July 8, 2017
3 First Class Vegas dinners that won’t kill your budget
Las Vegas, Nevada, The new American Economy and what it means for housing- I sit here on the 30th
floor of the Grand Chateau in Las Vegas, Nevada having just left a beautiful 1,200 one bedroom villa in
Palm Desert, where I have worked for the past two weeks. I was in a prime Marriott one bedroom
corner unit on the upper floor at Desert Springs, overlooking the golf course with a modern kitchen
coupled with a full five piece ensemble bathroom with oversized tub and separate shower. I had a
wonderful 14 days in a 1,200 square foot luxury villa. The JW Marriott across the golf course whose
pools and restaurants are a tram stop or short walk away was running well into the 90% plus occupancy
rate in anticipation of the July 4th weekend holiday. Nice sized 325 square foot plus rooms were selling
out at $350 plus a night.
Hard to know it was 117 degrees outside. My suite was cold, the way I like it. I am amazed at how the
big resorts brought in the crowds in this kind of heat. By 8:30 AM I was poolside at the main pool at the
JW on Saturday, July 2nd. Every lounge chair in the first two rows was taken with towels and other
personal items. I had to resort to the large over sized second pool and hang with the B list. So much for
getting there early. Those of you that know me know I am the “math guy”. I quickly figured with the
resort fee and taxes the $400 times 14 nights would have set me back about $5600 if I were at the hotel.
I much preferred my 1,250 square foot villa and my bill when I checked out, a grand total of $0.00.
Again, at the Great American Travel Company, we like the time share life. We know mid week rates
would be lower and the actual stay a bit cheaper, but the stay did include prime summer weekends and
a mid week holiday flanked on both sides LA style, meaning you go early and stay late of course, to avoid
traffic into the city.
I now look over the Las Vegas strip and the airport in a high rise 850 square foot suite that will be home
for the next two weeks and with a bit of luck, see the birth of the new web site. I always enjoy watching
so many planes come and go every 90 seconds, all day long. I have fulfilled my dream of living part time
in a high rise as I now spend over 45-60 days a year living high in the sky. Remember on my quest to live
year round in time shares, I must balance beach days with the desert and high rise living. Those that
enjoy high rise living already know what I mean. It is special gift to look straight out of your window with
your cup of morning joe and see a plane or helicopter at eye level.
Remember when one of the reasons you came to Vegas was to enjoy the Prime Rib, New York Strip or
Lobster for .30 cents on the dollar. What happened to Vegas? Now, every department in a mega hotel
must be a “profit center”, unless you are one the top five percent of gamblers in which case dinner is
almost always on the house in one form or another.
Heck, even the top ten percent of gamblers don’t rate near as high as they used too. Well, we scrubbed the city to see if anyone had a meal where you could not only have a fantastic dinner, but also enjoy what Vegas used to offer, great food at bargain prices. We found two exceptional picks not typically visited by out of towners and one “sure bet” priced more at market but this place had exceptional atmosphere.
1) The Southpointe Hotel and Casino
Just after state line and a few more minutes towards Vegas if
you are northward from California on I-15 you will see the South point Hotel and Casino exit. If
you can bear an earlier meal, the first turn at 5:00PM through 6:30 is well worth the trip, even if
you have to travel the 15 minutes south of the strip to go. On Sunday through Thursday they
have a dinner for $29.95 that includes your choice of a six oz Filet Mignon, Chicken, or Salmon.
The dinner comes with either Lobster Bisque or Salad. The Silverado Salad is made tableside and
is very good. Dinner also includes potatoes (your choice) and a vegetable. Desert is also included
with ice cream or sorbet rounding out the meal. This is a first class atmosphere with plenty of
murals and old photographs to take in while sitting in “Vegas style” booths among an energic
wait staff. Pound for pound this may be one of the best steak dinners in Vegas, all served in a
relaxed and casual environment. If you care to venture into the “real menu”, you will likely really
enjoy their Prime Rib, cooked blackened. It is slow cooked all day. I recommend the gentleman’s
executive workout prior to this mani-feasto consisting of both a hot jacuzzi and sauna for at
least 45 minutes. You need to belt down a notch before hitting this 18 oz wonder.
