Sunday, December 30, 2012

Las Vegas 11/21/12 - 11/26/12

We flew out of MSP the day before Thanksgiving on Wednesday, November 21st at 7:30pm and arrived at the airport early expecting security lines, but they were all short and moving very quickly. Impressive! Time to start the vacation! We had dinner at Ike's at the airport. I totally forgot to take photos. I know I had the Twin Mini Charlie sandwiches and a side of fries.

After eating at Ike's we went down to the G gates and stopped at Mimosa at gates 1-6. It looked like the restaurant was brought to you by Apple as there are so many iPads as far as you cans see. It is pretty neat though. You order and pay all online via the iPads. It was oddly quiet in the restaurant and bar as everyone was totally absorbed with the iPads! Very funny to me! We just had a couple drinks, played around with the iPads and free WiFi, though the menu looked interesting, and headed down to our gate at the very end of the G concourse.

After an uneventful flight, on arrival to Las Vegas our bags came out pretty quickly and the taxi line was very short; surprisingly we ended up with a wonderful taxi driver. He asked which way we wanted to take to our destination and everything and was very nice. I found this to be a nice change from other taxi drivers I've run into on past trips. First time for everything I guess.

We booked the Rush Tower at the Golden Nugget on this trip. The Rush Tower check in line was very short, only one person ahead of us.  We had a nice view of Fremont street and we were close to the elevator, but not too close so that we heard it all night. The one drawback to a room on this side was that you could hear the bands on Fremont well into the night. We were out later than that most nights, and the latest they played was 2am on the weekends, but if you are en early-to-bed type of person you might want a room on the other side of the Rush Tower.

After dropping our things off in the room we headed downstairs at the Nugget to play a few slots and wander around and see what had changed since our last trip in June. Next, we headed over to the Golden Gate for some blackjack and stayed there for quite some time. I did quite well, enjoyed quite a few drinks courtesy of the excellent Golden Gate cocktail waitresses and ended the night up a bit.

Next, we wandered down to Walgreen's to get some bottles of water and then decided to stop at The D at Coney Island for a late night snack. The coney dog was quite good because the hot dog had a nice snap when you bit into it. The chili was good and it did not have beans in it, which I liked.

John had the gyro and he said it was OK, but it did not have a lot of flavor. After eating we headed back to the Golden Nugget to hit the hay for the night. I'm not sure what time it was, maybe after 2am?

Thursday, November 22nd
The Rush Tower rooms are great, though I've decided that the rain water shower heads are quite nice, but they are just not effective for washing long hair. Not enough water pressure. I must say, I do love the robes in the room at the GN. The magnifying mirror is a nice feature too. 

For breakfast we decided to go to Magnolia's at the Four Queens for breakfast as a couple other places had huge lines. John had the Loco Moco, pictured above. There was a lot of gravy and rice in the bottom of the bowl. He mainly ate the hamburger patty and the eggs and said he was full.

I had the ham and cheese omelet. It was ok, nothing too great. But it was certainly filling. We were able to use the ACG buy one get one coupon as well.

After breakfast we met up with John's mom Susan and her husband Al, who were staying over at the El Cortez for the weekend. We spent the day casino hopping downtown with them and using different coupons from the American Casino Guide. By the way, for some reason, at the Vegas Club they asked to see the ACG card and made us sign it in order to get the free slot play. I don't recall them doing that in the past.

Around 5pm we headed over to the El Cortez for martini happy hour. I found the martinis to still be very good and very tasty.

We ended up getting a reservation at Island Sushi for our Thanksgiving dinner that evening. We were going to try Binion's Steakhouse, but at the last minute we needed to add two more people to the reservation and Binion's could not accommodate us unfortunately. Island Sushi ended up being very good, but the food arrived very, very slowly for some reason. No explanations were ever given. We just enjoyed the company and the holiday dinner out.

John started with the pear salad.

I had the butternut squash soup.

I had the macadamia nut crusted mahi mahi.

John had the turkey dinner.

We both had the malassadas for dessert, which was basically a donut type dessert. Quite tasty.

After dinner, we wandered around Fremont street a bit and caught a light show. We stopped down at Hennessey's for drinks and relaxed a bit. Everyone else was ready to call it a day after that, and headed back to their hotels and then John and I headed to the Golden Gate for some more blackjack. I don't think we stayed out too late, well maybe it was 2am again. I can't be sure!

Friday, November 23rd
The next day we started off by meeting at DuPar's for breakfast with everyone. There was a bit of a line, but it went fairly quickly.

Pancakes with ground beef patty.

I just had eggs, bacon and hash browns with sourdough toast. 

