Pining for the Days of the 99-Cent Breakfast


I’m heading back to Las Vegas after a 20-year absence. Can I still score a 99-cent breakfast?

My mother, who briefly worked as a coffee shop cashier at the Maxim (one of the last places to offer the special) recalls the cafe being dead after dinner until about 11:30 p.m., when a massive line would form. And why not? Bacon or sausage, two eggs, hash browns, toast—all for under a buck?! Unbeatable. This is the stuff of Vegas legend.

How things have changed! Much of the old gamblers’ Vegas has disappeared in favor of what amounts to a gentrification of the sport. Most casinos that offered the special (Bourbon Street, the Continental) are long gone. As I recall, the last of the casino coffee shop graveyard specials (which had inflated to $1.99 by then) disappeared in the mid-1990s. The closest you’ll get today—at least without consulting our Deal Czar, Anthony Curtis—is the casino special at Henderson’s Rainbow Club ($1.89 6-11 a.m. Mon-Fri). Arizona Charlie’s also has a $3.99 breakfast special with a players card—and it’s available most hours of the day.

Will casinos still cash in my mixed coins?

One of the sounds I miss most from my childhood is the clang-clang-clang-clang of coins striking the metal collector of a slot machine when a lucky player lined up a winning triplet. The sound was ubiquitous: casinos, bowling alleys, grocery stores, the corner 7-Eleven.

Now that most modern slot machines are fed with paper money and cashed out via paper ticket, that gorgeous jackpot sound has all but disappeared, and along with it another piece of the authentic Vegas landscape: change girls wearing manually operated change dispensers around their waists. Sigh. Also obsolete? Most of the casinos’ coin-counting machines. It seems like only yesterday when I would step into the Hard Rock Hotel with a bucket of change and walk out with folding money.

There are, however, a few joints that still have some classic coin-fed slots, including the “retro” gambling floor at The D (upstairs) and El Cortez. A quick ask of El Cortez VP Katie Epstein reveals that the casino does indeed use coin counters, but they only count half-dollars, quarters and nickels (dimes and pennies get lost). Still, I’d rather drop a few bucks in Downtown than pay a percentage to cash in the coins at HellMart.