Is a proper sit-down lunch in Las Vegas as obsolete as Wayne Newton?
Well, yes and no.
Las Vegas is a different kettle of fish from other gastronomic destinations. Here, thousands of tourists create their own kind of midday meal boom, and the noon hour is when many of them are waking up, or roaming a convention hall. Because of this, many of our best restaurants are closed for lunch — the thinking being that tourists are either sleeping, shopping or too hungover to be bothered. Hard to argue with that logic.
Thus are the lunchtime pickings slim unless you’re in the right hotel, or close to downtown, or within a chopstick of Chinatown. Out in the ‘burbs it’s positively depressing, as almost nothing but franchised food exists to satisfy your afternoon cravings.
But if you’re looking for a good lunch you’ve come to the right place, pilgrim, because yours truly is the king of the midday meal. My 3-hour liquid lunches are legendary, and the best places to grab a plate of tasty vittles are always on my radar when those hunger pangs strike around 11:30 am each day.
For the sake of this post, I’m going to divide my lunches into two categories: power lunches and foodie favorites. The first is for those quiet business meetings that are always more digestible in a nice setting. The second are establishments (some more exotic than others) where the food takes precedence over the decor.
Put another way: the first group is where I go for my big deal meals, and the second is where I eat every day when the sun is highest in the sky.
(Nothing says “power lunch” like a blizzard of white truffles)
Cipriani – The day it opened it was the place to be for hi-falutin’ meetings, or just to munch on some of the best pastas in town. The top-shelf service is the equal of those noodles, and makes everyone feel like they’re in a Cary Grant movie.
Capital Grill – A chain steakhouse but a great one, with white tablecloths, good service, decent beef, and nice lunch specials.
Ferraro’s – Movers and shakers aplenty populate these tables at noon. Most of them are too busy with business to notice how good the food is.
Old Soul – Quiet, secluded, a bit dark and very cozy — the perfect place to conduct a hush-hush meeting (or an affair) — although some of us prefer to concentrate on Natalie Young’s fried oysters and superb soups.
(Icelandic cod “Hong Kong” style at Spago)
Spago – Beautiful setting; fabulous food; lots of dudes in suits. Also lots of terribly dressed tourists. Pay neither any attention and concentrate on your fish dish (above) or a wienerschnitzel straight from Vienna.
Eiffel Tower Restaurant – Dinner is packed with young couples celebrating their starter marriages. Lunch is calmer and less delusional.
Delmonico – Great steaks, luxurious surroundings, an awesome burger, and a world-beating wine list make for a hushed, elegant midday repast. It’s never crowded and the food tastes the same as dinner…only the prices are easier to swallow.
Top of the World – Way too touristy for anyone who isn’t a tourist, and the food isn’t in the same league as the view, but the view is spectacular. As with Mon Ami Gabi, it’s harder to get to than a Himalayan ashram, but the payoff is worth it.
Morel’s – Morel’s flies under the radar, but it’s my first choice when a group of hungry guys ask me where they should chow down at noontime.
Marché Bacchus – Al fresco dining so nice you’re liable to forget yourself and spend the afternoon drinking bottle after bottle from its wonderful wine list. But enough about me.
(Don’t flounder, clam up, or shrimp from your duties – take your grouper to Milos for lunch )
Estiatorio Milos – Fresh off the boat fish (above) that doesn’t cost a fortune between 11:30-2:30, as long as you stick to the lunch specials (around $30/pp). Always as packed in tight as those fish, so go early or reserve ahead.
Veranda at the Four Seasons – a South Strip staple where the elite meet to eat.
(Sea bass en croute at EATT)
Mon Ami Gabi – It’s a pain in the ass to get to (unless you’re staying on the Strip), but the steak frites and people watching are worth the walk.
Esther’s Kitchen – Downtown’s favorite lunch spot is too loud at peak times, so go after the gold rush…around 1:00.
EATT – Shhhh, don’t tell anyone, but in some ways I prefer the lighter, healthier fare here to that of its fancier sibling Partage.
Lotus of Siam – It’s easier to get a table at lunch, before the crowd of idiot Instagrammers (and those that heard from someone who heard from someone who heard from someone that it was good) has descended.
(Pristine and very Japanese)
Raku Sweets – Only open on weekends for lunch, but everything from the potato salad to the omelette to the tomato soup (above) will blow you away. The pastries are in a league of their own.
7th & Carson – New chef Sammy DeMarco is set to bring this place into the spotlight.
China Mama – A steamer full of xiao long bao is just about the perfect noontime nosh.
Carson Kitchen – This downtown pioneer hasn’t lost its (food) fastball. The noise level is deafening, however.
Mordeo Boutique Wine Bar – Just started opening for lunch a few weeks ago and it’s a killer…with a not-to-be-missed dry-aged burger (above).
Mabel’s BBQ – More relaxed at lunch, which also gives you the rest of the day to digest those ginormous platters of smoked meat.
Jaleo – I sometime forget Jaleo is open for lunch; I’m glad I forget because otherwise I’d be here all the time.
New Asian BBQ Tang Kung Ky – My new go-to for superior dim sum on Spring Mountain Road.
Shang Artisan Noodle – Hand-pulled noodles straight from Taiwan, by way of UNLV (the owner is a graduate).
(Small but mighty – Trés Cazuelas)
Trés Cazuelas – The newest spot on my lunch rotation (above); Angelo Reyes seamlessly combines Latino cuisines in a tiny restaurant that punches way above its weight.
Santos Guisados Tacos & Beer – Best. Tacos. In. Town. Why do I have to keep telling you these things?
The Goodwich – Sometimes, only one of these hand-tooled sandwiches (below) will do.
That should get you started, pilgrim. After you’ve hit each of these a few times, let me know and I’ll point you to a few more favorites.