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Downtown March Madness, March 21-24, and Ellis Island

Discussion in 'Vegas Trip Reports' started by news423, Mar 30, 2015.

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  1. news423

    news423 Tourist

    Joined:
    Dec 24, 2014
    Messages:
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    Location:
    Lake Zurich, IL
    Trips to Las Vegas:
    18

    My Trip Report

    After reading all of the great trip reports, I feel obligated to give back in a small way. I figured if I can give a decent and readable TR, then I’m doing my small part in giving back to a great VMB community. This TR won’t hold a candle to those given by the likes of Packer, Tbone, pphold and Joe, but I’ll give it my best.

    Time to pop my TR cherry, so here goes …

    SATURDAY
    Alarm goes off at 3 a.m., on the road by 3:30 and make it to Chicago Midway Airport by 5 a.m. You would think the airport would be dead, or at least I thought it would be. When I asked the TSA guy why the big crowd so early, it made sense when he said, “Spring Break.” Still, it was only a 10-minute breeze through security. Stopped by Harry Caray’s bar for a couple of morning Blue Moon pints and boarded the plane. Three Bailey and coffees and two Dos Equis later, we land.

    There’s four of us on this trip: Myself (Skip), N.O., K.B. and B.E. (my dad, whose name derives from every time we ask how much he’s up or down, his response is: ‘Bout Even). Fortunately, B.E.’s the DD on this trip, so we stumble off the plane and head to the Rental Car bus. We’re also armed with the 2015 Las Vegas Advisor coupon book, which more than paid for itself with free slot play offers, matchplays and food coupons.

    Even though this was my 18th trip to the desert playground, I made a rookie mistake when I gave B.E. the name of a rental car agency where we’d save a few bucks. You can probably see where this is going. To be fair, the vehicle was fine and, past the usual hard sell of them trying to get us to buy insurance, etc., the car rental place was decent. The problem is that once you got to the main car rental center building, you had to board ANOTHER shuttle to get to the off-site agency we ended up using. Then, when you return the car, you had to rinse, repeat. I’m not going to name the place, because I’m not here to pile on a business. What I do want to say is this: If you want to save a few bucks and you don’t mind a little inconvenience, there are car rental places you can use off site that’ll save you some money. But if time and convenience is more your thing, just double check to ensure you’re renting at the main car rental facility.

    Lesson learned.

    Finally settled, we head to our first obligatory stop: the Ellis Island casino, on Koval Lane just behind Bally’s. For those who have been to this local gem, you simply won’t get a better value for your money, especially when it comes to the place’s steak special. They call it a sirloin, but it’s closer to a butt steak. Not the absolute best piece of steak I’ve ever had, but it’s pretty damn good. And when you get a vegetable, potato and one of the place’s craft beers for $7.99 total, it’s a steal. You just have to play a $1 in a machine to get two coupons from the player’s club kiosk, which allows you to get the meal for that price. I also used the first of many coupons on this trip at Ellis; was eligible to win between $10-$100 in FP and ended up getting $20. Not bad. Hit the first of a few keno hands here; will try to post the pics later in this TR, as I’m still trying to figure all of it out.

    Next, went to El Cortez, more for old time’s sake. I’ve stayed at the ElCo in the tower rooms for my last three trips. A great deal, but I’m annoyed they’re now charging a resort fee. Placed a few sports bets and played my $10 worth of free slot play; lost that (a recurring theme this trip). We left and went to our home base for the trip, the Four Queens.

    Check in was fairly easy and, yes, I got a North Tower room, right above the canopy. Oh, joy. I thought about going back downstairs to get a switch, but just wanted to keep playing. Played some more slots, lost some more money. Meandered across the way to the Fremont and Binion’s. Not much has changed at either place, which is fine with me.

    But what’s truly annoying was the amount of street performers and beggars on Fremont. Granted, it’s been three years since I’ve been to Vegas and Downtown (an eternity, considering this was my 18th visit), but there was a lot more of these ‘performers’ and I didn’t care for it. Seemed like you were running into someone every 50 feet or so. How can an old man wear a contraption that slides into his ass crack, then comes out the other side and keeps his nut sack in a sling? Slightly humorous, yes. But, still, pretty disgusting. And I’m no prude, either.

    Barf.

    That said, my next stop was at Mermaids ... and it was a pleasant surprise. Seriously. If you haven’t been in here lately, they’ve cleaned it up. A lot. It’s still got that divey feel to it, particularly with the carnival-style food in the back. But gone is the grimey feel to the place. It’s bright, not smoky and they now have ticket-in-ticket-out machines. Kudos to whomever decided to clean the place up, because it’s a LOT more appealing. Nice work.

    By now, we’ve been up for 18 hours (after only getting about 4 hours sleep the night prior), so we stumbled (more from being tired, not from the drinks) over to the California to get the $9.99 prime rib dinner. When you use a 2-for-1 coupon, it cut the cost of the dinner in half to $5 each. Bad news: they overcooked my medium rare prime rib, but I was too tired (and hungry) to send it back. Wolfed down the meal and, although they asked if we wanted our dessert that came with the meal, we passed and just got the check. We left, made it back to Four Queens and crashed in bed out of sheer exhaustion. Which was probably a good thing, because it was 10 p.m. and I didn’t hear the Fremont show at all.
     
