Sunday, May 06, 2012

Two quickie restaurant reviews

I played at Binion's tonight. About an hour in, I made a bad read, got all my money in bad, but got rescued by a five-outer to more than double up.

Poker has been brutal lately. I've had seven losing sessions in a row. I don't think that beats my record, but it's coming close. It has been starting to get to me--as in, I start to think not just that I've forgotten how to play, but that maybe I never knew how to play in the first place.

I was confident there was more money to be made at the table, and I didn't have any particular reason that I needed to cut the session short. However, psychologically I really needed to be able to enter a W in the ledger for the day, after seven L's in a row. I think Ed Miller gave great advice on this point once:
Go ahead and book a win. I know a lot of people think booking wins and setting stop losses is hogwash. But playing top poker (particularly no-limit) requires confidence in yourself and your decision-making. And if you lose seven days straight, your confidence is likely going to be in the can no matter who you are. So if you start a session and you’re up a few buyins after bit, wrap it up. Book the win. And pat yourself on the back. You’ll be more confident during your next session.*
So that's just what I did. I ended my losing streak, and hopefully tomorrow I can go back to attacking the game with my usual state of mind, instead of with the cowering and confusion and second-guessing that comes from an ugly string of losses.

Anyway, I was in no hurry to get home, and decided to get something to eat. I mentioned late last year that a place called the Heart Attack Grill opened between my apartment building and the downtown casinos. It has been in the news lately because two customers have had to be taken away by ambulance mid-meal. They're not kidding about the name.

It's not really the kind of place I frequent. In fact, I've been eating fried food generally and hamburgers specifically a lot less than I used to. I have been making some modest efforts to make my diet healthier, as I feel the ol' arteries hardening with age. (Having a vegetarian girlfriend also tends to push one in this direction.) So it has probably been two months since I last had a burger. I decided I could stand one indulgence.

But they wouldn't serve me. I declined to wear the silly hospital gowns that they hand out at the door. I assumed that this was a "fun" gimmick that most customers decided to participate in as part of the ambiance. I had not anticipated that they would consider this a requirement, like the way some fancy places make you wear a jacket and tie. I was floored when the waitress told me it was mandatory. I told her I'd like to eat there, but I wasn't going to wear a gown to do so. She had me talk to the manager. I assumed that the manager would waive the requirement if I asked. After all, they surely want to sell me food more than they want to enforce their stupid rule, right? Nope. "You have to have on a gown to be in here," the manager told me. I said, "That's the stupidest rule I have even encountered in a restaurant. But if you don't want my money, OK, I'm sure somebody else does." I'm still stunned that a restaurant of mostly empty tables would turn away a customer eager to do business with them in the middle of a recession. But hey, there are probably 30 eateries within 100 yards of that spot, and I figured that I could pick one of them and not have to argue with a manager and beg them to take my money.

I stopped into a place that I have walked by dozens and dozens of times, always thinking that I should try it, but never had. It's a Cuban/Mexican place called Mamita's, just a block from my house. I had noticed previously that its customers were about 90% Hispanic, which I thought was a good indicator. In fact, it had nearly all the markings of a place where one could find good food at a good price, as argued recently by economist and foodie Tyler Cowen. Besides, it was Cinco de Mayo--how could I not have Mexican food?

Before I even sat down, I noticed that this place had the ultimate marker of an authentic Cuban restaurant: Fidel Castro sitting at one of the tables. Seriously!

The picture doesn't do him justice. He really is a spitting image, uniform and all. In fact, I think he is there just to provide a touch of Cuba. He was there when I arrived, still there when I left, and he wasn't ever doing anything. He didn't eat, didn't read a book, didn't talk to anyone. Maybe he makes a little extra scratch letting people take his picture for tips. It's not every day that you get to have your picture taken with the world's longest-reigning dictator. (I suppose that Joe Biden would insist that Castro, like Hosni Mubarak, is not a dictator, but I think anybody who doesn't swallow the current administration's delusions on foreign policy would judge otherwise.)

The music they had blaring was deafening. As soon as I sat down, a waitress rushed over with a menu, smiled, and asked how I was. I told her I would be better if my ears weren't being assaulted. She immediately said, "I'll see if I can get them to turn it down." She stepped away, spoke to somebody, and it worked! It was still louder than I would have liked, but it was tolerable.

Wow--catering to a paying customer's special request. What a concept! Maybe the Heart Attack Grill manager should walk down the block and take a lesson.

Anyway, I've dragged this out long enough. I had a carnitas burrito, and it was just right. Whole meal, including side dishes and tip, was less than $14. I should have been coming here long ago.

Summary: Heart Attack Grill sucks. Mamita's rules.

*As quoted here. I could not find the original source to link to.


Lindy99 said...

Sounds like the Heart Attack Grill will be out of business soon with those types of the Castro picture there are two low table like things on the other side of the booth from him, what was the purpose of them? We're the some sort of chairs? Or tables? Oh yeah, and technically we been out of the recession for awhile but I know it wouldn't seem that way to 12+ million Americans still out of work. (my economics background makes me point that out, although current admin has us heading back into one).

Rakewell said...

Those are not low tables. It's an illusion brought on by the perspective. They are full size and closer to the camera than you think. You can tell that a little better in the uncropped version here:

VegasDWP said...

Hi Grump,

I ate at Heart Attack Grill a few weeks ago when I was in Vegas - always wanted to try it, ever since I saw it on CNN. They put me in the hospital gown, and also put a tag on my wrist (just like they do in the real hospital). It's just a bit of fun ... why did you not want to participate?

Anyway, I as a bit disappointed that they only had burgers on the menu - but they were pretty good burgers. The smallest one (a "single bypass", I think) was 1/2 pound. I'm not a big guy, and use to (smaller) European portions of food - but I ate the whole damn thing. Fries are cooked in real lard.

The best thing about the place, in my opinion, is the sexy nurse's outfits the waitresses wear. I ate the the counter, and my waitress was gorgeous - and really nice.

Their drinks are also super-strong, and their coke has real cane sugar - they still make it that way in Mexico, which is where they must import it from.

Anyway, I think it's great for a one-time meal - especially for tourists. The best burger I have had in Vegas remains Burger Bar (Mandalay Bay), though.


Rob said...

I definitely agree with booking the win. I think I do that too often myself, but I'm still learning No Limit so I am taking it slow. But I think if you had stayed, you probably wouldn't have been able to play your best poker because you would have been thinking about how badly you wanted to book the win.

I've been by the Heart Attack Grill a few times. Not really tempted to eat there despite my love of burgers, too restrictive a menu, and I've heard the owner is a real piece of work. I think the fact that they'd reather lose a customer than not have you put the gown on says a lot about the place.

Vegas is a very interesting town. I'm willing to bet that a restaurant with a Fidel Castro look alike would not go over so well in Miami.

Rob said...

David, one of the things I heard is that they really try hard to get you to order the biggest burger. Did they give you a hard time for only ordering the "single"

THOMAS said...

so because you don't want to participate in the thematic elements of a restaurant, you say they suck???

seems shortsighted and inconclusive to me.

Anonymous said...

Really enjoyed your food reviews.
I'd like to see more of them in the future.
I think other out-of-towners would appreciate them also.

Best Regards,
Eldon in Bellingham