After 15 months of operation, Vdara at CityCenter has finally added something that surely must have been mentioned back in class when MGM Resorts CEO Jim Murren was earning his much-vaunted urban planning degree: A sundries shop.
Yes, Murren expected people to live in the hotel-condo Vdara in a so-called "urban" manner without a nearby grocery or even a way to get a stick of gum, making it more likely than not the only 1,500+ unit hotel in the world not to offer even a vending machine from which to purchase basic necessities. This oversight was quite obvious to yours truly and many others, but somehow it made sense to MGM brass to do without.
Or maybe not! It may not have even been an oversight! I'll get back to that in a moment!
Anyhow, today was the first day of operations for the Market Cafe Vdara, which was breathlessly described in a press release today as -- and I'm not making this up -- "a unique experience unlike anything in Las Vegas." This is MGM, as addicted to overpromising as Charlie Sheen is to his own addled voice.
What it is, however, is a reasonably nice and pretty store with just about all that you'd need to fix a meal in your kitchen-equipped Vdara room:
They went with brands like Dean & Deluca and stuff of that caliber, and it's a pretty nice selection. There's also fresh fruit and veggies and I think meats there as well.
Also, there's a counter and some seating where you can eat in, too. They brought over chef Martin Heierling, who presides at Sensi at Bellagio as well as the soon-closing Silk Road a few feet from the Market Cafe Vdara. In fact, he was hanging out there when I went over today.
He told me some interesting stuff, and I'll get back to that in a sec. First, here's some of the wares and prices:
I had a $9.50 Southwest chicken sandwich heated up on the roll that's second from the left above. It was, in fact, quite delicious. But to give an idea of the markups, the Pom Light Wildberry drink I bought from the chiller cost $3.30. I didn't look at what those aspirin cost, but I'm sure it'd give me a headache.
So Heierling is obviously a little morose about Silk Road's closure this Sunday, but he said that MGM brass are looking for another space for him somewhere to open a new restaurant. He also told me Silk Road won't be replaced with another restaurant but instead will be used -- as he says it has been in the past several months since they stopped serving dinner -- for banquets associated with conventions at CityCenter. Okey dokey.
The most interesting reveal from Heierling was that the space for Market Cafe Vdara was actually always there. That is, they always planned to have a sundries shop there but MGM ran out of money as they were completing CityCenter and postponed it. There was always a hollow room in this space, he said. Which makes me wonder: What other essential features did CityCenter put off? Is there maybe a whole other casino at Aria that actually does have natural light? Maybe there really are more pocket parks somewhere?
Meanwhile, as I ate I watched several managers plotting out where to put more merchandise and such, and that's great. But there was one pretty critical oversight: No news rack. People -- and especially Jim Murren's kind of people -- do that, they seek out a Newsweek or a Review-Journal when they head down to the shop in the morning for their coffee or their Dean and Deluca Moroccan spice rub.
But there's also one other odd thing:
The place closes at 8 p.m. After that, you must order proper food from room service. Doesn't that seem a little early to you? Couldn't they somehow design it to keep the sundries shop open later or all night? Haven't they defeated the purpose if I come in from
Heierling said it's a work in progress and they may adjust the hours. OK, then. I'm just proud of them for caving into logic and opening anything.
It did dawn on me that this could be what Murren meant when he told that hack from the L.A. Times a few months ago that CityCenter is still opening in phases, a total reversal of his lengthy dissertations of 2009 about CityCenter's superior to Wynn and others in opening all at once.
In fact, this could be a momentous occasion. Either this is an indication that Murren still has some magical surprises left in store or the debut of the Vdara Kwik-E-Mart means that today, March 1, 2011, marks the official completion of CityCenter!
Woo-hoo either way.