Photo by Andrew James
Henry Weinacker III
Selecting the handful of restaurants that will appear in his forthcoming book, Casino Eating: Your 21 Best Bets in Las Vegas Dining, wasn’t as difficult a task for Henry Weinacker III as it might be for the rest of us—he lives in the casinos. Full time, actually. As in he collects his mail at the front desk.
Whether you know Weinacker personally or not, if you’ve spent time at the Cosmopolitan, you’ve probably seen him going about his daily activities. The 28-year-old South Carolinian with the polite, country-boy charm and spikey platinum coif is often spotted having coffee at Vesper, milkshakes at Holsteins or hanging by the pool at the Royal Resort. And always with his laptop; it’s the only piece of “furniture” he owns.
When Weinacker arrived in Las Vegas last May, he had no intention of staying more than a week. The branding and marketing entrepreneur came from San Diego to serve as a guest judge on the TV show Model Latina. Here, he met dedicated philanthropists, ardent socialites and passionate restaurateurs.
Living a week or more at a time at the Cosmo, Royal Resort, Aria, Paris and Monte Carlo, among other resorts, Weinacker made each restaurant his kitchen, and their lounges his living room. This allowed him to reach a level of “regular” that few tourists or even locals ever achieve on the Strip. “When you get to know a place and the people there, you feel at home, and that’s really special,” he says. “They know your name—hell, you know their names!” It was this familiarity that spurred the idea of the book, getting behind-the-scenes stories by being a customer. (Example: the story of the 19th blender, the only one that could finally stand up to Holsteins’ thick shakes). Weinacker and his business partner, Arizona-based Ross Denny, researched or road-tested more than 100 restaurants to find Las Vegas’ 21 most memorable meals. “Experiential dining,” he calls it.
Somewhere in the middle of a 15-course dinner on the Comme Ça balcony with chef Brian Howard “it really sunk in what we were doing here,” Weinacker says. “Being right there, at the very heart of the Strip like that, it was probably one of the most extraordinary dining experiences ever.” Comme Ça made the cut and will appear in the self-published hardcover coffee-table book, the first in a series, due out in spring. Weinacker, who was raised in his parents’ restaurant (his crib sat in the foyer), has combined his love for food with his knack for marketing to make the project happen. All proceeds will go to Las Vegas’ Three Square Food Bank and other charities.
In the process of making himself at home on the Strip, Weinacker has become a favorite of managers—who have been known to stumble over celebrities to shake hands with him—and workers alike. “I know what it feels like to have no one be nice to you,” he says, “so I know what a compliment means, what smiling at someone means.”
Of course, living full time in a Strip resort isn’t all fresh towels and mints on pillows. The former Clemson golf-management major left his studies at 18 to become an entrepreneur and has been pretty much traveling as a motivational speaker for the marketing industry ever since. He can work from anywhere, but he’s planning on making Las Vegas his home … “As long as I have a Wi-Fi signal.”