This is the fourteenth installment of "Eat This List" - a semi-regularly recurring list of things chefs, farmers, writers and other food experts think you ought to know about.
I go to Las Vegas for the food and booze. Yes, I live in New York, one of the greatest dining and drinking cities on the planet, but there's something about the unapologetic bombast of Sin City that just stirs my soul.
I've been to Vegas an awful lot over the past 15 years, and I don't gamble with my dining dollars. Neither should you. Here are seven sure bets I've made time and time again, and I hope they'll pay off for you, too.
1. The Peppermill
Since 1972, tourists and locals alike have sought refuge in the plush, rope-lit banquettes of this campy, comfy North Strip coffee shop and cocktail lounge. At any time of day or night, patrons can gobble down comically heaping platters of 10-egg omelettes and hash browns, towering club sandwiches and fishbowl-sized sundaes, but the real action is in the back at the Fireside Lounge.
Cozy into a seat around the lounge's titular fire pit: a bubbling pool of water with flames shooting up from the center. Your waitress will take your drink order, sliding into the seat next to you as gracefully as she can manage in her slinky, black high-slit cocktail dress - and she'll return with a hurricane glass or scorpion bowl the size of your head. You'll succumb to a sugar coma (or fugue state induced by the mysterious C-list music videos echoing infinitely around the mirrored room) well before intoxication sets in, but just go with it. And when you finally wander outside after a few Mai Tais, Bahama Mamas or Planters Punches, don't be surprised to find that it's several hours later than you thought it was. Time flies by the fireside.
2. Golden Steer Steak House
The Rat Pack were regulars, so the Golden Steer oughta do just fine by you. The joint's been tossing tableside Caesar salads and setting bananas Foster ablaze since 1958. While it may not be as haute and happening as the celebrity chef-helmed steakhouses on the Strip, it more than makes up for that with the help of a seasoned staff, faithful renditions of warhorse dishes like escargots de Bourgogne, oysters Rockefeller and Lyonnaise potatoes, as well as sturdy pours of classic highballs.
The steaks might not quite match up to the restaurant's claim of being the "best on Earth," but they're perfectly serviceable (and compared to their on-Strip offerings, quite reasonably priced) and besides, you're there for the company. Clink glasses with Frank, Dean, Sammy and all their ritzy pals and savor a last chance to experience a style of Vegas swank that may not be around for much longer.
3. B&B Ristorante
It doesn't seem like the word "sustainability" would be uttered within a 100 mile radius of landlocked, neon-lit, resource-sucking Las Vegas, but Mario Batali and Joe Bastianich have prioritized environmental wellbeing in every aspect of the restaurant from direct-from-farmer sourcing and alternative fuel use to banning bottled water and composting kitchen waste. And they sure don't skimp on the food quality, either. Batali's signature offal and pasta-centric offerings stand out as adventurous and elegant in a city prone to safer, masses-pleasing fare, and it's a darned sight easier to get a reservation at B&B than at his flagship (and roughly equivalent) Babbo in New York City.
It's not cheap; consider this your big Vegas blow-out meal and splurge on the house-made charcuterie, every last one of the vegetable sides and an Italian wine pairing with whatever pasta or meat hunk you desire. Then wobble back to your hotel and take a disco nap to digest before you go out again. You won't need to eat for roughly another day and a half.
4. China Poblano
Since setting up shop at the Cosmopolitan Hotel and Casino when it opened in late 2010, chef José Andrés has become the rogue king of new Vegas dining with his cheeky, inventive take on the world's classic cuisines. At China Poblano, dishes and ingredients from Mexican and Chinese street food play nicely together, without losing their unique identities.
More than a few food writers (including myself) have confessed to sitting down to both lunch and dinner there in a single day, and sneaking in at least one more meal during their stay. After you've had a good sip or two of your salt air margarita (see the gallery above), hop around the menu and select at least a couple of tacos (the Viva China - soft beef tendon, Kumamoto oysters and scallions in Sichuan peppercorn sauce is the single best item I ate in 2012), some pork buns and a vegetable or two (if Brussels are in season, ORDER THEM) to enjoy while you contemplate your next wave of food - which should include at least one noodle dish and some siu mai. If you skip a dish, don't worry, you'll be back.
