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Best of Gary Trask
Lagasse's Stadium brings a new sportsbook experience to Las Vegas18 January 2010
In front of me on my own personal coffee table was the Sunday newspaper, a Bloody Mary, a sheet of NFL betting lines and prop bets for the day and the tickets for the six wagers I had just placed on the 10 a.m. games. I was stretched back on a plush couch and my feet were propped up. As I gazed straight ahead, a bed of 12 high-definition televisions were staring back at me, each featuring an NFL game that was just about to kickoff.
Surely, I said to myself, if there is such a thing as a sports-betting heaven, this has to be it.
In essence, this is exactly what world-renowned Chef Emeril Lagasse envisioned when the idea for Lagasse's Stadium at The Palazzo was first conceived about a year ago. And when I relayed my satisfaction of the moment to Lagasse's Stadium General Manager Mark Zakin, he was pleased, but certainly not surprised.
"Our intention was to offer the coolest venue in the country when it comes to watching and betting on sports," Zakin said. "I think we nailed it."
Emeril has long been a sports fan. The man who has authored 13 cooking books and hosted more than 1,500 shows on the Food Network already had two restaurants – Table 10 and Delmonico Steakhouse – at The Palazzo and the adjoining Venetian when the resort's President and COO – and longtime friend of Emeril – Rob Goldstein showed him the location for what he wanted to be another signature venue. The 24,000-square-foot-space that's located on The Palazzo's lower level used to house the hotel's Sportsbook & Grill. Before that it was the home of 40/40, rapper Jay-Z's sports bar and nightclub. When Emeril saw the space he knew right away it was much too large for a restaurant. But being a fervent sports nut, he knew it would be the perfect spot for a high-octane sports bar.
Renovation of the space began in June of 2009 and in September Lagasse's Stadium and its 109 HD televisions were unveiled to rave reviews.
"As you can see, it's really something spectacular," Zakin said as he looked around and saw another sellout crowd on game day. "There's not a bad seat in the house and we're jam-packed during the football season on Thursday nights, Saturdays, Sundays and Monday nights."
Lagasse's brings a hip feel to watching sports thanks to its inventive décor and younger "fantasy football-type" of crowd. If you ever had visions of a classic sportsbook filled with older gentlemen smoking cigars, this is not it. Lagasse's Stadium is a sports bar first. Making you comfortable enough to watch multiple games is the No. 1 priority. It just so happens to be in Las Vegas, so the option to plunk down a wager -- and get a free drink ticket with each visit to the window -- is part of the experience.
And thanks to the "in-game betting" that is offered at Lagasse's, as well as the new "pocket casino" mobile gaming devices that were just introduced at The Palazzo and Venetian earlier this month, a whole host of different betting options are widely available, the kind you won't find at many other venues in Las Vegas or anywhere else.
The Main Stadium section is a multi-level theater with stadium-style seating on the aforementioned comfy couches. Two custom 103-inch plasma TVs and a 9-by-16 foot video wall dominate the stadium, so if you want to sit here on game day a reservation is strongly recommended.
There are also semi-private Sky Boxes elevated just above the Main Stadium area that are sectioned off and can seat as many as 10 people comfortably. There are also three other bars on the top level to sit at and these are great spots to take in all of the action, both on the TVs and for people-watching in the Main Stadium area.
For a more private experience there are Luxury Boxes located on the outer levels reserved for private or group events that feature pool tables, video game consoles and private patio access. Speaking of patios, Lagasse's also features access to a street level outdoor space bordering Las Vegas Boulevard where guests are reminded that they are still on the Las Vegas Strip, but can still sit comfortably on couches and watch the game in an open-air setting.
While watching and betting sports is the main draw here, you simply can't forget to bring your appetite. Remember, the man who created Lagasse's just so happens to be one of the most recognizable chefs in the world.
The menu – which notes that it offers "serious food for serious fans" -- has plenty of variety and definitely has a sports bar type of accent with nachos, Buffalo wings, soft pretzels and chili-cheese fries. But you'll also find the kind of dishes Emeril pioneered at his flagship restaurant in New Orleans (Barbecue Shrimp with Rosemary Flatbread, New Orleans Style Crab Cakes, Creole Boiled Shrimp Cocktail, Sweet BBQ Salmon). Emeril also dished out what he likes to call "game-day fare with a twist" by offering items like French Dip with shaved garlic, Roasted Prime Rib and Truffle Aioli on New Orleans French Bread, Creole Reuben, Ahi Tuna Melt with Creole Tomato Glaze and BBQ Baby Back Ribs with Jalapeño Cornbread.
As stated before, reservations are highly recommended if you are planning on making a visit to Lagasse's on a high-profile sports day, such as this Sunday's NFL Conference Championship games or the Super Bowl on February 7th. Then, of course, the debut of March Madness at Lagasse's is just a few months away, which is the kind of event Zakin and his staff of 90 people will thrive on.
"We've only been here since September, but eventually this is going to be the place to watch sports in Las Vegas, if it's not already," Zakin added with justified confidence. "We have everything to offer here that a sports fan would ever need for a long day of watching their favorite sport. And we're priding ourselves on providing superb service. What else can you ask for?"
Best of Gary Trask