GET INTO THE SIN CITY SPIRIT BY PLANNING A VISIT TO SOME OF ITS MOST CELEBRATED RELICS, AS WELL AS SOME NEW HOT SPOTS INSPIRED BY THE GOLDEN YEARS.
Stall-ing for Time
Located at the intersection of East Charleston Boulevard and Main Street, at the end of a deserted stretch of warehouses, the Red Rooster Antiques Mall is a bargain hunter's paradise. From furniture and floor coverings to curios and clothes, you'll find it at the decade-old, 20,000-square-foot Red Rooster, which can easily provide a few hours' worth of happy digging. A tip: Since the mall's in a veritable taxi-free zone, have the manager at the mall's "front desk" call you a cab in advance of when you'd like to haul your stash back to the hotel. 1109 Western Avenue, (702) 382-5253.
Post-antiquing, stop for a restorative margarita at El Sombrero Cafe, a smallish concrete-block mom-and-pop a few minutes' walk from the Red Rooster mall. Marked by a neon sombrero sign and beloved by both locals and informed visitors, El Sombrero has been serving up authentic Mexican dishes, such as chile verde and chorizo con huevos, since 1950. Entrees range from $5.50 to $10.50 and span breakfast, lunch and dinner. Check out the jukebox with its hand-typed menu of Mexican song selections. As one regular put it, "You can go to any fancy restaurant in town, but I'd rather go to a hole in the wall where the food is home-cooked." 807 South Main Street, (702) 382-9234.
For a truly authentic lounge lizard experience, head to Champagne's Cafe, an intimate boite on a commercial stretch off the Strip. The dim lighting, velvet wallpaper and leather booths set the tone for a mellow nightcap that can easily extend into the morning hours. One of the cafe's walls comprises a pictorial shrine to Marilyn Monroe, while another boasts autographed photos of Dean Martin, Frankie Valli and Wayne Newton. 3557 South Maryland Parkway, (702) 737-1699.
Raising the Bar
The Venus Lounge and Taboo Cove, located in The Venetian Resort & Casino, attempt to take patrons back to a time when Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Jayne Mansfield ruled the Strip. The retro-looking decor features vintage pin-up-girl posters to leopard-print lounge chairs to video screens showing clips from such cheese-ridden classics as "Strip-o-Rama" and "Teenage Hot Rodders Hellbent on Destruction." To complete the mood, it doesn't hurt to have a Mr. Mancini (Kettle One Vodka and fresh cucumber juice), or a Tempest Storm (Absolut Mandarin, Peach Schnapps and cranberry juice) in hand. Taboo Cove, a votive- and lantern-lit tiki bar, the first one built in Vegas in over 40 years, features a most un-tiki-like twist: burlesque dancers writhing on a stage behind the bartender. In short, if you're looking to misbehave in Sin City, look no further. 3377 Las Vegas Boulevard. South, (702) 414-4870.Major Mangia
Battista's Hole in the Wall's sign reads "The Finest Italian Restaurant in the West" and it just might be true. Established in 1920 by Battista Locatelli and family, it's expanded over the years to include a memorabilia-packed bar and cozy rooms full of red leather banquettes and tables covered with red-and-white-checkered cloths.
The most popular entrees ($23-$33) are the eggplant Parmesan, lasagna, manicotti and chicken Rio, a dish sauteed with mushrooms, lemon and cream and named after Battista's wife. (The couple is now semiretired, and their daughter's running the joint.) Though walk-ins are welcome, reservations are recommended, especially for groups -- which Battista's can handle in numbers up to 150. 4041 Audrie at Flamingo Road, (702) 732-1424.
No Vegans Allowed
The Algiers Hotel, which sits at the less-glam north end of the Strip, has remained virtually untouched since 1953. If you're looking for a remnant of pre-Bellagio-style Vegas, hit the Algiers's house restaurant, Tommy's Ribs and Steaks. Working a trade show can give anyone a hankering for a hot, hearty meal, so order the filet mignon ($20.95 with all the fixin's), a full slab of baby back pork ribs ($19.95) or a gigantic 24-ounce, two-inch-thick New York strip steak ($30.95). The Algiers, 2845 Las Vegas Boulevard., (702) 792-2990.
The Showtime Network
"The Rat Pack Is Back!" features a faux Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis, Jr. and Peter Lawford in all their schticky glory. But it's not another cheesy impersonation revue; locals swear the act's almost as good as the real deal. Sahara Hotel and Casino, 2535 Las Vegas Boulevard, (702) 737-2515.
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