Less than two years ago, Las Vegas was gearing up for a new Roaring ’20s with a wave of Prohibition-era themed superclubs and restaurants. And while Bugsy & Meyer’s Steakhouse, Mayfair Supper Club, and Delilah all eventually opened their doors, the coronavirus changed our perception about what the new ’20s were going to be all about. Perhaps then, it’s better to shift our attention to the growing number of speakeasy-style bars in Las Vegas. Some follow a Prohibition theme, some play around with secrecy, and others just focus on an old-school approach to crafting cocktails. Many follow a combination of all three. One thing is certain: we can all use a good drink right now-and if it comes with a touch of style and discretion, even better.
The Cosmopolitan Think of Barbershop Cuts & Cocktails as two businesses in one. By day, it’s a men’s grooming salon, good for a haircut or shave. At night, guests make their way through an entrance in the back that opens up to a dark and seductive whiskey lounge with a stage for live music. It’s an impressive sight with mismatched chandeliers, leather couches, and other vintage furniture. Order Scotch for bottle service or choose something fun from the cocktail menu. Can’t go wrong with the Mustache Ride, a frothy vanilla, cherry, and almond mix of whiskey and Guinness. How to get in: Walk through the salon and look for a janitor’s door in the back, which opens up to the speakeasy. Try your luck with a seat at the bar or make a reservation in advance.
Chinatown At first glance, Más Por Favor looks like a bright, open taqueria in a Chinatown strip mall-which is pretty great all by itself. But off to the side is a secret hallway, modeled after a drug tunnel (with bags of “cocaine” as decoration), leading to a dark but wonderfully vibrant speakeasy parlor. The cocktails skew towards tequila and mezcal with a dynamic variety of flavors. Some go down a little too easy and if that’s the case, switch to either red or white sangria (both exceptional and not overly sweet), which carry more volume and last a bit longer. Casamigos Margaritas are on tap with house-infused jalapeno bitters and other modifications encouraged. And yes, you can order the same delicious tacos sold out front. Request a dusting of Hot Cheetos for added spice. How to get in: Play it safe and book a reservation.
Resorts World Hidden behind a small convenience store at Famous Foods Street Eats food hall, Here Kitty Kitty Vice Den is a speakeasy with a sweet side. The lounge sets a mood with string lights, brick walls, and Asian decor. Cocktails are divided into two categories on the menu: “The Cat’s Meow,” which are sweet, colorful, and fruit-forward, and “Liquid Courage,” a collection of modified classics commonly found elsewhere in Resorts World. When sampling the former, try the Apple Blossom, prepared with Takara Shochu and apple flavors. Otherwise, ask your bartender to come up with something interesting on the spot. How to get in: Look for a small convenience store named Ms. Meow’s Mamak Stall in the middle of the Famous Foods Street Eats. One of the shelves (usually stocked with potato chips) pushes open to reveal the speakeasy.
Chinatown Tsuya Sake Lounge is a sparse, intimate room, hidden by a curtain behind the host stand at Yui Edomae Sushi. While the main restaurant is typically an indulgent (and expensive) omakase experience, the lounge has its own menu of small bites, ranging from oysters to A5 wagyu skewers. The food is designed to pair well with a carefully selected lineup of sake. Think of it as a way to sample some of the best Japanese food in town, but in much smaller doses. How to get in: Call 702-222-2408 to inquire about availability.
Off the Strip It’s not widely publicized, but Omega Mart (the AREA15 art installation by Meow Wolf that spoofs a grocery store) has its own intimate bar named Datamosh, said to be a pharmacy that exists in another dimension. Much like Meow Wolf itself, the drinks are playful. Some are served in a wobbly silicone cup. Others come in a container that changes color based on the temperature. The most fun? The Source (a mix of mezcal and and lillet blanc that’s topped with a rosemary-infused bubble) and Old Fashioned Spray (a blue raspberry Old Fashioned served in an off-center glass and sprayed with a liquid that may or may not resemble Windex). The bar itself is bathed in a variety of colors that change frequently. How to get in: You must have a ticket for Omega Mart to enter Datamosh. It’s around a corner on the north side of the attraction.
