Hugo’s Cellar inside the Four Queens Hotel and Casino in Downtown Las Vegas offers an elite dining experience in the midst of a relaxed, casual backdrop. With a string of prominent awards, including Wine Spectator’s “Award of Excellence” since 1993, Hugo’s Cellar strives for the utmost superiority of cuisine and service. Indulge in a broad array of continental cuisine, from Rack of Lamb to Beef Wellington to The Cellar's Champion Chateaubriand and Lobster for Two. Every char-broiled steak is aged for a minimum of 28 days to ensure the highest quality of taste. Hugo’s Cellar is the ideal arena for a romantic date with its tuxedo-clad servers and long stemmed roses for every lady upon arrival. The interior space is both timeless and refined with the exposed brick walls, aged grandfather clock, and large fireplace. Wine enthusiasts will adore the extensive wine list and in-house sommelier, readily available to assist in your selection of the perfect wine to complement any meal. In a restaurant where every entree includes complimentary bottled water, warm bread, cheese toasted lavosh, table-side salad, fruit sorbet, and white and dark chocolate dipped fruit, guests come not only for the meal, but for the luxurious experience and impeccable service.Read More ...
Hugo’s Cellar is one of only a few fine dining attractions in Las Vegas to truly stand the test of time, holding strong to the classic practices, like large portions, and absolutely impeccable service, reminiscent of a time in Las Vegas past. Away from the strip, inside the historic Four Queens Hotel on Fremont Street in Downtown, this iconic restaurant has been host to tourists and locals alike since 1976, and to this day, you can find the dining room completely full on any given night of the week. Everyone is free to roam the long walkways of Fremont Street, which was once a main thoroughfare for cars in this neighborhood. Now it is completely covered by the world’s biggest “big screen” and the street is full of live entertainment, novelty kiosks, shops, bars, and interesting people gathered together for the “Fremont Experience”. Bands rock out, thrill seekers fly overhead on zip-lines, and everywhere you look, people are smiling and having a good time.
It’s here that you will find what many call the real Las Vegas experience, so a friend and I park in the Four Queens garage, located just after 3rd Street on Carson Avenue, before heading out to paint the town red. Tickets for the self-park garage can be validated for all of Hugo's guests, so no worries there. We take the elevator down and make our way through several excited groups of people to enter the hotel. The crowds are kind of surprising, and I think to myself, “I can’t believe it is only Monday…” We weave through the brightly lit casino floor, full of poker players, black jack tables, and a sea of slot machines, before we arrive at the entrance to Hugo’s Cellar, just around the bend from the cages.
The restaurant itself is actually one level below the main floor, hence the “cellar” portion of the name. As we walk down the short flight of steps, it feels as though I’ve left the noise and excitement of the brightly lit casino completely behind. I find myself in a world of dramatic, dim lighting provided by a series of overhanging antique chandeliers and small, decorative lamps. As I stare more closely at the lamps, I realize that every glass shade is actually the shape of a blooming rose, and I admire the delicate craftsmanship. The space is seemingly separated into fourths. At the bottom of the stairway is the quaint bar and lounge. There is not a set list of signature cocktails here. Instead, Hugo’s features a more traditional, made-to-order bar, with enough stock to fulfill most any drink order, with four available bar stools and a couple of small wooden tables. I’ve heard this bar makes a pretty mean martini, and with the nightlife of Fremont Street waiting for me after dinner, I fully intend to try out one of the house favorites.
Immediately to the right, I am greeted by Claire, who welcomes me with a smile and leads me past the well-stocked wine cellar, then on into the first portion of the main dining area. The bronze chandeliers with their emerald green shades cast a very soft glow about the room. The entire scene quietly screams “This is TRUE Las Vegas Charm.” Every table is covered and set with royal blue tablecloths, and neatly folded, pastel blue napkins rest atop white plates with dark and light blue trim. The walls, as well as much of the ceiling and all of the support pillars, are constructed of burnt-red brick, really selling the atmosphere of a private wine cellar. On my left, there are four rectangular booths along the wall, each designed to seat a party of four comfortably. For a bit more privacy, the booths are separated by glass window panes with small white rose designs in each corner and rich wooden frames supporting matching hardwood paneling overhead. Claire offers us the booth on the end of this wall and allows us a moment to settle in.
