Now that we’ve had about six months to explore Circa, the first new casino resort built in Downtown Las Vegas in four decades, it’s easy to see the parts and pieces that fulfill its creator’s promise of something new inspired by bygone Vegas eras.
The majority of the resort feels entirely new. The scale of the sportsbook and rooftop pool club and the exciting casino spaces mark innovations to classic Las Vegas experiences; there are only a few Circa venues that intentionally push toward nostalgia. The 60th-floor Legacy Club puts casino legends front and center, and Vegas Vickie’s cocktail lounge has the ultimate showpiece—Vickie herself—to kick up the vintage vibes.
But make no mistake, Barry’s Downtown Prime is the nostalgic heart of this place. It’s also the first true destination restaurant to land Downtown since cool food stuff started happening outside casinos at hot spots like Le Thai, Carson Kitchen and Esther’s Kitchen.
And while there are plenty of throwback steakhouses around the Valley, Barry’s looks and feels like it could only exist in the ’60s or ’70s. Its parquet floors, deep jewel tones, tall circular booths and golden marble reflect its mission of meshing vintage glamour with modern allure. And if you haven’t been out to a big Vegas dinner in a year, all of that feels amazing. Sometimes it’s nice to step into a time machine when everything around you only wants to move forward.
Located just downstairs from Vickie’s off the resort’s lobby, Barry’s is a huge space that will (hopefully) soon be able to seat its normal capacity of 350. But since it’s a circular collection of intricately designed rooms with low ceilings and plenty of personality, you’ll never feel like you’re in a gigantic restaurant. It will be a top spot in Vegas for private dinners and special events if it isn’t already, and it will no doubt be a tough table to book after pandemic restrictions are lifted. The current soundtrack of hip-hop and other bottle-popping tracks makes for an interesting juxtaposition to the environment.
Chef Barry Dakake is doing what he’s been doing for more than 20 years at some of the most prominent restaurants in this city: creating timeless, celebratory cuisine and sneaking out of the kitchen to touch tables and make sure everyone’s having a blast. If you’re finding it tough deciding on a cut, go with his favorite, the richly flavored 12-ounce rib cap ($69), which just happens to be the only steak on the menu that gets marinated before it’s perfectly charred over assorted fruit woods and Mexican charcoal at 900 degrees.
Other choice steaks include a bone-in 16-ounce filet ($79) or a dry-aged boneless rib eye ($67), unless you’re going real big on someone else’s credit card with the party pleaser, a 40-ounce tomahawk rib-eye ($179). Be sure to get the curiously tangy au poivre sauce on the side.
All the steakhouse greatest hits are here, but the standouts from my first visit include a brilliant tomato panzanella salad ($18) with fresh mozzarella, avocado, jalapeño and basil with red wine vinaigrette; braised beef short ribs ($59) with a dash of harissa; tater tots in poutine gravy ($15); and banana cream pie ($16) bookended with espresso and Averna.
Next time I’ll try the “real” garbage salad ($18), a kitchen-sinker with shrimp and blue cheese and crispy shallots, and the egg noodle bone marrow luge appetizer ($28) with pancetta, sherry, lots of cheese and lots of butter.
It’s time to party again in Las Vegas, and this is the place for that welcome-back dinner.
BARRY’S DOWNTOWN PRIME Circa, 702-726-5504. Daily, 5-11 p.m.
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