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Best Las Vegas Restaurants

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For those of us who make our living watching the daily mutations of Las Vegas it’s not clear when, exactly, this glitter-driven city morphed from a buffet town into Paris Beyond the Pond with some of the best Las Vegas restaurants. In fact, the city has heightened its haute bar so dramatically that one cannot keep count of the celebrity chefs in town nor their latest salon.

Until 1992, when Wolfgang Puck opened Spago, one of the best places to eat in Las Vegas, at the Forum Shops at Caesars Palace, the city was known as a chuck wagon destination. Gourmet rooms were secret lairs, smoking rooms open only to high rollers and deep pockets. The penny ante bettor settled for sandwich carts rolled into the casino. Free grub and well-watered cocktails went hand in hand with oily decks and rolling cherries.

Now designer dining is as much a part of the Las Vegas fabric as green felt. Seventeen of the best Las Vegas restaurants received a total of 22 Michelin stars in 2009. And that was before CityCenter added to the mix with new menus by Michael Mina, Jean-Georges Vongerichten, Shawn McClain, Julian Serrano, Sirio Maccioni and Pierre Gagnaire. Buffets feature dessert bars showcasing the wares of celebrated pastry chefs while sweet shops sell $25 cups of gold-flecked coffee and $5,000 ice cream scoops.

You might have to look to find them but Las Vegas still has those $2 steak and egg specials. You’ll find them blinking on marquees down the Strip and listed in those throwaway pamphlets. For others bargains you might just have to know where to go, or play a round of video poker to qualify but they are still out there and good as gold.

L' Atelier de Joël Robuchon

Neighborhood: South Strip Price: Expensive

MGM Grand likened it to winning the gastronomic lottery when they finally lured Joël Robuchon to Las Vegas after a 10-year pursuit. The Michelin-starred maestro came out of retirement and created two namesake spots at the property and presented an event in eating, if not the meal of a lifetime. His signature Joël Robuchon brings a daily degustation of up to 16 courses, each on its own personality of dinnerware and in a Belle Epoque room elegant enough to please a modern day Bonaparte. You’ll find lots of white truffles and foie gras here and each dish is packed with such fussy Parisian perfection that makes it almost a crime to consume. Adjacent L’Atelier de Robuchon offers a taste of Robuchon for the rest of us. Relatively affordable three-course prix fixe menus and a la carte dishes sizzle and bake in an exhibition kitchen behind the dining counter for a meal and a show. Whichever restaurant you choose, you will be dining at one of the top Las Vegas restaurants.

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MIX in Las Vegas

Neighborhood: South Strip Price: Expensive

Romance is the order of the day in this penthouse room run by Michelin-starred chef Alain Ducasse. The Bigeye Tuna Tartare with mango chutney and taro chips would probably taste as good served on a paper plate, but it’s heavenly under the quiet glow of 15,000 hand blown spheres of Murano glass that make up the central “champagne bubble” chandelier. Why have a broiled lobster when Ducasse is cooking curried Atlantic lobster with coconut rice? Top it off with a Mix candy bar dessert, then grab a brandy on the balcony, 400 feet above the neon strip in an open-air bar attached to this top Las Vegas restaurant.

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CUT

Neighborhood: North Strip Price: Expensive

If there is a such thing as a cruelty-free steakhouse, CUT at Palazzo would be it. Wolfgang Puck’s carefully tendered menu manages organically grown ingredients, coddled farm animals and a sustainable food approach from farm to table in a creative array of earth-friendly dishes. With Chef Puck’s kitchen wisdom and passion for culinary perfection, CUT earns its chops as possibly the finest steakhouse in Vegas, even if you don’t eat steak.
Carnivores should consider the corn-fed, Nebraska-raised and 35-day, dry-aged USDA prime cuts, the Japanese Wagyu wedges, and the Kobe short ribs for taste alone; but add to that textures that are right out of Breakstone’s or Keller’s Creamery.

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Rick Moonen's RM Seafood

Neighborhood: South Strip Price: Moderate

Rick Moonen makes seafood dining into a guiltless discovery of tastes at his top Las Vegas restaurant. He uses only acceptably sustainable sea life from scrupulously sourced vendors—and he uses a lot of yuzu, too. He includes standbys for non-fish eaters: free range chicken in white wine, grilled ribeye in béarnaise sauce and 9 oz beef filet with créme fraiche whipped potatoes. But the fish is what people come for and fortunately he has a casual and affordable downstairs dining option to put that pleasure within reach of most budgets. While the upstairs caters to privileged expense accounts, downstairs is where the fun is: raw bar shooters, fish and chips platters and flavor-packed chowders and gumbos.

