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Vegas off the Strip

November 15, 2013

After recuperating from the timeshare sales presentation from hell, we were ready to blow off some steam with a night on the town in Las Vegas.  We decided to venture away from the Strip to check out First Fridays downtown and dine at a restaurant were dying to try.

Night out Las Vegas

Our first stop was Lola’s Louisiana Kitchen.  We heard about this restaurant via Diners, Drive-ins and Dives and knew it would be a winner.  (That website is a great resource for finding good restaurants on the road.)  Say what you will about Guy Fieri, but the guy knows his food!

We took the bus to Lola’s and ended up having to walk a little ways through an area that I didn’t feel 100% comfortable in with casino cash in my purse, looking like an obvious tourist.  If you decide to try Lola’s (and you should!), take a cab from the Strip to save time and uneasiness.  Eventually we arrived, and the kitschy exterior covered with neon signs combined with the New Orleans-style jazz band playing out front told me we were definitely in the right place.  Hungry, we hustled inside and only had to wait a few minutes at the bar for our table.  The small restaurant was packed.

Lola's Las Vegas

While sipping a couple of Abita beers from Louisiana at the bar, we saw Lola herself cooking up some Char-Broiled Oysters and knew we had to start with those.

Lola's Oysters

I don’t care for raw oysters, but these were smoky and fantastic.  We also couldn’t resist sharing a cup of their signature gumbo.  It was perfect – a little spicy with the kind of flavors that you can tell have been simmering for hours.

Lola's gumbo

For my dinner, I ordered one of the house specialties: Bronzed Catfish and Grits.  The catfish tasted blackened and caramelized, and the Gouda Grits were as good as gouda grits sound.  Mushrooms and Andouille sausage rounded out an amazing plate.

Lola's bronzed catfish

Full but unable to resist, we split a Pumpkin Bread Pudding for dessert.  This was some of the most indulgent and delicious bread pudding I’ve ever tasted, with just a soft hint of pumpkin.  The Jim Beam praline sauce and whipped cream took it way over the edge.

Lola's bread pudding

After dinner, we had to wait quite a while for a cab to come take us to our next destination: Fremont Street.  If you dine at Lola’s, call wayyyy ahead for your cab ride home as apparently this always happens.  Finally a kind cabbie dropped us off at the “Fremont Street Experience.”  It was definitely an experience.

Fremont Street

Fremont Street is the heart of old Las Vegas, where the older, tackier, smokier, more laid-back casinos still do a darn good business, away from the slick glitz of the strip.  The area was absolutely packed.

Fremont Street

This several-block-long stretch is covered by an awning that played an overhead light show the whole time we were there.  There were also a few stages set up with concerts going on.  And since it’s Vegas, everyone was walking around with a cocktail in hand.  Exhausted, we stuck to coffee but still felt the buzz.

Fremont Street

We also passed a slew of street performers, one of whom attracted a particularly large crowd.

Fremont Street Performer

Fremont Street Performer

Fremont Street Performer

I swear the man must have had no bones in his body. Shortly after being amazed by him, we stopped into a casino for our only gambling of the weekend.  We played a few hands of blackjack and I came out $10 up.  I’ll take it!  Tip: If you’re a less experienced gambler, the casinos on Fremont street are known for being less pressure than the ones on the Strip, plus it’s easier to find $5 tables.

Fremont Street

After walking around a little longer, we were ready to call it a night.  It was early by Vegas standards, but we’d worn ourselves out the night before and had a big day and night ahead of us.  Stay tuned!

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