Photos courtesy Hard Rock Hotel & Casino

Craft + Community

Things are certainly changing at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino. Gone for several months now is the iconic gargantuan neon guitar that beckoned visitors at the front, and with the property transitioning to Virgin next year, several more alterations are in store. While it’s still up in the air which restaurants will survive the cut, if I had anything to say about it, Community + Craft should surely be a keeper. This casual sit-down restaurant has already gone through a big change, as the former Culinary Dropout was renamed, transitioned into management by the Morton Group and experienced a refresh of its menu. 

Still in place are décor elements that include ornamental iron chandeliers (some with hanging green beads), hanging Edison lights, dark hardwood floors and large windows providing a beautiful view thanks to an advantageous vantage point due to its proximity to the resort’s pool. An array of seating choices include long tables with bar stools and cozy half booths with quite comfortable green upholstered couch cushions.   

As for the food, from the first bite I took it was evident we were in for a treat that none other than the culinary brilliance of Chef Billy DeMarco, the Morton Group’s Corporate Executive Chef, could create with his team of talented chefs. I’ve long been a big fan of Chef Billy and have appreciated his oversight of the varieties of cuisine at La Cave at Wynn, La Comida downtown, CRUSH and Greek Sneak at MGM Grand and MB Steak just steps away within the Hard Rock Hotel, and now he gets to flex his creative muscle with refining a gastropub menu. 

First up was pretzels & cheese, which is a top seller, most likely because it’s delicious, with warm soft pretzel twists served with a blend of Havarti, provolone and Vermont cheddar fondue. Gems from the Light Bites section of the menu we enjoyed were the Korean-style Brussels sprouts and roasted golden beets & goat cheese. 

In the mood for seafood? Dive into the ahi tuna tartare mixed with avocado, onion, cashews, cilantro, spicy mayo and ponzu; roasted salmon with mascarpone risotto; King Crab served over ice with two dipping sauces; pepper-crusted ahi salad; oysters; or white shrimp.

In the Entrées section you won’t be disappointed in the southern fried chicken with a delicious thick breading, which is as good as any we’ve ever tried; and hanger steak served with red wine bordelaise and truffle herb fries that are so good I would order this dish just to enjoy them (but they are on the menu in the Light Bites section).

Libations include several cocktails arranged in categories of Easy Breezy, Copper Cups and Old School, which as the titles suggest are signature easy drinking options like The Safari with Cruzan, Aperol, Pasoa Passionfruit and pineapple; Classic Mule with Born and Bred Vodka, ginger agave and lime; and C+C Old Fashioned with Knob Creek bourbon, Amarena cherry and orange peel. Craft beer fans should find plenty to please them, and as a supporter of local beer I was happy that nearly half of the list are Vegas born beers, with the likes of Able Baker Atomic Duck IPA, Big Dog’s Peace Love & Hoppy-ness, CraftHaus Evocation Saison, Joseph James American Lager and Tenaya Creek Local 702 Pale, all of which are priced at $7-8 a pint. 

Dessert choices include strawberry lemonade pudding cake with macerated strawberries and toasted s’more cake (chocolate and graham cracker cake with chocolate icing), but I have to recommend the craft box, which comes with an assortment of treats with something for everyone: Guinness cupcakes, s’mores bars, brown butter chocolate chip cookies, peanut brittle and caramel pretzel popcorn.  

Prices here are less than what you’ll find on the Strip, with most in the $5-$19 range and with generous portions that provide plenty enough to share. For sure many more changes are on the way as Hard Rock transitions into Virgin, and I selfishly hope Richard Branson reads this and wisely decides to keep this gem of a restaurant, mainly so I can return again and again.

Dinner & Show

While at the Hard Rock, you might as well time your visit to stop in at The Joint, the 4,255-seat showroom that has hosted a multitude of live performances for more than two decades. As Community + Craft is open from the afternoon you can easily plan dinner and a show as we did, attending a four-hour concert featuring some of the original members of four iconic bands of the 70s and 80s: Emerson, Lake & Palmer; the Moody Blues; Asia; and Yes. Shows on tap for the coming months include Mary J. Blige (Aug. 16-17), Brian Wilson & The Zombies (Aug. 31), CAKE & Ben Folds (Sept. 10), Greta Van Fleet (Sept. 27) and Daughtry (Oct. 4).