It’s time again for the Year in Eater — where we look back at the last twelve months of Las Vegas’s restaurant scene. We reached out to Vegas’s finest food writers, reporters, and bloggers to get their takes on local trends, recent standouts, and notable newcomers. Here, they weigh in on the year’s saddest restaurant closures.
They’re all sad, to be honest. A team of people who put their blood, sweat, tears, and a substantial amount of money to come to the realization that their dream won’t be realized is a tough pill. With that being said, Sweets Raku and Big Wong, who were neighbors in the same plaza are the closures that stand out for me.
— Philip Tzeng, online at @LasVegasFill
One Bite Sandwiches was such a hidden gem. Any time I found myself in Henderson, I would make a detour to get a tofu lemongrass and mushroom bahn mi. And Vegas Test Kitchen birthed so many exciting projects in town — including Yukon Pizza which now has its own brick-and-mortar, Stay Tuned Burgers, now at the Hard Hat Lounge, and chefs Daniel Arias and Isidro Marquez, who have gone on to become chefs at the neighboring Peyote and La Mona Rosa restaurants.
— Janna Karel, Editor for Eater Vegas
Without question, Vegas Test Kitchen. I would argue that Jolene Mannina’s culinary incubator on East Fremont Street was the most important restaurant in Las Vegas for most of its short existence — allowing everyone from celebrity chefs to first-time restaurateurs to try out new concepts in a low-pressure environment. Many of the ideas that were road-tested there have gone on to find permanent homes elsewhere, and several of them were among my favorite openings of 2023. But nothing compares to the excitement and creativity of the original spot.
—Al Mancini, creator of the Neon Feast restaurant guide, co-host of Food and Loathing
The saddest closure for me was Sweets Raku. The elegant dessert presentations at this unassuming Chinatown spot never got old!
—Emmy Kasten, freelance writer for Eater, Tripadvisor, The Infatuation and more
Sweets Raku was a unique gem in Chinatown but we’re excited to see what they do with the space and their new tapas concept.
— Donald Contursi, Lip Smacking Foodie Tours
I’m a big fan of bringing great food into the neighborhood and 138° in Henderson was a prime example (pun intended) of something done well. A dry-aged meat locker and fantastic brunch made it a destination eatery. It’s a shame to see it go.
—Ryan Slattery, Eater Contributor
Vegas Test Kitchen but I am super happy Stay Tuned Burgers lives on.
—Melinda Sheckells, contributing writer Hollywood Reporter, Forbes Travel Guide, Business Traveler, host of Tasty Tuesday on KTNV 13
I was bummed to see 138° close in Henderson as well as the original Half Bird in Chinatown (although I think the concept will do well in Henderson and other potential locations).
—Rob Kachelriess, Contributor for Thrillist, Zip Code Magazines, and Las Vegas Weekly