Today we announce the winners of the 2022 Eater Awards, celebrating the restaurants that made a major impact in Eater cities across the country over the last 12 months. The awardees represent the best of the best: the restaurants and chefs who serve the Las Vegas Valley with memorable dining experiences and the teams who continue to shape and nurture the city’s distinct culinary culture.
While the Las Vegas Strip is rightfully known for its landmark restaurants, prestige names, and larger-than-life dining experiences, this year’s standouts further demonstrate Las Vegas’s evolution into one of the greatest food cities — not just nationally, but globally. In the Las Vegas suburbs, one restaurant tucked away in a shopping center is turning out quarterly tasting menus in which vegetables and fish roe are imaginatively prepared. A beloved Thai restaurant moved into a locals’ casino and debuted a beautiful and culturally significant dining room. One chef honed his focus to set up a chophouse in neighboring Henderson; another transformed a downtown restaurant into a reliable neighborhood haunt. And on the Strip, an award-winning chef distilled his experiences from his previous restaurants to open a destination for exceptional coastal Italian food.
Please join us in celebrating the winners for Restaurant of the Year, Best New On-Strip Restaurant, Best Design of the Year, Strongest Pivot of the Year, and Best Chef of the Year.
Restaurant of the Year
When the chef and two managing partners behind Chinatown’s EDO Gastro Tapas and Wine first debated the location for their next restaurant, they looked to their own neighborhood in southwest Las Vegas. The partners determined that the corner of the valley, which is still transforming patches of desert into houses and business centers, could benefit from their vision for a neighborhood Spanish-Italian restaurant. They landed on a modest space, tucked into a business plaza in which the restaurant isn’t even observable from the parking lot. Despite its geographical challenges, Anima has succeeded in amassing a following of regulars seeking an exciting meal near home and of tourists making the not-insignificant trek from the Strip to Anima — where chef Oscar Amador designs seasonal tasting menus that incorporate innovatively prepared vegetables, expertly cooked steaks, and presentations that are at once elegant and playful. The menus rotate every three months or so, introducing artful small plates like the baked Okinawa sweet potatoes, in which boldly purple potato medallions mingle with mint pomegranate pesto, a dollop of lime creme fraiche, and a touch of trout roe. The parfait of caviar, fish roe, and egg yolk that arrives at the table inside brown egg shells and perched in an egg carton-shaped porcelain platter is lusciously creamy and briny — and also fun to eat. Between the restaurant’s tasting menus, popular wine dinners, and welcoming just-stop-in atmosphere, Anima proves that local talent is thriving in all corners of the Las Vegas Valley.
Best New On-Strip Restaurant
Shawn McClain’s hotly anticipated restaurant, Balla Italian Soul, opened at the Sahara Las Vegas in October with bright dishes reminiscent of coastal Italy. McClain first arrived in Las Vegas 13 years ago when he opened Sage, his popular restaurant that closed during the pandemic. At Balla, he revives the focus on seasonality and regional ingredients that made Sage such a success and revives the crust he developed at his former pizzeria for use in his Roman-style pizzas. And then there’s the pasta: A bowl of casarecce marries thick, chewy noodles with a tangy tomato sauce that offers garlic and punches of Calabrian pepper. Squid ink shells offer a touch of heat alongside tender bites of squid and al dente pasta. That same attention to detail is brought to other dishes, like the sea bream, which is delightfully lemony and tender with crisped skin. And the goblet of tiramisu is in contention for the best in the city. It’s all set inside a breezy restaurant dotted with twinkling lights and warm orange furnishings facing out over Las Vegas Boulevard.
Best Design of the Year
In designing the new Lotus of Siam restaurant at Red Rock Resort in Summerlin, managing partner Penny Chutima endeavored to create a more unique look than the heavy woods that styled the two other locations, but one also distinct from the red and gold elements she feels are too common in Thai restaurants. The result is an expansive venue in which hundreds of lanterns soar overhead, suspended from tree boughs that stretch down to bamboo canopies, copper pendant lamps, and red brick walls. The restaurant is also an homage to Chutima’s cultural upbringing, with several traditional statues of protectors tucked away on decorative shelving throughout the 8,000-square-foot space. It cost about $5 million to build out the restaurant, evident in the grand 11-foot-tall door that swings open at dinner time every night, as well as in the rich cream and teal banquettes that line the private room. Intricately woven iron sculptures and bamboo walls divide the Thai restaurant from the clamorous casino floor, allowing for a dining experience that feels surprisingly intimate.
Strongest Pivot of the Year
138° is the evolution of chef Matthew Meyer’s breakfast and lunch spot Served and its more ambitious successor, Served Global Dining. Before closing during the pandemic, Served Global Dining was a broad concept, giving equal space on the menu to Jewish matzoh brie, Salvadoran pupusas, Korean bibimbap, and Peruvian lomo saltado. In reopening this year, Meyer swapped the “jack of all trades” concept for a very narrow focus on dry-aged proteins sourced largely from local ranches. He uses the condensed flavor profiles of the meats to create duck confit wontons, salmon with cauliflower puree, and wood-fired ribeyes. The result is a modern steakhouse for Henderson in a restaurant designed with sleek touches, cases of meat on display, and an open fire for warmth.
Best Chef of the Year
Since taking over at the helm of Main St. Provisions in the Las Vegas Arts District this year, chef Patrick Munster has effectively blended the restaurant’s comfort foods with his own point of view, developed from his extensive work in steakhouse kitchens on the Las Vegas Strip. Collaborating with owner Kim Owens, Munster has shifted the menu from one that highlighted gamier proteins to one that he and Owens describe as more approachable to walk-in visitors in the Arts District neighborhood. Munster has introduced new steaks to the menu, as well as exceptional takes on familiar comfort dishes like oven-roasted chicken with braised greens and creamy polenta. He pairs the restaurant’s signature fry bread with dips like garlic and white bean. A fall special, meanwhile, cleverly incorporated vegan ingredients with butternut squash, sage, and only-in-Nevada battle born mushrooms in a life-giving creamy risotto. The additions of dishes like roasted Spanish octopus with curry-braised chickpeas and garlic yogurt and 28-ounce bone-in ribeyes have helped solidify the barely two-year-old restaurant as a must-visit in a neighborhood that is still refining its culinary identity.