A different, less expensive side of Las Vegas
FOR THE RECORD: Las Vegas: An article in Sunday's Travel section about attractions off the Las Vegas Strip said the Peppermill Inn was two miles from the Strip. The lounge is on the Strip. —
Let's face it: Paris Hilton can't be everywhere.
There is a Las Vegas that Hollywood ignores, where the glitz of the Strip is replaced by real people having real fun and eating real food for far less than $100 a meal.
This Las Vegas is for those who want to stay away from such words as "hip" and "trendy" and instead bask in the glow of what can be a charming city.
Here are a few Las Vegas hot spots -- call it "stripped-down" Vegas -- that aren't found on the Strip and won't break the bank.
Red Rock Station (11 miles from the Strip): The Red Rock features all the typical Vegas treats -- gambling, good food, live entertainment -- plus extra goodies, such as a movie theater and bowling. But what really separates the relatively new resort from its brethren is its location. Nestled up against picture-perfect sandstone cliffs, Red Rock provides just about everything for the nature enthusiast, including rock climbing, kayaking down the Colorado River and horseback riding.
11011 W. Charleston Blvd.; (866) 767-7773, www.redrocklasvegas.com
Peppermill Inn (two miles from the Strip): Robert De Niro holed up at the Peppermill while filming "Casino" and for weeks afterward. The place is a real throwback, a lounge in the truest sense. The drinks are reasonably priced and reasonably mixed, and the clientele is well-heeled but not snobbish. Gay Talese might have written " Frank Sinatra Has a Cold" after following the Chairman through the Peppermill. Just a hunch, though.
2985 Las Vegas Blvd. S.; (702) 735-4177, www.peppermilllasvegas.com
Becker's (13 miles from the Strip): In what may be the greatest endorsement a restaurant can receive, a Zagat.com reviewer put it quite simply: "As soon as I walk in the door, I feel 10 times cooler than I actually am." Maybe it's Ol' Blue Eyes or Sammy Davis Jr. floating through the air, maybe it's the impeccable décor, or maybe it's the courteous staff. Becker's does give the feeling that a simple meal is not so simple; it's more like an experience. Much like the typical fancy Strip steakhouse -- where meals can easily run in the mid-$200s -- Becker's offers good-quality food but at two-thirds the price. Meat entrees are reasonable, from $22 to $35, and the menu is full of side dishes and starters.
2400 N. Buffalo Drive; (702) 216-2700
BEST WESTERN BAR
Stoney's Las Vegas (6 1/2 miles from the Strip): Twentysomethings will come for the $20 all-you-can-drink beer on Fridays and Saturdays, but stay for the bikini bull riding. During December's National Finals Rodeo, Stoney's was the place to be for cowboys, with a massive dance floor and relative accessibility.
9151 Las Vegas Blvd. S; (702) 435-2855, www.stoneysrockincountry.com
BEST FAST FOOD
Zaba's Mexican Grill (4 1/2 miles from the Strip): Combining all the possibilities of a chipotle-style burrito with an expanded menu that includes quesadillas, salads and burrito bowls, Zaba's is an ideal option for those seeking refuge from buffets and/or steak tartare. Each menu item is available with chicken, steak or, the best choice, slow-roasted shredded beef, and the burritos are packed to the brim with extras. The highlight of the menu might be the chipotle ranch dressing.
3318 E. Flamingo Road (closest location to Strip); (702) 435-9222, www.zabas.com
Blueberry Hill (2 1/2 miles from the Strip): Everything from the rosy pink booths to the lighting fixtures screams "old school," but for breakfast, is that really a bad thing? With a plentiful menu, including an ideal 2-2-2-2 special (two eggs, two pancakes, two sausages, two pieces of bacon), and rock-bottom prices, Blueberry Hill is good for recharging the engine. The coffee is fresh, the waitresses are not and the food tastes at least twice as good as it costs.
1505 E. Flamingo Road (closest location to Strip); (702) 696-9666, www.blueberryhillrestaurants.com
BEST LOW-BUDGET BAR
Double Down Saloon (two miles from the Strip): This bar prominently features a skeleton hoisting a martini. It's my personal "Dawn of the Dead" nightmare. For punk fans and rockers, this place is it -- nowhere else in Sin City is a jukebox held in higher regard. The Ramones and Sex Pistols grace the airwaves almost permanently, of course, but live bands take the stage often.
4640 Paradise Road; (702) 791-5775, www.doubledownsaloon.com