On the opposite wall there are six semi-circle booths. At each end, there is an extra large booth for parties of up to ten, with four average-size booths between them. I notice that each is decorated with a unique, original painting, and as I look at a few of the occupied sections, I see several long-stemmed roses in glass vases. The flowers are given to each and every lady who dines at Hugo’s, and it’s quite apparent that this simple gesture works wonders towards creating a special night. The center of the room is occupied by several more tables with cushioned wooden chairs, each capable of seating parties of four, and more seating extends further back, beyond the wall of the booth. In this back half, there is a private room with seating for up to 15 guests, as well as a few more booths and several tables along the walls and occupying the center floor.
Our server for the evening approaches, decked out in a crisp, black tuxedo, bowtie and all. He introduces himself as Jaime and immediately offers us complimentary bottled water, which is kept on ice near every table. I accept the gesture with a smile, happy to know that I am not drinking tap water and grateful for the prompt service. Jaime then introduces me to Mario, who pours our water into large, stemmed glasses, and Eric, who will also be assisting with this evening’s meal. It’s obvious that these guys are pros, and before my dinner begins, I feel confident that I‘m in very good hands.
As I glance at the menu, it’s nice to see a broad assortment of different steak, seafood, and specialty delights. Being very open to tasting new things, I ask Jaime what he would recommend to begin my tasting, and he quickly responds, “The Hugo’s Hot Rock Specialty for Two is definitely a must try. It’s the most popular appetizer because it tastes great and the experience is entertaining.” I take his word for it; after 28 years at Hugo’s, this man surely knows a thing or two about the menu. With my first course chosen, I ask to please speak with one of the sommeliers about a bottle of wine. He leaves to fulfill the request, and as I set my glass of water down, Mario passes by to top me off. He also leaves us with fresh dinner rolls, crispy lavosh, and a small plate of whipped butter that has been sculpted into the shape of a rose. The rose is the theme here, and I can tell that romance is one of Hugo’s fortes.
It seems that no detail is overlooked, and it’s no wonder to me why at a quarter ‘til six, the dining room is already beginning to fill. Before the appetizer arrives, we are approached by Jon, one of the two sommeliers available this evening. After briefly gathering a sense of my taste, he recommends something bold and red for the oncoming appetizer. With an expert to assist me, I leave the decision making to him, trusting that he will impress me. Soon, he returns with a 375ml bottle of the Seghesio Family Vineyard’s 2008 Old Vine Zinfandel from Sonoma County, a brilliant choice. Just one of nearly 400 selections that Hugo’s Cellar has to offer, the Zin has a somewhat spicy aroma, enhanced by the large base of my wine glass. Jon chose this type of glass especially for this wine, and he tells me, “Expect a lot of berries on the front and a bit of pepper on the back.” I smile as the flavor transforms from sweet to spice, and I enjoy the bite at the end; it’s crisp and refreshing.
This is a well-chosen complement to Hugo’s Hot Rock, and it’s obvious to me that Jon has a true passion for his trade. He talks about how much he enjoys finding rare wines to add to his collection here, and tells us that he makes sure to taste every single bottle he recommends, to assure his patrons of the quality, he adds with a wink. Having access to a long list of different varietals spanning France, Italy, Spain, Germany, New Zealand, Australia, Chile, South Africa, and many different California regions, he seems to have no trouble coming up with the perfect pairing for any item the menu has to offer. After our lively chat, he is summoned to assist another guest, and I am left to admire the wine he has chosen for me until Jaime is ready to present our first course.
