Vegas Collage

I’ve had a Word document titled “Seattle Post” sitting on the desktop of my laptop since last March, when we drove to Seattle for spring break and I started to write about it on our way home. Everyone wanted to hear where we went, who we saw (Shauna and Danny! Ashley! Molly and June!) and what we ate, and I never got around to posting about it. After a month or two it seemed too late, and yet it remains on my desktop, and I can’t bring myself to delete it.

So last night – scratch that, now three weeks ago (!!) – we got back from a few days in Las Vegas and so many people have asked where we went (and ate!) I thought I’d write about it now, before I forget and a year slips by. The trip was a last minute Christmas gift for Mike, who had never been, knowing how grumbly he gets by mid-January (OK, mid-October) over the cold and snow – this year has been overthetop icy-slushy-snowy, so it was nice (and relatively cheap) to hop on a plane and see some green and get a quick palm tree fix. In the week leading up I tweeted and Facebooked asking where we should go, and so many of you reported back (I’m a bit shocked at the level of Vegas knowledge out there) that I thought this time I’d post our findings. (And yes, we brought W.)

I’ve only been to Vegas once before, with a large group of friends, two of whom were turning 40. Half the strip – the middle part – was under construction, and after less than 24 hours we had the distinct feeling that we were stuck in a much larger, Christmas-crowded West Edmonton Mall. (There was very little good food – in fact I don’t mind telling you I had my worst (and most expensive) meal ever on that trip, at the Mix, where they charged my two friends and I $30 for water.) This time I booked the Hilton Grand Vacation Suites on the Las Vegas Strip because it got high ratings and it’s a non-gaming hotel, so I figured it would be less Vegasy at night, and the pool might be populated with fewer scantily clad girls (if anyone was actually at the pool in January – there was not). It was at the unpopulated north end of the strip, which has a whole lot of nothing plus the Stratosphere – which in a way was nice. It was also halfway downtown, which is where Fremont street is – a much seedier part of Vegas, I thought, in case you’re bringing kids – with the exception of the newly redone shark tank pool/waterslide at the Golden Nugget, which we had all to ourselves due to the fact that it was January and only Canadians would be crazy enough to actually swim outdoors.

Vegas Collage 1

The room was cheap (packaged with the flight) and we got an enormous 1 bedroom suite with a full kitchen, which meant I could bring a ziplock bag with oatmeal, raisins and cinnamon, buy milk downstairs, and make breakfast for the boy who wakes up starving. (Why yes, I have turned into my parents.) W, like most kids, is a bit of a buffet fiend, so we had to work up an appetite (not hard) and blow his mind with some Vegas-sized buffets. We got a lot of recommendations in this arena. We meant to go to the Wynn, but didn’t (we passed it before we were hungry, and it’s tough to double back) – nor the new Bacchanal Buffet at Caesars Palace, both of which I’ve heard are fab. By the way, buffets are no longer cheap in Vegas – they range from around $15 for a weekday breakfast to $50-$90 for a weekend dinner – so we had to choose wisely. We did check out the Wicked Spoon in the new Cosmopolitan hotel, which differs in its serving style; most items come in their own little ramekins/teeny pots/mini deep-fry baskets/Chinese takeout containers rather than served up from a steam tray. Totally adorable, and you don’t have to feel like your own personal lunch lady.

Wicked Spoon Collage 1

Their house-cured slab bacon was to cry for. As was the sausage, fried chicken, braised beef cheek eggs Benedict, and little pots of “angry mac & cheese” (with chiles) and white bean ragoût with Mesguez sausage and mint chimichurri. And the lemon tarts – and the gelato bar. All this for lunch. Forget Texas – everything’s big in Vegas.

Wicked Spoon Collage

The Cosmo is right smack in the middle of the action, and we found ourselves spending a lot of time there, not least of all because it houses some of the best restaurants. Like the Chandelier – more of a laid-back nightclub, really, but a glittery place to go for cocktails, with three levels of plush seats inside a sparkly chandelier. (Note to self: return sans kids.)

Cosmopolitan Collage

It’s also home to China Poblano – a Chinese-Mexican fusion place (noodles, pork buns and tacos! check out the menu!) that came highly recommended, but sadly we never managed to eat in. On the day we were leaving, the Internet told me it opened at 10, so we took a cab down en route to the airport. It didn’t open until 11:30, which was too long to stick around and wait. We went over and sat on the patio at Sammy Hagar’s Cabo Wabo Cantina instead. Cheap breakfast, great people watching, crazy undercooked eggs.

