Sin City is home to a lot of restaurants and bars, but there are tons of hidden gems that the majority of Las Vegans aren’t unearthing. To help guide readers to these potential discoveries, Eater Vegas enlisted some of the city’s food players to share their recommendations for a feature dubbed Dining Confidential.
Shea Wafford never thought she would be working as a pastry chef at an Irish pub when she graduated from culinary school. But after graduating from West Hills College in the San Joaquin Valley, she took a job with Jean Philippe Maury in Las Vegas, and then quit two weeks later to put together a dessert program at Rí Rá Irish Pub at Mandalay Place. Now Wafford works as the sous chef and pastry chef for the Irish pub. Here she shares some of her favorite places to dine in Las Vegas.
Do you remember your first trip to Vegas? What happened that was memorable?
My first trip to Vegas as an adult was for a real estate conference before being a chef was even on my radar. The most memorable part of the trip was the food, most notably the giant fried Oreo ice cream bowl at the old Serendipity 3. I discovered some of my favorite spots that trip and thankfully most of them are still around.
What made you decide to move to Las Vegas?
I grew up in a small farming area of central California and when I finished culinary school, I knew that if I wanted to be a great chef and learn as much as possible, I had to move to a culinary hub. I felt like Las Vegas was the one place that had the most diversity and the best chefs from all around the world in one place.
Where do you like to eat breakfast in Las Vegas?
I am a night owl and am hardly ever up early enough for breakfast, but if I am, there are only two places I will go. If I want to stay close to home, BabyStacks Cafe in southwest Las Vegas has the best pancakes. Their orange Creamsicle pancakes are to die for! If I’m up early enough and heading to the Strip, I like to grab coffee and a pastry at Bouchon at the Venetian and sit on the patio.
What about lunch?
SkinnyFats is great for a quick casual lunch. Their More Cow bowl is my go to if I’m feeling like being healthy(ish). If I’m in the mood to pig out, their sweet cheeseus sandwich and fried pickles are the only way to go.
If you’re going out for dinner, which restaurants do you like to frequent? What makes them special? Any dishes you can recommend?
I was recently turned on to Mon Ami Gabi at Paris Las Vegas by a friend, and I absolutely love it! I am not much of a seafood person but their trout almondine made me a fan for life. Plus, if you sit on the patio you are right across from the Bellagio and can watch the fountain show while you eat.
Where do you like to dine for a special occasion?
I haven’t been in Las Vegas long, but Scarpetta at Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas is by far my favorite restaurant for a date night or celebration. The octopus and risotto appetizers are a must. Then the short rib agnolotti for dinner, and you can’t go wrong with any of their desserts, but I am partial to the salted caramel budino.
Are there any brunches in town you like to frequent?
Yard House is great for bottomless mimosas. The menu has a great variety so anyone in the group can find something they like.
Let’s say you want to hang out with your friends after work. Where do you like to go?
For the most part we like to stay downtown when we go out. Fremont is full of great bars and cool funky restaurants.
Are there any places you always go to or frequent for dessert?
Being in Las Vegas we have such amazing choices and you could try something new every day. Some of my favorites though, if you are looking for an in dining experience, are the butter cake at Mastro’s Ocean Club or the sticky toffee pudding at Gordon Ramsey Steak. For something you can grab to go, Milk Bar at the Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas is one of my absolute favorites. I got to take one of Christina Tosi’s cake classes in LA and fell in love with the chocolate stout pretzel cake. You can’t go wrong with anything you order, but the Milk Bar pie and chocolate pretzel soft serve are my favorites!
Do you have any Irish bars you like to frequent outside of Rí Rá?
I’ve tried a few other Irish bars in town, but none have the same “Craic” as the Irish would say. I’ve been known to bring out of town friends into the pub on my days off, and even hang out after work to have a cider at our Parlour bar after my shift.
• All Dining Confidentials [ELV]
• All Coverage of Rí Rá Irish Pub [ELV]