Aces and Ales Comes To Tenaya

Aces and Ales Tenaya EntranceBack in April I wrote with much enthusiasm about my visit to Aces and Ales, just east of the Boulder Highway on South Nellis Blvd:

There are lots of places in Las Vegas to drink beer and play video poker, but this one in particular is worth a special trip.

So, when I heard that they opened a new location in Summerlin (opened on Jun 21st) I just had to check it out!

Aces and Ales Tenaya BarThe new location at 2801 North Tenaya Way is not a carbon copy of their original location, but they got the important stuff right. There’s comfortable seating, friendly staff, an amazing selection of reserve, limited and other hard to find craft brews in the fridge and enough flat screen HDTVs that you can easily catch a game or three no matter where you choose to sit.

Aces and Ales Tenaya Mac and CheeseI went for their House Mac and Cheese ($9.50) for comparison (I loved this dish at the original Aces and Ales). I was not disappointed. It arrived in the skillet it was cooked in, just like at the original Aces and Ales – and was just as creamy and delicious. We also tried an order of their Arrogant Bastard Fried Zucchini ($6), which has a similar batter to their fantastic onion rings, but with a little extra spice. There are three sauces to tame that spice… ranch, blue cheese and marinara. I thought the marinara was the best match. I can’t say they are quite as good as the onion rings, but we did clean our plate.

So what’s different about the new Aces and Ales? Well, I didn’t see a pool table or any video games. Instead, they do have a nice outdoor patio for when the weather is a bit less oppressive. The music is a bit more diverse, covering everything from Lady Gaga to Johhny Cash while we were there. The new location is bigger, brighter and feels a bit more upscale. The happy hour specials didn’t carry over from the original bar, so you’ll still have to go to South Nellis for that burger and a beer special I raved about from 12-3.

Oh, and there’s one other little change. Fifty taps! That’s easily twice as many as you get at the original location, and the beers they put on them are just as special. They’ve got a great selection of popular craft brews from the likes of Stone, Deschutes and Lagunitas, plus a selection of local Las Vegas brews from Big Dogs, Tenaya and Joseph James. There’s plenty to choose from whether you’re looking to try something new or indulge in an old favorite.

Aces and Ales Tenaya KegsAnd just like the original, they change the taps and clean the lines regularly. Unlike the original, you can watch them do it. The kegs and lines are on display inside a cool glass case near the entrance that reminds me how much I want to set up a kegerator at home.

Looks like Las Vegas has another great beer bar!

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Website: www.acesandales.com

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Aces and Ales – Serious Beer

Aces and Ales EntranceAces and Ales is a standalone pub at 3740 South Nellis Boulevard, (just east of the casinos on Boulder Highway) which offers, as the name implies – video poker and beer. But that hardly tells the whole story. There are lots of places in Las Vegas to drink beer and play video poker, but this one in particular is worth a special trip. You see, Aces and Ales takes their beer as seriously as Herbs and Rye takes their cocktails.

Aces and Ales Tap WallAces and Ales maintains more than twenty taps and regularly updates their twitter feed to let you know which beers are on, and off. The focus is on craft and imported brews, their ever-changing list typically favoring Belgian style ales and unique American craft brews. The only Anheiser-Bush or Miller-Coors product I spotted was the six-pack holder on our table – used to hold the condiments.

Aces and Ales Jolly Pumpkin Oro de CalbazaLook for beers from Dogfish Head, Mikkeller, New Belgium (and we’re not just talking Fat Tire), Lagunitas and Ballast Point. The beers range from bathwater light to motor oil dark, from sour to bitter, from session to strong. They are served fresh, from clean lines, in proper glassware. It’s enough to satisfy the most finicky of beer geeks. And that’s just the draft beers.

Then there’s the beer fridge. Any beer geek worth his or her malt will pause in awe of the beer fridge. It’s rare, aged and unusual beer nirvana. Aces and Ales Beer FridgePhantom beers you may have heard about, but never caught sight of in a liquor store – much less a bar, live here. There are bottles of Stone Vertical Epic from every year from 2004 to 2008, Mikkeller Beer Geek Breakfast and Brunch, one-offs and aged beers from Firestone and Deschutes. They’re all kept properly refrigerated, and (if they came that way) boxed. And, since Aces and Ales has the proper license, you can enjoy them in the bar, or take them home for later (this also applies to their draft beers, available in growlers).

