- Vegas4Visitors.com Dining Special
- Best Restaurants for People Watching
- Best Restaurants for Vegas Watching
- Best Restaurants if Money is No Object
- Best Restaurants if Money IS an Object
- South Strip Food Walks
- Center Strip Food Walks
- North Strip Food Walks
- Upcoming Restaurants
- Restaurant Review: Ping Pang Pong
- Restaurant Review: Radio City Pizza
- This Week on Facebook
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VEGAS4VISITORS.COM WEEKLY COLUMN BY RICK GARMAN
July 15, 2013
Vegas4Visitors.com Dining Special
I'm hungry. Which is exciting for me on a variety of levels, not the least of which is the fact that food and I don't always get along these days (it's a long story). But because of that hunger, I've got food on the brain and so I decided to devote the entirety of this week's column to food in Las Vegas.
We start with some fun lists about where you can find the best views in Vegas, both of the city itself and the people who visit it. Then we move on to the best restaurants for splurging and the best for savings.
Then I'm going to give you the Vegas4Visitors.com version of a geo-location mobile app, which is to say I've got some great ideas for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks all within the same basic areas - the South Strip, the Center Strip, and the North Strip. These will give you a chance to basically eat your way through a neighborhood without wasting too much energy on pesky things like walking.
Finally, I've got a sneak peek of some high profile upcoming restaurants and two brand new restaurant reviews. Bon appetit!
Best Restaurants for People Watching
Nearly 40 million people come to Las Vegas each year, jamming the sidewalks, walkways, hallways, and byways of the city. Yes, you could be out and about with them but wouldn't it be better to sit, have a good meal, and simply watch the humanity go by? Here are 10 restaurants that are perfect for doing just that and some hints for the best food to go with the views.
Get a seat on the outdoor patio at this Mexican party joint from rocker Sammy Hagar and you've got the perfect view for watching the crowds walk by Planet Hollywood. View food: a plate of nachos and a margarita.
Some of the tables here overlook the Bellagio Conservatory, giving you a great opportunity to not only see the gardens but all of the people who wander through taking pictures. View food: go at breakfast for one of their fluffy omelets.
Grab a comfy seat in the bar area on a weekend night and you will have a front row seat for the insanity that is a Vegas nightclub as the throngs of party people circle in and out of neighboring Marquee. View food: a burger and a beer of course!
The sun-dappled lobby of Aria is beautiful on its own but the people going in and out of the hotel and casino are the most fun to watch. View food: settle in for an extended session with their delectable paella.
Not only do you have a great view of the casino and sports book from here but on weekend nights the nightclub Pure brings in hordes of pretty people. View food: the pizzadilla, a combination of a pizza and a quesadilla.
This long-running Irish pub just opened a new outdoor patio along The Strip. Construction is going on all around it but this is still a good place to watch the crowds ogling the nearby Statue of Liberty replica. View food: fish and chips and a whiskey, perhaps?
The outdoor patio at this hot dog joint provides an excellent viewpoint from which to watch not only the crowds but the street "entertainers" who try to amuse them (and get a few bucks out of them in the process). View food: The Planet Hollywood Dog - a Polish with grilled onions, mushrooms, three strips of bacon, and nacho cheese!
Radio City Pizza in Downtown Las Vegas
This new pizza joint on Fremont Street only has a handful of tables outside but it's a terrific spot for watching the bar hopping crowds in the Fremont East Entertainment District. View food: the breakfast pizza, complete with scrambled eggs and Canadian bacon.
The lovely Strip facing patio provides almost unobstructed views of famous four corners intersection of Flamingo and Las Vegas Boulevard, one of the busiest in the world. View food: frozen hot chocolate, naturally.
The open front of this terrific brasserie puts you almost in the heart of the action, with the teeming masses walking by mere feet away. View food: something sweet - you won't be lacking in choices here.
Best Restaurants for Vegas Watching
There's no denying it: Las Vegas is the definition of eye candy. From the replicas of famous landmarks to the bright (formerly neon) lights to the roller coasters and volcanoes and fountains, it is almost impossible to figure out where to look next. Here are some restaurants that give you front row seats, both panoramic and up close, to some of Vegas' best scenery, and some suggestions for what to eat while drinking in the views.
