Following an Eater tradition, we asked a group of restaurant critics, journalists, bloggers, and friends of the site to weigh in on the year in food. Their answers to the annual Year in Eater survey will be revealed in several posts. Next up, the dining experts share their top newcomers from 2020.
What newcomer on the scene excited you this year?
Scott Roeben, Vital Vegas: There were a couple, thankfully. I was pleasantly surprised by Bugsy & Meyer’s Steakhouse at Flamingo, just hit it out of the park, and sad to see they may be struggling because of the lack of convention business. The batch of new restaurants at Circa created some buzz, including my new favorite Las Vegas restaurant, 8 East. Just incredible, and sort of saw it coming having been a fan of Le Thai.
Melanie Lee, Eater Vegas: I really like Majordomo. The variety of flavors is fantastic and their table-side presentation is so fun to watch (and film). I had the opportunity to try a few items back in February and I loved it. Moon Palace across the way is also a very fun concept that I really enjoyed!
Bob Barnes, editor of The Las Vegas Food & Beverage Professional and Las Vegas writer for Gayot: Johnny C’s Diner was impressive to me for the outstanding quality from a big-time chef (Johnny Church), comfort food dishes with nice upgrades via quality ingredients, cool old-time diner décor (with a working jukebox!) and very approachable prices. Examples of his comfort food presented at an extremely high quality include five-cheese mac and cheese topped with a Cheez It crust; and grilled cheese with local honey, brie, and walnuts.
Emmy Kasten, freelance writer: I was the most excited about the return of chef Barry Dakake with the opening of Barry’s Downtown Prime at Circa. The steakhouse staples and table-side presentations are incredible, and the glamorous venue sets the mood for a memorable night in Downtown Las Vegas. I am also very excited about Main St. Provisions in the Downtown Arts District. After years of running operations at Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steak House, Kim Owens has finally made her dream of owning her own restaurant come to life with chef Justin Kingsley Hall, who is at the kitchen’s helm.
Philip Tzeng, food blogger at Las Vegas Fill: The Legends Oyster Bar & Grill is my favorite new restaurant in 2020. Chef Jack Jarukasem and his staff serve up some of the best seafood anywhere at very reasonable prices. They have been slammed every time I have been in there.
Krista Diamond, freelance writer at Eater Vegas: The Slanted Door had unfortunate timing with its March 2020 opening date — I’m sad that more people didn’t get to enjoy it before things shut down, but they’re in for a treat when the restaurant is open again. I love the daikon rice cakes there. They also have a cocktail that was originally served in the 1960s at the Sahara, which is a nice touch.
Rob Kachelriess, Las Vegas writer at Thrillist: I really love what Jack Jarukasem is doing with seafood at The Legends Oyster Bar. Chinglish is serving authentic Cantonese in an approachable setting for the Summerlin crowd with a chef, Po-Fai Lam, who’s the real deal. Bruce Kalman’s Soulbelly BBQ pop-up in the Arts District got me excited to see the fully realized version in 2021. It’s one of my favorite new Downtown spots along with 8 East at Circa (which has an affordable daily happy hour if you just want to try it out) and Good Pie, which isn’t “new” but is able to offer so much more at its second location than the original at Pawn Plaza. It was obviously a quiet year on the Strip, but Bugsy & Meyer delivered on a classic steakhouse dinner in a fun environment. I also want to single out a couple cocktail lounges: the new Laundry Room at Commonwealth, which improved on an already killer concept, and Mas Por Favor, where you can eat tacos inside a secret speakeasy.
Sonja Swanson, food and culture writer: It just opened right before the end of 2020, but probably Banichka, Nina Manchev’s Eastern European bakery — bread is an excellent answer to the horrors of this year!
Louiie Victa, Eater Vegas photographer and co-host of Two Sharp Chefs and a Microphone: Main St. Provisions! Finally! And Vegas Test Kitchen is an exciting concept that I’m interested in checking out.
Lorraine Moss, co-host of Two Sharp Chefs and a Microphone: Barry’s Downtown Prime. From some of the best dudes in the hospitality business, we got a genuine old school Vegas steakhouse downtown. Love the bone-in ribeye and the braised beef short rib served in a custom tagine.
Nina King, Las Vegas Magazine managing editor: I loved Majordomo, and the bing bread and hummus was truly amazing.
Melinda Sheckells, editor OffTheStrip.com, OnTheStrip.com: Main Street Provisions was a thrilling addition to the dining scene. I have eaten there several times since it opened and every meal was fabulous. On the westside, I recently tried Chinglish and was super impressed.
Diana Edelman, founder Vegans, Baby: Chikyu Vegan Sushi & Izakaya. They’re from the same team who run Shizen in San Francisco, a wildly popular all-vegan sushi spot. It’s the first upscale vegan spot and all-sushi restaurant in Las Vegas. It’s exciting to see a vegan restaurant tapping into a menu that’s entirely plant-based and doesn’t use any processed foods or fake meats and cheeses. It’s been incredible to see their popularity, especially when they opened early in the pandemic and were only able to offer dine-in for a few weeks before having to go back to take-away.
Susan Stapleton, editor of Eater Vegas: The Slanted Door at the Forum Shops at Caesars, and I cannot wait for it to reopen with its modern Vietnamese cuisine. Elio at Encore Las Vegas, and I cannot wait for it to reopen. I feel like Wynn knows what it’s doing when it wants to teach Vegas a lesson in how to serve a particular cuisine. Majordomo at the Palazzo with its bing bread is a great addition on the Strip. I cannot wait to try Robata En from former Yonaka Modern Japanese chef Ramir DeCastro in Chinatown.
Disclosure: David Chang is producing shows for Hulu in partnership with Vox Media Studios, part of Eater’s parent company, Vox Media. No Eater staff member is involved in the production of those shows, and this does not impact coverage on Eater.
• All Year in Eater Coverage [ELV]