Aces and Ales Mac and CheeseNot a beer snob? This place still has plenty going for it. The food is outstanding. They use fresh, quality ingredients. Their thick, beer battered onion rings have batter that’s soft and light but not too greasy and onions that are the perfect combination of crisp and caramelized. Their hearty, flavorful home-style, mac and cheese comes in varieties like buffalo chicken mac, shrimp mac and Cajun mac. Their burgers are among the best pub burgers in Vegas – beer steamed, so they are thoroughly cooked but still juicy and served with fresh, crisp lettuce, tomato and onion on a soft white bun that held up surprisingly well. I am consistently impressed with their kitchen. If the beer wasn’t so amazing I would write this place up on the merit of its food alone.

Aces and Ales Cheeseburger and Onion RingsThe service is good too, with servers that can offer real, meaningful and experienced advice on which beer to choose and what food to order. My server’s overly enthusiastic endorsement of the onion rings might have been suspect at another restaurant, but it came off as genuine and turned out to be spot on. “They’re money!”

To complete the Las Vegas pub experience there are televisions everywhere, with private listening stations so you can follow your favorite game, and the commentary. There’s a couple of pool tables, some classic arcade games, a small stage, some interesting things plastered to the walls, and I imagine there’s some video poker. I got so caught up in the beer and the food that I never got around to checking it out.

Aces and Ales Pool Table

  • If you are there at the right time, you might just meet up with rock guitarist Keri Kelli – he’s one of the owners.
  • Order your beers by number, not name. Numbers are easier to understand when slurred, and the waitstaff insists on it.
  • All drafts are priced the same, but serving sizes vary from beer to beer.
  • Go between twelve and three (day or night) and you can get any burger and any draft for $10
  • Sunday is a great day to get your drink on at Aces and Ales. From 8am to 8pm all drafts are $4 each (regularly $6) and growler fills are half price.

Website: www.acesandales.com
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Park on Fremont – A Peek Down the Rabbit Hole

Park_on_Fremont-behind-the-barMaharaja Hookah Cafe, at 506 Fremont Street, has finally been replaced. The new gastropub that takes its place, called Park on Fremont, had it’s grand opening at the end of March. A few short days later (after the crowd dissipated a bit) we wandered in to take a look. I’m not sure what they’ve been smoking in there since the hookah lounge closed.

Park on Fremont Men's RoomOur visit was a short one, but I can tell you a few things: The food coming out of the kitchen looked good, and diners seemed happy. Cocktails are served in mason jars. The decor is unique and interesting. There’s Lewis Carroll inspired artwork everywhere, there’s a mounted deer head with copper assault rifles for antlers (I can’t make this stuff up), and behind the bar is what can only be described as a twisted taxidermist’s collage. Even the restrooms are wildly decorated. Music leans towards 90′s grunge. It’s all a bit of a trip.

I dragged my girlfriend in here for a beer after a couple of happy hour cocktails across the street at Downtown Cocktail Room (liquor before beer, you’re in the clear). We sat at the copper topped bar, admired the copulating birds in the taxidermy display, and gaped at the beer list. Park on Fremont has the strangest beer list I have ever seen. Most bars either carry a bunch of the standard macro-brews (Bud, Coors, Corona, etc.) and maybe one or two of the bigger microbrews/imports (Newcastle, Sam) or they carry almost exclusively micros, with maybe one or two macros. Not this place. This is the something-for-everyone beer bar.

Park on Fremont Beer ListWhether you’re a gangsta looking for some Colt 45, a hipster looking for a PBR, a hop-head looking for Dogfish 120 minute IPA or a Belgian beer snob looking for a glass of Chimay Cinq Cents – this place has what you’re looking for. There are roughly sixty beers on their list, some 40′s, some cans, some bottles and some drafts. The only organization to the beer list is that drafts are stacked at the end – not that the drafts are marked or anything, they just seem to all be in the bottom right corner of the list. Otherwise there’s Schlitz next to the Chimay, Moosehead next to Young’s. It’s chaotic.

