Why are so many people hung up on memories of the Alpine Village Inn?
Because Hershel Leverton’s classic eatery on Paradise Road was a long-lasting, family-friendly fixture in a city reputed to have none. Could the secret of its place in our heart be the famous cottage-cheese dip—so in-demand they sold the mix in the gift shop? Or is it the massive baked potatoes, stuck with a tiny flag proclaiming, “I have been scrubbed and washed neatly so you can eat me completely” (or something like that)? The pewter dinnerware? The miniature ski lift and train set? The locally legendary and terrifically tasty chicken soup, served steaming hot in pewter cauldrons? The delicious assortment of rye and pumpernickel that accompanied every meal?
Or perhaps what made the place an enduring legend was the rowdy Rathskeller, the downstairs peanut-strewn piano bar that earned a reputation among UNLV undergrads as having a loose door policy.
Of course, the story of the Alpine Village isn’t complete without mention of the decades-long dispute between Leverton’s nonunion restaurant and Culinary Union boss Al Bramlet. That feud is now an integral part of Las Vegas history and folklore. Bramlet (who organized Las Vegas workers in the 1960s and thus helped create our Detroit in the Desert) had become notorious for employing strong-arm tactics against high-profile, nonunion restaurants. The Alpine Village Inn was a perfect target. The dispute included decades of union picketing. A couple of bombs even exploded on the rooftop of the restaurant on a busy Saturday night in 1975.
To many Las Vegans, however, the memory of the restaurant is more lederhosen than life-threatening, and thousands of birthday parties, prom dinners and date nights were enjoyed at the Alpine Village Inn during its 47-year run. The restaurant opened Downtown in 1950, but it spent its final 27 years across from Las Vegas Hilton. After it closed in 1997, the Convention Center paved over this Alpine paradise and put up a parking lot. Lucky Las Vegans jonesing for their famous chicken soup will find it served Downtown once again, on the menu at Oscar’s.