Sin City celebrates its colorful past
- Last Updated: 11:06 PM, March 12, 2012
- Posted: 5:29 PM, March 12, 2012
These days, attach “speakeasy” onto the name of your Vegas restaurant or bar, and it’s a recipe for instant success. We Las Vegans are Cosa Nostra-obsessed right now — and with good reason. There’s a fun new experience around every corner (most have hitched their wagons to the decade-long awaited Mob Museum’s star.) The skeletons are (mostly) out of the closet, and the families of our founding fathers here have been increasingly cooperative about sharing their historic relics with the world. And the best part of it all is that — unlike other ways in which you could explore the seamier side of Vegas — this one’s educational. Here’s where to go:
The Mob Museum
Once called the National Museum of Organized Crime and Law Enforcement, the organizers gave up and renamed it the Mob Museum when people refused to call it anything but, anyway. It’s the actual former federal courthouse where such landmark hearings as the 1950 Kefauver Hearings on Organized Crime were held (and Las Vegas’s former “Happiest Mayor on Earth,” Oscar Goodman, defended real-life wise guys like Anthony “The Ant” Spilotro (playing himself defending a facsimile of The Ant in the movie Casino). The $42 million museum was created by the same Smithsonian museum team that designed the International Spy Museum in Washington, DC. Among its showpieces: An actual piece of the bullet-ridden wall from the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre. When we went to the VIP opening party (for Vegas luminaries, including family members who lent ledgers, possessions, photos and even weapons) nearly the whole group — including members of Meyer Lansky’s family — departed to Goodman’s new steakhouse (Oscar’s Beef, Booze and Broads) in The Plaza where plates are named after the guys he defended back in the day.
300 Stewart Avenue, Las Vegas; themobmuseum.org
Mob Bar opened on Repeal Day, December 5th, with its blink-and-you’ll-miss-it sign on downtown’s theme-heavy Third Street (conveniently located half a block from the Mob Museum). The bar is heavy on authenticity (think Clams Casino from the Triple George Grill kitchen next door, barmen in period attire, artifacts on loan from the Mob Museum, and drinks with a mafia spin) and low on cheesiness (not a fake Jersey accent to be found). Open from 4pm on, it’s now added lunch hours since the museum opened (not that anyone’s encouraging you to drink up before going to a museum or anything).
201 N. 3rd St., mobbarlv.com
Oscar’s Beef, Booze and Broads
Oscar’s Steakhouse, former mayor Oscar Goodman’s new place in the iconic glass dome of the same Plaza Hotel & Casino he once called to be imploded, is a traditional steakhouse on one side, and speakeasy-style Italian red sauce joint — Simpatico — on the other (literally — you must ask at the Oscar’s desk to be shown through the unmarked door). Hizzoner himself auditioned the “broads” (yep, that’s their official title) who roam the restaurant, trained to wax poetic about sports, wine, Las Vegas history, and probably whatever else you’d like to discuss with them. As hokey as it sounds, they’re both gorgeous AND nice – and age-appropriate (no lady under 30 has ever been called a “broad.”) Service is old school – (think male waiters of a certain age in pinstripes and braces) and the interior is surprising luxe and comfy. Dishes are mostly named after Goodman’s former clients. The “Spilotro-style skirt steak” was good, but the kitchen is still working on a few things (“Fat Herbie’s” seared tuna had done some obvious time in the icebox after its searing; Hymie’s latkes were more like hashbrowns), but the experience is half the fun, and prices compete favorably with steakhouses on the Strip. If you go, ask for table 33 – a booth with a birds-eye view over the Fremont Street Experience.
Inside the Plaza Hotel and Casino; 1 Main Street; plazahotelcasino.com
The Mob Attraction
In the turf war between the recently renamed Mob Attraction (formerly “Experience”) at the Tropicana and the Mob Museum, think Disney Imagineers vs. The Smithsonian. It opened and closed last year, and most people thought it was curtains for this operation. Part theme park, part history lesson, the attraction was orchestrated with the cooperation of the families of such notorious bosses as Bugsy Siegel, Meyer Lansky and Sam Giancana, and the $25 million interactive exhibit is a combination of eye-opening facts and rollicking fun. Enter through a speakeasy door in the Trop as an immigrant fresh off the boat, and make decisions along the way — like leading to your shot at becoming a “made” member of a crime family. Make deals (or screw ups) that lead to your ultimate fate: get whacked, go to jail, or enter the witness protection program.
Inside the Tropicana, 3801 Las Vegas Blvd. South; troplv.com
Mob Experience at Machine Guns Vegas
Sure, there are all sorts of gun stores around Las Vegas — dozens, in fact. (In fact, 12 of them actually carry an M249 SAW — which doesn’t help us sleep at night). Machine Guns Vegas, the newest gun “experience” in Vegas, is more entertainment than gun store. The celeb-oriented range is staffed by gorgeous women, has a separate VIP entrance, “ultra-gun-lounge,” private ranges, and sells $2,000 Louis Vuitton holsters, among other bling for ladies who love to shoot. Among other packages (“Femme Fatale” — shoot a handgun and UZI — and “Call of Duty” — Colt M4, FN Scar assault rifle, AK47 and Beretta M9), you can also choose a mob-themed shooting experience. And I’m telling you right now, nothing compares with shooting MGV’s fun zombie-themed targets with a Tommy gun.
3501 Aldebaran Ave.; machinegunsvegas.com