All That Glitters

New shine on the Golden Nugget. Will downtown follow?

By: Ryan Slattery

The Golden Nugget has always been considered the “class of downtown” Las Vegas a stellar Strip-quality property that lives in the shadows of the more widely seen extravagant resorts on the Strip. The resort has earned the AAA Four-Diamond Award for 29 consecutive years, and with the completion of a dramatic renovation, it’s not likely to lose that distinction anytime soon.

“The renovation of the property is the largest and most dramatic for the Golden Nugget in more than 20 years,” said Tilman Fertitta, chairman, president and CEO of Landry’s Restaurants Inc., the company which purchased the Golden Nugget a little more than a year ago. And it’s the first major multi-million-dollar reinvestment in downtown’s resort corridor on Fremont Street since 1984.

But in a city of opulence, a place where companies build billion-dollar resorts and $25 million restaurants, it’s easy to be overlooked. The competition to attract attention is fierce and the gimmicks are plenty. Clients could shell out $3,000 for a “menage a trios” martini at Wynn Las Vegas, $5,000 for a FleurBurger at Fleur de Lys in Mandalay Bay or dish out $70 for a baked truffle potato at MGM Grand’s Fiamma Trattoria.

Such over-the-top fare and splurges clients won’t find at the Golden Nugget, but if you’re seeking a one-of-a-kind attraction, look no further than the $20 million pool complex dubbed The Tank.

The circular pool surrounds a large glass multi-story aquarium that holds several species of sharks and other marine life, allowing guests to be inches away from them. Adding to the thrill is a water slide with a clear tube that runs through the center of The Tank, making a trip down even more exciting as clients get the feeling that they’re inside swimming with the sharks.

The pool, as you can imagine, is the focal point of the renovation with many of the restaurants overlooking the complex, which contains VIP cabanas and a “Dive Bar.” Grotto Ristorante, a Trattoria-style restaurant and a signature of Landry’s Restaurants, sits in full view of the pool. The Nugget’s Grotto is the fourth restaurant in the chain nationally but the first outside Texas. The menu features pasta made on site, wood-fired pizzas and “Old World” dishes such as Mussels Marechiaro, Ravioli di Mare, Pollo Positano and Veal San Pietro. Grotto also carries more than 200 wines.

Other Landry’s favorites on the property include Vic & Anthony’s, an old-style steakhouse with mahogany woodwork, plush leather furnishings and candlelit tables. Vic’s menu consists of thick cuts of USDA prime beef, maple-glazed quail and Beluga caviar. For a more casual experience, Lillie’s Noodle House offers Cantonese and Szechwan dining, and the buffet has been moved upstairs into a larger space with more choices from several live cooking stations. A swanky lounge, called Rush, is a place for people to mingle, have a cocktail or enjoy VIP bottle service.

Landry’s also did a complete floor-to-ceiling makeover of the casino, adding new carpets, fresh paint and woodwork and lighting fixtures to give the resort a more luxurious look and vibe. The race and sports book has been expanded, a smoke-free 10-table poker room has action 24 hours a day, a second high-limit slot salon with $25 to $500 machines is in place, and the Golden Nugget is one of the only resorts to offer in-room keno. The Golden Nugget also sports a sparkling new showroom with 600 theater-style seats that is home to “Simply Ballroom” and the adult revue “Cover Girls.”

Landry’s has put its own stamp on the Golden Nugget and Fertitta feels the renovations will “create new energy” downtown and spur other properties and investors to do the same. There is already a resurgence occurring in downtown Las Vegas. More than a half-dozen swanky restaurants, pubs and nightclubs have opened within the past year, and condominium projects are preparing to break ground.

Soon enough, everything in Old Vegas will be new again.


Golden Nugget Hotel
129 E. Fremont St.
Las Vegas, NV 89101