Las Vegas (yes, really)

Oyster Bar photo from Top photo from the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority.
Map from Elvis photo from

Las Vegas, Nevada is hundreds of miles from the Pacific
Ocean and thousands of miles from the Atlantic Ocean.
It's surrounded by sandy deserts and white-capped
mountains, not sandy beaches and white-capped waves.

Despite the apparent handicaps, fast airplanes from the
coasts have made Vegas a great place to eat seafood
(and pretty much anything else). Its growing population,
and status as a top travel destination for families, high
rollers and conventioneers, provide a ready, willing and
eager audience for restaurants of all types. The seafood
is delicious, and as fresh as you'll get anywhere other
than on a boat or a pier. Yes, you can get great clams in
the middle of the desert.

Finfish and shellfish are common in most hotels' bargain
buffets, and their high-end restaurants. The 59-cent
shrimp cocktail seems to have disappeared, and the
current emphasis is on quality ($88 Kobe steaks at the
Venetian), variety (Emeril Lagasse operates a New
Orleans style creole fish house in the MGM Grand) and
sophistication  (risotto with clams and sheep's milk ricotta
ravioli at Bartolotta in Wynn Las Vegas). However, superb
seafood and very nice hotel rooms are still available at
reasonable prices.

Since around 2001, I've been staying  at the Palace Station Hotel & Casino. It belongs to Station Casinos, the owners of Green Valley Ranch that was the setting for TV's American Casino.

Palace Station is not on the strip and doesn't have gimmicky architecture, but it's well known by locals, and has a growing fan club of out-of-towners. It provides extremely competent, cooperative and congenial guest service, it's close to the Convention Center and the Strip, and rooms cost about a third of what you'll pay on the Strip (sometimes as little as $39). There are free shuttle buses to the Strip and airport, and you can get any kind of food you want at any time of the day. You want lasagna or lo mein or clams for breakfast? No
problem. You want breakfast at three in the afternoon? No problem?

For meals other than breakfast, I prefer the Oyster Bar and adjacent The Broiler.

At the Oyster Bar (open 'round the clock) , you sit on a stool with your butt facing the casino and your face facing the cooking. You can choose from a wide range of raw or cooked shellfish, (clams, mussels, oysters, shrimp, scallops), alone or in gumbo, pasta, pan roasts, or superb cioppino (tomato-based seafood stew).

At The Broiler, a 19th-century northern California-style eatery, you can enjoy seafood, steaks, and a 40-item
monster salad bar. There are daily specials, and everyday favorites such as seafood salad, clam chowder, and BIG fresh lobster from the live lobby tank. The Manhattan chowder is one of the best I've ever tasted, thick and zesty, with lots of clam chunks (and none of the dreaded hunks of green pepper). I always have atleast two bowls. Clams on the half-shell are big, fresh, and flavorful.

In addition to the buffet items and what's on the menu, you can also order whatever is available at the Oyster Bar; but you can eat it while seated at a more comfortable table, and on real chair -- not a bar stool. You can also probably get seated a lot faster.

An AAA Three-Diamond hotel, Palace Station has over 1,000 rooms and suites. The bargain rooms are in a renovated two-story former motel, and the nicer rooms and luxo suites are in a modern and more elegant 21-story tower that's part of the main casino building. The tower has a cool glass elevator that gives you a quick vertical sightseeing trip, and many tower rooms have spectacular views of the Strip, the Vegas skyline
and surrounding mountains. High-speed Internet service is available, but it's not free. At $9.95 per day, it's
probably the only non-bargain in the place; but it may be free by the time you read this. Checking in is fast
and easy -- you don't have to schlep your suitcases a quarter mile through a casino to get to registration.

The hotel has an 84,000 square foot casino, swimming pool, outdoor patio, and 20,000 square feet of meeting space. There's live entertainment nightly.

The Station's "coffee shop" was recently remodeled (I thought it was really nice before), and is now called The Grand Cafe. It's open 24/7/365, with over 120 menu choices, like a Greek diner. If you want more than coffee and a donut, you can order great Chinese food (even for breakfast), steak, pizza, seafood, fabulous home-baked pastries, and almost anything else you can think of.

At breakfast time (which could be pretty much any time), you can get perfect pancakes, lots of omelet choices, steak-and-eggs, corned beef hash, probably the best rye-toast in the world, and a slice of ham as big as a Frisbee. The Cafe is classy, comfortable, and usually quick. You can sit at a counter, or a table; and seldom have to wait more than a
minute or two to be seated. Prices range from bargain to reasonable.

Palace Station's redesigned Feast Buffet has seating for 340 and five cook-to-order food stations including American, Asian, Italian, Mexican and BBQ specialties. It's too easy to eat too much.

Other restaurants provide Mexican, Chinese and Italian food, and the hotel also offers faster food from internal Burger King, Starbucks and Subway franchises. There are a few bars that serve food, too; as well as around-the-clock room service.

Palace Station is constantly reconstructing, rebuilding, remodeling, and refreshing; so there may be different food choices when you get there. 

Unless you have a strange compulsion to pay big bucks to sleep in a room under a roof shaped like a pyramid or the Chrysler Building, there's no good reason to stay anywhere else in Las Vegas; and there's certainly no good reason to eat anywhere else. You can make a reservation by calling 1 800 6 STATIONS, or CLICK.

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