Vegas Collage 1

Also at the Cosmo: the secret pizza place – I love little hidden eateries (like the Burger Joint at Le Parker Meridien in NYC) and W loved sleuthing it out. Hint: it’s on the 3rd floor of the Cosmopolitan, above the Chandelier – out front there’s a vintage pool table and a bunch of rec room-style chairs and couches, so you can shoot some pool while you eat your slice (or whole pie).

Secret Pizza Collage 3

Once you find the brown door, the narrow hallway is covered with album covers, and at the end you’re rewarded with fantastic pizza – thin crust, with a chewy, bulbous edge, dolled up in red or white sauce, served up by friendly guys covered in a thin layer of flour and bits of dough. And of course the omnipresent beer and wine.

Secret Pizza Collage 1

There are a few stools, a narrow counter, a pinball machine and Galaga. I could have eaten only big, floppy slices of secret pizza for our whole trip.

Secret pizza collage 2

But. We went for dinner at Mon Ami Gabi in the Paris – because it was so cold and windy outside, it was easy to grab a spot on the patio across from the Bellagio, so we could watch the fountains. We ate goat cheese simmered in tomato sauce with crusty garlic bread and a warm baguette, then steak frites – and the kids’ menu was outstanding, served in ceramic TV dinner plates – W had crusty French bread pizza that came with apple slices and perfect buttered green beans. You’ll have to trust me on this one – I didn’t bring my camera to Vegas, and my cel phone died that night. The goat cheese simmered in tomato sauce though? Off the hook. I will be recreating it here somehow, minus the holiday air and Bellagio fountains. I hope it tastes as good.

Vegas Collage 2

The places we didn’t make it to that were on our list, that friends raved about, were Lotus of Siam, a Thai place just off the strip on Sahara Ave, L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon at the MGM Grand, the Todd English Pub at Aria, and burgers at the Burger Bar and Bobby’s Burger Palace. Enough to warrant another visit next time we need to be reminded what grass looks like?

Do you have any Vegas favourites? For research purposes, you know…


About Julie

10 comments on “#Vegas

  1. Louise Innes
    February 24, 2014 at 9:06 am

    Please do Seattle Julie. We are going there this Spring Break and would love tips on where to eat.

  2. Julie
    February 24, 2014 at 9:11 am

    OK. I’ll go back and post about Seattle!

  3. Patricia
    February 24, 2014 at 1:42 pm

    Nice trip! I’m one of the few who hasn’t been to Vegas yet.
    As for Seattle, the Cheesecake Factory, hands down.

  4. Andrea
    February 24, 2014 at 5:42 pm

    Try Hash House a go go in Vegas! They have the craziest egg Benedicts around! They have a fried chicken Benedict!

  5. Erica B,
    February 24, 2014 at 6:54 pm

    I second Andrea’s suggestion to add Hash House A Go-Go to your list. It’s off strip too, but then some of the best places aren’t in the super popular spots. (I was one of the people rather enthusiastically recommending Lotus of Siam) :)

  6. Jen Denington
    February 24, 2014 at 8:51 pm

    China Poblano is awesome. The Golden Pigs are out of this world! Definately keep it on your list for future Vegas trips.

  7. Wendy
    February 25, 2014 at 12:11 pm

    The barley risotto looks delicious. It is on my must try list.

  8. Sicorra
    February 25, 2014 at 3:17 pm

    I forgot all about that chandelier. It is so beautiful. I will have to look for that pizza place next time. Did you see the store with all the antique sewing machines in their window? They were near the chandelier too.

  9. Barb
    February 26, 2014 at 9:42 am

    I was recently in Vegas as well! If I think about it I can still feel the warm air and constant sunshine…. So nice. It’s been quite some time since I was there last so I was open to anything. And you are right, good affordable food was either hard to find or too far from where you were when you wanted it. Oh well we managed quite well and had fun in other ways. Save the dining experience for a different trip.

  10. Susan
    February 28, 2014 at 9:25 am

    Other end of the strip – between Luxor and Mandalay Bay, under the escalator is my favourite place: RM restaurant. Good food, good wine, nice staff. Sustainably harvested seafood is their thing. My favourite dish is the monkey brains. Sushi type serving of tempura banana, crab mix, tuna and sauce. It’s hot and cool, crunchy and squishy, sweet and savoury. I could happily die there!

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