books, Reviews, Top Ten Lists

My Top Ten (or so) books Worth Reading and that Influenced Me.

Becky Carleton, a librarian at the Johnson County Library in Kansas challenged me to name ten pieces of literature that have stayed with me. And then to challenge ten friends. To be honest, I don’t know that I have 10 friends so I’ll just post this and feel free to add your own list. And I’m afraid I went a bit over ten. It’s hard to stop at 10, so you get about fifteen. It’s hard to stop.

  1. The Prophet – Kahlil Gibran. This really spoke to me as a teenager/young adult and still does. One book I still have. My parents got me a hardbound-cased copy when I was young and I still have it.
  2. The Fountainhead (and Atlas Shrugged) – Ayn Rand. Although when I started talking about how much I liked it, I found out it was very controversial and somewhat frowned upon to like it. It still resonated with me. I remember getting so excited by it and talking about it in a BBS (yes, it was that long ago) and then getting chastised. I never thought people would take exception to it. It was just had interesting ideas, it wasn’t gospel. But you will definitely either love it or hate it.
  3. The High House – James Stoddard. A great SF/fantasy book that I read over and over. I am actually reading it right now. It is a great story of a house that contains countries within rooms and appeals to my love of hidden rooms and surprises. “In High House, which seems to have an infinity of corridors and rooms, certain lamps must always be lit against nightfall, and certain clocks must always be kept wound. Leviathan lives in the attic, and the dark river of Entropy is kept behind a locked door in the cellar.”
  4. The Rubaiyat – Omar Khayyam.When I was young, dad used to read this book to me. It had such wonderful and evocative language. If you love poetry, read this book. I still have dad’s original copy. NOTE: It is $2.25 at Amazon  Thrift right now and is under Prime shipping.   
    1. A Book of Verses underneath the Bough,
      A Jug of Wine, a Loaf of Bread-and Thou
      Beside me singing in the Wilderness-
      O, Wilderness were Paradise enow!”
    2. “The Moving Finger writes: and, having writ,
      Moves on: nor all thy Piety nor Wit
      Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
      Nor all thy Tears wash out a Word of it.”
  5. A Wrinkle in Time – Madeline L’Engle. One of the very most influential books of my youth. Every child should read this. And adults too, for that matter. It is one of the books that solidified my love of Science Fiction and Fantasy. It is actually in a quintet, although the first book was the most influential for me.
  6. Stranger in a Strange Land – Robert Heinlein. I am of that age that read this. The concepts may seem a little dated now, but at the time, it influenced a generation of people, including me. Also, Time Enough for Love by Heinlein was extremely influential. Both of these books address topics likewhat is love in all of its myriad aspects and why it is so important to man’s survival as a species. Both of these books were way ahead of their time for challenging the taboos of non heterosexual, monogamous relationships and saying that love comes in many forms. While this is not ground-breaking now, it was back then.
  7. The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit – J. R. R. Tolkien. Back when Science Fiction and Fantasy was barely a category, and was not considered adult reading, this was ground-breaking. It was one of the first real fantasy trilogies (or novels, for that matter) with an epic and complex theme. I still re-read it and they actually did justice to it with the movie version.
  8. The Left Hand of Darkness – Ursula LeGuin. An amazing and complex story, psychological and abstract. It is not an easy read and it is dated in some ways, like the fact that a unisex society is not as unbelievable as it was then and doesn’t need to have the attention on it that this gives it. But at the time, it was ground-breaking and the beauty of the language and subtleness of the writing puts some modern SF to shame. Also, any other works by her.
  9. The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood. Another thoughtful SF/Fantasy book dealing with important issues like government, religion, patriarchy and the desire to control of women.
  10. The Foundation Trilogy – Isaac Asimov. This is classic SF, considered one of the all time best, and one that everyone should read. The complexity and depth of it is astounding. It’s easily read again and again. If you want more, there are four more books in the Foundation series. 
  11. The Night Circus – Erin Morgenstern. A much newer novel, but I loved the mystery and hidden rooms and tents and the evocativeness of it. It brings up things that are just outside your memories and recollections.
  12. Well, after The Night Circus, I had to add one more classic: Something Wicked this Way Comes by Ray Bradbury. It is the darker forerunner of the Night Circus. “The carnival rolls in sometime after midnight, ushering in Halloween a week early. The shrill siren song of a calliope beckons to all with a seductive promise of dreams and youth regained. In this season of dying, Cooger & Dark’s Pandemonium Shadow Show has come to Green Town, Illinois”
  13.  The Illustrated Man by Ray Bradbury. Dark, disturbing and psychologically fascinating “It is a marvelous, if mostly dark, quilt of science fiction, fantasy, and horror. In an ingenious framework to open and close the book, Bradbury presents himself as a nameless narrator who meets the Illustrated Man–a wanderer whose entire body is a living canvas of exotic tattoos. What’s even more remarkable, and increasingly disturbing, is that the illustrations are themselves magically alive, and each proceeds to unfold its own story”
  14. The Don Juan Series by Carlos Castenada. They really made me wonder about psychedelic drugs as a gateway to other worlds and ways of being. And just the idea that there could be separate realities that we are unaware of. It is the author’s experiences with Yaqui Indian shamanism in Northern Mexico.

When I was young there wasn’t really such a thing as young adult so these are a mix for all different ages. And anyone who was a youth in the late ’60s – early ’70s will recognize these books and probably be familiar with at least some of them.

You will notice that I have several books, particularly SF/Fantasy books, by women. It is not a genre that has a lot of women writers even now, much less when I was young. But I have always gravitated towards, and looked for women authors. And especially where the protagonist is a female, which is rare, even now. Even so, I had more male than female authors.

As an aside, when I sold all of my SF/fantasy collection after I thought I should downsize (which I do and don’t regret), I only saved a few of the books. The High House and its follow-up False House (not quite as good), Dream Park and its follow-up and The Lord of the Rings. An interesting aside, I got well over $1000 for my collection (and they didn’t take a lot that they already had) from Hyde Books, a used book store in Fort Wayne. And they were basically all just well-read paperbacks. That tells you how much I had. I remember my last move with them where I had stacks of boxes covering the entire living room and stacked about 6 feet tall. When it seemed we might be moving out of state, I knew I had to downsize. It turned out we didn’t move at that time but it was still good to get rid of something that could almost be considered baggage, although I loved my books and had them organized by author, set and date. I still miss them sometimes.

There you have it. What are your all-time influential books?

~ Susan Casserley

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Restaurant, review, Reviews

Review of The Drop Bar and Bistro in Martini Corner, Kansas City

The Drop, in the Martini Corner area of Kansas City Missouri is an attractive looking place with brick and industrial acc ents and a pretty bar and cute couches in the front. It looked like a nice quiet, dark, romantic place. But it wasn’t.

The Drop barThe Drop seating 1

When we got there, the maitre d was nowhere to be found and the bartender, who was dressed in unattractive, sloppy jeans shorts, paid no attention to us as we looked confusedly around until we went right up to her at the bar and then she stood there and gossiped with the other bar staff and generally acted put-out by having to do something. The service was extremely sloppy and unprofessional and seemed more appropriate for a cheap dive bar.

The Drop Storage RoomThere very few people in the restaurant and we went on a Friday night at 7:30 pm.

Our waiter was better but slow and inattentive. The sloppy junk closet was open with junk spilling out. They could have closed the curtain that hid the junk room and junk closet but they didn’t and we looked directly into it.

We were there on a Groupon for 1 shareable and 2 drinks.

The Drop food Lettuce Wrap Shareable 1The Drop Food Bruschetta PlatterWe got the lettuce wrap shareable and we bought the bruschetta plate where you chose 4 from a list. None of their specialty drinks sounded good although they might be good for more of a cocktail drinker. I ended up with wine.

