The Las Vegas Bar Hall of Fame 2012

And the first-ballot inductees are ...

We asked you to vote for 10 of our 50 nominations over the past two weeks, and that you did! We received more than 13,000 online submissions (plus dozens of write-ins nominations, and those votes helped determine the Bar Hall of Fame class of 2012.

See the nominations »

Champagne’s Café

Much of this red-lit Paradise Palms neighborhood bar is shrouded in something. The walls are covered with flocked red-velvet wallpaper, the air is weighed by a faint smell of old sins, and its history is immersed in rumors that both the Rat Pack and Tony “The Ant” Spilotro hung out here, back when it was still called The Old Inner Circle. It was converted to Champagne’s in 1993, and there’s been a pleasant mix of young hipsters and old drunks ever since. No, Casino was not shot here, but Robert De Niro supposedly dropped in during filming (probably hoping to soak up some of that Vegas mob vibe or looking for a café, which doesn’t really exist). New owners recently took over Champagne’s, so if history and authenticity are what you seek, snag a red booth and soak it up, because who knows what comes next. 3557 S. Maryland Parkway, 737-1699,


This is a steak town—always will be. And good steak requires a good scotch menu. Well, nobody does that combo better than Craftsteak at the MGM Grand. If there’s anything better than Tom Colicchio’s menu, it’s waiting to peruse it at his bar. It’s a long, handsome number that features 197 bottles of dead-sexy single-malts on the backlit wall, and amazingly knowledgeable and passionate bartenders to help you pick one that’s right for your palate (smoky and peaty, please) and your wallet (from a $23 Bunnahabhain to a $2,000 57-year-old Macallan). Even the ice—the bar’s special Hoshizaki machine makes a dozen 2-inch crystal-clear cubes an hour—is worth writing home about. In MGM Grand, 891-7318.


It calls itself “The Last Neighborhood Bar in Las Vegas,” and while some colleagues on this list might dispute that, Dino’s says it in neon. And, as any downtown resident will tell you, does an outstanding job of backing it up. A dozen or so competitors have opened in recent years, but Dino’s has been doing this dance since 1960. Opened as Ringside Liquors by gangster Eddie Trascher, the joint was bought by the Bartolomucci family in 1962, and they’ve held it ever since (current operators are sisters Casey and Kristin). Add to its rich history some live music, a playfully infamous “Drunk of the Month” poll and some of the city’s most entertaining karaoke (Thursday-Saturday) and, well, Dino’s may not be the last neighborhood bar in town, but it’s unquestionably one of the best. 1516 Las Vegas Blvd. South, 382-3894,

Double Down Saloon

Although owner P Moss would likely bristle at the words “venerable” and “institution,” there’s no better way to describe this punk-rock dive bar near UNLV. The Double Down Saloon, which has been a goddamned pillar of our community since 1992, is a credit to Vegas in its every detail: the psychedelic murals, the punk and garage bands on its tiny stage and the wildly eclectic selection of music in its jukebox. And then there’s Ass Juice, the magical shooter served in miniature toilet bowls. No wonder New York City asked for a Double Down of its own—and got one. 4640 Paradise Road, 791-5775,

Downtown Cocktail Room

Everything and nothing has changed under the red “Downtown” sign since January 2007, when Michael Cornthwaite’s speakeasy-style watering hole appeared like a desert mirage to cocktailians thirsting for a proper Sazerac, aviation or hand-shaken daiquiri. Those successfully able to locate the door walk inside and are treated to a most intoxicating combination of dim lighting, inspiring artwork, an original, seasonal cocktail menu, and a groovy, bohemian vibe. Pick your poison—absinthe, gin, a post-work glass of wine—then sink into a booth in the back room or hold court at the bar. You’ll join the ranks of the elite regulars—from world-renowned mixologists and downtown scenesters to academics and even Zappos don Tony Hsieh—in no time. 111 Las Vegas Blvd. South, 880-3696,

