Once known for 99-cent shrimp cocktails and massive buffets, the Las Vegas foodie experience has changed. Today, Las Vegas has world-renowned restaurants, unique ethnic cuisine and plenty of gourmet burgers, pizza and desserts. And that’s just along the Las Vegas Strip. From Chinatown to Downtown and points in between, Las Vegas has earned its foodie reputation. This isn’t really a Las Vegas foodie guide. But it is the map to our journey and how we navigated what can be an overwhelming amount of food choices.
On our recent visit, we didn’t have time to dive deep into the scene outside of the Strip. But we did discover plenty of great Las Vegas foodie options along the Strip. Every casino has an abundance of great options. Over our four days there, we did not eat at a buffet. I’m sure there are some good buffet options, but that’s not really our thing.
We traveled with a large group of friends, and we knew we’d split off into smaller groups a lot at meal times. But we did have a couple of group meals. We wanted to have at least one group meal that included all 10 people, was food that would satisfy everyone’s tastes, have a fun and sexy vibe, and not break the bank.
First Challenge: Finding a Group Dinner
In a city with literally hundreds of great restaurants, how do you find that one perfect spot for a group meal? I did stress about this one more than I normally would. When Stacey and I travel or just dine at home, it’s pretty easy to figure out a restaurant. But when picking one that eight other people will be on board with as well was a little stressful.
Everyone was on the same page that we wanted a nicer restaurant but not one that was going to be $100 or more per person. So that ruled out the $400 tasting menu at Joel Robuchon. And as tempting as the $78 tasting menu at L’atelier De Joel Robuchon was, it still was too expensive. So we would not be enjoying the fine dining experience of France’s chef of the century at the MGM Grand. That’s OK, because it turned out the restaurant that would prove to be perfect for us was next door inside the Grand.
After reading numerous articles looking at sexiest restaurants, most romantic spots, best meals and best spots for a group we narrowed the list to Eiffel Tower Restaurant, Mix at Delano and Crush.
Crush was named one of the best new restaurants in Las Vegas by Travel and Leisure magazine, one of my go-to sources for picking restaurants on our travels. The restaurant’s small-plate menu had all price points covered. We were able to order wood fired pizzas, fish items such as octopus ceviche and sea scallop benny, meat items including angus mini burgers and lamb meatballs, and plenty of salad and soup items that are all priced in the teens. Stacey and I shared a meatball pizza, Australian lamb chops and lamb meatballs.
And since we were centered on the MGM Grand property for our stay, it was a perfect restaurant.
When I researched restaurants I discovered prices higher than what we have at home in Memphis, but comparative to cities like New York. So I knew it would be tough to find good meals at affordable prices. I do believe the Strip has plenty of options scattered about, but since our group was staying at and around the MGM Grand, the more restaurant options we could find around it the better.
Just across the Strip at the Monte Carlo we discovered a few options, including The Pub at Monte Carlo. We only had beers there, but it was on my list as a good option for dining and beverages. On the outside of the casino just along the street is 800 Degree Pizza, what turned out to be a really good dining option at an affordable price. Stacey and I had a couple of unique pizzas that were priced at around $15 each.
And next to 800 Degree was something we just couldn’t resist even though we were both full. BLVD Creamery had an endless amount of ice cream, sorbet and chocolates to choose from. I’m not a big ice cream fan, but when I realized they had sorbet made of beer and wine I just had to sample these. Even though the Oktoberfest sorbet was excellent I just couldn’t say no to the Cabernet sorbet. Yes, I had sorbet made from Cabernet wine.
One of my favorite meals of the trip came at Tacos El Gordo, a little hole in the wall taco stand up the Strip not far from downtown. We met our niece who lives in the city and after driving around awhile, I was sold on all the reviews I saw on Yelp, so we decided on this spot. And it was a winner. I’ve since learned that this location has closed, but there is supposed to be a new one opening in 2015. I hope that is true.
Just up the Strip at Planet Hollywood we discovered another great dining option for our whole group, this time a gourmet burger spot that still had an upscale feel to it but wasn’t the sexy romantic setting we found at Crush. And that was fine, as we had tasty burgers at Gordon Ramsay BurGR. We were told we’d have an hour-long wait a bit after 8 p.m. on a Friday, but ended up getting in just a few minutes later.
Stacey and I had a great meal at Portofino at The Mirage. We don’t make a habit of eating at Italian restaurants. We’re just not fans of American Italian restaurants. But I read a lot of great things about Portofino, and it was on a list of the best deals on the Strip.
Portofino was phenomenal. We were going to order a couple of pastas off the menu when we were instead offered a special tasting menu of several items by the chef. We were guests of MGM to enjoy a meal at Portofino, but the attention from the chef was unexpected.
Las Vegas is a phenomenal food destination. The casinos have all really upped their game through the years to offer world-class options prepared by some of the best chefs in the business. Yes, you will pay a hefty price for the pleasure of some of these meals. But if you’re like we were and making a first and what probably will be a rare visit to Las Vegas, I think it’s OK to splurge on a few meals. And, again, we were thrilled to find some really affordable and great options on the Strip as well.