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 late night 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.)
Can you tell me how to get to Chada Street? No, seriously, I’m late and they’re giving my table away.
I was terrified coming into tonight. A few days ago I received an invitation from the good people over at Chada to their soft opening at their new restaurant. Bon Atcharawan, the proprietor of both locations, certainly established something special and I had only met him once or twice before. I constantly talk about how good Chada is (I’m sure you’re all sick of it by now) and even though I was incredibly excited, I was also terrified that I would be disappointed by my experience at the faster, cheaper location geared towards Thai street food.
Well this is a load off my mind.
I was actually incredibly excited to be able to do a tasting menu. I had never been to an event like this before so I didn’t know what they were planning on doing but I love when I can just sit down, say nothing and just have food start arriving. First up was a simple appetizer of salty peanuts with Thai flavors.
I won’t say this blew us away but it was certainly no slouch. Planters certainly has nothing on these. I would like there to be more lime leaf and onions but the citrus notes went very well with the salty nuts. It’s quite salty and would be hard to eat an entire order by yourself. Definitely a one or two bite thing for me.
They jumped the gun and brought out the spring roll next, which I was very excited for considering my love for the spicy herb spring roll at Chada. This is described as a veggie and meatloaf spring roll I had a feeling it wasn’t a normal meatloaf.
This is one of few dishes where I feel like there was a direct analogue to a version at Chada and I was somewhat disappointed. The ones at Chada are filling but have a spicy sauce to go with the pork inside. The meatloaf here is overshadowed by the extremely strong herb flavor, which I enjoy, but I would prefer if the meat itself was the star rather than second fiddle. The basic sweet and sour sauce served alongside it could not save it. A very well executed dish but I think it could be improved on.
Ever present in southeast Asian restaurants, they brought out a chicken satay next. I enjoy grilled skewered meat and was looking forward to this, though satay is seemingly an afterthought at most places because it’s so easy to do well.
Wow. Definitely the best satay I’ve had. The chicken marinade was super strong and the chicken was cut thick so it was still juicy and delicious when the outside was crisp and extremely well seasoned. The peanut sauce I could’ve eaten with a spoon. Was disappointed I couldn’t have more of this dish but unfortunately they caught me when I tried to leave the restaurant with the plate.
I was glad they restrained me though because up next was a dish that everyone could agree on…
This pork belly dish might be the most delicious thing I’ve had all year. I was expecting something similar to the Pad Kra Pow at Chada but this was a completely separate entity. Thin cut super crispy pork belly with very juicy meat and a green chili sauce with many herbs. For the purposes of the review, it’s awful to say that something is indescribably delicious but it simply was. Most pork belly dishes are very heavy but this was a light and refreshing joy to eat. We actually ended up asking for another plate later on and I could’ve easily eaten another plate just by myself. At $6 a plate, this is something I could go for and just end up eating two orders myself. It’s worth coming here just for this plate of food.
After the feeding frenzy subsided, they presented us with a banana leaf that we were told is filled with a fish curry.
The curry inside looks like a small piece of fish and I took my first bite expecting a flaky piece of fish texture, but it wasn’t there. The curry is sort of congealed like a custard. I will say I kind of missed a bit of texture in the dish but the curry itself was delicious, subtly spicy but full of flavor. The presentation adds to it but I still wish there was some variety in the texture even if it’s as simple as a bit of rice underneath.
I love larb and this next dish was very exciting mostly because I’ve never had fish larb before. It was no slouch.
There are few things I love more than grilled meat, onion, spices and lime juice. This is the kind of dish I want to die eating. Just a perfect melding of flavors and good textures. Fish goes well in larb apparently.
The next dish may have been the biggest surprise of the night, however, if only because it’s so unsuspecting.
We knew the next dish was coming before we ever saw it because the aroma coming from this plate of food was so strong, and I have a terrible sense of smell. Crab has a great smell and our table REEKED (in a good way) of crab while we were eating this dish. They called it a crab fat fried rice so I’m assuming all the oil used in this dish came from the crab and wow if that’s a thing I want more crab fat in my life. One of the all time best fried rice dishes, the only critique I could possibly levy against it is that I wish there was a bit more crispy rice involved.
I was nervous as all hell with regards to the dessert. I had no idea what to expect.
I really really really wish I could say the meal ended on an upnote for me. Two of my three dining companions really enjoyed their dessert, but I couldn’t get into half of it. The shaved ice inspired vivid memories of snow cones to me and that was fine, and the coconut jelly was better than the ones I had experienced before but the other components didn’t seem to belong to me. Especially the red beans, which had a strange texture that I didn’t particularly enjoy. Thai desserts in general always seemed fairly strange to me and I don’t think I really got ‘into’ this one. Maybe that’s my fault, who knows.
I got to meet chef Aime right after the meal. I can say with no doubt that the execution on all these dishes was phenomenal and I look forward to eating all of her food for the foreseeable future.