Reservations can be made toll free at 1-866-796-7111. As a side note for those who want to cut
the $29.95 price, check out the Italian restaurant at this hotel. For the same time, you can get
one heck of an Italian meal for $19.95 with either Chicken Marsala made the right way, Orange
Roughy, (ask for medium rare for max flavor) their Fettuccine Alfredo with the real deal sauce,
or their Spaghetti and Meatballs made the way your Italian Aunt would have blessed, all
including salad, bread and desert. Again, the quality for 20 bucks is off the hook.
2) Silverton Hotel and Casino
Again, this is not the traditional “Strip Visit” that us LA out of
towners are likely going to flock to see. However, once ventured this is a high def gain. The
Steakhouse is decorated in old European charm and when you walk in the food just taste better.
Although the entire menu is exceptional, if you prefer smaller plates and more variety this is a
great place for a couple to visit. World class sides dishes run in the fives and sixes, and if you
arrive between 5-6 or 9-10 the small plates are 50% off. Ranging in the high teens at regular
prices you can enjoy a wide variety of small meals complete with the steaks, seafood, and
scallop fair priced in the nines and tens. A few of these and a side or two gets you out the door
for $45ish, yet you have tasted three or four dinners of high quality. We believe just the
ambience is worth the visit and again this is off the beat and path of the regular desert fair but a
delightful find for those of us lucky enough to come upon it. Reservations are 1-866-722-4608.
3) The Eiffel Tower Restaurant(s)
Paris, France or Las Vegas, Nevada-A Run Down on Each-
The Jules Stein-Paris France, Eiffel Tower .-Named after the architect that designed the tower,
my foray into this world wonder stemmed from my lack of ever wanting to wait in line for more
than a few minutes. Those of us who have visited the real Eiffel Tower know that three of the
four legs on a given day require the patience of Jobe just to get from the end of the line into the
tower. Three hours of waiting is not uncommon. That is where your premium credit card comes
in. I would recommend booking at least 6-9 months in advance a lunch or dinner reservation at
the Jules Stein Restaurant. When I last visited about ten years ago, I showed up in a cab and we
got out only to see very long lines in three of the four Eiffel Tower legs. Fortunately we made
our way past the hundreds of street vendors to the fourth leg which proudly made it clear the
first lunch seating would occur at 1:00 PM. Since it was 12:50 this seemed to synch nicely with
my attention span. Precisely at 1:00 PM a gentleman in formal wear came down the diagonal
elevator with a body guard and walked to the end of what was a roped off area for lunch
patrons. Seeing this happen, a flood of people headed over to this new “opening” as if this was
going to be a new way up into the tower versus the other three legs. As 1:00 PM appeared the
gentleman pulled out a hand written list in the most impressive handwriting I had ever seen.
Every letter was perfect. It was a very long list of names but what I did not see was just the
names for lunch on this day. It was a total of three parties, two couples and a foursome. The
Gentleman made it clear if your name was not on the list, you could hit the road. Hundreds of
disappointed lunch fans were turned away. I felt really special but also wondered how could you
turn down hundreds of people who would have paid for lunch if they were allowed in. A real
model of French inefficiency. As we boarded up the diagonal elevator, the excitement really
mounted as we were wisked away in a high speed elevator headed toward a wonderful lunch.
When we arrived the first thing I noticed was about 65 workers all dressed in black and white. I
asked if we could have a lower window seat in this 360 degree marvel but was told they were
“sold out” and therefore we had to settle for inner circle window seat. Since there were eight of
us there to eat and 65 folks to help, I figured the service should be decent. A quick count
revealed the restaurant could easily seat about 300 peopIe but on this day there would be eight
for lunch on the first turn. The Rules are the rules after all. No soup for hundreds was the order
of the day.
I was pretty sure I ordered the turbo after a long conversation in French where I did not
comprehend a single word. My wife number two also had the fish as well. It seemed the waiter
did not understand my request for picture menu’s or perhaps felt it beneath the French to take
pictures of their food. I tried to explain this was common practice in China but he did not care.
