Sep 17
by Rolka Nation

Oh Ellis Island.  My heart feels with warmth every time I think about it.  My soul recharges every time I walk thru its doors.  You may have read my brief musings on this wondrous little casino in a previous post, but it’s certainly deserving of a full review.  Read it, learn from it, go next time in town if you have not had the pleasure yet. 

On our recent visit, I had sold the gang on firmly committing a visit to Ellis Island Casino & Brewery before we even left Atlanta.  It didn’t take too much on my part; I’ve been singing its praises for a long time now.  So on our first full day in Vegas; Don, Lori, Kanuck, Lady Kanuck, and I all made way to the best unknown casino in town.

outside-ellis-island (2)First…some pertinents.  Ellis Island Casino & Brewery is on the grounds of a Super 8 Motel on Koval Lane.  It’s small and you certainly would never notice it unless you were looking for it.  Yes, it’s off-strip.  But, any cabbie will know it and you can actually walk to it.  It sits roughly 2 full blocks directly behind Bally’s.  If walking north on the Strip, turn right at the first street past Bally’s, pass the Westin on your left, and then hang your next right and you’ll see it beckoning for you.  If you get lost, simply follow your heart. 

Now I know what most of you snobs out there are thinking.  “A Super 8??  Hell no, I’m not going there!”  I urge you to get over that Matthew Broderick-esque way of thinking and take the plunge.  As I also mentioned in a previous post, I don’t like to splurge too much on essentials period, including in Vegas.  I’d rather not blow a ton of money on food and drink when I can better use that money for gambling and shows.  This is what fueled my original journey to Ellis Island. 

Simply put, the food at EI is incredible.  Not only is it extremely cheap for what you get, it’s also insanely tasty and hugely portioned.  The joint actually has 2 separate restaurants.  First…you have the normal, more traditional casino-style restaurant that is straight and to the left as you enter.  This place has a ton of good values such as a giant prime rib dinner for $10.99 and a steak & shrimp platter for just $8.99.  However, the best value here isn’t even on the menu.  

Just ask for the ol’ Steak Special when you order and you’re in for a treat my friends.  The Steak Special consists of a nice sized top sirloin, your choice of potato, the veggie of the day, a salad, AND a pint of one of EI’s homemade brews including root beer!  The price…$6.99.  In my opinion, maybe the single best dinner value in all of Las Vegas.  The steak is choice, the sides are solid, and throw in a freshly brewed beer to boot. 

Complete Insanity!The second restaurant truly shines as well and this is where us 5 dined on our recent visit.  The smaller patio restaurant to the right after entering caters solely to BBQ.  And people, this is some serious BBQ that would fit in perfectly in Texas, Georgia, Memphis, North Carolina, where ever.  You only have a couple of choices here, but go for the combo.  Half a rack of babybacks, half of a full chicken, baked beans, potato salad, slaw, Texas toast, and all the rich, thick sauce you want.  The platter is simply huge and can definitely be split between two if you want to go the wuss route.  Price…$8.99.  All in our party that night can attest to the sheer greatness of this meal. 

What can make all of this even better?  You can easily obtain a BOGO entree coupon (or 2 like we had) in the pages of the American Casino Guide or by hunting around online to essentially cut the price in half.  Can you imagine that meal for $4.50?!  Believe it. 

The only drawback to this is that the BBQ and Steak Special spots are completely separate even though mere feet apart.  Therefore, you cannot get the Steak Special at the BBQ restaurant and vice versa.  This can create quite the tough decision.  Being a BBQ connoisseur, that has won out for me the past few visits.  Don’t get me wrong, the Steak Special is outstanding as well so it’s your call.  I usually have a steak another night in Vegas, so I roll with the BBQ! 

I’m also an avid beer lover and this is where EI hooks me even further.  They make all of their beer onsite and have 5 different styles to choose from on tap.  A great Amber, a Light Lager, a dark Stout, a Hefeweizen, and usually a seasonal.  They also make a mean root beer as well.  The price, $1.50 a pint.  OR, free if playing.  Did I mention this place rules?  You can also get one of the best Vegas coupons as well through the same sources I mentioned earlier…4 Free Drinks.  Yep, no catch.  With the coupon, you get 4 free drinks including liqour.  Don, Lori, and I were pleasantly surprised and thrilled when we cashed one of these bad boys in for 2 beers for me and 2 Johnny Walker Black and Coke’s for them.  Stellar. 

On top of all this, EI’s casino is a fun little place to play as well.  They have a decent slot selection, a serviceable sports book, and a fun table game pit that always has $5 blackjack.  On this particular night, we all participated in our first ever Blackjack tournament.  A $25 buy-in gave you a chance at over $300.  None of us won, but we rode that $25 out for about 40 minutes and had a pretty unique gaming experience.  AND…Don got to sit next to what appeared to be a homeless, drunken construction worker with hair that would’ve made Don King jealous! 

The casino also runs great promotions as well and caters heavily to locals and off-duty employees of other casinos.  On a previous trip with Kanuck last year, I won a chance to spin a giant wheel in the pit that netted me 2,000 points on my player’s card.  That equaled $20 worth of comps in the restaurants.  We also got a T-shirt just for doing the aforementioned Blackjack tourney.  

