Bridge: Cello Rock!

Bridge PlayingFremont Street is full of enterprising folks trying to make a buck. There are beggars, costumed characters, dancers and artists. There are people doing stupid human tricks, con artists and musicians. It’s a bit of a carnival experience. And, most of these people are more of a nuisance than they are entertainment. They clog up the pathways, pester you for change, and generally offer minimal entertainment for your dollar – should you choose to offer them one. So, while I’m a big fan of the official entertainment the Fremont Street Experience offers, most of the unofficial entertainment downtown doesn’t deserve a mention.

Except for one act – Mert and Jerry. These guys are classically trained musicians who used to play in the string section of the Lion King production, and when that gravy train rolled off the tracks they got creative. Very creative. Together they formed the strangest, most fascinating street music duo I have ever seen – Bridge.

They perform tons of great cover tunes with no guitars, no drums and no vocalist. They tear it up, belting out songs like “Sweet Child O’ Mine” by Guns N Roses, “Billie Jean” by Michael Jackson and “Communication Breakdown” by Led Zeppelin on, get this, a pair of electric cellos. Their fingers are quick and their bows are accurate. They take turns, one cellist on lead, playing the vocal track the other playing the melody and/or rhythm. They finger, they bow, they even bang on their ridiculous looking instruments… and the crowd loves it. I loved it.

I can’t really explain why. Maybe it’s the energy with which they play, how amazingly recognizable the songs are, or the novelty of hearing Metallica played on dueling cellos – yes, they play Metallica too. It’s different, it’s fun, and it drew me in. For the first time in countless trips to Fremont Street I found myself tossing dollar after dollar into a street performer’s tip jug.

Bridge SignThey play late at night (typically from midnight onward) on the Fremont Experience when the official entertainment on the stages ends and the FSE security won’t hassle them about the volume they play at. There is no official schedule, but the best nights to catch them on Fremont are Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays.

They’ve been playing together like this for about a year – though they sound like they’ve been at if for much longer. They are constantly adding new songs to their repertoire. They will take requests, even playing one song that neither of them knew, using sheet music displayed on their iPad, on the night I was there. And I’ve got to say they did a pretty good job. These guys are very personable, they’re great musicians, and their act is very unique. If you’re out on Fremont after midnight, look for them.

Bridge on Facebook:

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Sin City Wings: The Word On The StrEATS

Sin City Wings taking ordersThe first truck I tried at the Vegas StrEATS Festival was Sin City Wings. It’s was easy to find. It’s a bright yellow truck with a big red wing logo on the side. Fans of the show “Doctor Who” will appreciate the blue police box on the side. They offer boxes of meaty deep fried chicken wings (bone-in) or tenders (boneless) with your choice of half a dozen homemade sauces for seven bucks. Sauces range from mild (The Feinberg – an apricot based sauce) to wild (The Oscar Goodman – made with ghost chilies… need I say more?). The wings may be southern style, but those super-spicy wings are really “Oscahhhh” Goodman style. The owners hail from closer to Southie (Boston) than the deep south. Don’t let that put you off though, they know how to cook!

There are also french fries ($5), fried pickles ($5) and pot stickers ($5). They serve Shasta brand soda cans for a buck. I chose to bring my wings back to my room where I could enjoy them with a cold Fat Tire – a great combination!

Bobby Q Wings

Bobby Q Wings

For my wings I went with the Bobby Q sauce. The wings came smothered in a brown sugar barbeque sauce similar to what you might get if you could buy Sweet Baby Rays sauce on the day it was made and spice it up just a touch. It had a nice balance between the sweet and the spice, and there was more than enough sauce to cover the tender juicy wings (bone-in), my fingers and my face. Like most truly good, eat with wild abandon foods, these wings are messy! Finger-licking and a pile of napkins may not be enough – get some moist towelettes or eat them in reasonable proximity to running water.

They sprinkled a few specks of fresh cilantro on top, adding more visual appeal. On the side was a small cup of creamy ranch dressing that did a good job of cutting the spice. There’s not really enough to smother all the wings, so save some for the end to keep the heat from lingering.

Sin City Wings Sauce MenuI must say, my wings were delicious! I’ll definitely be back to try more of their sauces – and those fried pickles!

