Jan 15
by Rolka Nation

First things first.  I’m sure you were all on the edge of your desk chairs wondering if I would take up the Venetian on its free suite offer.  Well alas, I have decided to pass.  Too many factors were going against on this particular one including funds and too short of notice to find a travel mate.  I was still pondering going solo, but no dice this time.  You win this round, sensible head!

Ok; on to the good stuff.  You may recall a few months back that I wrote a piece on maximizing your Vegas fun for as little bread as possible.  If you’re new to the site or want a refresher, click here.  The pointers outlined in that post were of the general variety and can come in handy for any Vegas trip.  But let’s get more specific shall we?  Countless hours of hardcore Pittsburgh Gil-style research has resulted in these gems for your perusing pleasure:

– Deuces Wild!  Now through 3/1, enjoy $22 nights, $2 Blackjack, $2 beer, $2 tequila, and $2 hot dogs and nachos at The Plaza and Vegas Club downtown.  You must have a 2 night minimum stay and most Sun-Thurs nights are available.  I have not been to The Plaza but apparently the Rat Pack show there is great fun.  I have been to the Vegas Club casino and enjoyed the layout and decor.  This is an outstanding deal.

– $1 Blackjack on The Strip!  Hard to believe these days; but true.  The Sahara is currently dealin’ out $1 BJ along with dollar beers, shots, and hot dogs near the NASCAR Cafe area of the casino. I’ve also read reports (although unconfirmed) that they open additional $1 tables on the main floor during the week.  While there, see if you can finish the Cafe’s 6 pound burrito and score it for free along with unlimited lifetime rollercoaster rides.  Don’t stay here though.

Rubbin' is racin' sound bite

– Free Grub!  As you all know, Ellis Island is my favorite off-the-beaten-path spot in Vegas.  Part of the reason why is because they always have great promotions.  Currently, play an hour at the tables and get a free entree in the great restaurant.  Play 2 hours, get 2 entrees!  Tables are limited here but usually include 1-2 $5 single deck BJ games.  Excellent promo.

– Free Booze Center Strip!  Planet Hollywood is offering a cool promo that runs through May.  Book a room for as low as $69 (many, but not all Sun-Thurs nights) and pick out your very own free bottle of wine, champagne, or liquor delivered right to your room.  That definitely meets my approval, especially considering the quality of resort at that price.

– Gambling AND Chicken Wings!  Not just a cheesy chain eatery, but also a cheesy Vegas hotel.  The Hooters casino resort is currently offering a sweet package that runs all the way to August.  Rates as low as $20 a night during the week and just $49 on the weekend can score you an upgraded room, $100 of slot promo play (which is pretty lame actually), 2 tickets to their comedy show (which is also probably lame, but can’t say for sure), and 2-for-1 breakfast.  I normally would not recommend a deal at a kitschy off-strip joint (and here is yet another reason why you shouldn’t actually stay at Hooters), but I actually kind of like the casino here for novelty’s sake and its easy walking distance to MGM, NYNY, Excalibur, etc.

– Half Price Hugo’s!  I never knew this service existed until recently.  You’ve probably all heard of or seen the Tix4Tonight booths spread over town where you can pick up vastly discounted same night show tickets.  Well, they have the same concept for restaurants now also.  Visit any of the Tix4Tonight locations, make a reservation for that night through them, pay $2 for a buffet or $3 for a nicer place, and get a voucher for half off your entree!  At the high-end joints, that can equate to $20-30 saved.  At least 30 restaurants and buffets are offered including some at Harrah’s, Mandalay, Caesar’s, and Bally’s.  And the crown jewel that is Hugo’s Cellar is also available here.  Go there and get an amazing meal, like I outlined here , for a mere $18 with this offer.  Note:  I have read that the half-price vouchers are for the entree ONLY so if it’s a steakhouse or similar, you’re on your own for the sides.

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!