International tourism returns to Las Vegas on November 8 when the United States allows flights from around the world to come into America. The pandemic shut down international tourism for 21 months from China, Canada, Mexico, India, Brazil, much of Europe, and more, and now vaccinated international visitors can come into the United States. The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority estimates that 5.7 million international travelers flew into McCarran International Airport in 2019, but that figure does not include those who flew into another city first before traveling on to Las Vegas. And that was a down year for international travel.
With so much having changed in Las Vegas since international visitors could enter the city, here’s a look at all that is new.
Nevada requires everyone regardless of vaccination status to wear a mask indoors and in crowded areas outdoors where social distancing is difficult. The mandate follows guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s updated mask guidelines, which came out in July and urged everyone, even those who are fully vaccinated, to wear a mask indoors in public spaces.
Downtown Las Vegas landed a new resort on the Fremont Street Experience when Circa opened in October 2020. The property only allows patrons 21 and over inside the 1.25 million-square-foot resort and casino, which sports the world’s largest sportsbook and a pool complex, Stadium Swim, open 365 days a year. Among the dining options, steaks and seafood at Barry’s Downtown Prime from chef Barry S. Dakake, pan-Asian fare at 8 East from chef Dan Coughlin, classic delicatessen cuisine at Saginaw’s Delicatessen from restaurateur Paul Saginaw, Carolina barbecue at Project BBQ, and burgers and more at Victory Burger & Wings Co. from the founding family of American Coney Island. Grab a drink at Vegas Vickie’s Cocktail Lounge with its backdrop of the famous neon cowgirl kicking her leg or at Legacy Club on the 60th floor of the resort.
Virgin Hotels opened in March 2021, taking over the former Hard Rock Hotel on the east side of Las Vegas. The Hard Rock Hotel closed in early February 2020 to make way for Virgin Hotels, part of the Curio Collection by Hilton, with 12 food and beverage venues. Dining options include the return of Todd English’s Olives, Kris Yenbamroong’s Los Angeles Thai gem Night + Market, the legendary sushi restaurant Nobu, Michael and David Morton’s One Steakhouse, Kassi Beach House from restaurateur Nick Mathers, Casa Calavera by Hakkasan Group, as well as the sports entertainment, daylife, and nightlife venue Money, Baby! from Clive Collective. Other outlets include Afters Ice Cream, Pizza Forte by the Ferraro family, and Virgin Hotels restaurants and bars including the Kitchen at Commons Club, the Bar at Commons Club, the Shag Room at Commons Club, and Funny Library Coffee Shop.
The $4.3 billion Resorts World opened on the north end of the Las Vegas Strip on June 24 with more than 40 restaurants and bars, three hotels with 3,500 rooms, and an unmissable 100,000-square-foot LED screen on the exterior of the resort touted as one of the largest in the world. The resort offers plenty of dining options to explore. LA chef Ray Garcia brings ¡Viva! with regional Mexican cuisine, while Marcus Samuelsson’s Streetbird Las Vegas debuted at the new food hall, Famous Foods Street Eats, with sweet and spicy fried chicken, hot honey chicken and waffle, chicken wings, and mac and greens. That food hall features hawker stands with Hong Kong’s Ah Chun Shandong Dumpling, Singapore’s Geylang Claypot Rice, Bangkok’s Ten Suns Braised Beef, Singapore’s Springleaf Prata Place, Steve and Kevin Aoki’s Kuru Kuru Pa Yakitori, and more. Las Vegas chef Nicole Brisson, who was a James Beard Foundation semifinalist for best chef Southwest in 2020, offers Brezza with coastal Italian fare such as handmade pastas, seafood, Brisson’s “hand-selected heritage breeds,” and Creekstone Farms beef.
Zouk Nightclub and Ayu Dayclub bring the club scene to the resort, while Zouk Group’s RedTail, a social gaming bar, and Fuhu bring a more social side to dining. Ayu also has Moonbeam, a day-to-night Sunday party. The resort also has Genting Palace with Cantonese cuisine, seafood, and dim sum; Kusa Nori, a sushi bar with teppanyaki grills; and Wally’s Wine & Spirits with a restaurant, wine bar, and specialty gourmet market with a mind-bending 8,000-plus labels to the neon of Vegas.
Gatsby’s Cocktail Lounge, the new bar from Clique Hospitality, specializes in Champagne-based cocktails off the casino floor, while DawgHouse Saloon & Sportsbook features a Nashville sports bar next to the sportsbook. Head up to the 66th floor for Starlight on 66.
Still on the way, Bar Zazu with tapas from Brisson, Carversteak, cigar bar Eight Cigar Lounge, Caviar Bar from chef Shaun Hergatt, San Diego’s Tacos El Cabron, Tiger Sugar, and HaiDiLao, dubbed by the late food writer Jonathan Gold as the “Ferrari of Chinese hot pot restaurants.”