5. Lotus of Siam
In 2011, Thai-born Saipin Chutima tied for the title of Best Chef, Southwest in the annual James Beard Awards, marking the only time such a distinction has been bestowed upon a restaurateur who shares a strip mall with a cowboy-themed gay bar and a world-renowned swingers club. Chutima earned that honor through her meticulous execution of authentic classical and regional Thai cuisine, including homey curries, drunken noodles, pungent larbs, pork blood chunk stew and a whole host of potential new obsessions. Don't skip the off-menu specials - or the opportunity to indulge in fresh coconut ice cream for dessert. You'll be stuffed, but muscle through.
Do yourself a favor and take a cab to the restaurant. It's nowhere near your hotel, and you'll want to (safely) avail yourself of the opportunity to enjoy pairings from the thoughtfully assembled, heavily German wine list.
6. The Double Down Saloon
"Just close your eyes and let the darkness settle in," the conservatively-dressed 50-something told her friend as she led her to a stool in the dingy, mural-decked punk bar. A couple of $2 happy hour Ass Juices and a bacon martini later, both women were palpably calmer, nodding in rhythm to a Buzzcocks song along with the rest of the patrons there to drink the afternoon away.
A sign above the front door welcomes patrons to "The Happiest Place on Earth" and what this 24-hour bar lacks in sanitized Disney pep, it more than makes up for with a different kind of cheer. Low-key celebrities and devoted locals alike make this friendly off-Strip dive bar their home away from home, reveling in the cheap but expertly-made signature shots, raunchy reel of vintage cartoons and B-movies, and free performances by local and national bands. "Puke insurance" is available at a premium, allowing over-served customers to ditch out on cleaning duties should those inexpensive drinks re-emerge at some point in their visit. Otherwise, as the wall sign warns, "You puke, you clean."
If you're extra-lucky, bartender Brett "Butters" Balu will be on duty so you can sample one of his soon-to-be-legendary "Fat Elvis" cocktails. Don't ask what's in it - just enjoy. You know The King would approve.
Yup, José Andrés earned a second spot in this lucky seven, and he nabbed it by way of whimsical, wondrous dishes rooted in classical Spanish cooking, and reaching for the stars.
A heady waft of woodsmoke greets customers ascending the elevator to Jaleo's floor. It's emanating from a wood-burning grill from which come massive crowd-pleasing pans of hearty paella - and that's just a fraction of the menu. Stack the deck with some tried-and-true Andrés offerings: croquetas de pollo (served in a clean running shoe, because why not?), deep-fried bacalao, bacon-wrapped dates, pan con tomate with Manchego and anything involving Iberico ham. Then roll the dice on seasonal vegetables, whatever potato treatments strike your fancy and items labeled "José's way." You'll come up a winner every time.
21 more hits (in no particular order):
1. Pig ears at Comme Ça
2. Any dessert at Sage
3. "My Wife's Favorite Salad" and a charcuterie pizza at Honey Salt
4. A light lunch at Eiffel Tower (ohhhhhh...the view...)
5. A Negroni at the bar at Sinatra
6. Ceviche and gazpacho at Julian Serrano
7. Spicy pork adobada tacos at Tacos El Gordo
8. Flatbreads and a Blood and Sand at Herbs & Rye
9. Afternoon tea at the Mandarin Oriental Tea Lounge
10. Banana pancakes at eat.
11. Boudin blanc at Bouchon Bistro
12. Whatever cocktail the bartender cares to serve you at Vesper Bar
13. Truffle tater tots at The Henry
14. A Hunter S. Smash at Atomic Liquors
15. Trout and eggs at Tiffany's Cafe
16. Whatever punch they're ladling out at The Velveteen Rabbit
17. Late night snacks at Aburiya Raku
18. A gastromolecular adventure at the eight-seat é by josé andrés
19. A glass of wine at Aureole ("wine angels" select bottles from a giant tower on bungee harnesses!)
20. Burgers at Hubert Keller's Burger Bar
21. A cocktail and crowd-watching at Oscar's Beef, Booze & Broads
Go home broke, full and happy.
