For the past eight years, the Cosmopolitan has been the most curious casino on the Strip. Although many of the small pockets of discovery that established that reputation have departed or been diminished somehow, new creative elements have been introduced that have bolstered the idea that it remains a different place relative to its Vegas neighbors.
The latest wonder is the Block 16 Food Hall on the second level, and the last piece added to this compact culinary marvel is a tiny, hidden facsimile of New York City tequila and mezcal bar Ghost Donkey. The Bleecker Street original is an offshoot of the larger Saxon + Parole; the Cosmo spot, nearly identical, feels like the younger brother of the third level’s (still tasty) “secret” pizzeria. You have to find the right door in the Block 16 space to “discover” Ghost Donkey, but the sparkly pink atmosphere and bold cocktails are worth the hunt.
Begin with the Mole Negroni ($16), a well-spiced stunner made with Fidencio Clasico mezcal, bitter buddies Cynar, Cocchi Torino and Zucca Rabarbaro and rich flavors of mole. You’ll be in a festive mood once you enter the Donkey, but this deliciously strong drink will hurry you along. Have a couple and you’ll need another snack, and that’s where the infamous truffle nachos ($23) come into the picture. The scary thing is that these white cheddar sauce, black truffle and chive-topped bites are the most normal nachos on the menu; there’s also carrot “chili” nachos with mezcal-pickled carrots ($13) and chorizo and tripe nachos ($14). That’s the right amount of something. –Brock Radke
GHOST DONKEY Cosmopolitan, 702-698-7000. Sunday-Thursday, 4 p.m.-midnight; Friday & Saturday, 4 p.m.-4 a.m.