Hugo’s Hot Rock is one of a few different items on the menu that is still prepared tableside, just as it has been since the restaurant opened many years ago. With such an enduring tradition still intact after so long, I’m pretty curious to see the spectacle for myself. The dish features two medallions of filet mignon, marinated ahi tuna, breast of chicken, and shrimp, along with three signature dipping sauces. To pull this off, flat slabs of granite rock are placed in the oven at 500 degrees for several hours. The hot rock is brought to the table and set up on top of an octagonal wooden board. Jaime places each item on the rock along with a bit of garlic and shallots for added flavor, and the meat instantly begins to sizzle.
With small metal tongs, he carefully turns the delicate ahi and checks the chicken. As the meat cooks, he tells us that our three sauces are a traditional béarnaise, spicy mustard, and a plum sauce. The delicious aromas filling the air have me anxious to test each item in the different sauces and explore which flavor combinations I find most enjoyable. Once the cooking process is complete, the wooden board is placed in the center of the table and we are invited to dig in. Equipped with small plates, sliced lemon, and our own metal tongs, we dish out each item and commence with the tasting.
As I work my way across my plate, I take my time to note the different aspects of each protein and the three specialty sauces. The béarnaise is light and creamy, with a touch of fresh tarragon, a great pairing for both the chicken and the filet mignon. The hot mustard is loaded with horseradish. I mean, it really packs a punch that complements the salty shrimp and the tender, flaky ahi. The plum sauce (my favorite) is thick and sweet. I personally like it best with the steak, but to be honest, it’s quite good with everything. The natural flavors of each item are very straightforward, and the enhancements of each sauce create an opportunity to experiment with different flavors at my leisure. I’m also impressed by the efficiency of such a novel cooking method. The steak is a near perfect medium rare, and the chicken is done all the way through. Everything is done in a matter of minutes using nothing more than, quite literally, a very hot piece of rock. Round one of this bout goes to Jaime for his confidence in the dish; this is definitely an appetizer that will be talked about amongst friends later on.
For the next turn of this adventure, Jaime tells us that Eric will be hand crafting a couple of individualized salads, yet another portion of the dinner that will be prepared right before our eyes. He approaches with a cart full of the many different toppings, dressings, and utensils. First, we must each choose one of the three available dressings: traditional Caesar, creamy pepper, and honey-orange walnut vinaigrette. While my friend sticks to the Caesar, I try something a bit new to me and opt for the sweet vinaigrette. As Eric begins to construct the first salad, Jaime tells me that the tableside salad service is included with every entrée, along with a special surprise ending, which has me slightly intrigued. The available ingredients for our salads include chopped hard-boiled eggs, beige shrimp, artichoke hearts with hearts of palm, sweet red onions, peeled red tomatoes, chunks of fresh blue cheese, sliced mushrooms, croutons, roasted pine nuts, anchovies, fresh-grated parmesan cheese, and fresh-ground black pepper to finish them all off. It’s a pretty impressive spread; we’ll see what I can make of it.
With my own salad now under way, I watch as Eric quickly moves from one ingredient to the next and organizes each addition with the ease of a long time vet. While many places toss their salads, Hugo’s arranges each ingredient in an organized fashion over the plate, before pouring a generous helping of the selected dressing over the top. This method allows us to once again taste each part of the complex dish in whichever order we so desire. The honey-orange walnut vinaigrette is tart and refreshing, a nice change of pace from my usual ranch-on-everything attitude. It’s the first thing I taste with each bite, and I’m happy with my decision to explore new ideas.The blue cheese is obviously high quality, and all of the different veggies are at the peak of freshness. The peeled tomatoes are sweet, and the lack of the tough peel is a subtle pleasure. The shrimp and anchovies add a touch of salty ocean flavor that is balanced by the powerful flavors of the hearts of palm, artichoke hearts, and red onions. The croutons and the pine nuts add a brilliant crunch to the mix and the chopped eggs are great source of quality protein.