  2. news423

    news423 Tourist

    Joined:
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    Location:
    Lake Zurich, IL
    Trips to Las Vegas:
    18
    SUNDAY

    Got four hours of sleep and woke at 2 a.m. Got B.E. out of his bed, met up with N.O. and K.B. and started casing the rest of Downtown. Here’s what we found:

    Golden Nugget: Still the same place, minus The Price is Right slots (which we’re disappointed to see had been removed). Played a little bartop VP, lost, got a Bailey’s and coffee and split. Later in the night, me and N.O. were truly parched and just wanted something to drink. Anything. But it stung to have to pay $5 for a draft of PBR in a glass. Cringe. Heck, give it to me a plastic cup next time and charge me half price. I’m easy.

    Golden Gate: Derek Stevens has nicely cleaned up this place (and the old Fitz), so played for a bit in there. Yes, it’s small, but I’m OK with that. I’d rather be in a smaller casino that’s pleasant to be in, rather than a larger one that’s a dump. Which brings me to our next stop.

    Las Vegas Club: The LVC was never fancy, but I’d stayed there three separate times prior and have a soft spot for this place. Or, had, because it’s a shell of its former self. Didn’t care for the loud music bumping at the front of the place when we walked in. Yes, the tattoed-clad dealers were semi-eye catching, but the LVC has taken out a lot of the machines and spread them out strategically over the casino floor to fill in the space. Walked toward the back; the players club sign was still there, but no more players club. I started to walk toward where there used to be a bar on the other side, but was met with two doors that were barricaded shut. Didn’t see any of the old memorabilia on the walls (including the Eric Dickerson L.A. Rams jersey). Hell, they even took away the damn lobster claw machine.

    Disappointed? Yes. Surprised? Guess I shouldn’t have been.

    Plaza: Tamares owns both the LVC and the Plaza, but you wouldn’t know it, as the Plaza was night and day. Bright, a good amount of machines and a fair number of table games. I was surprised to see how much they’ve cleaned up the sports book area, too.

    Main Street Station: No changes here at all, which was fine with me. I’ve never had ANY luck here, and the same continued with slots. But had to make the obligatory stop at the Triple 7 brewery and had a pint. Good beer, cheap prices, so it’s a recommended stop if any of you make it downtown.

    By this time, it was about 6 a.m., so we decided to hit road and head to Palace Station to eat at the Oyster Bar. If you like seafood, I highly recommend getting the Combo Pan Roast. Got there and only had to wait about 15 minutes to be seated. That’s not bad, considering the place has legendary waits at this first-come, first-serve establishment. B.E. and myself had the Combo Pan Roast before, but not N.O. (K.B. sat out the visit to the Oyster Bar). We made a believer out of N.O. and will likely be back on our next visit. EZ, the chef, did a great job serving us. Had a brief conversation with him, and a very interesting one, considering in previous stops he’s worked at the Dunes and the Desert Inn.

    Afterward, we decided to head back to home base at the Four Queens. I wanted to see if I could take a nap. After 45 minutes of laying down and no nap, I decided to get back up. If anything, it felt good to lay down and close my eyes for a bit.

    The four of us reconvened and decided to head to the Strip and bid adieu to the Riviera. It was pretty neat walking through the place one last time, seeing pics of all the old headliners. Figured since we were close, we stopped in to Slots-A-Fun (once again, a disappointment) and Circus Circus (always a disappointment).

    It was getting later in the day, but it wasn’t a hard choice for dinner. Back to Ellis Island we went for another steak special. That’s the nice thing about this place: It ain’t flashy, but it’s consistent. And the food’s consistently good.
    After dinner, it had been a long day. Looking forward to the morning, taking a break from the casinos and neon and getting some fresh air. Finally hit the sack about midnight.
     
  3. news423

    news423 Tourist

    Joined:
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    MONDAY
    Woke up at 5 a.m. and we all decided to head out for a walk down Fremont. We made it to the Plaza and started to walk back when I decided to grab two Bailey’s and coffees for the road. I got them from the Omaha Bar and they were $12 for the two. Thought that was a bit high, except for the fact they gave me the drinks in a good-sized Styrofoam cup, none of that Dixie-cup stuff. Whatever … I’m in Vegas.

    About 8 a.m., we pile in the car and B.E. shuttles us over to Hoover Dam. Considering Chicagoland received 6 inches of snow this morning, it felt pretty good overlooking the dam and the bridge with a warm breeze and the sun in my face. I took it all in, knowing it will be awhile until I feel the dry desert air (and sun) of Vegas in my face. Such a good memory.

    Drove back into town and made an obligatory stop at the casino whose latest incarnation is of the Dotty’s chain variety. I was really disappointed after walking in and only saw a handful of machines, then being told the renovation of the place wouldn’t be done for another couple of weeks. No big deal; we played a few games, drank some beers and eventually headed back into town.

