Saturday, August 31, 2013


You might have noticed that I didn't mention the Silver Spur Cafe at the Saddle West Casino in my previous post about eating on the cheap in Pahrump. The reason is simple, I hadn't eaten there in a couple of years. The last time I'd gone in there, I was told the wait would be about 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, I was told it would be an additional 30 minutes. This was a bit disturbing and so I inquired why there would be such a long wait and also, why were people coming in after me being seated before me? Apparently, if you're a VIP card holder (because you play slots nearly 24/7) you get to go to the front of the line, and on this particular evening there were lots of VIP club members coming in to eat. So my next obvious question was, "So it's possible that, if VIP club members kept coming in, I might not get a table at all?" and the answer was "Yes".

That was a huge turn-off for me because, I'd eaten there a few times in the weeks leading up to this particular evening and the food was not all that great and certainly not worth waiting hours for while others got to go right in. In addition, the VIP club members were using POINTS to pay for their meals. Ok, so they spend real money at the slot machines and then eat for free, ahead of everyone else while I don't play slots at all but pay for my meals with real money. It was "no more Saddle West" for me. Until last week.

Some friends of mine, who happen to be VIP club members, told me that I was missing out because the food and variety had improved considerably, as did the service. They told me that I should eat there and write an update to my previous post because I would be pleasantly surprised, and they were willing to put out the dime, so-to-speak (they used points to get me a free-meal-for-two).

Apparently I wasn't the only soul in this town that was put off by the Saddle's VIP stance and at some point during the past couple of years that I had been avoiding them, they changed their policy again. Ok, so reluctantly I went for my "free" dinner-for-two, on a Friday night, and I was immediately impressed. I didn't have to wait more than 5 minutes for a table and the staff was far more courteous than I had ever experienced at that restaurant before.

The food was also great, albeit with just a few exceptions. The buffet was stocked well with a lot more variety than I remembered from long ago and was kept stocked quickly. Just a few items made the meal: the New England Clam Chowder was exceptional, the cold crab legs were pre-sliced (making it easy to enjoy) and were very tasty, and the cold shrimp was also delicious. They also had Calamari on the buffet but it was terribly over-cooked and basically tasted like leather shoe laces had been dipped in batter and deep-fried. The "Hush-Puppies" (corn-meal balls) were hard, cold and dry.

Overall, the experience was actually very good, with the majority of buffet items worthy of the praise they were striving for and the staff showing us that, even though we weren't VIP club members, we were important (they didn't know I was going to be paying with a VIP coupon).

I'll be adding them back to my list of places to eat-on-the-cheap here in Pahrump, at least until they insult me again.

I also visited my favorite sports-bar this week, Keoki's Wings N Things, and again, I have to say this place is awesome. A couple of beers and a delicious appetizer, their version of a quesadilla stuffed with chicken, cheese, olives, green onions and sliced tomatoes, and a dozen phenomenal, boneless wings all for under $35 including the tip.

I revisited the Tropical Smoothie Cafe a couple of times this week, wanting to give them the benefit of the doubt since my previous review was based on an opening day visit. First, I tried one of their breakfast wraps, the All American Wrap consisting of eggs, ham, bacon, & American cheese in a toasted Flour tortilla. This exceeded my expectations for any breakfast wrap, anywhere, for under $4. It was stuffed full with the ingredients, it was hot and it was delicious. I visited again, on an afternoon, and tried their King Caesar Wrap, with chicken, Parmesan, tomatoes, Romaine and Caesar dressing in a toasted garlic herb tortilla. This was also stuffed full of ingredients, including the chicken, and was also delicious. The staff was very courteous and served my orders quickly. The smoothie was good also, discounted when purchased with a wrap or sandwich. =:^)

Friday, August 16, 2013


There are a lot of places to eat in Pahrump and some of those are very affordable, which helps a lot in this economy. No matter what your budget is, if you want to get out to dinner here, there is a place for you.

