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Revisit an Old-School Gourmet Room at Hugo's Cellar

Where: 202 Fremont Street [map], 89109
April 30, 2009 at 2:39 PM | by | ()

Downtown Vegas is not known for taking part in the dining revolution that captivated the Strip beginning in the late 1990s. In fact, the downtown crowd is the sort that favors cheap buffets and all-night coffee shops rather than the latest celebrity chef-helmed eatery.

Or, they’re simply more likely to obtain their daily caloric intake via margaritas guzzled from a football-shaped cup. Either way, we don’t judge.

There are a few interesting restaurants to check out there, though, and Hugo’s Cellar – the partially subterranean “gourmet room” at the Four Queens, is one of them, if only because it’s in a 1970s time warp.

Ladies are charmingly handed a red rose upon arrival at Hugo’s, which sports low ceilings and earthy-looking brick walls. Back in the day, this was surely designed to connote an “intimate” ambiance, but today, it just looks anachronistic and cave-like. Kind of like Hef’s mansion and grotto.

This is the sort of place where they still assemble your salad tableside. You get to choose from an assortment of romaine lettuce (in the 70s it would have been iceberg, surely), tomato wedges, bleu cheese and some other salad staples – plus teeny-weeny, cold shrimp. Freaky!

Appetizers range from $12 to $19 and include erstwhile delicacies like escargot en croute. Entrees compete with middle-high-range Strip restaurants with prices ranging from $32 for a smattering of chicken dishes up to $125 for Chateaubriand and Lobster for two. It’s probably a little steep considering its long-in-the-tooth status, but again the salad – and bottled water – is included.

When we went, the prime rib was better than the fish with a overly rich crab and shrimp sauce, which was passable but not something we’d order again. The sommelier here is outstanding though, so you can look forward to getting sound counsel on the vino.

In any event, it’s the retro-Vegas experience that is the real draw here. We’d recommend it for repeat Vegas visitors with an appreciation of the good old days; for them, it’s definitely worth a try. Hours are 5:30 p.m. to 11 p.m. daily.

[Photo: Jessica DeWinter]

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