Chill Weekend at Red Rock
Started by Heresiarch on Tuesday, 29th April 2014 12:36 pm
Last response by n580564x 29th April 4:27pm
I rented a car, stayed at Red Rock for two nights then Mandalay Bay for two, and was generally chill. No shows, but some expensive food.
I: Renting a car
I always rent a car. This trip, my first two days were at Red Rock; planning to have a car made this decision both possible and convenient. After picking up my crappy rental (more on that later), I pulled into Vegas traffic at 4:30pm on a Friday. Not bad, actually! Traffic on 215 was maybe 20mph until I got to the bend at Durango, and 65+ mph from there. After check-in at Red Rock & getting gussied up, I headed down Charleston to Rampart to Summerlin Pkwy and on in; traffic was easy and I don’t think I was stuck at a single light for more than a single cycle.
Normally I arrive in Vegas around 8pm. This time I left earlier; my half-day in Vegas mostly meant that I could plan an “extra" good dinner— a repeat visit to Sinatra, at Encore. I started with the Prosciutto, which came with Bartlett pears, parmigiana, and a heaping pile of green stuff which (as a devout carnivore) just kinda got in the way. For the main course I ordered the special: a bone-in veal chop served with kalamata olives, fingerling potatoes, crucifers, and a red wine reduction. I added a side of gnocchi in a creamy sauce, which perfectly complimented the tender, smooth chop. For dessert, I had the Capello, a “fedora" (although really it looked more like a pork pie) made of chocolate and chocolate mousse, served with chocolate panna cotta and the cutest wittle tiny spoon ever. Plus a glass of port! I loved the whole thing. Even the bread course and its delicious chive-accented butter was excellent. Service was great. Highly recommended. This was my most-enjoyed meal in Vegas. Evar. (but note I haven’t been to Robuchon yet)
Since I had the car I stopped at Whole Foods on my drive back. I picked up some yogurt and some Potato Starch as part of this diet thing I’m doing. I’m only going to be in town for a few days, but a bag is $4 or whatever and that’s nothing compared to my trip budget so wtf. I fly with only a carryon and backpack or else I woulda brought some from home. Anyway, a bag is waaaay more than I need. And it’s basically a bag of potato flour, somewhat like wheat flour, or other white powdery substances, so it tends to flutter everywhere. I’m tempted to leave lines of it on the glass table in my room but, lacking a razor blade, instead settle for a non-exhaustive job of cleaning it up. I think with this story I’ve entertained myself more than anyone else, but that’s what Vegas is for, right?
II: A day at Red Rock
Anyway, back to Vegas Eats but now at the far end of the spectrum: Saturday breakfast was had at the Feast buffet at Red Rock. $8.99. It’s kinda hard to fuck up a Denver omelette, and they didn’t. The sliced ham was yum and the fruit fresh, but the bacon was thin and brittle. Not close to one of the best meals I’ve had in Vegas but I wasn’t offended either. I’d call it a good value.
Poker Time: I entered the 11am tournament on Saturday and had a lot of fun. I didn’t win any money (only the top 3 paid out) but the players weren’t too serious or ornery and the color quotient was high. The poker room seemed to have more tables going at random times than what I’ve seen on the strip. Plus no sharks, no WSOP-wannabe douchebags in hoodies and headphones, and only one guy new to the string bet rule. Did I mention no sharks? There were some good players, sure, but it’s nice to step out of the pool without one’s swim trunks torn to shreds.
There’s more than a buttload of video poker machines at Red Rock. Not just like two buttloads, or three. They have a cubic buttload of VP machines. CUBIC BUTTLOAD. They’re everywhere. I guess the locals know that VP has a better payout? Most are sub-98%, but there were 13 labelled “Up to 99.8%” which is where I played 99.54% Jacks or Better. There are higher-paying VP machines in town but you won’t find them on the strip, and perfect play at the best VP machine at Red Rock (100.76%) would pay $9/hr. Yippy skip. Red Rock seems to be content to grind out quarters from the locals, which to me makes sense, especially since most of the players I saw didn’t have a solid grasp of VP strategy and weren’t getting near 99.54% anyway. As it was, I might have had a “theoretical” 99.54 but a practical 90%. Bleh.