Ellis Island is an outstanding off the beaten path casino with ridiculously good food and great prices.  I always consider it an essential 3 hour of so stop on each and every one of my Vegas trips.  The restaurant can have a wait during peak dinner times, so get there around 5ish, play a little bit, grab one of the great beers or another libation, and come hungry.  Check it out, you won’t be sorry.  And tell ’em Pittsburgh Gil sent ya!

Oct 16
by Don

Well I need to apologize for calling out my bud for not providing a guest post as promised.  Well good  ol’ Thunder Nips came through.  Thanks and Enjoy:


So myself and Kanuck recently took a quick two-nighter out to the motherland.  Vegas calls my  name hardcore about every 4-5 months these days and the only way to quiet the nagging voice in my  head is to just bite the bullet and go.  I’ve been going 2-3 times a year since mid 2005, so plenty of trips over the past 3 years.


This was a landmark trip for me in that it was my first one where I had gotten completely comped at Harrah’s.  Fun factoid: comped rooms don’t even include tax and other service fees therefore making them completely free.  Most people don’t realize this.  See, I’m already saving you money.


As I try to do with every trip, I make a point to do/try new things that I haven’t done on previous trips.  This is sometimes hard for me as I’m a creature of habit and like to stick to the places I love to hang out in during time in Vegas.  With this just being a 2 night trip, I had to maximize my time!


Kanuck had a last minute work change with his schedule so he did not arrive in town until about 4 hours after me so I had plenty of alone-time to start doing my thing.  I don’t mind spending a day alone in Vegas by the way.  Try it sometime; it’s empowering to know you can do exactly what you want to do with zero people to worry about satisfying or anything like that. 


So, I landed, caught a cab to Harrah’s (traffic is getting worse and worse in Vegas btw), checked in, threw my crap down in the room, and headed out.  I first visited the sports book and laid down a few baseball parlays for me and a friend and then highballed it to Bellagio.  Now, I only went to Bellagio for one reason only….the drinks!


Let me preface this next section by pointing out the fact that I am indeed a straight male.  However, ON OCCASION, I enjoy a fruity alcohol-filled beverage.  Fine beers will always be #1 in this Polish heart of mine, but hey…I’m a man of variety.  Through time spent on the message boards at, I’ve learned that many find the drinks at Wynn and Bellagio to be the best in town.  So I went over there for a little slot action for the main reason being to enjoy these drinks for free as I played. 


I first tried the infamous Bellagio cocktail.  I’ve heard many good things.  It was…….ok.  I imagine it’s a big hit with the ladies but it was simply too weak for me.  It’s apparently sparkling white wine with passion fruit puree mixed in it.  Not bad, but not great…very sweet.  However, I then moved on to the strawberry daiquiri and was simply the best I’ve ever had.  Made with real strawberries and a decent amount of alcohol, this hit the spot.  I highly recommend it. 


I also had aimed to try the pineapple mojitos at Wynn but did not get a chance to.  They’re apparently exquisite as well.


I then moved on to Flamingo for a little more slot action and to check the table limits.  Most limits were $10 so I decided to play a random slot and, wouldn’t  ya know it, I hit $300 on a single spin!!  My credits kept going up and up, people were stopping and looking, it was great.  There’s rarely a more uniquely thrilling moment when you hit something on a slot that you don’t know exactly how much you got and it keeps counting up…and up…and up.  By the time it got to 1200 credits, I was flying high!  What a start to the trip!


From here, I went to Casino Royale and had a strong craps session and then went to finally meet up with Kanuck at Harrah’s.  We mostly stayed near Harrah’s, had another decent craps session at Royale where I showed Phil the craps ropes, then back to Harrah’s where we both hit a bad streak of luck on blackjack.  Basic strategy by no means equals winning kids, let that be a lesson.


Day #2 centered around us getting over our respective hangovers and then heading to my favorite Vegas dive…Ellis Island.  EI is a tiny casino off-strip (behind Bally’s/Paris) that has the best cheap food in town.  They also brew their own beer on site and it’s of course free if you’re playing but only $1 a pint if you’re not.  Can’t beat that with a rubber snake.


But, the food…ahhhh the food.  Perhaps the single best BBQ value in the entire world is in this little hole in the wall joint.  I’m talkin’ a half rack of ribs, a half BBQ chicken, two ears of corn, baked beans, slaw, and garlic bread.  The portions are huge and it’s truly mind-blowing the first time you see the plate.  On top of that, it’s actually really good!  AND….$9.  An amazing deal, it could also be easily split by two lighter eaters.  You can also find an easily obtainable buy 1-get 1 entrée at Ellis Island coupons in the American Casino Guide book which essentially brings the meal down to $4.50 each for 2 ppl dining.  They also have a $7 top sirloin steak dinner with 2 sides and a beer.  Another outstanding meal to check out.  Go to Ellis Island, you won’t be disappointed.  Don’t expect much on ambiance though.  Oh yeah, they also have $5 BJ.


After this, we went to check out the comedian Vinnie Favorito at Flamingo.  Very funny, I highly recommend it.  He basically is a hardcore Italian dude who cracks on the audience for an hour.  Sounds simple, but it was hilarious.  Again, you can also find a buy 1-get 1 ticket coupon for this to make it very inexpensive.


After this, I played some more and headed to bed.  Overall, a great yet quick trip.  Funny though, I had unusually bad luck at table games but unusually great luck on the slots.  It’s typically the complete opposite.  For the trip, I did not come home ahead and but came home with over half of my budget still intact.  And that, my friends, is considered a winning trip in my book!