All in all, this was an incredible experience. Bon and Aimee very much care about Thai food and presenting it in the best light possible. Chada Street is a much more approachable place for people who have never had Thai food before and certainly won’t break the bank with most plates being less than $10. This trip definitely exceeded my lofty expectations and I can’t wait to go back and try the rest of the menu. I expect this place to be a staple for years to come.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to do some laundry to stop smelling like crab.
It’s usually good news when you have to wait half an hour to get seated at 11 PM on a weekday. This is one of those cases.
Tofu Hut is an amazing value Korean BBQ place just west of the strip on the edge of what I call Asiatown. There are a ton of Korean BBQ places but few of them are cheap and some of them have not great quality food. Tofu Hut somehow has both of those things.
They stop seating just after 1 AM but they’re open 7 days a week. So if you feel like gorging yourself around midnight this is one of the better places to go. They have a sign-in sheet in the waiting area that is usually 4-5 groups deep since they have a limited number of cooking tables inside, but trust me: It’s worth it.
We get seated, give a few selections off of their menu and a flurry of appetizers arrive. Kimchi, pickles, potato pancake, fishcakes, noodles and a few others which are delicious though unidentifiable to my caucasian brain. All of them are solid and sate my intense hunger until the meat actually arrives.
A salad is also always brought out and honestly it’s one of the better simple salads I’ve ever had. A very light and tasty vinaigrette over tiny shreds of lettuce. Definitely nice with the fatty and spicy meat and sauce to come.
One thing that makes this place really separate from the other Korean BBQ places (other than the price) is the quality of their short ribs. Typically korean short ribs (kalbi) are not a great cut of meat with little bones with lots of gristle on them. This place serves you basically a big piece of steak instead and it’s definitely the best kalbi I can remember having. Any carnivore would approve. We also ordered marinated sliced pork, a steamed egg (weird name for a great dish, definitely order it), and marinated sliced ribeye.
The actual cooking is up to you and though I don’t have a problem with that I’m sure some will. This is pretty typical for a Korean BBQ place and helps keep the price down, though to be honest I wouldn’t want them cooking it here because the biggest problem with this place is that the service is seriously lacking. Drink refills, food orders, and table cleanups happen pretty slowly and it probably contributes to it taking so long to get a table. But at a certain point, the food is so good– I DON’T CARE GIVE ME THE TONGS.
Probably worth mentioning that this place is all you can eat. Yeah.
Tofu Hut has a pointless name and not great service but is definitely a mainstay in my evening eating. It’s definitely one of the more crave-able late night meals in town and is so insanely cheap at $20 per person after tax and tip that you can justify going a few times a week. Just make sure you’re prepared for a short wait to do so.
Address: 3920 Spring Mountain Rd, Las Vegas, NV 89102
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.
When someone mentioned to me there was a really good restaurant in the strip mall that Lotus of Siam is in, my immediate thought was “Yes. It’s called Lotus of Siam.” I was hesitant to go eat what they told me is food from the UK, something that even people who live in the UK generally pretty much agree is not good. I was very happy to find that the Cornish Pasty Co is not only NOT from the UK (they are based in Phoenix with this being their first location outside of Arizona), but that it instantly jumped in my rotation for awesome cheap eats around town.
A pasty is a kind of pastry (I actually thought it was a typo and they forgot the R) that miners used to eat with a crimped edge so they could eat it and throw away the edge without having to clean their hands. I choose to use a knife and fork but if you want a truly authentic dining experience I suppose you can leave the car garage you work in to come have dinner without washing up first.
Jokes aside, they know their pasties. Check out their menu here. They have a whole section of vegetarian pasties and two sections of meat filled pasties, one traditional english style and another borrowing flavors.
Pasties aside, the place is a very chill pub. I organize a bimonthly food meetup (read more about it here), and this was the spot chosen for this week. It’s a good way to meet people and try good new places around town. One of the meetup crew this week (FOOD BLOG SHOUTOUT TO JOHN S) ordered a huge 34 oz cider which he said was likely the biggest one he’s ever had. They have a huge selection of imported beer, though they seemed to be out of more than a few of them. We also ordered some pretty good oven baked garlic chips, which would be a small portion if they weren’t also insanely inexpensive.
As for the pasties themselves, they were unfortunately also out of the salmon pasty that I’ve come to enjoy so I went for the Philly Cheesesteak. Also ordered was the Chicken Tikka. Each pasty comes with its own sauce ramekin which is actually extremely well done. Everything here tastes homemade, so if they are fooling me it is not easy to puzzle out. Each pasty is only $9 and you can actually buy parbaked ones for $6 to take home with you to finish baking at a later time, which is pretty great for a single dude who hates cooking for just one person. In terms of flavor, the pasties delivered. They tasted exactly as advertised with a nice pastry crust that was just thin enough to hold everything in and not make the dish overly heavy. They’re cut in half so it’s easy to share, and the Tikka Masala one had a nice kick but nothing that the grand majority of people can’t handle. If you were to ask me what a Philly Cheesesteak cooked in a pastry shell would taste like, this is a pretty apt demonstration of that description. For the price, it’s really hard to beat it.
