Four San Diego restaurants are betting that their popularity at home can play well in Las Vegas.
While Las Vegas dining in 2019 is excitingly elevated, The Crack Shack’s founder and CEO, Mike Rosen, said the market has plenty of room for less formal fare.
“I feel that people in Las Vegas, sure they’ll go for high-end, they’ll go to Carbone (at Aria), but sometimes you just want to grab some satisfying food and go watch a game or gamble,” Rosen said.
Tacos El Gordo, the famed Chula Vista spot with long lines for its Tijuana street food-inspired menu, was the first to expand to Vegas, opening a location in 2011. Today, four of the seven Tacos El Gordo restaurants are there, two on the Strip, two off, with the newest opening on Las Vegas Boulevard in January. tacoselgordobc.com
Last month, ¡Salud! Tacos debuted at the newly renovated Palace Station Hotel & Casino, the taco shop’s first out-of-state location. Calling itself a “Chicano Food Eatery,” ¡Salud! offers authentic street food and is frequently cited as one of the best taquerias in San Diego. It has locations in Barrio Logan and National City. palacestation.sclv.com/Dining/Salud
Like a runny, soft-boiled egg, The Broken Yolk Cafe is spreading out everywhere. The San Diego-based chain, which began in Pacific Beach in 1979, will soon have 35 locations, from Tampa to Texas, La Costa and now, Las Vegas. It’s located in the upscale Town Square mall, on a stretch of the Strip south of the airport and the “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas” sign. On its website, the company acknowledges that people know the Broken Yolk name from vacationing in San Diego and that breakfast’s popularity continues to increase. So look for more Yolks to spread.
The Crack Shack will be opening this summer right on the Strip, in front of the entrance to Eataly and the Park MGM. “It’s right in the heart of Las Vegas Boulevard, with the T-Mobile arena, Vdara, Cosmopolitan and the Waldorf (Astoria) right there,” Rosen said. “Let’s face it, when you’re partying and drinking and on vacation, sometimes fried chicken is irresistible.”
Rosen said the design will be less glitzy than the Crack Shack at L.A.'s Westfield Century City — with its Champagne vending machine — and closer to the more rustic Little Italy location. But it’s Las Vegas after all, so there will be some flash: renderings show artwork of sequined showgirls with chicken heads. It will seat about 160. Patio seating, though it will have misters and fans, will be more limited than elsewhere, due to the legendary Vegas heat.
The combination of gourmet fried chicken, the fame of celebrity chef Richard Blais and the iconic giant chicken outside helped catapult The Crack Shack to cult status in San Diego. Rosen said it will also fill an important niche in Vegas. “One of things that’s disappearing on the Las Vegas culinary front is anything between very fast food and fine dining,” he said. “That’s where we come in.”