Al's son Brent and his partner Robert wanted to do some sightseeing around Las Vegas. Since John's mom and Al had a car, as did Brent and Robert, we could drive rather than take taxis around. So first we were off to the Silverton to see the very large saltwater aquarium there. We saw the divers feeding the manta rays and the fish. Pretty cool for a free attraction. I found it oddly relaxing to sit and watch the fish. It looked like a nice casino, though we did not play here. On break!

Next, we went to the Ethel M chocolate factory and cactus garden in Henderson. The chocolate factory was nothing to write home about as it was closed down for the holiday weekend, though the store was open for business. We did get a free chocolate sample though. The cactus gardens were pretty cool, and nicely decorated for Christmas. It was neat during the day, but I bet at night it was even prettier as they had lights on many of the trees and such. I forgot to take pictures there though.

And last, we headed to the Pinball Hall of Fame and Museum. This was very neat as you could play most of the machines. They had tons of old and new pinball machines from the 40's, 50's and 60's. This museum is on Tropicana and just South of the MGM, I'm not sure if it is walkable, but it is definitely worth the trip. There is no admission fee, just pay to play the machines.

Our friends Megan and Jason from Madison, Wisconsin, had arrived and we headed back to the Golden Nugget to meet up with them. Susan and Al and Brent and Robert decided to do own thing this evening so we could hang out with Megan and Jason. We decided to try the happy hour at Red Sushi at the Golden Nugget for happy hour. We were seated right away and they had some good deals on food and drinks. I can't find the happy hour menu online, but there was a flier in our check in folder with a menu and prices.

Pork belly skewers, they were ok, not my favorite.

Spicy tuna rolls, quite good!

Tempura shrimp rolls

Jason ordered a roll off the regular menu, I do not recall what it was because I did not take any notes on this meal. Might have been a shrimp tempura and tuna roll. It was also very expensive, over three times the cost of the other sushi we had. I'd recommend sticking to the happy hour items here. Our server was not exactly Miss Sunshine, either. She was quite grumpy and impatient with us.

After happy hour, we casino hopped a bit with Megan and Jason for the rest of the night. Much later on, we stopped in at the 777 brewpub at Main Street Station and had some nachos for a late evening snack as we were all starving again for some reason. The nachos were dubbed the bean water nachos as they got super soggy right away from the black beans. We destroyed them though! I only have a sad photo of the destroyed nachos, which I will spare you all the misery of seeing. The nachos were not very good, but they tasted ok enough and we were like rabid wolverines at that point. Anyway, after we ate we wandered around some more and of course, ended up at the Golden Gate with friends in tow this time. We played blackjack for the rest of the night and called it a day around 1am. Whew! Long day!

Saturday, November 24th
We started off the day with breakfast at DuPar's with Megan and Jason. I forgot to take photos, but we went here three times on this trip, so I don't think photos are necessary anyway. You get the idea! I think we went on Saturday as Megan and Jason wanted to try it and on Friday because we wanted Susan and Al to try it.

After breakfast, we went to watch a little college football and then it was already almost time for our Neon Museum tour. I was looking forward to this tour a lot. The Neon Museum recently finished their visitor's center and they are giving tours on a regular basis now. Previously, you had to wait outside in the park for your tour time to begin and there were no facilities at all.

Inside the visitor center.

The front of visitor center with sign and park in the background.

The tour was about an hour long and the guide was excellent. If you like Vegas history or like to take photos, this is a great tour. The museum was just a five minute cab ride from the Golden Nugget, but you go through a bad neighborhood, so I would not recommend walking there. If anyone has more questions about the Neon Museum feel free to message me. I loved it and highly recommend the tour! 

After the Neon Museum, we headed back to the Nugget and watched the end of the Badger football game. I believe the game ended badly for Wisconsin, so no additional comment there. We went back to our rooms to freshen up and decided to try the Grotto at Golden Nugget for dinner.

The bruschetta was excellent. Lots of garlic flavor and the balsamic vinegar added a nice contrast. 

Penne diavolo chicken, tomatoes, mushrooms and asparagus with a spicy rosa sauce.

Pollo romano. Megan said it was great. 

Sausage and peppers pizza.

Rigatoni della sansoni- rigatoni with meat sauce and meatballs. The meatballs were gigantic! 

Coconut cream pie.

We all enjoyed the Grotto a lot. The food and service were both excellent and we were seated on the area with a view of the pool, so the people watching was excellent as well. 

