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CAFÉ BELLAGIO

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Bellagio

3600 Las Vegas Blvd. S.

Las Vegas, NV 89109

702-693-7111

website

$10-$30

Daily 24 hours

Diner

B+

AT A GLANCE

What is it?

A 24 hour coffee shop that moves up a few levels on the foodie ladder with interesting fare and gorgeous surroundings.

Where is it?

At Bellagio on the Center Strip.

What kind of food is served?

All sorts of stuff from breakfasts to steak.

What is the atmosphere like?

Great views of the Bellagio Conservatory and pool.

How is the service?

Very friendly.

What are the prices like?

Not bad - most items are under $20.

What else do I need to know?

There can be long lines at peak hours.

What's the bottom line?

A cut above your typical 24 hour diner experience in Vegas.

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FULL REVIEW

It used to be that every hotel in Vegas had a 24 hour eatery; usually a fairly bland coffee shop with a wide ranging menu heavy on the carbs and little else to recommend it.

The Vegas world is changing, though and several hotels have replaced their diners with more contemporary digs - restaurants that at once celebrate the all-night eating concept and upgrade it with fancier food and, often, a longer cocktail and wine list. Central Michel Richard at Caesars Palace is one such example of the new breed.

Café Bellagio is both totally old school and new wave at the same time. Although it has been around since the hotel opened in 1998, the place feels fresher than your average coffee shop partly due to the ambience and partly due to the menu.

Regarding the former, the restaurant has one of the best locations in the hotel, overlooking the Bellagio Conservatory and the gorgeous Bellagio pool area. No tacky casino views or keno boards here; it's high class all the way. And if the classical Italianate decor (think tufted walls and lots of filigree) make it feel a little behind the times, well, who cares? Which do you want to look at: the wallpaper or the beautiful people by the pool?

The menu has been updated often, keeping up with the Joneses by including two pages of specialty cocktails and wine and lots of dishes that would make a foodie drool. Mushroom tacos with a chipotle salsa; a beer-brined pork chop with mascarpone polenta; seared monkfish; a salmon burger; and a BELT - bacon, lettuce, tomato, and egg salad are just a few examples.

Mixed in with those more adventurous items are traditional diner fare. Soups including chicken noodle and French onion; appetizers like crab cakes and chicken tenders; salads; burgers; pasta; steak; sandwiches; and limited breakfasts (waffles, omelets, steak and eggs, etc.) round out the dinner menu while the brunch menu is heavier on the breakfast items (including several fruit smoothies).

I visited late - like stupid late - and was in a breakfast mood so I went with their traditional ham and cheese omelet. I wasn't up for the hash browns that come with the dish so asked if I could substitute some sourdough toast for that. The incredibly friendly waiter not only threw in the toast but he kept the hash browns on the order, too. I didn't eat them, but it was a nice gesture. The omelet itself was huge (way too much food for one human being) and perfectly textured, with fine, meaty chunks of ham and gooey cheese. Omelets are harder than they seem to be and this one was fantastic.

Prices are higher than your average coffee shop but lower than the new fancy all-night joints that are popping up. Everything on the menu is less than $20 except for the high end entrees like filet mignon and grilled salmon, which are $5-10 over that mark. By the time you add in a beverage, tax, and tip you're probably going to be in the $25 range per person for most meals.

There are cheaper 24 hour diners in town but there are few that do as good a job as this one honoring the past and moving into the future at the same time.

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