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Sep 1, 2009 01:05 PM

Las Vegas - Could I stay and dine well for less?

I've hit most of the high end places and all of the top end steakhouses so - because I could - I decided to try something a bit different on this business trip. Could I stay in comfortable accomodations and eat well at a reasonable price. Now IMO there is nothing like sitting at the food bar at L'Atelier but honestly, when you are dropping $200pp it ought to be great. What happens when you spend $2.95 on dinner?

First, bonus coverage. Because I got a lot start from Phoenix it looked like by the time I stopped en route for dinner I was going to hit my Las Vegas hotel about 9pm. Decided to stop in Laughlin instead and have a quick dinner in the hotel. Stayed at Aquarious in their basic room with flat screen television upgraded case goods, very nice wall covering, art, carpet Etc. All high end with a big bathroom and a view of the Colorado River. $20 a night. Yes, I did not leave off a digit but this easily could have been a $200 hotel room elsewhere. Opted for a quick dinner from their buffet and selected carefully. Fixed an entee sized salad from the salad bar, topped it with roasted chicken and a couple of cooked to order catfish fillets. Tasted the all you can drink (bad) wine and the (ok) beer that was included in the price. $16. A great deal? No, but it was good, fast and inexpensive.

Drove to Las Vegas early in the morning and was in business meetings all day. Got to my hotel exhausted about 6:30pm. Stayed at the Tuscany Suites on Flamingo a long but walkable block off the strip. They must have 50 acres of nicely landscaped grounds with three story buildings housing "suites." My standard suite was about the same size as an Embassy Suites suite but was not divided into two rooms. Not sure why since it would have cost very little. Since I was by myself it didn't matter. I pretended I had a big bedroom and a big living room even though it was all one big room. Sofa, arm chair, dining table, desk with good task lighting, and even a mini kitchen with refrigerator. $19.50 per night! Not as nice as the Aquarious but this was just off the strip in Las Vegas. Included some free drinks, a couple of two fer dinner coupons and the deal below.

Dinner 1: Tuscany Gardens in my hotel. Only because I was tired and I had a $10 off coupon (on a $20 food purchase or $20 on a $40 food purchase) in my check in stuff did I check this out. It reminded me of the Italian places my parents used to take me to when I was little; Plastic ivy with little white lights, ersatz Italian music and every menu cliche in the book. They even delivered your food on carts! This had all the potential of being a bad meal. I ordered smart. Pollo Franchese and a house salad. I claim operator error on the salad. In a place like this "more" is everything. And although the salad was excellent there was way too much blue cheese dressing on it. Should have ordered it on the side. Nice variety of greens and very fresh as well. Chicken was actually pretty good and accompanied by a pile of properly steamed vegetables. A great meal it was not but it was actually a whole lot better than I expected, it was quick, in my hotel and cost me about $10 after my coupon.

Dinner 2: I walkded across the street from my hotel to McCormick & Schmicks and dined in their lounge during happy hour. A California Roll set me back $1.95 and a half pound cheese burger was very good and only $2.95. Couldn't finish it all.

Dinner 3. Lupo at the Mandalay Bay. Ordered Spaghetti Carbonara which was excellent and a nice glass of wine. Used a Wolfgang Puck 25% off coupon that I had scored somewhere and dinner ended up being about $20. It was really good and had a great table outside the main restaurant where I could people watch.

Dinner 4: The highlight of the trip. Happy Hour at Bradley Ogden where I ordered off the lounge menu and had fresh halibut fish and chips that were sensational for $18. Started with an amusee (as all lounge happy hours should), through an excellent bread service and so on. Not my first Michelin starred restaurant but the first one I've dined in for under $100pp let alone under $20. Service was excellent and it was just a pleasant experience.

Lunch 1: (other lunches were business meals) at Pops and had an excellent Philly Cheesesteak for $7.99 that was loaded with beef. I guess this is the place to go in Las Vegas for a Cheesesteak. It was really, really good.

Blunch/Lunch 1: Ordinarily you wouldn't think of Hash House a Go Go as inexpensive when a benedict and many other breakfast items are in the $14.95 range. However most of these dishes can feed three and while I barely made a dent in my hand hammered crispy pork tenderloin benedict with griddled potatoes, eggs, biscuit and barbeque cream it easily took the place of breakfast and lunch and, honestly, I could have skipped dinner as well. Most importantly it was spot on great.

Breakfast 1: Back to HHaGG for corned beef hash, eggs, crispy potatoes and Swiss cheese for $12.95. Got there right after opening so I could get an early start on my drive back to Phoenix. Not nearly as much food as my benedict but I still only finished about half of it. Couldn't begin to think about lunch and ended up with just a salad back home that night. Combining all the elements of meals at HHaGG including how it "stuck to your ribs" and passed for multiple meals as well as how good it was, I felt they belonged in the good food/good value category.

Oddly, one of the most satisfying visits to Las Vegas ever.

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  1. You couldn't have done much better though you missed the opportunity to walk to (around the corne) Ellis Island for its steak special or BBQ which are both very reasonably priced.

    The breakfasts at Ellis Island or Bougainvillea Café at Terrible's are very reasonably priced though lacking in the wow factor of Hash House.

    I have a question about the McCormick & Schmick's - you did not mention having a drink in the bar while ordering off the happy hour menu. My understanding is you have to purchase a full price drink. How much did that cost?

    2 Replies
    1. re: westie

      I'll slot those in for next time maybe.

      I had a beer at M&S which was $3. You have to buy a drink but there were specials.

      1. re: Phoenix99

        Another happy hour special you might be interested in trying is the one at Brio Tuscan Grill in Town Square which is located just off the south Strip. Mon-Fri 3PM-6PM and Sun-Thur from 9PM-11PM, Brio offers incredible value in the bar area. For $2.95 each you can order any of the following:
        Braised Meatballs & creamy polenta
        Beef carpaccio
        Margarita flatbread
        Sliced steak bruschetta
        Brio burger
        Spicy shrimp & eggplant
        Sausage & pepperoni flatbread
        Roasted red pepper & mozzarella brushetta

    2. What an interesting thread! Somehow reassuring that it isn't mandatory to drop multiple hundreds, & still get good stuff!

      1. What an absolutely great post! Some of the best info I've seen recently about doing Vegas well on a budget....and it sounds like you did just that. Well done!

        1. Great job and well written. I heartily agree about the bar menu at Bradley Ogden. I had the burger, and it was delicious. We ate at the bar, and the bartender was very nice, and the service great. Good food for a great deal.