These just happen to be my favorites, but got a beloved Vegas haunt I should try? It's good luck to share your wisdom. Spill 'em in the comments below. And many, many thanks to fantastic writer and Vegas local Lissa Townsend Rodgers for introducing me to a good chunk of these places.
Previously on "Parts Unknown":
Bourdain strikes vegetarian gold in Punjab
The dog-eat-dog turf of Detroit's classic coneys
Tasting Tokyo's treasures
– South Africa
Taste the Rainbow Nation
Sicilian food to soothe the soul
10 things to know before visiting Sicily
A sense of place in Copenhagen cuisine
– New Mexico
In New Mexico, choose a side: red or green
Bourdain cops to mistake on Frito pie canned chili claim
10 things to know before visiting New Mexico
- Granada, Spain
Traditional tapas in Granada
11 things to know before visiting Spain
– Israel, the West Bank and Gaza
In Jerusalem, even food origins are contentious
10 things to know before visiting Israel, the West Bank and Gaza
Bourdain has traditional Palestinian meal
SPAM and coq au vin on the Congo River
Peruvian food, from guinea pigs to pisco sours
Peruvian food is having a moment
Make perfect pisco sours and ceviche
South America's pisco enjoys North American revival
Breakfast in Libya
Where fast food tastes like freedom
iReport: In Morocco, eating is the spice of life
Street snacking in Morocco
O Canada! Our home and delicious land
Come for the strip bars, stay for the poutine
Colombian cuisine – from aguardiente to viche
Americans just don’t understand the potato. Colombians do.
– Los Angeles Koreatown
The ever-changing flavor of L.A.'s Koreatown
Bridging generations and cultures, one blistering bowl of bibimbap at a time
Los Angeles food trucks are in it for the long haul
Fall in love with Myanmar's cuisine
In Myanmar, drink your tea and eat it too
go eat here
Lotus of Siam is great, I have a few friends in Vegas and they recommend it as well!!
SERIOUSLY, The Double Down Saloon. It's probably the dirtiest bar in Vegas. I would not let my dog step in that place. It looks filthy and it is filthy. I think you need to really open your eyes next time you go there. The Decor is terrible and the whole bar looks disgusting. Take plenty of disinfecting wipes if you go. Your going to need them.
Every time I go to Vegas I go for fish & chips at Ellis Island, just behind Ballys. For $10.95, they are probably the best I've ever had.
Whatever you do, avoid going to Nubu's Japanese restaurant, severely over priced for the experience.
Am I wrong or does it seem as if Anthony is putting waaaaayyy too much emphasis on alcohol for a food critic. Personally, I don't care about cocktails and I already know where to find great wine. I watch and read Bourdain for his food commentary. Almost all the photos in the montage were about alcohol. Anthony, what's up?
I love Lotus of Siam. I've been going there for 20 years. How did I miss the sex clubs?
How could you leave off the pancakes at Dupar's?!! They are the world's best.
the article stated in the headline there was going to be tasty buds, where are they?
PIzza Rock in downtown LV well...rocks! They have several different ovens to bake the several different kinds of pie they bake. The cracker thin Chicago pizza reminded me of the days of my youth on the south side, complete with gritty corn meal to hasten and intensify the cracker thin crust. We had the Old Chicago, but hope to try the Sam Giancana next. I now live in LV - the culinary and entertainment opportunities are endless!
Too bad prices are never mentioned.
Try Batista's Hole in the Wall on Kovall Ave. Violin/concertina players sing and sserenade your Itialian fare.
Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steak -Best customer service I've ever had at a restaurant and steaks are great
Just wanted to say thanks for the article, and thanks for the comments. We lived in LV in the late 70s when Dad was the hospital commander at Nellis, and we're heading down in May for my 50th. Things have changed just a bit in the intervening 35 years. :-D
Going to have to take advantage of these suggestions. Thanks again!
How did that list not include Rao's at Caesar's Palace?
The steakhouse at the top of Binion's. It's on our must go list every trip. Although next trip we will try the Golden Steer. Don't forget about Pink's for hot dogs at 3am...
I think they were going for Las Vegas exclusive restaurants. Pinks is from Los Angeles and has multiple locations in Southern California. They did add one to Planet Hollywood because the original Pink's is in Hollywood and it is a Hollywood themed hotel and resort. But not really worth a mention when it comes to Las Vegas culinary experience.
