Hockey great Gordie Howe died last week. Having grown up in Detroit, the passing of the Red Wings legend was especially sad news for me. But it also got me thinking about the Stage Door Casino, a bar that’s somewhat legendary in its own right, having made its way for many years by being a little strange and a lot cheap.
The strange applies to the bar itself, which seems a bit out of place in its location on Flamingo Road a block east of the Strip. But it ain’t moving. After getting in the way of a Harrah’s buying frenzy more than a decade ago, it put up a defiant message on its marquee that read “We have 23 years left on our lease.” Inside there are two bars and an adjoining convenience store. Walk through the doors and you encounter an odd mix of curious tourists and street-beat locals, but the joint has its standards. A sign on the front door reads: “PULL UP YOUR PANTS OR DON’T COME IN. Try to have some decency and respect for others. No one wants to see your underwear.” You gotta like that!
The big draw is the cheap drinking deals. For starters, $2 Corona and $1 Pabst Blue Ribbon in the bottle are available 24/7. Aside from the $1 Michelob at Casino Royale, you can’t do better on the Strip. But beer isn’t the headliner. Although prices recently went up a buck, it’s the “3-4-5” shots lineup that pulls ’em in. Anytime day or night, get shots of Jager for $3; Fireballs, Jack or Crown for $4; and Patron Silver for $5. Check out the shots and beers lined up on the bar. Everyone partakes.
There’s food, too. Just one item, but it’s a dandy—a big quarter-pound hot dog for $2. They advertise it as a beer and a dog for $3, but there’s no price break for getting the combo. Considering the area and its pricy alternatives, this dog is a primo bargain (you can get two beers and two hot dogs for the price of a draft at the neighboring Cromwell).
While “casino” is in the name, it’s really just a video poker bar and not a great one at that. There’ve been some interesting promotions over the years, but as of now, the best game is standard 6/5 Bonus Poker, which returns less than 97 percent. You can do a little better if the progressive games are high enough. The one to watch is the 25-cent Bonus Poker Deluxe, which surpasses the return of 6/5 Bonus Poker when the royal flush rises above $1,675 (it was $1,686 when I was there).
As for that Gordie Howe reference earlier, until 2002 there was a mini-shrine to “Mr. Hockey” near the front door. I never got to the bottom of it, but it was there and it was cool, just like the rest of the place.
Anthony Curtis is the publisher of the Las Vegas Advisor and LasVegasAdvisor.com.