After 3 weeks of eating healthy in Denver hotels, I am now hanging out in Las Vegas hotels for a month. My husband and I are platinum-level M Life players, so we thought we’d take advantage of some of the perks.
Last year I spent two months living in Las Vegas, but that was before I started focusing on my health and diet. Now as a healthy Vegan who eats for nutrition, I have a new perspective, and I am finding it quite challenging to eat healthy food in Vegas.
I spent my first few days in a complimentary suite at the Monte Carlo. My favorite part was that they provided a stretch limo pick-up from the airport! VIP service at the hotel was also great, thanks to Deb and our casino hostess Temeka. We received endless tea, coffee, and purified water in the VIP check-in room, and we never had to stand in any lines. However, the non-VIP lines (e.g., at taxi stands, check-in, and restaurants) were ridiculously long. Unless you’re a highroller, the Vegas Strip has become more and more like Disney or a busy carnival. I dislike the inequality aspect. Additionally, eating a whole food, plant-based diet at Monte Carlo was more difficult than I thought it would be.
On my first morning, I used myVegas points (from a free Facebook blackjack and slots games) to get a buy-1-get-1 free brunch (regularly $17.99/person) at the Monte Carlo Buffet with my husband. I was looking forward to making myself a breakfast taco with a corn tortilla, breakfast potatoes, spinach and beans… or some nice steel-cut oatmeal with fresh berries.
Unfortunately the Monte Carlo Buffet has removed their healthy options. They only had ready-made greasy breakfast tacos with eggs and cheese. Their oatmeal was a Quaker brand highly processed version. The breakfast potatoes were swimming in oil. The only fresh fruit were bananas and oranges (non-organic, of course). They had roasted vegetables, but they were also greasy, and in the same section as their meat, where meat juices/blood ran. Disgusting! I ended up eating a salad for breakfast. It was very disappointing.
I also went to my previously favorite restaurant at the Monte Carlo, Dragon Noodle, for their half-price sushi happy hour. I enjoyed their only Vegan items: a cucumber roll and an avocado roll for a total of $9. I was happy with that deal, but the sushi happy hour is only offered on the weekends. On weekdays they have Chinese food deals, but I confirmed that they have no Chinese Vegan options. I looked at the menus of the other restaurants at Monte Carlo, and their food was ridiculously overpriced and unhealthy. My only reasonably priced option during the week at Monte Carlo was Rubio’s in the food court. They offer vegetarian and bean burritos and salads, and they have delicious black beans. I substituted guacamole for the cheese and chimmichurri sauce. I also like that Rubio’s is generally eco-friendly and that they avoid the use of lard. It amazes me that there are typically long lines of people at the McDonald’s next to Rubio’s.
I then spent a few days at the MGM Grand. We took advantage of a complimentary executive suite for 4 days because of our M Life status. We had several issues with service during check-in; however, the room was quite spacious and comfortable. I requested a refrigerator for the room, which they also gave us for free. I learned that if you’re not an “invited guest” (high roller) by the hotel, then a fridge in your room costs $25/day! Use of a water kettle also has a per-night fee.
As an invited guest, we were also given $200 in resort credit. The prices for food in Las Vegas have become so high over the years that $200 only bought us a few meals. One of them was worth the price though: On our first day, my husband and I enjoyed delicious entrees and great service at Wolfgang Puck at the MGM. I have always enjoyed their food in the past, but I wasn’t sure what my options would be as a Vegan. Fortunately, when I told my waiter, James, that I was a Vegan, he said that he was also a Vegan and that he could Vegan-ize most of their sandwiches and pasta dishes. I chose to have the “BLT” with roasted tomatoes and avocadoes. It was delicious!
James and I chatted about the importance of eating wholesome, plant-based food, so I was starting to feel more sane. He shared a couple of his favorite recipes with me. He also recommended his favorite cookbook “Isa Does It”. I now follow Isa on Facebook. Big thanks to James for all the great tips!
Overall, I had a nice first day at MGM, but then nighttime came. We all know that getting good sleep is an important component of being healthy. It wasn’t possible at MGM! The other guests screamed down the hallways at all hours of the night, plus we could hear the conversations from our neighbors throughout the night. Despite the executive suite looking so nice, we experienced a serious issue with thin walls.
Then the next morning… fool me once, fool me twice… I ate at the MGM buffet, thinking my options would be better than at the Monte Carlo. Unfortunately, all of their vegetables were covered in bacon or cheese, and everything was swimming in butter and oil. For a regular pricetag of $27.99, the only healthy whole food, plant-based options were blueberries, a banana and an apple. I declared that I will never eat at a buffet on the Las Vegas Strip again! I learned the next day that the MGM Avenue Cafe had some steel-cut oatmeal (without sugar and milk) for a slightly more reasonable $9!
Later I used Happy Cow to find a nearby Vegan-friendly restaurant for a “date night” with my husband. I discovered Chin Chin for Vegan-friendly Chinese food across the street at New York New York. We spent 20 minutes ordering items, each of which they later told us was not available. Apologies came in the form of the waitress and manager complaining about the other incompetent employees. We left without eating and took a taxi to the Mirage. I had read online that there was a Chinese restaurant there called Fin, and their menu looked like it had plenty of options for me. In front of their doors was a sign that said that were open at 5:00pm. We stood there, chatting with other people also waiting, until 5:20, at which time we called the restaurant. We were then told that the people who worked at the restaurant were on vacation. Seriously, there were no signs and no apologies! After swearing off buffets, out of desperation, I made the mistake of going to a buffet a third time. The Mirage Cravings Buffet used to be great many years ago, but it is terrible now. Healthy Vegan options were limited to some low-quality sushi and salad ingredients. I used a buy-1-get-1-free coupon again, but with a cost $30/person, even half-price was overpriced and very disappointing. Our waitress said that she hears a lot of complaints daily about how bad the buffet has become.
The next day I walked to the Fashion Show Mall to enjoy a reasonably priced $7 delicious sofrita from Chipotle. However, my BEST food-related decision was to head over to Whole Foods Market. I took the free Town Center shuttle service, which picked me up from the Tropicana across the street from MGM. It was quite convenient, and the store had a wonderful large salad bar with organic, fresh vegetables and beans. Ah, just what I wanted and needed.
Still, after several days of not eating well or sleeping well, we cancelled all of our remaining “free” nights at all casinos on the Strip. My days of staying on the Strip are over! With the lack of service, the rude guests, the constant harassment, the waste and indulgence, the tight slots, the over-priced food, and the lack of healthy whole food plant-based options, I felt trapped. I know that there are other healthy options on the Strip, but they mostly seem to only exist in the most expensive properties, such as The Venetian and The Wynn. I was not willing to spend ridiculous amounts of money for some steamed vegetables.
We decided to stay in hotels off-Strip for our remaining weeks in Vegas. Check out my next post on healthy eating OFF the strip, where I had much greater success.