Notable New Restaurants on the Las Vegas Strip
The coastal Mexican restaurant with a playful vibe at Encore Las Vegas features grilled seafood dishes from executive chef Sarah Thompson, daring cocktails from Wynn resort mixologist Mariena Mercer Boarini, and a mezcal and tequila collection curated by agave expert Noah Arenstein. Try dishes meant to share such as whole roasted carnitas or the Casa Playa surf and turf with wagyu carne asada, lobster, chorizo, short rib suadero, green chorizo, and serrano.
This opulent 1950s supper club from Los Angeles’s H. Wood Group at Wynn Las Vegas tips its hat to the golden era of entertainment and dining. Dine on executive chef Joshua Smith‘s wagyu beef Wellington, a reinterpretation of a chicken TV dinner, smoked salmon and caviar, fish and chips with potato-crusted Dover sole, or a surf and turf with glazed short rib and day boat scallops. The decadence extends to the desserts, where a strawberry shortcake baked Alaska leads the way.
The restaurant on the Venetian’s replica of St. Mark’s Square takes its name from the Brera neighborhood in Milan, Italy. The artsy-cool sidewalk cafes found in the neighborhood inform the menu, which explores the regions and flavors of Italy with dishes such as a braised pork shank, cacio e pepe, and lamb chops. Be sure to sit on the indoor patio for happy hour as well.
Estiatorio Milos reinvents itself with its new location at the Venetian after departing the Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas. The Greek restaurant from Costas Spiliadis offers fish that are flown in from the Mediterranean, a new fruit and vegetable market, a raw bar, a yogurt room, and Greek wines.
The Flamingo Las Vegas debuted Bugsy & Meyer’s Steakhouse replete with a bakery in the front and a speakeasy inside with its own menu. The steakhouse takes its name from Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel and business partner Meyer Lansky, who opened the Flamingo Las Vegas in 1946. A dry-aged meat cooler in the main dining room, a bar and lounge, a raw bar, three private dining rooms, and a hidden speakeasy dubbed the Count Room make up the restaurant that serves lobster tails, Alaskan king crab, foie gras, Point Reyes cheese fondue, and more. Steaks play a major role on the menu with a mix of domestic prime, wet-aged and dry-aged prime, and imported wagyu, along with prime rib roasts, American wagyu short ribs, pan-roasted lamb loin, fresh Dover sole meuniere, and more.
Celebrity chef Bobby Flay opened his new Italian seafood restaurant at Caesars Palace in May, inspired by his trips to the Amalfi Coast. The menu spans whole fresh fish and pastas to lighter antipasti. A fishmonger showcases his catches of the day in a dramatic seafood display near the open kitchen. Diners can typically find golden snapper, red snapper, black bass, branzino, and Carabinero shrimp, which can be grilled over charcoal or roasted al forno and served with the choices of Meyer lemon and capers, red pepper and Calabrian chile pesto, or salsa verde.
Entertainment company Spiegelworld — the production company behind Absinthe, Atomic Saloon Show, and Opium — debuted Superfrico, a sidekick to Opium, with a meld of dining on what it calls “Italian American psychedelic” fare and entertainment at the Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas. The menu offers a mix of pizzas, chicken parm, a 40-ounce Creekstone tomahawk, and even a roasted pineapple sorbetto. At the bars find the Under the Host Martini, a riff on the dirty martini, as well as Penguins Take Manhattan, named after Superfrico’s two mascots, with black sesame-infused bourbon, rum, sherry and Cynar, served in a white chocolate and sesame-dipped coupe. Customers at the show can order pan pizzas and cocktails via a mobile app delivered right to their seats for consumption during Opium.
Notable Restaurants That Closed on the Las Vegas Strip
Chef Shawn McClain’s Sage, which served farm-to-table American fare from the James Beard Foundation winner for best chef Midwest in 2006, did not reopen at Aria. The restaurant featured a seasonal menu, a must-order foie gras creme brulee, and 10 types of absinthe served from a roving cart. Sage had been featured in the Eater 38 since 2012.
One of the best Italian seafood restaurants in the city dimmed its lights at Wynn Las Vegas in July. The restaurant with chef Mark LoRusso at the helm opened in 2015 with a roster of Mediterranean seafood and Italian cuisine including fresh pastas and 40-plus fish flown in from the coast of Italy daily. But it’s the langoustines that earned accolades. The restaurant was one of only a few in the western hemisphere that served fresh-caught langoustines. Its patio with private cabanas overlooking a lagoon offered one of the more romantic settings in the city.
Before the pandemic, Las Vegas had more than 70 buffets inside casinos, spanning from Aliante to Henderson, Summerlin to the Strip, serving gourmet fare at a range of stations. As Las Vegas reopens, only 11 buffets have returned so far, including the Buffet at Wynn, Bacchanal Buffet at Caesars Palace, the Buffet at Bellagio, Wicked Spoon at the Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas, the MGM Grand Buffet, Excalibur Buffet, the Buffet at Luxor, and Circus Buffet at Circus Circus.