Vegas, Baby, Vegas! – A Las Vegas Trip Report

Welcome to Las Vegas SignWondering where the NETG posts have been?  Well. 2/3’s of the staff was on the left coast doing some “research” in Las Vegas.  I know, it’s a long trip for the sake of the blog, but someone’s got to sacrifice at least once a year.  So, here’s some of Bert & Bin’s report in Las Vegas.  Of course, not all, because some of what happens in Vegas has to stay in Vegas!

Arriving at McCarran Airport mid-afternoon, we proceeded to check in at Bellagio – our first time at the resort that Wynn built, now owned by MGM.  Check-in was great, as was our entire stay at this fabulous property.  The surroundings, the dining, the amenities are all top notch. Best part of all is the service & hospitality.  Everyone was pleasant, helpful, friendly and wanted our stay to be a great one.  Bellagio exceeded all expectations in these regards.  I would stay there again in a Vegas minute.

Besides Bellagio, here are suggestions:

How To Start Your Next Vegas Trip

The beginning of a great Las Vegas Vacay – Ellis Island, east of the Strip

ELLIS ISLAND – We have found the perfect way to start a vacation in Vegas.  After check-in, drive (or Uber/Lyft) to Ellis Island Casino, Hotel & Brewery.  Originally opened in 1967, it became Ellis Island in 1985 and has been a locals and industry worker favorite behind the strip ever since. It’s brewery is fantastic with specials such as “every weekday for $1 beers whenever the temperature outside hits over 100 degrees.” Their special beer beer was a Summer Shandy Hefeweisen with added lemon & grapefruit.  Depending on the time of year, they also brew an adult ice tea and eggnog, while supplies last (which isn’t long!)  Gambling rules are much better than the strip.  Playing $5 blackjack (then raised to $10), with a “dealer bust” sidebet, I made almost $200 in an hour.  The dealers were friendly and fun.  Go check out their website, since they are adding onto this low budget casino and should be even better by next summer.  Other great offerings include terrific BBQ, a “secret steak special,” and karaoke.

Neon Lounge with fire-pit at Peppermill, north Strip.

PEPPERMILL – Part 2 to starting off a great Vegas vacation is moving the party to the Peppermill, “a timeless must-visit stop on the Las Vegas strip.”  If you miss the old neon sights of years ago, the Peppermill is for you.  One side is a restaurant featuring fabulous and huge omelets all day.  But at night, you MUST visit the lounge at least once. Peppermill Fireside Lounge is the brightest dark room you’ll ever see, or maybe it’s the darkest bright room. You’re surrounded by mirrors, faux trees, and neon, sitting on comfy red couches.  The south end of the room features a fire pit, with flames erupting from a pool of glowing white water.  Specialty cocktails complete the feel.  I enjoyed the Oatmeal Cookie, based with vanilla ice cream.  Our party of four all decided that it had to be an ELLIS ISLAND/PEPPERMILL start to every Las Vegas Trip

Entertainment Highlight

CHER at the MONTE CARLO – Let it be known that Cher is the only reason to go to Monte Carlo during it’s renovations to become Park MGM.  But what a show it was!  With very little speaking, a historical run of her hits is non-stop.  Of course, Cher is known for her lavish outfits and hair.  So, to make the 10 or so costume changes, there are interludes by the rest of the cast – some great, but others just seem to be Cirque knock-offs that don’t necessarily fit the show.  Cher, at the age of 70+, has not lost her knack for singing like a modern Ethel Merman, and sounded great, as well the band behind her.  I highly recommend this show, although it’s not inexpensive – over $100+…….  all ages will enjoy this show.

Cher opening her show at the Park Theater.

Two Buffets

BELLAGIO BUFFET – Expensive, but worth it.  NETG has eaten at all the best buffets – Wicked Spoon (Cosmo), Aria, Cravings (Mirage) and the Paris Buffet. Outside of the Caesars’s Bacchanal (which we have not tried and is incredibly expensive), Bellagio is the best value of the big buffets.