Fireside Lounge

If the crew of Star Trek: The Next Generation time-traveled back to December 1972 to hold a swinger’s party, this dark, sexy sci-fi make-out chamber would result. People come from all over the universe to drink bowl-size cocktails (such as the mighty Scorpion) around the pit of firewater. The servers wear long black gowns and sit down to take your order—a classy touch—and televisions abound; they were reportedly installed because of rampant exhibitionism. (Worf, Troi: Behave yourselves!) In the Peppermill, 2985 Las Vegas Blvd. South, 735-4177,


Yes, we’ve done a good job of importing “authentic” pubs to Las Vegas, but this place is a favorite because it feels authentically authentic. McMullan’s was built in Dublin by the owner’s pub-building company in 2002, and it proudly wears his name and features family photos that date back more than 100 years, to when his grandfather ran a real live pub in Northern Ireland. It also feels correctly broken in—like an old shoe, it just fits right. The pub’s little compartments make it cozy and conducive to small, intimate gatherings, yet it flows well enough to host boisterous parties and events (including the group viewing of both kinds of football). Unlike a lot of replicas in Vegas, this one—which has no connection to a casino—not only makes you feel like a regular, it inspires you to actually be one. 4650 W. Tropicana Ave., Suite 110, 247-7000,


Opened with the Palms in November 2001, the two spacious bars at N9NE were among the first to capitalize on the trend to attach nightlife-quality lounges to restaurants. The steak house itself is loud and pretty, a true see-and-be-scene joint, so it was a no-brainer to cast comfy club chairs, sofas and loungers in the slightly elevated bar area (and barstools at the round bar in the dining room), thus integrating a vibrant nightlife scene with no lines, no cover and (hallelujah!) no bottle service. The nightclub crowd uses it to pre-game before heading up to Moon, while the more mature diners hang out after dinner, but everyone who visits enjoys the extensive wine list, the scenery and Johnny O, the venerable bartender who knows everybody’s name. In the Palms, 4321 W. Flamingo Road, 933-9900,


If the lobby bar is a casino’s welcome mat, this piano lounge is the red carpet. Open 24/7, Petrossian has greeted guests since Steve Wynn’s masterpiece, Bellagio, opened its doors in 1998. Here, a long legacy of serious, award-winning bartenders in white coats lure guests to its club chairs for afternoon tea, a cigar or cocktails ranging from the classic to the avant-garde. World-class pianists on the Steinway include David Osbourne, who has played for at least four U.S. presidents. While many hotels have succumbed to the pressure to stay young by bringing in DJs and bartop-dancing cocktailers, Petrossian is an island of adult pursuits. No matter how tastes have changed over the last decade and a half, taste itself remains. In Bellagio, 693-7111.

Tap House

If the walls here could talk, well, let’s just say they’d never talk again. Capice? Vegas “operators” of all ilk—from wise guys to guys who are wise to them (i.e. columnist John L. Smith)—have gravitated to the Tap House since it took over from the old Black Whale in the early 1980s. And while the nefarious aspect has diminished somewhat since the closing of sister restaurant Fellini’s next door, certain Tap House truths remain self-evident: The place will fill up for every Cleveland Browns game; your pizza, stromboli and chicken wings (spice lovers order ’em twice-baked) will rival any other in town; and money will change hands nightly over its venerable shuffleboard table. Proprietors Bob Harry and Jim Gerard are often on the premises, especially on Mondays when “The Vegas Underground” open-mic night draws standing-room-only crowds. 5589 W. Charleston Blvd., 870-2111,

Suggested Next Read

Better Living Through Atomic Explosives!

Better Living Through Atomic Explosives!

By Bob Whitby

At 10 a.m. on July 6, 1962, scientists detonated a nuclear bomb at the bottom of a 635-foot-deep, 36-inch-wide borehole in the northeast corner of the desolate stretch of desert then called the Nevada Test Site. Slow-motion footage of the blast shows a spike of steam shooting into the sky, followed by an earthen bubble rising from the desert floor as if cameras happened to be rolling when the earth was coughing up a mountain.