  • The Sin City Wings Truck shows up at a lot of multi-truck events like the Vegas StrEATS festival.
  • Although the fries are a bit pricey at five bucks, they offer a special “box” price – $10 for wings or tenders and fries- a far better deal!
  • The best way to know where to get you wing fix is to follow Sin City’s Twitter feed.


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Pinball Hall of Fame: The Most Fun You Can Have for a Quarter

Pinball Hall of FameThe Pinball Hall of Fame is located in a large nondescript warehouse building at 1610 East Tropicana Avenue. There are easily a hundred pinball machines here, new and old, as well as a few vintage video arcade games. It’s like the pinball arcade you dreamed of when you were a kid. There is even a coin operated fortune teller and a “Peppy the Clown” musical puppeteer.

According to their website, this interactive museum is completely non-profit. They spend no money on advertising, heck they didn’t even spend money erecting a sign out front! Any profits above and beyond basic maintenance and operating costs are donated to the Salvation Army. This is clearly a labor of love.

Popcorn Machine at Pinball Hall of Fame 25 centsThe space is pretty basic. It’s a warehouse. Floors are cement, a plain drop ceiling hides wires, girders and pipes. Food and drink are available in the form of cold soda, candy and hot popcorn – which are sold from old fashioned vending machines for just a quarter or two.  Much like the nearby casinos, the only flashing lights and ringing bells come from the machines themselves.

Yes! You read me right, the machines are working. All of them. You can change your bills in for quarters and play any one you like. They work like they did when they were new – every light, every sound effect. “Hey Chucky, quit playing with the clock!” begged the clown in my “Funhouse” machine, plastic eyes darting around trying to follow the ball. Twenty years melted away while I played.

Dr Who Pinball Machine Information CardIt’s like an electromechanical museum, where they actually let you touch and play with stuff. Many of the machines have handwritten cards attached offering the history of the machine, numbers produced, etc. There are rare machines like the Gottlieb “Canada Dry” machine, released in 1976 as a promotional item, and available only in Europe. There are antique machines like Bally’s 1947 pitch and bat game “Heavy Hitter”. There are not only traditional pinball and pitch and bat machines spanning generations, there are also viewing galleries, shooting galleries and other historic electromechanical machines as well.

Target Roll Electromechanical Craps MachineIf you are a fan of the game of craps you definitely need to check out the Bally “Target Roll” machine. This machine was released in 1959 after it became illegal to sell gambling machines in all but a couple of US states. Cleverly disguised as a harmless pinball game, this machine is actually an electromechanical crap table! Roll a 7 or 11 on your come-out roll and the machine knocks loudly to signal that you should be paid. Roll 2, 3 or 12? Game over. Roll any other number and you have to match it. If you match, it knocks again and you start over, if you 7 out it’s game over. The “score” is random, simply there to fool the authorities. It’s brilliant!

There is also an area to the far left of the building where machines are repaired and restored. Peek here for a preview of what new games might be available soon. Last time I was in they were working on some interesting looking machines like “Safe Cracker” and “Alien Dunk.” I can’t wait to try them out.

Pinball Machines at the Pinball Hall of Fame Las VegasIf you’re old enough to remember pumping quarters into a favorite machine, they probably have it here. Drop a quarter in your favorite game – it’ll likely last longer and bring more smiles here than at any of the casinos down the street. It’s cheap, it’s nonprofit and it’s a chance to relive your childhood. It’s the most fun you can have in Vegas for a quarter, short of winning a jackpot.

Peppy The Clown Coin-Op MarionetteTips:

  • Check out their website (below) for a full list of games.
  • Quarters are available from a change machine inside, no need to bring your laundry money.
  • Unlike many places in Vegas that are open 24/7 (love that!) the Pinball Hall of Fame is only open 11am-11pm, midnight on Friday and Saturday.
  • If you can’t make it to the Pinball Hall of Fame, you can still play some of their machines. A few of their machines are on loan to the Riviera Casino, where they can be played 24/7.
  • You can bring the kids here, but you can’t just drop them off. Kids under 18 must be accompanied by an adult.

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Las Vegas Tips: The Two Dollar Trick

Two Dollar Bills - HorizontalLas Vegas runs on tips. You can tip the maitre d to get that table by the windows, you can tip the concierge for scoring those hard to get tickets to the latest show, sometimes you can even tip the hotel desk clerk to get a nicer room. But that’s not all, there are tons of little tokes to give when you’re out on the town in Las Vegas: bartenders, cocktail waitresses, pool boys, bellmen, coat check, the maid (if you have a hotel room), the valet (if you’ve never watched “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”).