Our friendly bartender brought us our beers (a Tetley’s ($6 pint can) and a Shift ($5 12oz can), cracked open. No glass was provided. We paid, tipped and left after just one beer. No doubt we’ll be back, though. I’m eager to try out the food, and this place has, by far, the broadest selection of beers downtown. I look forward to doing some additional “research” for a full fledged write-up sometime soon. Stay tuned.

Park on Fremont Tables

  • Park of Fremont opens at 11am daily.
  • There are no prices on their drink menus, so ask before you order if you’re watching your budget.
  • I am not a fan of Bloody Marys, but I understand this place has a killer version, made with bacon infused vodka. Give it a try and click “Leave a Reply” to tell us all about it.

Website: parkonfremont.com
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Herbs and Rye: Classic Cocktails 101

Herbs and Rye frontHerbs and Rye at 3713 West Sahara Avenue is the kind of place that you could drive right by and never even notice it. It’s dark. It has no windows. The sign is barely lit and the building sits back a bit from the road. Entering through that dark wooden door from a shadowy parking lot could be a little intimidating on your first visit. Don’t let that stop you. If you want the best things the city of Vegas has to offer, you have to scratch beneath the surface of things. Beyond that door, it’s nothing like what you would expect.

Herbs and Rye BarInside you will find beautiful chandeliers hanging from a dark ceiling, dark woods everywhere, from the tables, to the floor and along and behind one of the best looking bars I have had the pleasure of imbibing at. Seats are wrapped in dark leather and quite comfortable – even the barstools. Deep, dark textured reds on the walls give the room some color without making it too bright. The exposed brick on the walls and the brass lanterns on the bar make the room feel almost as old as the city itself (Las Vegas was founded in 1905). It is a scene that wouldn’t be out of place in an episode of Boardwalk Empire, save for the flat screen television over the bar. As inviting as this space is, please don’t come to Herbs and Rye for the decor, come for the cocktails.

Here’s what makes Herbs and Rye special: There are plenty of bars in Vegas where you can have a 25 year old “mixologist” make you their version of a hundred year old cocktail. This isn’t one of them. If you want an authentic, perfectly made classic cocktail, then this is the place to go.

Don’t get me wrong. I have nothing against those bars making fancy variations on classic cocktails… in fact, some of my favorite bars in Las Vegas fit this description. However, I believe you should taste a dish before before seasoning. So in order to fully appreciate the drinks at places like Downtown Cocktail Room and The Lady Silvia, I recommend you come to Herbs and Rye and taste the drinks that are the inspiration for those modern twist cocktail lists that are all the rage at other bars. No other bar in Las Vegas takes their cocktails more seriously.

Herbs and Rye menuThe cocktail menu at Herbs and Rye absolutely dwarfs the food menu. And you’ll probably learn something new on every page of it. Cocktails are listed according to the period in which they were invented, and there’s plenty of back-story to inform your choice of libations. Each time period has an informative description. Below that, the listing of each drink tells you what’s in it, and gives some history of the drink – who invented it or recorded it, and where. Throughout the menu are reproductions of vintage books and advertising that further illustrate the history of the drinks and add a bit of whimsy.

Herbs and Rye CocktailThe cocktails they serve are all authentic classics – creative variations are not encouraged, in fact I could tell I made the bartender rather uncomfortable when I asked about them, and that’s a good thing! The bar is teaming with liquors, cordials, bitters (many house-made), glassware (they even have copper mugs for a proper Moscow Mule) and garnishes. They use premium ingredients and take care to build your cocktail the way it might have been done fifty years, or one hundred and fifty years ago. The drinks are strong and flavorful, and the bartenders are knowledgeable enough to help you discover your new favorite old drink. If you already have a favorite, they can probably make it – correctly.

And that’s the reason that every budding classic cocktail enthusiast should make a pilgrimage here. To taste the drinks (as close as possible to) the way they were originally intended. To get a delicious and intoxicating lesson on the origins of a truly American invention – the cocktail. Who knew learning history could be this fun?

