What Makes Vegas Vegas? Giant Lobsters and Naked Bikers

Flickr user Graham C99

What ever happened to the Strip restaurant that used a chef holding a giant lobster as an advertisement?

Ah, those Old Vegas days, when local restaurateurs could make a mark (and a good living) long before the celeb chefs and the chain brands wrangled control of Strip mealtimes.

One of the last holdouts was Alan LeWinter and his brother Kevin. They operated the Rosewood Grille, an expense-account restaurant whose iconic “giant lobster” advertising permeated tourist guides and bus stop ads from the early 1990s to the early 2000s. It was located in a storied center-Strip building next to the Kit Carson Motel. Back in the day, the location was home to Villa Venice (1946), reportedly the first Italian restaurant in Las Vegas.

A fire destroyed the original building, but it was rebuilt and the restaurant reopened in 1953, quickly becoming the in-spot on the Strip. “When we visited the place,” gushed Jack Cortez, founder of Fabulous Las Vegas magazine, “it seemed that everyone in Las Vegas was there, and it brought back the wonderful feeling of years ago when you’d see friends at any spot.” We feel you, Jack.

As is the nature of Las Vegas, by the 1960s, the storied spot had become the Black Forest Bavarian Restaurant, and later, the lobster-famous Rosewood Grille. By 2001, the property was surrounded on three sides by the towering Venetian. The LeWinters, in a classic Vegas move, received Clark County Zoning Board approval to build a 61,000-square-foot, nine-story retail plaza on the property. Unsurprisingly, by 2004, the Venetian had apparently made an offer the LeWinters couldn’t refuse. Today? It’s a Walgreens.

Riders on the Quad

Former Las Vegan Jimmy Kimmel recently offered Wyoming high school graduate Peter Butera—whose off-script valedictorian commencement speech was cut short by nervous school administrators—the opportunity to finish said speech live on Kimmel’s late-night show. After Butera finished the speech, Kimmel, who graduated from Ed W. Clark High School (my alma mater), offhandedly noted that a kid in his high school once “rode through graduation on a motorcycle naked” and didn’t get in as much trouble as Butera did. While I do indeed remember a story about a senior class prankster riding his dirt bike naked through the school, I couldn’t uncover any corroboration to the story. Have any? Send it to me via the email below, or tweet me at @authenticvegas.

Have a question or comment about Las Vegas past, present or future? Send them to askanative@vegasseven.com.