The right idea sometimes takes a while to present itself.
For restaurateurs Michael and Jenna Morton, finding a new use for the back room of their MGM Grand restaurant Crush is an idea that’s been percolating for a few years. With its own bar and open kitchen, the space seemed tragically underused as a private event space that was only opened to the public on Crush’s busiest nights. Then one day, taking note of the white brick ceiling and walls, Morton says it hit him.
“I said ‘You know it feels very Greek,’ ” recalls Morton, who grew up eating Greek cuisine in Chicago, but had never been to Greece. “When I started Googling and looking at images of Greek restaurants, it looked like we designed it for this.”
The “this” to which he’s referring is Greek Sneek. Set to open in mid-August, it will be independent of Crush. Guests will enter through a gateway on the casino floor flanked by modern interpretations of classic Greek statues, and proceed down a low, narrow hallway to the white brick room. It’s that entrance that inspired the playfully misspelled name.
“There’s this sneaky little entryway, and you walk right into this tight little corridor that goes right by the wine rooms, and you come directly into (the new restaurant),” Michael Morton says.
The layout will offer no view of the dining room from outside, and no distractions of the casino floor for diners. Such seclusion is a rarity in casino restaurants, where luring customers to the next attraction is an almost constant undertaking.
“For us, it’s always been about the experience we offer,” says Jenna Morton, whose other partnerships with her husband include Wynn Las Vegas’ La Cave, MB Steak in Hard Rock Hotel and downtown’s La Comida. “It’s not necessarily about where you’re coming from or where you’re going. It’s about your experience of the venue, the food, the music, the show of cooking or the service. All of it is about an experience that begins here.”
As the name indicates, the menu will focus on Greek cuisine, with nods to other Mediterranean cultures. Both are in short supply in Strip casinos, with the notable exceptions of Cosmopolitan’s Estiatorio Milos and the pan-Mediterranean Cleo at SLS Las Vegas. Michael Morton says Greek Sneek will differentiate itself from Milos, which specializes in high-end seafood preparations, with a broader menu and considerably lower prices.
“Our appetizers (start at) $12, and there’s only one over $20, the charred octopus. Our salads are $12 to $14. Flatbreads are all under $20. Our whole fish, branzino, is $34.”
Other menu items will take advantage of the room’s existing features. Chef Billy DeMarco and his team will light up pans of the flaming melted cheese dish saganaki in the open kitchen, in full viewing of the dining room. And the wood-burning oven is perfect for making fresh pitas for shaved lamb, chicken and beef wraps.
To wash it all down, the team is assembling a collection of the anise-flavored Greek aperitif Ouzo. And, Michael Morton says, if you’re celebrating a special event, they may even encourage you to break a plate as your friends shout “Opa!”
“Just have fun with it. This is fun food, and I gotta tell you, I’m super-excited about this.”
Contact Al Mancini at amancini @reviewjournal.com. Follow @AlManciniVegas on Twitter.