Sorry I didn't follow the rules anon. Next time I'll try and do better so you don't have to scold me. I didn't mean to make such a grave error and mention a place that wasn't native to Las Vegas. I feel so inferior to you now. I bow down to your need to be the overlord of the replies and I certainly won't offend you again. I beg your forgiveness.
I was just there about a week ago and ate at Burger King. Guess I should have checked out this list.
The mention of HoneySalt is perfect, it is a favorite of my wife and mine. The other place that is an absolute MUST for locals and tourists alike is the Oyster Bar at Palace Station! Everything there is absolutely amazing and the line on a Friday or Saturday night can be 2+ hours long and people are happy to wait in it! It has been called the best 18 seats in Las Vegas.
I'm game. I've been to Las Vegas numerous times, but the most memorable stay was the California Hotel. The oddest thing about this otherwise seedy place is that it's in actuality a Hawai'in property, catering to people from Hawai'i, who purchased a package deal. When I was there, it was decorated in a nutso Tropical Vegas Confusion.
That was a long time ago, but I checked, it's still there. And still Hawai'in. Is the food spectacular? Unlikely. But where else in Vegas can you get a morning bowl of Saimin with a slice of Spam?
Good list but missed Rolling Smoke for close to strip BBQ.
AND, the sustainability jab wasn't necessary. We do tons for sustainability and use significantly less water than we did 10 years ago. It is also home to springs preserve which is the largest leed platinum facility in the world as well as many other large leed certified structures (ie. city center)
We've dined at Piero's near the convention center several times and have mostly enjoyed it. How does that stand in comparison to Peppermill or The Golden Steer? My wife loves old time Vegas with martinis and high backed red leather booths. Any other places along that line? We're heading to LV on Sunday and am trying to find a new place. P.S. Oscar's is fabulous for beverages though we have yet to eat there.
The Peppermill is a good place to relax and have an inexpensive meal if you split it since the portions will stuff two people easily. I spent a good deal of time in Vegas recently on business and had dinner at the Peppermill pretty regularly and everything I ordered was quite good.
One place they missed on the list is M&M Soul Food just a bit NW of the strip on Charleston. Best fried chicken, red beans and rice and corn bread ever, and everything else there is fantastic as well. Absolutely worth the slight trip off the stip.
I've been to the Peppermill, the setting is so nice there. Blueish/purple lights, the fireplaces, just a really nice place to relax, & have a nice conversation away from the noise of the strip. Unfortunately, we didn't eat there, but, the drinks were great! 😃
There's a local guy named Denny that has a good place to get breakfast 24 hours a day. He must be a baseball fan because he calls one of his specials the "Grand Slam". It's a good meal to load up on before heading out for more free booze in the casinos.
Catch the Fuku Burger food truck, usually around China town. Monta Ramen in China town is awesome .... if you like ramen. Tacos el gordo on the strip near the encore, there's also one out east but I forget where.
One spot that I ate at my last trip to Vegas was Tom Colicchio's Heritage Steak over at The Mirage. Best meal I have ever eaten and totally blew Gordon Ramsay Steak (which is really good place) out of the water. The menu changes somewhat regularly, so something they had one trip may not be there the next.
Another spot I tried my last trip and enjoyed was Andiamo at The D Las Vegas. Old school Italian steakhouse that despite being a new place in Vegas (it replaced the steakhouse that was there when the property was Fitzgerald's), seemed like it had been there for years and had a level of service that hearkened back to Old Vegas (via Detroit). The pasta is made in-house and the meatball appetizer had to be some old Italian grandmother's recipe passed down over the years.
Try Nosh & Swig, west of the 95 off Flamingo just east of Pecos. Not much to look at but the food is so good. Try the spare ribs, they were my favorite
Their carpaccio is excellent! I would have put 21 more places on this list if I could.
Edited - actually, I was thinking of Herbs & Rye right there. Nosh & Swig had those super-fun shaker salads!
Lot's of great, much less expensive food out in the Western suburbs. For starters, try Archie's (3 locations) or Basil and Lime on FtAp for great thai, Sambalatte at FtAp/Charleston for some of the best coffee around (try the nutella latte), and of course, there's always "Off the Strip", especially in Southern Highlands.
