Looking for a great bar and restaurant in Las Vegas where the locals go to escape the madness of the high and low-rollers bent on striking it superrich?
Hidden in a nondescript neighborhood strip mall, nine miles north of the neon-blinding, traffic-snarled Las Vegas Strip, is Rosemary's Restaurant, an unpretentious oasis of fine dining and drinking where the cocktails are as inventive as the acclaimed food.
Consider the Ginger Sour: Modern Spirits' ginger-infused vodka with Yuzu, the extract of a Japanese fruit that's a cross between a grapefruit, orange, lemon and lime, Cointreau, a dash of orange bitters, splash of rock-candy syrup, and their house-made sweet-and-sour mix. Shake, pour over rocks and top with ginger ale, $10.
It's an original and the brainstorm of Mike Shetler, bar chief and a longtime pal of the owners, chef Michael Jordan and wife Wendy Jordan. For $10 it is also a gimmick-free bargain in a town where seemingly every saloon has a video poker or blackjack game embedded in its bar and conversation is drowned out by the annoying cacophony of slot machines.
Not here. Smartly clad in a dark suit and quiet tie -- the same subdued "uniforms" of its three bartenders, Shannon. Alyson and Javier -- Mike Shetler tells me Rosemary's is a "refuge, anti-glamour, polar opposite" of the cavernous casino hotels with their $10 million dining rooms and $17 to $19 drinks. (One Strip restaurant, Boa, is famed for its $1,000 cocktail, which starts with generous pours of rare cognacs).
Rosemary's (8125 W. Sahara; 702-869-2251; www.rosemarysrestaurant.com), named after the chef's mother, is a magnet for locals and entertainers before and after their shows. "When I walk in the front door, before I even get a seat, Shannon will greet me with a 'Hi, Tony!'" says Tony Cantalice, a genial bachelor with a New York accent. Stylish in a sport shirt and slacks, he retired from electrical contracting, moved to Las Vegas 5 1/2 years ago and drops by Rosemary's for a drink three days a week.
"They make you feel warm, welcome and wanted. How many places in this town treat you like that?" says Tony, who says he never loses because he never gambles. He loves Rosemary's signature Bloody Mary.
Indeed, it's a masterpiece of libational art, and mixing one is not a rush job. Shetler starts with oven-roasted tomatoes, adds fresh basil, garlic cloves, fresh onion, bell pepper, Serrano pepper, a giant can of Roma tomatoes, dashes of ground black pepper, Kosher salt, Louisiana hot sauce, Worcester sauce, celery seed, and fresh lime and lemon juice. Then he let's it sit for three days soaking in its own spicy juices. He runs it through an industrial blender, pour it through a fine mesh strainer, seasons to taste, and strain it into a tall glass with 2 ounces of pricey but smooth Belvedere Vodka. All this artistry costs $10.
Every classic cocktail here has its own surprise twist. The $12 house Manhattan is made with 2 1/2 ounces of a connoisseur's bourbon, 100-proof Knob Creek, and equal parts of sweet and dry vermouth.
Rosemary's interior is as soothing as its drinks. The black-and-green granite-topped bar is lined with a dozen upholstered stools, and there is table seating for 18 to 20. Light woods and autumn colors make it inviting. And original oil paintings by Shetler's wife, also named Wendy, add a touch of elegance.
"We're a haven where locals and performers can unwind in a quiet setting," says Shetler whose grandfather had a tavern in Dubuque, Iowa. True enough, there is no live music, no amateur comics, no open mikes, no sensory intrusions of any kind.
Hungry and solo? Anything on Rosemary's food menu can be served at the bar -- from appetizers like Hugo's Texas BBQ Shrimp with Maytag Blue Cheese Slaw, $14, Twice-Baked Parmesan Souffle With Basil Pesto, $13.50, to entrees like a Creole-grilled USDA prime rib-eye with Anson Mills Carolina quick grits, crystal red onion crust and rosemary's own steak sauce, $39.
Thanks to Shetler's fascination with Belgian beers, Rosemary carries three drafts and 30 bottles of authentic ales and lagers starting at $9, including the 750 milliliter bottle of Chimay Grand Reserve, first brewed by Trappest monks, for $25.
Some 22 wines are offered by the glass, including ports and sherries, starting at $10 for a French chardonnay, and up to $18 for limited-production Napa varietals like the Keenan Spring Mountain District chardonnay. The full wine list is 300 bottles strong. On Sundays, a bottle of wine is half-price.
Meantime, you wouldn't think a gourmet restaurant and bar of Rosemary's caliber would cut a deal for its patrons with a daily "happy hour." But Monday through Friday, 4-7 pm, all beers, wines by the glass and cocktails are half-price. Who says in Las Vegas, you can't beat the house? That's hitting a jackpot every time your elbow bends.