I envision these reviews as a friend talking to another friend about restaurant recommendations. If someone asks you where to go, you don’t lead off and talk about all the bad places. You wanna talk about the best places! So first and foremost, my job is to tell you about all the best places to eat in town and, from time to time, to tell you about why I think the places that everyone else love really aren’t that worthy of praise.
These are some of my favorite restaurants serving classic American food in Las Vegas.
Vegas is a pretty new city, even by American standards. People have ideas of Vegas being like it was in the 1960s, but that’s basically as far back as its history goes. It was a super tiny town until halfway through the 20th century, and Fremont street was where a lot of the early buildings were built.
Golden Gate Casino is as old as they come. The address of the place is 1 Fremont Street and their phone number when they opened up was literally “1” (I am deadly serious). A big part of this tiny building is the diner Du-Par’s, world famous for its shrimp cocktail.
There’s definitely a reason that these things have survived the rest of time. Even after going through 4 price increases in the last few decades, these things are $4 for a huge glass full of shrimp. The cocktail sauce is a standard cocktail sauce, but something about this just feels right. It might have to do with the hokey decor of the place, which just reminds you of how many tens of thousands of people have sat in this room and eaten this exact dish which has mostly stayed unchanged for the past 50 years.
Most of the food at Du-Par’s is standard, overpriced diner food. There are a few deals if you’re really hungry, but there are 3 items on the menu that are absolutely worth checking out if you want to come to Fremont and hang out for a bit and see a bit of Vegas history. Shrimp cocktail is one of them. The pancakes are another.
I can’t say much about pancakes other than these are very well done ones. Fluffy, buttery, and unbelievably filling, it is basically impossible to finish an order of them.
Last, but possibly the best, Du-Par’s is one of the best places in the valley if you want a slice of pie. They have a person on hire to come in every day and make dozens of pies fresh, with rotating seasonal varieties. Luckily, the coconut cream pie is a staple and my god is it satisfying.
(When I remarked that half the crust was missing, they apologized and brought out another slice. They’re good people at Du-Par’s.)
You’re not going to tell stories of this place when you get back home, but if you’re looking for a dessert and some Vegas history, there is basically nowhere better to visit.
A friend of mine told me about this gaming bar that had a late night happy hour food special: $5 skirt steaks. I was skeptical because gaming bars usually have fine but usually overpriced food, but that seemed like a great deal, and 3 years later I’m still eating at Sporting Life once a week.
The menu here was designed by a former chef of Bouchon Bistro at the Venetian, a Thomas Keller restaurant. He left a year or two ago to work elsewhere but his menu lingers and it’s extremely well rounded and satisfying. There are not many entrees that disappoint.
Everyone has one of those foods that other people aren’t that into for whatever reason, but dollar for dollar the steak sandwich at Sporting Life is my favorite sandwich of all time. It’s the ultimate comfort food for me. They even started carrying sweet potato fries at my request, and the two go together so well it’s crazy. When it’s cold outside and I’m not feeling especially social, being able to sit down and enjoy this absolutely delicious plate of food is so bizarre when compared to the normal depressing experience at most gaming bars.
This isn’t a place that’s going to win any awards, but PSYCH, OH YES IT IS. It actually won Best New Restaurant AND Best Bar Food by the LV Weekly the year it opened. If you’re looking for classic American comfort food done well and for a good price, you’re home.
(PS, if you tell them Jimmy sent you, they’ll let you order some of my sweet potato fries. And tell Neal hi for me.)
It’s a little disappointing that there aren’t more local places in town dedicated to good, regional American fare. There are a lot of great ethnic restaurants in town but any places dabbling in American classics are generally in casinos and charge an arm and a leg. One favorite, however, has a nice mainstay that very few seem to be aware of and it’s a place that knows its exact clientele: Pop’s Cheesesteaks.
Pop’s is a place open 24/7 that serves cheesesteaks and fried things. This is a good thing. You can’t have a place like this that’s only open till 10 PM in a town where most nights out end when the sun is coming up. In winter. This place will never earn a Michelin star but for the price you get something freshly made right in front of you with classic ingredients made with love (and grunts) from the men working the grill. This is a favorite hangout by the media team (SUP BJ) who work at the World Series of Poker and for good reason. Good food doesn’t mean fine dining or ethnic or whatever. Good food means it satisfies you and has you excited to come back. I can’t speak to how this fares against the real Philly steak places but if you want something greasy and delicious at 3 AM, there aren’t many better places.