The presentation is certainly a site to see, and I find that I quite prefer being a witness to every detail of my food’s preparation. Here within Hugo’s Cellar, this luxury is offered to all. Before leaving to another table with his salad cart in tow, Eric smiles as if to say, “Bon appétit!” I’m typically more of a carnivore, especially when it comes to dining out, but I must confess that I am enjoying every bite of my custom salad.
For the main event, my friend has chosen the Chilean Sea Bass, and I await the Filet de Boeuf - Atlantis. But before we can commence, we are offered individual kiddy-cones, each topped with a small scoop of house-made raspberry sorbet. It is very tart, and the presentation is so simple, I can’t help but smile. The sorbet serves as a palate cleansing intermezzo between the salads and the main courses, and it is included as a sweet treat for anyone who orders an entrée. It feels a little bit silly, being a grown man enjoying my free kiddy-cone, but I don’t care because it’s fun to eat and it tastes delicious. The best part is, there is no clean-up required, since I always eat the cone.
The Chilean Sea Bass is one of three fresh fish entrees that are offered daily but change from time to time. Right now, the other two options are Salmon and Ahi Tuna. In the spirit of catering the every want and need of their guests, Hugo’s Cellar offers four different preparation methods. My friend, upon recommendation from Jaime, takes his fish “Sauce Nantua” style, on a bed of crab meat, topped with luscious shrimp sauce. Other options include “Grilled au Naturel” with herb butter, “Grilled New England” style with highly seasoned bread crumbs, and “En Pappillote” served with shallots, white wine, julienne carrots and leeks, mushrooms, and butter. I find it quite convenient that they make everything so simple and clean, from the fresh fish down to the Alaskan King Crab Legs, Mediterranean Style Scampi, Broiled Australian Lobster Tails, and Sea Scallops Celebration which features jumbo sea scallops sautéed with a julienne of vegetables in a Chablis, lemon butter sauce. All entrees also include seasonal vegetables, like herb roasted wax beans and baby carrots, as well as a choice between roasted garlic whipped potatoes, parsley red potatoes, or wild rice. Jaime recommends the roasted red potatoes for my friend’s fish entrée. For the Filet de Boeuf - Atlantis, I believe the garlic whipped potatoes will do just fine.
While Hugo’s Cellar certainly provides ample selections from the sea, the restaurant is actually slightly more geared towards their high quality, Creekstone Farms Midwestern, corn fed, certified Black Angus beef that has been aged a minimum of 28 days. There are seven different cuts of various size and type, from a 16-ounce Ribeye Steak to New York Strip, Filet Mignon, and Hugo’s Renowned Slow Roast Prime Rib. Hugo’s Cut of prime rib weighs in at a whopping 24 ounces! Every steak is char-broiled to order then served with mushroom ragout, bordelaise sauce, and optional bleu cheese or horseradish crusts. In addition to the premium steak options, Hugo’s also provides a bevy of specialty dishes including Rack of Lamb, Veal (Oscar, Marsala or Au Natural), three different chicken entrees, Beef Wellington, and the Duckling Anise Flambé, which is yet another signature dish that the talented wait staff prepares at the table for their guests. It really blows me away that the service is so interactive and essential to the experience here.
The Filet de Boeuf – Atlantis is a 10-ounce filet wrapped with bacon, served on a bed of lump crab meat with béarnaise sauce and two pre-halved crab claws. The meat is accompanied by thick, creamy, roasted garlic whipped potatoes, a medley of the seasonal wax beans, baby carrots, and mushroom ragout with an herb-crusted, red tomato garnish. The meat is seared with dark, crisscrossing grill marks, and the presentation of the plate flows smoothly from the mellow, cream colored potatoes with flakes of brown skin to the deep orange crab shells and carrots, then back to the pale white and bright green of the wax beans. The red tomato stands out in stark contrast to the different shades of tan and brown from the mushrooms, meat, and bacon. With steam still rising from the piping hot steak, I begin with a fork full of fresh veggies to prep my palate for the savory beef.