The Gold Miner's Buffet at the Pahrump Nugget Casino is probably the best deal in town with their 2-for-1 deal Saturday through Thursday each week. Two adults can eat for under $12 making it the best value I've seen anywhere, in a long time. The food isn't bad either, with prime rib on the carving station nearly every night and some "themed" entrees (Mexican, Italian, Asian, etc) for each night of the week. Friday is their seafood night but they don't offer the 2-for-1 on Friday and the price per person is considerably higher, though they serve hot and cold crab along with tasty shrimp, among other items you'd expect on a seafood buffet. Saturday and Sunday mornings offer a breakfast buffet for under $10 and if all you want is to "eat-out" with the family-from-out-of-town then it's a good deal.

The Nugget also has a coffee shop, The Golden Harvest Cafe, but with a limited new menu and slightly higher prices coming into the late Summer than they had back in the Spring. I used to love going in for the Breakfast Special for under $4.00 on Saturday mornings but that's no longer available and now the equivalent meal is called "Eggs Your Way" priced at $5.49 (still a great value). For dinner, however, I'm unimpressed. The food is mediocre at best and will cost a couple around-about $40+. There are far better choices for dinner in Pahrump in that price-range.

Not wanting to leave out any dining class here, the Nugget also boasts a fine-dining steak house in Stockman's Steakhouse, with some nights featuring local talent on the piano. The steaks are pretty good and the service is nice and the experience nearly worth the $80-$100 check for a couple out for a nice evening, but there are far better options for date-night in Pahrump in that price range.

The company that owns the Pahrump Nugget, Golden Gaming, recently bought two other Pahrump casino's from the Terrible's organization, naming them Gold Town Casino (across the street from the Nugget) and Lakeside Casino and RV Resort (on the South end of town). Both of these casinos also offer buffets but the variety leave a lot to be desired and the prices are not even close to competitive to the Nugget. The few times I've eaten at the restaurants at either of these casinos, I've opted for menu items instead of the buffet and I've not been disappointed in the quality or volume of food on the plate for the price. A couple can dine at one of these for under $30 and be "satisfied" they had a decent dinner.

Denny's came to Pahrump a couple years ago and, while I've been suspicious that they wouldn't stick around due to the economy, I'm surprised to see they're still here. I haven't been there for breakfast, yet, however their dinner's are decent for the price. A couple out can expect to pay $30 to $50 depending on what's ordered. I've been in there some nights and had a great experience and other nights swearing I'll never go back, so getting a tasty meal without incident is a roll-of-the-dice. Of course, if you like to gamble...

If you like the "Italian experience" then Carmelo's Italian Bistro could be the choice for you. While being family owned and operated, however, there is a clearly visible power-struggle going on that seriously detracts from having an enjoyable experience (you can even see the power struggle on Facebook, where they have TWO pages instead of the usual ONE. Certainly no organization in this place). The chef (Carmelo Blundo) is insistent that quality is most important and strives to put out good food (he really IS a great chef), but the younger generation that controls the operation is more interested in the $$ part of the business and it significantly hurts the quality aspect of the restaurant. Too bad, too, because the food really is great. If they'd just get the crappy service and cheap accessories out of the place and serve bigger portions, they'd have a winner. Despite advertising $10 to $30, expect to pay $40 to $50 for a night out with your date, and not worth it.

If you prefer an Asian experience at a great price, I have to recommend the China Wok buffet. Tucked behind our Walmart, on Dahlia St, is this wonderful little restaurant that serves really great food and a couple can dine there for under $25. I eat there 2 or 3 times per month and enjoy it every time. The staff is very friendly and keep on their toes to make sure you have what you need. Family owned and operated, this place has it going on. They've certainly got the business sense to be successful in Pahrump and you won't be disappointed.

Keoki's Wings N Things is a local sports bar and restaurant that knows how to please customers. Located on Loop Rd, across from the new Goodwill location (used to be Floyd's Ace Hardware), the food is excellent and they don't skimp on quantity. You can have a really enjoyable dinner and watch the game (whatever game that happens to be the night you're there) and get out under $50 having filled up on an appetizer, plate of wings and your favorite beer (or wine). I've been in there a few times already and love it. They serve a variety of options for your wings as well as a number of different menu items for those who don't care for wings (really, though, who doesn't like wings?). The service is wonderful and it also shows. They take great care of their customers and earn their tips. If you're looking for a great dinner on a non-formal date-night, this is the place.

