The New Dinner Party

As the dining and nightlife scenes continue to converge, vibe dining and supper clubs boldly take dinner where it hasn’t gone before—to the dance floor

Studio 54’s VIP section routinely featured a room-service cart of sandwich and cookie platters back in 2002, the thought being, I guess, that if you fed us we would stay. (It worked.) Of course, there are much finer things on offer today for pre- and post-party dining on the Strip—First Food & Bar in the Palazzo, Rattlecan in the Venetian, Allegro in Wynn and Society Café in Encore. But the lines are increasingly blurring between dining and partying; pre/post is giving way to during, a sort of a “You got your dinner in my party, you got your party in my dinner” development, and a delicious one at that.

Dining With a Scene

9Group’s nightclubs always had a good neighbor in N9NE Steakhouse (and later Nove Italiano), but Tao Group really got the ball rolling with Tao, a restaurant, nightclub and lounge all under the same roof. We called it “dining with a scene,” an indication that the party vibe started at the restaurant podium. You ate in a hip environment, and then proceeded to the party, likely close by, if not just upstairs as in the case of Tao and Lavo.

Light Group is the heavyweight champion of the genre, with a lineup that includes Fix and Yellowtail in Bellagio, Stack in The Mirage, Brand and Diablo’s Cantina in the Monte Carlo, and most recently a Light Group-run Red Square do-over in Mandalay Bay. Light Group’s restaurants tend to be situated nice and close to their nightlife venues, or are—as is the case of Diablo’s and Brand—a party unto themselves.

Vibe Dining

“Dining with a scene” is a mouthful, and as buzzwords go, a little dated. The latest marketing axiom, “vibe dining,” further blurs the line between dining and partying. There might be a DJ in the restaurant. Plus, your table might be in a lounge, or might be a couch and coffee-table set-up. I first heard the term in reference to STK, a female-friendly steak house in the Cosmopolitan, but first saw it in print announcing the Dec. 28 arrival of Andrea’s (formerly Switch), a hip, Asian concept adjoining Surrender, with a patio that opens right into the pool complex. Here, Wynn resident DJ Steve Angello, of Swedish House Mafia fame, will curate the music program.

Wynn Resorts had already showed its hand with the establishment of Botero Supperclub, a vibe-dining overlay at Botero Steakhouse that includes a late-night menu, live DJ and a patio party. (Rumor has it that Wynn’s Mizumi and Lakeside will soon join in the trend.)

Also arriving Dec. 28 is SHe by Morton’s, another chic, female-friendly steak house—this one with fashion runway downstairs and a nightclub upstairs—in the former Beso Restaurant/Eve Nightclub footprint.

The Supper Club

Just another word for vibe dining (or perhaps a subset), the supper club seems to bring dining into the nightclub, as opposed to merely turning up the volume in the restaurant. Known for its command of all things nightlife, dining and hospitality, SBE got a foothold in Las Vegas with Hyde Bellagio, where food and frolic come together. A menu of small bites (call it “supper club lite”) comes from the Circo kitchen before the curtain rises on the nighttime festivities.

Dining and partying might also be concurrent, as it is at Bagatelle Restaurant & Supper Club in the Tropicana (which is now said to be pulling back on its perceived nightclub persona and focusing on dinner and brunch).

And it doesn’t stop there! 2013 will only serve to reinforce the trend, whatever you choose to call it, with the arrival of two more Light Group offerings at Mandalay Bay—Citizens Kitchen & Bar and an as-yet-unnamed Asian concept. Slated for a spring 2013 arrival, Hakkasan at MGM Grand looks to be Angel Management Group’s answer to Tao, with Michelin-starred Cantonese cuisine and a massive nightclub.

Naturally, detractors of the trend worry that all this emphasis on nightlife might take away from the dining experience, from quality and from service. Rightfully so. It’s definitely … different. The dining pace changes when you’re club-bound, not unlike pre-theater dining. Luckily, many of these venues offer nightlife-friendly menus: At Tao and Lavo, there’s a three-course Three Square benefit menu ($55); Botero Supperclub offers a substantial late-night menu; and at most Light Group venues, your server can guide you to “the greatest-hits” items, where everyone can share small bites.

Personally, I love Lavo’s one-pound Kobe beef meatball, which I savor greedily with my own basket of bread and a glass (or three) of wine. But really, no lady wants to strap on the feed bag then try to dance on the banquettes of a nightclub in a tight dress. Better to nibble daintily on Yellowtail’s delicate Big Eye tuna “pizza” and Tao’s meaty-yet-light miso-glazed Chilean sea bass. Vibe dining saves the day! Well, the night.