The beans and carrots are crisp and peppery, offering a decent depth of flavor for an otherwise plain legume. The potatoes are also a success. They are very buttery, and the garlic is not overpowering. Instead, it acts as a more subtle, initial flavor that lingers on my tongue after each taste. My request for medium rare is executed perfectly. The filet is thick, and my knife glides easily through the meat to expose the warm, pink center. This cut is a bit more on the tender side than the small sample from our hot rock appetizer, and the addition of bacon creates a very bold, salty and savory combination that pushes this dish to the limit. Beneath the steak, the lump crab is saturated with creamy béarnaise, adopting strong notes of fresh tarragon that are complemented well by my crisp wine. The crab claws are first steamed, then chilled, providing a change in pace from the other hot items. Each claw offers a generous helping of tender, high quality meat that is not overly salty, and the pre-halving creates a convenience that I truly appreciate. As I steadily clear my plate, I ask my friend what he thinks of the Chilean Sea Bass, but I catch him with a mouth full of food.
Once he regains composure, he tells me that it’s a great mixture of different types of seafood flavors. The fish itself is juicy and flakes apart with a fork. The simple, clear-cut flavor of the white meat is amplified by the bold sauce and sumptuous serving of small beige shrimp. Neither outshines the other; they create a delicious balance of complementing characteristics. The potatoes are roasted all the way through with the skin attached, and the parsley adds a bit of flair. He also enjoys the noticeable peppery flavor of the veggies, and he says that the fish is obviously very fresh. I’d say he likes it a lot, since his plate is already nearly clear of food.
Soon after, we complete our entrees, our dishes are removed and Jaime presents a silver tray with white and dark chocolate covered strawberries, apricots, and figs. This is the “surprise” ending to our main course, the final complimentary treat included with every dinner. The strawberries are huge, and each is left attached to a long, green stem, covered with dark chocolate. But this is by no means our dessert; it is merely a refreshing snack between dishes.
As I enjoy the fruit, my wine has finally run dry, so I ask Jon in passing, “What is the most ordered drink at Hugo’s Bar?” To which he replies, “That’s got to be the Raspberry Lemon Drop. You should try it if you’re feeling brave!” Intrigued, I accept the offer and continue sampling the figs, which are surprisingly good, coated in white chocolate. When the cocktail arrives, I am taken by surprise. Rather than a simple glass with a single drink, Jaime presents a sugar-rimmed martini glass with a fresh lemon wedge in one hand, and in the other, he carries a small bucket of ice, with an 8-ounce, glass carafe full of the vibrant pink liquid. He pours my drink at the table, then leaves the bucket of ice with the remaining mixture for me to pour as I see fit. John drops by to check my satisfaction and tells me that this cocktail is all alcohol, made from a simple mix of raspberry vodka and Chambord blackberry liqueur, with a hint of lemon juice. With four 2-ounce shots in all, this cocktail is more than generous; it’s unheard of! Jon also tells me that the record for the most consecutive Raspberry Lemon Drops is seven, “…the poor bloke drank seven of them. Then he had a bottle of wine before passing out. It was incredible!” With a bottle of wine down already, I have no intention of coming anywhere near this record, and as my first glass is poured, I realize that there is still enough for two refills in the carafe.
The sugar on the rim of the martini glass prepares me for the tart flavors, and surprisingly, the alcohol is hardly noticeable. I must say, it’s delicious, and as I continue drinking, Jaime even provides a fresh, sugar-rimmed glass for the remainder of the concoction. Again he surprises me with how attentitive he is to the happenings at our table. I could get used to this sort of treatment.