The highlight of the Red Rock gambling scene was the craps tables. The dealers were awesome. After a while they knew my bets and didn’t ask why I was throwing them money — which I’ve seen elsewhere but was great to see here. The dealers seemed happy (sourpusses should not work in customer-facing jobs). I’d like to contrast these dealers with every game of craps I’ve played at the Mirage, where the stickmen say “what’s the fucking deal with tossing me this fucking dollar?” and the dealers would give me a blank look every time I slid them $24. There was no rush to “omg we have to take these rubes’ money as quickly as possible” or “quick throw the dice RIGHT FUCKING NOW omg RAAAAAWRR!!!!” like I often see on the strip. Yay for Red Rock!
Red Rock in Review: Love it. The rooms were spacious, the bench at the foot of the bed was awesome for putting on shoes & socks and for stashing a few extra items of shopping loot. Weird that I mention that bench, huh? Little stuff but it made a difference. The standard 4-digit room safe was big enough to hold my 15” laptop. The whole room was very clean, new, well maintained. Spacious bathroom with good water pressure, lots of hot water. Like many of the strip casinos, a room at the end of the hall can mean a long walk to the elevators but dodging that at registration was cake. Access to the casino was easy, and the hotel elevator also exited very close to registration and valet. From east-facing rooms, you can see the strip in its entirety (through the day’s accumulation of smog, of course), and west-facing rooms have a pretty view of the Red Rock mountains just on the other side of 215. The pool was closed, but there were notices about … some other pool? Dunno. Being out in the boonies also means almost zero douchebags and hipsters — yet patrons were better dressed than those at other Station resorts (who tend to look like they were culled from the nearest WalMart). $5 craps tables were open (and busy) on weekend nights, and the level of play means you can gamble for cheap and still get a lot more attention than you would on the Strip. Without any play on my card in years, rates were $129 each night; after light play (as I was saving my bankroll for MGM the next two days) I’ve gotten offers for two free weekend nights. For those flying in to Vegas looking for a place to chill, play some craps, and maybe drive down to the Strip for dinner or a show (or get crazy and do dinner AND a show), Red Rock is a solid choice.
Had my room offer been valid for VT10, I’d be staying there this coming weekend. Sadly, a bunch of dentists have driven the rates up. :(
III: Gordon Ramsay Steak and other food choices
Saturday dinner was at Gordon Ramsay Steak, at Paris. I had planned to eat at 7 but the reservation I got was at 6:15 … but I didn’t update Evernote so I showed up at 7 and they were like “we held it for you, but you didn’t show” and I was all like “sorry, sorry, I understand, I just wrote the time down wrong” but they insisted “if you’re going to be late you should call us” and I was like “I. Wrote. The. Time. Down. Wrong.” and they were like “well, whatever! just call us next time!” But luckily they had a slot at 8:15, so I went and got to experience the laziest, slowest roulette dealers I’ve ever seen. Negative $75 bucks later, I’m back. Since Becki and Tiffani are chattering about the hot guy they saw at the club last night, I tell Nikki that I’m here for my 8:15. My table is not yet clear, so she asks Candi to show me to the lounge, but Candi’s on the phone and it takes far too many seconds for her to remember that she’s working tonight that I lose my temper and flip over a Pai Gow table. Or not. Anyway. I’m sure y’all have heard the “this big, pink tube that we are currently penetrating is supposed to represent…” speech before.