The general rule of thumb for the average low-roller like me is to tip $1-2 for most of these services: A dollar a drink, a buck or two per night for room cleaning, one or two clams per garment at the coat check. The purpose of these tips is to reward proper service, and tips can become a large part of a service-person’s income.

The cocktail waitresses at your favorite casino (and the bartenders at your favorite bar) see a lot of George Washington’s. So, while a one dollar bill may be sufficient, it doesn’t really grab anyone’s attention. That’s no good. You want to make a positive impression – one where you are remembered as a good customer (tipper), worthy of the extra effort to provide exemplary service.

You could use two Washingtons at a time, and that might help, but in practice I haven’t really noticed much difference in the reaction I get with one bill vs two. You could tip with Lincolns (fives) or Hamiltons (tens), and that should get you noticed, but most of us regular folk simply can’t afford that. Besides, what’s the point of getting a free drink if you’re tipping more than the drink is worth?

Two Dollar Bills - BundleSo, you want to garner some attention without breaking the bank. The key to getting a reaction is to be different from all the other dollar bills out there – this is where the two dollar trick kicks in. Go to the bank and ask for some two dollar bills. Keep them separate from your other bills and use them for the small tokes. A wad of twos takes up less space in your pocket than the equivalent amount in ones, so you’re already ahead of the game.

The great thing about two dollar bills it that they are unusual. They look different enough from a one dollar bill that almost everyone gives them a second look. They get people’s attention. Some people collect them. Some save them to give to children. Some people believe they are lucky. Others will just cash them in. Whatever they do with them, they’ve just noticed you. They noticed that you’re tipping differently (and better) than most of their other patrons. You’re now the guy/gal that gives out the two dollar bills. You will be remembered as such. In fact, your server might even tell other servers about you.

Two Dollar Bills - VerticalThis little trick has gotten me free drinks at bars. Hotel maids have stopped me in the hall to thank me for the “lucky” bills. The cocktail waitress at one casino was bringing drinks so fast I couldn’t keep up. Lots of people ask where I got them. If nothing else, it’s a conversation starter. Try it next time you’re heading out. You might be surprised at the results!


  • Any bank should be able to get two dollar bills for you, but it may take a few days to get them, so place your order in advance.
  • I’ve also had some luck getting twos at a casino cage. Don’t be afraid to ask.
  • I have heard that some clubs give out two dollar bills as change to their (mostly) gentleman patrons. Perhaps one of my astute readers can confirm.

Have you tried the Two Dollar Trick? How has it worked for you? Leave a comment and let us know!

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Gold and Silver Pawn: Long Lines, Short Changed

Gold and Silver Pawn Las VegasFor those that don’t know, Gold and Silver Pawn is the pawn shop that the hit reality television show “Pawn Stars” is based upon. The shop is located between the strip and downtown at 713 South Las Vegas Blvd. Due to the popularity of the show, there are often long lines of people baking in the sun waiting to get inside. When they are filming you will wait even longer… No-one is allowed in or out during most of the filming.

Once inside it’s one huge line of people snaking around the small (smaller than it looks on tv) shop. It’s pretty much single file, moving slowly around the shop in as orderly a fashion as possible. There’s enough pressure from the crowd behind you to keep you from lingering too long to fancy any one thing. You get to see most of what the shop has to offer, rather sequentially. Eventually the line weaves past the registers and out of the store, your passage out allowing one more person in.

Picadilly Circus Roulette Machine at Gold and Silver PawnI’ve joined the lines outside Gold and Silver a couple of times now. Once with my girlfriend, and once with my dad. Each time I’ve waited no less than 45 minutes in the hot Las Vegas sun to get in. In both instances, the only person I recognized from the show was Antoine the bouncer, who was manning the door. Inside I did see a number of items from the show: superbowl rings, the Jimi Hendrix artwork, presidential signatures, the Piccadilly Circus electronic roulette slot machine, and merchandise… lots of merchandise… t-shirts, coffee cups, those silver coins with the Old Man’s mug on them… you name it.

