Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Las Vegas mini-UBH

Las Vegas, NV

Last week, I found myself in Las Vegas for the better part of a week. Unfortunately, my gambling and hooker addictions work took up most of my time, but I was able to leave a bit early one day and hit the asphalt. While I didn't have the time to visit a lot of places, I had a really exhilarating walk around parts of Vegas I'll bet most visitors don't see.

There's a lot of fun and weird stuff to see on The Vegas Strip -- no doubt about that -- but I wanted to find a little grit beneath the glitz, so I headed away from the lights. Often when I tell people what I'm doing (or did, or plan to do), I'm met with skepticism and hesitation. "I wouldn't walk around there," or "Be really careful walking in that area," are ones I get a lot. And I understand. It's not most people's thing to find out where everyone else isn't going and head that way, but for me, that's often the whole point. I'm definitely not any kind of fearless, underworld explorer that goes looking for trouble. Far from it. I'm very careful, meticulously plan my routes, and try not to get too stupid, especially when walking around an unfamiliar area at night. To me it's common sense I guess.



Anyway, yes, I took a walk off the Strip, just like several people advised me not to and it was great. In fact, I hardly saw anyone the whole time.

Las Vegas mini-UBH; 6.8 mi.
Stripburger / Freakin' Frog / Ellis Island / Public House

View Las Vegas mini-UBH in a larger map

I began near my hotel (The Venetian) and grabbed a snack at Stripburger. The crispy onion strings are perfect beer hiking fare -- greasy and ridiculously fucking good. (The burgers are really good, too. I had one the night before.) The only worthy beer offering was Sierra Nevada Pale and it was fine. I was ready to take a good long urban hike.


It was barely 5pm and already the sun was setting. It was a long walk along busy roads to the UNLV campus and by the time I reached the far side, it was dark. Everyone must have been inside studying or getting laid, because I think I saw maybe three people my whole way across campus.


The Freakin' Frog is a name that came up over and over when researching where to go for good beer in Las Vegas. It's set back a bit from S. Maryland Pkwy., but not too hard to find. I happen to hit it on an extremely slow Monday night -- perhaps because of the Veterans Day holiday. The taplist was decent and I was able to have some nice chats with the beertenders, but it was generally unimpressive. Until I was treated to a special tour of their bottle cooler...

Just look for the door with the blood-vomiting frog
I'd had a couple of draught beers and wanted to see what else they had, so I asked to see a bottle list. The beertender (Josh, I think) told me that they were in the process of getting it re-done and offered to take me into the cooler to look at the selection. Where was this guy taking me? Should I allow a stranger to take me into the back room of an unfamiliar establishment? Did I tweet where I was? Does anyone know I'm here? What if I get caught in some web of deceit and end up being sold into slavery? Ah fuck it. Of course I went with him.

This guy knows what I mean. (Photo by some dude on Yelp!)
Holy crap. There's got to be a million bottles of beer in here. (Maybe their ridiculous boast of being "the largest beer bar in America" has some merit.) Luckily I didn't think to grab my sweatshirt or I might have been in there forever. I was instantly overwhelmed and it was obvious that it would take hours to examine all of this stuff. I panicked and asked Josh to just pick out a local IPA for me. He grabbed a bomber of Tenaya Creek Hop Ride and the trip was over before it began. Heed my advice and make sure you have some time to spend at The Frog! (And to Josh: thanks for the personal service--and unlike that other guy, I support your move to Canada.)

Vowing to return someday, I left the Frog with a gut full of ale and headed west on Tropicana Ave.


This stretch, on the north side of McCarran Airport, was one of my favorites of the hike. It was extremely desolate, undeveloped, loud, and gritty. The lights of the Strip dominated the horizon, but I felt like I was off the map entirely. It occured to me that The Mirage has a very apt name: you get the feeling that even though you're only two miles away, you could walk forever and not be any closer to it. I began to think about Randall Flagg, the enigmatic character from Stephen King's The Stand. "The Walkin' Dude", they called him and he was the ruthless leader of the clan that occupied Las Vegas after a deadly outbreak of some kind wiped almost everyone out. Maybe this is what he saw when approaching the Strip for the first time... Yeah, I was pretty buzzed. Time for supper.


I'd read about Ellis Island Casino & Brewery on /r/beer and it sounded promising. Redditors mentioned that the beers were OK and the BBQ was some of the best in town. They were right about the BBQ -- the ribs were as good as any I've ever had -- but the beer was lousy. I ordered an IPA, but got what tasted like a sour, amber lager. Maybe it was a mispour or crossed lines. If I had more time I would have pursued the issue and sampled more of the brews, but unlike at the Frog, the place was slammed and I didn't feel like troubling the server -- especially since he cheerfully seated me right before they closed. The food is worth going back for, so I'll have to investigate the beer further on my next visit.

After Ellis Island, it was time to head home to The Venetian. Luckily, one of the best beer bars in Vegas in right inside the hotel: Public House.

photo by +Russ

Pretty much every time I walked by it during my week of working in The Venetian complex, Public House was jam-packed. I got lucky on this night, though and had no trouble finding a seat at the bar. The draft and food menus are impressive, but fucking expensive (although probably not out of line for The Strip.) It's a very fun place and definitely worth the expense and effort to visit if you're in town. Definitely a required stop on any UBH that begins or ends on The Strip.

There's a lot of other worthy beer places I would have liked to check out on this trip, but just couldn't find the time. I'm looking forward to a return visit sometime and doing a proper Vegas UBH -- start earlier, on a day where it doesn't get dark so fast. It will have to wait, however, because I've got trips to Indianapolis, Chicago, Austin, Houston, New Orleans, and Atlanta planned.

Shit...  I have a lot of homework to do.

Thanks for reading. Feel free to skip my amateur iPhone photography:

2 comments:

  1. Not typical description of Las Vegas. I have been there so many times but your story shows a different side of this city.
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