The Sands Christmas menu

Savor the Past

“Dinner and a show” used to be how Las Vegas had a good time, where men in suits and women in cocktail dresses would sit beneath crystal chandeliers, noshing on self-consciously fancy dishes from pâtés de foie gras to trout almondine. While the dining rooms may be gone, their legacy lives on in the menus—glossy time capsules of a bygone era.

The Venus Room in the New Frontier was adorned with pink swag curtains around the stage and abstract Googie art on the walls. The menu design was similarly discordant: sleek and space-age outside, serif fonts inside. The menu itself is a memorial to the haute cuisine of the mid-’50s: Chicken a la King au Sherry, Lobster Thermidor, Chateaubriand Bouquitière for Two. The Venus Room was also where young Elvis Presley had his first, unsuccessful run in Vegas—apparently “Hound Dog” and “Blue Suede Shoes” didn’t go over so well after one’s Frog Legs and Cherry [sic] Jubilee.

The Sands’ Copa Room was hip ’60s Vegas—a Frank Sinatra/Nat King Cole/Peggy Lee soundtrack in a setting of turquoise walls, red chairs and blond wood. Menus sometimes commemorated special events—a holiday or a headliner or both, such as a late-December program featuring the unlikely combo of Steve Lawrence & Eydie Gormé with Richard Pryor. The cover makes a graphic Christmas tree out of images of the Sands’ iconic circular roof, and the menu leans toward holiday-oriented offerings such as roast turkey and boiled ham, along with hot mince pie and English plum pudding and something called the Santa Claus Salad.

The menus at the Showroom Internationale, the headliners’ home at the International Hotel (now the Westgate), were designed to be souvenirs—heavy leatherette folders adorned with a portrait of the evening’s star, along with an official-looking beribboned seal. Before watching Barbra Streisand or Tom Jones or Ann-Margret, one could dine on Seafood Cocktail Supreme Neptune and Roast Prime Rib of Beef, choosing from a wine list that ranged from $5.50 bottles of Almaden Grenache Rosé to $19 for Mumm’s Vintage Cordon Rouge. The Internationale’s ’70s Continental flair extended to the showroom itself, a vast blue-and-gilt space with purple plush banquettes.

Of course, “dinner and a show” has given way to bottle service, celebrity chefs and big-name DJs. But the menus live on …

Menus courtesy of UNLV Libraries Special Collections