Brief stop at the bar while I wait for an empty table. The music sets a cool vibe. The bartenders are EXCELLENT. God, I love these guys. Man, I hate hate hate mediocre bar service. The patrons at the bar this night seem to be fans of Gordon’s TV shows that stumbled in expecting to get a table but balked at waiting 75 minutes. There’s one gaggle of post-Wall carousel riders wandering around with their fruity martinis and snapping pics that are all “omg Gordon Ramsey! I don’t see him, isn’t he supposed to be cooking my dinner?” Half a drink later, Tiffani (the hot one) walks in, walks around, and looks confused. I’m guessing that she’s looking for me so I’m waiting for her to look even in my general direction before I wave but it doesn’t happen, so I decide to just be passive and see what she does. She stumbles out a minute later, then comes back in and is actually trying to look at everybody at the bar. Yay for attempting eye contact. She begins the speech going “the wandering, menstrual swirl of red neon above us represents…”, which I tune out, and rather than take me up the left or right fallopian staircase I am deposited right there underneath the neon.
Dining alone in the middle of the floor gave me a chance to see the meat presentation many times. It seems crude. “Dumb Americans, don’t even know what the difference between a ribeye and a strip steak is.” Some of the servers give a much more informative presentation and others, bored, rush through it. I surmise that many customers have no knowledge of steak and are gonna order either what they already believe to be the most prestigious steak, or what the server convinces them is most prestigious. To me it’s a great chance to learn a bit more, and after a few probing questions I decide on the “American Wagyu” rib cap. I guess I’m glad they explain it to everyone, slowly increasing the competence of American diners. The couple seated to my right are perplexed at the concept of ordering water, and then get up and leave after checking out the menu. Somehow they made it this far into the reservation without understanding that a single steak is $51 ($49 if you have a TR card) and doesn’t come with two sides and a fountain drink. The couple to my left, however, are veterans. They don’t know their meats that well but (as I gather from conversation and a few words shared) they’ve eaten at a lot of steak. Meanwhile the cheap couple has been replaced by two crass Brooklyn boys decked out in leather paraphernalia embroidered with various East Coast signage. One has grand aspirations and enjoys hobnobbing here while his friend with the girlish laugh wonders why GR:S doesn’t have a buffet like Ponderosa does. I am amused at watching the various waiters’ reactions to them; some don’t hide their disgust very well.
I’d write up the food but… it was excellent. You’ve read the food review before; I’ll just say “ditto”.
My dinner at GR Steak suffered a bit from the awesomeness of Friday’s meal. I was burned out on gourmet food so, after Saturday’s meal, I cancelled my Sunday dinner reservation at Olives. Instead, that night I stopped at Fleur and ate a salad. Monday lunch was at BLT (I love their waffle skins), and Monday dinner was at Lupo. My final day I had lunch at GR pub and loved it. Stellar service. I got there very early, however, so they warned me that it would take half an hour for a pot pie to show up — so I again enjoyed people-watching. I’ve eaten there twice now and loved the food both times, yet reviews I’ve seen here seem to be negative. What’s up, y’all?
IV: More Driving
I do not recommend budget car rentals. When I was picking up the car, the guy outside was emphatic about asking me to check for damage, so I was a meticulous in examining the bodywork and documenting irregularities. Sadly, I didn’t think to check the interior. There were wine stains on all four seats. How. The. Fuck. Seriously? What’s up with people? It started every time I asked, the air conditioning worked, and it didn’t handle too boaty, so I guess it was ok, but it seems that spending $110 on a car rental instead of $150 was not a wise savings. I had spent over $200 for a 3-day rental in Denver a few weekends before, but I blame that price on demand from skiers. Here, an extra $40 would have been worth it. I’m actually booked through Sixt for my next trip so I’ll see how that goes.
Driving back & forth between Summerlin and the Strip was easy. Self-parking at both was fairly straightforward and the drive didn’t take long. Maybe it consumed more minutes than a crawl down the strip, but my blood pressure was not affected. No 30-minute waits at taxi stands, either. I’ve been renting cars in Vegas since forever so I know a handful of the back routes. Parking is free everywhere, of course. About half of the valets are ecstatic upon receiving a $5 or $10 tip, and the $10 has on a few occasions gotten me an up close position, which to me is kinda bizarre because I tend to rent midlevel Japanese cars that no self-important establishment would want to show off up front. Now: if I had planned breakfast at Bouchon and then poker back at my hotel and lunch at the Bellagio buffet then back to my hotel to get ready for dinner and then dinner on the strip… the drive time might have gotten to me. But I don’t drive around that much. Staying at Red Rock meant that I couldn’t “just decide” to walk next door to eat, which is why I planned the itinerary the way I did. Driving was fine.
