Friday, January 12, 2007

Vegas Eating Tips

I’ve hesitated to put this post together mainly because I don’t consider myself any kind of expert on the subject. I’ve eaten just about every day of my life. I should know a thing or two about it. I just don’t live to eat like some. I eat to live. If living well means eating well then Vegas can be a very expensive place to live. Some of the finest and most expensive restaurants anywhere are right on the strip. I could personally recommend The Steak House at the TI or the Samba Brazilian Steakhouse in the Mirage or even the Steak House at the Circus Circus (“best steak in town”), but none of those would fit with the free or nearly-free theme of these posts.

Much of this post is for when I'm on my own. If I'm with friends or family, I adopt more normal eating habits. Being with the people that you like is part of the experience and not something to be tossed aside in the name of getting back to the tables. I enjoy sharing my adventures as much as I enjoy the experience. Meal time is sharing time.

Eating on a wee budget in Vegas is complicated by the fact that the days and nights in Vegas are long. I’m typically trying to squeeze every bit into my days in Vegas that the clock will allow. Back-to-back days on five or less hours of sleep are not uncommon. All that activity needs fuel. And since we are trying to fit in as much as possible into each day, we don’t want to spend too much time getting there and back.

So what is a visitor on a budget to eat? I’ve already mentioned a couple of place to eat in Downtown, so I won’t cover that again. My staple on the strip is Subway. There must be a Subway restaurant on every block of the strip. My main ones are in the Casino Royale and O’shea’s. There is also Subway’s next door to the MGM and in the Riviera at the ends of the strip. There are others that are spread around. I just don’t know them all. According to, there are eight locations on Las Vegas Blvd. Most are on the strip.

Typically, I’ll buy a foot-long whatever. I sit down and eat half of it. This will fill me up for the next 4 hours or so. I’ll keep the second half until I’m hungry again. The strip price for the sandwich, chips, and a huge drink is about $10, but that $10 will just about get me through a day. I won’t need any more big meals in a normal day and that sandwich will be a lot better for me than most of the alternatives.

Some might ask about buying a huge drink when they “give away” drinks at the tables. That would be nice if it were true, but the fact is that you really need to tip the waitress when she brings you a drink. That means those little tiny 5 oz. cokes really cost about a buck a piece. This is the desert and you need to hydrate, so $2 for a 32 oz soda is a good deal. I still get cokes and other drinks at the tables.

If you are really pinching pennies, you could buy a big bottled water at the CVS and refill it from the water fountains, but I (usually) don’t go that far. Doing so means that you don’t know what the hell you are doing at the poker tables.

I will supplement my diet with health snacks. Chips and candy taste great, but they do nothing for your nutrition. My favorite snack is trail mix heavy in nuts and fruit. Trail mix travels well in a backpack. It is filling, tasty. Most importantly, train mix can be eaten at most poker tables in town. Your hand will stay clean enough to handle your cards without angering the house. I have been asked not to eat at the table before as some poker rooms no not allow food, but I can usually avoid the discussion all together by keeping the bag in my lap and just popping the mix into my mouth between hands.

Trail mix is best purchased at one of the drug stores along the strip. The casino hotels will all have some in a shop, but the price will be outrageous. The CVS on Convention Center Drive also carries bananas and assorted other healthy snacks at a reasonable price. I might also by some Pop Tarts at the drug store for quick starters in the morning.

For a change of pace, I like to hit the Panda Express next to the Casino Royale. The food court in Caesar’s also has some good selections for a decent price. For the poker players, you can earn your meals at several casinos by getting and using a Player’s Club card. The MGM, for instance, comps players $1 per hour played. The Imperial Palace comps $2 per hour. Harrah’s and the Venetian also comp for poker play. Comps earned are good for pretty much anything for sale at the hotel including food, so don’t forget to use ‘em.

One word of cautions about the advertised specials: Be careful about what you order. The Vegas casinos don’t give away food like they used to, so don’t expect that because they have a super cheap special that the rest of the menu is also cheap. And the $2 steak is sometimes overpriced. Many times the restaurant will jack up the price of other items, especially drinks, to make up the difference. Buyer beware.

I’m sure there are many other hidden tricks to eating in Vegas on a budget. I’d like to hear them. The comment board is open.

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