Bargain Hunting in Searchlight

Searchlight, Nevada | Photo by Ken Lund

Searchlight, Nevada | Photo by Ken Lund

A trip to Laughlin can be an interesting (and inexpensive) diversion, but getting there is a bit of a drag. It’s a long 90 miles of not much, except for the obligatory stop in Searchlight, which is at about the halfway point of the trip—a natural respite for gas or grub. The Searchlight Nugget has long been famous for 10-cent coffee, which it still serves. But that’s not the only deal in Harry Reid’s tiny hometown.

The Nugget’s bar has 16-ounce draft Budweiser for a buck and other specials, such as $2 Long Island iced teas. These drinking deals match up pretty well with Vegas’ best, and there’s a diner with some decent specials, including an $11.99 prime rib. But as it turns out, the Nugget actually isn’t the best bargain in town.

A mile down the road is Searchlight’s other casino, Terrible’s. It’s a cool little joint with a mini two-lane bowling alley in the bar ($1 per game), a fortune-telling machine (think Tom Hanks in Big) and an animatronic cowboy that says “Welcome to Terrible’s” when you walk in. It also trumps the Nugget at the bar, serving ice-cold 16-ounce pints of Rolling Rock for 50 cents or pitchers for $1.50. It’s been a long time since I’ve come across a $1.50 pitcher—plus popcorn is free!

They also sell a shrimp cocktail at the bar for $2. An advertisement for the special that’s posted on the wall depicts prawns that might have been more credibly priced at $2 apiece. You don’t get those, but what you do get isn’t far off. Certainly, Terrible’s shrimp are bigger than what shows up in Las Vegas’ best bargain shrimp cocktails at the Skyline and Golden Gate, and they come a dozen to an order. Later that night, I saw an $18 shrimp cocktail on the menu at the Range in Laughlin and couldn’t order it, even with a comp, knowing I could get 108 of ’em in Searchlight for the same price.

For years there were two blackjack tables at the Nugget, but they were taken out last month, relegating all of Searchlight to slots-only status. The best video poker game I saw was 7/5 Bonus Poker with a wheel spin for quad 5s-10s at the Terrible’s bar. That’s also a step up from the standard Las Vegas bar game, with a return in the 99 percent range. But it’s tough to advocate playing for comped drinks with $1.50 pitchers and $2 shot specials available.

I’m not suggesting that you drive 60 miles just to get the “Searchlight Experience,” but if you’re heading to Laughlin, budgeting a couple of hours and about 10 bucks is a pretty good move. A buddy and I took a break from the drive and picked up two shrimp cocktails and a pitcher of Rolling Rock for a grand total of $5.50. That’s what I call a deal!

Anthony Curtis is the publisher of the Las Vegas Advisor and