March 20, 2011

Cosmopolitan Burgers

Note:  The Ironman of Poker wrapped up last Sunday, and the official trip report is being compiled by cruise director Santa Claus. In the meantime, I'll share a few random posts that I'm certain won't make the final report.

I arrived in Vegas for IMOP VI at 9:30 a.m.Vegas time, the better to maximize my profits and enjoyment. After checking into my hotel (TI for the first two nights), I wandered up the Strip in search of lunch and a sports book. Ironman Bonnie had a "stone cold lock" with the Mizzou over, and half the Ironmen were texting me from the Meadows ATM, desperate to get in on the action (surprisingly, on the side Bonnie picked). So, I ducked into the Bellagio sports book to put down some cash. Of course, I was just walking out of Bellagio when Ironman Barbie texted me, desperate to get in on the action. The swanky new Cosmopolitan resort was dead ahead, and despite its lack of a poker room, I wanted to check it out. So I wandered in and was suitably impressed by the decor, including the massive multi-level chandelier / bar dominating the center of the casino floor. At some point, I will drink my way from bottom to top and back down, stopping for a specialty martini at each level of the bar.

I found the sports book on the second floor, got Barbie's action down (for a favorable half point, even), and then decided on a whim to lunch at Holsteins, the upscale burger joint across from the sports book. I've been to a number of Vegas burger joints both good and overrated, and Holsteins would fit in comfortably with my favorites. The layout is open, with upscale bar / classy casual restaurant decor. I ate at the bar which had three or four large screen TVs set into the wall above the bar, perfect for watching early conference playoff games. The hostess and the two bartenders were friendly, and service was fairly quick.

I started with a house special Bloody Mary while I waited for my food. The drink was tasty, and I appreciated the hint of cilantro in the mix. The one disappointment was the large prawn garnish, which looked tasty at a distance, but up close looked a little dried out, maybe from sitting on top of the garnish platter overnight. When my food arrived, I switched over to Rogue Dead Guy Ale; Holsteins gets bonus points for carrying this tasty brew.

The Holsteins menu is fairly comparable to the other upscale burger joints on the Strip, with a variety of meats for the burger (beef, lamb, turkey, pork, veggies), and a cornucopia of "gourmet" (a/k/a nontraditional) cheeses and toppings to complete the burger. Like its counterparts, Holsteins offers up a number of "specialty" burgers with a range of interesting flavor profiles. I was intrigued by the "Duck, Duck, Goose" burger with duck confit and foie gras stuffed into the burger, topped with pickled Anjou pear and mustard plum sauce; will definitely order this one next trip out. But I was craving some tanginess, and opted for the "Longhorn" burger (despite my aversion for all things Texas during football season).

It turns out I chose wisely. The Longhorn burger had a juicy beef patty sitting on tender smoked brisket, covered with a whiskey BBQ sauce, and topped with slaw. If you like BBQ, you will love this burger. The meat was perfectly cooked (easy to get either the burger or the brisket too dry), the BBQ sauce was tangy but not hot, and the slaw was nicely done to provide a cool, crunchy component. I don't know if the wheat bun was housemade, but it was certainly fresh and added to the flavors. Although I liked the crispy sweet potato fries, I was a little jealous of the duck fat fries ordered by a lady who sat down next to me. So, next trip, I'm going to give those a whirl.

Longhorn Burger (iPhone without flash makes
for crappy indoor photos; the burger looked 
much tastier than it appears in this photo)

Looking over the menu, Holsteins distinguishes itself from the crowd with a variety of homemade sausages. I would definitely want to try the bratwurst and Italian sausage sandwiches. On the appetizer side, I will need to bring a friend to try the Maine lobster mini-burgers, or maybe watch a game with orders of the "Bull's Balls" (deep-fried veal risotto balls) and "Philly Cheez Spring Rolls". Holsteins also offers the now-ubiquitous cornucopia of funky shakes and malts; I love my malts, but can't afford the calories. But, the ones I saw created looked divinely tempting.

Holsteins offers a good meal with a fun, friendly vibe, and I will definitely return to sample more of the menu. It more than holds its own against my other favorite burger places on the Strip—The Burger Bar (Mandalay Bay), Le Burger Brasserie (Paris/Bally's), and BLT Burger (Mirage). Each place offers tasty food, with its own trademark twist. So, if you like a tasty, quality burger, Holsteins is definitely worth a visit.

Of course, the farm kid in me has one small quibble—the name of the joint. Holstein cattle are known predominately for being dairy cattle, not beef cattle. When sold for meat, they generally wind up as run-of-the-mill ground beef, not the choice or prime beef associated with fine-dining. So, Holsteins don't evoke the same expectations of premium meat quality associated with, say, Angus or Kobe / Wagyu cattle. Still, "Holsteins" could be associated with the restaurant's premium shakes and malts, and let's face it, the name and color scheme of the breed are pretty cool. But, as long as the burgers remain so darn lip-smacking good, I will let the name issue slide.

A Holstein cow (image source).


  1. Interesting what Holstein can engender. For me it was a premier folk music place from younger days. It was a Chicago institution.

    As a noted farm boy, you have different memories. Of course many dairy operations crossed to Angus bulls so that the calf had market potential. Angus is a very yuppie term around super markets these days with a supposed premium. I look at that as an implied odds situation and miss the beef grading/feeding of the past.

  2. Great review, I hope to dine at Holstein's next trip, I kept walking by but never made it. For a burger joint, I visited KGB last trip and I'd say its comparable to Le Brassiere, the room is very open with high ceilings, a plus sometimes for me in Harrahs/Casino Royale area.

    Not that this helps for the Chandelier bar (I like the idea of drinking it down level by level), but Cosmo at quarter vp will comp all of their specialty drinks from their menus at their bars. I remember your limit poker drinking strategies from AVP, and this would fall in positive EV based on the price of those cocktails, in my opinion.

  3. My co-worker was already excited to try this place when he goes in June, now he won't stop talking about duck fat fries. Great review!