Gold and Silver pawn is no longer a pawn shop, and the stars of the show no longer “work” there. I’m pretty sure a couple of them never did. It’s a set for a tv show, and it’s a tourist trap. If you treat it as a busy museum, it’s kind of cool. You can see some neat, rare and valuable items – some of the same items that are featured on tv. If you just hit a colossal jackpot you might even be able to take one home. Otherwise, it’s “free” entertainment.. the only cost is your time and your discomfort, waiting to get in.

Superbowl Rings at Gold and Silver Pawn Las VegasTips:

  • If you go, don’t expect to meet the Old Man, Rick, Cory or Chum.
  • Don’t expect to be on television unless you have an appointment.
  • And don’t expect to pick up a cheap souvenir, unless you want to buy the same trinkets they’re hawking on the History Channel website.
  • Do bring a big jug of water, a fold up chair, and some sunscreen. The throngs waiting outside with you will think you’re a genius, and you’ll enjoy the rest of your day a whole lot more.

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Fremont Street Stage Shows: Rock Candy Sticky Sweet (and friends)

Rock Candy Sticky Sweet LogoRock Candy Sticky Sweet is a rock’n’roll stage production sponsored by the Fremont Street Experience. Their show consists of multiple vocalists, dancing girls (this must be a theme around here), a drummer and a single guitarist. They perform powerful, fun rock songs like “I Love Rock ’n’ Roll”, “We’re Not Gonna Take It”, and “Nuthin’ But a Good Time”. It’s all very polished and it sounds great.

Each musician gets a chance to strut their stuff, with solos by each vocalist, the guitarist and the drummer. Each of the songs has choreographed dance moves – sometimes by just one or two performers, sometimes by the entire troupe. It’s clear that these are well seasoned performers, and it’s clear that they are having a good time while on stage. It makes for a show that’s fun to watch over and over. See what I mean?

And if you spend a few nights in front of their stage that’s exactly what you will do. The show repeats itself a bit, but that’s the nature of a stage production. It trades variety for consitency and quality. Luckily, I haven’t yet tired of “Rockin” Renee’s rendition of Pat Benetar’s “Hit Me With Your Best Shot” or “Hit Man” Hunter’s pitch perfect performance of Living Colour’s “Cult of Personality”.

This solid group of performers is put together by Face Productions for the Fremont Street Experience. As far as I can tell, the show is exclusive to Fremont, and the troup of performers is employed (with some variations in cast) for a number of different shows on Fremont. Spend enough time at the stages downtown and it all starts to come together: Many of the performers you see as Rock Candy Sticky Sweet throughout the year are also in the Halloween shows “Frank and the Steins” and “Drac and the Vamps”. At Christmas, you’ll notice a couple familiar faces in “Candy and the Canes”. Each show is its own production, has different dancers and different songs are performed, but the basic lineup appears to be drawn from the same cast. Here’s “Frank and the Steins” performing this past October:

So, if you love these performers, but tire of seeing them play the same old songs, just check out one of their other incarnations. “Rock Candy Sticky Sweet” and “Frank and the Steins” are the most polished, have the most performers in common, and are my personal favorites, but all these shows are pretty amazing for the low low price of free. Here’s hoping that the Fremont Street Experience brings these talented performers back in 2013 with a few new tricks up their sleeves!

  • The Fremont Street shows are typically three hours long with three separate sets. Since these are stage productions that change little from night to night you can catch each hour of the show on a different night.
  • I could not find websites (or even Facebook pages) for Rock Candy Sticky Sweet, Frank and the Steins, Drac and the Vamps or Candy and the Canes to share with you, so watch for performances by them on the Fremont Street Experience Calendar, linked below.
  • If you know of other Face Productions shows that feature the same performers, or you know more of the backstory on these productions, please share in the comments.

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Saving Money with the American Casino Guide 2013

American Casino Guide 2013 Front CoverThe American Casino Guide is a paperback book published annually by Casino Vacations Press and authored by Steve Bourie. It contains all the basics on the major casino games, with honest and accurate information about how to play, what the odds are, and what strategies to use to maximize your chances of winning. It also has detailed contact and property info for nearly every casino in the country. For the third straight year, this edition includes an entertaining and informative seven page story by Dewey Hill of Dewey’s Vegas Adventures (pages 22-28) which tells everything you need to know about resort fees in Las Vegas and how to avoid/protest them – definitely worth educating yourself about.