The food was so-so. The lettuce wraps were not good at all and didn’t even have the rind cut off of the cucumber slices. Don’t get the lettuce wraps. We got them with scallops. The scallops were small and tasteless. The wraps are big, unwieldy pieces of lettuce, sauces that don’t go with it and with huge slices of cucumber with the The Drop Menu Bruschettarind still on. Making any kind of wrap is impossible.
Then our choices of 4 bruschetta plate had 2 ok choices and 2 that we thought were not good. The apple-brie bruschetta was the best and was sweetish almost like a dessert. The salami-pepadew had poor quality meat that didn’t taste good. The goat cheese and fig wasn’t bad and was one I could get again, assuming I went back. The fontina, bacon and tomato was bland and was nothing special at all. At $15 for 4 pieces of bread w/toppings, it was too expensive.

The Drop PatioThey also had several TVs prominently placed and running, along with loud music which made a potentially romantic place feel like a sports bar. I have heard that they have free wifi. I didn’t check but I guess some people  go there to work on their computer and have a very expensive drink.

The Drop seating 3The only people there was a couple of women dining on the porch, a couple in the middle room, the 2 of us in the far room and a couple of drunks at the tall table next to us that were loud and offensive and really made it seem like somewhat of a dive, regardless of the appearance.

I think that it has gone downhill based on other reviews and recently has gotten uniformly got terrible reviews on the service and bartender. I believe it has changed owners since it first opened. Someone needs to clean house. And then work on the food.

We won’t be back.

~ Susan Casserley

The Drop Bistro on Urbanspoon

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Bite Club, Pitch Bite Club, Restaurant, Reviews

#PitchBiteClub Review of Room 39

I am a part of the #PitchBiteClub, a group of people put together by The Pitch to go to restaurants, taste several of their dishes and report on the experience via social media. On Wednesday, 8/20/2014 we went to Room 39 1719 W 39th St., Kansas City, MO 64111.Room 39 bite club menu002

This is From The Pitch’s About page: Since starting as a music publication in 1980, the Pitch has grown to become Kansas City’s leading source of sophisticated information that readers know they can’t get anywhere else — whether it’s in-depth news and analysis about local power brokers; a rundown of who’s in and who’s out in the city’s spirited arts, music and nightlife scenes; or the skinny on famous barbecue joints and steakhouses. 

Room 39 menu001 Room 39 menu002

Room 39: “A unique culinary experience, rooted in classical cuisine, inspired by tradition, infused with distinct Americana, steeped in heartland flavors & showcasing farm-to-table dedication. Kansas City original since 2004, Room 39 in Midtown continues to amass rave reviews from both traditional and social media outlets. The reason is simple, Room 39 offers Kansas City diners a taste, quality, price and experience unlike any other. Each location (Midtown – Kansas City and Mission Farms – Leawood) focuses on culinary creativity through daily menu changes and making the most of seasonal ingredients sourced from local producers.” and “Breakfast and Lunch are casual affairs with a dining room of beautifully handcrafted tables and simple yet elegant food such as our steak and eggs benedict, fresh pasta and our popular half pound burger. Dinners are more elegant but still a great value with white tablecloths, an award winning wine list and a $39 tasting menu that changes daily using our farmer driven produce and meat. The chefs of Room 39 believe the best tasting food comes from local farmers who use sustainable harvesting and growing practices ensuring the land is better off than before. “

Room 39 BarSAMSUNG CSC

I found Room 39’s ambiance to be casual, cozy, warm and with an industrial vibe.

Room 39 Interior BathroomI don’t know why there were 2 wooden chairs in the restroom.

 

 

 

The service was prompt, Room 39 Bartenderprofessional, friendly and SAMSUNG CSCunpretentious. SAMSUNG CSC

One thing that I greatly appreciated was that the music was very low, pleasant and unobtrusive. One of my pet peeves is loud music in a restaurant. It did get a little noisy in there with all the brick and hard surfaces, but we also had 2 large tables among us with a lot of talking. I think it would be quieter without us walking around taking pictures and discussing the food.

Chris Olsen was the host for this event and he did an excellent job. You can read more about Chris Olsen and the Pitch Bite Club here. And from the article: Chris Olsen is one of those guys.

One of those guys with the words startup and entrepreneur tattooed on his résumé. One of those guys apt to co-found something like, say, a video-marketing company called FindItKC

The chef, TeRoom 39 Chefd Habiger was a semi-finalist for the prestigious James Beard award Best Chef: Midwest category in 2008,  2012 and 2014. The Pitch has several articles written about him.

Room 39 Chef and IChef Habiger was extremely personable and explained each dish, with great little stories, like that the watermelon comes from Farmer Dennis Smith in Missouri who comes in, summer or winter, in sweatpants, hence his nickname “Dr. Sweatpants”. He emphasized that they were very casual, loving people and that everyone was welcome and that we would feel this throughout the meal, which we did.

It is in an interesting, funky part of town (39th Street) that has lots of ethnic and American restaurants, ice cream, boutique shops, a vegan bakery, a tattoo parlor, an independent bookstore and more and is a fun area to walk around. One thing to note, the parking around there can be horrendous so get there a little ahead of time for your reservation to allow time to find a place to park.

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We had a variety to taste, but not everything they offer. The food was consistently attractively presented. People at our table gave a rating of 2 stars (only 1 entree, other people rated it respectively a 3 and a 4) to 5 stars for the different dishes. Which means that while some of the food was excellent, some could be improved.

SAMSUNG CSCWe had bread and olives to start.

Room 39 Food Charcuterie PlateThe Charcuterie plate, foie gras torchon, chicharrones, duck rillette and lamb offal pate with mustard, capers, housemade pickles and peach-jalepeno jam was good. Chef Habiger explained it to us. He said that 4 years ago they started doing a lot more with whole animals and that it was very important to him that he knew where his meat came from. As of about 2 weeks ago he was able to get all locally raised beef on his menu which pretty much meant that everything was now locally grown or raised (including Iowa, and nearby areas). Some of the trout comes from Missouri but the rest comes from the coasts. So as a result of getting whole animals, they started using more parts of the animals.

The duck and the foie gras were both excellent according to most people. I thought they were very good for not being something I would normally eat.. I thought the lamb offal was so-so, it tasted like grainy light cat food to me. The jam helped. To be honest, I personally, wouldn’t spend $21 for this plate. There is an appetizer of just the foie gras with grilled brioche, bruleed local peach and balsamic caramel for $14 that sounds better to me if you want something like this. There was another person who said the grainy mustard was the best part of it. I don’t think they were a connoisseur of this type of food either.

Room 39 Food Goat Cheese Gnocchi

However, the Goat Cheese Gnocchi with lobster, local mushrooms and nettle cream was a 5 star dish in everyone’s opinion. It had lots of creamy goat cheese, a nice sized piece of lobster and the nettle cream was light and good. And save some of your bread to soak up the leftover sauce. We all were wanting bread to get the last of it. Actually, it would be a good idea to serve it with bread. Everyone would get this again in a heartbeat. It is $13/$24. We would have licked the bowl if no one was watching.

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The watermelon salad with grilled corn, queso fresco, arugula, pine nuts and jalapeno vinaigrette was about a 3.5. It was good, but not incredible and I didn’t think the corn went with it. A nut of some kind would be better in it, in my opinion and would raise the score a lot. It is $10. Room 39 Food Heirloom Tomato Salad 2Since there were some vegetarians at our table, they got the heirloom tomato salad with feta, red wine vinaigrette, basil and red onion. It was sweet and fresh and everyone who tried it gave it 5 stars. It was $11 and won hands down over the watermelon salad.

