When iconic restaurants open branches in Las Vegas you would think it would be time for excitement. But lately, such legends as Trader Vics, Serendipity 3 and Pink’s have made their way to our humble burg, and we couldn’t be less enthused. (Trader Vic’s has already closed btw).That’s because what brings them here isn’t a desire to replicate what made these places special (the seediness of Pink’s, Serendipity’s urban oasis, Trader Vic’s kitsch-y Polynesian cool), but rather, a deal.
In this, these restaurants resemble movie sequels. They represent a cold-hearted, corporate deal, made with all the passion of a tax return, intended to boost the bottom line by attempting to mimic the formula that made them successful in the first place. And in most cases, they fail.
And by fail we mean they capture none of the magic that informs the original. (Just like movie sequels. Exception: Godfather II)
That doesn’t mean they don’t make money — Serendipity 3 is packed day and night, and the Pellegino’s of Rao’s fame are laughing all the way to the bank — but in place of charm you get the big Vegas bj, and some times it works, and sometimes it doesn’t (e.g. Trader Vic’s, which had all of the charm of a bus station).
The consortium of bean counters (or whatever) that owns the Trader Vic brand these days is planning to reopen a full restaurant in Los Angeles soon. (For the past few years, this iconic name has existed in LaLa Land solely as a generic hotel bar in the Beverly Hilton.) Let’s hope they learn from their mistakes, but given the corporate imagination (or lack thereof) that characterizes the types of companies that buy these names with plans to “extend the brand,” we’re guessing they won’t.
One brand no one seems intent on extending these days (except in Vegas — where they’ve moved into all of the Coast Casinos) is T.G.I. Fridays — the restaurant that practically invented the singles/fern bar, way back in 1965. The fact that someone found a snake’s head in their sandwich* at one certainly couldn’t help the dismal performance (and perception) of this Stone Age relic. (FYI: ELV took his Official First Ex-Wife on their first date to a Friday’s — way back in the Paleolithic early 70’s — about the last time these places were cool.)
But let’s be candid about this — the reasons Friday’s are dying on the vine everywhere else (precooked, lousy food, tacky decor, fake smiles, outdated everything) make them perfect for Vegas casinos.
For Vegas is nothing but a copy of a copy, and our restaurants (most of them anyway) and the turistas that dine in them, embrace that ethos, no matter what decade they sprang from.
For what it’s worth, here’s the press release on Pink’s (yawn):
Legendary Pink’s Hot Dogs to open Strip-front location at Planet Hollywood Resort and Casino
Las Vegas, Nevada (June 12, 2009) – In August 2009, legendary Hollywood hotspot, Pink’s Hot Dogs will open a new location in Las Vegas. Pink’s Hot Dogs Las Vegas will be located within Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino, at the south end of the property and directly accessible to foot traffic walking along Las Vegas Blvd.
Pink’s Hot Dogs Las Vegas will be holding a job fair in July and is expecting to hire between 30 to 35 people for positions that will range from bartenders to line cooks and managers.
“With its blend of celebrity kitsch, quality food and great value, this is a perfect time to bring the iconic Pink’s brand to Las Vegas,” said Las Vegas restaurateur Billy Richardson, the CEO and creative mind behind LBS: A Burger Joint and the new Pink’s Hot Dogs Las Vegas. “With its prime location right on the Las Vegas Strip, Pink’s will enjoy tremendous foot traffic and will bring a new ‘gourmet fast-food’ flare to Las Vegas.”
Approaching their 70th Anniversary, Pink’s originated in Los Angeles as a family-owned hot dog stand in 1939 and evolved into a West Coast icon. Pink’s is known as “Home of the World’s Best Chili Dog,” a title earned for the recipe specially developed by founder, Betty Pink. The hot dogs are all beef with natural casing and make a mouth-watering snap when you sink in your teeth. Enjoyed for years by Hollywood celebrities ranging from Robert Goulet to Snoop Dog, Pink’s hot dogs have become a cultural phenomenon and can be ordered in dozens of delicious variations.
The 1,900 sq. ft., Las Vegas hot dog joint will offer 14 varieties of hot dogs, including its top dogs: the Stretch Chili Cheese Dog, Chicago Polish Dog and Rosie O’Donnell Long Island Dog. In addition to the hot dogs, other delectable items will be served such as burgers with sides such as fries, coleslaw and chips and salsa. Exclusive to the Las Vegas location, Pink’s will offer alcoholic beverages to their customers, as well as indoor and outdoor seating.
* Actually, the snake’s head was found in some vegetables accompanying the sandwich. Details, details….