Destination Vegas?

by Nancy Bestor

I know, I know. Las Vegas is supposed to be this exciting city—a city of fun, a city of sin, etc., etc. I guess I just don’t get it, because every time I’m in Las Vegas, I must admit to being taken aback by the excess—the excess of resources (electricity, water, and such), the excess of alcohol (no explanation needed there), the excess of food (one word here, buffet), and more.

Bob and I were in Las Vegas last month for the Travel Goods Show. It’s a good place for a convention, easy to get to, good convention center, lots and lots of cheap hotel rooms, but I wonder if I’d be happier flying somewhere a little further but lots nicer? We stayed at the Las Vegas Hilton, which is virtually attached to the convention center, and the first thing that greeted us when we walked in the door of the Hilton was the smell of cigarette smoke. Some Las Vegas hotels can mask the cigarette smell better than others (newer ventilation system perhaps?), and while the Hilton doesn’t smell as bad as some older hotels in old downtown Las Vegas, my nose is sensitive (sounds silly I know), and to me, it reeked of cigarette smoke. Las Vegas, Strike One.

There are a lot of good restaurants in Las Vegas. In fact, I stewed long and hard over eating at CraftSteak, Tom Colicchio’s high-falutin’ steakhouse (www.craftrestaurant.com). I’m a huge fan of Tom (I’d like to think we’re on a first name basis), as well as the Bravo channel show Top Chef, and would love to eat at one of Tom’s restaurants, whether in New York at Colicchio and Sons (read the New York Times review here)  or Craft in New York, Dallas, Los Angeles or Atlanta, but I just couldn’t pull the trigger. Why, you ask? Maybe because these famous restaurateur’s palaces in Las Vegas feel contrived. I am sure the food is good and the service is probably excellent (service is one thing that LV often does very well) but it always feels like something is missing. There is a certain indefinable feel that one experiences in great eateries at any price range that Las Vegas simply cannot recreate (should you eat at an Emeril’s restaurant anywhere but New Orleans?).  But if I’m totally honest, I just couldn’t pull the trigger on spending $48 for a 16 oz. dry aged New York Strip Steak at CraftSteak in Las Vegas. All their side dishes and salads are extra (at $12-24 each) and when it comes to wine, I would have had to look long and hard for a “cheap” bottle of wine under $75. I like Tom, but I’m not sure I like him that much. Las Vegas, Strike Two.

Bob and I did walk to a good Indian restaurant, Gandi Cuisine, just off the Las Vegas strip (www.gandhicuisine.com) .  We’ve eaten there before, and the food is good, and the restaurant full of Indians (always a good sign). The trouble here? We walked. And walking on the Las Vegas strip earns Las Vegas Strike Three. At points, it’s littered with trash, a lot of it business cards and fliers advertising “Girls, Girls, Girls.” (You get the point here I’m sure.) Then we walked by multiple bars—bars where waitresses (giving them the benefit of the doubt) are dancing (I use that word loosely as well) on top of the bar, scantily clothed. And of course there are the people on the strip, so many carrying alcohol and quite a few extremely intoxicated, barely able to walk, and in some cases belligerent.

I know what some of you may be thinking. A weekend in Las Vegas—gambling and seeing the “sights”—can be fun. Perhaps you’re right. I think however, I’ll save my travel/fun dollars for somewhere other than Las Vegas.

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