Caesars Palace Here’s a fun one. Ushh: Backstage Pass proves that even a Las Vegas residency can have it’s own secret speakeasy-style experience. The backstage party takes place an hour before every Usher show at the Colosseum at Caesars Palace (with dates currently scheduled through at least January 1). Guests are led to a private backstage area to mix, mingle, and explore a series of rooms, including Ushh Club, based on an old-school Harlem jazz den and a pole dancing stage inspired by Atlanta’s Magic City. You’ll see performances from the same musicians and dancers who take the stage with Usher each night, but in a totally different environment. And yes, Usher himself usually makes an appearance, although the exact time and place isn’t guaranteed. How to get in: Tickets are $206. It includes one free Remy Martin cocktail, but not admission to Usher’s Colosseum concert, which requires a separate ticket.
Fremont East Commonwealth is a popular bar in the Fremont East district, but the Laundry Room-hidden behind the back wall underneath the stairs-carries the spirit of a true speakeasy. Originally the laundry facility for the historic El Cortez casino across the street, the intimate space accepts guests by reservation only, with a limit of four parties an hour (and perhaps even fewer, depending on the latest COVID situation). Browse through the menu for original cocktails-with cool names like “The Deadpan” and “Arsenic Meets Lace”-or just talk with the bartender about putting together a customized, balanced libation based on preferences on flavors, moods, and aromas. No matter what you get, every drink is $17. Pay attention to the house rules. No cell phones. No PDA. No rowdy behavior. Just set the real world aside and get lost in the world of true mixology. How to get in: Make a reservation and you’ll probably get on the Laundry Room’s exclusive text list, which will be the best way to book subsequent visits in the future. Walk-ups at the entrance (a spray-painted door on 6th Street near Fremont) could get lucky, but timing is everything, so don’t count on it.
Downtown The Mob Museum is a cool place to learn about Vegas’ obsession with organized crime and comes with a fully operational speakeasy in the basement. While it feels like a natural continuation of the exhibits on the upper levels, the Underground is the real deal and stays open long past museum hours. Hang out in the main room, where live music plays on weekends, or score a seat in the private VIP area, hidden behind a wall and lined with authentic artwork from the Roaring ’20s. Most of the drinks are based on recipe books from the Prohibition-era, like a Southside Gin Mojito or an Old Fashioned served on the sly in a glass flask inside a hollowed-out book. An in-house distillery serves up some light-bodied corn-based moonshine, so ask for a shot on the side. How to get in: The Underground is accessible through the museum itself or from a quiet entrance around the corner. Whether the doorman asks for a password or not, you’ll get in fine with little trouble.
Chinatown This modern take on a classic tiki bar is dark, mysterious, and full of kitschy decor. The drinks are dominated by fruity, tropical rum cocktails-organized on the menu by strength level-but the head mixologist knows how to work in well-balanced recipes and intriguing spirits. Most cocktails can be turned into a shareable bowl, given a photogenic shot of fire, or topped off with Dole Whip – a frozen treat originally only served at Disneyland. The Golden Tiki is open round the clock and recently brought in Vegas mixologist Adam Rains to mix things up a bit. How to get in: Walk in through a lava rock cave, pass by a waterfall, and keep your eyes peeled for a talking skeleton, fully loaded treasure chest, and a conch shell large enough to sit inside. Study up on the latest reservation policy.
Off the Strip Capo’s is a restaurant with a mafia theme and a busy bar area. The building used to be a Hooters, but that was years ago. Now, the windows are covered, the lighting is dark, and photos of Al Capone and other classic mob figures line the walls. The music ranges from Frank Sinatra to Frankie Valli. This is old-school, Jersey-style Italian. No messin’ around. So grab a seat in that red leather booth and order the best Italian beef sandwich in Vegas or the so-weird-it-works Caesar salad with pasta and a meatball on top. While most speakeasies tend to favor whiskey and bourbon, Capo’s is all about martinis. Ask for the off-menu “Sharon Stone” (in honor of the movie Casino), which comes as dirty as it wants to be. How to get in: A voice from behind a small window will ask for a password, but anything you come up with will probably get you inside. You can also try calling 702-364-2276 to score a reservation.
Off the Strip The term “craft cocktail” is tossed around a little too freely these days, but few bars take the art of preparing the perfect drink as seriously as Herbs & Rye. The standalone building east of the Strip has long been known as an industry clubhouse, a place where bartenders from other establishments say they like to go on their downtime. With dark decor and a heavy oak bartop, the place is comfortable but commands attention. The menu itself is a virtual textbook on the history of booze, breaking down cocktails by era like Prohibition, Tiki, and Rat Pack. Everything is prepared with care and authenticity, often with spirits not easily found in other bars. The food isn’t bad either, and check this out: the steaks are half-off during happy hour, which has been dramatically extended during the pandemic. How to get in: Doors open at 5 pm. Feel free to make a reservation.