After dinner, we went over to the Golden Gate for more blackjack punishment. We had a fun time, but I don't think anyone won much money. We wandered over to Binion's and decided to have some late night eats at the Binion's Cafe. The player's club desk had just closed so we could not use the ACG coupon unfortunately. While we waited for our food we enjoyed watching people play the Wheel of #1 game. What a dumb game. Always landed on 1. What's the point?? Anyway, I think we went to bed at 1am. 

Chili dog with fries. 

Cheeseburger with fries. It was just ok. Nothing that great. It was reasonably priced I guess. The service left a lot to be desired. The server was grumpy and our food took forever to arrive. I don't think that we would go back.

Sunday, November 25th
We started Sunday off by watching the Minnesota Vikings game at the Rush Lounge at the Golden Nugget with John's mom, Al, Megan, Jason, John and I. A few people went to Starbucks for breakfast and I went over to Dunkin Donuts at the Fremont to grab some breakfast. The Vikings lost. We told Jason not to bet on them, but he did not listen!

Then we did a bit of casino hopping and went to the 777 pub for lunch, thinking they would have the games on TV. Turns out they don't have the NFL Sunday Ticket package, so they only had 1-2 games on tv. No wonder it was not very busy.

Oyster shooters and peel and eat shrimp.

Sausage pizza. Not good. Megan did not even finish one piece. 

Chicken fingers and fries.

Spicy tuna rolls.
I was just not that impressed with the 777 pub on this trip. Either I am sick of it or the quality is slipping a bit. The service was good though.

We all lost a bit on blackjack at Main Street and then we went back to Nugget to get ready to go to the Strip. Finally. I felt like we barely went to the strip on this trip! I kind of missed it! I was getting bored with downtown. I can't wait till some of the new dining options that are supposed to be coming downtown open up. That will improve things a lot I think.

We started at the Flamingo. I wanted to get a Jimmy Buffett/Margaritaville Casino players card, but they were all out. However, if you earned 25 points on your card you could get a "free" Margaritaville casino t-shirt. So John and I worked on earning t-shirts. I think Jason played blackjack.

Next, we headed down to the Palazzo to watch the Packers game at Lagasse Stadium. Oh, is this place cool! We had made reservations so we arrived right before the game started, though it did not seem very busy. I think the people from that Shahs of Sunset reality show were there for awhile. At least Megan thought it was them. I have no clue. We were seated not in the stadium seating area, but in a lounge area  behind the main bar. It was a great place to watch the game and the food was great!

We started with a pretzel, tuna poke and chicken wings. Oh my goodness, the wings were awesome! The pretzel was very good too. I can't wait to go back and order those wings again!
The steak sandwich was excellent as well. The truffle fries were good too. 

Po' boy sandwich, jambalaya and macaroni and cheese.

All of the food at Lagasse Stadium was great. I think we will have to make it a point to come back here again. I liked that you could reserve a table and we did not have any trouble meeting the $50 minimum per person. The service was quite good as well. I don't think we ever really waited for anything at all.

Of course, after the game we decided to head back downtown and play blackjack at the Golden Gate for the rest of the night. I should maybe explain in more detail why we ended up at the Golden Gate every night. We received great drink service, the dealers were all very fun and very nice and the blackjack had good 3-2 payouts. You just can't find that on the strip anymore. I think we were up till 1 or 2am again.

Monday, November 26th
Departure day. Boo. We had to get up a little bit early so we'd have time to eat breakfast, pack and get to the airport by 1pm. We went to DuPar's for breakfast again, because the night before John went to check on his account at the Golden Gate and discovered he had $30 in comp dollars on his card, which he was really excited about. So we ate there again. But it was free this time!

French toast with a side of bacon.

Ground beef patty, scrambled egg whites, hash browns and sourdough toast. 

After breakfast, we stopped in at the ABC store for some macadamia nuts to take home and said goodbye to Megan and Jason. I think they were heading to Hash House for breakfast and they did not have to go home until Tuesday. I think they spent some time by the pool that afternoon.

John's mom and Al came to our hotel to meet up with us for a bit and we chatted with them as we packed up our suitcases in the room. They had driven to Las Vegas from Lead, South Dakota, and were heading home on Tuesday as well, with an overnight pitstop in Mesquite, Nevada. Sounds like it was a long drive, but they were not interested in flying.

We ran into some traffic on the way to the airport, but still arrived in plenty of time. Our flight home was on time and uneventful. And it was freezing cold when we got home to Minnesota. I really enjoyed the nice 70 degree weather in Las Vegas during this trip, though it did get a bit chilly at night, down into the 40's some nights.