I've been to the Peppermill before and it's a great restaurant. Peppermill even has a lounge with a fire place.
The Florida Cafe on the north end of the Strip, hidden in the Howard Johnson's motel, is some of the best Cuban food ever ever EVER. I dream about their arroz con pollo! The Blueberry Hill on Charleston is the best, great service, great food, great people watching. El Lindo Michoacan is great for fresh hot tortillas and creative Mexican fare. Always go off-Strip and out to the Chinatown area for good Asian food. The Peppermill is SO kitschy and fun! Definitely agree on Lotus of Siam for fantastic Thai fare.
I live in Las Vegas and IF you don't mind $40 for lunch then I guess it's ok. I prefer the buffets. Real food at a sometimes reasonable price depending on where you go.
We love the view from Alize at the Top of the Palms! We also enjoy dinner at Ferraro's Italian Restaurant. It's a local joint – across the street from the Hard Rock Hotel. Homemade everything – and the osso buco is mouthwatering. They also have a great reverse happy hour – we like to stop by there after concerts at HRH.
Mastro's Oceanclub in Crystals Mall. It's resort casual and has a wonderful menu. I'm always satisfied whenever I dine there.
Big Dog's Draft House, W Craig Rd and N Rancho in Las Vegas.
Most everybody working there has been there 5 yrs or more. Good sports bar, specially for Packer fans and even if your not. Friendly atmosphere, always busy so gotta be patient. But they aim to please. Any complaints, they'll handle it. Food was always good, specially twice baked wongs. Try em with a Big Dog brew. Even good jiust having a soda or water if you don't drink.
They brew and now sell their own beers and you can see the vats here.
Dave, main bartender who's been there about 17 yrs, can make you any mixed drink you want.
Use to have live entertainment on Wednesday and if you want a momento to take with, they have tee shirts, caps, etc.
Big Dog's also has events to introdice their new brews throughout the winter, spring and summer. One tee I have was a summerfest entitled Peace, Love & Hoppyness. Food, fun and music at all these events and beer tasting including guest beers.
So, tey it. Hope you like it.
I highly recommend Cuba Café, on Tropicana Blvd., about a mile and a half east of the Strip. Outstanding cuba food, they made me black bean soup that wasn't on the menu, and the pork legs are as tender as you'll ever find on Calle Ocho in Miami or any other Cuban restaurant.
If you don't mind a drive off the strip, go to North LV and find a cozy little spot for the BEST sushi...Sushi Zen! A chef friend took us there...is worth the drive!
If you go to Vegas, then you need to try Blueberry Hill Family Restaurant. http://www.blueberryhillrestaurants.com/
They're reasonable in price and the food is great! it was a great find when we visited in 2010.
Went to Il Mulino in Caesars. $100/person without booze. My wife and I got food poisoning.
Try Waverly's at the Cannery in North Las Vegas. Less expensive than in town places and better service. I also like Hugo's Cellar in Downtown Vegas.
When I'm south of the Mason-Dixon line I put on my white sheet, hop into my dually and head for the nearest Chick-fil-A.
Please kill yourself.
What do you honestly believe you're accomplishing by posting garbage like this?
what a douche bag!
Huh? Chick-Fil-A has nothing to do with the KKK.
Man you really are ancient! Quite obvious you haven't bee keeping up with current events! White sheet? Are you kidding me? Is someone supposed to be scared of that or something?
Eggs and trout, mmmm
List needs : Ping Pang Pong, inside Gold Coast, Hot N Juicy and Hush Puppy – for actual local's hangouts at decent prices.
People keep mentioning Ping Pang Pong. I clearly need to try it next time! (But do the locals *want* tourists to know about their favorite haunts?)
Surprisingly, Ping Pang Pong was just meh to me. However, I may have had a bad experience.
These are all great choices...some that should be added to the list:
Border Grill at Mandalay Bay–the Vegas satellite of Mary Sue Miliken and Susan Feniger's Santa Monica and LA locations. Chef Mike Minor has put together the best brunch menu in the city: creative, hearty, and adventurous.
Sora Ramen or Monta Ramen in Chinatown. Sora has the better noodles, Monta has the better broth. The battle rages among Vegas locals for the title of top ramen. Try them both and judge for yourself.