The waiter did little to speak to us in English as he clearly knew our language after I tipped him
but at this moment he forced us to look like the slow Americans they were used to serving.
Amazingly the meal headed toward 3:00 PM and we began to see the locals pile in for the real
lunch. Apparently, no one in France eats lunch at 1:00 PM at least not in the Eiffel Tower. The
fish was fantastic, of course was swimming in butter and capers, and the side dishes of French
veggies and a small dinner role were plated to perfection, each with its own tasteful sauce. This
in the end all added up to my not worrying about having a dinner appetite since my “French
lunch” summed up to be a nice appetizer before dinner. The check came and I had to convert
what seemed like 119,000 Francs into dollars. I don’t recall the exchange rate, did not really
care, and just figured you only live once and the unbelievable view combined with ordering
what tuned out to be a $440 lunch could only happen in France. It remains to this day the most
expensive lunch I have ever had. I add that lunch did include a “champagne split”, far be it for
us to have been extravagant. I also remind us of our purpose here at MYTS, and that is “If you
are going to go, go big”. There is only one real Eiffel Tower so if you are lucky enough to be on
the list, go enjoy it. Unless you speak French you won’t really know what you ordered, and nor
will you know what it cost, so you may as well go with the flow. I would highly recommend this
experience but even we can’t save you money on this one.
The Paris Hotel, Eiffel Tower Restaurant, Las Vegas-I have been going to Las
Vegas for 30 years now and like many, was thrilled to see Steve Wynn come in and take over
two prime acres of beautiful strip frontage and turn it into a lake to behold. In addition, he
added what can only be described as the eighth wonder of the world if you get to enjoy on the
patio of what was Picasso, a highly priced restaurant that required a one year advance
reservation when it opened. The beauty of it was not only the five course meal, but sitting patio
side and hearing the music synchronized to the fountains was truly raising the bar on the strip.
Here we are nearly 20 years later and it is amazing to see the crowds still gather every half hour
to see this five minute show of energetic fountains dancing hundreds of feet into the air with
music perfectly timed with the water’s movement. I have seen this from many hotel rooms over
the years. Never really got the perfect view as the Bellagio Suites on the water all run well above
$500 a day for this precious water right. We of course pay less than $40 a night for suites much
bigger and higher up over at the Grand Chateau, (this is disclosed in the book how to do this)
hence never a need to book a suite to see this highly worthwhile water show. What to do for
that perfect view? Well the answer lies across the street at the Paris Hotel in the Eiffel Tower
Restaurant. A nice meal there will run about 90 minutes to 120 minutes, enough to see four or
five shows with a bird’s eye view. The view of the Bellagio water show is worth at least $50
bucks for two people.
While this will not qualify as a bargain meal, it can offer very high value with a couple of twists.
For one, like many restaurants it is possible to split some of the meals as the portions are large
especially combined with a salad and appetizer. While the crowd favorite remains the Beef
Wellington, I inquired about the Lobster Thermidor and was very impressed. Priced at $68, it
comes with two clean half shelves, each packed with Lobster in a Spinach Crème sauce. What is
not to like? I also recommend all of their salads which can also be split. For an appetizer we had
the smoked salmon appetizer (perfection) which paired very nice with a lite salad and the
Lobster. Although the bill could have easily doubled to $250 with a double order, just getting
one of each item and splitting each got us a top rated dinner with a $50 entertainment package
included for $125. We escaped the split plate fee but point out this may not be automatic next
time. This is of course a spot where a glass of wine is a must so you will price up accordingly.