This trip was full of new things for us from the Neon Museum to the Pinball Museum and having friends and family around was very fun, and we were busy during the whole trip. I feel like this was the first trip I really spent some time away from the strip and/or downtown and saw the rest of the city of Las Vegas!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Figlio - Happy Hour

I wanted to do a very quick post about the happy hour at the "all new" Figlio at the Shops at West End in St Louis Park. John and I stopped in on a Friday night recently. Yes, the great Figlio happy hour is back. And the deals are really quite good starting with $3 beers and appetizers starting at $4. Check it out here. I'd imagine the line up will change occasionally.

It was very busy in the bar area when we arrived, but we got lucky and did not have to wait for a table. The waitress was excellent and checked back with us frequently as well. The food was decent, especially for the price. I was not crazy about the bruschetta. The pizza was really good, mostly because the mozzarella cheese tasted freshly made. The calamari was cooked perfectly and came with a tasty lemon mayo dipping sauce.

margarita pizza

5331 West 16th Street  
Saint Louis Park, MN 55416
(952) 345-2400

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Butcher Block

Sometimes it takes a great deal, discount or coupon to get us into a restaurant we have never been to before. I had heard a lot about Butcher Block when it opened a few years ago, but nothing ever motivated us to try it, until I saw a Crowd Cut deal awhile ago. We made reservations for a Friday night, though I'm not sure they were necessary. Upon arrival, it was pretty quiet, though it did fill up before we left.

The storefront is very small, so you have to watch for it a bit, but once inside, you go down a hallway and the room opens up to a pleasant, open, brick lined room. We started off with a couple of drinks and some bread. We skipped salads or an appetizer and decided to see how full we were after our entrees and maybe order dessert.

I had the fettuccine with chicken and artichoke hearts. It was a very basic dish, but a very good one. The pasta was cooked perfectly and so was the chicken. The artichoke hearts added a nice tart bite to the dish. It was very delicious and I would order this again.    

Sorry for the bad photo. I need to slow down and take more time with the pictures! John had the rigatoni alla norcina, which is house ground pork sausage and truffle cream. The pasta was al dente, perfectly cooked, sausage was flavorful, but not spicy. Very, very good.

We decided to try the creme brulee for dessert. It was very tasty, with the crisp top you'd expect and a rich, creamy, custard below. I liked the cute butcher knife outline on top too!
We both enjoyed Butch Block a lot and plan to return again. I think we were pleasantly surprised. Sometimes, places offering discount certificates are a bit hit or miss. This was definitely a hit. There were a few other items on the menu we'd like to try next time. The food was great, the service was great, prices were affordable and we had a wonderful night out.

Deals & Discounts: As I mentioned before, I bought a Crowd Cut certificate awhile back for this restaurant. It was a $40 certificate for $20 and it was good on food and beverages. I must admit, in this case, the discount certificate really pulled me in and made us try a place I normally would not have visited. However, the food and service were great and we plan to return, even without a coupon.

Butcher Block
308 East Hennepin Avenue
Minneapolis, MN 55414
(612) 455-1080

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Pannekoeken Huis

We decided to be brave and try a new place in the Metro Dining Club and chose the Pannekoeken Huis, mainly because it is pretty close to where we live. It is next door to the Miracle Mile Mall in St Louis Park and attached to a Baja Sol, so I was not expecting anything too exciting. Inside, it  was larger than I would have guessed and they had quite a few tables and booths. We were seated right away, with no waiting on a Sunday morning.

John ordered the meat and egg skillet with scrambled eggs, bacon, baja hash browns and an English muffin. The baja hash browns have ground beef, onions, green peppers, tomatoes, pepper cheese mixed together and poured over the top of them with salsa on the side. The baja sauce was not spicy and added some extra flavor to the hash browns.

I tried the apple pannekoeken. I had to go with their specialty and I'm glad I did. It was a lot like a big sugary pancake with the apples cooked inside and caramelized sugar on the top and a big dollop of butter on top. At first, I did not think it looked like a lot of food, but I was unable to finish the pannekoeken. It was extremely filling! The apples were a bit tart and offset the sweetness of the sugar on top slightly.

The food and service were very good. I can't believe I have never tried a pannekoeken before and had never stopped in to this restaurant. It was good and I think we will likely return. Unfortunately, John happened to visit the restroom and found it to be in poor condition. I don't know about you, but when I visit the restroom in a restaurant and find it less than clean, it really turns me off. It makes me wonder how clean they keep the rest of the place.

Deals & Discounts: Pannekoeken Huis has a card in the Metro Dining Club good for a monthly discount of $6.00 off with the purchase of two entrees.

Pannekoekken Huis
4995 Excelsior Boulevard
Minneapolis, MN 55416
(952) 920-2120