I’m generally not a person who loves his sweets but this place has really amazing desserts. They have a bunch of choices but I absolutely love a well done bread pudding. This one is baked for a little bit to give it a crunchy crust and they serve it with homemade creme anglaise or vanilla ice cream. Spoiler: food coma.
4 people each getting a pasty, a few shared appetizers, several large booze containers, (DON’T FORGET THE OXFORD COMMA) and an incredible dessert came to $83 pretip. Hot damn.
All in all, this is a HUGE hidden gem. It’s open until midnight and the only obstacle to me not going here more is because it’s a little out of the way, being just northeast of the strip in a not so great strip mall. But for price (even double the price), it’s a great local spot I look forward to revisiting often.
JIMMY’S NOTE: Cornish Pasty Co has moved to a new address with later hours. The new place is beautiful and the food is still great!
Address: 10 E Charleston Blvd, Las Vegas, NV 89104
When it comes to Thai food, Lotus of Siam has always been the most lauded of Vegas’s small offstrip restaurants but it has always had a bunch of problems with it. It’s usually slammed with tourists making it hard to get reservations, it has steadily grown more expensive as time goes on, the menu is MASSIVE and impossible for first time patrons to navigate, (OXFORD COMMA UP IN THIS SHIT) and in a city known for 24/7 grub, you can never get a seating past 10 PM. Lotus needed an upgrade, and thanks to one of its sommeliers (wine nerd) deciding to open up his own place, we now have Chada Thai.
AND WHAT AN UPGRADE IT WAS.
I’m not going to pretend this is my first time here. It might be closer to my 50th time here.
Chada Thai is king of Vegas strip mall food. It’s next to a bunch of other Asian restaurants on the western side of what they call Chinatown but what is closer to Asiatown. Every complaint I have with Lotus is fixed with Chada. It’s a small, intimate space. It’s open late, with a small and easy to master menu. And even if you have a tendency to over order (not saying I do but oh dear god yes I do), it is very hard to ever spend more than $35 apiece on food alone. My particular menu choices at this point are almost set in stone, choosing between a few dishes depending on the size of our party. These are some of my staples.
I was never huge on oysters. They seem to be a lot like cheese and wine, something with a huge range and it takes a very particular palate to be able to distinguish great from bad. The snobbish eschew toppings in favor of tasting the oyster as it is, but Chada tops theirs with chili paste and fried garlic amongst other things. It’s hard not to say it’s an improvement over the base model. At $2/oyster, it’s certainly not something you could go broke over.
Their Tom Kha Kai is the best I’ve ever tasted. Large pieces of mushroom, chicken and thai basil in an extremely tangy broth. This is the perfect soup to nurse you back to health when you’re sick (mostly because it’s spicy enough to get your nose running almost instantly). If I had a terrible day, coming here and sipping on a bowl of this soup would do a good job of making the world a little better.
The Pad Kra Pow is likely my favorite dish. For a long time, I was unaware of its existence until a friend of mine told me you could make an off menu meat choice for it. When combined with the roasted and then fried pork belly, this dish hits an absolute home run. It’s a slightly spicy, thai basil infused sauce with meat with texture unlike anything you’ve ever had before. It took me probably three or four trips before I truly fell in love with it, but I cannot imagine ever showing up and not ordering it. 10/10 would pork again.
The duck Panang is probably the dish that most people fall in love with their first time. Panang is a kind of curry, but instead of the usual coconut milk, Chada uses coconut cream instead which makes a much thicker sauce which works well with such a small portion. The duck is done the same way the crispy pork is, first roasted and then fried. The result is crispness bordering on tempura. One of the most expensive dishes on the menu at $18, but it is typically the first dish in a large group to order multiple of. If you go here, do NOT leave without trying this dish.
Last but not least is the Moo Khum Waan. Among my friends, it generally remains in the middle of the pack in terms of preference but don’t let that make you think it’s anything but great. Pork loin grilled with a garlic and mint chili sauce, this is the perfect way to cool down your mouth after the more spicy dishes you’ve had before it. If you have someone with you who refuses to eat spicy food, this would be the dish to serve them. It’s also interesting to see the two drastically different ways to serve pork between this and the Pad Kra Pow.
This is just the start of the menu. There are many other dishes that I’ve left out that are worth of being spoken of. I may seem like a shill for them but they truly do represent the best of what Vegas offstrip cuisine has to offer. I’m not going to do a rating scale, but on a scale of “Don’t go there” to “Go there,” I give them a “Why aren’t you there yet?”