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Vegas Escapes: The inside scoop on great steaks, new shows, a no-show and, of course, parking

Vegas Escapes: The inside scoop on great steaks, new shows, a no-show and, of course, parking
Former Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman enjoys his signature glass of gin, served with ice and jalapeno, at Oscar's Steakhouse in downtown Las Vegas. (The Plaza)

Sometimes you just need a good steak, you know?

If you do, you may know about some of the elegant steakhouses along the Vegas Strip (Jean-Georges Steakhouse in Aria, SW Steakhouse in the Wynn).

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But Vegas also has bastions of beef in quieter spots along that famous piece of real estate and even some in the hinterlands (sorry, Summerlin — no disrespect), and we take you to half a dozen that may not be quite as well known but still let you sink your teeth into that piece of marbled perfection.

But you don’t eat meat? Well, thank goodness, you still have seven days until the end of Veganuary Las Vegas, during which 30 restaurants offer animal-free eating.

My name is Catharine Hamm, and I’m the travel editor for the Los Angeles Times who loves the extremes of Las Vegas. You can be a meat eater or you can enjoy a plant-based diet; you can win and you can, well, we won’t say the L word; you can be thrilled at the shows or you might be slightly scandalized (but it is Vegas, so what did you expect?). There’s very little gray in this city.

But there is lots of colorful stuff. We have new shows and a new resort to tell you about, a hotel that’s closing after a good run, and a singer who is giving up her Vegas residency for personal reasons. You can catch up to the opening of the Italian food mart/eating place/everything Italian emporium that is an empire in the making and three new restaurants that are part of the scene. Plus we talk about parking. We will never stop talking about parking.

Welcome to the city that never snoozes, never even takes a nap. That’s what makes us want to visit again and again and again. Bon appetit!

Why we love steak and where to indulge

“People love steak because of the way it makes them feel when they put it in their mouths,” Mark Schatzker writes in the Independent, a British publication. “When crushed between an upper and a lower molar, steak delivers flavour, tenderness and juiciness in a combination equaled by no other meat.” Well, that explains it. And this story by Jay Jones explains where you might find a great steakhouse that you never knew existed.

Owner and executive chef Sam Marvin of Echo & Rig buys whole cows and pigs and butchers them onsite.
Owner and executive chef Sam Marvin of Echo & Rig buys whole cows and pigs and butchers them onsite. (Echo & Rig)

Spare the cow but spoil the diner

You still have a week to explore meatless masterpieces of culinary perfection. Diana Edelman of Las Vegas wanted to introduce people to plant-based cooking in hopes that the introduction will spark a romance and perhaps lead to something more serious. Read about some of the surprising options you’ll find, Michael Hiller writes.

Artichoke avocado salad with Alba white truffles at Le Cirque.
Artichoke avocado salad with Alba white truffles at Le Cirque. (Ivo Angelov)

New under the big tops

If you’re a fan of Cirque du Soleil, you may be drawn to two new shows in Vegas that will be performed at tented venues: “Celestia” has 32 performers who leap, twirl and dance as they take on what’s described as an “otherworldly story of love and sacrifice” (which kind of describes all love stories, except not always leaping, twirling and dancing). It’s near the Stratosphere. The other is “Fuerza Bruta,” set to open March 4. It offers audience participation and is described as “immersive.” It’s near the Excalibur.

Celestia uses acrobats, dancers and live musicians to tell a love story. It opens in late February outside the Stratosphere.
Celestia uses acrobats, dancers and live musicians to tell a love story. It opens in late February outside the Stratosphere. (Celestia)

It’s time to say goodbye

The Hard Rock Hotel will fade from the scene this year in Las Vegas (although the Hard Rock Café will stay put). If you’re a devotee, better book before the fall. The place will close as it transforms into a Virgin Hotel next year.

The Hard Rock Hotel east of the Las Vegas Strip will close its doors later this year as renovations switch into high gear. The resort's 80-foot-tall guitar has already been removed.
The Hard Rock Hotel east of the Las Vegas Strip will close its doors later this year as renovations switch into high gear. The resort's 80-foot-tall guitar has already been removed. (Hard Rock Hotel & Casino)

Time to say goodbye before ever saying hello

Britney Spears, whose “Baby One More Time” hit No. 1 on the Billboard Chart 20 years ago next week, has canceled her “Britney: Domination” residency at the Park MGM Las Vegas to take care of her father. James Spears, 66, suffered a colon rupture, was hospitalized and now faces a long recovery.

Britney Spears is postponing her Las Vegas residency to focus on her father's recovery from a recent illness.
Britney Spears is postponing her Las Vegas residency to focus on her father's recovery from a recent illness. (Chris Pizzello / Invision)

And say hello to …

Eataly, which Forbes dubbed the “world’s largest food theme park,” has opened in Las Vegas. The restaurant/market/wine shop isn’t the largest of these powerhouses, but it is open (at least, parts are) 24 hours a day.

Guests at the Park MGM entering from Las Vegas Boulevard step directly into Eataly, which was designed to have the feel of a bustling railway station.
Guests at the Park MGM entering from Las Vegas Boulevard step directly into Eataly, which was designed to have the feel of a bustling railway station. (Franciso Lupini / Eataly USA)

Meanwhile, 3 new restaurants join the scene

Roy Choi’s Best Friend, Factory Kitchen and Mott 32 have made their debut in Vegas. Some dishes may seem familiar — Best Friend’s slippery shrimp is a signature dish at Yang Chow in L.A., and there’s a Factory Kitchen in Los Angeles. Mott 32, a Hong Kong restaurant, is new to the U.S.

Chef Roy Choi grills chicken for dinner service at his new restaurant, Best Friend, at Park MGM.
Chef Roy Choi grills chicken for dinner service at his new restaurant, Best Friend, at Park MGM. (Jay Jones)

A new resort to open in Las Vegas

It’s the 44-story Circa Resort & Casino, and it’s coming soon to a gambling mecca sort of close to you. It’s set to open in December 2020, not on the Strip but in downtown’s Fremont Street Experience. It’s the first newly built resort in that area in four decades.

The Circa Resort & Casino, set to open in December 2020, will bring 777 rooms to downtown Las Vegas.
The Circa Resort & Casino, set to open in December 2020, will bring 777 rooms to downtown Las Vegas. (Artist's rendering/Circa Resort & Casino)

And finally…

We know that parking fees irritate you. How do we know? Well, we hear from you. Also, our article from April 2017 — “9 places on the Vegas Strip where you can still find free parking” — still gets eyeballs every day. So it is with great joy that we let you know that the Cosmopolitan is dropping its parking fee … for guests.

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The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas will stop charging guests to park starting Jan. 1. Also, the hotel's resort fee will climb to $39, plus tax.
The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas will stop charging guests to park starting Jan. 1. Also, the hotel's resort fee will climb to $39, plus tax. (Anthony Mair)

How to subscribe, how to reach us

To subscribe to this and other L.A. Times newsletters, go to membership.latimes.com/newsletters. If you have questions, comments or complaints — about this newsletter, not about life — please send them to travel@latimes.com.

End paper

If you’re in Vegas for the Super Bowl, the Feb. 3 match-up that will pit the L.A. Rams against the New England Patriots, remember to call a cab or a ride share rather than driving after a few celebratory brewskis (because we know the Rams are going to win). As always, we wish you all the fun you can find and all the cash you need to enjoy it. But mostly, we wish you safe passage home, no matter where you watch No. 53.

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