Las Vegas and its huge food scene need no introduction. Since the gambling destination realized it could become a global culinary powerhouse, restaurants have flourished in every direction. Yet the city’s main draw is and always will be the Strip, which pits beach resorts against each other in an endless competition to see who can make the best food. Meanwhile, passionate restaurateurs and chefs have expanded to other neighborhoods, from Chinatown to downtown and beyond, making short drives to these neighborhoods more than worthwhile for food lovers. and curious drinks. The off-Strip bar scene alone is worth the effort to find places like a Disney-level tiki lounge or a terrific Arts District spot that serves up stellar rum cocktails and Jamaican-inspired fare. Now comes the absolute best way to spend a weekend of food and drink in Las Vegas.
Friday afternoon: Momofuku
While this New York import has gained fame for its ramen and other Asian American dishes, the Cosmopolitan’s beautiful and expansive dining room is a great first meal in the city. Views of the Strip give a taste of the exciting weekend and its colorful energy to come. And the food is executed to a high standard, from pork belly buns to crispy lamb ribs with chilli yogurt. Momofuku is a good starting point because the small plates to share are good for whetting your appetite before the succession of meals. Also, while the Strip has some amazing restaurants for dinner, the daytime and lunchtime situation is often less appealing. Momofuku’s lunch menu is far less ambitious than their dinners, but the restaurant’s reasonable price and large dining room make it an ideal first stop.
Friday evening: Bavette’s
Vegas is arguably the best steakhouse destination in the country. Although it lacks the history of New York or Chicago, these two cities gladly reclaimed their top spots. Take Bavette’s, one of Chicago’s best new-school steakhouses specializing in dry-aged beef. Founder Brendan Sodikoff’s winning restaurant is upping the ante in Vegas, taking over a fully enclosed dining room with waiters in tuxedos and a raucous atmosphere inside Park MGM. Everything from the crisp salads and fresh oysters to the wonderfully charred chops is best in class. Service can be a bit gruff, which might be the only fault against Bavette, but the attitude might come from the restaurant’s always-crowded tables that require a lot of attention. Again, there are plenty of steakhouses worth visiting if Bavette is booked, like José Andrés’ Bazaar Meat at SLS or Delmonico Steakhouse at the Venetian Resort, but if you pick just one, this Chicago import is a smart bet.
Friday Drinks: Golden Tiki
Without spoiling the surprise too much, this tiki paradise tucked away in a strip mall in Chinatown is a paradise for cocktail lovers. The drinks, loaded with rum but balanced with fresh juices, are textbooks. The vibe is inspired and interesting from every angle. There’s even Dole Whip. After a few big meals, relaxing in the dimly lit tiki lounge might be the best way to unwind on your first night.
Late Friday Night: Oyster Bar
At this point, if you’re still hungry, you might have an amazing metabolism. That’s okay, because Vegas has plenty of nighttime dining destinations. The most popular, without a doubt, is the Palace Station Oyster Bar, a place that lines up for hours long after 2am. Hungry night owls are there for the steamed roasts and other New Orleans-inspired dishes served at the bar. (only for adults 21 and over, making it unsuitable for families). Come for the pan-roasted or gumbo combination, and wash it down with a crisp beer. Just skip the actual oysters, which are large in size but flavorless.
Saturday Morning Hangover: Tang Tang Tang
If the meals of the night before are not enough to absorb the revelry of the evening, there is always Korean soup to the rescue. This restaurant is quite a distance from the Strip, but modest prices and always available tables make it a hangover destination. Order the gomtang, a beef bone soup served with chopped green onions, kimchi and kkakdugi, a spicy Korean kimchi-style radish cut into cubes. Season the broth with salt and pepper, add a few modest spoonfuls of white rice, and let this age-old hangover cure come alive. Strips of beef brisket swimming in a cloudy white broth are perfect for dipping in hot mustard-flecked jalapeno soy sauce.
Saturday Late Lunch: Brera Osteria
Back on the Strip, finding a reliable lunch option can be tricky. Brera works well due to its location inside the Grand Canal Shoppes, which offers some of the best people-watching opportunities in the city. With its faux patio seating and lively energy, Brera’s menu is perhaps less challenging but still satisfying, with its mix of pizzas, salads and pastas. Starters are surprisingly good here too, like the branzino with white beans and gremolata.
Saturday aperitif: Rosina Cocktail Lounge
There is a certain wisdom in cocktails before dinner: they allow the appetite to develop. There are bars all over Vegas, but none have the intimate venue and face-to-face experience of the Rosina Cocktail Lounge inside the Palazzo. Cocktail lovers will find a tight menu of well-made drinks that would rival the best in the country, with a range of juleps, shakes and refreshing libations.
Saturday Dinner: Yellowtail
The center of Vegas will always be the fountains of the Bellagio, and many restaurants inside the Bellagio, like Spago and Lago, offer stunning water views, but Yellowtail might be the best combination of service, ambiance, and of food from Chef Akira Back. When booking, ask to go out on the terrace; enjoy the amazing views and be so close to the fountains that many shows could rain mist on the table. Then order a parade of fresh fish, sushi and premium A5 beef followed by a round of sake.
Saturday after dinner: NoMad Bar
Head to NoMad Bar, a larger version of the New York lounge located inside the NoMad Hotel (which itself is inside Park MGM). The drinks here are top notch and cost under $20, which in Las Vegas is considered a bargain these days. The Gentleman’s Exchange, a take on a classic Manhattan, comes with notes of coffee and cocoa, while an espresso martini provides a caffeinated punch to prolong the night. And there are plenty of snacks, like a bacon-wrapped truffle hot dog, in case dinner isn’t filling enough.
Sunday brunch against the hangover: Ping Pang Pong
At this point, most people will be tired of eating, drinking and having fun in Vegas – but there’s always room for dim sum, right? Ping Pang Pong is Old Faithful when it comes to tea, har gow and shu mai. Located in the interior of the Gold Coast off the Strip, this timeless dim sum restaurant is churning out diners by the minute, which means even long lines translate into manageable waits. The prices are also reasonable, which can come in handy depending on luck at the slots or craps tables.