After literally years and years of scouring for the truth behind the famous Las Vegas Shrimp Cocktail, finally we have gotten the truth about this glimmering vestige of the old glory days of Vegas...
In the back of the casino at the Golden Gate (located at One Fremont Street) you will find Du-Par's restaurant and bakery, open 24 hours a day. Here is where the original Las Vegas shrimp cocktail first arrived in 1959, and has been here ever since.
It started off at fifty cents back then, with big jumbo shrimp. Over the years the shrimp had to be downsized to microscopic-sized shrimplettes, until it was more like eating pellets than shrimp. Eventually the large shrimp were offered at a slightly higher price, which also has been creeping forward over the years. While back in the day casinos were known to take a loss on a popular and noteworthy item in order to draw a crowd, this tactic doesn't play well with the corporations that own the casinos today. Golden Gate stands out virtually alone here, trying everything possible to continue serving this well-loved item for more than half a century while still staying competitive and relevant in the Vegas scene. It seems to be working, and I hope they can keep it up forever - at times I feel as if this is one of the very last homages to old Vegas still in constant operation!
Rumor has it that if you flash your Golden Gate players' card you can still get one of these babies for ninety-nine cents? Not sure about that one...
An article ripped from the Vegas Sun:
Still king of the (shrimp) cocktails
By Dave Wilson
Published Sunday, Jan. 13, 2008 | 12:54 a.m.
Updated Thursday, Oct. 30, 2008 | 2:37 p.m.
Vegas is all about glitz and glamour, the velvet ropes and the VIPs. In this space, we couldn't care less about any of that. You won't find any discussion of wine pairings, chutney, foie gras, mango salsas, or which superstar DJ was up in the club where Britney was hanging out. There are guys with exclamation points or British accents for that kind of stuff.
Here, we'll cover the lower rungs of Vegas' social ladder, all in the name of value. No steak special will be spared. Cheap libations will be celebrated. Penny slots will be embraced. Vegas' loss leaders will be your gain.
Shrimp is the fruit of the sea.
And where better to start than the grandfather of ’em all?
The Golden Gate brought the 50-cent shrimp cocktail to Vegas in 1959, and nearly 50 years later, you can still get one for 99 cents in the hotel’s San Francisco Shrimp Bar & Deli. Another version, listed as “The BIG Shrimp” cocktail, is $1.99.
However, for the sake of ambiance (and someplace the kiddo was allowed by law to eat), we splurged, and opted for counter seating in the Bay City Diner.
You pay a premium for such luxuries, with the cocktails doubling in price. But at $1.99 and $2.99, respectively, they’re still a bargain.
Each comes in a tall sundae glass with the Golden Gate’s “secret” cocktail sauce on the side. There’s no filler here, backing up the Gate’s claim of serving a ton of shrimp a week. The regular cocktail had miniscule salad-sized shrimp, approximately 42,383 of them, or at least more than I could count. The “BIG shrimp” had 18 good-sized suckers in there, a pretty sweet deal.
For you, The Reader, I even attempted the combo cocktail ($2.99), six of the BIG shrimp on top of a glassful of imitation crab, the kind usually spelled with a K. It was an abomination, tasting more like a buttered dinner roll than anything from the seas. Skip it and load up on the good stuff.
Otherwise, the diner was hoppin’, serving up traditional fare to a varied mix of young and old. The staff seemed awfully happy, with the cooks sending out bowlfuls of spaghetti and hail-sized meatballs with a smile.
Jack, our waiter, also recommended we come back to try another old Vegas favorite, prime rib. Their eight-ounce cut will set you back $6.95. The menu boasted a couple of other standout values, including a half-chicken with mashed potatoes and vegetables ($4.99, available 11 a.m. to midnight) and a graveyard special of a giant ham steak and eggs ($3.99, from midnight-6 a.m.).
Surely anything coming in at around $4 with the word “giant” in it is worth a return trip.
Dave Wilson is a designer at the Las Vegas Sun.