When Tony DePasquale moved to Las Vegas he may have had bigger things in mind than busing tables. He’d grown up in Southern California and played baseball for UC Riverside. “I got injured and kind of missed my window there,” he recalls. “To be honest with you, California didn’t present a lot of options for a guy like me. I moved here (to Las Vegas) in 2001 with one hundred bucks and a small pickup full of stuff, and I rented a room from a friend. I enrolled at UNLV.”
In order to keep a roof over his head during his college years, DePasquale worked in restaurants and bars in about every capacity; busser, dishwasher, server, and bartender. “I enjoyed the restaurant business,” he says. “Then, I got a degree from UNLV in finance and an MBA. I went down that road and have been very successful.”
The restaurant franchise model had always appealed to DePasquale as a solid investment possibility. After considering over twenty different concepts, he narrowed his search down to five, then settled on one. “Big Whiskey’s had real opportunity to be a big national brand and that’s something I wanted to be a part of. There were very specific things I was looking for in an organization. I wanted something with a good business model behind it. Something that already had some success and the potential to have a bigger landmark in the future.”
Role Models and The Right Chord
DePasquale was impressed with how Big Whiskey’s evolved from a college bar in downtown Springfield, MO, to a brand that grows better and better with each expansion and opening. “It was important for me to be able to have some leeway with the model here in Las Vegas. The Midwest customer is not the same as Vegas. There is some give and take. We designed our drink program locally with Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits. The food model hasn’t changed. Big Whiskey’s is strict about that. We hit the right chord of flexibility to make this model something that will really work in Vegas.“
With an easily accessible location at a popular corner in The Town Square shopping center on Las Vegas Blvd., South, the proud proprietor describes the Big Whiskey’s menu items as classic Americana ‘fun-fare’. “We have a robust menu with a little bit of something for everybody and a unique price point from hand cut steaks to craft burgers. I’ll put it right out there, right now, we have the best chicken wings in the city,” boasts DePasquale. “We have twelve dipping sauces. All our salad dressings and dips are made in house from scratch. Even our potato chips are hand cut and made to order. Our ribs are phenomenal!”
From Front to Back and In Between
DePasquale says that as proud as he is of the front of the house at Big Whiskey’s, he’s prouder of what was done to the kitchen in order to handle the volume of food items on the menu. “The old operator had closed down and left a kitchen that was a total disaster from function to engineering. We put a lot of money into remodeling it for safety, efficiency and cleanliness. We have an automated fryer system so you never get old oil. Our food comes out hot and fast. We put in new water filtration, water softener and heating systems. That kitchen just hums.”
And let’s not forget the whiskeys. Among the 172 labels available to date, there is certainly something for everybody: from the casual sipper to the pickiest of connoisseurs. Whiskeys will be available on tap and Whiskey Flights are also available, beginning at $18. There are twenty-seven TV’s mounted throughout the spacious restaurant for football and sports viewing. “I would classify us as a place to celebrate sports but not a sports bar. We have a cool, mellow vibe in general. We love the Golden Knights and have their wine and eight local beers on tap. We’re more upscale than your traditional sports bar,” says DePasquale.
Big Whiskey’s grand opening will take place over St. Patrick’s Day weekend, March 15-17. In conjunction with the 2019 Southern Nevada Make a Wish Foundation ‘Walk for Wishes’ event, the restaurant is donating 10% of food and drink sales from 10 a.m.- 3 p.m. to the non-profit organization. Big Whiskey’s grand opening sponsors, Lambay Whiskey and Jim Beam, will have special offers and giveaways and one lucky person will win free chicken wings for a year.
Located at 6587 S. Las Vegas Blvd, Suite 196, on the northwest corner of Town Square, Big Whiskey’s American Restaurant & Bar Las Vegas is open Sunday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to midnight and Friday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 1:30 a.m. A special happy hour menu, including half-off food and $3 off select drinks, is available Monday through Friday from 3 p.m. to 6:30 p.m., nightly from 10 p.m. to close, and all day Sunday. For more information, please visit www.bigwhiskeys.com or call 702-983-2900.