One of the other nice things about having the car: In’n’Out! I had been planning to head over Mandalay for Part 2 early on Sunday but slept in a bit (emphasis on the VACATION) and then noticed that there was a promotional drawing for which I had earned a bunch of tickets so I decided to stick around. Keeping to the “cheap-ass first meal of the day” schedule for no particular reason, I drove over to In’n’Out. For ages I’ve been stopping at InO whenever I’m in Vegas because it’s something I can’t get back home. Good burger helps, but it’s the animal fries that I love. A quick search on my phone tells me where the nearest one is; a quick lunch; and back to the casino for the drawing. Didn’t win. Without a car, getting to the closest In’n’Out requires either a taxi (which will cost more than the meal) or walking from NYNY across the 15 bridge.
Likewise, on Monday when I was trying to decide what I wanted for lunch, I wasn’t limited to just my home casino, the nearby food court, or a couple local casinos (yet this is a good reason to stay at e.g. Caesars or Bellagio or Paris). It was easy to pull onto Frank Sinatra from Mandalay (where I always use the West Valet or garage) and scoot up to Mirage for lunch at BLT. If I had wanted to go to the Wynn, it’d be a long walk to the car but from there a very easy, direct, and low-stress drive up Sinatra to Fashion Show. The hardest place to get to is Bellagio. And other than Wynn, who goes to casinos on the East side of the strip? Pshaw.
On Tuesday (departure day), I had a few hours to kill before I needed to be at the airport, so I decided to go hunting for a book. My phone told me there was a bookstore on Paradise so I headed over. I want to make some snide comment about “it was nice not being stuck with a taxi, or choose from the limited selection at the airport bookstore”, but the bookstore I was headed to was closed. Paradise is depressing as hell. This is not scenic Las Vegas. Since I needed to get to the car rental station rather than the airport, I decided to head to 15 “real fast”. Nope. Traffic on Flamingo sucked ass. The next time a taxi driver tells you “Flamingo traffic is bad, this is faster” and tunnels you, the first bit might not be a lie. Anyway, once I got to 15, I skipped 5pm highway traffic and flew down Dean Martin to Warm Springs.
I got killed at craps. Killed. Murderized. I bring enough cash to bet at a level I’m comfortable with … as long as I don’t lose too much too quickly. And I lost too much too quickly. Naturally the result is I played lower and less. Nearly everything I brought is gone by the end of Monday. My budget meant that I could afford to lose that money, but it was still an emotional downer. Most of the dealers were good, but there was one bizarre boxman at MB that I’d rather not be playing with. Finding a $5 table was nigh impossible; there were options at Luxor and Excalibur but the tables at both were packed when I walked by. I like staying at Mandalay, but I’d rather have my money on odds rather than on the line or place — and that’s another strong reason for me to return to Red Rock.
On Tuesday, after checking out, I decide to play some roulette instead. After an hour I’m up over a grand. And then I go waltzing around casinos for a couple hours and stop at Monte Carlo to play some more, and win another grand. Awesome! Dealers were good but roulette is a brutal game. People who would never play blackjack and its 0.5% house edge at more than $10 a hand buy into roulette for $100 and then dump half their chips onto half the table … and then lose two spins in a row and are wiped out. The tables loved me though and I’m the happier for it.
After paying for three $100+ dinners, the flight, a car rental, and two nights in a hotel, the trip still cost some, but it was great to have offset that with a bit of casino money.
I shall return in three days; Vegas beware!
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n580564x responded on Tuesday, 29th April 2014
I'm glad to see someone who also stays off the strip and realizes that there is quality places to stay that are a true value and outside of the strip. Nice mini report, it had good info and was very entertaining. Good job!