Dinner at the Bar, Ruths Chris Steakhouse

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Harrahs: Specializing in steak and menopause, apparently.

I don’t normally spend a lot of money on meals in Las Vegas. I have this mental block about paying $50 for a steak I could buy at the store and cook myself for less than $10. Same with eggs. Same with everything, pretty much. I realize you have to pay for the labor and ambience, etc. but sometimes it seems a bit excessive to me–especially in Las Vegas. But every once in a great while, I’ll treat myself to one of those expensive meals. Because you know, when in Rome. . . .

Since I was staying at Harrahs anyway, I thought it would be a good time to try Ruths Chris Steakhouse. I’d heard great things about the view, and the Happy Hour menu looks pretty good. Ruths Chris is located on the second floor of Harrahs. You take an elevator up from near the front of the casino.

Unfortunately, I was running late and didn’t get there early enough for their Happy Hour deals, but that turned out okay in the long run. I didn’t have a reservation, but there was a free seat at the bar, so I grabbed it. I wound up sitting next to a nice local couple. The wife told me they had recently moved to Las Vegas and still enjoyed coming to the Strip to Harrahs to eat at Ruths Chris.

This, dear readers, is a ringing endorsement, because typically locals will tell you how much they hate coming to the Strip for any reason. Continue reading

Street Art in Las Vegas

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Welcome to Las Vegas painting

Welcome to Las Vegas painting in the Arts District

One of my favorite activities when I’m visiting a new city is hunting for street art. Believe it or not, there can be as much artistic talent on the side of a building or on a city sidewalk as there is inside an art museum–and best of all, it’s totally free to view! Street art can make for great photo opps and selfies. It can almost be like a treasure hunt to see what you can find in any given city.

What made me start writing this post is that I noticed so much street art on my last visit to Las Vegas that I hadn’t noticed before. I don’t know if it’s that I wasn’t paying attention before or if street art has been proliferating in Vegas over the past year or so. In any case, I like the trend, and I hope it continues.

Here are a small sampling of photos of some of the free art you can find on walls and in public spaces in Downtown Las Vegas:

The Market

This mural adorns the side of the building housing The Market on Fremont Street.

Preying Mantis

This preying mantis sculpture at the Downtown Container Park was originally at Burning Man. It breathes fire periodically.

Fold 'Em

This is one of several works of street art you can spot in the 18b Arts District,

Street art

More street art in 18b.

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An Introduction to the 18b Arts District

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Retro Vegas

Retro Vegas in the 18b Arts District, north of the Stratosphere.

A couple of years ago, a friend of mine who lives in Las Vegas said to me that “Vegas has no culture.” I think he was joking; it’s hard to tell sometimes. But I didn’t believe it then, and I don’t believe it now. It may be hard to see the culture from inside a casino-resort on the Strip, but it’s there. Who creates the culture of a place? Its artists, of course. Find out where the artists spend their time, and you’ll find the culture.

Over the past couple of years, I’ve been hearing a lot about “the 18b Arts District” in Las Vegas, mainly due to its popular monthly First Friday event, featuring artists displaying their works, food trucks, live music and a general block party vibe. Sadly, I am almost never in town on a Friday night, let alone the first Friday of the month, so I’d never made it to 18b to check it out.

Prior to my January Vegas trip, I received an email from a PR/marketing firm offering to show me around the Arts District so I could get a sense of what’s there. I thought it was high time I visited the neighborhood, so I took them up on that. If you, like me, don’t have access to a car when you’re in Las Vegas, you can get there via SDX or Deuce bus from the Strip or Fremont Street and get off at the 18b Arts District stop on Casino Center Drive. (If you have access to a car, you’ll also find parking along the street in this neighborhood.) Continue reading

Solo Dining at Giada

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Those windows command a superior view of the Strip.

I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that Giada at the Cromwell, by chef Giada DeLaurentiis, is one of the most talked-about Vegas restaurant openings of the past year. I’m mostly immune to these sorts of things, but I admit, the hype got to me. For one thing, it’s nice to see another female celebrity chef opening a restaurant on the Strip. If I’m not mistaken, the last one to do so was Carla Pellegrini when she opened Bacio at the Tropicana–and that was a few years ago.

But, gender aside, what really matters is the food and dining experience. Early reviews on Giada were very positive. My brother (“Vegasbrolo”) and his wife ate here the week before I did and raved about it. But I don’t believe I ever read any reviews speaking from the solo diner point of view. It’s a dirty job, but someone had to do it. Oh, who am I kidding? I couldn’t wait to try it. So I made a reservation for my January trip.

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The Legendary Big Elvis

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Big Elvis Poster

Big Elvis Poster

Those of you who are new to Las Vegas–or perhaps too young to remember the late Elvis Presley (1935-1977)–may have heard that the city has its fair share of Elvis impersonators. You might wonder why, after all these years. Not only did he star in the movie “Viva Las Vegas,” but Elvis had a hugely successful seven-year residency in Las Vegas (at the Las Vegas International Hotel, now the Westgate), so his life and music are as much a part of the fabric of this city as the Rat Pack.

It feels like a rite of passage to see an Elvis impersonator in Las Vegas, as much as seeing a magic show or Cirque du Soleil or even playing a slot machine just to say you did. I’ve seen two Elvis impersonators in the past: One guy who was just an okay singer but very funny; and Steve Connolly, who is fantastic and can be seen Downtown at the Four Queens in his “Spirit of the King” show.

But perhaps the most legendary Elvis tribute artist in Las Vegas is Peter “Big Elvis” Vallee, who has performed on the Strip for many years (formerly at the Barbary Coast/Bill’s and now at Harrahs Piano Bar). He is known as “Big Elvis” because he is a very big guy. For one reason or another, I have never made it to his show until my trip this January. It has taken me over a decade of visits to Las Vegas to see him perform. Shame on me. Continue reading