If you can tear your eyes away from the fantastic food being served here you may notice the stunning views of The Strip a couple of blocks away from the floor to ceiling windows. View food: just hand the waiter back the menu and tell him to bring you something; everything here is delicious.
It is absolutely no coincidence that this great French bistro has an outdoor patio facing the Eiffel Tower at Paris Las Vegas. View food: complete the Gallic theme with Julia Child worthy beef bourguignon.
Occupying the other corner of The Cosmo is this amazing Greek restaurant that has a lovely outdoor dining area facing the South Strip hotels like CityCenter and MGM Grand. View food: the Milos special, thinly sliced and lightly fried eggplant and zucchini with Greek yogurt and cheese.
Yes, it's a Denny's but come on! It's got an outdoor patio almost underneath the Fremont Street Experience and right next to the upcoming SlotZilla zip line attraction. View food: something involving the word "slam."
Grab a seat on the deck at the north end of the restaurant and you will be able to watch the Sirens of TI stunt show. Why you'd want to is a whole other thing, but it is an iconic bit of Vegas silliness so in some ways "required." View food: the award-winning green chili.
Normally I wouldn't direct you to a theme intensive place like this but their outdoor patio has some really cool views of the South Strip including New York-New York. View food: a burger and some fries.
Go upstairs to the outdoor patio overlooking the Center Strip for some killer sights like Caesars Palace and The Mirage across the street. View food: anything to soak up all the alcohol from the margaritas.
This one belongs in the people watching category as well but if you get a coveted seat on their outdoor patio at the right time you can watch the Bellagio Fountain show across the street. View food: go at lunchtime for one of their fantastic crepes or quiche.
From under the iconic dome at the head of Fremont Street you'll get an unbeatable view of the light and sound show of the Fremont Street Experience. View food: a steak and a martini.
Well, the views don't get any more comprehensive than this. Not only are you more than 100 stories up, the restaurant rotates so you get a complete view of southern Nevada. View food: a steak and a bottle of wine.
Best Restaurants if Money is No Object
You just won a big jackpot on the slots or had an incredible run at the craps table. Now, what do you do with all that cash? You go eat! Although the average price point for Vegas restaurants has been going down over the last few years, there is still no shortage of insanely expensive restaurants. Here are my choices for the best places to spend your ill-gotten gains and what is currently the most expensive thing on their menu.
This fine French restaurant from local legend André Rochat has some of the best food in town, some of the best views of the town from the top of The Palms hotel tower, and some of the highest prices to go with it. If you get out for less than $100 per person you have done something horribly wrong. Most expensive: the Golden Osetra Caviar appetizer for $200.
The Mediterranean seafood specialties here are tied for the title of the best fish in town with Estiatorio Milos (see below), but with drinks, appetizers, main course, dessert, tax, and tip figure about $150 per person easily. Most expensive: again with the caviar appetizer for $350.
Yes there are over 500 items (supposedly - I didn't count) but with prices that start at over $20 for breakfast and go up from there it's still a pricey proposition to eat here. Most expensive: the most expensive dinner buffet in town at $45 per person.
Emeril's temple of worship to all things meat serves up some fantastic steaks but be prepared to pay dearly for them. Figure about $100 per person all in. Most expensive: the chateaubriand at $110. Granted, that's for two people, but still.
The Mediterranean specialties at this fantastic Greek restaurant will leave you wanting to break a few plates but hopefully they won't include those in the bill, which will easily top $100 per person. Most expensive: the prime NY bone-in strip steak at $68 (despite the fish focus of the restaurant).
In a way they have sort of disguised the fact that this is still a very expensive restaurant by making most of the menu items "small plates." They are, by and large, totally worth the prices but once you add up the bill you'll be approaching the $100 per person mark. Most expensive: the Fleur burger - Wagyu beef, truffle, and a bottle of 1995 Chateau Petrus for $5,000. Yes, that is a 5 followed by 3 zeroes.
Yes, food should not cost this much but here the cost seems totally worth it. You may only splurge like this once in your life but it will be a meal you will remember for the rest of it. You can do it for cheaper, but doing it right will cost around $200 per person. Most expensive: there are tasting menus that are more expensive but the priciest single dish is the 12 ounce Wagyu beef ribeye for $97.
