By Grace Bascos
Fresh air and fun times await at The Strip’s vibrant outdoor destination. Urban parks fill a vital need: they anchor communities and offer a place to connect with nature amidst the asphalt and concrete. As the first on the Las Vegas Strip, The Park has transformed the area between Park MGM and New York-New York into a veritable neighborhood, complete with stellar dining options, gathering spaces and public art.
Craft beer lovers are flocking to this laid back bar with garage doors that open onto the main promenade. Beer from the extensive list is served at your table; grab food at the counter (hint: there’s a sign that says “Order Over There”). It’s a small menu focused on bar food, but every dish is designed to complement the beer selection. Standouts include the IPA Cheddarwurst with some of the best snap you’ve had in a long time and warm pretzel bites served with a beer-infused cheese dip. Lighter options, such as the roasted chicken or the hefty Haus salad will fill you up without filling you out.
During the day, Sake Rok may seem like your friendly neighborhood sushi bar, but at night the fun really starts. Somewhere in between noshing on creative maki (try the Peter Parker roll, filled with soft-shell crab) and slamming down sake bombs, random performance art pops up throughout the space. Servers double as entertainers and perform everything from theatrical vignettes to high-energy choreographed dance numbers…and maybe engage in a lip-sync battle or two.
Chicken and waffles is not a new invention, but Bruxie has made the tried-and-true combo into a handheld version that is the best thing since sliced bread. And perhaps that’s because they literally did away with the sliced bread, subbing it with crisp, golden brown waffles as the vehicle for luscious, crunchy fried chicken. The chicken is marinated in buttermilk for 24 hours before taking a dip in batter and being fried to order. While the original flavor is superb, try it Nashville Hot style – dressed in a spicy, smoky sauce. If you want to recreate a more true-to-form chicken and waffles experience, there’s also the Holy Chicken! Glazed with maple syrup and topped with bacon, cheddar cheese and a sunny-side up egg. The only thing you won’t miss is the knife and fork.
Don’t be intimidated if there’s a queue snaking out of Shake Shack, the food waiting for you at the end of it is worth a couple of minutes. Take this time to peruse the menu. For the uninitiated, the classic Shake Shack burger is a simple burger cooked on a flat top grill, topped with cheese and the tangy Shack Sauce and served on a soft potato bun. If you look closely, you’ll see the bun is still attached on one side, and that is by design: it’s supposed to be portable. This burger is made for a walk through The Park. Top it all off with one of the world-famous Concretes – a frozen custard concoction blended with your choice of cookies and candies. Nobody’s looking if you want to get back in line for seconds.
California Pizza Kitchen
You’ve likely been to a California Pizza Kitchen before, but not a CPK like this. Aside from being smack dab in the middle of the Vegas Strip, it’s also at the tip of the brand-elevation spear, meaning this location is leading the charge toward the company’s “Next Chapter.” Indoor/ outdoor seating, handcrafted cocktails, an open kitchen and a balanced mix between natural elements and modern design make this spot the ultimate in casual/cool dining, emphasis on cool. While the open kitchen is turning out favorites such as the Original BBQ Chicken Pizza, The Park’s location offers an only-in-Vegas menu. Try the West Coast Burger – Wagyu beef patty topped with American cheese, applewood smoked bacon, caramelized onions and CPK’s own burger sauce – or the Wild-Caught Sesame Seared Ahi, with baby bok choy, farro and shiitake mushrooms. Then dream about it when you go home because these dishes happening in Vegas stay in Vegas – at least for now.
Aside from the pool, you don’t spend a whole lot of time outdoors in Las Vegas, especially this time of year when it’s so hot! That all changes at The Park, which has become a destination for visitors who just want to sit and relax, away from the frenetic pace of the casino floor. When the sun won’t quit, find some much needed cover under one of the steel sculptures with intricately cut out patterns lining the park. An art installation in and of itself, these giant metal “trees” cast intricate shadows and double as shade structures. You also can cool off under the well-placed misters along walking paths or bask in the spray from the water wall that beckons you to enter the thriving center. Ample seating throughout the space invites you to relax and let the atmosphere wash over. At Beerhaus you’ll find folks chilling with their pints, taking in a game of cornhole, arguing at foosball, setting up board games or using a steady hand for giant Jenga. As the sun sets, The Park lights up in both energy and electricity. Changing colored lights make the metal shade trees “bloom” with petals and white lights strung from the trees bring a cool, neighborhood feel. Even the 40-foot-tall Bliss Dance, comes alive with her 3,000 dazzling LED lights. As crowds make their way to or from Park Theater or T-Mobile Arena, the atmosphere is markedly charged with excitement, making The Park feel like one big party. If you’re looking for a place to get into the vibe while you warm up to, or come down from, an event, there are plenty of places to do it. Or just hang out on the The Park’s main drag for some prime people watching. The beauty of The Park is that once you’re there, you really don’t need to go anywhere else.