Koraku has the best Japanese curry in the city, and Kuma Snow Cream, right next door is the perfect dessert on a hot Vegas night.
Someone already mentioned Mint Bistro. I agree.
Bachi Burger in Summerlin is better than Burger Bar.
And if you have a car and don't mind a drive, Retro Bakery in Centennial Hills (far northwest) has some mighty tasty cupcakes in a rotation of exotic flavors.
No mention of the WICKED SPOON? Seriously?
I definitely liked Wicked Spoon, but it's just not on my "must-go" list like the rest of these.
I love Wicked Spoon – the best brunch I've ever had, with something for everyone; beautiful presentation of tasty offerings.
I love Wicked Spoon! Beautiful presentation of tasty offerings; something for everyone.
Wicked Spoon is my go-to buffet spot. To me, it's much better than Bacchanal Buffet at Caesars, which got the "best buffet" title within a week of opening. My last trip, I tried the Buffet at Aria and it was meh.
Hash House A Go-Go is my fav quirky, yet delicious, place in Vegas.
Ditto – GREAT breakfast. No need to have lunch afterwards.
It probably depends on which HHAGG location you go to. My last trip, I stayed at the Plaza and the location there wasn't all that busy and had a couple trying to find a place to eat one morning tell me that they ate there the day before and didn't like it. My go-to breakfast spot Downtown is DuPar's over at the Golden Gate.
The Mint, Indian Bistro, deserves to get mentioned here. Hands down the best Indian restaurant in Vegas. Just a few blocks from the Strip, located on Flamingo, near the crossing of Swenson and Flamingo.
We always go to "Chinatown"; about a mile from the strip. Plenty of restaurants to choose from, the food is great and way cheaper.
Love your suggestions, especially Lotus of Siam. It's a must-visit every time I'm in Vegas (and I'm in LA, where good Thai is plentiful.) I'd add a slice of pizza from the pizza joint tucked away in the Cosmopolitan to this list. The pizza is on the Good side of OK, but at 4 am, it's all you could possibly need. Also, an open faced turkey sandwich from ANYWHERE when you're still awake at 7 am.
i've been to lotus of siam several times, it's easily some of the best food here
Cool, I'll have to try some of these suggestions next time we're in Vegas. As for one of the recommendations, let me first state that I love the Cosmopolitan in Vegas and that's where we went on our honeymoon. However, unfortunately I was not at all impressed with Jaleo. The croquetas de pollo for example were just okay overall. Furthermore, I honestly just don't find it appealing for them to be served in a shoe (even if it's never been worn). I can't even remember the other food we had there other than it just wasn't impressive at all. As far as restaurants in the Cosmopolitan, we were MUCH more impressed by the food at Scarpetta. The desserts, particularly the bombolinis, were incredible. Overall though, the best restaurant in Vegas I've ever dined at is the Bartolotta. Quite expensive so that probably explains some of the negative reviews. But its without a doubt definitely a great way to celebrate a special occasion. My wife isn't a huge seafood fan at all but even she absolutely loved every course from start to finish. We are definitely going back someday once we win the lottery....
Touristy as it may be, I have never failed to have my expectations far surpassed during brunch at Mon Ami Gabi. From the delicate perfect quiche Lorraine to the homey, perfect corned beef hash, I can't visit Vegas without eating here!
I do really like Mon Ami Gabi! But I had to give this one to Eiffel Tower for the view.
I agree, I love Mon Ami. They have a chopped salad that, while pricey, is the perfect accompaniment with an afternoon on the patio in the shade, watching the Strip and enjoying the water show at the Bellagio.
The people watching from the patio trumps the view from Eiffel Tower, especially if you're up early (because of the time difference with the East Coast) and you see folks making the obvious walk of shame at 7:30 in the morning.....
These are all westside places: Try the hot pot at I-Naba. Try anything at Raku (although the fish two ways is spectacular). Brilliant Thai at Chada Thai and Wine (chef-owner is the former sommelier at Lotus of Siam). The latter two serve until 2am, and you're as likely as not to run into off-duty Strip restaurant pros post-11pm.
Got Raku in that bunch at the bottom and will totally check out your other suggestions next time.
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