There's a reason the NYC version of this classic American steakhouse has been in business for more than 150 years. One bite and you'll know what it is but be prepared for the bill, which can easily approach a buck for each year they have been in business. Most expensive: a 10 ounce A5 100% Wagyu beef New York strip steak for $320. No, that is not a typo.
This is the restaurant that started the high-priced, fine-dining experiences that proliferated in Vegas over the last decade or so. Still fantastic after all these years, the prix fixe prices of over $100 seem almost affordable in comparison to some of the other expensive eateries in town. Most expensive: the five-course degustation menu for $125.
The Italian favorite here at this Frank Sinatra themed restaurant are amazing but also amazingly expensive. You can do a full meal for less than $100 per person but not much less. Most expensive: a 20-ounce bone in rib chop for $56.
Best Restaurants if Money IS an Object
You just lost most of your money on the slot machines or had a terrible run at the craps table. Now what are you going to do with that nearly empty wallet? You can still find those $9.99 prime rib specials here and there but why not get something, you know, edible instead? Here are some fantastic, low-cost restaurants that will make you feel like you are getting more than what you paid for.
They only have a couple of items on the menu - a hot dog, a loose-meat burger, and gyros - but it is all really good and you can get a full meal with fries and a drink for under $10.
The fact that the prices are so low here seems almost like a bonus when you sink your teeth into what I still call the best sandwiches in the entire world. Hint: pay a few bucks more for the 20" large (around $12 depending on what you get) and have leftovers for days.
What's that you say? You can't make a full meal out of cupcakes? You don't know me at all, do you?! $10 will put you on the verge of a sugar coma and you will not care about things like nutritional value.
Most of the sandwiches here hover around the $6-$7 mark and while maybe not as fantastic as Capriotti's (above) they are still pretty darned good. Throw in a bag of chips and a soda and you've got a satisfying meal for around $10.
No, this place won't win any epicurean awards anytime soon but the solid, stick-to-your-ribs food comes in huge portions and it is virtually impossible to get this much for this little outside of a buffet. The most expensive thing on the menu is about $13 and that's for a full prime rib dinner.
The authentic New Orleans cuisine at this charming little bistro is amazing and downright affordable. Get a beast of a po boy for around $10.
It's still one of the best buffets in town in one of the most charming dining rooms in town and it's still one of the most affordable. $8 for lunch? Come on!
The famed LA hot dog vendor's outlet here in Vegas may not draw the epically long lines that the original does but they do have one thing in common: the low, low prices. Nothing on the menu is over $9.
When you first look at the prices of their pizzas, all of which are around $20, you may think that's pretty pricey. But then factor in that they are all 18" and easily serve three and the cost per person becomes a total bargain.
Burgers, sandwiches, salads, and some pretty good micro brews, all for a fraction of the cost you'd pay at a similar restaurant on The Strip. You can do a full lunch here for around $10.
South Strip Food Walks
The Classic American Comfort Food Walk
Start with one of the fantastic breakfasts at the reigning king of comfort food, Citizens Kitchen at Mandalay Bay. Can't decide between the banana pancakes, the delectable omelets, or the homemade sausage and biscuits? Go with friends, get them all, and share!
The World Tour Walk
For breakfast we are going to start in the deep south for the classic Gospel Brunch at the House of Blues at Mandalay Bay. Not only will the southern specialties satisfy your stomach, the foot stomping music could satisfy your soul as well.
Next it's on to Ireland with a stop at Rí Rá Irish Pub, in the Mandalay Place mall in between Mandalay Bay and Luxor. If you are still full from that big brunch, at least get the potato cakes and a pint.
In between lunch and dinner, stop at Tacos and Tequila at Luxor for a south of the border treat in the form of what I declare are the best margaritas in town. I know this is supposed to be about dining, but margaritas should be one of the major food groups as far as I'm concerned.
The Big Appetite Walk
There are no really fantastic buffets on the South Strip as far as I'm concerned but the best of them is probably the Buffet at Aria Las Vegas. It has a wide range of options and it is all well-prepared so this is a good place to start your day of binging.