  • Happy Hour is from 5-8pm and 12-3am, with half-off select dishes (even the steaks).
  • The music (and the crowd) gets younger and louder the later it gets, so come early for low key and relaxing, late for more of a club-like atomopshere.
  • It’s okay to bring the winos and the beer drinkers. Unlike some of Las Vegas’ more elite cocktail lounges, Herbs and Rye also happily serves beer and wine.

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The Lady Silvia

Lady Silvia EntranceAs someone who has never smoked, it took a while for me to get used to casinos and bars in Las Vegas. While I am all for freedom of choice and believe that a smoker should be able to choose whether or not they want to smoke, it is honestly hard for me to breathe smoke-filled air. I tend to get an allergic reaction to smoke, complete with stuffy nose and watery eyes.

So, when I heard about a smoke-free bar in Las Vegas I had to try it. And this bar is definitely worth a try – though it is more than a little hard to find. The address of the bar, 900 Las Vegas Blvd, is actually different from the physical entrance. If you want to enter the bar then you need to go to 140 Hoover Ave. One big clue is to look for the small parking lot with the Lady Silvia sign. It’s right across from the entrance.

Lady_Silvia-roomWhen you enter you are greeted by a dark hallway with bathrooms to the left. Ahead is the door to The Lady Silvia – a large, bright modern room lined by a bar on the right and a large seating area to the left. The bar is sleek and modern, framed by two TVs that were playing a Truffaut film (The 700 Blows) last time we were there. The seating area, on the other hand, resembles an old Victorian study with a modern twist. Bookshelves line the walls and comfy Victorian style chairs and sofas make up seating areas.

Lady_Silvia-PinxtosAt Happy Hour (the only time we’ve been there) the bar tends to be filled with locals who, from what I can tell, live in the adjacent apartments or condos. It comes off as more of a local hang out – kind of like the tv show Cheers, Vegas style. While the bar is open at 4pm, Happy Hour starts at 5pm and goes until 8pm Monday through Friday. The specialty cocktails are $6 and they serve pinxtos (similar to tapas) for $2/piece. There are also beer and well drink specials but, if you are going to go out of your way to come here, you should really try the cocktails!

Lady_Silvia-Cocktail2They have a wide array of premium liquors, bitters and cordials for making interesting drinks. Some of the Signature cocktails we have tried and liked are the Surrealist, the Lady Silvia and the Impressionist. The Surrealist stands out as being one of the only drinks made with green chartreuse that we’ve actually liked. I am always impressed by a place that can make a good cocktail using Green Chartreuse, since it’s strong herbal flavor often makes it hard to blend with other liquors.

We have yet to go to The Lady Silvia at night but that is mostly because we are usually downtown enjoying the free shows later in the evening. They look like they have some interesting entertainment, though, like the house and underground techno night they have on Sundays.

Lady Silvia BarYou can check out their website here: www.theladysilvia.com. And if you are looking for something to do that’s minutes away from downtown, you should check them out.

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Three Drinks for the Apocalypse and Where to Get Them

Zombie at Frankie's Tiki Room

Zombie at Frankie’s Tiki Room

In 2009 Jill Sobule released California Years, which features “A Good Life”, the best (and only) apocalyptic love song I know. In it she croons: We won’t have to make our beds, so break out the booze, and like I said, let’s have a ball before we’re dead… In that spirit, here are three great drinks to party it up in case the Mayans were right:

1) Zombie: For those seeking a zombie apocalypse, this 1930’s cocktail made from a blend of exotic rums (including 151), lime juice (and a few other secret ingredients) will surely do the trick. Made properly, this drink includes more than four ounces of liquor and often carries a two-drink limit – for tradition’s sake.

Where to get it: Frankie’s Tiki Room. 1712 West Charleston Blvd. Frankie’s makes some of the best (and most potent) drinks available anywhere. It’s the perfect place to spend your final hours. Check out my writeup of the place here.

2) La Fin Du Monde: A Belgian style triple fermented wheat beer made by Unibroue in French Canada. It’s name is translated from the French as “The End of the World.” At 9% alcohol, this is the perfect brew to dull your pain.

