The newly reopened Plaza was the big news last month, so I spent a fair amount of time there and my anticipation was high, but I came away puzzled. Certain things about the “old” Plaza stood out on the value side—the snack bar, the video-poker schedules and the music scene in the Aqua Lounge foremost among them. But from what I can tell, none of those remain. Of the new elements, the restaurants may yield some gems down the line—I’m looking forward to Oscar’s Steakhouse, in particular—but it’s too early to tell. For now, keep the hotel rooms in mind when you have friends in town. Not only have they been completely renovated and famously outfitted with furniture that was earmarked for the Strip’s Fontainebleau, but they’re also inexpensive (mid-$40s and up). One more good thing: Parking in the garage is still free.
• Just a block away from the Plaza, you can get a hot dog topped with more condiments than you’ve probably ever had before. How many? More than 30, if you’re at Benny’s Bullpen at Binion’s. I’m talkin’ cheese, pickles, beans, tomatoes, peppers and just about anything else you could ever consider putting on a dog. The stand is open from 9 a.m. to 1 a.m. daily. A hot dog is $3.95, or $4.95 with chips and a draft beer.
• Do you bet football parlay cards? Even though you probably shouldn’t (they carry a healthy casino edge), I know you do. So you might as well bet them where the payouts are the highest. This year, that’s any of the Lucky’s sports books (the Plaza, the Riviera and Fitzgeralds). Compared with almost every other card in the state, Lucky’s payoffs were highest, or tied for highest, in every category from three-teamers at 6.75-for-1 to 10-teamers at 850-for-1. Running a very close second was the Cal Neva.
• Want a good old-fashioned pig-out that’s doesn’t involve a buffet? Johnny Smalls, the small-plates restaurant at the Hard Rock, has an all-you-can-eat deal for $19.95 (and as low as $15.95 during lunch hours and late-night on weekends) that’s tough to beat. Here’s the list of what three of us ate at one sitting: seared ahi, tuna sashimi, tuna roll, California roll, rock shrimp, battered shrimp, jerk chicken flat bread, caprese salad, guacamole, fried green beans, sea bass skewers, short ribs, salmon tater tots and asada tacos. That may look like 14 items, but we ordered several of them more than once, for a total count of 30, or close to $300 worth of food for $60. Attack!