From college intern to running a steakhouse in just a few short years, Oscar Lopez, general manager at the Charcoal Room at Palace Station, is proof that hard work pays off.

When Lopez was born, his parents left Havana, Cuba, to come to America to make a better life for themselves. They landed in Miami but ended up settling in Las Vegas. Lopez’s parents have been working on the Las Vegas Strip for more than 25 years. “They’ve been working since the day they got here to give me a better life,” Lopez says. Growing up and seeing his parents work in the industry, he says, “I don’t think it’s a mistake I ended up here.”

Just how did Lopez end up running a steakhouse? In his senior year at UNLV, he was a part of a dozen students chosen to participate in Station Casinos’ very first internship program. He started out as a resort operations intern at Green Valley Ranch, one of Station’s local properties. “I learned every aspect of running a property,” he says. Lopez was also a part of the team that launched the popular holiday event Winter’s Village, and he spent one summer running the pool. The internship helped Lopez figure out that he wanted to work on the food and beverage side of hotel operations—and by December of last year, he was offered the position at Charcoal Room.

“What I like most about (this job) is that me and the chef work together,” Lopez says. “He rocks it in the kitchen. Really I’m as much a fan as I am the manager here, so the chef doing all these amazing creations with the food allows me the privilege to be able to share that with the guests.”

As Lopez continues on his path to success, he attributes part of that to his parents. “For them to put in all that hard work and all that risk for me so that we could have a better life—I cannot throw it away in any way, shape or form.”

Charcoal New York Sour

Charcoal New York Sour

Libation: Charcoal New York Sour

When Lopez isn’t out walking the floor of the restaurant and interacting with his guests, part of his job is to help create new cocktails. The Charcoal Room offers a menu of tasty specialty cocktails, with many of the recipes putting a spin on the classics. Are you a fan of the classic whiskey sour cocktail? How about trying it with the restaurant’s own twist to it? The Charcoal New York Sour blends together Bulleit Rye whiskey, fresh-squeezed lemon juice, simple syrup and is topped with cabernet sauvignon.

Benefit:

Dinner at the Charcoal Room starts at 5 p.m. but you can sneak in at 4:30 for happy hour drinks.

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