An Off-Strip Casino Has Become One of the Best Places to Eat in Vegas
The Station Casinos empire, which now includes more than 20 properties inLas Vegasand beyond, started modestly on July 1, 1976. That was when Frank Fertitta Jr., whose Vegas hospitality career began with a gig as a bellman at the Tropicana before he became a casino dealer, pit boss, and general manager, opened a 5,000-square-foot gaming hall attached to the Mini-Price Motor Inn on Sahara Avenue.
Fertitta’soff-Strip gamble, originally known as The Casino, has grown into the 21-story Palace Station resort. The entrepreneur’s sons, Frank III and Lorenzo, now run casino-hotels that also include Palms, which is in the middle of anart-filled $690 million makeover featuring hot new restaurants fromMarc VetriandMichael Symon. And Palace Station, which has long been known for its 18-seat, 24-hour Oyster Bar that’s beloved by locals as well asDavid Chang, is undergoing its own dramatic $192-million transformation.
Beyond its 575 newly renovated hotel rooms and suites, Palace Station has put together a formidable restaurant collection that solidifies the resort as a 24-hour dining destination. But fans of the Oyster Bar’s pan roasts have nothing to worry about.
“The Oyster Bar is the one thing we didn’t touch,” Station Casinos corporate executive chef Joseph Kudrak says. “It’s an institution. That was everybody’s first rule: Don’t touch the Oyster Bar.”
Here’s a look at what’s new inside Palace Station:
Ralph Perrazzo, who used to make desserts at Jean-Georges in New York, Bradley Ogden in Las Vegas, and Clio in Boston, has become a meat maven with b.B.D’s, a remarkably ambitious burger-and-beer joint that serves USDA prime beef from the same cattle that are sold to some of the country’s best steakhouses.
“We share the same steers,” Perrazzo says. “When they get the porterhouses and filets, we get the front neck.”
Perrazzo grinds the beef for burgers that are prepared four different ways: flame-broiled (over cherry wood and charcoal), steamed, grilled, and an option involving a custom broiler that cooks both sides of a patty at the same time. Perrazzo, who first debuted b.B.D.’s (short for beers, burgers, desserts) in Rocky Point, New York, before moving to Vegas, was so devoted to perfecting all his techniques that he lied on his résumé and got a job at White Castle when he was doing R&D. (In-N-Out never got back to him, he says.) He ended up working the overnight shift after friends hit the drive-thru during dinner hours to make fun of him.
Perrazzo, who grew up in Long Island, is also using beef neck for excellent pastrami. He’s spending four days to prepare a wonderfully rich, complex, and comforting Long Island duck ramen. Along with chicken wings, he’s serving Long Island duck drumsticks as a starter. He’s emulsifying lamb-gyro meat in-house. He’s making bacon cheeseburger nachos. And given his pastry prowess, desserts include a gorgeous passion-fruit “sunflower” with black sesame meringue.
Perrazzo has a glassed-in butcher room that you see right when you walk into the restaurant, which sets the tone for b.B.D.’s.
“Our meat isn’t coming through the back door pre-pattied,” he says. “I’m against buying ground beef. You never know what’s in it. I think the butcher room is a bold statement. This is a serious place. People thought we were a little crazy for doing it.”
Perrazzo plans to add a selection of hard-to-find steaks to his menu. (For now, you can ask for a three-pound porterhouse, which comes with sides and is a $100 bargain that can easily feed three people.) Perrazzo wants to serve tri-tip with the fat cap attached. He’d like to have a three-pound rib eye with the short rib attached. His high-end steak will be a flavor-packed rib eye cap. On the lower end of things, he’ll serve London broil, which is something his mom used to make him. He’ll lard his version of London broil to intensify the flavor.
At b.B.d’s. you can pair your meat with a $3.50 Miller High Life, or a $50 bottle of beer, or maybe some English ale served at an optimum 48 degrees, which might seem a little warm at first before you realize that it’s perfect. This restaurant is about giving carnivores and beer lovers a wide range of options, and Perrazzo wants to expand to “beer cities” all over America.
He’s working on an outpost of b.B.d.’s at a hotel in downtown Los Angeles, where he’ll also have a rooftop pool bar, a coffee shop with a bodega selling New York-style egg sandwiches, and a lounge with Prohibition-era cocktails. But like in Vegas, meat will be the primary focus of what he does in L.A.
“In L.A., I definitely plan on having the butcher room in front as well,” he says.
Beyond a breakfast, lunch, and dinner buffet, Palace Station has added an overnight buffet. So guests can roll in from midnight to 8 a.m. for a late dinner (fried chicken, sliders, baked cod, assorted vegetable sides), an early breakfast (eggs, biscuits, pancakes, French toast), or anything in between (including a salad bar and a dessert section).
We also like eating at Feast during more typical hours. Meaty highlights of a 10:30 a.m. breakfast visit on a recent Saturday included brisket and sausage from the on-site smoker as well as individual-sized pans of loco moco. There were many nice riffs on traditional breakfast dishes: pancake poppers, tofu shakshuka, kalua pork hash, egg foo yung, and country-scramble pot pies. There was also a good selection of agua frescas (including watermelon, honeydew, and horchata) and boba tea.
Tu and Cat Do, a brother-and-sister team who lived in Vietnamese refugee camps and fled the country by boat, are taking the idea of an Asian restaurant in a casino far beyond the typical noodle bars you’ll find around Vegas. The Dos are serving luxuries like The Golden Eye, which is an oyster topped with uni, ikura, and red and black tobiko.
Tu, who is the chef, makes delightful crispy calamari that pops with Chinese spices. He cooks traditional clay-pot catfish, but Cat also suggested that he also serve clay-pot salmon, which has become a Vegas crowd-pleaser. Sushi, fried rice, noodles, assorted stir-fries: It’s all here at an Asian restaurant with something for everyone, including high rollers or big groups who want Tu to wok-toss a whole live crab or lobster.
If you’re looking for a fast-casual experience, the Dos (who also have a Boathouse at the Graton casino-resort in Northern California) run Palace Station’s Mumfresh, which serves pho, bánh mìs, teriyaki, and boba tea. That’s in the Marketplace food court where you’ll also find an outpost of Salud, a taqueria from San Diego.
Beyond all these new restaurants, there’s the new Cinebarre, a comfortable dine-in movie theater featuring a lounge with TVs that can work well as a sports bar. Plus, the 24-hour Brass Fork just opened with chicken-fried steak, miso crab omelets, muffalettas, shrimp-stuffed surf-and-turf burgers, and a big cocktail list including five kinds of bloody Marys.
The next time you see a long line at the Palace Station Oyster Bar, you might want to consider that there are a lot of other good food options at this resort now. But if you’re still compelled to wait an hour for a rich, creamy, spicy pan roast with shrimp, crab, and lobster, we totally understand. Either way, what started as a 5,000-square-foot casino with a snack bar has turned into destination dining.
Palace Station, 2411 W. Sahara Ave, Las Vegas, 702-367-2411