It happens in Vegas: change


The bright lights of the Las Vegas Strip.

My first visit to Las Vegas was in 1999. A buddy and I booked the best hotel deal we could find, and not knowing the geography, we ended up in the Stratosphere, at the far north end of the Strip away from most of the action.

In subsequent trips, we’ve got a little smarter and stayed at hotels at the southern end of the strip, where most of the big hotels are located, but often still trying to get a decent room and eschewing the larger luxury casinos, which have grown in size and number since 1999.

The last couple of years, trips with the buddies to Vegas have been less frequent, but the hotels I’ve stayed at have gotten more upscale. Marriage and getting older does that I guess.

We did managed to renew what for a while was an annual trip a few weeks ago. As always, there was gambling, golf (though I don’t play, and stayed behind while the rest of the guys hit the links) and there was the food. It used to be that a quick meal at any old place would do. This year we renewed a recent tradition of having at least one dinner at a nice restaurant.

It was happening already when I first visited in 1999, but now Vegas has solidified its position as one of the culinary capitals in the country. Many of the best chef’s have restaurants at the hotels on the Strip. It’s a far cry from the $1.99 buffets that a trip to Vegas used to be known associated with.

We went to Roy’s restaurant, a very nice Hawaiian fusion place (look for my story about Hawaiian food on the mainland in the summer edition of Hyphen). We ate at Roy’s a couple of years ago on our last trip as well, when we also tried Wolfgang Puck’s Postrio. The consensus was that Roy’s is a lot better. It’s not as crowded and the food was better and more affordable.

This year we tried the Sterling Brunch at Bally’s. It’s pricey, $65 per person, but it’s not your average quantity over quality buffet. It was all good. There was all the champagne you could drink, whole roasted lobster, oysters on the half shell, shrimp, sushi, sea bass, prime rib, a dessert bar and more.

Something is afoot at another regular spot on trips to Vegas: Star Trek the Experience at the Hilton. With no Trek TV show on the air now, there’s nothing to anchor the attraction to. Sure, for the hardcore fan, it’s still Mecca. But it’s been a few years since there’s been anything new and things are looking a bit dated. There was one part of the Promenade where it look liked they piled up boxes and other junk with no real effort to cover it. I still enjoy having a drink a Quark’s Bar and geeking out in the store, but with nothing new to look forward to, it’s losing some of its appeal.

It was a fun time had by all. The Bally’s buffet might have been the highlight of the weekend. That’s not something I would have said in 1999.

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