We conclude our three part feature series on exploring classic throwback elements of Las Vegas and opportunities to show your folks or role models a good time in a town eager to be fresh and cutting edge — while always embracing its history.
It’s Vegas. Let’s Eat.
I argue that Las Vegas has become the top dining destination on the planet. Paris is famous for its food. New Yorkers insist they live in the dining capital of the world, but New Yorkers believe they live in the everything capital of the world. New Orleans enjoys fantastic dining atmosphere, but the selection is more limited.
Bottom line — nowhere offers as many elite restaurants created by elite, famous chefs in such a focused, convenient environment as Las Vegas. While Vegas might look massive to visitors with some of the largest hotels on Earth bunched together down The Strip, it’s honestly a very manageable distance from Mandalay Bay on one end down to The Stratosphere (the unofficial south to north boundary lines of Las Vegas Blvd).
Between cabs, monorails and pedestrian skyways, Vegas visitors can move easily between multiple elite restaurants within the major casinos. And we’re not talking one five star joint per property. Destinations like The Wynn and Encore, MGM, Aria, Cosmopolitan, Bellagio and Venetian count multiple dining experiences forged by those same celebrity chefs you see on television.
Vegas, Dining Classy and Classic
For this features series, it wasn’t the assigned task just to wander around Sin City and pick the best restaurants. That’s been done — and, with new big name spots opening all the time, it’s underway constantly. We were operating with a theme in mind. We were seeking out the classiest and most classic Las Vegas dining experiences fit for our folks, our bosses, our mentors — for those older folks we wanted to show appreciation to or impress.
The tricky bit is classic for some diners means comfort food and classic Americana. For others, it means perfect steaks and Scotch Rocks. So, we’re breaking those up into their own categories – Classic and Classy. For classic, think quality food from simple menus and comfort meals that stick to the bones. For classy, we’re looking for waiters in pressed white shirts, expensive wine and delicate presentation.
Culinary Dropout at The Hard Rock Hotel and Casino: I’ve said it before, and here I go again: This is my favorite affordable Las Vegas restaurant for it’s unpretentious atmosphere, elite comfort food and affordable prices. Culinary Dropout the perfect destination restaurant for the Hard Rock Hotel as a tofu and free range kelp appetizer on crystal lotus leaves doesn’t fly amidst leather, denim and rock n’ roll.
It sometimes opens it big sliding doors to one of the sexiest pool scenes in the city. That might raise an eyebrow or two with your guests, but they should be too busy enjoying the ribs, the sweet, crunchy fried chicken and Yesterday’s Soup.
Holsteins at the Cosmopolitan: The Cosmopolitan is the hottest spot in Las Vegas right now for nightlife and “being seen.” It was once The Palms. Aria knocked off The Palms. Now, it’s Cosmo’s turn. With all that hip pomp and circumstance going on, it’s refreshing to find a place like Holsteins tucked away inside its thumping walls.
This HQ for wholesome burgers, gourmet milkshakes and ice cream drinks sits across the Cosmo upstairs lobby from Marquee, the highest rated nightclub in the United States and the hottest late night ticket in Vegas. Personally, let the poseurs fill up on Gray Goose and Red Bull while destroying their Tympanic membranes. I’ll be enjoying the fresh cut fries at Holsteins.
Las Vegas Buffet at the Aria: As I’ve hinted before — and as continues to be the case — there is a neck and neck race for best current buffet in Las Vegas between Caesar’s and the shrine to wonderful indulgent gluttony at the Aria. This buffet also uses the smaller, individual serving rule with its outstanding food from multiple international and cuisine-themed stations. The dessert bar alone requires a map to navigate all of the options.
While not exactly “classic” as its decor is modern and its menu international, any visitor young or old can always roll with a restaurant that serves practically everything.
The Country Club at the Wynn: A good golf course must have a clubhouse bar and restaurant. The only golf course on The Strip demands a more elaborate dining option.
Tastefully decorated in soft scottish tartans and comfortable dark wood tones with a generous view of the golf course, Chef Carlos Guia upgrades the pub food of an average club house into seafood, steaks, gourmet burgers and lighter selections at this Country Club.
Piero’s: This joint — and it really is a joint — looks and feels like it’s been around since the 1950s, though it opened in 1982. Set away behind the step and away from downtown, Piero's is a restaurant frequented by locals who really know where to eat. It’s warm, dignified and quiet with an ambiance that grew from the glory days of the Rat Pack.
It’s been there serving the finest steaks, Italian choices and traditional cocktails since then and is a joint where you and your buddies can go for a bachelor party dinner or for a classy date with a choice lady. If you’re not going to be whiney and all PETA about it, I strongly recommend any of the veal entrées.
SW Steakhouse at The Wynn: If Steve Wynn put his name on his resort, he can put his initials on the best restaurant inside its walls — and he can muscle two of his dining spots onto this list.
I enjoyed one of the finest steaks of my life at this elite gourmet destination. Situated on the same automated pond that entertains diners at nearby Lakeside Seafood, SW's atmosphere is a rare blend of sophistication and friendliness.
Thanks to Chef David Walzog, I enjoyed a meal that rivaled my all-time favorite (from Brennan’s in New Orleans) while soaking up some of the finest service I’ve ever sampled at SW. If you do stop in, try the funnel cake tree for dessert.
Tender Steak and Seafood at Luxor: Running a little under the radar, Tender is tucked under the glass pyramid of Luxor. With antler chandeliers and sturdy leather furniture, Tender has the feel of an upscale hunting lodge, but the black tie wait staff quickly unveils that you and your older guests are about to have a rich, carefree dining experience.
Five different varieties of beef from around the world offer a variety of flavors. Portions are generous and the wine list is thorough to pair with any entree.
Be sure to check out these previous installments in this series: