The Park MGM is such a tease right now. The portions of the property that have been converted to its cool-green future look lovely; the messy Monte Carlo remains are frustrating. If you’ve been forced to spend time here during its transition—on the way to hockey games or shows at Park Theater—you’re definitely annoyed by the many mid-construction chokepoints.
Happily, the new features are fresh enough for us to put up with the inconveniences for a few more months. The renovated lobby and casino spaces range from quite nice to exhilarating. I even like the spiraling, ’70s-style logo. And then there’s Bavette’s, an intoxicating new restaurant and bar. The more time I spend there, the more time I want to spend there.
First, it’s the drinks, specifically the Hardy Cognac Old Fashioned ($17). This bold take on a classic cocktail is one of four Old Fashioned options. There are six martinis, too, and one of the Strip’s most extensive whiskey lists. Take your pick at Bavette’s brassy main bar or hidden back bar, settle in with a few snacks like steak tartare ($23) or truffle-white cheddar mac and cheese ($15) and tell me this isn’t your new favorite Strip spot. I recently noshed on a stellar shrimp cocktail ($23) and bacon-laden Lyonnaise salad ($18) and looked over to see the executive chef from one of my favorite Strip restaurants sharing the griddled burger ($20) and a loaded baked potato ($14), always a reassuring sign of a quality experience.
And Bavette’s really is about the complete experience. It’s a steakhouse with a steakhouse menu, though there are creative flourishes that buck the trend: an opening terrine of peppered duck and goat cheese with apricot mustard ($16); smoked salmon and crispy potatoes in the Caesar salad ($17); indulgent beef shortrib stroganoff with hand-cut fettucine ($35). (The kitchen will do a cremini mushroom-and-horseradish veggie version of that one for $17.) Most will order beef and sides, like the 16-ounce Chicago-cut ribeye ($67) with mashed potatoes rife with butter, garlic and chicken jus ($13). There’s even lemon meringue pie ($11) to complete the throwback vibe.
It doesn’t matter what you order. I’ve yet to come across a subpar dish at Bavette’s, but even if I do, the restaurant’s warmth and design are so powerful, it wouldn’t make a dent. The jazz soundtrack is just cool enough. The lighting is just dark enough. The service is swift but just distant enough. And although it’s a big place that invites celebration, you can easily hold an intimate conversation at your table.
It feels like this restaurant has been done before and this is its ultimate version, which is accurate. Bavette’s is a Chicago steakhouse staple and a cornerstone of the Windy City-based Hogsalt hospitality empire; another will open in New York City this year. With more specific and risk-taking offerings like NoMad and Eataly and a restaurant by LA chef Roy Choi on the way to this reimagined resort, it’s clear MGM placed Bavette’s as the crowd-pleasing core. Wise move.
BAVETTE’S STEAKHOUSE & BAR Monte Carlo, 702-730-6700. Sunday-Thursday, 5-10 p.m.; Friday & Saturday, 5-11 p.m.