<![if !vml]><![endif]><![if !vml]><![endif]>
David J. Danto
Business travel thoughts in my own, personal opinion
eMail: ddanto@IMCCA.org <![if !vml]><![endif]>Follow Industry News: @NJDavidD
“Las Vegas Proper Eats” – January 2023
<![if !vml]><![endif]> As I and many others have explained, Las Vegas has changed. Some changes have may have made things better, but for the most part all the changes have been designed to maximize how much money the casinos and other establishments can grab from you. I wrote about many of these in a prior blog, but now there’s a new phenomenon popping-up that could use some scrutiny – food halls.
As I wrote about before, Las Vegas used to have a lot of all you can eat buffets “– 54 of them according to this 2019 list. Now there are a total of 14 of them, and many are only open for breakfast/brunch.” Most of the ones that were closed have become only empty spaces – a reminder of what was but will never be again.
One of the best buffets in town was at the Aria hotel and casino – and it’s no longer empty. In that space they have opened a food hall called “Proper Eats.” Food halls are essentially upscale food courts – a number of different selections from booths or different areas that you transact with individually and then you bring your food to a common area to eat. These are popping up all over town – with Eatly at Park Las Vegas, The Forum Food Hall at Caesar’s, Famous Foods at Resorts World, and now Proper Eats.
All of these establishments seem to have some similar elements.
<![if !supportLists]>· <![endif]>The food there is generally WILDLY overpriced
<![if !supportLists]>· <![endif]>They attempt to give-out the image of an upscale eatery while only providing the service of a cafeteria or food court
<![if !supportLists]>· <![endif]>They make you pick up your food and drinks yourself (not even bringing it to your table like many Panera restaurants will do)
<![if !supportLists]>· <![endif]>They have the unmitigated gall of asking you for a tip at check-out, even though they are providing no service to you or your table whatsoever. (Even the buffets still in existence have “servers” that will bring you napkins and clear your plates. You get NOTHING at a food hall, yet they think they deserve a tip, completely ignoring what the point of a tip actually is. My advice is ALWAYS tip the server at least 20% of your bill - but since you are the server then give yourself the money.)
Being in town for New Year’s Eve with my family (and then staying for CES) we wanted to see what the new Aria establishment was like – especially because of how much we loved the buffet there. The Las <![if !vml]><![endif]>Vegas Advisor website announced the opening as follows:
December 21, 2022 12:39 Proper Eats Opens at Aria:
The Proper Eats Food Hall opened yesterday at Aria in the 24,000-square-foot space formerly occupied by the Aria Buffet (which was a good one). Outlets include: Soul Bird for Korean fried chicken, its first location outside London; Wexler’s (Jewish) Deli, its first location outside of southern California; Egghead from Tao Group for breakfasts; Temaki for sustainably caught seafood and made-to-order sushi; Shalom Y’all out of Portland for shawarma and pita; Pizzaoki from DJ Steve Aoki has Pizzaoki; Laughing Buddha for noodles and ramen bowls; Lola’s Burgers for guess what; and Easy Donuts for guess again; and Easy Cocktail Lounge. Food halls are apparently the new buffets; Proper Eats is the fourth on the Strip, along with Block 16 at Cosmo, Eataly at Park MGM, and Famous Food Street Eats at Resorts World.
I’ll give it a shot below, but no promises that I can effectively explain how bad the experience was.
When we walked-up to the front there was a hostess that explained how everything worked. You can order from any establishment (except the sushi bar) from an interactive kiosk, give them your mobile number, and then get a page when the food is ready. Or, you can use your mobile to scan a QR code at your table and do the same. For the sushi bar however you can’t pre-order. You have to go there to order and eat at the bar, or you can take your food back to your table to eat with the rest of your party. My wife and kids ordered food from the ramen, burger and shawarma places and paid at the kiosk, and I went to the sushi bar to order some rolls.
The first thing I noticed at the sushi bar was that the prices were stratospheric. $9 for a California Roll as an example. When I tried to order a few of them to bring back to eat with my family, they told me I could not order those at the bar, I had to go to the end counter and make it a “to-go” order. OK. I walked over to that spot and tried to order, but they told me that for to-go orders there is a different menu – which they handed me. Those very same $9 California Rolls were now $14 each.
OK, let’s pause there for a moment and unwrap things a bit. If I go to a food hall and want to eat in the food hall with the rest of my family I have to order to-go??? Then what the heck is the definition of a food hall? Isn’t it all “to-go” in this context? And then, what is the possible justification for $5 more per roll – the ten cent cardboard box they put them in??? It can’t be that because the box actually crushed some of the sushi as I walked the twenty or so feet to my family’s table as you can see below.
Continuing the story, when my wife got the notice that her house special sampler plate was ready from the shawarma place, she went to pick it up and found the falafel ice cold. They apologized to her and made her wait while they re-did the whole plate. She asked why they didn’t have any heat lamps to keep the food warm until pick-up and their reply was “…wow, that’s a good idea…”
All the food was mediocre at best, and we spent over $125 to feed three people with tiny portions that would at-most cost $40 from a normal cafeteria or food court like the ones that exist around the country (and even a few here in Las Vegas.) All we had was sushi, a ramen soup, the sampler and a burger – all extraordinarily overpriced. The experience only served to reinforce just how much we lost with the closing of the Aria Buffet – great service, an awesome selection, hot food hot and cold food cold, a dessert bar (where the awful sushi bar is now) and so much more. For those members of the MGM rewards club you can’t even use comp-dollars at the establishment yet. They probably didn’t want to bother setting-it-up in their billing computer for an establishment that isn’t going to survive very long unless DRASTIC changes are made across the board.
<![if !vml]><![endif]><![if !vml]><![endif]><![if !vml]><![endif]><![if !vml]><![endif]><![if !vml]><![endif]><![if !vml]><![endif]><![if !vml]><![endif]><![if !vml]><![endif]><![if !vml]><![endif]><![if !vml]><![endif]><![if !vml]><![endif]><![if !vml]><![endif]><![if !vml]><![endif]><![if !vml]><![endif]>
As for other pre-CES Las Vegas notes, we learned that the Rio Suites hotel (a once great property that has been badly neglected for far too long) has been sold. It will be renovated and re-branded as a Hyatt, with the casino operated by Dreamscape. It has been sorely in need of some attention for many years now, and I see it as good news that it will finally get some TLC. Still, even with the poor condition it is in, the roof of the Masquerade Garage is still the best place to watch the NYE fireworks from (as you can see below – click the image to see a few seconds of what it looked like.)
It is so sad to see the unused husk of the former “Show In The Sky” at Rio every time we go there. We still have some of the beads my adult sons caught when they were under ten years old.
More from Las Vegas next week as I return from CES 2023!
This article was written by David Danto and contains solely his own, personal opinions.
All image and links provided above as reference under prevailing fair use statutes.
Copyright 2023 David Danto
As always, feel free to write and comment, question or disagree. Hearing from the traveling community is always a highlight for me. Thanks!