Where to get it: The Yard House. 6593 Las Vegas Blvd South (Town Square). On tap while supplies last.

3) The Last Word: A balanced and unusual prohibition era cocktail made from Gin, Green Chartreuse, Maraschino Liquor and Lime Juice. It has an ominous cloudy green glow and a unique bright herbal flavor. It’s the perfect cocktail over which to utter your last words.

Where to get it: Herbs & Rye. 3713 West Sahara Ave. No bar in Las Vegas takes their classic cocktails more seriously.

How will you toast the end of the Mayan calendar?

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Downtown Cocktail Room: An Air of Exclusivity

Downtown Cocktail Room Las VegasThere is a certain satisfaction in knowing a secret, being part of the “in” crowd. I have to admit, it’s fun sitting inside the Downtown Cocktail Room, sipping a cocktail, watching people try to figure out how to get inside. Some figure it out straight away, some give up way too easily. Some people are really determined, but just can’t quite figure it out. Usually someone will let them in… eventually.

Downtown Cocktail Room Las VegasDowntown Cocktail Room is at 111 Las Vegas Bouevard South, where it intersects with Fremont Street East. From the outside, this place doesn’t look very inviting. There’s a simple red neon sign atop the building, else you would never guess there was a bar inside. Once you figure out how to get inside it’s a different story. Dim lighting, dark red walls with simple black and white artwork and modern furniture transform this otherwise shabby room into a chic lounge. A dark translucent curtain over the floor to ceiling windows in the entrance creates a two way mirror effect, offering a view of Las Vegas Boulevard and of the people trying to find their way inside. The resulting vibe is that of a secret hideaway, a modern speakeasy.

If you go early, and I recommend you do, the music is usually just quiet enough to allow for conversation and relaxation. Monday through Friday from 4-8pm they offer happy hour specials, including seven dollar hand-crafted original cocktails, three and four dollar beers and five dollar wine. The cocktails are the raison d’etre, and they truly are both hand-crafted and original. The menu changes with the seasons, and the cocktails are rated based on their complexity. Level 1 drinks are as easy to drink as kool-aid, and level 5 are incredibly complex and filled with unusual flavors – the sort of drink that you need to work up to.

Downtown Cocktail Room Don't Fig With MeOn my last visit, I went right in the middle and ordered the Level 3 “Don’t Fig With Me”, aptly described on the menu as “Autumn in a glass”. The main spirit for this drink is Apple Jack, melded with flavors of fig, orange and cinnamon spice. Everything tastes fresh and natural. The glass is rimmed with cinnamon sugar. This drink fits the season perfectly, and its texture is somewhat thick and pulpy, which encourages sipping instead of gulping. It’s a decent value at the regular price of nine dollars, and a bargain at the seven dollar happy hour price.

When you go to the Downtown Cocktail Room, you are not limited, however, by the menu. This is one of the few craft cocktail lounges in Las Vegas where you can tell the bartender what sort of drink you are in the mood for and they will craft something to your tastes. I did just that on one of my early visits. I liked the resulting drink so much I had to get the recipe and buy the ingredients so I could make it at home. It’s a variation on the Alaska Cocktail, and it really was exactly what I was looking for.

Las Vegas learned long ago that it’s the little things that make a customer feel special, like a VIP, that keep them coming back. At Downtown Cocktail Room, one way they do this is their little black book. It’s a brilliant idea, really. There is a special black book that they keep behind the bar, full of recipes for off the menu drinks that their regular customers enjoy. If you’re there enough, and they take a liking to you, they might offer to put your favorite drink in there. You definitely feel like a VIP ordering your own drink from the book, and having the recipe in writing ensures that the drink is made consistently, regardless of who your bartender is.

Downtown Cocktail Room is a delightful respite from the craziness of Fremont Street. Find your way in, relax in a comfy chair (or bar stool) and chill with a tasty beverage. It’s a great way to start your evening!

