Las Vegas – Know When to Fold ‘Em

It took me 36 years to get to Las Vegas. It took me 36 seconds to lose $1,000.

Just kidding. I went up $40 in Blackjack and immediately cashed out (so I’m a little conservative!). At least the winnings went toward some great food, something I appreciate much more than table games and slots.

Best Eats Not on the Strip

Beef on Weck at Naked City Pizza ShopBuffalo wings at Naked City Pizza Shop
(L) Beef on weck; (R) Authentic Buffalo wings from Naked City Pizza Shop

I went to Vegas with some friends who originally hail from Buffalo, NY. Amazingly, they managed to find a restaurant in Las Vegas that was founded by fellow Buffalonians. The Naked City Pizza Shop, a few miles off the Strip, was featured on Diners, Drive-ins and Dives, and is well worth the cab fare to get there. Featuring authentic Buffalo wings and beef on weck, Naked City Pizza Shop does Buffalo proud. I ordered a beef on weck half sandwich thinking I’d get some wings and pizza, too, but the half sandwich made a Subway footlong look like a mini-sub. Don’t worry, I still managed to cram in some wings and a few slices of pizza.

The wings were truly Buffalo. I was advised by my Buffalonian companions that real Buffalo wings are fried in peanut oil, which is what gives them such great flavor. Well, that’s exactly how Naked City Pizza Shop makes their wings, in peanut oil. Savory with a slight kick, the medium wings definitely hit the spot.

Naked City Pizza Shop Buffalo Bills Decor
Bills Decor at Naked City Pizza

As a New England fan (Pats and Bruins) I was a little concerned I might not be completely welcomed, but I was relieved to find several other Bruins fans vociferously cheering on the B’s as they swept the Penguins. And it was fun to see all the Bills and Sabres décor.

Another great find was the Peppermill at the very north end of the Strip (so far north, I don’t even count it as being on the Strip). The Peppermill is basically a classy diner – so classy that the food waitresses can’t even take your beverage order. Instead, they call over an actual cocktail waitress in a little black dress to bring your drinks. Peppermill was so good, I ate there twice. Country-fried steak and eggs, thick sourdough toast and the world’s greatest hash browns (no joke, they were AMAZING) and then the Maserati omelet – it does 185 (like this post if you get that reference) – stuffed with Italian sausage, mozzarella, mushrooms and pizza sauce, were the two meals I indulged in.

Best Place Not on the Strip

If you ever get out to Vegas and you don’t make the effort to get to Hoover Dam, for shame. Of all the man-made monstrosities in and around Las Vegas, the Hoover Dam is by far the most amazing. And recently Arizona and Nevada added to the wonder by completing the Mike O’Callaghan-Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge which soars majestically above the Colorado River.

I practically got vertigo looking over the edge of the Hoover Dam, and it blows my mind to think of all the workers pouring concrete over 700 feet above the river. What an amazing feat of human engineering! But standing on top of Hoover Dam, it’s breathtaking to see the ridges and canyons containing the Colorado River and Lake Mead. On a clear, sunny day with a gentle breeze, there was no place I’d have rather been.

Hoover Dam Gallery

Hoover Dam name plateHoover Dam back side view
(L) Hoover Dam name plate; (R) The back side view from Hoover Dam
Hoover Dam towersA calm Colorado River
(L) Hoover Dam towers; (R) A low Colorado River – notice the “bathtub” ring
Mike O'Callaghan - Pat Tillman Memorial BridgeThe author standing on top of Hoover Dam in Arizona and Nevada
(L) The Mike O’Callaghan-Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge; (R) Me standing in both Arizona and Nevada
Front of the Hoover Dam
Hoover Dam front view (that’s a lotta concrete)

The Strip

While I enjoyed my time away from the Strip, I was still very impressed by it. The hotels are classy, mostly (get it together Circus Circus), with extravagant lobbies full of glass flowers, indoor rivers and even a conservatory. And the exteriors are gorgeous and well-maintained with pools and fountains and of course plenty of lights. I really enjoyed the fountain show at the Bellagio and the pirate ship show outside of Treasure Island.

Scenes from Las Vegas

Fountains at the BellagioFountains at Caesar's Palace
(L) Fountains at the Bellagio; (R) Fountains at Caesar’s Palace
Glass flowers on the Bellagio lobby ceilingInside the Wynn hotel
(L) Glass flowers on the ceiling of the Bellagio lobby; (R) Jenn and I inside the Wynn hotel (nice shoes!)
Volcano erupting outside the Mirage
Volcano ‘erupting’ outside the Mirage

Best Line Regarding Vegas

Before leaving for Las Vegas, I happened to visit with my grandpa. I was telling him about my upcoming trip to ‘Sin City’ and he got this funny little smile on his face. I asked him if he’d ever been there before and he said he had. So what did you think, I asked. His reply?

“I think it’s a great place…to stay away from.”

—Ryan Varney

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