Las Vegas and its immense dining scene need no introduction. Ever since the gambling destination realized that it could become a global culinary powerhouse, restaurants have flourished in every direction. Still, the main draw of the city for many is the Strip, which pits resorts against each other in a never-ending competition for who can provide the best dining experiences. Meanwhile, eager restaurateurs and chefs have expanded to other areas, from Chinatown to Downtown and beyond, making short car rides more than worth their while for curious food and drink lovers. The off-Strip bar scene alone is worth the effort to find places like a Disney-level tiki lounge or a terrific Arts District spot that serves stellar rum cocktails and Jamaican food. Below, the absolute best ways to spend a weekend eating and drinking in Las Vegas.
Friday afternoon: Momofuku
While this New York City import has garnered fame for its ramen and other Asian American fare, the stunning, wide dining room at Cosmopolitan is a great first meal in the city. The views of the Strip give a taste of the exciting weekend and its colorful energy to come. And the food is executed at a high level, from the pork belly buns to the crispy lamb ribs with chile yogurt. Momofuku is a great place to start because the shareable small plates are good for quelling an appetite before the succession of meals. Also, while the Strip has amazing dinner restaurants, the daytime and lunch situation is often less interesting. Momofuku’s lunch menu is far less ambitious than their dinners, but the restaurant’s reasonable price and big dining room make it an ideal first stop.
Friday night: Bavette’s
Vegas is arguably the best steakhouse destination in the country. While it lacks the history of New York City or Chicago, those two cities have gladly brought over their top spots. Take Bavette’s, one of the finest new-school steakhouses in Chicago, specializing in dry-aged beef. Founder Brendan Sodikoff’s winning restaurant ups the stakes in Vegas, taking over a fully enclosed dining room with tuxedoed servers and a boisterous ambience inside Park MGM. Everything from the crisp salads and fresh oysters to the wonderfully charred chops are best-in-class. The service can be a tad gruff, which might be the only blemish against Bavette’s, but the attitude might come from the restaurant’s always-packed tables that need a lot of attention. Again, there are numerous steakhouses that are worth checking out if Bavette’s is booked, like José Andrés’ Bazaar Meat at SLS to Delmonico Steakhouse at the Venetian Resort, but if you only pick one, this Chicago import is a smart bet.
Friday late night: Oyster Bar
At this point, if you’re still hungry, you might have an incredible metabolism. That’s okay, because Vegas has plenty of late-night dining destinations. The most popular, without a doubt, is the Palace Station Oyster Bar, a place that draws hours-long lines well past 2 a.m. Hungry night owls are here for the kettle-steamed pan roasts and other New Orleans-inspired fare served at the bar (for adults 21 and over only, making it pretty family-unfriendly). Come for the combination pan roast or gumbo, and down it with a crisp beer. Just skip the actual oysters, which are large in size but flavorless.
Saturday morning hangover: Tang Tang Tang
If the meals from the night before don’t do a good job of soaking up the evening’s revelries, there’s always Korean soup to the rescue. This restaurant is quite a hike from the Strip, but modest pricing and always-available tables make it a hangover destination. Order the gomtang, a beef bone soup served with chopped green onions, kimchi, and kkakdugi, a spicy kimchi-style Korean radish chopped into cubes. Season the broth with salt and pepper, throw in a few modest spoonfuls of white rice, and let this age-old hangover cure bring life again. Beef brisket slivers swimming in murky white broth are perfect for dipping into the jalapeno soy sauce flecked with hot mustard.
Saturday late lunch: Brera Osteria
Back on the Strip, finding a reliable lunch option can be tough. Brera works well because of its placement inside the Grand Canal Shoppes, which features some of the best people-watching opportunities in the city. With its faux patio seating and bustling energy, Brera’s menu may be less challenging but still satisfying, with its mix of pizza, salads, and pasta. The entrees are surprisingly good here too, like the branzino with white beans and gremolata.
Saturday pre-dinner cocktails: Rosina Cocktail Lounge
There’s a certain wisdom to pre-dinner cocktails: They allow the appetite to grow. There are bars everywhere in Vegas, but none have the intimate room and face-to-face experience of Rosina Cocktail Lounge inside the Palazzo. Cocktail enthusiasts will find a tight menu of well-made drinks that would rival the best in the country, with an array of juleps, stirred beverages, and refreshing shaken libations.
Saturday dinner: Yellowtail
The center of Vegas will always be the Bellagio fountains, and plenty of restaurants inside the Bellagio, like Spago and Lago, offer pristine views of the water, but Yellowtail could be the best combination of service, ambience, and food from chef Akira Back. When making a reservation, ask to go outside on the patio; enjoy the unfettered view and be so close to the fountains that a lot of the shows might shower mist onto the table. Then order a parade of fresh fish, sushi, and top-quality A5 beef followed by rounds of sake.
Saturday after dinner: NoMad Bar
Head over to the NoMad Bar, a larger version of the New York City lounge located inside the NoMad hotel (which itself is inside Park MGM). The drinks here are high-caliber and priced under $20, which in Vegas is considered a decent deal these days. The Gentleman’s Exchange, a take on a classic Manhattan, comes with notes of coffee and cocoa, while an espresso martini provides a caffeine punch to keep the night going. And there are plenty of snacks, like a bacon-wrapped truffle hot dog, in case dinner wasn’t filling enough.
Sunday hangover brunch: Ping Pang Pong
At this point, most people will be worn out from all the eating and drinking and fun that Vegas affords — but there’s always room for dim sum, isn’t there? Ping Pang Pong is Old Faithful when it comes to tea, har gow, and shu mai. Located inside Gold Coast off the Strip, this timeless dim sum restaurant churns out diners by the minute, which means that even long lines come out to manageable waits. Prices are also reasonable, which could be helpful depending on one’s luck at the slot machines or craps tables.