Those familiar with IP's Rockhouse will have to peel back the new paint a bit to recognize their old friend. What once reminded us of a college frat basement with cages, go-go dancers and sticky floors has been refreshed with leather couches and hi-top tables. Think more restaurant, less industrial warehouse. We took a seat at the bar and landed a bartender that had worked at the previous location. When asked if the new joint looked much like the old one she replied, "Nope, it's not supposed to." So.. why keep the Rockhouse name?
The new Rockhouse encompasses 9,000-square-feet over two rooms, one filled with dining tables, but both filled with 83 flat-screen TVs. We lost count around 50 but we're told 83 is the official tally. The elevated platforms, cages and, of course, signature 88 oz. guitar-shaped souvenir 'glasses' ($35) made the move. Go-go dancers and boob tubes aren't the only entertainment, though. There's a mechanical bull that overlooks The Strip, beer pong and free foosball. Pool is also free and played on an amaze-balls classic car-shaped table (pictured above).
Our favorite, and we expect soon to be yours, aspect of Rockhouse Venetian is the Warhol-inspired Wall of Fame between the bar and kitchen. Faces of Vegas celebs, residents and those of Vegas infamy have been immortalized on the bar walls. Holly Madison, Terry Fator, Penn (or maybe Gillette - we always get them confused), Carrot Top, Flavor Flav, Oscar Goodman, Andre Agassi, and even Bryce Harper, to name a few. We need to track down whether there is a storm trooper connection to Vegas beyond the costumed characters that have invaded downtown and The Strip.
The highlight of the wall, for us, was the section above the kitchen doors that sandwiches a pink backdropped Robin Leach and OJ between the Hangover cast and Sinatra's mug shot. Champagne wishes to that single degree of separation.
Tacos and hot dogs are the signature items on the new food menu. Choose from chicken ($6), chorizo ($5), fish ($6), shrimp ($7), or steak ($6) tacos in a corn or flour tortilla before adding sauces, cheeses, and toppings for an upcharge. Or, start with a footlong ($10), beef dog ($5), turkey dog ($6) or three mini dogs ($6) with choice of similar add-ons. Buffalo wings (10 for $11.95, 24 for $25), nachos ($11.95) and salads ($10.95-$11.95) are on the menu, too. Or, for lazy bastards like us that want decisions made for them, chorizo and eggs tacos ($7.95), steak and pickle tacos ($6.95), philly steak sliders ($10.95), turkey dog with coleslaw ($6.95), footlong chili cheese dog ($11.95), and plain dog on a bun ($4.95) also can be had.
We went with the Works Dog: 100% beef footlong, chili, cheddar cheese, sauerkraut, tomatoes, green chilies, onions, and chipotle mayo for $14.95. The bun came perfectly toasted, a great crunchy start that prevented the numerous toppings from becoming one giant, soggy mess. The dog could've been a little snappier and most of the toppings didn't stand out over each other aside from the chili. But, oh that sweet, sweet, non-spicy chili. Next time, we're sticking with a chili dog. Perhaps, with cheese. We just don't know yet cause we're crazy.
So, who is Rockhouse Venetian's target audience? We're not sure it's the same as Rockhouse Imperial Palace with a street level location that drew in visitors already stumbling by and attracting those in search of a drunken frat boy party atmosphere. The entrance we found for Rockhouse Venetian is located outside on the balcony near Tao, a tough spot to attract attention until word gets out. A second entrance opposite First Food and Bar, although still isolated, should help. Trivia question: can anyone name the restaurant/bar formerly in this location? We can't and even visited more than once.
Are club-goers lining up for Tao going to fill up
those skin-tight dresses on a taco and footlong before dancing off the calories? Doubtful, but a chorizo and eggs taco may sound pretty good after several Tao-Tinis. This might be where keeping the Rockhouse name for a bar that's really Rockhouse 2.0 helps bring in a built-in fanbase.
88 oz. guitar fans. Check. Beer pong fans. Check. Mechanical bull riders. Check. Drunk post-club scene. Check. Our prediction for biggest benefactors of Rockhouse 2.0: sports fans. With 83 flat screens, seating, dogs and go-go dancing between plays, Rockhouse 2.0 is a cool sports bar. It may start as spillover for Lagasse Stadium before gaining its own legs, but with just the right amount of promotion, luck and signage, it might just work at the Venetian. And, what better time is there to suck down footlong chili cheese dogs and buffalo wings with 80-plus ounces of guitar booze than during a full Sunday of football or opening day of baseball?
Between Lagasse and Rockhouse, Venetian may have just elevated itself even further as the strip destination for sports fans. Color us a little less confused.