In the past, I have been pretty vocal about my feelings about the construction of Diablo’s Cantina in front of the Monte Carlo: I hate it. In one fell swoop, the Monte Carlo’s exterior transformed from a very classy, old-school resort casino facade with sweeping steps, a beautiful fountain, and lovely statuary leading into the front doors to a cheap, tacky carnival in a white trash neighborhood, thanks to that gigantic She-Devil out front.
So you can imagine how much my head spun around when I heard they were going to be renovating the front of the Monte Carlo with multiple new restaurants with outdoor seating. Oh boy, I thought. There goes the neighborhood.
Well, I was wrong. So, so wrong.
Instead of looking cluttered with restaurant after restaurant crammed in front of the hotel, they’ve brilliantly positioned the restaurants on the front side corners of the hotel, where they don’t interfere with the view of the entrance. There are trees now that provide scant shade, but at least there’s a bit of green to look at.
The water features separating the sidewalk proper from the vast pavilion leading into the Monte Carlo aren’t what I would have designed, but they fit with the desert landscape of Las Vegas. The area is much more visually appealing now. And frankly, I’d much rather have sidewalks lined with trees and fountains than porn-slappers.
Most importantly, the area in front of the Monte Carlo’s entrance is wide open, leading the eyes naturally to the gorgeous entrance, complete with white columns and statuary above the peaked roof. It’s beautiful. They’ve done a fantastic job.
The new restaurants make a fabulous addition to the Monte Carlo, too. I didn’t get to try them all, but I already like them all, because: 1) No She-Devils. 2) Lots of trees. Sambalatte and BLVD Creamery are located south of the entrance (along with Diablo’s), while Yusho, 800 Degrees Pizza, and Double Barrel Roadhouse are located north of the entrance. Some have interior and exterior entrances (like Sambalatte), while others can only be accessed from outside the hotel (like Double Barrel Roadhouse).
Sambalatte, BLVD Creamery and Yusho all have pleasant outdoor seating areas in the plaza area in front of the entrance, where I saw live musicians playing some sets in the middle of the day during my stay there. (Mellow music, nothing head-thrashing, either–thank God.) 800 Degrees has a small patio as well, and Double Barrel is an open-air restaurant (at least during the warmer months, like Diablo’s).
I’ll do more thorough reviews of Double Barrel Roadhouse and Sambalatte later, but they quickly became favorites of mine. I hung out at Sambalatte a couple of times and ate at Double Barrel three times during my stay.
My only concern is that none of these places was particularly busy when I was in town. That may have been because it was a little too hot to sit outside (there is indoor seating, too), or because they’re new and people don’t know anything about them yet. I can’t say.
New York-New York has its own renovations to its exterior. I can’t say I was as excited about the renovations here as I was Monte Carlo’s, but they’re fine. There are far more trees, which again, helps a LOT. There’s more outdoor restaurant seating, and I heard live musicians on the Brooklyn Bridge here as well. (Most importantly, the bridge is still there! Yay!)
Of course, the new Hershey World store pretty much dominates the front of the hotel now. This was another addition that I rolled my eyes at. M&M World is right across the street; did we really need another chocolate-brand superstore on the Strip? Well, judging by the number of people milling about inside, I guess so. They have every Hershey product you could possibly imagine inside.
If I had to point out a big difference between NYNY’s additions and Monte Carlo’s, it’s obvious that Monte Carlo is all about the eateries, while NYNY is all about the retail. . .so far. They’re still working on it.
But I’ve got to say, after seeing the changes so far, I’m really looking forward to what they do with this Park concept they plan to build between the two hotels on Rue de Monte Carlo. As someone who comes to the sunny warm Nevada climate from a state that suffers through six months of winter every year, I like being outdoors as much as possible when I’m here. I think it’s terrific that the Strip is finally playing to its climate strength by creating more outdoor spaces for visitors and locals alike, with things like the Linq, the Downtown Container Park, and soon, the Park. If they do as good a job with the Park as they’ve done so far, I think it will be a very pleasant place to spend time.