Pahrump is an up-and-coming community with new stores/restaurants popping up frequently with most not lasting even 6 months because the owner's didn't know about this town's quirky nature. For example, the Yoshi Sushi cafe on highway 160 across the from the Saddle West. The sushi was good, but the prices were far more than the typical Pahrumpian was willing to pay for the quantity of food served. The owner boasted of having a very successful sushi restaurant in Manhattan and decided the slower pace of a small town was more likable than retiring altogether. Seriously, though, any smart entrepreneur would have researched the community before trying such a disastrous idea here. Quizno's was in that location for about a year before Yoshi's and they decided to pull out due to lack of sales. Heck, if Quizno's can't survive, what makes Yoshi think he can? Now in that location is Gem's BBQ, having relocated from the Calvada / PV Blvd crossing. Unfortunately, they might not last either since they also skimp on portions and charge a high price. Their food is good and they have the opportunity to succeed but I don't see it happening at the prices and portions they have now.

Speaking of new places opening here with seemingly clueless owner's, the new Tropical Smoothie Cafe just opened yesterday on Highway 372, across from the KFC, with much fanfare and hype. While the fanfare and hype are OK, they also thought it was necessary to offer free smoothies for their first 24 hours. I'm not complaining about getting a free smoothie, but realistically, when a new place opens here in Pahrump, the last thing you need to do is give anything away. Everyone in town will visit you on opening day and a smart restaurant owner/manager would certainly know that if they knew anything about this town. They were totally overrun for the entire day and I'm surprised the teenage staff members were still smiling after 4pm. I got their "Rockin' Raspberry" low-fat smoothie which I thoroughly enjoyed while my friend got the "Hawaiian Breeze" low-fat smoothie that she said had a "chemical aftertaste to it, perhaps from the machines still being new". I didn't want to try it. I also ordered some sandwiches, since it would be irresponsible of me to review the place without trying the food. My friend ordered the "Baja Chicken" flatbread, which looked pretty good for the price, under $5. I ordered the "Wasabi Caesar Roast Beef" sandwich and was very disappointed in that it cost $7 and didn't look anything like the picture (see below). It had hardly any roast beef in it, but tasted good otherwise. This TSC will be a great place for a smoothie, they also serve "supercharged" (energetic) versions, at a good price but won't be on my list of places to visit for lunch or dinner again.

What I ordered: What I got: <

Finally, for those of you interested in a fine dining experience to celebrate a birthday, anniversary or just to impress your date, there are two fantastic places here I highly recommend:

The Symphony's Restaurant at the Pahrump Winery is a classy restaurant that I would expect to pay a lot more than I have for dinner. The food is phenomenal and the service impeccable but the prices are reasonable for the experience. Hidden away just up the hill on Winery Rd on the South side of town, this place is the perfect place if you want to take your date out for an elegant dining experience. The wine is awesome, as well, as should be expected. Dinner for two, with wine and an appetizer will run $80 to $100 before tipping but you can't complain about the price when you consider how great the food and service are and you won't regret it. I also had my Thanksgiving dinner there last year (and plan to go there again this year) and I was pleasantly surprised to find it actually cost LESS than a normal night out. The special dinner for two was less than $80 and featured a five-course meal with wine. Make your reservations early, though, since seating is limited and the place is popular.

You wouldn't know that the Ohjah Japanese Steakhouse and Hibachi restaurant was a chain store, since they make your dining experience unique and enjoyable. I've been in for the hibachi a few times and enjoy it every time, with the Hibachi Combo menu option the best value in the place. You and your date can dine for $80 to $100 depending on your drink and appetizer choices (and it's worth every penny). They also serve sushi, and it's as good as any I've ever had. I recommend the hibachi for dinner because you just can't beat "dinner and a show" for under a hundred bucks. The chef cooks at your table and if you're lucky, like I've been, you'll be seated with some of Pahrump's most notable celebs (I had the pleasure of sharing a table with Mr. Kent "Tim" Hafen, a prominent land and business owner that makes Pahrump what it is). Brilliantly located in the Albertson's shopping center at Basin Rd and Highway 160.

