The Best of All Time

When I started the Las Vegas Advisor back in the ’80s, casino dining specials were the primary hook, and over the years the LVA has chronicled thousands of them. Here are a few of the best of all time (unless otherwise specified, the time period is the ’80s and ’90s):

The ongoing 24-hour steak special at Ellis Island is a monster for $7.95, but this steak has been around for about a decade and a half, and when I first came across it, the exact same meal (minus the beer) was $2.95.

Was that the best steak special ever? Nope. The best and probably the most famous was the legendary late-night $2 New York strip from Binion’s Horseshoe. Binion’s also had a $2.50 gigantic ham & eggs called The Natural that was as popular as the steak.

Speaking of breakfasts, you’ve heard about the 99-cent bacon and eggs that used to be ubiquitous, but have now gone the way of the buffalo. But the best of the cheapo breakfasts was a 49-center at the Bingo Palace (now Palace Station). It was another late-nighter and some guys used to buy six at a time, getting a dozen eggs, 18 strips of bacon and a half a loaf of toast for $2.94.

That same multi-order tactic was also used at the Golden Gate when its shrimp cocktail was 50 cents for many years. I once saw a guy order (and eat) 10 of them. Other memorable meal deals I’ve had for under 50 cents include a complete chicken dinner at the Boardwalk for a quarter, ice cream cones at Lady Luck for 15 cents, and Castleburgers at Sassy Sally’s for a dime.

When I came to town, there were plenty of low-priced buffets around. But the debut of Rio’s Carnival World Buffet topped them all. The selection wasn’t quite as vast as it is now, but it wasn’t that far off. Imagine something similar to what we know today priced at $3.25 for breakfast, $4.25 for lunch and $6.25 for dinner—and for a while they dropped the price of breakfast to $1.95! By the way, Bally’s Sterling Brunch, now $90, debuted for $29.95.

• The Continental (now Terrible’s) had a lobster tail dinner for $4.49, El Cortez had a double lobster tail dinner for $9.99 and Palace Station had the most spectacular king crab leg special ever for $10.95. But the best crustacean deal of all time was unintentional. The Santa Fe debuted a seafood buffet for something like $9.99 and put whole lobsters in bushel baskets around the dining area. The lobsters were meant only for show, but when the doors opened, people went straight for the baskets and ate them all. Now, that was a deal!