After two years in the hands of young duo Tim Poster and Tom Breitling, the venerable Nugget was taken over in 2005 by Landry's Restaurants. Many Downtown observers feared that the Texas-based restaurant chain would drain the place of its character, but a $100-million programme of renovations has actually pepped up the place no end. Following the improvements, the Nugget has consolidated its position as the best casino on Fremont Street.
The refurbishments have been dramatic, and almost entirely for the better. The casino floor now feels almost grand, complete with a new poker room and the city's most handsome sports book. A slew of new restaurants have revitalised what had become a fairly tired catering programme. And then there's the fabulous pool area, complete with private cabanas, its own lounge (the Dive Bar, tee hee) and water slides running through a central shark tank. Well, why not?
The rooms here are not as swanky as some would have you believe; the recent renovations under Landry's were almost entirely limited to the property's public areas. Still, the lodgings here are still pretty decent, and better than those found at any other Downtown property. The three hotel towers contain a total of 1,907 rooms, topped by a number of plush suites (including some spread over two levels). The suites atop the spa tower are in a more modern style, the ones atop the original tower positively old Vegas opulence. Wireless internet access is an added bonus.
Eating & drinking
The arrival of Landry's resulted in a massive overhaul of the eating and drinking options at the Nugget; visitors returning to the casino after a few years away will scarcely recognise it. The key addition is a branch of Vic & Anthony's, with lighter fare offered at Lillie's Noodle House and the Italian-slanted Grotto. The Carson Street Café has been overhauled, but continues to serve a straightforward range of casual American classics, and the buffet rightly retains its reputation as the neighbourhood's finest. But perhaps the most dramatic addition is Rush Lounge, a nightclubby lounge that's worlds away from anything offered by its Fremont Street competitors.
The Nugget's new 600-seater deserves a rather more thrilling show than Simply Ballroom, its current incumbent. Guest headliners add a little variety.
The Nugget's elegant marble lobby may seem out of place on Fremont Street, and the high minimums (mostly $10 for craps and blackjack) in the nicely renovated casino are are unusual for Downtown. There's a segregated pit for players with larger bankrolls who want to play baccarat and blackjack without the hoi polloi; it's the only high-limit pit Downtown. However, there are also good selections of slot and video poker machines from low to high denominations. The sports book was relocated to where the buffet used to be; it's now full-scale.