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.

Oct 11
by Rolka Nation

I recently recounted the gang’s Ellis Island visit on our most recent trip, so let’s move on to another evening shall we?  One of the many reasons to celebrate on this trip was that it happened to be during Kanuck’s 30th birthday!  Naturally, being the golden-hearted people that we are, we wanted to do something a little special to commemorate this momentous day that brought us our favorite fun-loving, foul-mouthed, airplane-dippin’ Canadian friend. 

A few weeks before the trip, the idea popped into my head to get a limo for a night out unbeknownst to Kanuck.  I shopped around and settled on Presidential Limo.  Their prices are reasonable and they come highly recommended in cyber-land.  I easily found their website at http://www.presidentiallimolv.com/ and booked us a stretch limo for a couple of hours.  The rate came down to $55 an hour, but we split this 3 ways..  With a fairly generious driver tip, it only came out to about $45 per person.  Not too bad, especially if you’re going to be hitting several venues.  If you have a group of 6 or 7, this is the way to go!  On top of all that, each ride comes with a bottle of champagne, plenty of bottled water, and roses for all the ladies in the party.  You’re also welcomed to bring along beer or other libations as you see fit. 

Kanuck knew not of the limo, simply that we were going out and to be down in front of the Hilton at 6pm.  Lady Kanuck did a good job selling him on this and that we’d simply roll up in a cab to pick them up.  Not this time!  Frankly, the surprise plan was executed flawlessly by all involved.  Good thing Matthew Broderick wasn’t with us, he would’ve blown it for sure.  Idiot. 

Popping some bubbly!Our driver, Kyle (I think), picked Don, Lori, Steff, and myself up promptly at Harrah’s and we headed over to the Hilton to get the Kanucks.  We pulled up as they were sitting on a bench out front and rolled right within 5 feet of them thanks to the lack of a sidewalk.  I opened the door and the evening of fun began.  You should’ve seen the look on that green-blazered birthday boy’s face. 

We popped the champagne and kicked things off right.  I should also note that the limo comfortably seated us 6, but you could easily fit 8 in there as well.  It also had nice long-stemmed champagne glasses, a tub of ice, and a good-sized TV complete with DVD player.  

At this point, Kanuckwaspresented with a choice for pre-dinner beverages.  All that was told to him was that he had to pick between “the sky”, “the dive”, and “the international”.  I had 3 places in mind, none of which I had ever been to, but all of which I’ve heard great things about.  “The sky” represented Voodoo Lounge on the roof of The Rio, “the dive” was the Double Down Saloon off-strip near Hard Rock, and “the international” was the Russian-themed vodka bar Red Square in Mandalay Bay.  Kanuck pondered for just a second and went with “the dive”!  This pleased me immensely.  I have seen the Double Down Saloon on two separate TV shows so I was jonesin’ to check it out.  I rolled down the partition and told Carl the driver (or was it Dale?), “to the Double Down Saloon good sir” and off we went. 

It's Bacon, It's Booze, It's Heaven!This place was fantastic and the complete contradiction of glitzy Vegas stereotype.  The Double Down was literally a dark, dingy, smokey punk rock bar.  Graffiti littered all 4 walls, the juke box was full of nothing but the likes of Black Flag, The Queers, and The Sex Pistols, and there we were dressed to the nines and rolling up in a limo.  The juxtaposition of the whole situation amused me greatly. 

We spent a good hour here boozin’ it up.  The place was practically empty (it was roughly 6:30pm) so we had free range.  I had a very well-crafted vodka & tonic followed by a beer.  Kanuck was in for a treat though.  From the aforementioned TV shows that I had seen about the joint, I knew that their specialty was a bacon martini.  So of course we made Kanuck have one.  The bartended poured it and he took an apprehensive sip.  What followed was a pleasantly suprised expression followed by another sip.  I tried it and it indeed was not bad and truly did have a distinct bacon flavor to it.  We asked the bartender how they make it and he pulled out a large vodka bottle with 3 giant strips of raw bacon soaking in it.  Sounds revolting, but don’t knock it ’til ya try it! 

The other house specialty is a little drink by the name of Ass Juice!  A homemade shot concoction consisting of God knows what, I downed one before leaving and it was on-point as well.  I then grabbed Kanuck and I two road-beers, called Rick the driver to let him know we were heading out, and off we went to our next stop. 

Now to the dinner portion of the evening.  Of course, with Kanuck being a true man’s man, a good steakhouse was certainly in order for this celebratory night.  As I’m sure you know, any highly-rated steakhouse on The Strip will certainly be pricey.  But I had heard tales of a great, vintage-style Vegas steakhouse downtown that wouldn’t cost one an arm and a leg and this was the one we settled on.  I’m talking, of course, of Hugo’s Cellar at The Four Queens.  Jason the driver pulled up and we parted ways for the evening.  Ted was a great driver and Presidential was a wonderful limo service.  Highly recommended. 

Satisfied Grins All Around... None of us had ever been to Hugo’s Cellar but, again, the online reviews were impeccable.  And let me tell you…the online reviews are 100% accurate.  This place rocked.  Down below ground level, Hugo’s does indeed have that old Vegas charm and was apparently a Rat Pack hangout in its day.  Dark mahogany tables, plush red booths, waiters in full tuxes, this place was straight out of 1958 and that much better for it.  

The food was outstanding.  Firstly, this is unlike most Strip steakhouses in that you get a full meal with your cut of meat…not that a la carte crap where you pay $45 for a steak PLUS extra for sides, salads, and desserts.  I picked out a nice ribeye with a bleucheese crust with a shrimp scampi add-on for about $36 and the others made their choices as well.  First up was the salad.  However my friends, this was no normal salad.  Our waiter brought a cart up to our table and he each made us our own individual salad customized to our liking.  The ingredients were choice and this was frankly one of the best salads I’ve ever had.  The main reason…the bleu cheese.  My. God.  I never knew bleu cheese could be so good.  It nearly reduced me to tears and a fetal-like position.  That might have been the alcohol though.  

Next up came my huge ribeye complete with more of this bleucheese goodness on top.  It was top-shelf as well.  The shrimp were also huge and absolutely fantastic.  The mashed potatoes and asparagus capped a picture-perfect meal at a very reasonable price.  After the main course, out came a big platter of chocolate dipped strawberries and apricots with fresh homemade whipped cream for dipping purposes.  Again…brilliant. 

Highly engorged and satiated, we headed back to Harrah’s for a little gaming action and called it a night.  

Parting Thoughts:Big Kanuck and Lady Kanuck at the Double Down, how cute...

– A limo is definitely a great idea for a group of people to split the cost between.  It’s affordable, safe, and luxurious.  Why not?

– Kanuck is a true wardrobe maverick

– The Double Down Saloon is badass

– Hugo’s Cellar might very well be a must on every future trip

– Everyone had a great time for Kanuck’s big 30th birthday evening

– Despite him telling me at least twice, I have no idea what the driver’s name was