One of the great old time restaurants in Las Vegas is Binion's Ranch Steakhouse on the 24th floor of Binion's Horseshoe Casino and Hotel. The place has been around since the 60's and it's one of the finer, well-kept secrets in Las Vegas, especially since the explosion of four and five star restaurants in the city over the past 10 to 15 years.
I first ate there about 15 years ago with a buddy and his wife. The view of the downtown area to the Las Vegas strip is pretty nifty. At one time, the Horseshoe Casino and Hotel was the tallest building in Las Vegas. Now, it's not even the tallest building downtown. But the view is still very nice.
We had a group of 10 of us go downtown to the restaurant for dinner one evening. Actually, one of our guys made the reservations, blindly. He had no idea what to expect. I told him that I thought Hugo's Cellar in the basement of th Four Queens was a better downtown restaurant, but I'd eaten at the Ranch Steakhouse before and I thought it was good from what I remembered from long ago. And we were committed as he had to give his credit card for the reservation, so we went.
The restaurant hasn't really changed in the 15 years since I was last there. In fact, I'm not sure it had really changed since the 60's. It was still cozy and comfortable, but it was tired in a lot of instances. You could see some wear and tear on the place, but it certainly didn't detract from the warm feel the restaurant had.
We were promptly seated and I was handed the wine list while everyone looked through the dinner menu. One of the first things I noticed was how low the prices of their wine was compared to other restaurants I've been in. So low, in fact, that they had the 2002 Jordan Cabernet for only $75 bucks! (I know, ONLY $75 bucks. But I've seen it as high as $125 in some restaurants and is usually around $100 to $110 dollars.)
When I pointed out the price of the Jordan, my boss immediately said, "Wow! That's a great price. Let's order two of those right away!"
The menu is pretty basic - beef and seafood. The appetizers are all seafood oriented and the sides are extra with the meal. I started off with Caesar's salad which was only OK, not as flavorful or made with the table side pizazz you get across the street at Hugo's Cellar. One of my colleagues, however, got the French Onion soup as a starter and proclaimed it to be, possibly, the best he'd ever had. (And, like me, this guy eats at a lot of restaurants.)
I ordered the Binion rib-eye, blackened, medium-rare with a side of their famous peppercorn sauce. (I almost went with the Steak au Poivre - a New York strip covered in peppercorns and peppercorn sauce. One of my other colleagues got that.) And I ordered some of their garlic-mashed potatoes as a side.
One of our guests that night was a Frenchman from one of the companies we distribute. He ordered the 21 oz. Porterhouse. He asked me, "Is Porterhouse a good steak, no?" I told him it was a great cut of meat and he'd be lucky to finish the whole thing. He took that as a challenge and he ordered that.
Our meals came out and I was somewhat disappointed I didn't get the Steak au Poivre. My rib-eye was a little overcooked (probably from the blackening process) and it didn't seem to have the spiciness I expected it to have. Even with a side of their pepper sauce (not the peppercorn sauce, which was brought out a little later by our mildly absent-minded waiter), it still wasn't all that zippy in taste. But when the waiter finally brought out the creamy peppercorn sauce, it was a perfect compliment to the steak.
My boss had a rib-eye un-blackened and he really liked it. In fact, everyone liked their meal. Even the Frenchman across from me who devoured his whole Porterhouse steak in less time it took me to finish my rib-eye thought it was very good. He told me, "We don't get beef like this in France."
I don't know - maybe I'm a little jaded from living in the Midwest and having great steak cut on a local butcher's block all the time. I thought the food was good, not great, but good. Service was a little iffy, but competent. You couldn't beat the wine prices. (We figured the reason the wine prices were so low is that the restaurant has to compete with a number of upscale restaurants located all throughout Las Vegas.) And it's tough to beat the view of nearly the whole southern half of Las Vegas.
Binion's Ranch Steakhouse was nice, but I want to try Hugo's Cellar again the next time we go out.