STUDIO B BUFFET at M Resort – The selection of foods served here, at any given time, is huge, and scrumptious.  During lunch and dinner, you’ll discover a corner bar where wine, beer and cider are served. A full range of soft drinks and fruit juices are available from the waitstaff, and meals can be capped off with a hot chocolate, espresso or Irish coffee from the barista.  But save room for dessert – miniature cupcakes, crème brûlées, lemon meringue pies, molten lava cakes and tiramisus share space with cookies, cannolis, éclairs, macaroons, three kinds of crêpes and homemade gelato.  If you are gambling there, gamble first. $300 in for slots and $450 for Video poker equals a free buffet.  That may sound like a lot, but playing slots for 30 – 40 minutes at $.60 to a $1 will easily do it.  (By the way, if you have dined at the Mohegan Sun Buffet, you will notice quite a resemblance.  It seems the Sun must have visited there before renovating their years ago!).  One major consideration – it’s on the far south end of Las Vegas Boulevard. Taxi, ride-share or driving is a must.

Downtown

Three nights were spent at what I consider the little underrated gem of downtown – MAIN STREET STATION Casino, Brewery & Hotel.  It’s Victorian decor, great gambling rules, and 777 Brewpub make it a delight for staying and playing.  It’s far enough away from the insanity of the Fremont Experience, and yet a short enough walk to anywhere downtown, including the Fremont East District and the El Cortez Casino & Hotel.  It’s scratch ticket promotion for video poker players is still a great play. For every 4-of-a-kind at max bet (any denomination), you receive a scratch-off that contains $1 – $5. In one night of player, I made an additional $20 on tickets alone.  While you play, you can order a craft beer from its brewery anywhere on the casino floor, and during happy hour, 16 oz. is only $250!  One of the many nation-wide Boyd properties, this is a low-roller delight.  Great room promotions are available to Boyd card members for much less play than on the Strip.

Beautiful, calm, and classy for an exquisite dining experience – Andiamo at The D, Downtown Las Vegas

ANDIAMO STEAKHOUSE at THE D – premium American steaks and irresistible Italian favorites are what you can expect at Andiamo.  I ate the best 8 0z. filet ever!  A classic Vegas Steakhouse with a quiet, classy atmosphere.  Don’t be fooled by it’s location downtown, it IS one of the best Vegas steakhouses, hands down.  Our party decided to end our vacation at Andiamo, and it was the perfect finale to a week of highlights.  It is expensive, but worth every penny.

Leaving Las Vegas – usually a quiet plane ride.

 

So, that was Vegas, 2017 for NETimeGambling.

It’s tough work, but somebody’s got to do it.  Ciao!

Binbin

 

Dining Review: Tom’s Urban at Mohegan Sun

The scene looking from the back to the front of the restaurant.

The scene looking from the back to the front of the restaurant.

My party of four had high hopes for Tom’s Urban, the new restaurant at Mohegan Sun. Well, it did not disappoint. Last Thursday we had drinks, but this night was prime for a dining review.
The menu is very diverse, drinks to satisfy anyone, and prices aren’t too expensive, depending on what you order. You could call the atmosphere “upscale over-sized neighborhood sports pub.” That said, here’s how things went:

Happy Hour

Happy Hour by the Clock

Happy Hour by the Clock

The price of the drafts and the price of the bites follow the clock – $3 at 3:00pm, $4 at 4:00pm, and $5 at 5:00pm.  While we were seated before 6:00, when out waitress first came over, it was literally 6:01 – no happy hour for us.  “Sorry, it’s too late.”  Most restaurants would not take this stand.  Hopefully management will read about this practice and suggest a different approach.  6:01???  Really????

Drinks

The tankard on the left is 40 oz.

The tankard on the left is 40 oz.  It comes filled, unlike this one.

Beer can be ordered in the usual pint or the unbelievably gluttonous tankard – 40 oz.  The taps offer good beer, like the Allagash White next to the Leinenkugel Summer Shandy in the tankard in the picture.  Someone in our party had a “Darker & Stormier”, but it was more ginger beer and not enough rum.

Food

We each had an entree, all of which were outstanding.  I had probably the best Carnitas Cuban sandwich ever, and Bert’s BBQ Pork Sandwich was also the best she has enjoyed. Another entree, the Fig Jam and three Cheese Sandwich was a big hit, and quite different. Listed as a “vegetarian dish,” apple sausage can be added to make a “Figgy Piggy.”  But, the truly big hit of the night – and I mean BIG – was the Crispy Chicken and Cornbread Pancake.

IMG_1248

The Crispy Chicken and Cornbread Pancake. Outstanding…and huge!

