VEGAS RESTAURANT ROUNDUP: Planet Hollywood Ending, Summer House Sprouting, the Wong Goodbye

Las Vegas still has a Planet Hollywood Resort, but not a Planet Hollywood Restaurant. A big component of the A-list rehabilitation of Las Vegas’ image, the Caesars Palace staple closed after 29 years this week.

The first Vegas outpost of the Hollywood-themed eatery opened in July 1994 with a party hosted by Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Bruce Willis. The movie mega-stars were commonly referred to as investors or co-founders, but really were just actors paid for their appearances and endorsements in company stock.

Bruce Willis, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Sylvester Stallone appear at the first Planet Hollywood Restaurant’s grand opening in Manhattan in 1991. (Image: Getty)

The real owners were Keith Barish, who came up with the idea of a “Hard Rock Café for the movies,” and restaurateur Robert Earl, who owned the Hard Rock at the time.

The movie memorabilia-brimming chain already had 10 global locations by the time it opened in the Forum Shops space occupied today by Carmine’s Italian Restaurant. But Las Vegas was its largest, doubling the usual seating to 500.

In 2012, Planet Hollywood moved to a second, smaller location on the Forum Shops’ terrace level. But that location was far from the shopping mall’s entrance, and the chain was, by that time, far from the household name it once was. (Confusion with the Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino, which opened in 2007 across the street without a Planet Hollywood restaurant, didn’t help.)

Six locations of the restaurant chain remain open.

Step into Summer House Santa Monica

A California-themed restaurant will open along with Red Rock Resorts’ Durango Casino & Resort late this year. Summer House Santa Monica — which opened its first location in Chicago in 2013, and another in Bethesda, Maryland two years later — will serve Golden State staples such as fish tacos, pasta, and salads with brussels sprouts and avocado.

The brand is operated by Lettuce Entertain You, a national hospitality group whose portfolio also includes the Eiffel Tower Restaurant and Mon Ami Gabi at Paris Las Vegas; Joe’s Seafood, Prime Steak & Stone Crab and RPM Italian at the Forum Shops at Caesars; and El Segundo Sol at the Fashion Show Mall.

Big Wong, a favorite of locals, served many dishes for under $5 for many years. (Image:

Comings & Goings

Three Asian restaurants are closing in the same Chinatown plaza at 5040 Spring Mountain Road. Big Wong, a favorite of locals since 2011, is shuttering on May 30 so its owners, Wai and Connie Lee, can retire. The restaurant charged less than $5 for many of its dishes for years, only recently raising their prices to keep up with inflation. A few doors down, Sweets Raku, the patisserie that has fused French and Japanese desserts for 10 years, will close on June 30. In a social media post, its owners blamed only “circumstances beyond our control.” Finally, a sister restaurant to Sweets Raku, Aburiya Raku, is also closing its doors on the same date.

China Mama, the Chinatown eatery that closed in March due to fire, has opened a takeout restaurant, China Mama Express, at 4250 S. Rainbow Blvd. It is unclear whether the former restaurant will reopen.

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