no issue with the woman texting during the actual performance. Seems a little strange to me, but I digress.