This upcoming weekend will be my saddest weekend-before-the-Super Bowl in 4 years. The casual reader might casually assume that this is due to the Eagles Butterface Cinderella season coming to an end. The business casual reader would smooth out his Dockers and know that what I’m mourning is the absence of an annual January Vegas trip.
Denial, Anger, & Bargaining are in the rear view mirror, and now I need to nudge the needle from Depression to Acceptance.
So here’s a guide to some of my favorite spots in the meanest town on Earth.
Use it to get psyched for your upcoming Vegas trip or to get psyched for your trip to the pawn shop to pay for your upcoming Vegas trip. Either way, it’s cool.
Why is there bacon in that bottle, and why does it make a cocktail I would describe as the most necessary of evils? Find out after the jump.
Yet More Background
The impetus for going to Vegas the last 3 years was an Ultimate Frisbee tournament called Trouble in Vegas, whose motto is “The Best & Worst Idea, Ever”. Like most tournaments, the games only serve to get in the way of other pursuits. But the tournament is important for several reasons:
- If I tried to get 20 people to go to Vegas for a long weekend, it would be tough as hell. Human nature dictates that there are always reasons to not do something. But as soon as there’s an event to build the weekend around, I’m turning people away.
- Spending the better part of 2 days at the fields helps to cut your losses.
- If it weren’t for the tournament, we never would have met an awesome guy with a Mohawk who hated shirts and carried his gear (i.e. human heads) around in a trash bag:
All of the places listed below can be found on this map.
The Major Destinations
“The Happiest Place on Earth” (Double Down Saloon)
That’s their motto and it’s not hyperbole. It’s a short cab ride from The Strip, but it may as well be a thousand miles away. Tucked into a seedy looking strip mall near UNLV, it’s dark, covered in graffiti and gloriously grungy. It feels like a locals bar, which is always a good thing.
There’s a jukebox full of punk music, pool tables that have seen better days, and a couch that may or may not have been purchased at a CDC yard sale. And they have an excellent selection of good cheap beer (Schlitz, PBR, etc.) They have live bands in most nights, but I’ve only been there during the day.
But aside from the refreshing change of ambience, the Double Down has 2 big, big, BIG things going for it. And both are largely liquid in nature.
First, there’s the Ass Juice. While the name doesn’t bode well for your taste buds, they will send you flowers for letting this nectar pass over them. And the beauty of the drink is that it’s different every time. They take all the nearly empty liquor bottles, mix them together with varying amounts of fruits and juices, and what comes out is pinkish brown and delicious.
Second, there’s the Bacon Martini. This does not taste, in a word, good. But it’s bacon in an alcoholic drink. You are obligated to try this if you’ve ever contemplated cooking and then eating a ball of bacon. Or if you think this is a landmark moment in human history.
Be forewarned, it’s not a sipping drink. The longer it stays on your tongue, the longer you’ll be tasting it (i.e. the next day).
My recommended course of action is (1) Bacon Martini, (2) Ass Juice + Schlitz, (3) Repeat Step 2.
Even Anthony Bourdain has been there (starting about 3 minutes in), though he somehow ignores the Bacon Martini:
“If Dunkin’ Donuts Served Liquor and Encouraged Elderly Gambling” (Gold Coast Casino)
This is where we stayed the first year we went to Vegas, and it will forever hold a place in my heart for several reasons. It’s a solid, no-frills value for one. It’s off the strip, but there’s a free shuttle bus that will take you there. For some reason, it’s very popular with the Asian community. I’ve seen Taiwanese Social Clubs that had a lower Occidental representation. And a restaurant that has excellent Gravedigger’s Specials during certain hours of the evening. And they have a cart in the sports book that sells $0.75 hot dogs.
We moved onto other hotels to (sporadically) lay our heads. But we returned to the Gold Coast like junkies to their favorite corner for one reason:
Bingo. With Donuts. With an open bar. And a clientele that drifts about aimlessly like Brimley before the alien pods landed in the pool.
Someone had done his research about the Gold Coast that first year. Booze & Doughnuts Bingo became an impromptu end point for a night of gambling, drinking, and odd sights. We decided to stay up all night and make the 9 AM session. We did it, and then we did it every year afterwards.
By 9 AM, you’re still wired from the ongoing evening to morning transition. But when you finally slow down long enough to throw back a donuts and wash them down with your choice of beer or mimosa or bloody mary, you can almost feel the adrenaline collecting in a pool at your feet.