The view is really top notch and if you go a bit earlier in the fall, you can hit the perfect window
of darkness at 5:45PM before the crowd arrives, but can be assured you will get a prime window
seat, something that is essential for this experience. One last tip, do not show up in Nordstrom
Dress shorts in the middle of summer. Like Paris, France they have rules. I had to change into a
dark pair of “clown pants” while my $100 dress shorts got shelved to comply with the long
pants, no jeans rule. While my ankles also enjoyed the view, I succumbed to the French tradition
of going backwards so in the end I could go forwards. Reservations are a must at: 702.948.6937
Before I blog today, I hit the internet one more time to read another dozen articles on millennials and
their quest to purchase a home. Recent polls show 26% of millennials do not wish to own a car. We
predict the Uber-fication of homes is next. Not encouraging news if you are a homebuilder working
under the old suburban housing model. I have seen articles that stretch all the way out to 47 years. I
have also seen more moderate numbers down to 12 years. You say for what. That is the average amount
of time these articles suggest it will take a millennial to save the 20% they will need to buy a house. The
variation of course is because of the size, scope, amenity package, and price of today’s starter homes in
expensive markets. Let’s digest what this means. For starters lets try and work with an average of the
two extremes, weighted a little on the common sense side of things and use a mere 20 years to save for
a down payment. This is not a hard stat to dig up. It is all over the internet. The problem here of course
is when one is done saving this 20%, the house may have already quadrupled in price under the long
prediction of 40 plus years to save. Even under a moderate inflationary economy and a time frame of
just 20 years, thou millennial shall have gone backwards in the grand scheme of things. In other words,
he/she may need another 40 years to make up the difference for the new 20%. The current math does
not work since after just 20 years the 20% falls to 10% down with inflation. No wonder millennials are
scraping the idea of home ownership for avocado-mango cracker spread at whole foods. BTW, it is the
Now let’s examine what the problem is here. To be fair many millennials were just in high school when
the economic downturn hit in 2008 and we saw the housing bubble burst. Unfortunately for millennials
we have seen a full recovery in virtually every US housing market over the past decade. The difficulty is
housing prices have risen faster than real incomes over the past decade pushing not only millennials out
of the market, but also many other step up buyers looking for large homes. Today a smaller more
functional home is not only practical, it is preferred in many cases with empty nesters, baby boomers
looking to retire and millennials. If the trend is for uber-fication of the housing model combined with
more flexibility, and smaller more affordable housing, at what point does the old bigger is better model
start to fall apart, or at least slow down? It is OK if is the house is now smaller, besides many retirees
and millennials can’t grow grass because we are running out of water or it is becoming very expensive.
Many homes in the southern United States can easily hit $1,000 a month to cool an apartment or home
in the summer now. I have friends in Denver whose summer water bill runs over $3500 a month. That is
millennial speak for my share of the rent for half an 800 square foot one bedroom apartment at the
beach for the summer. $2500 a month with some effort will get you a nice sized closet near the beach
today in a major beach town. Of course you will need a room- mate so let’s call it $1250 a month with
money left over for avocados.
This is where Time Share Village comes in. A master planned $2 billion dollar 600 acre development
where shifting demands will change the way we approach our housing needs. While we believe this
trend will take a decade to fully emerge, time share is really just ubering a house. The trend is already in
motion. It is now ready to grow up. The next phase is to watch the market split into different
demographics for millennials, boomer, and retirees. They can all share infrastructure cost but each will
require very different design and service features. This next trend will allow consumers to invest in
retirement homes through their vacation clubs. Except the trend will cause the industry to change. We
will now emerge into life-style clubs that contain vacation features, temporary housing for 3-6 months
time frames, and if needed, nursing care, all inside one convenient time share model. You use only the
time you need for each one. This combined real estate concept will be much bigger, cheaper, have
targeted fitness centers for each demographic, a bike and scooter lot, and a car lot where you come
and go in the car you need. It will have Uber lanes in front of the town Starbucks. It will have large
outdoor kitchens shared by 4-5 units with semi private pools. Fire pits and brandy bars in the luxury
section. How do you like your cigar trimmed as you gaze at the stars. Golf carts for trips to Starbucks and
CVS, groceries delivered by drones at the drone post office. Sporting and cultural events are built into
the community center, shared by all. Golf you say, would you like six holes or eighteen, Frisbie or old
fashion golf where you use clubs.
On top of all of this your mortgage goes with you when you want to go. You see your house is now all
over the world. It is in France, Italy, Colorado, and Florida. It is in the desert, at the beach, or on a lake
or ski slope. It is coming. It is the future. It will be the new time share of tomorrow. Stay tuned for future
blogs on how we plan to make it happen.
John C Botdorf
Inventor, The Great American Travel Company