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Mike Minor
Mike Minor
Amelinda B Lee

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Mike Minor Reflects on The Vintage Dining Scene in Las Vegas

He remembers Emeril Lagasse trying to get people to come in to his restaurant, Port Tack and its valet, Rosewood Grille and the giant lobsters and more.

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Mike Minor’s a lifelong Las Vegan who rose to fame here as the executive chef of Border Grill at Mandalay Bay. Last year, he ventured off on his own to launch his Truck U Barbecue food truck, which has become popular with the food crowds. He still occasionally helps out Border Grill, especially now during the slower cold months.

Eater Vegas asked him to talk about some of the restaurants he remembers growing up in Las Vegas as a part of Classics Week.

Port Tack it was restaurant on West Sahara where Jose Hogs used to be. It was so freaking cool. It was one of the first restaurants to have valet parking. It had glass walls from top to bottom and a sunken fireplace. I would drive by with my parents and think I would take my girlfriend there for prom.

Golden Steer, that’s been around forever. At one point time it was a really nice restaurant. I think everyone has worked there for 30 years. They make a Caesars salad table side. When I was a kid that was THE steakhouse in Vegas. It’s been around forever.

The Rosewood Grille was super cool. That guy holding that 20 pound lobster has been up since I was a kid. You would think, "I gotta go there to have lobster." The cool thing was that you could accept phone calls there and they would bring telephones to your booth. We went there one time and we were going somewhere afterward and we knew we would be late. They bring this rotary dial phone to the booth. We didn’t even have a cell phone at that time. The mafia had a lot to do with that. They wanted to have nice places to eat.

Battista’s Hole in the Wall. That’s been there forever.

Hush Puppy is still there. That’s another one of those restaurants. The owners lived on the property. Their house is still there. Go there now on a Saturday night and it’s packed and you can’t get in. My parents used to take my sister and I there as kids. We’d always get spaghetti. Kids would eat for free.

Bootlegger's is super old school too. The way it’s done with the bar at the front and girls playing piano brings you back to the old part of Vegas.

Farm Basket Chicken. My wife worked there in high school. They had a drive thru and she would get us free food.

Hugo’s Cellar. I took my wife there for prom in high school. They would spin the wood bowl and crack the egg. The carts are super cool too.

My parents worked in a casino. My dad worked graveyard and my mom worked swing shift. They would walk up to the pit boss and ask for comps to the buffet. Now you have to spend $20,000 in a casino to get a comp.

At the MGM Grand, Charlie Trotter was there and the Brown Derby was there at one time. That was a cool restaurant. They were one of the first people to do brunch. They had stations in the dining room around all the tables and you could walk around to get your food. This is before the Sterling Brunch at Bally’s.

I remember when Emeril [Lagasse] would come out of the Fish House at the MGM Grand and set up a card table and put Bam on the table. Nobody knew who Emeril was. He was trying to get people to come in. He just came out with that Bam spice.

Shakey’s Pizza was THE hang out for us kids growing up in Vegas. It was just down the street from Red Rock movie theater. The four blocks from Shakey’s Pizza to the movie theaters was packed with people walking from one to the other..It was the place to see and be seen on the weekends.

Other old school restaurants:
1. The Tillerman (they had phones in the booths for VIPs and the mob)
2. Center Stage (Union Plaza, another mob restaurant)
3. The Steak House at Circus Circus.

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