This is where I first noticed that the editing of the book is not quite perfect. The final paragraph on page 22 and the first two paragraphs on page 23 are a repeat of the earlier text. There are a few other errors, like the reference in the Las Vegas section that points to the wrong page for this article, but please forgive these small foibles. The value of this book far outweighs any annoyance caused by the little errors within. Hopefully, you feel the same about this blog.

American Casino Guide Las Vegas ExcerptGetting to the Las Vegas section (pages 233-256), Steve offers some tips on the best deals in Vegas, the best places to play, his favorite free attractions, and information on nearly every hotel/casino in the valley. Pages 255-256 feature an article by Gaming Today columnist H. Scot Kraus with more free things to do and see in Vegas.

Steve also reports annual statistics for the payback percentages of slot machines broken down by region and bet amount (page 235). These percentages can help give you a clue where the best games are found at each denomination – the higher the better. Las Vegas has some of the highest payback percentages in the country. If you want to know where to find highest payback in Vegas I’ll give you a hint: As a general rule, you’ll have to get off the Las Vegas Strip. Seems like you’re reading the right blog.

Since I first discovered it in 2008, I have bought a new guide every year. In fact, I pre-ordered my copy of the 2013 edition in September. Why? Do I care that much about the payback percentage of penny slots downtown? Do the strategies, rules or games vary that much from year to year? Do I need to know if there are any new casinos in Montana? Nope. In fact, every year since that first year I have torn out the last couple hundred pages of the book and given the rest away.

Don’t get me wrong. The information in the front of the book is great, and I read every bit of it when I first got my hands on this book five years ago. Now I pass it on to friends and keep the best, most valuable part of the book for myself. You see, the back of this book is loaded with coupons, and roughly half of them can be used at casinos in Las Vegas.

American Casino Guide 2013 Discount CardThe coupons come with a card which you will need to show, identifying yourself as a purchaser of the book. You will need this card along with the coupon in some places, so it’s best to just cut it out and keep it in your wallet. The coupons themselves are divided up by state, then region (Las Vegas has its own section) and are listed alphabetically by the business name.

American Casino Guide 2013 El Cortez CouponsHow good are the coupons? This year there is a coupon for 50% off your meal at the Flame Steakhouse in the El Cortez that offers up to $25 in savings. This coupon alone can save you more than the cost of the book. While you’re at El Cortez you can also get $10 free slot play in the casino. There’s even a coupon to give you a hefty discount off of a hotel room.

Bring your coupons to the Four Queens and you can get two-for-one Mike Hammer tickets, two-for-one lunch or dinner entrees at Magnolia’s, and double players club points for a day (up to 500). There are $5, $10 and $25 table game match plays for casinos all over the valley, two for one show tickets, food and drink discounts, bonus slot club points and free slot play. There are even some nationwide coupons you can use on car rental and buying gambling goodies online.

This book easily pays for itself every year. I’ve discovered great places I had never been (like The Flame), and I’ve never had any trouble using the coupons. I was so confident that I would get my money’s worth out of this book that I pre-ordered my personal copy not knowing what this year’s coupons would be. It’s probably the safest bet I’ll make all year.

Thanks to Steve Bourie and Casino Vacations Press for providing a complimentary review copy at my request so that I could share this with you before the book arrived in stores.

Three great ways to get the American Casino Guide:

  • Buy it for $18.95 at your local bookstore when it becomes available (likely mid-late December).
  • Place a pre-order for a discounted copy from Amazon and help out this blog. (A small percentage of your total purchase made after clicking through the affiliate link comes back to LasVegasOffStrip and helps support the costs of providing this site.)
  • Win a FREE copy before you can buy one (US/Canada Residents only) in the next Where In Vegas contest. Stay tuned.


  • The El Cortez hotel room coupon states it is for a Vintage or Pavilion room, but when you call for reservations you can use the coupon for a nice discount on the swankier Cabana Jr. Suites as well. Also note, this only applies for a Sun-Wed arrival and a minimum 2 night stay. Details like this (restrictions) can be found in the text on the front and back of each coupon. Though most of the restrictions are quite reasonable, it pays to read closely.
  • Many casino coupons require a trip to the player’s club (and membership, which is free) to redeem, so make sure the player’s club will be open when you get there.
  • Updates to coupons and other valuable information for bargain hunters can be found on the American Casino Guide website. Follow the link below.
  • New this year! Download the free American Casino Guide App for iPhone.