    We decided today would be the day we’d use our big three matchplays from the Las Vegas Advisor coupon book. The first was at the Golden Gate, and it was the toughest of the three to use. Upon going to the Players Club, the lady at the counter wasn’t going to accept the voucher, saying it was only for new members. I knew this was a bunch of BS, since this $25 matchplay was a big draw for the book this year, a similar matchplay was being offered at The D (a sister property) and it clearly did not say on the back that it was only for new members. So, of course, I asked to speak to a supervisor. A nice, older guy with a black hat came, checked the coupon, asked if we were locals (presumably to see if we were hoarding these matchplays to use each week). I was polite about it with him and answered his questions. Shortly after, he told the clerk to do an ‘override’ in their system so me and my buddies could redeem our vouchers. Fortunately, the BS was worth the wait. After playing a few hands of BJ, we put out the voucher and won. We tipped the dealer well and walked away after playing about a dozen hands.

    Unfortunately, when we used the $25 matchplay at The D and Downtown Grand, respectively, we lost. (And, no, we didn’t have any problems redeeming the matchplays there). But I won some money back on a Hangover slot at the Grand, so all turned out about even. Went up and down today on slots and keno and before you knew it, it was dinner time. It was also time for K.B. to pack, since he had a redeye flight to catch that night. The plan was, once again, to head back to Ellis Island for dinner. But this time, we were going to try the joint’s BBQ. We’ve heard raves about it from many folks, but had yet to try it. Plus, our 2-for-1 LVA coupon gave us extra incentive to give it a shot.

    I’ll say this: not only was it a great deal, it was damn good BBQ. The meal, for $15, included a full rack of ribs, corn on the cob, baked beans, cole slaw and garlic bread. After coupon, it was $7.50 apiece. Really? Or, as Lil Jon would say: WHAT???????

    We finished eating, dropped of K.B. at the airport and headed back to crash for the night.
     
  4. news423

    news423 Tourist

    Joined:
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    TUESDAY
    Woke up, played a little, lost some more and headed back toward the airport. But not before going to the rental car place, waiting for the shuttle bus to arrive to take us back to the Rental Car Center, where we got off, schlepped our luggage to a bigger shuttle bus, which THEN finally took us back to the airport.

    Never again. Never, ever, ever, ever, ever again.

    Never.

    Overall, this wasn’t one of my better trips gambling, but still wasn’t horrible by any stretch. I figure I lost about $400 gambling, spent about $75 in tips (yes, that includes daily tips to the hotel maid) and another $150 in food/drink. Pretty cheap entertainment, I’d say.

    It will be another two years until I return, but this visit will last me for a little while. Until then, I’ll get by on my memories and reading other TR’s on this forum. My hope by writing this is that I’m giving back to the VMB, and I encourage others to do the same and share their great memories on their upcoming trips to the desert.

    Thanks for coming along for the ride.
     
  5. Spivderman

    Spivderman Low-Roller

    Joined:
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    Location:
    Spivderville
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    Two of my favorite places...Ellis Island & ElCo.
     
  6. news423

    news423 Tourist

    Joined:
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    keno1.jpg
    keno2.jpg
    Here are a few Keno wins ...
     
  7. news423

    news423 Tourist

    Joined:
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    Food porn at Ellis Island.
    foodatellisisland.jpg
     
  8. tnkc

    tnkc High-Roller

    Joined:
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    Used to love blackjack at Slots of Fun. Low limits and almost on the sidewalk. Crazy crowd of interesting characters. Now it is a worthless stop.
     
  9. bebevegas

    bebevegas Low-Roller

    Joined:
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    Vancouver Island, BC
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    I enjoy reading about downtown experiences! And Ellis (I've yet to make it there, it's on my bucket list for November) Cheers!
     
  10. Electroguy563

    Electroguy563 Over-Fried Gambler

    Joined:
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    Thank you for "giving back" to VMB in the form of a trip report. I enjoyed it immensely!

    I'm sorry, but every time I look at your Avatar I crack up! :thumbsup:

    I've got to get my ass over to Ellis Island.

    Thanks again for the report.
     
    Going to Hawaii's 9th Island!!
    Going to Hawaii's 9th island!!
  11. Kari

    Kari Low-Roller

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    Great report! Love the nickname; BE! Lol
    I say that too whether it's true or not! Haha
    I too love the Rodney Avatar! He was high larious!
    I like Ellis Island for breakfast but haven't tried the
    BBQ: after that recommendation I may put it on the list.
     
  12. news423

    news423 Tourist

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    Thanks for the comments, all. It was certainly a memorable trip. I just didn't realize how long I would keep writing the TR.

    Also, thanks for the props Electroguy and Kari on the Avatar ... how can anyone NOT like Rodney?

    :wave:
     
  13. tringlomane

    tringlomane STP Addicted Beer Snob

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    Enjoyed the report! Nice hustling on the GG coupon, And there is a little "BE" in most of us!
     
  14. momnkid

    momnkid Tourist

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    Thank you for the report. It's been a while since we've ventured downtown. Time to do so again.
     
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