A friend of mine posted to her Facebook status that she was going out to Las Vegas for the first time and wanted to know what she should do/see while out there. The problem with this question is that it doesn’t take into account our own personal preferences and how we define a “good time”…although that is certainly available for the right price—and to your room in 30 minutes or less!
But regardless of your tastes, I believe there is the quintessential “Vegas Vacation” which must be seen at least once, particularly if you don’t intend on going back 3-4 times per year as this humble blogger boasts. There are my recommendations on things you should do on your maiden trip:
Vegas is a city of decadence and it’s a-plenty in this fantastic city. The great thing about this town is that you can eat for a inexpensive or as elaborate as your palate (and wallet) can afford.
Buffets: Gone are the days of the 1.49 cent buffets where you can’t tell the difference between the blue and the yellow pans of food. What was once a staple of cheap food for cheap prices have gone the way of the Dodo! Now you can choose from a fabulous spread of expensive meats, cheeses, desserts, etc etc…but be prepared to pay for it. Buffets are going to run you between $20-$50 per person, depending on where you dine. But if you do it right, you can make the meal cover two eating sessions so you’ll only need a lite dinner in the evening. Conversely, eat later in the afternoon and you’ll be good to go til the next morning.
So what are my “must haves” when I’m out in Vegas? You can never go wrong with the Bellagio breakfast buffet. This is my wife’s favorite place to nosh and I can fully understand why! The spread is second to none, especially if you like breakfast food! Between top notch omelet stations, phenomenal carving stations and the freshness of it all, you should enjoy this buffet during your first morning in town. One fore-warning, the scrambled eggs are terribly runny. It’s the only disappointing thing about the buffet, so take your eggs from the sides, not the middle of serving tray. Another buffet I’ve enjoyed is the Wicked Spoon at Cosmopolitan. Now, I’ve only eaten here once (but it was a great experience) so it’s possible for the quality to wan over time. That said, right now, it’s fantastic. If you go for the lunch and they still have breakfast at the stations, try the bacon. Not the carved bacon but the actual strips of bacon which have been cooked to perfection. Absolute perfection. They were a perfect level of crispy and I had to have clogged a good 30% of my arteries from this strips of heaven. I would like to give a quick shout-out to Red Rock casino and its buffet. This is yet another great eat, if you have a car or don’t mind a $25 cab ride off the Strip. I usually do have a rental car and will make the 20 min drive out to Red Rock for their buffet. It’s especially inexpensive if you have one of their player’s card (and you should just as a matter of habit). When I was last out there, they were doing a deal of BOGO with a players card.
But what if human pig-troughs just aren’t your thing? What would I recommend for a sit down? Again, it depends on your budget and what you’re comfortable spending on one meal. Granted, I enjoy a plethora of adult beverages with my meal, in addition to appetizers and desserts. You could get out of some of these restaurants if you skipped the alcohol (Boo!) and Apps/Dezzies…but it’s Vegas, why would you?
So which “sit-downs” would I recommend you try your first trip out? Let’s divide it into two categories, those which would bring your per person tab in under $30 and those where you’re looking at over $30.
- Earl of Sandwich—located at Planet Hollywood, this hot sandwich shop (and I mean both temperature and trendy) is a new found favorite of mine, but it’s not a secret to most people. I’m embarrassed to say it took me approximately 12 trips over 5 years to discover this treasure, and it was only through the podcast Five Hundy By Midnight that I even learned of it. It’s a great place for sandwiches and I daresay you’ll get a sandwich, side and pop for under $20. You must eat here.
- Mon Ami Gabi—located at Paris, it has a beautiful location to sit and watch the Bellagio fountains (another attraction you must see, so kill two birds with one stone). Mon Ami Gabi is a French bistro with an outside dining area where you can people watch like nowhere else. I’ve been there for lunch, the portions are appropriate for their price and (again, sans alcohol) you can get out of there under $30 and probably closer to $20.
- BLT Burger—located at Mirage, this place is Holy Hell, Yum-tastic! Their burgers are made to order, they can do them in ways I never was creative enough to think of. And in a quality beer with your burger and fries and you’ll still barely reach your $30 marker. Service was excellent despite how busy it was and they were doing a fantastic job of getting people in and out without feeling rushed, so don’t let the long line which formed fool you.
- Sinatra—located at Encore (sister property to Wynn), you MUST go there and you MUST have a Sinatra Smash. This cocktail contains whisky and I usually don’t like whisky…you will, I promise. This restaurant is Steve Wynn’s homage to Frank Sinatra and he spared no expense. When you first come in you will see Frank’s Oscar for Best Actor in a Supporting Role…how cool is that? There are pictures of The Chairman all over the place, some signed, one with Steve Wynn—just a blast to see. The food is tilted toward Italian (duh, it’s a Frank restaurant) but there is something here for everyone. Dine, take in the music, feel like a member of The Rat Pack for two hours…time well spent in Vegas, no?
- BOA—located in the Caesar’s Forum Shoppes, this restaurant is only worth dining at if you can get a table outside on the balcony. Granted, I have an axe to grind with this place, I’m still willing to give them the spotlight they deserve. My then-girlfriend (now wife) first dined out on the balcony and fell in love with the view. So when we brought our party of 15 out to Vegas for our wedding, we booked the balcony for our rehearsal dinner. The young lady answered the phone, took the reservation and confirmed our request for the balcony…a good 30-45 days prior to the scheduled dinner. The night of the dinner arrives, nope, we’d been bumped from the balcony for some other event. Had I known even two hours sooner, I would have cancelled the reservation and taken us to either the Eiffel Tower restaurant at Paris or SW Steakhouse at Wynn. But I figured it was easier to talk my fiancée down off a proverbial ledge than try and finagle 15-ish people to a new location at the last minute. That said, the food is tasty but it’s the view on the balcony which makes the cost of the meal a true value. Eat here your second night in town.
- Eiffel Tower—located at (where else) Paris Las Vegas. This place gives you almost a 360 degree view of the Strip. A traditional steakhouse but it’s the view you’re paying for. Totally worth it. It’s a dimly lit place and they don’t allow shorts, sandals or going sockless so be prepared. I kinda wish more places implemented this policy.
- SW Steakhouse/Prime (Tie): SW is located at Wynn [hence the initials of Steve Wynn] and Prime is the Bellagio steakhouse. I’ve eaten at both, each offer their own benefits. Prime is great if you can get a seat near the windows to watch the fountains, much closer than what you got to see at lunch at Mon Ami Gabi. SW has its own Lake of Dreams or something somewhat hokey. The inflatable frog is something to behold, so are Wynn’s floating balls. If I’ve piqued your interest to find out exactly what I’m talking about…you’ll get a great meal while finding out.
This is certainly not an exhaustive list of places to eat in Vegas. I would certainly give a shout-out to Rio’s Carnival World buffet, Bally’s steakhouse, Mirage’s buffet and Flamingo’s Burger Joint to name just a few places I’ve eaten and out eat at again without question. But these are places I would save for my second trip.
What places are your MUST EATS for a newbie Vegas visitor??