Make like a Vegas regular at The Gold Coast

23 November 2009
In almost every destination city, there are establishments that cater to tourists, and establishments that cater to locals. In Las Vegas, the big hotels on the Strip -- Bellagio, Caesars Palace, Wynn, Venetian, Mandalay Bay -- are tourist destinations. And casinos like the Gold Coast and The Orleans are locals casinos, where Las Vegas residents and regulars frequently come to eat and gamble.

If you're traveling to Las Vegas for the first time, then by all means, stay at a Strip resort. The glitz, glamour and good times the Strip provides is an incredible experience that everyone should enjoy. But if this is you're third or fourth trip to Vegas, it's time to make like a Vegas regular and try the Gold Coast.

True to its reputation, the Gold Coast, which sits directly behind the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino on West Flamingo Road, is a favorite among the locals crowd. The first time I ate at their buffet this summer, I was seated next to a table of nurses from a local hospital, who had just finished their shift. And last week, I spent part of my Saturday afternoon watching college football next to a food and beverage manager from the Wynn. Most of the players I spotted at the Gold Coast were either Las Vegas residents, or visitors from Los Angeles that prefer the Gold Coast to the strip. And it's easy to understand why.

Standard rooms at the Gold Coast are $34 per night Sunday-Thursday -- I paid $35 per night during my stay. Weekend rates can start as low as $44, though I paid $99 last week. The rooms are spacious and clean with extremely comfortable beds and flat screen TVs. The bathrooms are a tad small, but overall, these rooms are comparable to anything you'd find at a Marriott or Sheraton.

And unlike some of the other less expensive Las Vegas spots – ahem, Imperial Palace -- the elevators work quickly and efficiently, ensuring that there are no agonizing waits to get up to your room (or back down to the casino floor).

Slot machines dominate the surprisingly large gaming floor. But the table game area, situated in the middle of the casino floor, is well appointed and constantly bustling. Flat screen televisions sit atop large poles at nearly every third table, with football games on display during the college and NFL seasons. And most of the tables at the Gold Coast have a $5 minimum throughout the day (and night).

Pai Gow poker is particularly popular at the Gold Coast, with its $5 table buzzing with activity 24/7.

The Gold Coast also has a decent-sized sports book with almost 100 seats. But I was surprised to see horse racing on most of the screens in the sports book on a college football Saturday.

Food at the Gold Coast is tasty and inexpensive. The Noodle Exchange had $6.99 lunch specials during my stay. I went with the sautéed vegetable medley, and it filled me up quite nicely. Other items on the lunch special include sweet and sour pork or chicken, Kung Pao chicken, lemon chicken, Mongolian beef, beef with broccoli and hot braised shrimp or fish.

The Ports O' Call Buffet offers a wide variety of surprisingly good food. The buffet is broken down into different types of cuisine, including Mexican, Italian, Chinese and BBQ. The buffet also has a noted seafood section and an outstanding dessert area. If you're a Club coast member, breakfast costs $5.95, lunch costs $7.95 and dinner costs $11.95.

Ping Pang Pong is a very good and affordable Chinese restaurant. The portions are huge, and the prices are cheap. Plus, the service is very good. The waiters and waitresses are very friendly, and they'll make sure the food is cooked to order for you. The T.G.I. Friday's offers a $4.99 breakfast special (6:00 a.m.-2 p.m. daily) that includes two eggs, bacon or sausage, breakfast potatoes and bread. And Kate's Corner offers some of the best ice cream in Las Vegas.

If you're interested in life on the Strip, or at the Orleans, the Gold Coast offers a free shuttle to both locations. The shuttle, which leaves the Gold Coast every 30 minutes, stops at the Orleans, and then at Bill's Gamblin' Hall & Saloon, which is essentially across the street from Caesar's Palace and the Bellagio on the Strip.

The Gold Coast also has a 70-lane bowling alley (which I did not try), a no-frills barber shop (where I got a great shave) and a beauty salon (not for me).

The biggest problem I spotted at the Gold Coast was the bell hop desk. It appears to be understaffed and overworked. I saw people regularly waiting in line to either check bags for storage or retrieve them. The three times I used it, I encountered "Will be back in 5 minutes" signs. To their credit, they were usually back in five minutes. But the Rio across the street and most Strip hotels offer much better service on this front.

Overall, if you're a veteran Vegas traveler operating on a budget, the Gold Coast should be at the top of your list of places to stay.

Vin Narayanan

Articles by Vin Narayanan is the former managing editor at Casino City and has been involved in the gaming industry for over a decade Vin is currently based in Hong Kong, where he runs his own consultant group and works as head of gaming and public relations for Mega Digital Entertainment Group.

Before joining Casino City, Vin covered (not all at the same time) sports, politics and elections, wars, technology, celebrities and the Census for, USA WEEKEND and CNN.