At a Glance
What is it?
Las Vegas’ first outlet of the popular burger joint.
Where is it?
At The SLS Las Vegas on the North Strip.
What kind of food is served?
Burgers, mainly, but also some salads, some non-beef burgers, and sausages and hot dogs.
What is the atmosphere like?
Warm and energetic inside with a huge outdoor patio facing The Strip.
How is the service?
Terrific and fun, with an offbeat attitude that charms.
What are the prices like?
About typical for a fancy burger joint.
What else do I need to know?
The restaurant also doubles as the sports book so you can place a wager on a game while you eat if you’d like.
What’s the bottom line?
There are lots of burgers in Vegas – these are among the best.
A few years ago if you wanted a burger in Vegas you either had to go to the hotel’s usually boring 24-hour cafe or to the McDonald’s in the food court. Now there is a plethora of options of burger joints, most of which turn the boring meat on a bun experience into something bigger, more extravagant, and usually more expensive. I have more than half a dozen burger-specific restaurants reviewed on Vegas4Visitors.com and there are probably another dozen or so that I haven’t gotten to yet.
So why do we need Umami? Well, first, there’s a reputation to consider. There are about two dozen outlets in California, New York, and Illinois and pretty much everywhere they go they get lots of “best,” “greatest,” and “most” accolades thrown at them. GQ Magazine named their creations “Burger of the Year” and they have generated an almost cult like following from burger devotees.
They do it by upping the quality level on all of their ingredients, from the house-ground premium steak to the trademarked special seasonings to the house-made condiments to the slightly sweet, lightly toasted bun on which they are served. Then they add all sorts of fun toppings with options including shitake mushrooms and caramelized onions; truffled aioli and truffle cheese; braised short ribs; bacon lardons and onion strings; roasted tomato and butter lettuce; and much, much more.
In Vegas at the SLS now, the restaurant has a bit of a split personality. The main room is all industrial chic, with exposed brick and ductwork, lots of wood, cozy booths, some tables, and a few couches that go along with the TVs all over the place. The latter is because the restaurant doubles as the casino’s sports book so you can grab a burger and place a bet on the big game at the same time. There’s also a big outdoor patio/beer garden that faces The Strip and has a full bar. There isn’t much foot traffic on this end of The Strip right now so there isn’t a lot to look at other than traffic, but the antler-style light fixtures above the tables are kinda cool.
I was tempted to start with the tempura onion rings but decided to go all potato, with an order of the “smushed” variety with roasted garlic aoli, and their “smothered” fries topped with braised short ribs and house gravy. Both were amazing but I’ll take meat topped fries any day of the week because, well, if I have to explain why that’s amazing then we have nothing more to talk about. They provided us with some of their special sauces to go with it, including a fiery habanero sauce that brought tears to my eyes.
We went for a couple of their burgers including the Royale, with more of the braised short ribs plus truffled aioli and truffle cheese – genius and delicious. The Manly Burger comes with beer cheddar cheese, bacon lardons, smoked-salt onion straws, house made ketchup, and mustard and was as hearty and satisfying as it sounds. We also sampled the Greenbird – a turkey patty with crushed avocado, green cheese, and sprouts. Calling that a burger is kind of an affront to real burgers, but it was darned good so it was hard to argue too much.
Just in case you want to continue the effrontery, they also have an Ahi tuna burger with sprouts, gingered carrots, and wasabi tartar sauce and a vegan version with lentils, mushrooms, cheddar, jalapenos, onion strings, and more. You could also do it without a bun or with portabella mushroom instead of meat, but at that point go get a salad and leave the rest of us alone, would you?
A couple of bratwurst and hot dogs round out the menu, all with equally upscale toppings.
Oh and don’t forget about the desserts – specially made ice cream sandwiches from Coolhaus including chocolate chip and Tahitian vanilla, chocolate chip and mint, snickerdoodle and salted caramel, and more.
And if that doesn’t satisfy you can belly up to the full bar with a bunch of craft beers on tap and in bottles plus wine and specialty cocktails.
The costs are higher than McDonald’s, which shouldn’t surprise you, but are about the same as what you’ll pay at the other gourmet burger joints around town – figure about $11-15 plus another $4-5 for sides. You can do it for under $20 per person if you don’t go crazy with drinks and dessert but $25 is a safer benchmark.
The service was also noteworthy – fast and efficient, of course, but also fun and personable. Naturally they were paying extra attention to us because I was there to review the restaurant but I watched how they were treating other guests and saw the same kind of interactions at other tables so this one is getting it right.
Simply put, the burgers here are fantastic.