There are many, many more places to get a great meal in Pahrump at the price you're looking to pay but this post has gone on too long already. As time goes, I'll probably post individual reviews of my experiences to help keep the recommendations fresh. Coming up soon I'll be posting "Just How Many Pizza Places Do We Need???" and provide my reviews of all those pizza restaurants in Pahrump that serve up my favorite dish. =:^)

Tuesday, August 6, 2013


It's been a while since I last posted here... so it's about time for an update. Since my last post I got back into school, attending the Great Basin College - Pahrump Valley Center. Most of the classes I've been taking are online and I gotta tell you, I just love this method of education. We didn't have the internet back when I went to college in the 1980's.

Back in late 2011, President Obama signed an education for veterans package called the VOW to Hire Heroes Act 2011 - Veteran's Retraining Assistance Program (VRAP) that went into effect in July 2012. Obama's theory was that unemployed military veterans with an honorable discharge, like myself, were having difficulty in competing for jobs because of a lack of necessary, contemporary education. So the plan was to offer those veterans between the ages of 35 to 60, who've been unemployed for more than 3 years (at the time of sign-up), 12 months of active duty benefits to be used towards a college degree in a high-demand field of study. The VRAP benefits are paid through the Montgomery GI Bill–Active Duty program and pay only during the months of actual study (so for example, if each semester is ~3 months then the program essentially pays for 4 semesters of study, or a 2-year degree program if taking 5 classes per semester). The money is paid directly to the veteran to be used for tuition, books, school supplies and living essentials.

I learned about the program shortly after writing my last blog post in May 2012 and immediately jumped onto the program. I didn't agree with Obama's assessment of why I was unemployed (lack of education) because I did have some college back in the 1980's, albeit obsolete in the field I work in (computers were completely different back then). I do agree that having a more contemporary education makes me much more competitive in the job market, but my viewpoint is there has to be jobs available to compete for. I will admit that while I'm pursuing an Associate of Applied Science degree with emphasis on Information Specialist, the economy does appear to be getting better and jobs are starting to reappear. I chose to take 4 classes per semester, making my program a 5-semester schedule. I was also able to get help with a Pell Grant due to my financial situation which helps to insure my completing the degree by the end of 2014.

I got really busy with the preparation for my Fall 2012 semester and focused all my attention to that, since it'd been almost 30 years since I last attended any college. The Winter break was short but also busy for me as I prepared for the holidays and the subsequent Spring semester. I've managed to maintain an overall 3.80 cumulative GPA over the two semesters (3.68 in the Fall 2012 and 3.92 in the Spring 2013) and made the college Dean's List each semester. I stayed busy this past Summer, picking up a part-time job working as a caregiver for two patients in the afternoons, 7 days per week (I spend about an hour with each of the senior citizens, cooking dinner and cleaning up after). They're also veterans so I can relate to them and see what I might have to look forward to (or avoid) with regards to my potential health in about 30 years from now. This actually helps me to stay committed to this education so that I can better prepare for my financial future.

I'm now completely prepared for this coming Fall semester and in "waiting mode" for it to begin later this month. Attending online classes from home has proven to be a challenge but is certainly much easier than taking classes on campus. With online classes, I can participate as time permits and work on assignments when it's most convenient. The downside is there are always distractions here that can sometimes get in the way of study time. My dogs want in and out of the house constantly, among other things. I've found that getting out a couple times per week to study at the library or one of the local coffee shops with free WiFi helps significantly. Here in Pahrump, Irene's Off-160 Coffee House is my favorite hotspot because the atmosphere is perfect for studying, the WiFi is always reliable and they make affordable, delicious coffee and offer other great concoctions and pastries. Irene, the owner (a very sweet and very attractive young lady) is almost always there and she is committed to her customers satisfaction. On most evenings after 6pm they have live entertainment with local musician's, comedians and poetry.

I'm looking forward to my 3rd semester this Fall and I'm already planning my next two or three blog posts. I feel that, now that I'm in a comfortable routine with my educational program, I should be able to commit enough time to keep things more current with the blog here. With my financial help and ability to get out more, I've been able to explore some of the better dining options here in Pahrump and plan to write about that next, so keep an eye out for my attempt at being a food-critic next. =:^)