It’s time again for the Eater Awards, when Eater Vegas recognizes excellence in the Southern Nevada restaurant industry over the past 12 months.
While Vegas has earned a lot of attention in the last year for its many spectacles — we’re looking at you Formula One, the Sphere, and two new casinos — true Vegas culinary enthusiasts know that beneath the glitz and neon there exists a profoundly exciting food city. Even the World’s 50 Best Restaurant Awards is taking notice, heading for the Strip in summer of next year. And while there are numerous chefs, workers, and creatives in town who are pushing the boundaries of what it means to develop great food, great drinks, and great restaurants, the awardees here represent the best of the best: some of the most intriguing and invigorating openings this year.
On the Strip, a New York chef updates the clubstaurant with food that is equal parts classic and maximalist. Off Strip, a former Strip chef and Hawaii native takes to Summerlin with dishes that originated in his home. Two well-known brothers stepped into an iconic restaurant space for a throwback pop-up with elaborate comfort food. A Las Vegas kitchen veteran proves that tacos and disco balls can — and should — cohabitate. And two childhood best friends are making some of the most innovative cocktails in the city. Please join us in celebrating Eater Vegas’s 2023 Eater Award winners.
Stanton Social Prime: Best New On-Strip Restaurant
Chef Chris Santos’s spin-off of his famed New York steakhouse Stanton Social is an ode to all things maximalist: The steak sauces come in vintage perfume bottles. A starter of French onion soup dumplings is presented in an escargot dish and draped in a layer of melted gruyere. Crispy tater tots come topped with lobster crème fraîche and caviar. And then there’s the tomahawk steak, ushered into the dining room beneath a canopy of fairy lights and set aflame tableside — the trimmings collected in a delicate glass bowl. It all takes place in an expansive, clubby — think high-energy music and mirror-adorned hallways — restaurant space inside Caesars Palace, adjacent to the Omnia Nightclub. In many ways, Stanton Social Prime heralds what Vegas’s culinary scene does best — a beautiful room honed to highlight spectacle, with food actually worth the price of admission.
Fine Company: Best New Off-Strip Restaurant
Chef Roy Ellamar earned his stripes working in some of Las Vegas’s most prestigious kitchens and in 2015 opened Harvest by Roy Ellamar inside the Bellagio. He made a name for himself there, incorporating farm-to-table dining approaches and introducing an exciting pop-up chef series. Now, he’s taken to Downtown Summerlin with Fine Company, a breezy brunch-focused restaurant just right for the suburban Summerlin crowd. He makes his banana bread the way his mom did, with honey and a touch of salt. The small loaves have proven instant crowd-pleasers — jammy, warm, and good enough to convert anyone who thinks of the baked good as merely a solution to too-ripe bananas. A plate of salt and pepper shrimp is tempura-fried and joyously crispy. Dates come stuffed with spiced lamb sausage and goat cheese in a pool of tangy red pepper romesco. And a burrata salad speaks of Ellamar’s farm-to-table ethos, swirling with generous wedges of fig, squash, and persimmon.
Retro by Voltaggio: Best Chef Residency or Pop-Up
Taking over Charlie Palmer’s former Aureole and converting it into something new was a tall order for Top Chef stars, Bryan and Michael Voltaggio — and not just for the task of repurposing the 10,000-bottle wine tower. The brothers had known and even worked with Palmer for decades. That spirit of looking back in time informed their one-year pop-up, Retro by Voltaggio. They imbued the 9,000-square-foot space inside Mandalay Bay with all manner of nostalgia, making the prominent wine tower a shrine to video games, bicycles, and trading cards. And the food gets the same treatment, with nods to dishes that may have appeared on kitchen tables in the ‘80s and ‘90s. Volatggi O’s are a playful take on canned spaghetti, combining hand-made anellini pasta with spicy tomato sauce. Pepperoni rolls, an homage to the brothers’ preferred after-school snack, are warm and crisp with marinara, basil, and stretchy stracciatella cheese. And the pot roast comes together in personal Corningware dishes after each element is obsessively and independently prepared— with carrots bathed in a sweet emulsion, beef cheeks slow-cooked for 48 hours, and fingerling potatoes submerged in beef fat confit.
Liquid Diet: Best New Bar
Tucked away in an unmarked former auto garage just off an alley in the Gateway District, Liquid Diet stands out for its witchy decor and its two owners’s unshakable obsession with making really good cocktails. Chief among them is the pico de gallo michelada. Mixologist Patrick Mannion spent nearly two decades experimenting with a method of extracting the tomato’s clear, flavorful liquid (“tomato water”) before incorporating it in a michelada with a cilantro salt rim. The drink — tangy, salty, almost sweet — is delightfully refreshing. The menu shifts nightly, largely shaped by what its owners feel like making, with cocktails like a super smooth malted mudslide, the clear-your-sinuses horseradish shot, and a take on the Gibson that uses vodka, bay leaf, pickled shallot, and black pepper. Liquid Diet is also a boon for the burgeoning Gateway District, a neighborhood that promises to one day connect the Las Vegas Strip and the greater downtown area into one sprawling entertainment corridor.
Cantina Tequila: Best Vibes
As the West Coast corporate executive chef of TAO Group, chef Marc Marrone learned the value of developing a restaurant with compelling food and even better vibes. A veteran of clubstaurants, Marrone opened Cantina Tequila this year in Henderson as a floral-bedecked disco ball-adorned, neon-soaked destination for contemporary Mexican food. Beneath canopies of pink and green foliage and a soundtrack of ‘80s and ‘90s music, Marrone serves Tijuana-style tacos with tender and juicy carne asada, charred octopus plated with vinegary corn salsa, and a larger-than-your-head churro ice cream sundae. But the real draw here is the atmosphere, with every square inch — including the bathrooms — intended to keep your eyes dancing, from mural to candelabra to sugar skull to the Instagram grid-ready patio donkey.