[Eat the Casino]
Chinese food remains your best bet at the aging Gold Coast
Wed, Jan 23, 2013 (3:55 p.m.)
Photo: Steve Marcus
- Gold Coast
- 4000 W. Flamingo Road, 367-7111.
I have fond food memories of the Gold Coast. Is that weird? It was one of my family’s most frequent buffet trips when I was a young Vegas eater, probably only because it was brand new then (it opened at the end of 1986). I distinctly remember ham steaks and lamb chops with mint jelly. Later, let’s say college years, being a designated driver meant choosing the late-night spot, and the Monterey Room had a killer Chinese menu available until 5 a.m. The drunks ate graveyard specials, $3 pancakes and bacon, and I’d get wor wonton soup and sweet and sour pork.
The Gold Coast wasn’t the only locals-oriented grind joint to serve solid Chinese from an otherwise American coffee shop. Now that Boyd Gaming operates what was once Coast Casinos, quirky menu options are less likely, as things have become more corporate in general. The Monterey Room is long gone—replaced, unfortunately, by the good-times trough known as TGI Friday’s—but the Gold Coast remains a great spot to eat Chinese, if only because its proximity to the Strip and Chinatown demands it. In fact, the casino’s neighbors—the Rio and the Palms—have recently added Chinese dining, as well, clearly trying to steal away Asian tourists who stay on the Strip but prefer to play and eat elsewhere.
Those guys can’t really compete. Ping Pang Pong is not only the primary option at Gold Coast, it’s still one of the best Chinese restaurants in the city. If you’re willing to fight the lunchtime crowd—and there will be one, every day—stick with dim sum, but dinner is the best time to visit, and the more unusual your order, the better it will be. Try minced squab lettuce cups ($8.95), salt and pepper frog legs ($15.95) and night market fried rice ($9.95) stocked with sliced beef and Thai chilies. For the main event, go with spicy Dungeness crab or half a tea-smoked duck with mu shu pancakes and hoisin sauce.
And Gold Coast has Chinese backup, too. Longtime local restaurateurs Kevin and Karrie Wu operate Ping Pang Pong and Noodle Exchange, which focuses on soups, noodles and lunch specials. Guilty-pleasure confession: I sit at the bar and wreck barbecue pork egg foo young ($6.99 at lunch), which many would argue is not even Chinese food. I don’t care.
After these outstanding Asian options, the eating at Gold Coast is a bit boring and certainly value-oriented. I’m not looking to return to the Ports O’ Call Buffet ($9.99 at dinner if you’re a member of Boyd’s players club) anytime soon. On that end of the casino, adjacent to a very Midwestern-feeling sports bar called the Red Zone, the modest Cortez Room does the obligatory shrimp cocktail ($12), wedge salad ($6) and prime rib ($16-$25), plus half-off appetizers and drinks in its lounge from 5 to 7 p.m.
The food at Gold Coast, and pretty much everything else, hasn’t changed a lot in the last 20 years. Compared to the craziness of the Strip, I find that quite charming.