Thursday, August 09, 2018

Dodgers Specials at the Dugout Diner in Las Vegas

From time to time I run across something so unique and unknown to me that I had to do some research. The above circa 1960's menu from the now defunct Dugout diner at the Las Vegas Club Hotel & Casino on Fremont Street is one of those items. Check out the eBay auction link where I found this here.

So, what is it exactly about this menu that created so much interest on my part?

Well, this diner had several menu items that paid homage to our beloved Dodgers. Check out what I mean on the right. Click on the pic to embiggen.

As you can see, they have three "Specials" named after Dodger legends Don Drysdale, Maury Wills and Sandy Koufax. Check them out below.

The menu even includes several Topps-like cartoons to entertain diners.

And I am still marveling at the prices for these dishes.

Of all the menu items shown, I am least in love with the "Sandy Koufax Special". Heck, I'm not exactly sure what they mean by "pancake style." What is that?

Anyway, further research unearthed exactly who created this eatery, and as you might have guessed the founder was a huge Dodgers fan. His name was Mel Exber. Per John L. Smith at the Las Vegas Review-Journal:
In its heyday many years ago, the Las Vegas Club was home to Mel Exber, one of the casino community’s great characters. Mel was not only a skilled bookmaker, but he was also a sports fanatic. 
Above all, the Brooklyn native was a baseball fan. Exber kept season tickets to the Los Angeles Dodgers for decades. Through the years he befriended a hall of fame’s worth of ballplayers, Sandy Koufax and Maury Wills among many. 
As Chris Epting tells it in “Roadside Baseball: The Locations of America’s Baseball Landmarks,” “After the ’62 season, when Wills and his teammates, including Duke Snider, Sandy Koufax, Don Drysdale, and others rolled into Vegas for some extended R&R, Exber brought them to his club, which ended up becoming a memorabilia shrine for Dodgers fans.”
It was that and more. You could smell the hot dogs and roasted peanuts through the cloud of cigar smoke emanating from the tiny sports book where Mel held court and monitored the action. With its Dugout restaurant and, in later years, Ebbet’s Field facade, the Las Vegas Club was a tribute to Mel’s love of the game.
Holy Mackerel!

I can't believe I've never heard of this place. And what's even more amazing is that this establishment apparently still stood until only a few years ago. Mel Exber passed away in 2002 and his hotel was subsequently sold in 2015. By that time, it had been laid bare and sat empty for several years -- when exactly, I do not know. Clearly, though, this restaurant was still around when I made my first trip to Las Vegas as a 21-year old in 1993. So, I feel like I really missed out.

As a side note, I have not been able to find any photos from inside the restaurant -- which seems weird. If anyone has some pics to share, or if you know where I can look please pass that knowledge along. I did find some pics of the outside; including a look at the hotel front entrance that includes a giant sculpture of a batter that looks a lot like Duke Snider (via Yelp).

Here's a closer look at that statue from its demolition below, via Over 50 Vegas.

And here is a vintage postcard from 1975 that clearly shows signage for The Dugout found in the UNLV libraries.

BTW, I thought it would be interesting to see if I could find other Dugout diner and Las Vegas Club memorabilia online, and quickly came across a bunch of gaming chips and green ashtrays with a Baseball theme. Check them out below.
(Auction Link)

(Auction Link)

(Auction Link)

(Auction Link)

* Please follow on twitter @ernestreyes *
* Dodgers Blue Heaven home page *


  1. Pretty nifty old school art on that menu.

  2. Steak, baked potato, and coleslaw for $1.49? I'd order the Don Drysdale Special on a daily basis.


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