The greatest cheeseburger of my life happened in Chicago. It was last fall, on my 40th birthday, and I was sitting in a very cool bar-diner in the West Loop on a Friday afternoon drinking whiskey to pass the time until our table was ready. It took some time, too, more than an hour. I live in Las Vegas. We don’t wait for anything. But I was willing, because the place was cool and I had whiskey, and because all my foodiest friends had told me—no, commanded me—to eat the Au Cheval burger. Ask your foodiest friend. They’ll give you the same command.
That first bite was worth a much longer wait. I could try to find a way to describe why this relatively simple double cheeseburger is so great, or you could just eat it yourself. I’m not the only one who loves this burger or this bar, and I’m not the only person who has eaten pretty much every burger in Las Vegas—many of which are outstanding—and still feels this way about Au Cheval. The point is: It’s a special place.
There’s no sign that Au Cheval is coming to the Las Vegas Strip anytime soon. But in October, Bavette’s will open at the Park MGM. Like Au Cheval, Bavette’s was created by Chicago restaurant group Hogsalt, along with a bunch of other concepts people regularly freak over, like Maude’s Liquor Bar and Doughnut Vault. Hogsalt’s founder, Brendan Sodikoff, “delivers the best steak in Chicago … which makes us thrilled to have him join with Eataly, NoMad, Bryce Shuman and us at the new Park MGM, in what is shaping up to be the most exciting culinary destination in Las Vegas,” Sydell Group founder and CEO Andrew Zobler said in a statement.
Sydell is teaming with MGM Resorts to turn the Monte Carlo into Park MGM and the NoMad Hotel. There’s not a whole lot we know about the new combo-resort, other than the experiences Zobler checked off: Eataly, the Italian mega-market with restaurants, bakeries and retail; NoMad, the Mediterranean restaurant from the Michelin three-star team of Daniel Humm and Will Guidara; rising star chef Shuman’s Primrose, a South of France-inspired concept; and now Bavette’s. Respected and loved restaurants and chefs coming to Vegas isn’t new, but these particular restaurants and chefs will be, and there’s a common thread of current cool here that is also a breath of fresh air for the Strip.
The MGM hype machine has focused on two pieces of information as it has slowly revealed delicious details about this project. First, every element of the Monte Carlo that you know and generally haven’t cared about will be completely reimagined with Park MGM/NoMad. Big cheese Jim Murren has repeatedly said MGM is not and will not be interested in building new casinos or hotels in Las Vegas, so this is as close as it gets. Expect these renovations to make Sahara-to-SLS and Barbary Coast-to-Cromwell seem like new wallpaper.
Second, “Park MGM and NoMad Las Vegas become the final pieces of MGM Resorts’ complete neighborhood redesign of the central Las Vegas Strip neighborhood that began in 2009 with the introduction of CityCenter and includes the recent unveiling of the Park … and T-Mobile Arena.” MGM has not given up on the CityCenter concept after all. Park MGM/NoMad is a more refined attempt to create the magic that was supposed to captivate a new Vegas crowd through Aria, Vdara, Mandarin Oriental, the Shops at Crystals and the residential Veer and (disappeared) Harmon tower. If you put together all the best features of the properties within this expanded CityCenterPlus footprint, nothing else on the Strip can compete.
It won’t be done until late 2018, but it’s no coincidence that the things we know right now about Park MGM/NoMad are that it’ll kick ass at big live entertainment and food—those are the only sure bets on the Strip these days. I don’t need Au Cheval to get excited about what’s going to happen at the Monte Carlo, and I’d rather go to Chicago for that anyway. But I don’t want to be the only one who’s excited. CityCenter critics said no one wanted to come to Las Vegas to get New York City. Has the plan changed?