Monday, March 19, 2012

Escape from Douchery, Part 14: The Barrymore

The Royal Resort is the definition of "unassuming." "Resort" is certainly a strong word to describe the Off-Strip, non-gaming hotel that looks from the outside like dozens of other nondescript, budget-friendly places designed solely as a place to lay your drunken head on the cheap after a night of boozin' and gamblin' on The Strip.

But The Royal houses an unexpected secret, and not the dark and twisted kind of secret that you might stumble upon in horror at many Las Vegas venues. The Royal's secret is the opposite of all that, in fact: an awesomely hip and unique little restaurant and lounge called The Barrymore.

The sexy restaurant and lounge is run by the people behind Public House at The Venetian and the upscale and delicious burger joint Holstein's at The Cosmopolitan. These guys clearly know what they're doing, and in a lot of ways, The Barrymore is their most ambitious project to date.

The retro-cool space is covered in beautifully old fashioned wall paper that reminded me of The Haunted Mansion (in a good way! I love The Haunted Mansion), evocative original artwork, comfy plush booths, hand crafted mirrors on the walls, and Gold Film Reels lining the ceiling (which was of course my favorite touch, as a movie-crazy type of person).

Dinner was excellent, as the restaurant serves upscale American fare for totally reasonable prices. I sampled the Lobster Mac and Cheese appetizer and Crispy Pork Belly (yes, I am aware that Pork Belly is becoming a ubiquitous dish at any self respecting restaurant these days, but it's an awesome trend I heartily endorse) entree, both of which were delicious, and the restaurant's fancy shmancy version of S'Mores were worth the indulgence. Since The Barrymore's cellar features 50 great wines for under $50, my table split a bottle of Italian Cabernet that was the perfect compliment to our meals and made us all feel very classy.

Once we finished eating, we decided to have just one more drink at The Barrymore's extremely cool lounge area, and that's when I fell in love with the place.

Cocktail culture is spreading quickly through Las Vegas, and The Barrymore is more evidence to that fact as vest-wearing mixologists pour elaborately mixed cocktails like their signature eponymous drink (made with Gentleman Jack, Blood Orange Liquer, Vermouth, Orange Bitters, Orange Zest, and Orange Marmalade... yes, Orange Marmalade in a cocktail... sounds weird but it works) or their excellently crafted Old Fashioned. They also carry a small but nicely curated selection of Beers, including some of my all-time favorites like Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA and Delirium Tremens.

One drink became more than one more drink which became several drinks. Long story short, we ended up getting pretty tipsy and hanging out at The Barrymore for a few more hours than we had planned. The atmosphere was totally chilled out, and we were digging on the cool sounds of the classic jazz soundtrack that provided a welcome escape from ubiquitous top 40 hits and aggressive Dubstep drones playing in most bars on The Strip.

The place also has a nice patio area with a firepit where you can grab a couch and enjoy views of The Strip's more iconic resorts towering above The Royal. The crowd was eclectic, probably due to the venue's remoteness and obscurity.

The Royal seems to be going through something of a transitional phase, as they're attempting to up their hip factor and "build buzz." As the great Sin City guide VegasChatter pointed out, The Royal currently has two websites: a straightforward one that markets the place as a smart and budget friendly choice for tourists who don't mind staying off Strip and a cooler than though version that re-brands the resort as a "boutique" hotel re-Christened as The Royal House which is clearly designed to attract the hipsterati (at least until an Ace opens in town), with other cool flourishes like a gallery displaying the work of local artists, a central bar and lounge that plays old films during the day and hosts musicians and DJs at night called The Den, and a relaxing pool area with brightly colored cabanas. All these features are smart, but the vibe of the place is still inescapably "budget hotel" at best, and "large motel perfect for spending time with a lady of the night" at worst. If The Royal Resort (or Royal House, or whatever its called) is making a play to burn down their image as a boring yet affordable hotel to become reborn as a flaming Phoenix of Off-Strip boutique cool, The Barrymore is a promising step in the right direction.

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