Beet TartWe had a choice of four entrees. I had the Beet Tart with herb goat cheese, local onion, fennel-arugula salad, herb oil and Rancho Gordo spiced popcorn. It seemed to me there were some tomatoes under the beets but I could be mistaken. I actually don’t like beets in general but this proved me wrong. It was very good and light and made a nice vegetarian dish. I thought the spiced popcorn did not add to the dish but other people liked it. I would give it about a 4.5. I would definitely have it again, but it was not very much food and may not be enough if you are very hungry. Also, at $22.50 it was a bit pricey for the portion you get.

 

SAMSUNG CSCThe Wild Sockeye Salmon with sauteed kale, mushrooms, poblano-corn fritter and cilantro creme fraiche was rated a 3.5 to 4. Both thought it could use more sauce and each thought theirs was slightly overcooked or a little dry.

 

SAMSUNG CSCThe Duroc Pork Chop with summer vegetable succotash, tasso, fried okra and Crum farm grits looked really good to me (I didn’t try it) but the person having it gave it a 3 and said the pork chop could be more tender. I forgot to ask how the fried okra was – I love fried okra.

 

Room 39 Food Local Grilled Steak 2And the last entree was the Locally Raised Grilled Steak with smashed Thane potatoes, Mexican elote and chimichurri. Again, I didn’t taste this but the person who had it said that the steak was way too charred and all he could taste was the char, as if it had been cooked correctly and then put on again to char. It had dark black char lines on it. He said the potatoes were excellent though. He gave the steak a 2. Two other people also had it. One also said theirs was too charred/overcooked and the other said theirs was very good. So it got a range of 2 to 4+. I think the intense charring was from the grill being too hot. Or maybe it was put on a too-hot grill afterwards to get the char lines. Either way, it detracted from the steak.

We also tasted mostRoom 39 Food Lemon Curd Tart
of the desserts. I won’t go into detail on all of them but my favoritRoom 39 Food Peach Blueberry Bread Puddinge was the
Lemon curd tart with housemade ricotta and hyssop syrup. And several people liked the Peach and blueberry bread pudding with mascarpone ice cream best (I liked it too) and theRoom 39 Food Churros Churros with guajillo chocolate sauce. To me the churros were fine but I don’t care for a spicy / jalapeno chocolate sauce. It didn’t taste like chocolate to me and that was what I wanted. I was not enamored by Melon Gelato and Coconut cake, I thought it was rather tasteless. Room 39 Food Melon Gelato and Coconut CakeThe Almond cake with blackberry puree was very good, but Room 39 Food Almond Cake Blackberry Pureetoo dry. I would replace the whipped cream with ice cream on this dish and it would be great. Room 39 Food Pizzelle Sweet Corn Ice Cream I think I saw a review where there was ice cream with this once upon a time. I know Chef Habiger changes things around a lot.

The Sweet Corn ice cream with Homemade Caramel Corn was very good. I would have liked more of the delicious caramel corn.

I was surprised at the lack of anything chocolate and no creme brulee. Something chocolate-y and rich would make a nice addition to the desserts and I love good creme brulee.

I definitely would go back for the goat cheese gnocchi, the beet tart and the lemon curd tart, although I might skip the beet tart and just get large gRoom 39 Table after Dessertoat cheese gnocchi, simply because I wouldn’t want to spend tha
t much money. And I would certainly be open to trying some of the other entrees myself to see what I personally thought. One caveat with
my review is that I’m not used to spending this much for food so I am little pickier about it.
All in all it was very good and with a little tweaking, could be excellent. I know that chef Habiger constantly does new dishes and/or new ingredients with existing plates.  The Pitch Bite Club was, in everyone’s opinion, a great success and I know we all look forward to more.

Room 39 on Urbanspoon

Susan Casserley

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About Me, Bite Club, Kansas City, Reviews, The Pitch

Pitch Bite Club Restaurant Reviewer, How I Review, Likes and Dislikes

I have just become part of The Pitch’s Bite Club, a group of reviewers that review a restaurant and several of their dishes.

I also write my own reviews about almost everything. I will tag my Bite Club reviews as The Pitch and Bite Club but that won’t really matter to anyone except people who want to know what I have written directly for The Pitch Bite Club reviewed restaurant, which means that we are hosted at the restaurant to review and write about the experience on social media and blogs.  This does not mean that I will be anything but honest, although sometimes it is hard when they are so nice to us. But be careful what you ask for, because I will do my best to give you my honest opinion, with my apologies, if necessary, to the chef.

The Pitch is an exceptional local Kansas City area paper and is my go-to spot for finding out about what is happening with music, sports, restaurants, pretty much everything . So if you live around here, I suggest you just click here and check it out. 

This is their About page: Since starting as a music publication in 1980, the Pitch has grown to become Kansas City’s leading source of sophisticated information that readers know they can’t get anywhere else — whether it’s in-depth news and analysis about local power brokers; a rundown of who’s in and who’s out in the city’s spirited arts, music and nightlife scenes; or the skinny on famous barbecue joints and steakhouses. More than 258,000 people read the paper every month, picking it up every week at 1,800 locations throughout a seven-county region. Readers across the world also look to our Web site, http://www.pitch.com, to keep up with what’s happening here or to make plans whenever they’re goin’ to Kansas City.

Before I start my reviews, let me give you a little information about me and my general feelings about restaurants, food and value.  This is also about what I like and dislike about restaurants and food.

UPDATE 8/2714: I apologize for this rant, it was a bad day.

I am a Midwestern woman who was raised on meat and potatoes and I am not a person who loves organ meat or caviar or that sort of thing. I like good tasting food and lean towards things that are not too fishy or an acquired taste. I was raised on Italian food and Mexican food and American Food and some French food, but not on Asian food so it is less in my comfort zone, although I love Indian food.

Also, I am a Virgo, with all its attendant qualities. It has been said that a Virgo can look at a beautiful tapestry and see the lone thread hanging off it. This is a description of a Virgo: “Methodical, meticulous, analytical and mentally astute, the Virgo natives are perfectionists to the core, or at least, they like to believe that they are. They are excellent managers, and may even ruthlessly ensure that the work is done, and well done, at that. Fastidious to the tee, they may be perceived as narrow in their outlook, critical and quarrelsome by many. Yet, unperturbed by the others’ view of them, they will go on doing what they feel is right, quietly and with a dogged determination.”  While I’d beg to differ with some of that, I have to admit that it is pretty accurate.

And being of good Midwestern, German stock, I like to feel like I get good value for things. Also, I don’t like name brands or the dish of the day just because it is expensive. If I like something, I like it and I don’t care if it came from a thrift shop or Kmart or Golden Corral Buffet. Likewise, I don’t care if something is the latest Hermes bag or Dior gown, if I don’t like it, I don’t like it and the chances are I will think I could find something just as nice that is a better value anyway. But if it is something special, that is what I spend my money happily on and there are some dishes and/or restaurants that I crave and have no quibble with the price whatsoever.

At this point, let me stop and say that I don’t suffer fools lightly and if you ask (or I’m writing about something), I will tell you straight out how I feel.  So don’t ask if you don’t want to hear the bad with the good. I don’t like to hurt people’s feelings but if my opinion is to be worthwhile, it has to be honest. And I hope I have something to offer as far as little things that might have been overlooked. Pretty much everywhere is good, but to get from good to great takes diligence and honest feedback on a regular basis.

I’m not used to spending large amounts of money for food. I will, for special occasions or for a particularly good or unique dish, but I do get disappointed when I spend more for something that is either not cooked well or is made of expensive products, but the end result isn’t great. Also, if something is just blatantly overpriced, especially compared to the other items on the menu. The vegetarian options can be that way. Maybe because it takes more time to prepare one dish but usually a restaurant covers it’s costs by it’s general pricing structure. Look at the prices on a menu sometime and tell me if you can tell why something is more than another. Why is a small order $13 and a large order $24 when you are getting about half as much more? We don’t quibble about that, but neither should restaurants over-price items that don’t deserve it. And if a restaurant wants to have a beautifully arranged dish of a carved radish rose, a tiny carrot and 3 drops of red wine vinaigrette, then they better be known for it and make sure the description reflects the reality. Don’t just call it a Petit Salad Extraordinaire and price it like it was worth that and order it as anything other than a way to, well, be either practicing conspicuous consumption, or not know and end up being played. I’d feel seriously played it I got something like that. There has to be a very good reason for me to pay more for something that I can get for at other good restaurants that are equally good, or better. And I like it if a restaurant has a variety of prices though I expect every item to be prepared as well as any other item on the menu, regardless of the price. Also a nice selection of wine prices.

