Everyone knows ELV loves restaurants. That’s why he’s been obsessing over them for 50 years and writing about them for 22.
ELV — the man, the myth, the inveterate fresser — first fell in love with restaurants when he was a mere tadpole of 6 — when his mum and dad would take the family every Sunday for breakfast at Ronnie’s in Orlando, Florida.
We used to sit (all six of us) at a booth right inside and to the right of the front door. (People watching was my parent’s favorite sport, and boy, did we ever get an eyeful every weekend.) I can still taste the fist-sized, house-made pumpernickel rolls — dark and sour, loaded with finely-chopped, melted onions, tri-folded into the dense, chewy dough. Dad used to buy them back the sackful to take home, and one of my first food epiphanies came from unfolding the roll and stuffing it with rare roast beef (that dad also brought home from their deli counter).
(I even remember going off into a little corner of our house, or sitting on our sofa alone while doing this, the better to enjoy the savory-sour marriage of soft bread and beef all by myself. To this day, when I’m really hungry and there’s something really good to eat in the house, I enjoy sitting off in a corner by myself, enjoying it in the most primal and infantile sort of way.)
Nothing beats eating alone sometimes, just as nothing can compete with watching the human comedy pass by, over good food, good company and the ones you love.
(As usual, The List* contains all of those places at which we’ve dined over the past few months. All places are highly recommended, unless otherwise noted.)
Omelet House (Terrible with a capital “T”.)
Yuzu Japanese Kitchen
Andiron Steak & Sea
DJT (Some remarkably good food, in an old-fashioned, Miami Beach-like lobby, with some killer seasonal specials. Put aside politics and dig in. Just try to forget where the money is going.)
THE Steakhouse at Circus Circus
Charlie Palmer STEAK
Standard & Pour
Itsy Bitsy Ramen & Whiskey (Ramen that’s gone from decent to terrible, with the worst whiskey list since Whiskey A-Go-Go .)
Gelatology (Best. Gelato. In. Town. Period.)
Mon Ami Gabi
Du-par’s (Get the pancakes. Or the patty melt. Or a slice of pie. Skip everything else.)
Art of Flavors
Rick’s Rollin Smoke BBQ (I wouldn’t eat here with Al Mancini’s palate.)
The Smashed Pig
El Sombrero Mexican Bistro
Halal Guys (Inexplicably popular food at unbelievably low prices for undeniably dumb Yelpers. I guess that explains it. I wouldn’t go back here if the food was free. Because that’s what it tastes like. Cheap ass, free food.)
Chicago Joe’s (No one gives a shit anymore and it shows.)
Harvest by Roy Ellamar
Spartina (In L.A., I know, but worth a drive just for Stephen Kalt’s fabulous pastas.)
Emeril’s Fish House
André’s (Au revoir to a French classic.)
Goong Korean BBQ
Hobak Korean BBQ
Magal Korean BBQ (We ate multiple times at all three of our new, upscale’d Korean ‘cue joints, and Magal gets our nod as the best of the bunch.)
Delices Gourmands French Bakery and Cafe
Yui Edomae Sushi
EATT Healthy Food (Eat. Here. Now. For the healthiest French food in town.)
L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon
Beer Park (For lover’s of serious suds and serious bar food. Even Budweiser tastes better here. Go figure.)
The Perch (Everything tastes like it came out of a freezer bag, because it probably did.)
Lotus of Siam
(That’s 66 restaurants in 90 days if anyone’s counting.)
Yep, ELV loves restaurants like vanilla loves fudge, like peanut butter loves jelly, like Donald Trump loves grabbing cats.
It started at a very young age and has continued right through into our sixth decade of life.
We love restaurants for their theater, for people, for the food, and for the civilization they represent. But mainly we love them because they remind us of that little boy, sitting in a big, semi-circular, low-backed booth on a late Sunday morning with his family, waiting for those pumpernickel rolls to show up, while his mom and dad made him the happiest kid on earth.
You know who never gets Labor Day off?
Chefs. And cooks. And bar backs. And dishwashers.
Nope, they never get three-day weekends. (Well, maybe they do, but not like the rest of us.)
Especially on Labor Day. And especially in Las Vegas (Nevada, not New Mexico).
