Sunday, October 11, 2009


Lately I have been reading some fairly negative observations about visiting Las Vegas. Overpriced, tourist trap, only swanky restaurants, no inexpensive options and much more complaining. Some factual, some pure ignorance.

I agree. And not. Vegas is not for everybody. If you lived a sheltered life and don’t know much about the world outside your comfort zone, Vegas is not for you. You will get eaten up and spit out before you knew what just happened. If you have ANY streak of addictive personality, do not go to Vegas. That city is built with money from people like you.
On the other hand, Las Vegas lets you be whatever you want to be and will not judge you. Never.

Having spent some glorious years there, I feel however that those folks do an injustice to Las Vegas, because there is more, much more to Vegas than the strip. Just because your dinner was overpriced and not as good as your last meal on the Calgary tower, does not mean that the whole city is overpriced and full of bad chefs. It’s tough to judge a city by having spent three nights on the most touristy mile in this world.

During my last visit, which was a working visit, I just had to double check if I am blinded by those bright lights and maybe too blue eyed myself? I did not think so and that quick stint just confirmed that Vegas is a great city if you are willing to venture outside your security blanket.

For the very first time, I stayed downtown. When we lived there, we did not even visit downtown, so this was a first. $47.00 USD a night at the Golden Nugget. Taxes included. Did it on Priceline and got a newly renovated room with mountain view.
This was also the very first time I had a chance to see that light show you always hear about. Yes, Freemont Street experience. Compared to Stephen Avenue mall, great. A must see? No. But hold on, wasn’t that a Bryan Adams song? Go Canada!

Food. This post would be pages long if I were to write about all my passion of food in Vegas. So I keep it brief and about my last visit there.

Chipotle. Lots of them. The best fast food Mexican and for under 10.00 you are full. Corona included. Yes, a Cerveza.
In-N-Out Burger. Nothing in Canada comes even close. You can keep waxing on about the Burger Bus, it’s a dump. Sorry.
On the mid price side, well, we got Earl’s Joey’s and Cactus Club. In terms of chains. If you were to go there blindfolded, you would not be able to differentiate between any of the three. They might as well amalgamate.
My last evening there, I visited BRIO , a mid size chain serving American Italian food. We only had an hour, so we opted for the bar and appetizers. Happy hour. $2.95 specials for about 8 different appetizers.
What can you get for that here? Supersized fries at McDonalds? There, Carpaccio. Not a big order, however it’s a bargain. Not to mention the flatbread, Bruscetta, sliders, etc. all for $2.95.

I did not want to bring grocery stores into the discussion, but if the Strip is out of your (eating) league, less than two miles (ten bucks in a cab) south of Mandalay Bay is a Whole Foods. Which by the way, we will never get in Calgary. There they have three. Plus four Trader Joe’s and a couple of Cost Plus World Markets.
But then we got the Farmers Market. Great. Finally something Vegas does not have….

On the higher end side of dining, any comparisons are futile. My last fine dining experience in Calgary was on 17th Avenue this spring and while it was a good meal, it left me somewhat disillusioned. It’s not just the food that counts when you spend 150.00/person, the whole atmosphere is supposed to be part of it. And (Yes, one more comparison with Vegas) it just was not there. Sorry to say.

Vegas may be a fantasy, but it sure is a good one. Why don't I move back then if I love it so much you ask? I am happily married to a Canadian, that's why. And it's all about compromise isn't it?

Here are some websites for you to experience Vegas outside the tourist traps and even less expensive: (here you can see what people pay for hotels/cars) (check the flyers…)

Less than 50.00 a night

A different kind of waterslide.

Brio. Cool place. Inexpensive.

Sitting on a patio, October 8th, no heat lamps...


Steffen & Kiki, long time friends

Still a great grocery store

Shortcut chef, a great name for convenient food


Victoria said...

Sorry honey, you can't say it is because you are married to a Canadian, you classify Canada as your home too.

Allison the Meep said...

Oh man. Two things I miss most about the West coast (besides spontaneous trips to Malibu) are Trader Joe's and In N Out.