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The Spazmatics (Las Vegas): Nerds Rock!

Spazmatics Logo (from FSE screen)Nerds: Coke-bottle glasses, crash helmets, suspenders, bow ties and all other manner of socially awkward. Rock: Sweet electric guitar riffs, bangin’ drums and righteous vocals. Mix them together and what have you got? Mix them together!?!

Mix them together and you get the Spazmatics. And the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Far greater. You don’t believe me? See for yourself:

That’s the Spazmatics schtick, and it works. They dress like nerds, they act like nerds, but they rock. I was dumbfounded the first time I saw them on stage. They cover a wide variety of music from the decade that brought us “Revenge of the Nerds”. For their revenge, these nerds crank out amazing renditions of everything from “Take on Me” by A-ha to “Rebel Yell” by Billy Idol and draw cheering crowds beyond the wildest fantasies of actual nerds. Their repertoire is so vast and varied that it’s fun just wondering what they will do next. Sideways baseball cap? Maybe some Run D.M.C.? “Rusty” the guitarist stepping up to the mic? Could it be an AC/DC rock anthem?

Their show is polished, it’s campy, it’s unexpected (at least the first time), and it is highly amusing. In fact, they’re so entertaining that the original Spazmatics band has spawned numerous others around the country to keep up with the demand for their unique brand of geek-n-roll.

But which is the original? Will the real Spazmatics please stand up? Yes, on stages all over this fine city. The original S to the P to the A to the Z started in L.A., but Vegas is their home now. Catch them on Friday nights at Sunset Station (free), Saturday nights in the South Point Lounge ($5 general admission, $10 VIP) and throughout the year at the Fremont Street Experience (various days/times). Don’t be a Poindexter, get out and see a show!

  • If you’re going to South Point, go VIP. $10 VIP admission gets you into the short line, with two drink tickets and a reserved table and chairs. It’s well worth the $5 premium.
  • The shows on Fremont tend to be PG-13 (if the kids get the jokes it’s not the band’s fault), but their show at other venues can get a bit more risque. Leave the kids and the easily offended at home.
  • The various Spazmatics bands are managed by Perfect World Entertainment. If you’re not in Las Vegas there may still be one in your neighborhood. Check out their website and see.
  • The Spazmatics will be headlining NYE 2013 at the South Point Casino. Last year’s show was a sellout, so get your tickets early!

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Ellis Island Cafe: The Best Steak Special in Las Vegas

Updated on October 8, 2015.

Steak Special Receipt $8.82Ellis Island Casino and Microbrewery at 4178 Koval Lane is both as close (less than ½  a mile from Bally’s) and as far (it’s small, low brow, full of locals and attached to a Super 8) from the strip as you can be. They are known for their Italian style pizza joint (Metro), bbq, low limit gambling and the off-menu steak special in the cafe.

If you’re in the know (and now you will be,) you can get a soup or salad with rolls and butter, a steak, a vegetable and a starch, and a microbrewed beer for $7.99. That’s right. For $8.82 including tax, you can have a two course steak dinner with sides and a beer. Originally just an off menu special that you had to request, this special now requires a pair of coupons. To get yours you’ll need a (free) Ellis Island Players Club card. Play a minimum of $5 through the card and then bring to a kiosk to claim your coupons. See the Player’s Club for full details.

Steak Fries and Green BeansThe cafe is like a nicer version of Denny’s, with formica tables and paper placemats. The waitstaff is curt but efficient, and the food, especially the steak, is far better than expected. They give you a ten ounce cut of sirloin, at least an inch thick in the center, and cooked exactly to your order. My steak was lean and tender, with none of the gristle and fat that you need to cut away from the other steak specials in Las Vegas. I would have a hard time getting the meat alone at my local butcher shop for less than I paid for this whole meal.

Salad, Roll and BeerThe salad was average, mostly iceburg lettuce with a cherry tomato and a bunch of croutons. The rolls and butter were cold, but tasted okay. With my steak came green beans cooked with chunks of garlic – very good, and a good portion of steak fries. For my beer I chose their dark lager, which was brown and tasty and fresh. If you’ve ever had a Yuengling Black and Tan, then you’ve got the idea.

