Just opened: Casa Calavera
WHAT: Casa Calavera
IT’S: A Mexican restaurant at the all-new Virgin Hotels Las Vegas
OPENED: March 25, 2021
WHO’S BEHIND IT: The Hakkasan Group, Chef de Cuisine Hugo Cabrera and General Manager Ryan Banda.
FUN FACT: A shrine near the check-in stand honors recently departed celebrities and public figures.
LOCATION: Virgin Hotels Las Vegas (4455 Paradise Road)
HOURS: Sunday to Thursday | 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Friday & Saturday | 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. (Happy Hour: Daily | 3 p.m. to 6 p.m.)
WEBSITE: A Mexican cantina with style, sizzle and yes, tequila.
INSTAGRAM: The food is nearly as colorful as the decor.
Why We Love It
As the brand-new Virgin Hotels property begins welcoming guests in Las Vegas, Casa Calavera is already proving to be one of the resort’s busier restaurants. It’s a casual spot with a Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) theme — best represented with murals that line the indoor and outdoor walls. The imagery is heavy on skulls, skeletons and vintage rustic decor, including a 100-year-old bartop in the center of the dining room.
Five Things You Gotta Try
The made-to-order guacamole comes in three versions: a classic-style with tomatillo and jalapenos, a more savory recipe with chorizo and thick strips of bacon, or a lighter, sweeter option that combines pomegranate, mint and apples.
The Mexican street corn is an especially flavorful appetizer. Four pieces on the cob arrive on wooden sticks, making it easy for dipping in a side of poblano ranch. The corn itself is already slathered in cotija, mayo and Tajin (a chile-based seasoning).
The taquitos are the most welcome surprise. The vegan dish exceeds expectations with a roasted corn, avocado and sweet potato filling. You’d never know it was prepared with plant-based cheese.
Seven different tacos (which can also be prepared as burritos) are served with charro beans and Spanish rice. Ask for ones with grilled shrimp, marinated in adobo for a rich, robust flavor.
Have your camera ready when ordering The Calavera for dessert. It’s a white-chocolate skull that melts away when topped with chocolate sauce, revealing a chocolate cake and strawberry sorbet center.
Great. What about The drinks?
Casa Calavera is in the process of expanding its tequila and mezcal collection. Yet you’ve already got plenty of options for agave spirits — especially in the cocktails, which include seven versions of a Margarita.
Try the Tamarita, which mixes the smoky taste of mezcal with tamarind. The wine selection is solid, but would be better enjoyed in a real wine glass instead of something that resembles a small, thick goblet. Otherise, Mexican beer is available by bottle or draft.
A Little More About The Atmosphere
Casa Calavera goes all-in on the Dia de los Muertos imagery with colorful murals, a flowered wall (in a skull design) and wooden throne outside the front door — all worthy selfie stations for your Instagram feed. The main dining room, dominated by rustic wood decor and television screens, has an open-air feel that draws in energy from a casino hallway.
If the weather is favorable, your best bet is a table on the outdoor patio. The space is illuminated with bistro lights hanging off a large tree to help set the mood. A sandy floor near the fireplace is an homage to the original Casa Calavera in Los Cabos. The patio will eventually overlook the Virgin Hotels pool deck (still under construction) and be part of a promenade that connects to other restaurants.
Appetizers, guacamole and salads $12 to $18, tacos and burritos $17 to $20, main entrees $20 to $32, sides $5 and desserts $9 to $14. Margaritas are $14 (12 oz.), $20 (30 oz.) or $22 for the spicy Caliente Margarita. Mojitos and other cocktails are $14 to $16, sangria is $14 and beer is $5 to $10 (although all Mexican beer is $9 by draft and $7 by the bottle).
If you’re just looking to get a feel of what Virgin Hotels is all about, a reservation at Casa Calavera is a great excuse to pay a visit. The food, drinks and atmosphere all add up to a fun, easy experience. If possible, request the outdoor patio. The restaurant replaces Pink Taco (from back when the hotel was known as the Hard Rock) and is definitely an upgrade. Try the daily happy hour or Taco Tuesday (when tacos are just $3 to $5) to save a few dollars.