Downtown Cocktail Room Between the SheetsTips:

  • To get inside you need to push on the most immovable looking thing in the entrance. You’ll see what I mean.
  • Downtown Cocktail Room also offers up a few classic cocktails on it’s menu, which can also be had at a discount during happy hour. The drink to the right, “Between the Sheets” from the Autumn menu, is one of my favorites.
  • Check out the lower right corner of their cocktail menu for “Nosh”, a few small, tasty morsels that go perfect with your drink (2 for $5). The Honey Sesame Cashews are quite good.

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Free Rum, Tomorrow! Frankie’s Tiki Room

Frankies_Tiki_Room-hotrodThroughout the years, Las Vegas has been home to many a tiki destination: There was Don the Beachcomber at the Sahara, the Aku Aku at the Stardust, I used to enjoy 2 for 1 Mai Tais at Trader Vic’s outside the Planet Hollywood. Nowadays, authentic tiki is as scarce in Las Vegas as it is in most other cities – with one exception.

Frankie’s Tiki Room opened at 1712 West Charleston, near UNLV’s Shadow Lane Campus in 2008, and has been a destination tiki lounge ever since. While for some locals it’s just another neighborhood bar with video poker machines and unusual decor, those in the know come from miles around to drink their fill of tiki ambience and potent tiki drinks.

The whole concept of tiki is to create a place to get away. When you enter a tiki bar you leave behind the everyday world and enter a place where you can truly relax. Both the drinks and decor are exotic and fanciful, hand crafted art. Blowfish Lamp at Frankie's Tiki RoomThe stresses of everyday life that follow you into most bars: news, politics, even sports – are intentionally left at the door. Drinks are strong, typically rum based (a nod to the mid-20th century origins of tiki, and to its popularity in tropical climes), and are crafted from fresh exotic juices, spices and liquors. Menus are cryptic and intriguing – the exact recipes often closely guarded secrets. On all counts, Frankie’s delivers.

Frankie's Tiki RoomThe first thing you notice when you enter Frankie’s is that you cannot see. The lighting inside is so dim that I needed a special lens for my camera to photograph the lights themselves. Once your eyes adjust, you begin to see the decor. A floor to ceiling tiki with dice for eyes guards the front door. The room is lit by colorful hanging blowfish lanterns. There are carvings on the walls, and on the backs of chairs.

Free Rum, Tomorrow! sign at Frankies Tiki Room

Bamboo is everywhere and human sized hand carved tikis lurk in every corner. A collection of vintage tiki mugs decorates one wall. Behind the bar it’s wall to wall booze – and not just the standards, but hundreds of rums and liquors, many that you probably haven’t heard of. There are more tiki mugs (for sale) and t-shirts as well. A carved wooden sign taunts “Free Rum Tomorrow!”

Two televisions are perched behind the bar, but you will never see a conventional broadcast. The sound is muted and the video is made up of random clips from an eclectic mix of The Bar at Frankie's Tiki Roomb-grade horror and Gilligan’s Island meets vintage burlesque. A jukebox plays surf and exotica. There’s a carnival style coin-op vice-tester machine. The drink menu is divided between traditional and modern original tiki drinks, rated from two to five skulls for potency. The five skull traditional Zombie contains many rums including Lemon Hart 151 and has a two drink limit “for tradition’s sake.”

Drinks are $9, and worth every penny for both potency and flavor. For $23 you can get your drink in a souvenir tiki mug, which you can keep. I’ve somehow wound up with quite a collection of these unique mugs over the years. Bar staff is friendly and efficient, and the clientele is a mix of tikiphiles, rockabilly, and locals who don’t seem to mind sharing their quirky neighborhood bar.

Tips:

  • Free rum, today! The paytables on the bar-top video poker machines aren’t that great, but if you pop in a 20 and play full coin your drinks are on the house.
  • Get a seat at the bar, if you can. The fancy carved seats at the tables are cool looking, but rather uncomfortable.
  • If you try the “Vice Tester” everyone will know it. The lights of the machine are far brighter than anything else in the bar.
  • If you go in late March/early April, this place is completely taken over by the Viva Las Vegas crowd, and will be packed to capacity throughout this annual rockabilly fest.
  • Finally, designate a driver or take a cab. One five skull drink and you could be teetering on the edge of the legal limit, depending on your tolerance.

Website: www.frankiestikiroom.com
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