Specifically, I went for the cheesesteak with Whiz, peppers and onions and my compatriot opted for a chicken cheesesteak and some Whiz fries. The fries are a little thick and nothing crazy but there’s something satisfying and nostalgic about gooey Cheese Whiz. The chicken is more than just a health nut’s option, it’s actually just as good as the beef and probably a little lighter.
All told, this isn’t a place to write home about. However, if you have a car and are coming from a night of partying, staying outside in the brisk desert air and eating some quality cheesesteaks is a good experience and a good one to cap off a night in Vegas. All the above food and a few drinks were enjoyed for $25.
Up to this point, I’ve received more requests for the best burger in town more than anything else. With good reason! Burgers have huge variance and a ton of different things to do. But when I am thinking about a good burger, I don’t think about toppings. Having tasty toppings isn’t showing off how technically good your burger making skill is. When I go to a new burger place, I try to get the most boring burger they offer because a boring burger is going to show off the meat quality, how well the bun is structured and the quality of the basic toppings. That said, Bachi Burger blows most places out of the water just on these three factors.
Another point in their favor: A concise menu. A construct-your-own burger option, a bunch of Asian inspired burgers borrowed heavily from Japanese and Korean culture, and one or two that will please a more picky American carnivore. They also have some great appetizers and sides that are great twists on American staples. Including some Korean chili buffalo wings and truffle parmesan fries.
If I’m being honest, the chicken is fine but nothing crazy. This is probably the most boring of the appetizers they have but the quality is certainly fine. They’re nice and crispy, moist with a really tasty dipping sauce. The pickles are more interesting and something you can’t get at a lot of burger places.
The truffle fries, however, are something I can’t imagine not ordering every time I show up here. It is true that white truffle oil in general is complete BS but they use real mushrooms and sundried tomatoes to create the two sauces that turn these fries into something absolutely delicious. Sundried tomatoes are the best kind of tomato, truly.
For our burger selection, we ordered a “Black and Green” which is more traditional American style served with blue cheese and garlic and “Kiki’s Burger” which has a bunch of Asian mushrooms and a chili mayo. The spice level isn’t something that ruins the enjoyment of the burger for anyone who’s wondering, and going simple is absolutely not a problem because WOW the burgers are made so fundamentally sound. The patty is the perfect size, not too thick or thin. A nice char and well seasoned. I’ve never had anyone complain about how their burger is cooked (a decent boast considering they’ll cook it anywhere from rare to well done at your request) and to top it off, the bun is probably the best bun I’ve had in a burger restaurant. A really soft and buttery brioche, and somehow it prevents the absolute worst thing about big gourmet burgers: All the toppings falling out the back when you take a bite. I’ve never had this happen at any Bachi location and that’s quite the feat considering how negatively it impacts your enjoyment of the burger. Indeed, all the toppings stay where they are while you’re eating. This must be Japanese sorcery.
Generally places like these have a few throwaway desserts but I actually saw they had a cheap option for Portuguese donuts that looked too good to pass up. And I’m glad we sprung for them! At $5, this is definitely one of the best desserts I could possibly expect. 3 huge donuts and a nice scoop of homemade ice cream with a raspberry sauce. It was a very nice looking plate and honestly one I wouldn’t expect to find at a burger place.
Overall, 3 people shared an app, a side and a dessert and each got a burger and a drink for only $80. Certainly not a place that will break the bank and you can easily get out of here for under $25 with tip if you just come for lunch. There may be some people who prefer a strip burger better but all told I think you could match Bachi up against any of them and be very satisfied. And with a location now in all 3 major residential areas in town, it’s easier than ever to get your fix.
Busting out of poker tournaments sucks. Tasting menus make things suck less. So after I lost some money I decided to go with a friend to dinner at Emeril’s more traditional restaurant Table 10. The Emeril in front of this one looks fresh out of his hit 90’s tv show instead of the one being threatened beside Delmonico.
The ambiance of the restaurant is very relaxed, almost like a country club. It’s a place you could have a business dinner or a place to go after a show. It’s also a place they might be hiding Emeril’s fountain of youth because you DAMN WELL KNOW HE DOESN’T LOOK THAT GOOD NOW.