But the prospect of winning some sweet, sweet bingo money is enough to keep you going. And the prospect of an elaborately choreographed victory celebration is even more enticing. Sadly, the only people who won in our numerous trips here did so with annoyingly quiet grace. Personally, I was envisioning an homage to the last 10 minutes of Blazing Saddles.
The options are a bit dizzying, but everyone is very nice in their efforts to explain things. It also helps that you have the option of using their version of a laptop which will wirelessly track your cards’ progress. It’s strangely enthralling, though you are in no way an active participant.
This encapsulates much of what I’m talking about. The Bingo board, donuts, Goose, the guy who discovered the bingo in the first place, and beer.
You also meet some interesting people who are, in no way, the stereotypical picture of a bingo fan. I mean, this is probably the first time this lady has been in a den of bingosity. Notice that she’s using the laptop AND playing by hand with the blotter.
The downside to staying up all night in the soft lighting of Vegas casinos? Exiting in the harsh daylight. Our reactions here are not exaggerated. I love the composition of this picture. So many good things going on, especially on the part of the jaded gentleman nonplussed by our histrionics. That’s Goose miraculously lifting his head off the ground, and that is me with my sweatshirt gallantly protecting me from a migraine. And the foot belongs to Steve Allen.
“What I Imagine Hank the Angry Drunken Dwarf Is Doing in Heaven” (O’Shea’s Casino)
O’Shea’s is an anomaly on The Strip.
There’s a food court AND a Vince Neil-endorsed tattoo parlor. There are beer pong tables a few feet away from the poker room. You get free t-shirts for getting blackjack with a black jack.
It’s cheesy, but in a refreshingly anti-Vegas way. They seem interested making sure you have fun while they take your money, not just taking your money. I’m pretty sure they still have reformed card cheats with binoculars in the walkways above the tables instead of some high tech camera system. It’s the little things that make the difference.
And best of all, there’s a midget who works there. Dressed as a leprechaun.
I’ll wait while you soak that in.
Amongst his duties are posing with customers (as seen below), working the crowds of passers by to entice them into O’Shea’s, and most importantly scampering down the bar pouring free shots into everyone’s mouths. Sadly I was never there at the right time to experience that particular miracle.
And according to one fellow, it’s okay to mock him because “midgets don’t have souls”. While we here at The Popcorn Trick cannot endorse such spurious theological claims, we can and do giggle at them.
The Quick Hits
“The Oddest Alcohol Product Sold by a Major Casino” (MGM Grand)
Delicious $2 Jell-O shots in various flavors at a weird bar/food court-type place right near the elevated walkway to NYNY. Great place to start the evening.
“The Best/Only Vegas Strip Club I’ve Been To” (Sapphire)
It was 1:30 AM and there was an impromptu trip to a strip club being organized. I was about to go to bed, but mustered all reserves of energy I had and joined them. I was glad, because if I hadn’t, I would not have seen this sight.
Strongly hetero female friend #1 was not having a good time, slumped in her chair asleep. To her left, female friend #2 was having the time of her barely hetero life. This was due to an upside-down Asian stripper whose head was buried in FF2’s lap, ass in FF2’s face, and legs spread wide in at least 2 directions. While the stripper is doing her thing, grinding and flailing about, FF1 slumbers peacefully with the stripper’s boot mere inches away from her face. It’s an impressive visual, and one I was able to recreate with some help from the boys in the lab:
I’m not going to tell you that Sapphire is the best place to go in Vegas, because I haven’t sampled enough to say that authoritatively. I will say that I had a grand ol’ time.
You should be able to negotiate a deal on the cover charge at Sapphire if you're bringing ladies. We were.
“The Best/One of Two Vegas Buffets I’ve Been To” (The Rio)
Do you like miles and miles of every imaginable foodstuff? Do you like oversized girl drinks? Then the Rio has your buffet. Much like the Sapphire, I don’t claim to be a Vegas buffet expert. The only other one I’ve tried was the Stratosphere, which was pretty bad. But when you find something as stomach-bursting as the Rio, you don’t stray.
And yes, that is Fun Trey slurping down the Banana Kiss I bought him. And that was only about 80% of the drink they give you. Like an oversized milkshake, there was enough left over for another drink.
And to close this out, here are crappy cell phone pics of me with Penn & Teller:
Ask and ye shall receive, Goose.