Where to Eat and Drink at Durango Resort

Station Casinos Newest Property in the Southwest Valley is a Food Paradise

By Ryan Slattery 


Judging by the crowds packing Durango Casino & Resort, the local casino giant has not only met, but exceeded expectations with their latest luxury property.

The 209-room, 15-story resort opened in the southwest valley on December 5 and three weeks after its debut, long lines still snake through all corners of the Eat Your Heart Out food hall where hungry guests are anxious to try (and willing to wait) for the new-to-market concepts. This includes L.A.’s cult favorite Irv’s Burgers, Silician-style square pies from Prince Street Pizza, Chef Gene Villiatora’s  Hawaii street food offerings like his “crackhead” chicken at Ai Pono Cafe, pasta from Fiorella (helmed by James Beard award-winning chef Marc Vetri) and Uncle Paulie’s sub sandwiches.

Other food hall outlets are more familiar to Las Vegas. From Vesta Coffee and Nielsen’s Frozen Custard to Shang Artisan Noodle, Yu-Or-Mi Sushi (a popular Arts District spot) and Station’s small counter service Oyster Bar, the company has created a fast-food dining district that has something for everyone.

“The food hall had to be something that nobody had seen. It had to be more unique than everybody else’s version of a food hall,” explains Durango Casino & Resort General Manager Dave Horn. “That was probably the most important part.”

Danny Ye, the property’s executive chef, agreed, saying the selection was “an intentional curation.” He adds, “We were very methodical about who we picked. A lot of thought went into this. It wasn’t just about good food or having a social media presence. It was about their mantra, their story–the people who operated these places. When we saw that synergy was there, we knew.”

One local operator, who is no stranger to Station Casinos having partnered with the company with outposts at Red Rock Resort and Santa Fe Station, is Nielsen’s Frozen Custard, known for its rich and smooth custard and signature concretes—shakes you eat with a spoon. Family-owned and operated by husband and wife team Howard and Amanda Zayon, the couple says the food hall with its collection of mom-and-pop shops feels like a community-based project. “It’s what really sets this property apart, seeing the owner’s present,” says Amanda Zayon.

Durango’s signature restaurant, Nicco’s Prime Cuts & Fresh Fish, is positioned to outshine Station’s other stellar steakhouses–T-Bones Chophouse (Red Rock Resort) and Hank’s Fine Steaks (Green Valley Ranch). Horn describes it as a “throwback to the Las Vegas steakhouses of the sixties and seventies when everybody had some solid pasta dishes.” But Nicco’s has a modern influence and heavy focus on wagyu beef and fresh fish.

“Nicco’s is truly a labor of love,” Ye says proudly. “Everybody’s very passionate about it and all eyes are on it, so the stakes, no pun intended, are very high for us. It’s something we are very proud of and excited to show off to the world.”

Nicco’s serves only USDA prime beef–either wet or dry aged–along with an impressive mix of wagyu beef. Station’s has partnered with Allen Brothers out of Chicago, one of the world’s premier meat purveyors to track and source its beef from farm to kitchen in an effort to put “beautiful steaks on plates,” Ye says. “It’s about getting the best.”

The chef says he’s in constant contact with the company to understand what the ranchers are feeding the cattle, the finish of the grain and other conditions that Ye says, “We love to geek out on as a chef.”

Nicco’s carries three varieties of wagyu on its menu from the United States, Australia and true Kobe beef from Japan. For instance, in working with Château Uenae, Station’s is purchasing elite Hokkaido Snow Beef–so named because they are raised in the severe cold of Hokkaido, Japan and the marbling patterns resemble snow crystals. A sustainable, highly selective ranch, Château Uenae aims to sell the entire cow and Ye has found a use for the beef shank, braising and serving it with tortellini and green peas. “It’s a hearty, elevated steakhouse pasta,” Ye says.

Steaks aside, Nicco’s is also one of only a couple places in Las Vegas where you’ll find dry-aged fish on the menu. Ye works with another famous provider, Liwei Liao, who conditions the branzino in Los Angeles and ships it daily to Nicco’s. The dry aging process can take between 14 and 17 days but the results are worth the wait. “The flesh is beautifully robust, but the best part for me is the skin,” Ye says. “It is absolutely crispy. It’ll shatter if you tap it with a spoon.”

Another standout spot, and a favorite of Horn’s, is The George. The resort’s sportsbook, which is open 24 hours so fans can catch international sporting events live, is unlike any other in the city. It has both indoor and patio seating, curved, wraparound LED screens, sports wagering kiosks, and a robust menu that goes beyond sandwiches, flatbreads and nachos serving everything from honey sriracha grilled shrimp and gorgonzola crusted lamb to cajun salmon and seared scallops. The resort also partnered with Lettuce Entertain You Restaurants to bring Summer House, a California inspired restaurant delivering a diverse menu of fresh, market driven dishes in an open airy environment.

Station Casinos has also once again partnered with Clique Hospitality, who operates a Mexican restaurant Mijo Modern Mexican, a cool speakeasy called Wax Rabbit, and the Bel-Aire Lounge, which has glass doors opening to the resort pool.

Clique partner and vice president of restaurants Keith Eure is proud of the work put into Mijo, which included trips to Mexico, hundreds of tastings and using one of their chef’s grandmother’s recipes for a mouthwatering birria short rib dish.

Guests enter Mijo through a brick arched hallway and dine in a modern room with touches of Tulum throughout the decor. The upscale menu includes several ceviches, a chicken tortilla soup, charred octopus, duck carnitas, and a lobster enchilada. The big boy on the menu is a 55-ounce grilled tomahawk steak that just may be the largest steak served in the city. “We placed great effort into cultivating an artisanal-style menu that’s both approachably and affordably,” Eure says.

Just off Mijo’s dining room, a hidden door behind the tequila lockers leads to Wax Rabbit. Here, in the dimly lit, red room with a solid mezcal and tequila program, bartenders mix still drinks while a DJ pumps out pulsing music using only vinyl records (so don’t expect any EDM).

“You feel like you’re going into another dimension, a little club,” Eure explains. “It’s a cool, secluded spot people can get away to and have a great time but still be part of the action.”

Clique’s third venue, Bel-Aire Lounge, has already established itself as a neighborhood nightlife juggernaut, and an ideal alternative to a night out on the Strip. But the cozy lounge is also great during the day when guests nibble on sushi, lollipop chicken wings, wagyu sliders, bang bang shrimp, and miso sea bass lettuce cups.

Eure says Bel-Aire backyard, opening March 4, will offer Sunday brunch and a pool party atmosphere–including Friday Recess, an afternoon kickoff party to start the weekend off right.