Wednesday, July 30, 2014 | 6 p.m.
As Robin Leach winds down his annual summer vacation under the Tuscan sun in Italy — with a visit to Pisa and its Leaning Tower, plus, a stop in fashionable Milan — many of our Strip personalities have again stepped forward in his absence to pen their own words of wisdom. We continue today with BMX stunt racer and reality-TV star Ricardo Laguna and Alfredo Sandoval at his new restaurant Mercadito at Red Rock Resort. Here’s Alfredo.
When I was a young boy wandering through the Mexican marketplaces of my native Mexico City, I never thought that my love of food and the restaurant business would take me across America and eventually lead me to Sin City.
Las Vegas is definitely the place to make your mark in the culinary scene, and with just weeks into the grand opening of our first restaurant west of Chicago, Mercadito Red Rock, I can say that it’s the story of three brothers changing Las Vegas one taco at a time.
Mercadito is definitely a family affair. Being trained in the restaurant business by my father as a pre-teen, it’s all I’ve ever known. For nearly 20 years, I’ve worked with my two brothers, Felipe and Patricio, before Mercadito Hospitality was founded and now after.
If anyone tells you working with family is easy, they are lying. It’s difficult balancing both, but knowing that you can trust the people who work with you is huge, and, at the end of the day, you can’t put a price on sharing success with your family.
We decided early on that we would all have a distinct role in our business. My younger brother Patricio is the one in charge of the menu, while Felipe is the finance guy. My role focuses on the bigger-picture business and what we can do to continue the growth of our brand, like opening at Red Rock and our future location at Green Valley Ranch.
All of us are hands on with our restaurants. Patricio has been here for weeks and weeks perfecting recipes, developing new dishes that reflect local palettes and training our staff. I’m almost jealous that he gets to stay put for a bit while I rack up the frequent-flyer miles traveling from Chicago to the East Coast, then to Las Vegas to be on hand four days a week at the new restaurant.
I’m definitely the professional traveler of the group and have mastered the airport check-in. Being away from home so frequently, it’s easy to get lost in the shuffle, so my trick is to always pack specific signature items.
For me, that happens to be a couple of pairs of shoes from my Nike collection that borderlines on excessive. As simple as it sounds, it always helps me to remember who I am and focus on forward motion.
It’s fun to be ahead of the game, and that’s what my brothers and I did with Mercadito — we embraced the street fare we knew growing up. We opened our first Mercadito when everyone else was gravitating toward “high-end” Mexican food. We started with the simplest of things, the one thing that we grew up eating all the time: the taco.
You could say we elevated it to a distinctive experience, with fresh flavors and amazing ingredients and textures. In fact, the esteemed gentleman I’m filling in for by writing this column called it “some of the best Mexican food” he’s tasted.
We have a lot of great things in store for Mercadito and our new Red Rock location, from starting our lunch and brunch hours to engaging in community events like Restaurant Week and Life Is Beautiful to introducing seasonal menu items.
For the time being, you can regularly find my brothers and me perfecting Mercadito Red Rock, but don’t mind me if I’m looking a little jet-lagged and enjoying one of our Espada (swordfish) tacos.
Be sure to read our other guest column today from BMX stunt racer and reality-TV star Ricardo Laguna, and on Thursday it’s Las Vegas bandleader Louis Prima Jr. and Las Vegas artist Michael Godard.
Robin Leach has been a journalist for more than 50 years and has spent the past decade giving readers the inside scoop on Las Vegas, the world’s premier platinum playground.
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Situated at the entrance to Red Rock Canyon and minutes from the world-renowned Las Vegas Strip, Red Rock Casino, Resort & Spa offers five-star luxury in a modern property, built in 2006.
The casino features features 3,000 slot and video poker machines, 60 table games including blackjack, baccarat, craps, poker, roulette, a 206-seat Race and Sports Book with a 96-foot video wall a 20-table smoke-free poker room open 24 hours a day, a 600-seat bingo hall with separate smoking and non-smoking sections, open 7 days a week with sessions running every other hour from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m., a 20-seat keno lounge and a private high-limit room.
A recipient of the AAA Four Diamond Award since opening and named one of the world's best new hotels by Conde Nast Traveler magazine, Red Rock redefines casino resort architecture by incorporating natural light, a convenient layout and the comforts of a modern lifestyle.
The centerpiece of the property is the three-acre pool complex with 19 cabanas and swim-up gaming. Its location allows for balcony views from several of the property's restaurants and Cherry Nightclub. Aside from Cherry, guests can grab a drink at Onyx or Lucky or listen to live music in Rocks Lounge.
Dining spans the globe at Red Rock with more than 10 restaurants, including the Italian food of Terra Rossa, the Japanese fusion of Hachi, the Mexican spices at Cabo Cantina or a bit of everything at the Feast Buffet.
Unlike some resorts in town, Red Rock has activities for the whole family, such as a 16-screen movie theater and an arcade. The 72-lane bowling center features a VIP area and carpet that glows in the dark for after hours at Cosmic Bowling.