When in Las Vegas, if your idea of a good time is a DJ spinning tracks of repetitive electro crap , flashing lights, and paying $20 for a drink all while being surrounded by douchebag posers and girls snapping selfies with their best duck faces, then by all means enjoy a night out at the clubs the Strip has to offer. But if a cold beer or a Jack on the rocks in a real bar with real people is more your style, don’t worry because there are still a few old school Vegas bars just waiting for you. For those willing to venture off of the Strip a little, there is another classic side of Vegas nightlife to explore.
Just west of downtown is one of the best themed bars anywhere, Frankie’s Tiki Room. Opened in 1957, it is an original from the heyday of tiki bars and the Polynesian theme fits perfectly with one of Las Vegas’ nicknames, the 9th Island. Here you won’t find any muscle bound bouncer at the door blocking your entry so step inside the tiny bar, step back a few decades in time and enjoy a classic tiki drink like the Lapu Lapu or Mai Tai, or try one of their originals like the Lava Letch or Wild Watusi from the carved tiki mugs. If rum drenched drinks aren’t your style, have a Kona Longboard Lager and mellow out to the soothing sounds of Hawaiian steel guitar and surfer rock that drifts down from the speakers above. With the giant tiki god statues and palm fronds hanging from the ceiling forming a giant hut and the slightest bit of imagination you are transported to the South Pacific on a vacation while you are on vacation.
Another throwback to yesterday can be found on the Strip. When the Fireside Lounge inside the Peppermill opened in 1972, its location on the north end of the Strip was surrounded by some of the most iconic casinos Vegas had to offer. It’s still here, and they’re all gone. The Desert Inn (imploded and now the site of the Wynn,) the Stardust (imploded and being built upon,) the Riviera (now a parking lot) and the Sahara (closed and reopened as the SLS,) couldn’t outlast the Fireside Lounge. With the pink and purple neon lights, and of course the gas burning fire pit in the center that gives the place its name, it has been attracting drinkers and diners alike for decades and from the wait list to get a table in the restaurant, it seems set to bring them in for decades to come.
Very few bars, if any, can claim that their building was ordered from the Sears & Roebuck catalog, but the Pioneer Saloon can make that claim and anyone with a little more time and a designated driver can say they have had a drink in one too. The 45 minute drive from the Strip to the ghost town of Goodsprings, NV will work up a good thirst that can be quenched with a cold beer in southern Nevada’s oldest bar, since they having been slinging beers here since 1913. Just stepping through the door transports a visitor back in time to the days of the Old West, and the stamped tin walls still have evidence of the wild side of those days. There are bullet holes that go all the way through the wall, the result of a deadly gunfight over a game of poker. More than a hundred years later, some have claimed to see the spirit of the slain card player hanging around the bar.
Vintage Vegas is still out there if you are willing to look for it and the thirsty drinker will be rewarded with a one-of-kind experience for their effort.
Las Vegas, Nevada July 2016