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: www.facebook.com/WeAreBridge/

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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.

Website: www.sincitywings.com

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Where In Vegas: Lucky Number Seven

It’s time to play the Where In Vegas game again! Our last winner, Theresa, is now the proud owner of an American Casino Guide 2013. She was the first one to correctly identify the location of our last contest photo, which was taken inside the men’s room at one of our favorite bars – Frankie’s Tiki Room. We hope she saves lots of money with her new book.

Where in Vegas?So here’s your chance to win. Be the first to correctly identify where the photo at left was taken and you’ll get your choice of two fantastic prizes. The photo isn’t the sharpest (neither are we) but if you’ve stood in this popular spot before, perhaps awaiting a tasty treat, you should know exactly where it is. Can you remember? Where In Vegas is it?

If you think you might know, get that guess in quick! Only the first correct answer wins. The first correct answer gets their choice of two great prizes: A styling Las Vegas Off Strip t-shirt, unisex, size M, L, or XL. Very exclusive! Or, a copy of the American Casino Guide 2013.

Rules:

  • One entry per person, please.
  • Due to the high cost of international shipping, I can only offer these prizes to those with a US/Canadian address.
  • You must provide a valid email address so that I can contact you for shipping info and choice of prize if you win.
  • Have fun!

Prizes: (your choice)
Prize-TshirtAmerican Casino Guide 2013 Front

Where In Vegas: Six (April Fools Edition)

If you’re on Las Vegas Off Strip, then clearly you’re no fool! You know just where to go to get the low-down on all the eats, drinks, sights and entertainment Vegas has to offer, away from the strip. We’re six months old today (happy 1/2 birthday, us) and we hope you like where we’ve taken you so far.

All fooling aside, it’s time for another edition of “Where in Vegas.” After lots of guessing and a few hints, last month’s winner, Heather came up with the correct answer, and the prize. We hope Heather enjoyed her champagne brunch buffet!

Where In Vegas?Check out the photo to the left. If you’ve been in this room, then you know exactly where it is. If you haven’t, you ought to go. Well, maybe not to this specific room, but at least to the building it’s in. Actually, if you spend much time in the building it’s in, you’ll end up in a room like this eventually. So, Where In Vegas is it?

If you think you night know, get that guess in quick! Only the first correct answer wins. The first correct answer gets their choice of two fantastic prizes: A styling Las Vegas Off Strip t-shirt, unisex, size M, L, or XL. Very exclusive! Or, a copy of the American Casino Guide 2013.

Rules:

  • One entry per person, please.
  • Due to the high cost of international shipping, I can only offer these prizes to those with a US/Canadian address.
  • You must provide a valid email address so that I can contact you for shipping info and choice of prize if you win.
  • Have fun!

Prizes: (your choice)
Prize-TshirtAmerican Casino Guide 2013 Front

Where in Vegas: Five

Here it is, the image for this month’s Where In Vegas competition. You have one guess to tell me Where In Vegas this photo was taken. This month we are giving away a promotional voucher that is good for a brunch for two, including sparkling wine at the Cravings Buffet® at the Mirage® (valued at $51.98, gratuity not included). I know, I know, it’s not “off strip” but I bought this voucher from Travelzoo® and I will be unable to use it before it expires (March 22, 2013), so rather than have the promotional value go to waste I figured I’d pass it on to one of my astute readers (that could be you). In case you don’t use it right away, the “base value” of the voucher ($26) does not expire. I’m also willing to substitute a Las Vegas Off Strip t-shirt, if the winner prefers.

Where In Vegas?You’ll have to be quick to win! Last month’s winner, Phil, got the correct answer in just 24 minutes! Thanks to his quick and accurate response, he is now the owner of a money-saving American Casino Guide 2013! You can be a winner too. All you have to do is identify where the photo (at left) was taken. Post your answer in the comments. The first correct answer wins!

Update!

Where_In_Vegas-005-2This is the first Where in Vegas to last a full 24 hours without a winner. It’s time for a little more help: The newly added photo to the right was taken in the same building as the original photo, just down the hall. I hope this helps jog someone’s memory. I’m sure a few of you have been here before. To make it fair, anyone who has guessed already may have one more guess. If you haven’t guessed yet, what are you waiting for? Remember, the first correct answer wins!

More Hints:

A lot of the guesses have the right idea. The picture was taken downtown. It is a place where the general public might go, but it’s not in a casino. And here’s one more big hint: The reason most people went there disappeared at the end of December 2012. So, where is it? Let’s have some more guesses! Since I just gave you some new information, prior guesses won’t count against you. Even if you guessed before, you still have one chance to guess. First correct answer wins!

Another Hint:

Another 24 hours has passed and still no-one has guessed it correctly. It seems that this location is less well-known than I thought. So, I’m going to give another BIG hint: The picture was taken on the 2nd floor above the Walgreens on Fremont Street. All you have to do is be the first to tell me what office I took the photo in. Extra credit if you can tell me what disappeared from there after December 2012 that people used to go there for. Be the first with the correct answer and the voucher (or t-shirt if you prefer) is yours! All prior guesses are wiped out. So everyone has one guess to get it right. Good luck!

Rules:

  • One entry per person, please.
  • The voucher will be delivered to the winner as a .pdf via email.
  • If the winner is unable to use the voucher within the promotional period (before March 22nd), they may request to receive a Las Vegas Off Strip t-shirt instead, unisex, size M, L or XL. A US or Canadian mailing address is required.
  • Have fun!

LasVegasOffStrip has no affiliation or agreement with the Cravings Buffet® , the Mirage® , or Travelzoo® and each is a registered trademark of its respective company.

Related: Winner, Winner, Champagne Brunch!

Where In Vegas: Number Four

Where In VegasIt’s time for another “Where in Vegas” contest! I scraped up two prizes for this month’s contest – the winner gets to choose. You’ll have to be quick to win! So far the winning answer has averaged only nine hours, with our fastest correct answer coming in only 29 minutes! All you have to do is identify where the photo (at left) was taken. Post your answer in the comments. The first correct answer wins!

This photo was taken in one of my favorite spots in Vegas, and I haven’t written about it yet. Where In Vegas is it? The first correct answer gets their choice of two fantastic prizes: A styling Las Vegas Off Strip t-shirt, unisex, size M, L, or XL. Very exclusive! Or, a copy of the American Casino Guide 2013.

Rules:

  • One entry per person, please.
  • Due to the high cost of international shipping, I can only offer this prize to those with a US/Canadian address.
  • You must provide a valid email address so that I can contact you for shipping info and choice of prize if you win.
  • Have fun!

Prizes: (your choice)
Prize-TshirtAmerican Casino Guide 2013 Front

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.

Website: www.pinballmuseum.org
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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!

Tips:

  • 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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Contest: Where in Vegas – Round Three!

Coolest Handicap Spot in VegasContest time again! By now you probably know the drill: Tell me Where in Vegas this photo (left) was taken and you could win bragging rights and maybe something cool. The subject of this month’s contest is the coolest handicap parking spot ever! Your job? Just tell me where I found it.

The Prize? I got my hands on another American Casino Guide 2013 to give away, so if you live in the US/Canada and you didn’t win last month, here’s your second chance!

Our last winner got the correct answer in just 29 minutes! Better act fast!

American Casino Guide 2013 FrontAmerican Casino Guide 2013 Back

  • One entry per person, please.
  • Due to the high cost of international shipping, I can only offer this prize to those with a US/Canadian address.
  • You must provide a valid email address so that I can contact you for shipping info if you win.
  • Have fun!

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.

Website: www.gspawn.com
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