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September 30, 2014

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Strip restaurant brings part of New York to Las Vegas

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Justin M. Bowen

The bar area of the Serendipity 3 restaurant on the Las Vegas Strip. This Serendipity 3, which opened Monday, is based off the original Serendipity 3 in New York City.

Serendipity 3 opens in Las Vegas

A frrrozen hot chocolate, the restaurant's famous dessert, sits on the counter. This Serendipity 3, which opened Monday, is based off the original Serendipity 3 in New York City. Launch slideshow »

Famous names are common at Caesars Palace: Cher, Bette Midler, Elton John, Jerry Seinfeld. But on Monday, the hotel-casino added another famous name to its list of stars, this time in the form of a restaurant.

Serendipity 3 – the original a New York City landmark – opened at Caesars Palace, front and center on Las Vegas Boulevard, sans the three-hour wait the original version is famous for.

The newest addition to the Serendipity brand is a modern, Vegas-fied take on the founding restaurant that also includes items found on the New York menu. It’s the restaurant’s third location – a smaller version of Serendipity is in Boca Raton, Fla.

The original Serendipity is tucked away in the Fashion District of New York and has been best known for its “frrrozen hot chocolates,” desserts and oversized portions since its 1954 opening. Famous patrons include former President Bill Clinton and Andy Warhol, who apparently paid for his meals in sketches, so the history goes.

Caesars scratched the old-school Tiffany lamps, low ceilings and cramped quarters of the New York restaurant for candy-striped walls, and a bubble gum pink and navy blue ceiling with an open floor plan. Hints of the original Serendipity still ring throughout the restaurant, like the oversized menus, heart-shaped chairs and drinks and desserts served in old-fashioned sundae glasses.

A modern vibe was wanted for the Serendipity Las Vegas location, said Rowen Seibel, a partner in the Las Vegas restaurant.

“We have such a diversity in our clientele and our extended family that we had to retain our classic roots, but Vegas-ize it,” Seibel said.

The idea to bring Serendipity to Las Vegas began more than two years ago. When Seibel brought Caesars President Gary Selesner and General Manager John Unwin, as well as other executives, to the New York location, Seibel said Caesars saw the potential in the brand.

Caesars vice president of food and beverage Jeffrey Frederick said the first step was making the space that resembles a post office or bank more attractive to the public. Pink and red awnings and giant sundae statues were added to Serendipity’s storefront.

Even with the modern feel, the restaurant is filled with its own quirks inside: fortunes behind the napkin holders, Tiffany lamp toothpicks in the burgers, waitresses sporting pink Converse sneakers.

The menu may be even quirkier with dishes like a 15-inch hot dog called “The Bachelorette Party” (“An even bigger dog, with all the party on the side” the menu reads). “The Young Chicken” sandwich is a favorite of Cher’s, and Seibel reserved the 12-inch hot dog for himself, naming it “Rowen’s 12-inch Hot Dog.” Other dishes include burgers made with ground steak, massive club sandwiches and seasonal salads, with everything priced in the $8 to $15 range. Few items cost more than $20, although Serendipity’s Golden Opulence Sundae, complete with a golden spoon, goes for $1,000.

Drinks complement the menu with cocktails like the cotton candy martini, made with fluffy cotton candy that dissolves when alcohol is added. A Vegas spin is put on Serendipity’s famous “frrrozen hot chocolate” with raspberry or orange liquor. Drinks are about $12 and are more than three times the size of the average bar drink.

“There is something on our menu for everyone at the right price point. In good times and in bad, everyone is looking for quality and price. We’ve taken comfort food to a whole new level,” Seibel said.

Word spread fast about Serendipity’s opening at Caesars. By lunchtime Thursday afternoon, the restaurant’s 250 seats were filled.

“Our expectations have been blown away,” Seibel said. “We know we’re the new kid on the block and we hope to please everyone.”

A three-hour wait time may not be far behind at Las Vegas’ Serendipity.

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