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Dining: The cheapest eats of all

One of the celebrated perks of living in Las Vegas is easy access to dirt-cheap food — buffets, graveyard specials and comped meals abound. But which beer-budget items can truly satisfy an eater with champagne tastes? Taking the spirit of our DEALicious Meals issue to its most miserly extreme, we crawled local casinos for their cheapest eats. Here’s a taste of what we found.

Gambler’s Special ($7.77). Cheap steak dinners usually involve a wan hunk of flesh with gray vegetables to match, but this not-so-secret, off-the-menu special is shockingly up to snuff. The eight-ounce sirloin steak has a crusty char, a side of shrimp is plump and well-seasoned, and the mashed potatoes are as smooth as suede. The side salad is perfunctory at best, but you didn’t come for the iceberg, did you? (Mr. Lucky’s in the Hard Rock, 4455 Paradise Road,

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Hot dog (75 cents). New York City’s famous dirty-water dog can’t hold a candle to this Vienna frank. It may not have the snap of a good grilled hot dog, but once it’s smothered in a slew of fixings (ketchup, mustard, relish, chopped onions and sauerkraut), you won’t notice the difference. To find it, look for a jewel-box-sized food cart near the sports book. (South Point hotel-casino,

Frozen margarita (99 cents). Cheaper than a Slurpee but just as cloying. The upside is that you don’t have to drink it out of one of those plastic bong-shaped vessels that screams “tourist.” For some semblance of a legitimate cocktail, add a squeeze of fresh lime to cut through the corn-syrupy sweetness. (Available at Station Casinos,

Spaghetti and meatballs ($4.49 after 10 p.m.). Lady and the Tramp would howl in disapproval. A generous portion for the price, but who really wants a large helping of watery sauce and limp noodles? The only saving grace is a side of light and moist mystery meatballs (“It’s chicken and pork and some other stuff,” a server informs me.) Still, if I wanted a late-night fix of carbs, sauce, and cheese, I’d sooner grab a slice of pizza. (Courtyard Café, 4500 W. Tropicana Ave.,

Orange Julius (free — but tip your server!). While trolling casinos for free drinks is not a recommended pastime, it’s worth noting that the complimentary beverages at the Wynn are the best on the Strip. This is basically a Creamsicle in slushie form. The only complaint is that it’s a little short on the orange flavor. It’s by no means sophisticated, but it’ll sustain blackjack players while they split their tens. (Wynn, 3131 Las Vegas Blvd. S.,