Las Vegas, coming to the realization that millennials gamble much less than earlier generations has stepped up the rest of the Sin City experience with better bars and restaurants for us to blow our money on during a visit.
Gone are the days when we’re will to put up with a prime rib served under heat lamps at a sad buffet because we didn’t want to be a way from the blackjack table too long. Now the wealth of food options has become reason enough for us to hit up Vegas in the first place. Here are some of our favorite places to eat while we’re in the desert.
The best of this latest generation of NY chefs, who dominated the Big Apple for the past decade, are now heading to Vegas to conquer the desert. David Chang’s Momofuku empire has proliferated around the globe from Toronto to Sydney, Australia and now it’s time to go west. Stumble in to his Vegas spot late at night to feast on the one of the most perfect foods around: The pork belly buns with hoisin, cucumber and scallions that helped make him famous in New York in the first place.
WICKED SPOON AT THE COSMOPOLITAN
Pretty much every casino hotel is going to have a massive buffet where the hoi polloi to gorge on troughs of overcooked prime rib and questionable-looking shrimp. Over at The Cosmopolitan’s take on the buffet, Wicked Spoon, there’s a less-is-more ethos, where you’ll get smaller plates of food, but each of those helpings will taste much better than some of their lower-rent competitors. An added bonus is for an extra $15, you can add an all-you-can-drink option to your brunch, so you can suck down bottomless Bloody Marys and beer before heading out for an afternoon at the pool.
HERBS & RYE
Opened in 2009 in the teeth of The Great Recession, bartender and owner Nectaly Mendoza create a bar and food menu that was strong enough to survive through trying economic times. Now his creation, Herbs & Rye is thriving, being named best high-volume bar in America at last year’s Tales of The Cocktail Spirited Awards, which are like the Oscars of bars and bartending. You can get classic steaks and chops to eat here, but the main reason you’re heading to this spot is to drink some of the best cocktails from any era from pre-Prohibition to Tiki.
HASH HOUSE A GO GO
If you find yourself in need of a great breakfast or brunch, Hash House has you covered. But what this San Diego institution with three Vegas locations will really help you with is with that 4 AM meal that caps a classic Vegas bender. Stave off that hangover you’re likely going to feel at the pool later in the day with an epic plate of Snickers flapjacks and an O’Hare of the Dog, which is a 25-oz Budweiser in a paper bag that’s served with five slices of bacon.
The old, midcentury John E. Carson hotel in Downtown Vegas has been given new life by converting the 65-room spot into a bustling collection of shops and restaurants. One of the first is the Carson Kitchen, a gastropub serving filet-o-fish sandwiches, deviled eggs, oxtail and other comfort food goodness in a place that’s much more laid back than the frenetic atmosphere of the Strip.
800 DEGREES PIZZA
Vegas can drain your pockets pretty quickly, so it doesn’t hurt to save a little money where you can. But, of course, you don’t want to skimp on quality along the way. This sibling of the high-end burger chain Umami Burger has mastered the fast-casual Neapolitan pizza. The original location opened just a few years ago in the Los Angeles neighborhood of Westwood, where UCLA resides, hence it cut its teeth serving college students who are experts at stretching a buck. Order a classic like the Margherita or something a little more original, like the Zucca, which is a white pie with butternut squash, caramelized onions, bacon and rosemary oil.
José Andrés is one of the world’s best chefs. His name alone could put butts in seats at his Vegas restaurants. And when he opened a steakhouse in Sin City, he could have just stuck to the classic Vegas steakhouse model, serving you up some delicious cuts of America’s best beef, but that’s not Andrés’ way. He takes his Vegas ode to meat to the next level with some unique dishes on the menu. If you plan a little nicer night on the town with a big group of friends, order the whole suckling pig in advance. This 9-11 lb. pig can comfortable serve six to eight people and is cooked in a wood-fired oven until the skin is deliciously crispy, while the meat is still moist on the inside.
BACCHANAL AT CAESARS PALACE
A few years back, the iconic Caesars Palace updated it’s buffet with a $17 million remodel that brought it well into the 21st Century in terms of what we expect from our food compared to the Vegas buffets of old. Each service they offer more 500 dishes so everyone you’re with can get what they want, even the picky eaters in your group. There’s a seafood station with fresh oysters, barbecue area with solid ribs, an Italian area and a selection of dishes from Japan, Vietnam and China. The buffet also happens to feature some of the best fried chicken on the Strip.
When venturing away from the Strip to Vegas’ historic downtown district for some great Mexican fare. Chef Paloma Cuellar brings some of her Veracruz, Mexico upbringing to the menu like with the Pescado a la Plancha, which is a sea bass served with garlic, serranos, cilantro, tomato, olives and bell peppers. But if you’re keeping it a little simpler, there’s a selection of tacos including carne asada and breaded shrimp. La Comida also boasts more than 100 tequilas on its list, that includes tequila flights and an awesome selection of margaritas.
Jeremy Repanich is a writer and editor living in Los Angeles. Follow him on Twitter @racefortheprize.