I have tried every steak special I can find in Vegas and this one tops them all. Ellis Island is practically giving away a fantastic steak dinner, just to get you in the door. This is one of the reasons I love Vegas. Don’t miss it!


  • This place can get busy on weekend nights. Expect a wait Thu-Sat.
  • If you prefer, you can substitute a craft brewed root beer for your beer.
  • Call ahead to book a free brewery tour. Details at the website below.

Ellis Island Brewery on Urbanspoon
Update: December 22, 2012
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Free Rum, Tomorrow! Frankie’s Tiki Room

Updated on October 8, 2015.

Frankies_Tiki_Room-hotrodThroughout the years, Las Vegas has been home to many a tiki destination: There was Don the Beachcomber at the Sahara, the Aku Aku at the Stardust, I used to enjoy 2 for 1 Mai Tais at Trader Vic’s outside the Planet Hollywood. Nowadays, authentic tiki is as scarce in Las Vegas as it is in most other cities – with one exception.

Frankie’s Tiki Room opened at 1712 West Charleston, near UNLV’s Shadow Lane Campus in 2008, and has been a destination tiki lounge ever since. While for some locals it’s just another neighborhood bar with video poker machines and unusual decor, those in the know come from miles around to drink their fill of tiki ambience and potent tiki drinks.

The whole concept of tiki is to create a place to get away. When you enter a tiki bar you leave behind the everyday world and enter a place where you can truly relax. Both the drinks and decor are exotic and fanciful, hand crafted art. Blowfish Lamp at Frankie's Tiki RoomThe stresses of everyday life that follow you into most bars: news, politics, even sports – are intentionally left at the door. Drinks are strong, typically rum based (a nod to the mid-20th century origins of tiki, and to its popularity in tropical climes), and are crafted from fresh exotic juices, spices and liquors. Menus are cryptic and intriguing – the exact recipes often closely guarded secrets. On all counts, Frankie’s delivers.

Frankie's Tiki RoomThe first thing you notice when you enter Frankie’s is that you cannot see. The lighting inside is so dim that I needed a special lens for my camera to photograph the lights themselves. Once your eyes adjust, you begin to see the decor. A floor to ceiling tiki with dice for eyes guards the front door. The room is lit by colorful hanging blowfish lanterns. There are carvings on the walls, and on the backs of chairs.

Free Rum, Tomorrow! sign at Frankies Tiki Room

Bamboo is everywhere and human sized hand carved tikis lurk in every corner. A collection of vintage tiki mugs decorates one wall. Behind the bar it’s wall to wall booze – and not just the standards, but hundreds of rums and liquors, many that you probably haven’t heard of. There are more tiki mugs (for sale) and t-shirts as well. A carved wooden sign taunts “Free Rum Tomorrow!”

Two televisions are perched behind the bar, but you will never see a conventional broadcast. The sound is muted and the video is made up of random clips from an eclectic mix of The Bar at Frankie's Tiki Roomb-grade horror and Gilligan’s Island meets vintage burlesque. A jukebox plays surf and exotica. There’s a carnival style coin-op vice-tester machine. The drink menu is divided between traditional and modern original tiki drinks, rated from two to five skulls for potency. The five skull traditional Zombie contains many rums including Lemon Hart 151 and has a two drink limit “for tradition’s sake.”

Drinks are $9, and worth every penny for both potency and flavor. For $25 you can get your drink in a souvenir tiki mug, which you can keep. I’ve somehow wound up with quite a collection of these unique mugs over the years. Bar staff is friendly and efficient, and the clientele is a mix of tikiphiles, rockabilly, and locals who don’t seem to mind sharing their quirky neighborhood bar.


  • Free rum, today! The paytables on the bar-top video poker machines aren’t that great, but if you pop in a 20 and play full coin your drinks are on the house.
  • Get a seat at the bar, if you can. The fancy carved seats at the tables are cool looking, but rather uncomfortable.
  • If you try the “Vice Tester” everyone will know it. The lights of the machine are far brighter than anything else in the bar.
  • If you go in late March/early April, this place is completely taken over by the Viva Las Vegas crowd, and will be packed to capacity throughout this annual rockabilly fest.
  • Finally, designate/hire a driver or take a cab. One five skull drink and you could be teetering on the edge of the legal limit, depending on your tolerance.

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