HOTEL REVIEW: THE PLAZA

If someone told me that my first hotel review on Palm Trees & Neon would be of The Plaza in downtown Las Vegas, I’d have thought they were nuts. My favorite hotels include Aria, The Cosmopolitan, Delano, and Caesars. I used to do public relations for luxury hotels. I like nice hotels, really nice hotels. Some may even call me a hotel snob. But alas, we had a Groupon that was about to expire for Banger Brewery (review forthcoming) and a Hotel Tonight promo code for a free night at The Plaza, so we decided to give it a spin rather than pay for an Uber or Lyft. After all, it was only one night.

So first things first. When you stay at a hotel like The Plaza, or pretty much any of the downtown hotels, you have to adjust your expectations. These are older hotels, they cater to a different clientele, and they are exponentially cheaper than the top Strip hotels so you can’t go in expecting the Bellagio at The Plaza rates – which can be as low as around $20 a night in the slow season.

That being said, I went in with really low expectations and was pleasantly surprised.

Since 2010, The Plaza has been working steadily to update and renovate various aspects of the property. Most recently, they added a 50,000 sq ft pool deck expansion – which I did not see because I was only there briefly, and it was cold. The biggest coup for the hotel, which for years endured a reputation as something of a bargain basement type hotel, came in 2011 when it purchased brand new furniture – enough for all 1,037 rooms, as well as fixtures, at auction for pennies on the dollar from the failed Fountainbleu project on the Strip. Because Fountainbleu had been designed to compete against the top Strip resorts, that meant that the furnishings were an enormous step up from The Plaza’s former room stylings.

When we checked in there was absolutely zero line, however, I have seen the line at the check-in get very, very long, so I would definitely try to avoid peak check-in times. We were able to check-in early, but it was off-season. The lobby has been re-done and is clean and shiny, however, the scent that they pump through the ventilation system [as most Strip resorts do] is definitely not my favorite.

Our room was extremely spacious, clean, and overlooked the famous Fremont Street. The view would have been a lot better had they not erected the zip line tower smack in the middle of Fremont, but what can ya do, it’s not the hotel’s fault. Our room had one king bed, and then it had a little sitting area with a settee by the window. The bathroom had a closet bar/rack, a wall safe – which also came from Fountainbleu, and a vessel sink – which I’m just going to go out on a limb and assume was also from the failed Strip resort. The toilet and bathtub were separated by a door – which is not so in many hotels these days, so never take it for granted.

room-main

plaza-deskAmazing hotels stand out for one reason: the details. Details in service, details in amenities, details in design. The Plaza is not quite there on the details. There’s a charming black and white picture of the historic hotel in the room which I loved because it is one of the oldest properties in town – not a hard feat, but still. But many times, the details weren’t there. The bed was a little hard, and the plaza-bathroompillows were a little lumpy; it took FOREVER for the water to get hot in the shower, seriously, I could probably have gone down and had a drink at the bar and come back up before it got hot; and there were no convenient outlets. I get that the hotel was built in 1971 but adding outlets is a VERY easy thing for most maintenance teams to do. There weren’t any outlets by the bed, and the only one by the desk was only accessible when I literally climbed over the desk to plug my phone charger into the wall. It’s almost 2017, virtually no one travels without at least a cell phone that requires charging. Anyways, those are my issues with the room.

 

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This was not even the biggest breakfast entree…

Back downstairs, The Plaza has a lot going on in terms of dining and entertainment. Las Vegas institution, Hash House A Go Go [technically it started in San Diego, but they’ve taken over Vegas with multiple locations], has an outpost just off the lobby and is the place to go if you’re REALLY hungry, and I mean REALLY REALLY hungry. They are famous, or maybe infamous?, for their larger-than-life, over the top creations. Hash House’s enormous, creative food sculptures will fill you up for days. If you’re looking for something late night, Pop Up Pizza is located just off the casino floor and serves up a solid thin crust, New York style pizza perfect for absorbing some of that alcohol you’ve no doubt ingested – did I mention there’s also a cute beer garden on the other side of the lobby – complete with cornhole sets.

 

 

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The beer garden

But every good Vegas hotel offers entertainment and The Plaza has recruited some of Vegas’ finest, longstanding acts. The Scintas hold court in the showroom and present a classic Vegas-style show with some comedy, some singing, and a dose of patriotism. The Scintas are a family act that has been performing in Vegas for a long, long time but they slightly adapt their show each night depending on the audience – the mark of true entertainers. After each show they head up to Oscar’s Steakhouse and meet guests and take pictures – they are extremely gracious with their time.

 

In the “lounge,” which is really just a corner off of the casino, you will find Wonder Boogie, bringing disco back every Thursday, Friday, and Saturday night. They are a fantastic cover band that has been performing in Vegas for years as well and they mix things up with audience participation and games – they even taught me the hustle once. I’m not typically what you would call a “willing participant” in things like this, but they really make it fun.

I’ve seen both, The Scintas and Wonder Boogie, more times than I can count – and ALWAYS have a great time with them.

All in all, The Plaza has really worked on transforming itself into a solid little property that packs a lot of bang for your buck. It’s far from perfect, but it will definitely show you a good time.

The Plaza – 1 Main Street Las Vegas – plazalv.com 

 

SOMETHING TO TACO ‘BOUT

tacos-3Happy Taco Tuesday, y’all! In honor of my first Taco Tuesday post, I wanted to share with y’all my absolute favorite place to get an authentic, Mexican street-style taco in Las Vegas: Tacos El Gordo de Tijuana B.C. Though they have been in the food service industry since 1972, the family-owned eatery first started dishing up their mouth-watering tacos packed with Tijuana flavors in San Diego in 1998 before expanding to Las Vegas in 2010.

Today, Tacos El Gordo is a Las Vegas favorite with three locations throughout the valley. For tourists and the late night crowd, the most convenient location is located on the north end of the Strip – walking distance to the Wynn – on Las Vegas Boulevard between Desert Inn and Convention Center Dr.

When you order at Tacos El Gordo, your actual order dictates where you order – which can sometimes throw off taco newbies. My go-to order is the carne asada tacos and a cheese quesadilla – because let me tell you, nowhere makes these simple little cheese quesadillas quite like they do and they complement the spice of the taco perfectly. But back to the tacos, the meat options or vast and varied – from beef brisket to pork stomach to tongue, nestled in a warm corn tortilla and topped with spicy salsa and fresh house-made guacamole. I like to add radish slices and a squeeze of fresh lime juice, too.

The flavors and authenticity of Tacos El Gordo speak for themselves, but in case you needed a little extra incentive, you know how presidents and presidential candidates often try to find those little hole-in-the-wall places with exceptional food, and humble, great American dream style stories (a la President Obama and the amazing Ben’s Chili Bowl)? Well when presidential candidate Hillary Clinton visited Las Vegas recently, she stopped by for a taco from Tacos El Gordo before hitting up her rally in downtown Vegas.

Go forth and have tacos!

Tacos El Gordo: 3049 S Las Vegas Blvd, Las Vegas, NV 89109