But I also recognize the many intangibles and extra touches make a gourmet dining experience more than just a well-cooked slab of meat. I appreciate attentive servers in nice clothing. Black pants and a white shirt never goes out of style and for a little more class, don’t wear black basketball shoes. Also, a Maitre d and wait staff that is quick and professional (no leaning on the bar gossiping, hair tossing, etc). Be friendly, I don’t need you to be obsequious. But don’t get pretentious on me, who do you think you are? A quiet atmosphere without blaring music or TVs, a nicely set table with real tablecloth and napkins, service that is unobtrusive and wait staff who replaces your silverware (don’t tell me I might want to keep my fork). No closet doors open with junk spilling out, clean and attractive (and pleasant smelling) bathrooms.

A good sommelier and good selection of wine. Great bartender with fresh ingredients and not just a bunch of fancy martinis. Good bread on the table. I’m responsible enough to not eat it if I have allergies or are trying to cut down on carbs. A little something extra, an amuse bouche is always a class touch. My parents raised me with the idea of langiappe and while it is not practiced often around here, there is a reason for it and is going that little extra to be memorable for your customers.

I like an overview of the menu by the wait staff with specialties noted. Wait staff that notices if you are not eating something or appearing to not like it and makes sure to ask and notice what you say. If you say “Never mind, it’s OK” then they should realize that you are just being polite. Ask if you would like to replace it with something else. Go the extra mile. It will pay back tenfold in repeat business if people know that if they get something that is not perfect, they don’t have to accept it in silence or be bossy to get it taken care of. Paying for a nice meal is something that is not just chump change for a lot of people, regardless of how much they love it. They should never feel cheated.

And I have a few pet peeves, like not peeling the cucumbers or drowning the salad with salad dressing which should either be lightly applied if it is integral to the dish, or should be on the side (in my opinion). I’m sure I’ll remember others as I go.

So now you know about how I approach a review of a restaurant (and reviews in general). I am picky and the price also factors in to whether I think it is worth it. And I would never pay big money for foie gras or organ meat or caviar. I don’t like it and I wouldn’t get it for any price. The jury is still out on truffles, because I haven’t really had any yet and I like mushrooms, but they would have to be really good since they are expensive. There is too much good food of all prices to require an expensive, “gourmet” experience every time. You may differ in your thinking, but I’m the one doing these reviews.

Susan Casserley

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Kansas City

My All Things Web 2.0 Blog is now Clear Blue Dei (Thursday’s Child)

It’s been a long time since I have blogged. I am changing the name of my blog from All Things Web 2.0 to Clear Blue Dei (Thursday’s Child has far to go…)  and the focus of my blog will be exploring and reviewing all the great things to eat, see and do in Kansas City and beyond, as we travel.

I’ll still include all the tips and tricks I discover as I explore and I can’t wait to start talking about all the great things we have found and will find in Kansas City. And all my old posts are still here for your browsing pleasure.

In case you don’t know, we moved from Fort Wayne Indiana to Kansas City about 2 years ago when my husband accepted the position of Director of the Johnson County, KS Library. I’ve lived my whole life in Fort Wayne so it is very exciting to me to have a new city to explore, especially one as thriving and vital as Kansas City.

So stay tuned and I am working on new posts right now about local restaurants and more.  And I will undoubtedly add a few reviews of various technology here and there like always, and probably a few general posts about whatever I feel like talking about.

Also, I am working on updating the whole blog with a new theme, updated widgets and better social media features. So if you see it changing somewhat frequently right now, don’t be surprised.  If you run across anything that is not working correctly, please leave me a comment on this post and I will try to figure out how to fix it.  Self-hosted WordPress blogs are very flexible, but confusing if you aren’t familiar with them.

I am also going to go back and re-categorize and re-tag my old posts to make them easier to find.  I will also probably be breaking up some of my old posts into several smaller posts, as I do tend to go on and on.

See you soon!

Susan Casserley

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las vegas, travel

Las Vegas Strip Tips Part 2: Dining, Drinking, Free Wifi, Websites and more

Here are even more tips, tricks and bargains for the Las Vegas Strip. There is more transportation information, Dining and Drinking, free and interesting things to do, good websites and more.

First, a note on asking for room upgrades. Ask if they have any complimentary upgrades. That means you are asking for a free upgrade. Otherwise they will probably just tell you the cost to upgrade, which may be a deal, but isn’t free.

More Transportation Information:

For a good overview of all the transportation options, take a look at the Las Vegas Solo’s page on Vegas transportation. It is concise and covers all the options.

Airport to hotel Shuttle vans and buses operated by off-airport companies are a popular and convenient transportation option and an alternative to taking a taxi or renting a car. Shuttles are located on the west side of baggage claim, outside exits 7-13 at McCarran International Airport. All the shuttles are similar and they each charge about $6.50 per person. You can buy round-trip tickets when you take the shuttle from the airport, but it isn’t really any cheaper (maybe .50 for each) and you have to go back on that shuttle. We just take one-way and have the hotel call us a shuttle (tell them at least the day before you need to leave). Here is some more information on getting from the airport to your hotel (http://www.lasvegas-how-to.com/las-vegas-airport-shuttle.php).

For many other free shuttles, see this how-to site (http://www.lasvegas-how-to.com/free-shuttle.php). Hotels in Las Vegas often provide free transportation. If you know what attractions are close to these casinos, you can use the free shuttles to your advantage.

There is also a trolley (http://www.lasvegas-how-to.com/trolley.php). Purchase your ticket from the driver. Pay $2.50 for a one-way ticket, $12 for a 3-day pass and $20 for a 4-day pass. There is no all-day pass but for $4.25 you can get a pass that’s good from 8.30am to 5pm. For another $4.25 you can get another pass that’s good from 5pm to midnight. Get one of each if you expect to be traveling around during each time slot. The trolley runs every 30 minutes. Check the signs or ask the driver to find out at what hotels the trolley will stop. You can also print out the map of the strip trolley routes for your convenience. I have heard however that the trolley is getting less reliable and may not be as good an option.

I can’t find the information on it, but I believe there is an express bus too that stops at fewer stops and is good for going from one end of the strip to the other.

Here is some more information on the monorail (http://www.lasvegas-how-to.com/monorail.php). It also has a lot of information about each stop, where it is, what is near it, etc. There are seven stations that connect hotels and casinos on the vegas strip. Click here for the Las Vegas Monorail map with all the stops. Adobe Acrobat Download Las Vegas Monorail Map And I haven’t seen them, but according to Trip Advisor: Coupons for fare promotions will be found in the small coupon booklets available on the racks on the Monorail platforms, and there are frequently costumed persons standing at casino entrances passing out flyers which include the coupons; the coupons can also be found in some of the magazines you will find in your hotel room or at the hotel bell desk. However, per the Las Vegas Solo blog: UPDATE: The Monorail has filed for bankruptcy.  It is still operating for now, but I wouldn’t make any solid plans that involve it.

Free monorails:

There is also a free monorail-type shuttle between Mandalay Bay-Luxor-Excalibar; and another free monorail runs between Monte Carlo and Bellagio, as well as one between Mirage and Treasure Island.

