Derek Stevens said when he was considering the restaurants for his Circa resort project, scheduled to open in December, he didn’t try to adhere to a formula.
“I was open to the types of restaurants,” Stevens said Tuesday. “I was most interested in the unique stories of the particular ownership groups.”
There was one exception to that, and it’s one familiar to any Las Vegas resident or regular visitor.
“Obviously, in a casino similar to Circa, I have to have a steakhouse. That’s probably the critical element,” he said. “The group we’re bringing in can do great seafood platters and great seafood” dishes.
That’s Make It Happen Hospitality, which is planning Barry’s Downtown Prime, helmed by partner Barry Dakake, the longtime chef at N9NE Steakhouse and later Scotch 80 Prime, which he made a destination restaurant at the Palms.
Barry’s Downtown Prime will further the local trend toward throwback restaurants, evoking a ’50s-’60s vibe with tableside presentations and elevated service.
Some of the other spots are coming in from out of town. All those hearts broken by Carnegie Deli’s pending departure from Las Vegas can look forward to Saginaw’s Delicatessen, from Zingerman’s Deli co-founder Paul Saginaw. Stevens’ association with Zingerman’s goes back to his college days at the University of Michigan, when it’s said he would line up early at the Ann Arbor deli.
“I think Zingerman’s, you could argue, is the country’s best deli,” Stevens said. “It’s got the best corned beef sandwich in the country.”
He expects Saginaw’s to become a destination deli, considering the widespread fame of Zingerman’s and the vast diaspora of Michigan alumni.
Stevens also reached to his Michigan roots for Victory Burger and Wings Co., which will overlook the resort’s sportsbook. For that he tapped siblings Chris Sotiropoulos and Grace Keros, third-generation owners of Detroit’s American Coney Island, which has an outlet at Stevens’ D Las Vegas down the street from Circa.
“The sportsbook is going to be a signature feature,” Stevens said. “I was pretty direct that it had to be a sports bar and grill. I’ve had a great relationship with the owners of American Coney Island. They love downtown Las Vegas.”
The signature Victory Burger will be a half-pound of a proprietary mix of Angus beef, short rib and brisket, topped with a secret sauce. The sports bar and grill also will serve its version of the Michigan Olive Burger, an integral component of which is a spread of mayonnaise laced with chopped green olives.
For the resort’s other two restaurants, Stevens looked closer to home.
“I thought it was real important to get a connection to some of the guys I consider to be locals,” he said. “Guys who were here when Fremont Street and Fremont East came together.”
That led him to Dan Coughlin, founder of downtown’s Le Thai.
“Dan said, ‘I’ve got this concept that I’ve never been able to pull off. I’ve been trying for 10 years,’ ” Stevens said. “We tried it out. Oh, this is going to be perfect.”
“This” will be 8 East, a pan-Asian spot inspired by the food markets in Asian cities and incorporating Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese, Korean and Thai cuisines. Its beverage program will be handled by Sonny Ahuja and Don Welch of Bin 702 in the Downtown Container Park and 18bin in the Arts District.
And Project BBQ proved itself a couple of years ago when the food truck was parked at a site near Circa and “it was a hit,” Stevens said.
“What I’ve really loved is how much these guys have really embraced the spirit of Fremont Street, downtown Las Vegas,” he said. The restaurant will have a food-truck facade that will face outward toward Fremont Street — “which is what they’ve been accustomed to” — rather than inward toward the casino.
Project BBQ specializes in Carolina-style barbecue and serves the signature “Garbage Bowl,” house-made chips topped with smoked meats and barbecue, beer and cheese sauces, plus bacon and coleslaw.
Stevens expects a lot of cross traffic among the restaurants at his properties. He’s undaunted, for example, by the fact that his Golden Gate, across the street from Circa, currently has no restaurants and that Circa will lack an Italian one, practically a requirement for Las Vegas resorts.
“At the D, Andiamo is an Italian steakhouse, a great Italian restaurant,” he said. “With one player’s card, everyone will be able to utilize their points at any property.”