Las Vegas is a tale of two cities. You have the colorful, extravagant, Dionysus-inspired strip, which most tourists visit. There also lie pockets of other noteworthy areas and activities, which attract attention to those travelers who dig deeper. Summerlin is the arguably the classiest outlier of Vegas, and nestled therein, Tivoli Village. Inside Tivoli Village, you will find La Casa Cigars & Lounge.
Confession: I’m new to cigars. Two friends—and authentic cigar aficionados—have been tutoring me the last few months. One of these friends, Phil Maloof, is now introducing his own line of cigars. The other is Roy Boulos, who runs a friendly, premium, well-stocked liquor store in Summerlin. He also sells fine cigars and maintains a walk-in humidor. Most weekend evenings you will find a small crowd gathered outside his storefront, smoking and conversing at sunset.
One afternoon Roy drove Phil and me to his friend’s cigar lounge, a place he called “stylish and impeccable.” La Casa. Since that day I’ve been back six times.
For my day job, Las Vegas Top Picks, I peruse the city for the finest restaurants, shows, activities, bars, lounges, dayclubs, nightclubs, businesses, and poker rooms. This doesn’t always mean the most expensive, in fact, some places in Chinatown serve fantastic food for a peasant’s wage. I look for places that are extremely good at what they do, so good that visitors and locals rave about them every week. This could be an entertaining walk down Freemont Street that won’t cost you a penny, or driving Ferraris at Dream Racing around the Las Vegas Motor Speedway that will cost you three hundred. Or a cabana at Marquee Dayclub, or bottle service at XS Nightclub. For the business I founded, Las Vegas Top Picks, our motto is “We live here and showcase the stuff we love.”
I loved La Casa Cigars & Lounge from the first footfall inside. Or possibly before. To reach La Casa you stroll down cobblestone walkways, brick archways, and the Italian architecture of Tivoli Village. Outside you feel you’re in Florence. After entering La Casa, you feel as if the outside surroundings could be any international metropolis, and you’ve now reached an upscale sanctuary. You’re insulated by both old world and new world charm: classic Cuban art, including oil paintings of cigar plantations, music, and women; comfortable leather furniture; a long marble bar; large windows that offer warmth of sunlight (or coolness of starlight) mixed with overhead luxurious lighting; plus all the usual accoutrements sought by cigar lovers. Their walk-in humidor is kept at 70 degrees Fahrenheit and 70% relative humidity, softly lit, smells intoxicating, and offers a wide selection of cigars.
And that’s just the beginning. They have patios in front and back, to catch activities and festivities nearby, evening sunsets, overhead stars, and give those who may not smoke—but are friends of those who do—a little fresh air. Both patios are inviting and comfortable, with tones of dark brown and muted white. There is also a separate, nearly hidden, rear inner lounge, for members only, equipped with personal humidors. Ergo, La Casa is open to walk-ins as well as longtime patrons. The square footage of La Casa is 2566, and with the two patios, another 1100 feet outside.
This oasis has also branded itself a “cigar-inspired music lounge.” You get a variety of first-rate music every week. Cuban Latin jazz on Wednesday evenings, special guests on Thursdays, straight jazz on Fridays, and a Sinatra cover band for Saturdays.
People show up. People smoke. People enjoy music and drinks. People discuss life. People take their time…inhale, exhale, unwind. Shouldn’t every evening end like this?
I’ve had the pleasure to speak with the owner of La Casa several times, Ismail Houmani. You can call him Ismail. He represents to me—with what little knowledge I have of the cigar world—what every cigar lounge owner should be. He’s well-traveled, a consummate host, calm, poised, listens more than talks, but when he talks, people listen. And yes, he’s had plenty of cigar experience. He’s traveled to Africa, Honduras, The Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, and many other tobacco-growing regions in order to deepen his cigar knowledge. He visits plantations and talks with growers. He’s been doing all this for nearly two decades.
Or maybe longer. As a young boy in Lebanon, Ismail’s summers were spent running wild in his cousin’s tobacco fields. He was enchanted with the feel of dirt and tobacco leaves underfoot. One of his earliest memories involves his father bringing home a box of original Cuban Cohiba cigars; Ismail lifted the lid and immediately delighted in the distinctive aromas.
Isn’t this the kind of person you want running a cigar lounge? It’s in their blood, and in the air they breathe.
Ismail opened a La Casa de La Habana in Plymouth, then a La Casa in Toledo, Ann Arbor, Detroit, and now Las Vegas. He has a new cigar line that’s presently rolling out in Detroit and Vegas: “20 Minutes.” While Ismail enjoys taking his slow sweet time with cigars, he also listens closely to customer needs and flows with modern ideas. Sometimes people only have twenty minutes, say passing by on a lunch break, and after hearing “I only have twenty minutes” on countless occasions, he developed a cigar for this experience, too.
Ismail has hired solid staff. The manager, Jaxx, is a lovely convivial Asian who knows an extraordinary amount about cigars. Even more, Jaxx is skilled at pairing cigars with a wide range of drinks, for example, the popular ZING Vodka Red Velvet Chocolate Martini.
Whether you have twenty minutes or four hours, whether you are a greenhorn or aficionado, whether you are a member or non-member, whether you are a Vegas visitor or local, La Casa welcomes you and treats you well. While there, you may feel like the most interesting man—or woman—in the world. They definitely rank as a “Las Vegas Top Pick,” and Ismail hopes you will pick his lounge for a classy smoke soon.