Dining and Drinking Deals and Info:

Of course, the cheapest way to drink is to gamble and wait for the waitress to come around since the drinks are free if you are gambling (at any casino). They come quicker or slower depending on which casino, how much you are betting and the tips you give them. A typical tip is $1 a drink (or if we get 2 drinks at the same time we still just give a $1 but we are probably cheapskates). It would take more than that to motivate the waitress to come more often. Sometimes people give them more the first time and say something like “there’s more where that came from (or at the end) if you keep them coming”.

Beer – CityCenter Todd English P.U.B. – Tuesday 9-midnight – 5¢ On Tuesdays from 9 pm till midnight, you can get 5¢ beers. Yes, you read that right. No, that’s not a typo. Beers for a plug nickel. And they’re not at some dive bar. Rather, these eight-ounce cups of Pabst Blue Ribbon are served up in the new Todd English P.U.B. in the Crystals mall at CityCenter! Bring a quarter and drink all night.

O’Sheas Casino’s 24-Hour Happy Hour stretches 60 minutes of happy into a full day of food and drink happiness. Stop in at the Dublin Up or any casino bar 2,3,4,5 special:
$3 car bombs
$4 Guinness & harps
99 cent frozen bailey shots
99 cent miller lite & coors light draft
$3 Heineken July 1st thru December 31st
$3 dos equis July 1st thru December 31st

BallysVegas Great specials continue at The Tequila Bar! $1 tacos & margaritas, $2 tequila shots and beers. Available from noon until 6 am daily. Take time to eat the after midnight special at Bill’s- Great meal for $5

Casino Royale On the Strip between Harrah’s and the Venetian has $1 froz margarita $1 michelob

Riviera ~(Cheap Eat)Hound Doggies in Penny Town Slots. $1 menu (shrimp cocktail, beer, pizza, margaritas, popcorn, icecream, etc.)

Dollars Days at the Sahara includes four offers: $1 beers (available at all casino bars 24/7), $1 hot dogs, $1 shots (in a free souvenir glass), and of course $1 Blackjack.

The Las Vegas Solo blog has some posts: 10 Vegas Breakfasts for under $10 and 10 Money-Saving Meal Strategies. As a matter of fact, this whole blog is excellent and so is the comprehensive list of other Las Vegas websites it has in its sidebar.

If you’re on @foursquare, check in at Imperial Palace for a 2-for-1 valid at Burger Palace. 4:45 PM Aug 17th via HootSuite

You might want to go to Cabo Wabo Cantina in Planet Hollywood for a drink in a souvenir 100oz guitar glass that plays Sammy Hagar songs. I don’t know how much it costs, but I’m sure it is plenty!Drinks average $7. On Monday’s they have $1 draft beer from 9-11pm. There is live music on the weekend. They serve tex-mex food and a lot of tequila drinks.

$7.77: Gambler’s Special: Steak, three grilled shrimp, a choice of potato or broccoli and a salad. At Mr. Lucky’s 24/7 in the Hard Rock Hotel. It’s not on the menu — you’ll have to ask your server — and is available around the clock

99-cents: Shrimp cocktail special available daily at the Player’s Deli in the Tropicana.

$3: Hot dog and a beer special, available 24/7 at O’sheas Casino.
$2: Domestic draft brews, 24/7 at O’sheas Casino.
$5: select cocktails from 10 p.m. – midnight at STACK in the Mirage every Monday.
$5: select cocktails from 10 p.m. – midnight at Union in Aria every Thursday.
$5: select cocktails from 10 p.m. – midnight at FIX in Bellagio every Sunday.

A special shout-out to Ellis Island Restaurant. It is a long walk but worth it. It has “$7 Steak Dinner, Includes Your Beer, Enough Said”, $1.95: Two scrambled eggs, biscuits and gravy and bacon or sausage at Ellis Island. Available from 11 p.m. – 6 a.m. $3.45: New York steak and eggs, available 11 p.m. to 11 a.m. at Ellis Island.

If you want to eat at the classic dinner hour, be prepared to wait. The place is open 24 hours, so if you don’t mind eating off dinner hour, you should be fine. The service is a little slow just becuase it is sooo busy! The servers all have amazing attitudes though, which totally makes up for it! They work hard for their money. Everything on the menu looks amazing. If you’re looking for an amazing steak, just ask the server for the “steak special.” It’s not on the menu! You get sourdough rolls, a nice 12 oz, cooked exactly how you want, choice of potato, and green beans. You get soup or salad to start, as well as a free beer. They brew a whole bunch of varieties, I think maybe around 6-8. If you’re not into beer, they also make their own root beer, which is very very yummy!

HUGE portions, AMAZING servers, CHEAP prices, 24 hrs. When you’re done, play some cheap slots, or hit up the bar right beside for some karaoke.


It’s behind Bally’s, just off the strip. Head east on Flamingo (the street that runs between Bally’s and Bill’s) and at the first lights, turn right. There is free parking, and a hotel and 7-11 right beside.”

The Best Las Vegas Deals site (http://www.best-las-vegas-deals.com/las-vegas-dinner-deals/) has a great list of some of the best deals and cheap eats. Also, 2 awesome specials (http://www.best-las-vegas-deals.com/las-vegas-food-deals-two-awesome-specials/) on cheap, gourmet appetizers at Palm (in the Caesar’s Forum Shops) and pizza and beer at Binions (downtown). And 3 can’t miss specials (http://www.best-las-vegas-deals.com/las-vegas-dining-deals-summer2010/) at Ellis Island (a long walk from Bally’s, but walkable and the best bargain for food), South Point, which is past the far south end of the strip and requires a shuttle or bus (or taxi) and dinner and a show at Fitzgeralds (downtown).

Places to buy beer, water, carry-out and sundries:

There is a Panda Express in a food court between Harrah’s and Casino Royale. This is where we pick up food to bring back to our hotel.

The Subway at O’Shea’s is the cheapest on the strip, they have $5.00 footlong, unlike the one in Monte Carlo.

The ABC Stores — there are several of these stores, one at the Fashion Show Mall, one in Desert Passage (at Planet Hollywood), two in the Riveria, and also one on Fremont downtown (just a few doors up from the Golden Nugget) — do sell booze, wine and beer, along with a lot of snacks and Hawaiian tourist stuff.  The prices are reasonable for convenience stores.

There is a liquor/convenience store called the Stage Door next to Bill’s Gaming Hall, on Flamingo, just east of the Strip. This is right across the street from Bally’s. Although this is not ON the Strip, it is only a short block off Strip.

TIP!!! Skip the soft drinks and the bottled water at restaurants. With soda costing as much as $4 a glass, and bottled water (think Evian or Voss) even more, your drinks can cost as much as half your meal. Even if the waiter is trying to talk you into bottled water, just order ice water.

You can also walk outside on the street and buy water for half the price of it inside the casinos.

Buy water, pop, snacks, sundries from CVS, Walgreens (and ABC stores):

CVS

3758 Las Vegas Blvd. S.
Las Vegas, NV 89109
702 – 262 – 9028
(Next to Monte Carlo Hotel Open 24/7)

Walgreens

3765 S. Las Vegas Bvd
Las Vegas, NV 89109
(702) 432-6940
(Next to MGM Grand Hotel Open 24/7)

Free Things to do and see:

There are many websites with lists of free things to see on the Strip. Insider LV (http://www.insidervlv.com/freeevents.html) has a list of the 25 best free things to do. Vegas 4 Locals (http://vegas4locals.com/free.html) has a large list. This Bing search (http://www.bing.com/search?q=free+entertainment+in+las+vegas&form=QBRE&qs=AS&sk=AS1&pq=free+entertain&sp=2&sc=8-14) will show you all sorts of free things to do.

Planet Hollywood was not open the last time we were there so here are the new items from Planet Hollywood Resort and Casino Attractions

Test America Preview Studio – Try a new product, give your opinion and receive money or coupons for your opinion. The studio is in suite H-82 in the Dessert Passage Mall.