This was a true tasting menu where you get a few limited choices on what to order and they bring you small enough portions that you don’t overload by the time the meal is done. Between the two of us, my friend and I ordered completely different items and shared because if you’re going to taste a menu, taste the whole menu.
First course, I ordered a Caesar and he ordered the Gumbo. The Caesar was a weird mix between being nontraditional and traditional and I didn’t enjoy how it was mostly just one big piece of lettuce. A butter knife doesn’t cut this leaf particularly well and the dressing wasn’t well incorporated. I liked the crouton with the anchovy but probably would’ve preferred it if it were actually incorporated together the way a real Caesar is.
The Gumbo was Emeril’s classic that we had at Delmonico. It’s very good, probably less chunky than I would like with no real big pieces of meat to speak of. But the broth is extremely tasty and no complaints on flavor of the roux.
For the second course, I was very excited to order what they call the Mushroom “Vol au Vent” which is generally a pastry stuffed with meat. The mushroom was very hearty and I didn’t really miss the meat at all (“LIAR!”). The pastry was seriously unimpressive though and tasted like it had been sitting out for a long time, as if they made them all ahead of time and it had started to grow stale. Instead of collapsing and being warm in the middle, they were a bit chewy and not in the good way. Also, if you’re going to put microgreens on something, please actually put it on the food instead of leaving us to guess if we are supposed to eat it or not.
My friend Kevin spotted the candied bacon extremely fast and I was excited to see what they did with it. I’m happy to report they actually just used some extremely high quality ingredients and let it shine. We got 3 huge pieces of bacon steak, essentially, served with a very high quality maple syrup that makes me wish even more that I was born Canadian. Definitely one of the best things we tried and I would gladly come back just for this. Actually, for the price you can order it off the regular menu this might be a new thing for me.
For the mains, I decided to order the chicken with gnocchi and gravy and Kevin went for the arctic char with polenta.
It might have been the best chicken dish I have ever had in a restaurant. Most places put 0 effort into their chicken because they know only super boring people order it, but they certainly poured their heart out onto this plate. The gnocchi were perfectly made (though I am surprised to see it in such a restaurant because I don’t think they’re particularly Cajun) and the gravy was luscious. The chicken had a super thick piece of crispy skin on top and the meat was surprisingly not overcooked. I stay away from poultry for the most part because most places overcook it just to be on the safe side but this chicken was very moist and they avoided turning it into that chalky texture you get at grandma’s house during Thanksgiving. A clear star.
Arctic char is a cool fish and very similar to salmon. It’s sustainable which is pretty awesome and something I can give them extra points for, but this is one of the most bizarre dishes I’ve had in recent history. A tiny piece of fish sitting in a very rich polenta surrounded by olives. The olive aroma was in pretty much everything which for this particular dish was a complete turnoff. Granted, I’m not a fan of just popping olives like candy anyway but I don’t see what they were going for here exactly. The fish was well cooked and had crispy skin and the polenta was rich and tasty but I couldn’t take a single bite without tasting olive. Also, that fish portion is seriously small. It was probably 1/6 the amount of meat if not less than the chicken on the other plate and is significantly less satisfying.
Kevin ordered green beans. Here’s a picture.
Emeril is apparently quite known for his Banana Creme Pie and I am a fan of pretentious french spelling of the word ‘cream.’ so I figured we had to pick that one. I’m also a big fan of carrot cake and was very happy to find that it was the best carrot cake I’ve had in recent memory. It came with candied pecans that offered a very nice crunch to go with the soft and moist cake which is always a pleasure to find in something that you expect isn’t going to have much texture contrast. The banana cream pie was very solid but to be honest I think it suffered from having very large banana slices in it which offered a texture contrast that just wasn’t nearly as pleasure to experience. The caramel on top was great though and I certainly wouldn’t complain about having this served to me at the end of any nice meal. Both slices were huge though and I didn’t technically finish either one (Don’t believe Kevin, he’s a liar.)
There are a lot of great tasting menus around town that may run you well over $100 but tonight we enjoyed all the above dishes for the very fair price of $65 each after tax/tip. If you’re ever at the Palazzo and want a meal that isn’t going to break the bank this is likely one of the better options. I should bust out of poker tournaments more often.
Address: The Grand Canal Shoppes, 3327 S Las Vegas Blvd, Las Vegas, NV 89109