For lunch you don't have to go far with the Todd English PUB at neighboring Crystals at CityCenter. Pay attention to the "Carvery" part of the menu, which puts a wide selection of meats in front of you by the pound!
You've eaten a lot of food already but don't be ashamed of the fact that you need a mid-afternoon snack. Go to Citizens Kitchen at Mandalay Bay and try to stop yourself from crawling inside the pastry case at the front of the restaurant. They will frown on that.
For dinner, you need to finally quash that big appetite with the nine course seasonal discovery menu at L'Atelier at MGM Grand. It's $159 but the amount of insanely excellent food you get will make you think you never want to eat again.
Center Strip Food Walks
The Meat Walk
Start your carnivore cavorting with pretty much everything on the menu at Hash House a Go Go at The Quad. Their signature hashes come with things like meatloaf, pork tenderloin, and classic corned beef or you could do their waffle with the bacon baked inside. Or you could just go basic with the O'Hare of the Dog - a 24 ounce Budweiser served in a paper bag and a side of bacon.
For lunch go right next door to Harrah's and KGB, the gourmet burger place from Kerry Simon. I have voted these as the best burgers in town and the meat lover will understand why when you build your own burger with a thick and juicy Angus beef patty topped with short rib "Sloppy Joe." Meat topped with meat!
For a midday snack you need to admit that man (and woman) cannot live on meat alone. You have to mix in some chocolate here and there so head over to Max Brenner Chocolate Restaurant in the Forum Shops at Caesars Palace.
Meat nirvana will be attained at dinner when you make a visit to Old Homestead Steakhouse at Caesar Palace. Not only do they have best steaks in town (and probably most expensive) but you can start your meal with a meatball appetizer. Love it!
The Sweet Walk
Start your day at the deliciously sugary Sugar Factory at Paris Las Vegas, where you could just binge on chocolate, lollipops, and cupcakes, or you could be slightly more sensible and go with something like the waffles topped with fruit and whipped cream.
For lunch a visit to the Caesars Bacchanal Buffet at Caesars Palace is in order. Yes, it's outrageously expensive but they have a really good dessert section featuring things like hand-made crepes and hand-scooped gelato.
You need a sugar rush to keep yourself going during the long afternoon so stop by Serendipity 3 at Caesars Palace for their signature frozen hot chocolate. Or if that isn't enough, get their Golden Opulence Sundae, which comes with Tahitian ice cream, edible gold leaf, and the world's most expensive chocolate. It only costs $1,000.
For dinner I'm going to finish off your treat tour with a stop at Emeril Lagasse's Table 10 at The Palazzo. They have a wide ranging menu of really good food but the thing you most want to pay attention to is the bacon with maple syrup appetizer. In a word: sweet!
The Paris to Hollywood Walk
North Strip Food Walks
The Wynn Walk
Let's face it... most of the great places to eat on the North Strip are at Wynn Las Vegas and neighboring Encore so why ever leave? Start your day with the breakfast at the Buffet at Wynn Las Vegas. The made-to-order omelets and the gorgeous, sunlit dining room will provide you with a great jumping off point.
For lunch go straight to Red 8, the terrific Asian bistro located right off the main casino floor. It has a wide variety of Chinese specialties including a great dim sum menu.
For a snack, visit Sugar and Ice, the sweet treat shop with chocolate, gelato, and more.
Then for dinner it is an evening with Old Blue Eyes at Sinatra. Do it up right with the Ossobuco "My Way," done just the way Frank liked it.
The Non-Wynn Walk
Okay, there are a few places to eat that aren't inside Wynn Las Vegas. For breakfast go to Rock & Rita's at Circus Circus. The big portions of high calorie food may not be the heart- or waistline-healthiest options but it will certainly provide you with some flavorful fuel with which to start your day.
For lunch you'll want to head up to Sahara Avenue, just a few steps off The Strip for the amazing sub sandwiches at Capriotti's. The ham and cheese is my favorite but you can't go wrong with some of their signature offerings like The Bobby - Thanksgiving on a bun with turkey, cranberry, and stuffing.
For a snack, go to the Fashion Show Mall and visit Godiva Chocolatier. If I need to explain why, you should stop reading this right now and go have a carrot stick.
