Fear and Latte in Las Vegas

in Buying Coffee

A savage journey to the heart of bad coffee…

I don’t know why coffee is so bad in Las Vegas.  The city doesn’t mind giving you free booze and we all know why.  But since caffeine doesn’t counteract alcohol, you’d think they would want to keep us as caffeinated as they do inebriated so that we make bad gaming decisions but even later into the night.

It starts in your hotel room.  I take it as standard fare that a hotel room has a coffee maker in it.  In Vegas, the hotels mostly all have casino floors so they do everything in their power to make sure you don’t stay in your room.  That includes not providing you with a coffee maker.  This forces you to leave the room sooner, exposing you to the gaming and gift shop sooner.

Like Hunter Thompson’s hero, I was in Vegas to cover a show and habitually late getting there.  So the quickest way to get my fix instead of waiting in lines was to grab a can of Monster Energy and drink it as I walked.  The price: $6.48 / can. Only a tourist like me would pay that.

I ordered coffee with room service a couple times and the equivalent of two cups of coffee cost me $8.  And at best, I would rate it 6/10 coffee.

As I was passing through Treasure Island early in the week, I remembered they had a Starbucks.  I carry around a Starbucks gift card that was bought for me as a present.  So while I knew I’d still overpay, at least it was a gift from somebody who knew how badly I’d need a good coffee one day.

When I walked in, the big sign let me know that Starbucks Cards were not redeemable at this location.  The cashier (sorry, barista) could not explain why they wouldn’t take the Card, only that they were not a “participating location”.  Read: What are you gonna do, tourist? Nothing!

And so, I paid $4.50 cash out of my pocket for this highly-trained barista to dispense already-brewed black coffee into a cup and hand it to me.  I don’t even want to know what the Pumpkin Spice Latte would’ve cost me.

Each of the major hotels has a 24-hour “cafe” with complete menu.  They all offer a coffee of some kind and while the price is definitely better than the room service coffee, it’s still the room service coffee.  They just know I’m into them for a whole meal too.

I wonder if there’s an opportunity for a local roaster to develop a brand among Vegas tourists and sell to these cafes.  The problem could be that Vegas tourist marketing is mass marketing (anybody and everybody from anywhere and everywhere), so the opportunity seems to be with the big established brands.  Meanwhile, Starbucks is more overpriced in Vegas than anywhere and with fast-food restaurant type service to boot.  I didn’t see any of the other big players.  I would have made a trip to visit a Peet’s, or settled for a $3 coffee at Seattle’s Best if I knew where to find one.

And in the end, the only cafe worth mentioning was a place called Coffee Corner in the Las Vegas Hilton.  But don’t go out of your way to find it, it’s only open during select conventions like the one I was at.  The gentleman working the coffee bar was a true barista and I didn’t mind paying him $4 for my straight black coffee.  The company I was with ordered lattes that were professionally made and well received.  If a select convention isn’ t on, your next option is Hilton’s Paradise Cafe where they serve room service coffee at a much lower price.


  1. We wished we knew that you were in the States… can’t wait to see you.
    Now about the coffee, Even though we don’t live in Vegas I have to say… as an American.. sorry about your lack of a great cup of coffee.

    Comment by Robin — November 10, 2010 @ 6:03 am

  2. Try Delights which is a cafe on the lobby floor of tower two in the MGM Signature Towers. It’s better and less expensive than Starbucks.

    Comment by Joni — November 13, 2010 @ 7:34 pm

  3. @Robin, believe me I would NOT judge all coffee in the States by what they serve in Vegas. I know too well that you have some serious coffee markets and I can’t wait to visit them all!

    Comment by Marc Wortman — November 13, 2010 @ 8:02 pm

  4. @Joni, I love recommendations and I will definitely be back in Vegas soon enough. I cabbed it to the Mandalay a couple times but otherwise didn’t get that as far down the trip as the MGM Grand. Next time, I’ll have a reason to. Thanks for the recommendation.

    Comment by Marc Wortman — November 13, 2010 @ 8:04 pm

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