Slightly spicy, crispy boneless chicken was delicious all served with salted caramel butter and maple syrup on the side.

Much like everything at Tom’s Urban, the food is innovative and fun. Only a few entrees and small plate orders are vegetarian.

Service

Both times we have visited Tom’s Urban, the service has been very good.  Because the food is made to order, and is so different in the making, you should expect a little extra time for your food. However, I have seen other reviews from this restaurant, as well as those in Denver & L.A., and they seem to echo a similar theme – fantastic food, slow service.  But this night, service was very good and the wait staff really seemed to want our experience to be an enjoyable one.
Ask them what "screen" means, something only found in Mohegan Sun's Tom's Urban

Ask them what “screen” means, something only found in Mohegan Sun’s Tom’s Urban

To sum up the Tom’s Urban experience, I would say:
  • Fit for Foodies
  • Great for Brunch
  • Good for Groups
  • Notable Wine List
  • Great Alternative Drinks
  • Good Beer Menu
  • Vibrant Bar Scene and Good Happy Hour
  • Great for Lunch

One last thing.  The previous restaurant had windows that were enclosed by lots of dark wood in the front of the place.  Tom’s has a clear opening all the way from end to end, making for a great place to “people watch.”

We plan to go back, again…..and again.  I recommend you do, too.

Binbin

 

Las Vegas Continues to Evolve Away from Gambling

Las Vegas SignLast week, NETimeGambling continued it’s casino visits for the summer, taking it on the road and flying to a destination like no other – Las Vegas.

Las Vegas is like New England weather – it can change in a minute.  When visiting Vegas only once each year, the changes can be HUGE.

Gone since our last visit – the Riviera, Las Vegas Club, La Bayou, Mermaids (and their “fried oreos”).

Fried Oreos at Mermaids for $2.99 - gone.

Fried Oreos at Mermaids for $2.99 – gone.

New – Lucky Dragon Casino, SLS, The Park – MGM’s answer to Caesars “The Linq.” MGM’s T-Mobile Arena is a great addition for large performances and events.  It’s curious to find numerous food chains popping up in the same city that showcases some of the best chef’s of the day. What’s even curious? – by next year, Las Vegas will have it’s first NHL Hockey team, and the Oakland Raiders may have decided to move their franchise to Las Vegas as well.T-Mobile Arena Las Vegas

What continues to be seen is worse gambling odds as good gambling chances continue to fall – less full pay Video Poker, lower free odds in Craps, more 6:5 Blackjack and more electronic tables games.  Compared to the Las Vegas Strip casinos, you can find better video poker and table games at Mohegan Sun & Foxwoods in CT, and better slot % payouts at Twin River Casino (RI) and Plainridge Park(MA).

The Las Vegas Strip

The Las Vegas Strip

But, no where in the world is there a place like Las Vegas  where anyone can enjoy it all!  Great gambling if you look for it, some of the best restaurants, great craft brewers and drinks made to order, and the best in entertainment – single performances, residencies or shows lasting years. The innovations in food, drink, and hotel amenities are astounding.  Where else can you:

  • Enjoy the best donuts (like the Pop Tart S’mores donut) at Donut Bar, Downtown.

    S'mores Pop Tart Donut

    S’mores Pop Tart Donut

  • Eat a decadent sorbet/gelato dessert at Giada’s – and maybe meet the Food Network Star herself.
  • Enjoy three Zip line rides, as well as three rides atop the highest free standing structure west of the Mississippi River at the Stratosphere.
  • Enjoy a Mac & cheese waffle!
  • See Celine, Elton, JayLo, Britney, …even the Beegees & Michael Jackson.
  • choose to see any of six Cirque Du Soleil shows, one even dedicated to the music of the Beatles.

    Beatles Love - Cirque Du Soleil at its best.

    Beatles Love – Cirque Du Soleil at its best.

There is so much to do and see in Las Vegas besides gambling. We have visited Las Vegas for over 25 years.  We even stayed in the places like the Hacienda Hotel & Casino – before it was imploded for Mandalay Bay in the 90’s.Hacienda Las VegasIf you are interested in visiting Las Vegas – either for the first time or for the 21st time – contact me.  “Binbin Travel” used to be our nickname, since we always loved to take “Vegas newbies” to the desert with us.  Send me your questions or specific suggestions.

I will look forward to hearing from you.

Binbin