The Cosmopolitan Ghost Donkey is tucked away in the back corner of the Block 16 Urban Food Hall at the Cosmopolitan. The New York import seats just a handful of guests and is totally fine with Christmas lights dangling from the ceiling year-round. Agave spirits are the specialty, whether sipped on their own or in a lineup of wildly inventive cocktails. Mezcal, in particular, is used to full effect in thoughtful recipes that don’t conflict with the often smoky flavor of the spirit. The Mushroom Margarita uses mezcal infused with huitlacoche, an edible corn fungus that’s also available as a topping on one of five different gourmet nachos recipes. How to get in: In true speakeasy style, the exterior of the bar is easy to miss-identifiable only by a single understated door with a picture of a donkey on it.
Mandalay Bay 1923 Prohibition Bar isn’t quite as secretive as it used to be. Formerly known as 1923 Bourbon Bar, the lounge moved from its longtime location under the escalators in the Shoppes at Mandalay Place to a more intimate second-level space next to Minus 5 Ice Bar. Both venues are under the same ownership and connect in the back for customized experiences. Private buyouts are a big part of the business plan. The space is designed to set a mood with vintage furniture, Roaring 20s decor, and low lighting with brick accents, chandeliers, and deep red hues. The extensive bourbon selection can be enjoyed as a flight, served neat, or as part of a barrel-aged Manhattan or Old Fashioned. Live musicians and burlesque dancers perform on weekends. How to get in: Look for the bookshelf to the left of Minus 5 Ice Bar and knock on it to get inside. Yeah, the sign above it is a dead giveaway, but have fun and play along.
Downtown The Downtown Cocktail Room is the perfect combination of authenticity and ingenuity-two things you don’t always see so close to the Fremont Street tourist trap. Established long before the Downtown resurgence, “DCR” was designed as a word-of-mouth destination with a trick door originally meant to keep the average drunk from stumbling in. The mixology team is always on its toes, revamping the drink lineup with every season. Hundreds of original cocktails have been represented across more than 50 menus over the years. If that wasn’t enough, the back room was recently transformed into another bar entirely-Mike Morey’s Sip’nTip-with its own menu, vibe, and seperate entrance from the alley. Think of it as a speakeasy within a speakeasy. How to get in: Give yourself a moment to figure out the main door facing Las Vegas Boulevard. Just look for the glass panel that appears a little different from the rest and push-don’t pull-to get inside.
Park MGM Take a sharp turn in the back corner of the main dining room at Bavette’s Steakhouse, and you’ll find yourself in the Parlor Room, a hidden bar with vintage chandeliers, plush furniture, and a crowded collage of artwork and mirrors on the wall. The drink menu-heavy on scotch, martinis, and Old Fashioned variations-is the same as the main dining room, but the atmosphere is loose and cozy. The same can be said for the playlist, which leans toward lounge and chill hip-hop. How to get in: The Parlor Room is only open on weekends or busy nights when something big is going on (like a Golden Knights game at the T-Mobile Arena or a concert at the Park Theater).
Downtown Arts District We may be stretching the definition of “speakeasy” with this one, but the Velveteen Rabbit has so much charm and character, it often feels like a venue from a different era. The furniture never seems to match and the walls are decorated with local artwork, but a modern touch is felt with weekend DJ sets on the patio. The lineup of craft cocktails rotates frequently, offering up inventive, well-balanced drinks often prepared with house-made liqueurs and spirit infusions. Discrete and quiet, the Velveteen Rabbit has been a staple of the Downtown Arts District for years and as the neighborhood continues to grow, continues to thrive in the face of new competition. How to get in: Walk in anytime after 5 pm.Sign up here for our daily Vegas email and be the first to get all the food/drink/fun in town.
Rob Kachelriess has been writing about Las Vegas for Thrillist for five years. His work has also appeared in Travel + Leisure, Leafly, Supercall, Modern Luxury, and Luxury Estates International’s seasonal publication. He’s not good at guessing passwords. Follow him on Twitter@rkachelriess.
You can’t be all things to all people. Yet a new Italian restaurant strikes an intriguing balance between authenticity and inventive touches while helping to shape the identity of a new community in the booming Southwest Valley of Las Vegas.
Basilico Ristorante Italiano is now open at Evora, a master-planned apartment development still under construction that won’t be finished for at least five years. The 160-seat restaurant follows the vision of chef Francesco Di Caudo, a Sicily native who draws on his heritage and experience throughout Italy to build a compelling menu based on traditional techniques and modern ingenuity.
