Time travel, Henderson-style

I get out to Henderson—the real Henderson, I mean—a few times a year, and every time I do it feels like I’ve stepped into a time machine. Technically, casinos like M Resort and Green Valley Ranch are located in Henderson, but I’m talking about downtown—specifically, the Eldorado, Rainbow Club and Emerald Island. All three of these joints are big on the deal.

If you want to eat, you’ll have no problem finding good grub at nostalgic prices. The Eldorado has a Mexican restaurant and a coffee shop with $1.89 bacon and eggs and a “Morning After Special.” But the play here is the classic snack bar, with its 99-cent shrimp cocktail, $2 homemade soups, and $1.25 ice cream cones. A 99-cent shrimp cocktail of any kind is a rare find these days, let alone one that’s good—and this is a good one, literally packed to the brim with tiny bay shrimp. And the Eldorado seems to sell a lot of shrimp cocktails, which keeps the product fresh. Domestic beers in these casinos run $2 and less, which might lead to that Morning After breakfast: a bagel sandwich with an egg, sausage or bacon, and cheese, served with choice of a beer, Bloody Mary or mimosa, for $3.50. Too cool.

The Rainbow has a restaurant called Images with daily specials such as a good steak and shrimp for $7.95 on Wednesdays and pot roast for $5.95 on Thursdays. Emerald Island also markets with daily food deals like all-you-can-eat ribs for $11.99 on Wednesdays in its 24-hour Emerald Island Grille.

Eldorado is the only one of the three with table games, and minimums are low: 10-cent roulette with a $1 minimum and $2 blackjack. But it’s really more about video poker out here, and each of the three casinos has something good to play. Best of the bunch is the Rainbow, which is packed with Full Pay Deuces Wild for quarters—a schedule that pays back 100.76 percent with perfect play. There’s also 10/7 Double Bonus (100.17 percent), and 9/6 Jacks or Better (99.54 percent). The others don’t match up overall with the Rainbow inventory, but you can find some 100 percent-plus games for quarters at Eldorado and 99 percent games for dimes, nickels and even pennies at Emerald Island.

It’s a time-machine experience. Make the 10-mile drive from Las Vegas, and you’ll see what I mean.