THE FOLKS BEHIND THE ICONIC SAND DOLLAR LOUNGE ARE COOKING UP A MEXICAN RESTARAUNT

Since 1976, the Sand Dollar Lounge has been one of the most iconic bars in town. It got its start as an industry bar — located just off-Strip and open late for hospitality professionals just clocking out. And in the years since, it has made a name for itself for its killer cocktail menu, packed roster of live music, and — in recent years — as the site of really good pizza. Now, the folks behind the Sand Dollar Lounge are setting their sights north toward Centennial Hills, where they’ll soon open La Casa Juliette Mexican Cocina, a restaurant with Tulum-inspired furnishings, classic Mexican food, and a cocktail bar that incorporates a whole lot of fresh-squeezed juice.

When co-owner Anthony Jamison was growing up, his grandmother, Julie Castillo, cooked Mexican food in the hours and days that she would babysit. “I loved Mexican food growing up,” says Jamison. “And then I went to culinary school so I’m French-trained. I thought blending French techniques with what I learned from Grandma Julie, it all made sense.”

La Casa de Juliette Mexican Cocina will open next month in Centennial Hills, in the northwest corner of the Las Vegas Valley. Jamison, along with Chase Gordon and fellow Sand Dollar owner Nathan Grates, is going for bold yet unpretentious Mexican food with an imaginative cocktail program.

La Casa de Juliette will open at 7585 Norman Rockwell Lane, a space that has housed three previous Mexican restaurants, in mid-July. It will take on an airy, coastal feeling, channeling Tulum with rattan lighting, lots of plants, and what Jamison describes as an “ungodly” number of colored lightbulbs. The dining room will have terra cotta walls adorned with local art and 15-foot-tall windows. And, at night, those colored bulbs will come into play as the restaurant vibe turns from airy and beachy to dark and sexy after dark.

Jamison first met Juliette’s executive chef Eduardo “Lalo” Saavedra across the bar at the Sand Dollar. “I didn’t think we could afford Lalo but I knew Lalo would know somebody,” says Jamison. “He said ‘yeah I’ll find you someone.’ Three hours later he said ‘I want the job.’” Saavedra, who worked for chef Charlie Palmer for some 20 years says he always wanted to do a Mexican restaurant. While working in other kitchens, he would often imagine modifying French classic recipes to reflect the Mexican cooking he makes at home, like converting basted Dover sole at Andre’s at the Monte Carlo into a Mexican dish. Saavedra will cook enchiladas the way Grandma Julie used to, layering meat and tortillas in a sheet pan to feed six to 10 people. The team’s French influence appears in the street corn, which will be combined with bone marrow and salsa macha crunchy chili oil.

The cocktail menu will be familiar to those who frequent the Sand Dollar, with Gordon aiming to expand beyond the sour mix and batched margaritas he has seen at some Mexican restaurants. “There are so many Mexican and South American or Central American cocktails people aren’t aware of,” says Gordon. “We’re going to focus on taking those traditional cocktails and putting our own twist on them.” He’s thinking of Mexican espresso martinis, margaritas infused with seasonal fruit juice, and alcoholic aguas frescas prepared tableside. The biggest change to the space that the Sand Dollar team is making is in gutting and rebuilding the bar — making room for $10,000 worth of juicing machines for whipping up cocktails.

Where most of the year’s anticipated restaurant openings have focused on the Las Vegas Strip, the southwest area, and even Henderson, the Centennial Hills area hasn’t seen quite the same fervor. “That area in Centennial is somewhat lacking,” says Gordon. “There’s not a lot of independently run restaurants. It’s something we’re really privileged to offer that community.”

And then there’s the holiday aspect. The Sand Dollar has made itself a destination at Halloween with the Nightmare on Spring Mountain and again in December with Miracle on Spring Mountain. Both takeovers involve a ludicrous amount of decorations, themed cocktails poured in novelty dishware, and specialty kitchen takeovers, parties, and entertainment. Gordon says it’s “unavoidable” that, this winter, Juliette will get an over-the-top Christmas celebration, too.

2024-06-12T22:50:34Z dg43tfdfdgfd