The fountain at the heart of Miracle Mile Shops features lighted water effects, color changing fog, bursts of light and dramatic, original soundtracks broadcast via a state-of-the-art surround sound system. Show Times: Sunday – Saturday. Hourly from 12pm-11pm

A multi-sensory laser show complete with dramatic lighting effects, fog and a boisterous soundtrack. Show Times: Monday – Thursday: Hourly from 11:45am – 11:45pm
Friday – Sunday: Every 1/2 hour from 11:15am – 11:45pm

Excitement pours down at Miracle Mile Shops during the rainstorm outside of Merchants Harbor Coffee House. You simply can’t miss this miracle in the desert featuring thunder, lightning, fog and pouring rain. Show Times: Monday – Thursday: Top of each hour
Friday – Sunday: Each half hour.

Here are a few interesting things to do that cost money:

Red Rock Scooter Tours: http://www.scootcitytours.com/ $125/pp but #1 LV attraction on TripAdvisor and a lot of fun. 8am and 1pm tours, morning is coolest. 3 wheeled scooters 702.699.5700 info@scootcitytours.com 4 hrs total. They pick you up.

Something I always wanted to do was the Vegas Indoor Skydiving (http://www.vegasindoorskydiving.com/). Here’s a review: “I took my wife and 2 daughters, ages 13 and 11 to Vegas Indoor skydiving $75 per person, and we had a ball. We got a $20 off voucher out of one of the papers, Make sure you grab a brochure with a coupon prior to going though. Address: 200 Convention Center Dr Ste. A Las Vegas, NV 89109 (Formerly “Flyaway Indoor Skydiving”) Tel: 702 731 4768”

Free Wifi:

Here is a list from Las Vegas Advisor. It doesn’t just have the strip though so also has places you would have to drive to. (http://www.lasvegasadvisor.com/showtable.cfm?id=18)

From the Las Vegas Message Board: (from 2006 so may not be completely up to date)

Las Vegas Strip (and vicinity)
Aladdin hotel – Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf – miracle mile shopping area (now Planet Hollywood and Desert Passage?) The Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf has a nice connection in the Desert Passage mall. Looks like DSL, 1.5MB download and 400KB upload doing a speed test. Good strong signal sitting at the tables outside the store.
Fashion Show Mall – Saks Fifth Avenue – 3200 Las Vegas Blvd.
Fashion Show Mall – Apple Store – 3200 S Las Vegas Blvd.
Las Vegas Convention Center Monorail Station – Nextel Central Station – behind their retail store – 3300 Paradise Rd (it is possible that every monorail station has free wifi now)
Las Vegas Hilton – Fortuna Coffee/Wine Bar – 3000 Paradise Road

There is a little cafe inside Wynn called Sugar & Ice that has free WIFI. It’s at the far end of the Esplanade Shops towards the strip. They have a little patio so you can sit outside weather permitting and enjoy the water fall.
Venetian – Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf – The Bridge – 3377 Las Vegas Blvd South
Venetian – Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf – Carnevale – 3377 Las Vegas Blvd South

Near Strip
The Palms – Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf – 4321 W. Flamingo Road
RIO Hotel & Casino – Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf -3700 West Flamingo Rd.

Downtown
Fitzgerald Casino – Krispy Kreme – 301 Freemont St., 89101
Main Street Station Hotel, Lobby & Players Gold room – 300 N Main St
The Plaza Hotel Casino – the hot spot is on the 3rd floor, in the seating area outside the Comedy Zone Showroom – 1 Main Street

Airport
McCarran Airport – Las Vegas (21 total access points)
McCarran Airport – Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf – Las Vegas

Originally Posted by SnertAlert

Apple Store – Fashion Show Mall
Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf – Aladdin
Fortuna Coffee/Wine Bar – Las Vegas Hilton
Krispy Kreme – Excalibur Casino
Sugar & Ice-Wynn Esplanade Shops
Terrace Pointe Cafe – Wynn
Kahunaville Island Restaurant – Treasure Island
Betty’s Diner – Imperial Place
The UPS Store – Flamingo Hotel?
McDonald’s – near MGM and Casino Royale
ESPN Zone – NYNY
Denny’s – near Casino Royale
Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf – The Venetian

Also:

Betty’s Diner – Imperial Place and McDonald’s

3535 Las Vegas Blvd S
Las Vegas, Nevada 89109
Location Type: Restaurant

3755 Las Vegas Blvd S
Las Vegas, Nevada 89109
Location Type: Restaurant

Websites:

Here is a list of some good Las Vegas websites for info and discounts:

DineLV (https://www.dinelv.com/) has great online coupons for sale. We got our Matsuri tix there.

Access Vegas (http://www.accessvegas.com/) lots of info on upcoming shows and headliners, hotels, dining, events and more.

Goldstar (http://www.goldstar.com/home) is another great site for discount tickets. I would have bought our Human Nature tickets here, but decided to wait and check Tix4Tonight booths when we get there. If they don’t have them, I may book through Goldstar then. I just don’t want to commit to a particular day and time yet.

Half Price Shows http://www.halfpriceshows.com Another good site for discount tickets.

The Las Vegas How-To Guide (http://www.lasvegas-how-to.com) How to do all sorts of things, like how to get around, how to book shows, how to get freebies, etc.

Las Vegas Solo (http://www.vegassolo.com/) This blog is excellent and so is the very comprehensive list of other Las Vegas websites in its sidebar. It is written for the solo traveler, but is excellent for anyone.

Las Vegas Leisure Guide (http://www.lasvegas-nv.com/las-vegas-coupons.htm) is good for find free discount coupons. The home page has lots of additional information.

Las Vegas Casinos (http://www.pcap.com/lvmaps.htm) has good maps of the different casinos and shopping centers. The homepage has more info on hotels, pictures, etc.

Trip Advisor (http://www.tripadvisor.com) is a must visit website for any travel. You can look up hotels, shows, restaurants and read real people’s reviews, compare prices on different websites and much more. If I go nowhere else, I visit trip advisor. They have excellent, descriptive reviews that will really let you make an educated decision on what will work best for you.

Las Vegas Weekly (http://www.lasvegasweekly.com/) is a good site for news and events. It seems a little more geared to locals and especially to a young crowd and/or people more interested in nightlife/nightclubs. I did not find a ton of helpful info here but I can see that someone else might. You do have to sort through the non-strip Las Vegas news and information that locals are interested in.

I have a list on twitter called LV (http://twitter.com/melrob/lv) or (http://twitter.com/#/list/melrob/lv) that you can follow that has several of the hotels on the strip in it and a few other places. It is not the definitive list, but is a good place to start.

The Las Vegas Message Board (http://www.vegasmessageboard.com/forums/index.php) has great questions and answers.

Cheapo Vegas (http://www.cheapovegas.com/vegas_map.php?map=strip) has my favorite map of the strip (although several of the other sites also have maps). Cheapo Vegas also has great lists like swankiest, cheapest, etc. and comparison charts.

Las Vegas on 25 cents a Day (http://www.bigempire.com/vegas/) has all sorts of interesting bargains, freebies, tips, etc.

Best Las Vegas Deals (http://www.best-las-vegas-deals.com/) is not the most concise website, or my favorite, but has some good info especially on food and dining specials.

I have repeatedly read that the 2010 American Casino Guide is well worth buying. It has many, many coupons in it (http://www.cheapovegas.com/acg_coupons.php). If I’d found out about it sooner, I would have gone to the bookstore and checked it out, for sure.

And of course, check out the direct websites for any hotels, shows, restaurants, etc you are thinking about. They may have specials or discounts.

And the social media sites: Foursquare (http://foursquare.com/), Twitter (http://twitter.com) and Facebook (http://facebook.com)

Well, that is about all I’ve got for now. I hope this helps you make your Las Vegas trip fun and budget-friendly. Stay tuned for my write-up on the Strip when we get back.