As our adventure is nearing the end, it appears that we have one last spectacle to behold. The dessert cart features a sweet array of different pastries, cheesecakes, crumbles, and cream pies that are changed periodically to reflect the season. But there are two dishes that never leave this menu: the Bananas Foster and the Cherries Jubilee. Tonight we will be trying both specialties, and anticipation mounts while we watch Jaime prepare his ingredients and ignite the flame to begin cooking the desserts. He begins with the cherries, adding cherry liqueur, brown sugar and butter. He ignites the pan, putting on a spectacular show of flambé skills as he sprinkles fresh cinnamon over the flames. Once the mixture is ready, he pours the cherries into a large, stemmed glass with fresh vanilla ice cream, and then he begins the bananas. This second dessert is prepared with spiced rum and banana liqueur, flambéed, and sprinkled with cinnamon, much the same as the cherries. It is also poured into one of the large stemmed glasses and served fresh.
Watching Jaime work with the flaming skillet is exhilarating. I feel the heat and I smell the cinnamon as it hits the fire. As soon as he is finished, I eagerly begin working my way through the decadent, warm and cold desserts. The cherries are bursting with flavor, and the spice of the cinnamon is smoothed out by the rich ice cream. The bananas practically dissolve as I chew, and the mixture of sweet liqueur thickens as the ice cream drops the temperature. Simple, sweet, and creamy are the best words to describe the signature desserts, and after so many years of service, Hugo’s still puts on a flaming show to close the meal with some style.
Before we leave, I request one final drink to help settle my now full stomach. Jaime recommends the Cappuccino, which is served with Kahlua and brandy, then topped with whipped cream. Though he assures me this is the most popular of the specialty drinks, I decide that a simple Espresso Coffee will suit me just fine. He brings the steaming coffee in a small cup on a miniature saucer with a wooden stirring stick coated in rock candy. The sweet stirring stick makes me laugh aloud, bringing back memories of making my own rock candy as a child. I sip my coffee and reflect on my meal, pleasantly surprised by my experiences from the evening.
Hugo’s Cellar is truly an ode to old Las Vegas charm. Genuine hospitality paired with hearty helpings of good, quality food is the key to so many years of success. Since opening in 1976, not much has changed here, and why would it? The service is beyond professional; every member of the attentive team who helps us throughout the meal is friendly, courteous, and eager to please at every turn. The atmosphere is quiet and feels secluded from the outside world, adding to the allure of Hugo’s reputation, and the complimentary extras offered with every meal are a huge plus. From the bottled water (filled after every sip), to the custom tableside salads, sweet sorbet intermezzo, and the fresh fruit dipped in chocolate, I feel like some sort of V.I.P. being given the special treatment.
Overall, Hugo’s Cellar can be called nothing more fitting than a vintage Vegas classic, able to put smiles on the faces of all who come wandering down their steps. I have definitely been wooed by the charms beneath the casino floor at the Four Queens, and as I return to the real world, with all its bright lights, busy gamblers and noisy machines, it feels like my dream dinner has ended. All I want to do is fall back asleep and pick up where I left off. Needless to so say, I shall return the very next chance I get, and next time, I’ll be back with more friends.
Insider’s Tip: Be sure to have your parking stubs validated before you head back to the car. If you validate your ticket at Hugo's, there is no time limit for the night. So take advantage of one last complimentary deal before you go!
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I proposed to my wife in Hugo's 14 years ago and celebrated our 13th year anniversary last week. I didn't know if it had gone downhill but I was pleasantly surprised to be taken back in time to the same cool restaurant that I have known for over 20 years. Many of the staff are the same and I remembered their faces. The Sommelier is a huge asset to the restaurant as he has picked out incredible wines every time I visit. Once again he recommended a wine that blew me away. The food is still delicious with a traditional gourmet room style. The tableside salad is still a great highlight to the evening. We love Hugo's and would visit more often if we didn't live on the other side of town. Hugo's is classic old Vegas with class!
Wow! No detail was left undone. Outstanding service, food, price, and the ambiance is what I liked. Not an ala carte price place, you order a steak, you get the meal. Not like a steak on the strip and $125 later you create a meal. Even dessert is included. 3 waitstaff assigned to your table was great. Highly recommend reservations because the restaurant is very small and always full. Glad I had mine!
A very average dining experience. Over priced for the quality of the food.