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Inside Vegas - Steve Miller

Steve Miller is a former Las Vegas City Councilman. In 1991, the readers of the Las Vegas Review Journal voted him the "Most Effective Public Official" in Southern Nevada. Visit his website at:

So long, Joe
INSIDE VEGAS by Steve Miller
April 17, 2006

From 1960 to 2001, Joe Kludjian owned the most popular restaurant in Vegas, the Golden Steer Steakhouse, located on West Sahara Ave. Joe died Tuesday, April 4. He was 81.

The "Steer," as it's fondly called, remains one of our town's favorite watering holes. Today, a steak costs upward of $40, and the historic saloon is still a hang out for Sin City's famous and infamous. But my fondest memory of the place dates back to the early 60's when the best steak in town went for $8.95, and was within the budget of a sixteen-year-old man about town.

This is the story of how I met Joe Kludjian, as published on October 7, 1999 in the Las Vegas Weekly.

Lifestyle: Dining
Las Vegas Weekly

Imploding LV History

In 1999, our town is left with a scant history of locally owned dinner houses

By Steve Miller
October 7, 1999

In 1960, I was sixteen years old and had just obtained my driver's license. In dad's Cadillac I picked up my best girl for a night on the town including dinner at Las Vegas' finest restaurant and a movie.

I tried to act sophisticated as we entered the Golden Steer on West Sahara and were seated. Pretending I was a regular customer, I ordered two New York cuts and French fries, with a salad prepared tableside.

After an hour of what I thought was my most charming conversation highlighted with great food, the tuxedo-clad waiter presented our check. The total tab was around $25 for a delightful dinner. I reached into my sport coat pocket for my wallet. It wasn't there.

Without flinching, I groped through my other pockets for my elusive wallet. I then came to the horrible realization that I had left it at home. What is a 16-year-old man-about-town to do in such a situation?

With great self-control I casually excused myself to go to the men's room. I made a beeline for the hostess' podium and firmly asked to see the owner or manager.

Moments later a short, bald, middle-aged man appeared. He introduced himself as Joe Kludjian, the owner, and asked about the problem.

I explained that I had left my money at home and that I did not want my girlfriend to know. I requested that I be allowed to go home and get my wallet. I offered to leave my watch--and my date at the restaurant as collateral, just please don't tell her anything.

Joe looked me up and down, pulled a pen from his vest pocket, ordered me to sign the bill along with my address and phone number and tersely said, "Total it up and don't forget the tip!" He then announced "Young man, you now have a charge account at the Golden Steer!"

Feeling like a Las Vegas big shot, my girl and I left the "Steer" and momentarily stopped off at my house so I could "get something" from inside. The rest of the night was pleasant but uneventful.

The following week my first statement arrived in the mail. My dad curiously presented it to me with the question, "What's this?"

I replied nonchalantly, "Oh, that's my bill from the Golden Steer. I have a charge account there."

Every month thereafter I eagerly awaited my statement in the envelope with the embossed golden bovine on the front. My dad always seemed like he was proud to deliver it to me.

That was the Las Vegas of the 1960s. I went on to become a regular at the Golden Steer and have ever since considered Joe Kludjian to be a good friend. Today I still enjoy reminding Joe of my adolescent dilemma when I see him at the Golden Eagle or Golden Steer restaurants he still operates.

Back in those formative years our town was very small, everyone knew their neighbors, left their front door unlocked, and a 16 year old could still get the keys to his dad's new Cadillac on a Saturday night. As a shipping clerk, I made a salary of $50 per week and could afford to be a Saturday night regular at some of the best restaurants in town. Keep in mind that $30 would pay for two great meals, including a tip.

Looking back to the '60s, I remember wonderful evenings at our town's favorite local haunts including the Golden Steer, Battista's Hole in the Wall, Coach and Four, the Flame, Copa Lounge, Hill Top House, Larry's Fireside, Sunrise Cedars, The Italian Villa, Chateau Vegas, Fong's Garden, The Green Shack, Twin Lakes Lodge, the Daydream Ranch, the Rocking Horse Ranch, Gelo's, the Prime Rib, Louigie's, Musso's, Colonial House, Bob Taylor's Ranch House, The Old Ranch, Alpine Village Inn, El Sombrero, El Cholo, Bonnie Springs, Nick's in Henderson, and the Mt. Charleston Lodge.

In 1999, how many of our town's family owned dining spots still remain in business? With the original owners or their families participating, I am saddened to say only a few. Following the recent closing of the Green Shack, our town is left with a scant history of locally owned dinner houses that have survived the competition of gambling subsidization over the past 30 to 40 years.

Those local supper clubs that have survived three or more decades of single family ownership now only include the Golden Steer, Batista's, Fong's Gardens, El Sombrero, Bonnie Springs and the Mt. Charleston Lodge. I may have inadvertently forgotten one or two others and I apologize if I did.

Las Vegas has become a town without a history. You can still get a good meal at a great price at a casino, but what happened to the independent restaurants that set the mood back when? I don't remember such attrition happening to restaurants in other cities our size. The competition created by the casinos is just too great to overcome for mom and pop to stay in business in the Las Vegas of the '90s. Many other cities throughout the US are about to experience the same fate as gambling continues to expand outside Nevada. It seems that we are too engrossed in imploding our history to remember what made our town what it is today.

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