Until then, take care,

~Susan Mellott

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Las Vegas Strip Tips Part 1: Discounts and Info on Hotels, Shows, Transportation, etc

Since we are leaving next week for Vegas, I thought I would share some tips, tricks, discounts, websites, etc that I have picked up while planning this trip.

Airfare:

By checking Travelocity, Airfarewatchdog and other airfare sites, I ended up getting very good priced tickets: $254 air from Dayton (+taxes, $601 for 2). We will take carryons only = no charge. We live in Fort Wayne, but I always check at least South Bend and Dayton (and Indianapolis) for prices as they are all within easy driving distance.

Parking at Airport:

I also check park fly and stay (http://www.park-stay-fly.com/) for places to park and/or stay and park. In the winter, if we are not flying out of Fort Wayne, a lot of times we’ll go the night before so we don’t have to worry about the weather and getting there late. It can be a very reasonable alternative if you pick an inexpensive hotel and use their park and stay privileges (you stay 1 night and can park for free for usually 7 to 14 nights). This trip we will just park in the economy parking lot at the Dayton airport (http://www.flydayton.com/index.php?page=parking-rates) 0-1 Hour – $2.00 Each Addl. – $2.00 Daily Max. – $6.00 Weekly Max. – $36.00. If it were in the winter, we would at least park in a park and go type lot. Mainly because they are about the same price as the airport and will scrape the ice from your car and warm it up before you get to it.

Transportation:

I would never take a taxi from the airport to a hotel on the strip. Taxi drivers in Las Vegas are notorious for taking advantage of people who are new to Las Vegas and driving them the long way around to their hotel. It is super easy to get the shuttle that goes to all the hotels from the airport (just look around or ask). It is reasonably priced, easy and you don’t have to worry about getting ripped-off.

2010 Las Vegas Deuce Fares

Fares on the Deuce bus. This is the bus that goes up and down the strip and to downtown casinos (and elsewhere). You must have exact change ready as the driver cannot make change. This site (http://www.lasvegas-how-to.com/cat.php) has all the info on the Deuce and if you scroll down, there is a map with each bus stop on the strip.

Cash – Single Ride Fare: $3.00
24-Hr. All-Access Pass: $7.00

3-Day Full Fare All Access Pass: $15.00 (new)

5-Day Full Fare All Access Pass: $20.00 (new)

The Las Vegas monorail goes from the south end of the strip to the north end (http://www.lvmonorail.com/). The online rates are Single Ride Ticket $5.00 One-Day Pass $12.00 Three-Day Pass $28.00. The website has an interactive map with stops marked. One thing to note is that it is a LONG way back to the monorail stops. As an example, there is a stop at the rear of Bally’s. But it is a long, long walk to get there, much longer than you would expect. And if you are going to say, MGM Grand, you get off at far back of the property and walk and walk to get to the front. I think it is much easier to ride the Deuce bus. It stops right in front of almost every hotel.

Player’s cards:

Always join the player’s club cards. I have several including the Total Rewards card which has an offer for free nights at Harrah’s, Bally’s, Imperial Palace, Rio, Caesars Palace. I got my entire stay for free, 8/29-9/3 Sun-Fri 5 nights. And I am not AT ALL a big spender. I had zero points on my card and I only play penny slots. But I signed up for the card and email. I joined online and checked online for specials/offers.

You just go to the casinos desk for their rewards program and you can get a card and almost always you will get something for free or some sort of offer as well. Like, at the Riviera you can get $20 of slot play for $40 (you can also get this coupon online).

Hotel:

As I said, we are staying at Bally’s for 5 nights, free. You can’t beat that! We normally stay at Imperial Palace because it is one of the best values on the strip. The rooms are fine, the location is great and they have great deals on their rooms. But since we had a choice, we picked Bally’s. We’ve never stayed here and it is a good, maybe even better location since it is right at the crosswalk and is considered to be nicer than Imperial Palace. We could also have stayed at Caesar’s Palace, which is supposed to the the nicest of the three, but it is too big and set back and isn’t in as good a location as far as we are concerned. Harrah’s is similar to Imperial Palace and Rio is not on the strip so you have to take a cab or their shuttle.

It is always worth looking at the websites of the hotels you are interested in (and signing in with your player’s card if you have one) and seeing what specials they are running. That can definitely decide where you might want to stay. My only advice is to avoid the north strip hotels like Circus, Circus, Riviera, Stratosphere, etc. You can get the same prices at the more central hotels and it is easy to walk around from them. The north hotels require riding the bus (The Deuce) or the trolley or the monorail unless you have major stamina (see prices and info above). We’ve walked it all before, but usually end up taking the bus or monorail back.

Also, Always ask for a free funbook at check-in. You will be amazed at the discounts you will find in these books … 2for1 buffets, free drinks, discount show tickets, etc. And if you want an upgrade to a nicer room, a suite, a room with a view, etc., just ask at check-in. You may not get it, but you very well may, if you ask and are polite and treat the check-in person well.

Getting off-strip free Shuttle Service:

Bally’s: You can visit our sister properties, Rio All-Suites Hotel & Casino or Harrah’s Las Vegas on the Strip by using our free shuttle. Pick up location Bally’s Las Vegas – North entrance (facing Flamingo Road) across from box office Schedule Pick-up done daily from 10am – 1am.  Bus departs approximately every 30 minutes. The Palm is right across the street from the Rio. Be very careful crossing the street.

Harrah’s

  • ~ Shuttle to Rio (in garage off valet entr. Near hotel lobby area) every 15 minutes 10am to 1am (thurs-sun-till 4am)
  • ~ Shuttle to Sam’s Town (same location)  9:30.. 11.. 12:30.. 2.. 3:30.. 5..6:30.. 8..9:30

Twitter, Foursquare, Facebook:

I also looked at Strip twitters and found that checking in at foursquare at different hotels will give all sorts of offers like: If you’re on @foursquare, check in at Imperial Palace for a 2-for-1 valid at Burger Palace.

This blog post from Pulse of Vegas Blog called Today’s Vegas Hookup: It pays to Foursquare is all about Vegas and Foursquare, what it is and why you would want to use it in Vegas. The ones they list are all for the Harrah’s brand hotels (since the blog is part of harrahs.com), but in the comments someone included 2 for 1 drinks at liquidity – Luxor, $20 off $100 at Tender steakhouse – Luxor, Free Martini for every 3rd check in – Blue Martini.

Also, Hash House a go go at Imperial Palace (where we want to go) has a free offer each day posted on twitter. Here are the last couple posted:

Grab a FREE Blueberry Limeade today by Tweeting “I’m eating (lunch or dinner) @HashHouseLV

Grab a FREE HH Mango/Peach Belini today by Tweeting “I’m eating (lunch or dinner) @HashHouseLV

Grab a FREE Hash House Mimosa today by Tweeting “I’m eating (lunch or dinner) @HashHouseLV

Grab a FREE Pabst Blue Ribbon today by Tweeting “I’m eating (lunch or dinner) @HashHouseLV

The hotels also tweet various specials such as: BallysVegas Meaty discounts on great steak! Bally’s and Paris guests, save 20% at either hotel’s steakhouse when you show your room key thru 8/31.

The hotels, venues and restaurants also generally have facebook accounts too. I’m more of a twitter person than a facebook person and they would typically post on both. But there may also be other information on facebook if that is what you are more comfortable with.

Other ways to get discounts and freebies:

We bought a $10 coupon for $3.00 (no additional fees) to Hash House a go go on DinveLV.com. (you just have to buy at least $20 worth of food). We could have gotten a bigger coupon but since the portions are giagantic at Hash House, we will buy one entree and split it so we wouldn’t be spending much more than $20. I did consider getting 2 of these though!