Because over 315,000 hungry souls invade the High Mojave this weekend looking for fun, sun and sustenance.
And someone has to be working their tails off to feed them. From our vaunted frog ponds to the lowliest buffet, our restaurants will be humming today.
Labor Day also kicks off “The Season” in our humble burg — the time of the year when the bargain-hunting day-clubbers leave, and every conventioneer, honeymooner, bevy of bachelorettes:
….and high-roller in da woild descends upon us, looking for whatever their version of “fun” is.
And, as we said, they all have to eat and drink.
And spend a lot of money doing it.
So, on some level, all those restaurant workers are probably not that unhappy about slaving away at the stoves today, because the living they make at it is probably better than it is in almost any other city in America.
Still though, they’re working today and you probably aren’t, so hats off to them: the good folks who feed us (and 42 million visitors a year), so well.
While we’re at it, The List*:
Ferraro’s Italian Restaurant and Wine Bar (Great food, greater than ever, even greater wine list.)
Hachi Japanese Yakitori Izakaya (Just opened – yet another izakaya around Spring Mountain Road – worth a look.)
Mothership Coffee (Get the coffee; use the pastries as a doorstop.)
PublicUs (Coffee and pastries don’t get any better around town.)
Here it is food fans: our inclusive, independent, infallible, indispensable, indomitable, inevitable, individual, incorruptible index of Las Vegas 50 most “essential” restaurants. It represents our educated opinion of the best food and restaurant experiences Las Vegas has to offer, in descending order of importance to our food scene.
Put another way, these are the restaurants I would take another food writer, gourmet, world-class chef, or ardent food fan to if they asked me to take them on the ultimate epicurean tour of Vegas, and we had a month to complete the task. (For those of you who are wondering: every one of these places has been visited multiple times by yours truly. Many of them have fed us at least a half a dozen times, and in ten of them we’ve eaten more meals than we can count.)
Readers of the last printed edition of this title, will notice that 21 of the 50 entries are new — that’s how much our food scene has changed since we released the 2013 edition in November, 2012. The year ahead may be a quieter one as far as new openings are concerned, but don’t bet on it.
There may finally be enough interest (and affluent warm bodies) downtown to finally give that area some traction in the finer foods department (thank you Kerry Simon), and the venerable Strip hotels are going to be upping their games now that some of their stores are starting to show their age (are you listening MGM and Caesars?) Smaller hotels with a few, top flight offerings seem to be the wave of the future (à la the SLS), although Resorts World might be a behemoth that changes the game the way the Bellagio did in 1998.
All of us at Eating Las Vegas hope this will be the start of a tradition — that of releasing our 50 Essential list every Nevada Day/Halloween. We will be updating some of the reviews throughout the year, and you can look forward to our “new look” Web site coming on-line within the month, which will make accessing the 50 Essential much easier, as well as all past and current content.
In the meantime we will continue to give you Las Vegas’s only erudite, incisive, unfettered and un-compromised opinions on its restaurant and dining scene….and never forget that we at ELV stand by our ELV Guarantee: All Opinions Right Or Your Money Back!
THE TOP 10
THE REST OF THE BEST
12. China Poblano
13. Julian Serrano
16. China MaMa
18. Le Cirque
19. db Brasserie
20. Giada – The Restaurant (on Earth – The Planet)
23. Carson Kitchen
25. Lotus of Siam
26. Michael Mina
29. Bazaar Meat
30. Eiffel Tower Restaurant
32. Due Forni
35. District One
36. Chada Thai
39. Sen of Japan
40. B&B Ristorante
43. Mint Indian Bistro
44. Marche Bacchus
45. Ku Noodle
46. El Sombrero
47. Desnudo Tacos/47.1 Rodeo Tacos Barbacoa estilo Hidalgo
48. Zen Japanese Curry
49. The Goodwich
50. Art of Flavors
Honorable mention: Delmonico; Chocolate & Spice Bakery; La Comida; Wing Lei, Botero; Katsuya by Starck; Honey Salt; Prime; Table 10; Mundo; Comme Ça; Top of the World; Aloha Speciaties; Soyo; O Face Doughnuts; Bin 702; Border Grill; Tacos El Gordo; Buddy V’s; Herbs & Rye.