Vegas Values: Hard Rock Rocks!

Hard Rock Hotel and Casino finished up a three year $750 million expansion earlier this year. The changes have brought new life to the property. Between concerts, dining and drinks I’ve spent a good amount of time exploring the offerings there. With convenient access via Harmon Avenue and Paradise Road it’s now easier than ever to stop in and see what’s happening.

Luxe Bar is a great stop for a cocktail
Photo by Kellee Kunovic

Post renovation, the property still caters to the rock-n-roll lifestyle. Weekends, particularly, the party never stops. Clubs are bumping, the restaurants are bustling and the drinks are flowing around the clock. During the week, things are a bit more relaxed and the property pays tribute to the music greats. I’ve been enjoying the memorabilia displays for more than a decade. It’s a must stop for any music lover. Items are on display from icons like Elvis, Michael Jackson and the Beatles, as well as those with more recent fame like Pink and Katy Perry.

All summer long the Hard Rock hosted a concert series at the pool. It was a good way to see favorite bands at a discount, and enjoy the beautiful grounds. I’m interested to see who might return next summer. In the meantime, the new Joint will be hosting special events and concerts. This venue is double the size of the original Joint, and it has state-of-the-art lights and sound. I saw Offspring perform over the summer. I was truly impressed by the venue. It’s one of the best Las Vegas has to offer. It can hold 4,000 at capacity, but it feels far more intimate. The furthest seat in the house is a short 155 feet from the stage. Plus, there are giant projection screens on each side of the stage, and there is an even larger one center stage. You will never miss a moment. As an added bonus, concession and restroom lines were never long. You were back in the action in no time. Check the calendar for upcoming events.

Soon, the hottest party of the year will take place at the Joint. The 15th annual Fetish and Fantasy Halloween Ball is October 30, 2010. Tickets are available from $65. If you’d rather not dress in costume or pay for admission, it’s nearly as fun just to visit the property that evening. The costumes are outrageous and varied. Meet friends, enjoy a cocktail, take in the eye candy and be prepared to be wildly entertained. I know I was last year.

At the heart of both casinos is the Center Bar and Luxe Bar. They’re a great place to kick off the night’s festivities. The Center Bar offers a Happy Hour 4-8 pm every day with $2 domestic beers and 2-for-1 call drinks. The Luxe Bar has a great specialty cocktail list; try the Monster Colada for a fun twist on an old favorite. Happy Hours don’t end there; they can also be had at both Dolce Group restaurants, Rare 120 and Johnny Smalls. Rare 120 has 50% off all appetizers during their late Happy Hour every Tuesday-Thursday after 9 pm. Looking for something earlier? They also have $7 food and drink selections Sunday and Tuesday-Thursday 5:30-7:30 pm.

My sister is visiting from Chicago, and recently turned 21, it called for a night out. We kicked off our girls’ night at Johnny Smalls. We dined at the bar to take advantage of their Happy Hour specials that offer 2-for-1 cocktails and bites from $3 Wednesday -Sunday 5-7 pm. Johnny Smalls takes their tapas seriously. You won’t find a single entrée here. Instead, you’re encouraged to make a meal from a few small plates. Chef Scott Minervini has created a menu featuring an eclectic assortment of dishes that range $6-$12. In addition to the variety of eats there are an array of specialty cocktails, plus twenty types of beer available by tap or bottle.

Johnny Small's Pizza Pops
Photo by Kellee Kunovic

During Happy Hour, we sampled a couple beers each (four for $11) and ordered The Spicy Bird Slider ($3), Pizza Pops ($4), and Grilled PB & J ($4). The slider had a crispy chicken breast coated in Buffalo sauce, and drizzled with chipotle ranch, nestled in a soft bun. Nom! I could have easily had a couple more. The pizza pops were like muffins filled with familiar pizza toppings. They were a whimsical treat. Similarly, was the Grilled PB & J. I’ll forever be a kid at heart; it is as simple as that. I loved these warm peanut butter sandwiches that were made to be dipped in chipotle peach jam. There was just enough heat to cut the sweet. Although, it was the crunchy gooeyness of the warm peanut butter totally wooed me. The little bites didn’t even have the crusts. It was a step back in time, only more refined. Our bartenders were swift and friendly. I’ll happily dine at Johnny Smalls again to try more of the menu.

Whether you’re looking to stay, party, or play Hard Rock Hotel and Casino has it all. Best, yet, much of it can be experienced at a discount. They’re regularly offering special promotions via Twitter and Facebook. They even have specials planned for this Sunday to celebrate 10.10.10. Offers include those for gaming, food and drink, spa and shopping. Click here for details.

Johnny Smalls is open Sunday, Wednesday-Thursday from 5-11 pm and Friday and Saturday from 5 pm to 3:30 am. Closed Monday and Tuesday.


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