|Rí Rá Irish Pub boasts authentic Irish ambiance and food and drink options.|
A new breed of Las Vegas restaurants is actually a throwback to a time of red meat, three-martini lunches and a warm, cozy feeling of being surrounded by brass rails, soft leather and rich mahogany. Stepping into these new restaurants is akin to stepping into a Chicago speakeasy of the 1920s or a midtown Manhattan pub. What they bring to Vegas are creative, fun cuisine with a casual atmosphere and an alternative to the lavish, celebrity-chef budget breakers and gut-busting buffets for which this city is famous.
Rí Rá Irish Pub
When it opened on St. Patrick’s Day, Rí Rá offered a whisky cabinet consisting of 130 varieties, along with century-old decor and the most authentic Irish ambiance this side of the Atlantic Ocean. “We’ve stayed true to Ireland by salvaging the bar,” says Ciaran Sheehan, co-founder of Rí Rá Irish Pub, located on the Strip at 3930 Las Vegas Boulevard, near Luxor and Mandalay Bay. “Our millwork needs to be at least 50 years old and as a result we have a pub in Las Vegas made up of five different areas that are all authentic.”
Rí Rá’s quest for authenticity extends to the restaurant’s drink and meal options, which are straight out of Dublin. “On the beverage side, we have 17 beers on tap, 80 bottled beers and, of course, we feature Guinness with quality as good as you get anywhere in this country,” says Sheehan. “On the food side of things, our pub has a bistro-style menu with specifically Irish traditional products as well, like high-quality brined, corned beef.”
The restaurant even has the first Guinness store outside of Ireland along with a pub store with other treats and memorabilia. “Ireland is famous for its pub culture,” says Sheehan, and to help replicate the raucous atmosphere of authentic Irish pubs, Rí Rá will feature live music seven nights a week in a space that doubles as the restaurant’s private dining room.
“We want to bring an authentic Irish pub experience to our customer, so when they walk off the street in Las Vegas they are transported into an actual pub in Ireland,” says Sheehan. “In current economic times, consumers are really looking for value. You can only go to a steakhouse so many times when you visit Las Vegas.
“We have a very casual, relaxed environment where a banker can sit at a bar alongside a student, for instance.”
Another new dining establishment, P.J. Clarke’s at the Forum Shoppes at Caesars Palace, comes with the quality of a New York City staple in a more laid-back Las Vegas environment.
“P.J. Clarke’s is a gastro pub with various types of foods and classic drinks,” says Johnny Church, head chef at P.J. Clarke’s Las Vegas (www.pjclarkes.com; 702-434-7900). “Our philosophy in the kitchen is simple but we also do great steaks with Meyer [grass and corn-fed] beef.”
The restaurant’s original New York location dates as far back as 1868 and is known worldwide for its spectacular cocktails prepared by world-class bartenders. “From the school that I came from working with Michael Mina, our job as chefs in a landlocked area like Las Vegas involves being conscious of Mother Nature and using the freshest possible seasonal ingredients,” says Church. “You can come in and get a $12 burger or a $48 bone in rib eye, with great sides, of course.”
The restaurant’s checkered tablecloths and old-fashioned wooden bar is a throwback compared to the glitzy excess of most Las Vegas restaurants. “There also is the Sidecar area that can be kind of like an old speakeasy,” says Church, referring to the restaurant’s more formal, reservations-only dining room. “It’s a very laid-back environment, somewhere I want to hang out as a chef on my day off—a relaxing, beautiful bar with huge TVs and a cool, fun environment.”
P.J. Clarke’s Las Vegas is open daily from 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. at The Forum Shoppes at Caesars Palace.
|The restaurant’s checkered tablecloths at P.J. Clarke’s provide a refreshing contrast to the glitzy excess of most Vegas restaurants.|