Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Suggestions for a Luxor resident

A posting of suggestions for a friend who's going to the Luxor in a few weeks:

Vegas trip planning is such fun, even when I'm not the one going. Here's my suggestions (wow, this got long quick -- I guess I'm a bit opinionated):

1) Cabs between Luxor and the airport will cost you about $15 each way, if you don't get longhauled. I'm seeing availability of car rentals for right around $100 (total, including tax) for Feb 26-Mar 1. Add in a trip downtown (another $20 each way), and it might make sense, especially if you're not drinking a lot.  http://carrentalsavers.com/

2) One of the best meals in Vegas is at Gordon Ramsay Steak. It's pricey, though, perhaps the second-most expensive meal I've eaten. Reservations and menus with prices are at http://www.parislasvegas.com/restaurants/gordon-ramsay-steak.html

3) Giada's at The Cromwell was also very good, but way overpriced (my most expensive meal ever).  Reservations are hard to come by, but if it's just one or two of you, I hear you can walk up to the bar and get a full menu.

4) Just as good, and recently rebooted, is Mix at the top of Delano (next door to Luxor, at Mandalay Bay). Again, on the pricey side, but the Filet Mignon was the best meal I've ever eaten. Sunset is the best time to go so you can watch The Strip light up. It's scheduled to close soon, so this may be your last chance before it gets remodeled and rebranded. http://delanolasvegas.com/dining/mix-at-delano.aspx (Chef Alain Ducasse)

5) A little lower on the price scale, if you like Chinese food or Mexican food, you should definitely stop at China Poblano at Cosmopolitan. I can't believe I didn't stop on last weekend's trip -- I always have a meal there. (Chef José Andrés)

6) My favorite location on the strip for breakfast is Mon Ami Gabi at Paris. Reasonably priced, and if you're patient, you can get a seat on the patio and watch the parade of humanity pass by as you eat. Top notch food, and a reasonable price point, too.

7) If you're willing to travel off-strip for breakfast, you absolutely *must* have breakfast at Eat, at 7th and Carson, just a block off of Fremont Street. It's the best breakfast in town, and very reasonably priced. (Chef Natalie Young)

8) Lunch: One of the neatest lunch experiences, weather permitting, is at Olives at Bellagio. They seat for lunch until 2:45, so get there for a late lunch at around 2:30, and ask for a seat on the patio. The Bellagio fountains go off every half hour starting at 3:00 (earlier on weekends), and it feels like you're in the middle of the show. If the wind's right, you might get misted. (Chef Todd English)

9) Don't eat anywhere at Flamingo. Not the buffet, not the food court, and definitely not Carlos & Charlies. Rancid meat isn't good.

10) The best buffet in town is at Cosmopolitan. The "Wicked Spoon" has high quality food in small dishes, and their desserts look and taste amazing. Others may tell you that Bacchanal Buffet at Caesars Palace is better, and I've not tried it, but Baccanal is more expensive and has longer waits. I've also had buffets at Monte Carlo (meh), MGM (meh), and Bellagio (surprisingly meh).

11) And again, at Cosmopolitan, Holsteins makes some great hamburgers, and Secret Pizza (you'll have to ask someone in order to find it) makes the best pizza on the strip. There's better pizza (and the best meatball I've ever had) at Pizza Rock just off Fremont Street, but Cosmo is much closer to Luxor. (Also, 800° Degrees Pizza outside of Monte Carlo is merely really good, not as amazingly good.)

12) And even more at Cosmopolitan, the best lunch deal in town, if you like seafood, is at Estiatorio Milos. They used to have a $20 fixed price lunch menu. I see now that it's up to $25, but even at that price, it's great food at a great price. The tomato salad is something I still dream about, even though it seems so simple.

13) At Luxor, I've heard that their coffee shop, the Pyramid Cafe, is surprisingly good. I've also heard that their buffet is surprisingly bad. Next door, the buffet at Excalibur just re-opened after a $6.2 million renovation. It looks gorgeous, but I haven't heard if the food's any good -- it was terrible before it closed in September.

14) As far as shows, I've heard Chriss Angel's show is one of the worst in Vegas. Absinthe, at Caesars Palace, is one of the best (but quite raunchy), and you can often get discount tickets for it in the plaza outside the tent the afternoon of the show. I should see it again. We've also enjoyed Human Nature (four Aussie white guys doing Motown), the Beatles LOVE Cirque show, the Sinatra-like Matt Goss, and Rock of Ages.

15) If you do go to Fremont Street, spend a few minutes in The D. It's loud, it's a rocking party atmosphere, and it's a lot of fun just to hang out there. They've got "vintage" coin operated slot machines upstairs, if you're into the retro thing.

16) Other tasty, moderately priced dinner options I'd recommend near Luxor: Nine Fine Irishmen at New York New York, Todd English P.U.B. at Aria, and

17) There's no good dining next door at Excalibur. Keep walking.

18) On the other side, at Mandalay Bay/Delano, other than Mix, I've not had a lot of experience. Strip Steak is overpriced. I've heard good things about Rx Boiler Room, but haven't tried it yet. Our last meal this last weekend was at House of Blues, and although it was good, it wasn't amazing.

19) On or near Fremont Street, other good dining choices would be Andiamo's Steak at The D (I hear it's good; I haven't tried it yet), the late night Oxtail Soup (after 11 PM, at the Market Street Cafe at The California -- so tasty!), and Carson Kitchen (6th & Carson; I've heard it's amazing but haven't made it there yet. http://carsonkitchen.com/food-menu/)

20) Monorails/trams: There's four of them.
a) The Las Vegas Monorail ($12 for an all day pass) is super inconvenient. It's a long walk from the stations to the hotels.
b) The free tram between TI and Mirage is odd, in that it's almost as fast to walk.
c) The free Excalibur/Luxor/Mandalay Bay tram is still confusing to me. It's a four station loop, Excalibur North -> Mandalay -> Luxor -> Excalibur South, with no passengers allowed between Excalibur North and South. This makes it pretty inefficient to get to Mandalay from Luxor. It also stops running at 10:30 PM, which seems crazy early to me.
d) The free tram between Bellagio, Crystals Mall, and Monte Carlo is OK, but if your destination is Aria, I discovered it's faster to take a shortcut out of the back of Bellagio than it is to take the tram.

21) Major stuff that's changed in the last few years: No more Treasure Island pirate show. No more Show in the Sky at Rio. Imperial Palace became The Quad which became The Linq Hotel. The Linq promanade opened, which is kind of a cool retail corridor leading to the new High Roller ferris wheel. Bill's Gambling Hall (formerly Barbary Coast) is now The Cromwell, and is targeted to club kids.

22) Speaking of clubs... I got nothing.  I hear Marquee at Cosmopolitan has slightly fallen in popularity behind Hakkasan at MGM and Drai's at Cromwell, and that XS at Wynn is still bringing in the crowds, but that's not my scene, so I have no opinions on the club scene.

That's probably not it, but that's everything that came to mind. I'm sure I'll have more ideas soon.

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