Masaharu Morimoto of Iron Chef and Iron Chef America fame will be opening an eponymously title Japanese restaurant at The Mirage in 2014. It will replace the existing Japanois restaurant.
Buddy Valastro is best known as the Cake Boss from his hit TLC reality show of the same name. The Hoboken, New Jersey native will be bringing family-style Americanized Italian food to The Venetian/Palazzo this fall. It will feature big portions of Italian comfort food (think pizza, pasta, etc.) and a healthy dose of his famous pastries, naturally. It will be going into the space formerly occupied by First Food and Bar, overlooking The Strip near Rockhouse.
B&B Burgers & Bar
Celebrity chef Mario Batali will be opening his fourth Vegas restaurant this fall, also at The Venetian/Palazzo. In addition to his upscale Italian B&B Ristorante, Batali will be doing a more casual B&B Burger and Bar. Said to focus on more affordable and accessible hamburgers but with Batali's signature Italian flair, the restaurant should be open by late summer.
DBGB Kitchen & Bar
The name Daniel Boulud may be familiar to Vegas visitors from the chef's eponymously named restaurant that operated at Wynn Las Vegas for years. That place closed but Boulud is not done with Vegas and plans to open a branch of his New York City restaurant DBGB Kitchen & Bar later this year. The restaurant will be more casual (and cheaper) than the high-end joint he ran at Wynn and will focus on pub grub style food with a French Bistro twist. It will be located at... wait for it... The Venetian/Palazzo.
Guy Fieri Restaurant
Guy Fieri, the celebrity chef and TV host (of the Food Network's Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives), will be opening his first restaurant in Las Vegas this fall. The UNLV graduate will have a yet-to-be-named eatery at The Quad that will face The Strip and be adjacent to the upcoming Linq project.
Giada De Laurentiis Restaurant
Giada De Laurentiis, the Food Network star, will be bringing her cooking specialties to a restaurant in Las Vegas in early 2014 at the upcoming Gansevoort hotel (formerly Bill's and Barbary Coast).
Steve Martorano will open a second outlet of his popular Italian restaurant at Paris Las Vegas in 2014. It will go into the once occupied by Le Provencal. His original restaurant at The Rio will remain open.
Restaurant Review: Ping Pang Pong
Picked by Travel + Leisure magazine as one of the "Top Chinese Restaurants in the United States" is a pretty big honor for any eatery but one tucked into a back corner of an Off-Strip casino? That's downright astounding.
Long favored by locals and tourists alike, Ping Pang Pong at The Gold Coast is definitely one of the most authentic Asian food experience are you are likely to get in Las Vegas. What that means is that the menu might be a little challenging to people who are used to Americanized, take-out style Chinese food. This is no Panda Express with big styrofoam plates of orange chicken and Mongolian beef.
Instead what you get is a wide-ranging menu of provincial specialities including items like Cantonese Princess chicken, steamed with dry scallops; salt and pepper frog leg; chitlin hot pot (pork intestine and pork blood with fried tofu); night market fried rice with sliced beef and Thai chilies; and King Du pork chops with a sweet citrus sauce. Even the Kung Pao chicken is done with an authentic Szechwan fire roasted chilies.
Which isn't to say that the less-adventurous won't find something to eat. In all you'll find about 100 dishes on the menu - all manners of soups and starters, meat and poultry, seafood, tofu and vegetables, rice, noodles, clay pot and congee, dim sum, and more. A few highlights from our visit:
The Gobo beef is tender, juicy, and flavorful pieces of steak with burdock root (sort of similar in taste to an artichoke) and other veggies; the crispy Cantonese chicken is supposed to be served with spicy chilies but you can adjust the level of "hot" - we got ours on the mild side and it was perfect, with a crunchy, smoky skin and moist on-the-bone meat; and the chicken with black bean sauce was absolutely terrific, with generous portions of both meat and vegetables in a just-right dressing. We also loved the Chilean sea bass, which can come pan seared, grilled whole, or fried in chunks with a light batter. Really terrific and not at all "fishy."
Equally high on our list of favorites were the pot stickers, done dim sum dumpling style with a puffy, lightly seared pastry and a zesty beef and pork filling.
Speaking of dim sum, that's a lunch time favorite here with an extensive menu of traditional buns, dumplings, and more served with classic flair on carts.
