Unlike Italy, which is known for its pasta and gelato, or Mexico, home of tortillas and tequila, Las Vegas is not a hub for any particular culinary plate. That’s certainly not to say, however, that Sin City isn’t known for its food. In fact, part of Las Vegas’ appeal is its diversity when it comes to culinary choices, with well over a thousand different dining options, many of which are located on the four-mile stretch of Las Vegas Boulevard known as the Strip.
When you visit Las Vegas, there is no specific meal you absolutely must have in order to authenticate your trip. Instead, consider indulging in one of these dining experiences, all of which, in some way or another, help to define the indefinable Las Vegas.
If Las Vegas is known for anything when it comes to food, it is the buffets. These extravagant spreads of food are located in nearly every hotel and include everything from salads and soups to design-your-own omelets, customized smoothie stations and fine cuts of beef and seafood.
Though some would say that eating at a buffet is expensive (upward of $40.00 per person for dinner), especially on holidays, Las Vegas companies have realized the draw of these create-your-own-meal options and now offer clever ways to entice customers. At Harrah’s properties, for example, you can enjoy all-you-can-eat opportunities at seven buffets for 24 hours starting at $39.99.
So which buffet is best? The jury is still out on that debate, but the Carnival World Buffet at Rio and Buffet Bellagio frequently float to the top of the lists. For Sunday brunch, most people agree there is no better buffet than the delicious offerings at Simon at Palms Place.
Award-winning restaurants and celebrity chefs
Though Las Vegas’ weak economy meant that no Michelin guide was created for the city in 2010, that doesn’t mean the cuisine is any less impressive. In 2009, 16 restaurants were awarded a total of 21 stars, including Joel Robuchon, the only three-star restaurant in the city. Alex, located in the Wynn, has received accolades from Forbes (formerly Mobil) Travel, AAA and the James Beard Foundation among others, and that restaurant is just down the hall from Wing Lei, another multi-award-winning dining establishment that is often coined the best Chinese restaurant in all of Las Vegas.
One of the best things about Las Vegas, however, is that dishes by well-known chefs are not only for the rich. Celebrity chefs such as Wolfgang Puck, Kerry Simon and Mario Batali all have restaurants that are relatively affordable to the average traveler. These three chefs, and others like them, frequently walk their dining rooms, just to inquire about the experience and food.
Mixology and alcohol
Las Vegas has a rich cocktail culture, and many Las Vegas properties have a mixologist on staff. With every beverage menu vying for your attention, restaurants, lounges and bars have to be clever when it comes to creative alcoholic concoctions. Have your drink served up with style when you visit a handful of bars in the Vegas valley known for their flair bartenders, including Carnival Court at Harrah’s, Ghost Bar at the Palms, Kahunaville at Treasure Island, Studio 54 at MGM and Voodoo Lounge at Rio.
Some places specialize in a certain type of booze, such as Blue Martini, which has more than 40 different martini drinks, and there are numerous tequila bars, which specialize in margaritas and all things south of the border.
The classic Las Vegas alcoholic specialty, however, are the slushy, fruity drinks, which you can buy for just a few dollars to haul around the Strip. These refreshing but sugary beverages are served in souvenir cups shaped like the Paris balloon and Eiffel Tower as well as guitars and three-foot long tubes. Don’t expect to get by so cheaply in the nightclubs, though, where you’ll likely pay hundreds of dollars for a single bottle of booze.
Old-school Vegas diners
Despite the countless new restaurants that pop up in Las Vegas every single year, there are still a handful of Las Vegas diners that have been around longer than just about every resort on the Strip. The Shrimp Bar & Deli at Golden Gate Hotel & Casino located on Fremont Street, for example, was the dining establishment that introduced the shrimp cocktail to the Las Vegas casino scene. More than 30 million have been served since 1959, and for $1.99 you, too, can sample this classic Vegas tradition.
Perhaps more iconic is the Peppermill, which is located on the north end of the Strip. A restaurant by day and lounge by light, the Peppermill has been serving up breakfast, lunch and dinner for more than 30 years on Las Vegas Boulevard. With generous portions of food and retro interior design, the restaurant is kitschy but fun as well as a local favorite. The adjoining fireside lounge, which has been featured in several films and television shows, has friendly cocktail waitresses and plenty of exotic drinks on the menu.
No world-class meal is complete without a decadent dessert to finish it off. In the Venetian’s Valentino, order a cool mint soup and warm chocolate ravioli. At the Stratta, located in the Wynn, there is a chocolate toffee cake with layers of dark chocolate cake, hazelnut crisp and milk chocolate espresso mousse … all covered in chocolate glaze and sprinkled with 23 karat gold leaf.
If you’re looking for a little something to cool off a hot summer night, then stop by Serendipity 3 at Caesars Palace and order one of its famous frozen hot chocolate beverages/desserts to enjoy on the outdoor patio. For something a bit richer, order the $16.00 chocolate cake, which consists of 12 layers of chocolate cake, 11 layers of chocolate filling and a final layer of chocolate ganache. Both desserts are big enough to share with several other people.
If money isn’t an issue, then indulge in yet another treat available from Serendipity 3: The $1,000 ice cream sundae dripping in gold leaf. Made with Tahitian vanilla ice cream, a variety of exotic fruits from South America and Venezuelan chocolate, the golden opulence sundae is a dessert that is just about as gorgeous and over-the-top as they come.
What are your favorite things to eat in Las Vegas?