Having been to Las Vegas several times now and after the last three and a half weeks, I’ve experienced the lights and action on the strip with its’ gigantic theme hotels, fancy restaurants and exclusive clubs but I’ve also been to a few interesting places which are off the main drag of Las Vegas Boulevard but worth the side trip. These places are in strip malls and are mostly not fancy but it’s where the Vegas locals go when they need some authentic cuisine at realistic prices. Remember that there’s much more to Las Vegas than what’s on the Strip.
For classic American:
In-N-Out Burger – (several locations) Hard to miss with their large red and yellow neon arrow signs, the In-N-Out is a Southern California institution which was created in 1948 and still remains private and family-owned with no franchise locations. The concept has successfully transported itself to Las Vegas with their fixed opening hours of 10:30 to 1:00 Mondays to Fridays and till 1;30 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. This is a diner/drive-in experience and is the best value “non-fast food” burger. They only have burgers on the menu plus fries, sodas and milkshakes. All burgers are grilled to order and made on the spot. The fries are cut from fresh potatoes and fried to order as well. Have a cheeseburger with grilled onions, french fries and either a chocolate milkshake or a root beer.
The Original Pancake House – (several locations) Another American staple and out-of-town creation, the Original pancake House was founded in Portland, Oregon in 1953. This simple place serves pancakes breakfast items with pancakes as their specialty. Go for the classic buttermilk pancakes with whipped butter and maple syrup or if you’re willing to try something new, have one of their specials like the Apple pancake with cinnamon. This is a great place to take the kids.
For Asian cravings:
Food Express – (2003 S Decatur Blvd Ste B Las Vegas, NV 89102 (702) 870-1595) is a typical carpet-floored, aquarium-tanked, no-frills Cantonese restaurant with lots of surly Chinese waiters to make it even more authentic. Order the salt and pepper pork chop, crispy green beans in XO sauce, oyster hotpot with green onions and ginger and the salted fish fried rice. Expect to spend about $10 per person and still have lots to take back home. (P.D. Feb.09 – this has recently closed)
Satay Grille – Located right smack in Las Vegas’ Chinatown on Spring Mountain Boulevard, this newish restaurant (opened in 2005) serves authentic Malaysian cuisine in a surprisingly modern interior. The menu is large and has some Thai and Chinese dishes as well but stick to what they know best – Malay food. Have any of the satay with spicy peanut sauce, roti (flaky bread) served with a curry dip, Singaporean Hainanese Chicken Rice with the accompanying chili and ginger sauce, Nasi Lemak and Nasi Goreng.
Royal Thai – (on West Sahara) I mentioned this restaurant in a previous post and I have to include it here because it my sisters and brother-in-law are regulars here. Once you try it, you’ll understand why. Royal Thai is a family-run restaurant with simple interiors and fantastic Thai food. Don’t miss the tom yum goong (prawn soup), prik king (green beans in a spicy sauce with crispy pork), prawn pad Thai and mee krob (crispy noodles). Leave some room for the excellent banana wonton dessert. (P.D. Feb.09 – this is now managed by a new family and has been getting god reviews but I haven’t been yet)
Osaka – A Las Vegas institution since 1967, this Japanese restaurant has a sushi bar, teppanyaki tables and an a la carte menu as well. Lunch is the best value with a fantastic chicken teriyaki bowl with miso soup for only $5.95 (beef teriyaki $6.95). I always sit at the sushi bar and get a few temaki sushis (hand-rolled) – three of these is perfect for a light lunch with some miso soup. Dinner is packed and they stay open till late. A 10% off coupon can be printed out from their website.
Korean Garden BBQ Restaurant – (4355 Spring Mountain Rd Ste 201Las Vegas, NV 89102 (702) 383-3392 ) Get ready to smell like smoky barbecue at this Chinatown-located Korean outpost. Excellent bulgogi with the standard cook-it-yourself grill and all the extras: kimchi, spinach, bean sprouts, salads and pickled vegetables served with every order. Don’t miss the sirloin with the sesame oil and garlic dip, the spicy pork bulgogi, beef rib stew, chap jae (fine noodles with vegetables) and the bi bim bop (rice topped with vegetables and a fried egg).
For un peu de Francais:
Marche Bacchus – a wine-retail store with a restaurant attached, this is one of the most pleasant places to dine in Las Vegas. Sophisticated and away from the gaudy glitz of the Strip, it’s worth the drive to get here. An excellent selection of wines (with a reasonable corkage fee) plus traditional bistro fare and a friendly French husband and wife team running the show. Open seven days a week for lunch and dinner and brunch on Sundays. Go in late autumn when the weather is cooler and sit on the terrace overlooking the lake for a romantic diner a deux. Make sure to order some of the French comfort food like hachis parmentier (cottage pie) or cassoulet.
Cafe Soleil – On some days a real coffee (not Starbucks please) is what hits the spot and this little patisserie on West Sahara is where one heads for a millefeuille (puff pastry with pastry cream) and a shot of dark French espresso. Crepes are also very good and there is a limited sandwich and salad selection for lunch and light snacks.
For those hot desert days:
Cold Stone Creamery – An ice-cream parlor with a twist. Numerous classic flavours with different signature creations (like banana caramel crunch, an instant banana split) or your own special combination created on the spot with whatever you want mixed in. They do ice-cream cakes as well.