ELV note: Before we continue to list the Top 50 Essential Restaurants of Las Vegas, our staff suggested we say a few words about the standards and methodology we are employing.
Put another way, they suggested we give you a brief look into the palate-parsing predilections and prejudices of ELV, in order that you might suss some sense and sensibility out of our serialization of our fundamental foodie favorites.
The Top 10 are the ne plus ultra of restaurants in our humble burg. They are the elite, the best of the best. Food, service and decor on par with any great restaurant in America, with prices to match (except for Raku/Sweets Raku – which remain a flat-out bargain). To crack the Top 10, a restaurant must be consistently excellent, almost flawless for a substantial period of time — with technique and ingredients providing a world-class experience.
The Second 10
Our 11-20 spots are reserved for places that almost as excellent, but not quite as over-the-top as the Top 10. Think of it as the difference between an A+ and an A-. They are definite foodie favorites; iconic in their own right (or soon to be) and must tries for anyone looking for a superior supper in Las Vegas.
The Third 10
Spots 21-30 are what the New York Times rating system would list as 2 star joints — full service restaurants (mostly) where the cooking is superior to other places of similar intentions. Some of them are good but used to be great, or simply the best that Vegas has to offer of that type of experience. This category will showcase more than a few old favorites that are starting to show their age (or a distinct lack of imagination in the kitchen). But even if they’ve lost their fastball, the kitchen can still nibble at the corners, and we can’t quite say they are less than “essential.” For the record, these picks will be the ones that (we guess) will inspire the most vitriol, vituperation and vehemence among our “regs” as in: How in the hell can you consider __________ “essential” since the chef hasn’t had an original idea since 2005? “Yes,” we will reply, “but even their old ideas remain good ideas.”
Our final 31-50 selections are more of a free for all, with all sorts of foodie favorites in all sorts of guises. It might include a simple taco stand, or the best gelato in town, or a one-dish specialist that blows your socks off. Or, it might simply be a restaurant we don’t think Las Vegas can do without. Either way, the places we list will be spots that any true gourmet, gourmand, epicure or gastronome should consider essential if they are truly going to get a taste of our town.