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Sage at Aria

Neighborhood: South Strip Price: Moderate

Shawn McClain arose from the food-focused plains of Chicago and is known as an up and comer who refuses to be pigeonholed. Although his Custom House in Chicago proved his skills in bringing artisan meats to beef-loving midwesterners he also created Green Zebra, a chic Chicago veggie concept that launched his career. At Sage, which also happens to be one of the best Las Vegas restaurants, McClain focuses on turning seafood, beef, eggs, even sweetbreads into delectable, otherworldly creations. We love the Colorado lamb loin served with rhubarb and the Pacific yellowtail crudo made with shaved trumpet mushrooms, black truffles, toasted pine nuts. His menus change seasonally and his herbs and vegetables change weekly according to what’s fresh. Meals end with a complimentary cup of fresh hot cocoa and an option to bring on the absinthe cart.

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Ellis Island Casino & Brewery

Neighborhood: East Side Price: Budget

If you’re looking for the Las Vegas of old, venture a few blocks off the Strip to Ellis Island, a kitschy and somewhat greasy throwback. Amidst the telltale faux leather banquettes and yellowish fluorescent lighting, you can enjoy a super steak dinner for under $10. The deal is a staple on the Las Vegas Advisor’s “Top Ten Values” list and does not disappoint. In addition to the 10-ounce filet-cut sirloin, you’ll get salad, garlic green beans, choice of potato, and microbrewed beer, all for $6.95. No strings—or rolls of quarters—attached, no questions asked, 24 hours and seven days a week.

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Mr. Lucky's 24/7

Neighborhood: East Side Price: Budget

Let’s keep this on the DL, okay? It’s hard to come up with something better than Mr. Lucky’s Gambler’s Special, at the Hard Rock Hotel. Be warned: you won’t find this behemoth steak-dinner special on the menu.  You’ll have to ask for it. All you have to do is say the words “Gambler’s Special” and your waiter will know what to do. Out will come steak prepared to order, three shrimp, the veggie dish of the day or potato, and a salad. The price is all about lucky sevens, any hour of the day, for $7.77. 

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Pho

Neighborhood: North Strip Price: Budget

Deep inside Treasure Island, tucked away inside the hotel coffee shop, is an odd location to find Pho, one of the best places to eat in Las Vegas. This no-nonsense restaurant-within-a-restaurant serves the only Vietnamese fare on the Strip and is one of the few in Las Vegas to cook up homemade pho. Pho is a cheap, filling soup of savory broth made tangy from lemon grass with noodles, bean sprouts, jalapeño and wads of basil. You can order it with or without beef, chicken or fish (we recommend it with beef). The restaurant also serves fresh, cold spring rolls and other Vietnamese faves for a bill that strains to top $10.

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Wichcraft

Neighborhood: South Strip Price: Budget

Kudos to MGM Grand for landing Tom Colicchio’s designer sandwich shop and putting it within arm’s reach of the traveling public. 'Wichcraft is the Craftsteak master’s quiet treasure:  a top Las Vegas restaurant for the rest of us that provides creative sandwich plates with artisanal breads, premium cheeses and meats, and fresh, seasonal veggies for under $10.  Not even the famous Canter’s Deli in Los Angeles can promise that! Colicchio’s Gramercy Tavern in New York opened in 1994, and launched the chef’s stellar career in Craft restaurants through which he managed to earn five James Beard Foundation Medals. At 'Wichcraft find Colicchio’s adept talents at work in such choices as slow-roasted pork with red cabbage, jalapeños & mustard on ciabatta roll; chicken breast roasted with red pepper, mozzarella & pesto on grilled country bread; and marinated white anchovies with soft-cooked egg, roasted onion and frisée on country bread, all for less than a pull or two at the slots.

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Village Buffet (Le)

Neighborhood: South Strip Price: Budget

Buffets have had their comeuppance of late. Serving endless cuts of prime rib with gravy mashed potatoes and a choice of 18 solidly overcooked vegetables doesn’t cut it for an increasingly sophisticated Las Vegas visitor looking for value more than bargains.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       

Le Village has answered that call with a buffet that displays the types of dishes you would expect to see in a French eatery—whether it’s coq au vin, pot au feu, quiche Lorraine or crepes cooked to order—and dishes them out with plenty of variety. You can complement the meal with a glass of Chablis and enjoy it in a faux cobbled square complete with trompe l’oeil sky. 

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