Blue Ox Tavern Delivering Midwestern Hospitality for 38 Years
Photo by Chris Summers
How often do you hear of a 3rd generation family-owned bar/restaurant operating for 38 years in Las Vegas? Hardly ever, but the Blue Ox establishments, some of Las Vegas’ longest existing watering holes, have not only withstood the test of time, but have been updated to keep up with the times.
The family business dates back to David Aronsohn, who opened the Blue Ox Nightclub in downtown Minneapolis in the 1960s, and moved the family business to Las Vegas, opening the similar-named Blue Ox West at Valley View and Sirius in 1980. That original location has since closed, but three remain, all of which are owned and operated by his descendants. Native Las Vegan Nathan Aronsohn and his father Ron have owned and operated the Blue Ox Tavern location at W. Sahara near Jones since it opened in 1996 (the two other locations are Blue Ox Central on Eastern near Patrick and Blue Ox East on Sandhill near Flamingo). Both father and son are hands-on in their management and can be found at the Tavern every single day. Nathan grew up in the family bar/restaurant and over the years has rolled quarters, washed dishes, worked in the kitchen and bartended, before being promoted to Partner in 2015, but can still be found behind the bar on weekends.
Described by Nathan as “a restaurant-centric gaming bar,” remarking on what has helped them withstand the test of time he says, “There’s a bar on every corner, so what sets us apart from the millions of other options in town is being appreciative of everyone who comes through the door. Sometimes you go to a bar and they don’t give a shit that you’re there; we’re the opposite of that.” As observed during my visit, every patron entering or leaving was given a taste of Midwestern hospitality as they were immediately greeted by staff with a cheerful welcome or goodbye.
An establishment that has been around as long as the Blue Ox has, inevitably at some point will need updating. The perfect opportunity to do so presented itself when Departure Films came calling, offering to feature the Tavern in the pilot episode of Vegas Restaurant Rehab for the Food Network, a gentler version of Bar Rescue without overblown drama and with a focus on food instead of drink. Although the description of the episode states the Tavern was on the ropes, Nathan asserts they were not in danger of going out of business, and their establishment was picked because it checked all the right boxes: a family-run operation, in existence for several years and in need of a remodel without the available funds to do so. The episode, titled “Blue Ox on the Rocks,” aired on April 29, and as would be expected, there has been a significant uptick in business, but Nathan believes most of the increase has been due to the improved surroundings.
Accomplished in only 48 hours, what used to be a very clean dive bar Nathan described as “like your grandmother’s basement in the Midwest,” was transformed into a classier version. Booths were reupholstered; a dated carpet floor was upgraded to a wood floor laminate; a banquet room was converted to a game room with pool table, pinball machine, video games, dart boards and beer pong table; and the ‘old school’ ox logo was replaced with the “Elegant Ox”: three variations of an ox in a tuxedo wearing a Vikings helmet, fedora and pilot goggles. In addition, the food menu was pared down, but still continues to emphasize Midwestern comfort food favorites, such as Midwest loaded fries with house-made cheese sauce, BBQ pork and fried cheese curds; chicken fried steak and eggs; and pork belly bites—fried pork belly, BBQ sauce and blue cheese crumbles.
Further modernization can be found in an expanded whiskey selection and upgraded cocktails using top shelf ingredients, including the Elegant Ox Manhattan with Bulleit Rye, Grand Marnier, Dolin Sweet Vermouth and bitters; and high quality whiskey choices such as Willett Single Barrel Rye, Old Hickory Straight Bourbon, Brickston Mash “Destroyer” (blend of 55% Kentucky bourbon and 45% Florida rum) and Angel’s Envy Kentucky Bourbon finished in port wine casks.
Besides the aforementioned amenities, other incentives to check out the Tavern include a loyalty program offering rewards for repeat visits; twice daily happy hour from 3-6 p.m. and 11 p.m.-2 a.m. with ½ off selected appetizers and $3 domestic beer, house wine and well drinks; and a weekend brunch from 11 a.m.-2 p.m. for $20 offering bottomless bloody Marys and mimosas and choice of stuffed French toast, chicken and waffles, salmon baguettes or southwest steak omelet.
Blue Ox Tavern
5825 W. Sahara Ave. Ste. A
Open 24/7 every day of the year; kitchen hours 10 a.m.-2 a.m. daily