We also bought tickets to Matsuri, a japanese, acrobatic show at Imperial Palace from DineLV.com. The tickets sell for Price: $49.99 and $59.99 for VIP seating on the Imperial Palace website. You can get them cheaper at goldstar.com which is a good site for Vegas discounts. They are $32.05 – $37.55* (* Additional fees of $6-$7 apply). These are for specific dates/times. But at DineLV.com they had a tremendous special. It was $24 for 2 tickets and no fees! And they are good for any date/time. You just present the coupon (via email) to the box office. This was a show we planned to see so this is great.

Matsuri
Japan’s famed “Muscle Musical” returns to the Las Vegas Strip, as Matsuri has arrived at Imperial Palace! Earning critical acclaim at the Riviera in 2006 and Sahara in 2007, Matsuri is a unique show that transcends language. No words are necessary, as highly skilled, athletic performers let their muscles do the talking. Costumes by world-famous designer Junko Koshino add to the visual spectacle of this showcase for traditional Japanese culture – with an original twist!

Human Nature

We also want to see Human Nature at Imperial Palace. This is an Australian singing group that just gets rave reviews everywhere (like tripadvisor). tickets are Price: $49.95 – $59.95 (plus taxes and fees) from Imperial Palace site. Goldstar.com has tickets for $29.55 – $34.55 (plus $6-$7 fees). So it is not a huge amount cheaper and you have to decide on the day/time in advance. We’ll still probably get these, but have to decide when we want to go (and look to see if maybe I can find cheaper tickets). We could get them from tix4Tonight but may not because we really want to see them and they are popular.

“Smokey Robinson Presents Australia’s Human Nature – The Ultimate Celebration of Motown” showcases the distinctive, dynamic harmonies of members Toby Allen, Phil Burton, Andrew Tierney and Michael Tierney. This quartet is known for outstanding concert and stage performances and has toured with Céline Dion and Michael Jackson. Shows are Saturday-Thursday, 7:30pm.

I am thinking about ordering tickets for them from Half Price Shows http://www.halfpriceshows.com/HumanNatureShow.html. According to the site, the tickets are Regular Price $59.52 & $70.52 and HalfPriceTickets has them for 50% Off $34.26 $39.76 (plus $3 fee). And the star means a few shows listed have a $2.75 – $5.50 box office fee which is charged to everyone, whether you buy a full price or half price ticket. Actually, when I look at ticket prices on the Imperial Palace website it says Price: $49.95 – $59.95 (plus taxes and fees). I can’t find anywhere what the taxes and fees are though. I might call and ask at the Imperial Palace Box Office by calling 1-888-777-7664. UPDATE: I called and they are $62 and $73 (that includes about a $3 box office fee that would be applicable for halfpricetickets too). So the discount tickets (VIP) are $43 total from Halfpricetickets plus about $3 Box Office fee or $46 vs $73. So this is a very good deal and I need to order some tickets from them!

This site (and all others I talk about) has been researched to make sure people have used it and were satisfied (on independent websites). Most, if not all of them were also on Tripadvisor.com.

Also, these (and others) can frequently be gotten at the tix4Dinner / tix4Tonight booths which have 20-50% off tickets for that night. Do not miss out on half-price show tickets.  There is a booth inside Bill’s Gambling hall and Casino. Inside is the Tix4tonight/Tix4Dinner booth w/1/2 price vouchers for like the Bally’s Steakhouse. Its on the corner across the street from Ballys. Vouchers for: Pampas Brazilian Grille/Planet Hollywood, Also starting 9:30am same day 20-50% show tickets:

The north end of the strip near the Peppermill (close to the Riviera) also has tx4tonite

  • -One Company is in the Coke Bottle near the MGM Grand
  • -Other Company (Tix4Tonight) has 4 locations:  in front of Fashion Show Mall, by the Riviera, by Outdoor Hawaiian Market (all on Strip), and inside the Four Queens Casino (Fremont Street), opening at 11 a.m., with shows available posted at 10:30 a.m.

We also might go see the Mac King Comedy Magic show which is supposed to be good and a good value. I’ll see if Harrah’s has any discount tickets for this. I think it is possible to get the show for free with the price of a drink ($12 in the theater but $12 for a drink and show isn’t bad). From Harrah’s the tickets cost $24.95 plus tax & fees so $12 is ½ price (and cheap for a show). This is also an afternoon show which makes a nice break during the day (1pm and 3pm).

I’d like to see La Femme Crazy Horse Paris at MGM and/or Zumanity at NY NY and/or Jubilee at Bally’s. There is a summer promotion for Cirque du Soleil shows THE SUMMER OF CIRQUE (http://www.nynyhotelcasino.com/entertainment/entertainment_zumanity_promotions.aspx ) Buy a ticket to Zumanity for only $50! Use promo code: ZUMANITY but darn! They are dark for 2 weeks right when we are there. The last show is 8/24 and the next is 9/10. That is a serious misfortune! Normally the tickets are very expensive. I’m not sure the exact cost but around $100 if not more. But obviously, this is out. Well, next time!

La Femme

La Femme (also know as Crazy Horse Paris) is at MGM Grand Wednesday – Monday, 8:00pm and 10:30pm; Dark on Tuesday. Tickets from MGM Grand/Ticketmaster are $50 and $60 (US $67.50 x 2, $7 fee each). Ticket prices are $50.50 & $60.50 Inclusive ALL SEATS (Includes LET & Handling Fee). Tickets can be purchased at any MGM Grand Ticket Outlet or MGM Concierge. Crazy Horse Will-Call Booth is Open: 3:30pm – 11:00pm, Wednesday through Monday, closed Tuesday.

I’m not really finding any discount tickets for them, although tix4Tonight may have them if we want to wait and chance it. I’m thinking Sept 1 (my birthday) at 8pm. Per tripadvisor rpt: The theater is indeed small but I would call it “intimate” and perfectly suited to this kind of show. I would agree that you might want to try to sit a little further from the stage. This way you can see the entire stage and all that goes on. We sat up at the “bar stool” area and it was perfect. And I advise sitting a bit farther away from the stage at a four top. —- Just call Tix4Tonite to get the half-price seats.

The show is art. Each number is choreographed and lit in a way unique to La Femme. This isn’t a peep show, nor a jiggle show. During some of the numbers, you are taken to a place in your mind where you almost forget that nearly nude females are the centerpiece. This is not a bachelor party “whoop and holler” event.

The show is also erotic. The first number “God Save Our Bareskins” puts a new twist on the changing of the guard. Numbers like “See Thru, Peek-A-Boo” and “Vestal’s Desire” highlight the sexuality just by the titles (not to mention the shimmering female figures onstage). The La Femme theatre was designed to re-create the Crazy Horse located on Avenue George V in Paris. The stage, design, fabric, colors and tabletops duplicate the original and this intimate theatre seats only patrons.

Jubilee at Bally’s is good traditional “lots of feathered headresses and fancy, skimpy costumes” showgirls. It is expensive though and I can’t find discounts. I’ll ask at Bally’s when we check in. Per Tripadvisor review “First of all – buy fantastic seat loacation tickets from Ballys box ofice with a 2 for 1 voucher you’ll find in some of the Vegas information bookles you pick up for free, we got 5th row in the middle the day before the show, saved $47 each. “

Peep Show with Holly Madison is also playing at Planet Hollywood. Tickets are $65.00 (plus taxes and fees) thru ticketmaster. I have heard great things about this show and I hope tix4tonight has reduced price tickets when we get there.

Other than Matsuri (for which I have already purchased tickets), we will check out the half price tickets booths to see what they have and decide which ones to go to based on that and/or if we want to book through a discount company online when we get there.

For the “rest of the story” see my next post – Las Vegas Strip Tips Part 2: Dining, Drinking, Free Wifi, Websites and more.

Cheers!

~Susan Mellott

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