“I come from a country where farm-to-table is nothing new,” says Di Caudio, while emphasizing the importance of ingredient sourcing and simple, straightforward flavor combinations.
Just look at the appetizers. Americans are used to eggplant parmesan that’s breaded and fried without restraint. Di Caudo sticks to a traditional Sicilian recipe with the vegetable sliced thin, sizzled in a pan, and layered with tomato and basil. No mozzarella. On the other hand, the Smoked Cigar is destined to be a signature showstopper. Duck, foie gras, and porcini mushrooms are packed inside a thin, cracker-like shell, presented in a box, and dipped into a glass ashtray. The “ash” in the centre is a black sesame and truffle mix. Don’t be shy about double dipping.
The risotto is bound to be another conversation piece. The recipe uses Carnaroli rice, a starchy grain from North Italy that produces a creamy texture, balancing the saltiness of a parmesan broth with a sweet splash of chestnut honey. The real surprise is the inclusion of Lavazza espresso, manipulated to crackle in your mouth like Pop Rocks candy.
All pastas are made in-house, from a parsnip cavatelli to a lamb and thyme tortellini in a broth filtered from braised prosciutto. Some dishes have a subtle Asian influence, including a hamachi crudo with pomelo (similar to yuzu), Hokkaido scallops with oxtail, and a planned octopus braised in dashi. The flavours come to life inside a sharp, contemporary dining room with deep red chairs and stone, wood, and marble touches. The wine collection is dominated by Italian labels, with a few California and Oregon picks thrown in to round out the list. Bottles are on display near the front entrance and inside illuminated square shelves. “It looks like a fancy restaurant, but when you sit down, I want you to have fun,” adds Di Caudio.
The bar is the heart of the restaurant, ready to serve up to 16 people inside and dozens more via accordion-style windows that open wide to a covered patio. The outdoor space, temperature-controlled with overhead fans and heaters, effectively extends Evora’s open-air plaza with dramatic water and fire features. It’s a natural spot for tastings and special events with a covered stage for live music. Evora is rolling out in four phases, with the first 342 apartments ready by fall. There could be as many as 1,400 when it’s all said and done. Rent begins at around $1,800 for studios and one-bedroom units and goes up to $4,000 for two-story top-floor residences with a loft and Strip views. The community will include swimming pools, pickleball courts, a putting green, a dog park, firepits, EV charging stations, and pavilions equipped with audio and video features.
“Basilico matches the demographic for our apartments,” says Danny Sorge of Digital Desert Development, the company behind the community. “The term ‘youthful sophistication’ has been thrown around about the restaurant and Evora as a whole. It brings something new to the area.”
The development follows a deliberate strategy to have the commercial tenants in place before the first residents move in, occupying a stand-alone building that strikes a commanding presence on the corner of Patrick Lane and Buffalo Drive. Lemon Tree Cafe & Market is already open as a European-style grocery store with plenty of room to sit down with a sandwich and glass of wine. Keep your eyes peeled for Taps & Barrels (a self-service beer hall), Tachi Ramen, and EVOQ hair salon in the months ahead, with more businesses to come. The timing couldn’t be better. The Southwest Valley is on fire right now, with the Durango hotel and casino and UnCommons mixed-use development taking shape as new attractions in 2023. The Bend, a long-promised shopping and dining district, has been in a holding pattern for years but holds promise in an area where everything is getting bigger and better.
Meanwhile, the team behind Evora is staking a claim with Di Caudio running the kitchen at Basilico. The chef’s recent collaboration with Chef Oscar Amador helped Anima by EDO score a recent James Beard Award nomination and reputation as one of the best new restaurants in Las Vegas. Di Caudio first came to Las Vegas to work at Zeffirino at the Grand Canal Shoppes-a gig he expected to last about six months before returning home. Instead, he stuck around and continued to build his reputation at culinary destinations like Sinatra at the Wynn and Ferraro’s off the Strip.
Ultimately, Basilico will be a restaurant to keep an eye on as it develops under Di Caudio’s guidance. The menu will shift and evolve based on the chef’s preferences and the availability of seasonal ingredients. Di Caudio is also planning a smaller menu and social hour for the bar area and a reasonably priced tasting menu with around 10 dishes served family style.
Rob Kachelriess has been writing about Las Vegas in Thrillist for more than nine years. In addition, his work has appeared in Travel + Leisure, Leafly, Supercall, Modern Luxury, and Luxury Estates International’s seasonal publication. Follow him on Twitter @rkachelriess.