Thursday, March 13, 2014

Missing the "Old" Las Vegas

There have been plenty of news articles detailing the newly started construction of the "Cromwell" on the corner of the Strip opposite Caesars. I'm sure it will find many devotees and loyal customers after it opens. For me, I'll always remember what was there before - the Barbary Coast, Bill's Saloon and Gambling Hall. I'm not one to dwell on the past but nostalgia does have its place.

I wrote a piece a while ago for an internet site about places to find surprisingly good food in LV for under gourmet prices. The Barbary Coast/Bill's was on the top of my list.


Hidden Delights – Chinese at Bill’s Saloon

Over the years the food situation in Las Vegas has changed dramatically. Not too long ago one of the highlights of a junket (you don’t hear that word anymore!) to Vegas was the inexpensive breakfast, lunch and dinner buffets at just about every Strip casino. Ranging in price from a few dollars to almost $10 at posh venues like Caesars, the buffets were adequate at most.

All of that changed when Vegas went through a major rejuvenation starting with Steve Wynn’s high end Mirage and Bellagio. As time passed these exclusive venues too became more ordinary, giving way to Wynn’s newest palaces, the Wynn and Encore. The latest Strip developers brought us the Cosmopolitan and Aria. There’s more to come even though the economy is still in the toilet and practically flushed as far as Vegas is concerned.

Anyway, with the newer, fancier hotels came better and more expensive eating. From a place with cheap, decent food, Las Vegas has become a haven for TV personality chefs and very high-end, gourmet type restaurants.

There remain, however, a few hidden gems for those who enjoy exceptional food at a reasonable cost.

Bill’s Gamblin’ Hall and Saloon, the former Barbary Coast Hotel/Casino, on one of the corners of possibly the busiest intersection in the world, is the home of one of those treasures. At the rear of the small casino floor is a place called Our Victorian Room that is a 24/7 cafĂ©. It boasts daily prime rib specials and an occasional steak deal. The waiters are experienced and business like. For dinner you may have to make a reservation at the door and wait (you can make one on the phone if you’re staying there) which is generally just an excuse to get you to the tables for half an hour more. They’ll call you over the loudspeaker when your table is ready.

What hardly anyone knows is that Bill’s has one of the best Chinese menus in town – and the quality and preparation of these menu items have been consistent for years. Same chef? Same family of chefs? I’m not sure but they’re doing something right!

If you go, order the Spare Ribs and the Chicken Chow Mein. The spare ribs are short ribs barbecued to perfection and sprinkled with sesame seeds; the chow mein comes with hefty, thick egg noodles that will remind you more of homemade pasta than Chinese food. Sound pedestrian? You’ll be surprised and you’ll leave a minimum 20% tip because you are!


This might be easier to read if you alter all the tenses - change "is" to "was;" "has" to "have." In another 20 years there will be another venue on this corner. That's just how things are.

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