“Nothing succeeds like excess.” If Oscar Wilde was correct, then Las Vegas might be the most successful city in the world. The glitzy casinos, the amazing shows, the expensive shopping, almost everything that defines the Neon City is conspicuously indulgent.
And the range of restaurants is no exception. There are lots of food cities made great by local specialties; think Creole cooking in New Orleans. Las Vegas is different; it’s a city where the best of American and world-wide cuisine comes together, in settings that range from simple to stunning. The hard part is choosing among them. On my roughly annual visits there, I try to hit a few old favorites and discover some new ones, and seek some venues that are comfortably grand and others that are over-the-top amazing. Here’s a sampler from Las Vegas Boulevard, b.k.a. the Strip:
Breakfast at Grand Lux Café
in the Venetian
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An enormous 24-hour diner set amid the opulence of the Venetian, Grand Lux offers reliable choices from ahi ceviche to crispy caramel chicken. It’s my favorite place in Vegas for breakfast, not only because I’ve never had a bad bite there, but also because the service is excellent and the booths are comfy after late Vegas nights. I try to go for something quasi-healthy, like an omelet with fresh tomatoes. My companion prefers the decadent, like the breakfast quesadilla with hash browns.
Lunch on Top of the World at the Strat
With its soaring spire visible from virtually anywhere on the Strip, the Strat is known for its observation deck and the highest thrill rides in America: Insanity swings riders out over the Strip and spins them around; I tried it once and might be insane enough to do it again. X-Scream repeatedly catapults riders 27 feet out past the tower’s edge, leaves them dangling above Las Vegas, and then snaps them back for more; I tried it once and don’t plan to again.
Big Shot blasts riders 160 feet high and then drops them back down; I’ve never tried it and don’t intend to. And then there’s the SkyJump: Daring adventurers leap from the top and plunge at speeds above 40 mph before stopping at the second-storey level. No. Way.
I prefer lunch on the 106th floor, at the fine restaurant offering good service, excellent food, and spectacular views from the dining area that revolves a full 360 degrees every 80 minutes.
The three-course prix-fixe menu is a wonderful choice, featuring soup or salad, tender filet mignon with either a lobster tail or shrimp scampi, and a dessert duet of creme brulée and dark-chocolate pot du creme.
And, yes, you can see sky jumpers zoom past the floor-to-ceiling windows.
Happy-Hour Hop at Caesar’s Palace
Why choose one restaurant for dinner when you can enjoy three? My companion and I love to dine serially, with small bites at several bars, rather than one big meal. Happy hour can be a gamble at Vegas hotels, but Caesar’s glories in its 12 Hours of Happy Hour:
Gordon Ramsay’s Pub & Grill: The potato-chip nachos are loaded and surprisingly generous for happy hour in the big busy British bar area.
Rao’s: Drink specials only at this upscale Italian restaurant, but the roasted red peppers with buffalo mozzarella is moist and flavorful and worth ordering from the dinner menu at the dark circular bar.
Mr. Chow: The mini ribs are tasty at this high-end second-floor Chinese place’s small bar or outside in the large lounge area overlooking the pool.
Dessert and Nightcap at PRESS in the
Four Seasons at Mandalay Bay
If you really don’t have room for the beignets with lemon curd and Nutella chocolate sauce, the sea-salt caramel brownie bars, or even the long-stem, chocolate-covered strawberries, then just sip an after-9 half-price Stella or Prosecco in the beautiful outdoor lounge area at PRESS. In decades of visiting Las Vegas, it’s the most serene spot I’ve found and a comforting respite amid excess if you, like Oscar Wilde, are “always satisfied with the best.”
A note on getting around: Las Vegas is hot, and the Strip offers little shelter from the scorching sun. Casino resorts are far apart, and taxi lines are long. I highly recommend wearing stylish but comfortable shoes and riding Lyft.