Prices are very reasonable. Although there are a few entrees that approach $20, most are under $15 and a few are under $10. And portions are huge - one entree will serve two people or provide you with plenty of leftovers if you happen to have a fridge in your room.
I think my only real quibble with the restaurant was the atmosphere. The marble lined dining room is open to the loud, smoky casino and once you add in the general restaurant hubbub from patrons and the open kitchen you are left with one very noisy dining experience. Some people may appreciate it as "energetic" - we were mildly annoyed. If you're like us, you can always get take-out and go back to your room.
Although it is still astounding that Travel + Leisure found this place, it's easy to understand why they became enamored of it once they did.
Note that the restaurant is open until the wee hours of the morning in case you get a hankerin' for salt and pepper frog leg at two in the morning.
Restaurant Review: Radio City Pizza
While the nightlife scene in Downtown Las Vegas has been booming, the dining scene has been lagging behind. Although there are a few bright spots (Oscar's, Triple 7 Brew Pub, Main Street Buffet) the bulk of what you will find to eat in the neighborhood is boring, uninspired, and not all that good. That's a sin in a town like Vegas that has become a culinary destination due to the epic eats you can find on The Strip.
So say a big hello to Radio City Pizza, a new as of 2013 eatery in the Fremont East Entertainment District near bars like Insert Coin(s) and Vanguard Lounge and about a block away from the Fremont Street Experience. I know you may feel as though a pizza place may not be worth getting all that excited about, but this one really is interesting, kind of inspired, and really, really good.
It's a casual eatery with an open kitchen, a small bar, and maybe a dozen tables inside and a few outside on a sidewalk patio. There are big TVs for sports viewing and some cool retro Vegas photos and memorabilia items on the walls. As design schemes go it's a bit scattershot but who cares - pay attention to the food, not the walls.
We'll get to the pizzas in a moment but let's start, as they do, with the appetizers, a hearty mix of pub grub favorites like buffalo wings, chicken tenders, garlic knots, and homemade garlic parmesan chips. They have a couple of salads, a few sandwiches, and a make your own calzone option in case you're not in a pizza mood but if you're not maybe you shouldn't be going to a pizza place. Whatever; I'm not here to judge.
You can get the pies whole (all are very large 18") or by the slice and you can build your own from a list of about two-dozen toppings from basic pepperoni to more exotic ricotta cheese and grilled chicken.
But it's the specialty pizzas that are most worth your attention. The Viva Las Vegas comes with sopressata salami, roasted garlic, ricotta cheese, mozzarella, roasted tomatoes, red onions, and sliced banana peppers; the Radio City Hawaiian jazzes up the regular ham and pineapple with jalapenos, red onions, and cilantro; the Club has chicken, bacon, tomatoes, ranch dressing, and French fries (!!!); and the Chicken Parmesan is topped with fried chicken tenders and marinara sauce.
We sampled the crazily creative Breakfast Pizza topped with ham, bacon, scrambled eggs, onions, peppers, mushrooms, mozzarella, sour cream, and chives. It was insane in both construction and flavor, with all of it coming together in a way that shouldn't have worked but totally did.
We also tried the Fremont Meatball Parmesan sandwich and the only reason it wasn't devoured is because we had that giant pizza to contend with. In case I wasn't clear earlier, the pizzas come in one size - 18 inches - which is enough for three people and probably with leftovers.
Their size makes the price that initially feels expensive much more reasonable. The make your own versions are $16.50 plus $1.50 per topping. The specialty pizzas are all $21, but split that three ways and you get a very satisfying meal for under $10 per person. The individual slices are $3.25 and 50 cents for each topping so that's another way to go if you can't agree on the same thing for a full pizza.
Everything else on the menu - starters, salad, sandwiches, calzones - is also under $10.
Service was fast and friendly, although note that the breakfast pizza takes a bit longer to cook than the other specialties. Tide yourself over with the garlic parmesan chips until it arrives.
Downtown Vegas has a long ways to go until it becomes a true dining destination but places like this are putting it on the right path.
Radio City Pizza
Fremont East Entertainment District
508 E. Fremont St.
Las Vegas, NV 89101
Vegas4Visitors Grade: A