Even during a pandemic, more than 100 restaurants opened in Las Vegas in 2020. The breadth of Asian cuisines in Las Vegas only grew with robata grills, omakase specialists, and more. Casual restaurants such as Take It Easy, the Taco Stand, and Más Por Favor added to the diversity of Chinatown, while neighborhoods in Summerlin and on Water Street in Henderson landed new restaurants those areas desperately needed. Downtown’s new Vegas Test Kitchen gives diners a chance to try out new restaurants before the owners commit to a location, while the arrival of Circa on the Fremont Street Experience brings chef Barry Dakake back to the kitchen and Dan Coughlin offering his take on Asian fare. Even the Strip landed a new steakhouse, robot servers, an over-the-top karaoke lounge, and an ode to pizza and cake from Cake Boss Buddy Valastro. Here now are the 25 most important restaurant openings in 2020.Read More
The 25 Most Important Restaurant Openings in Las Vegas in 2020
The year brought new steakhouses, a lot of Mexican food, tacos, and plenty of casual options
Barry's Downtown Prime
In the basement of Circa sits Barry’s Downtown Prime from Barry S. Dakake, a long-time Las Vegas chef. His regal steakhouse spans 3,200 square feet with eight rooms that can expand and contract to accommodate large groups to intimate settings. The restaurant serves table-side dishes along with a vegan menu and steakhouse favorites. Dakake teams up with Yassine Lyoubi, Marco Cicione, and Donnie Rihn for this steakhouse filled with vintage glamour, including artwork from 40 artists adorning the walls. Navy and oxblood walls, warm brown and white oak parquet floors, walnut millwork throughout, burnished brass furnishings, and antique mirrors decorate the space. One room features an illuminated three-dimensional, rose-inspired ceiling while another comes with a lighted olive tree.
Le Thai chef and owner Dan Coughlin introduces 8 East, his pan-Asian restaurant with Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese, Korean, and Thai dishes, at Circa. A wall of 40 Maneki-neko waving cats, a Japanese symbol of good luck, stands outside the restaurant. The menu features small plates meant to share, a variety of skewers, and dishes served family style.
Vegas Test Kitchen
Every week at Vegas Test Kitchen features a different group of pop-up restaurants and chef residencies on the weekends. Jolene Mannina’s new test kitchen inside the former Chow space now owned by Fergusons Downtown gives chefs a chance to try out their fare with customers before committing to opening their own restaurants. Current residents include chef Lanny Chin with Slurp Society with a menu of tankatsu ramen, miso ramen, and maze-men; Phyto’s Vegan Eats serving vegan hot dogs; Mariana Alvarado and her MasAzul tortillas; Nina Manchev of Forte Tapas, who is serving baniza, a traditional Bulgarian street food with a flaky crust layered with imported European cheeses; Rooster Boy Cafe’s Sonia El-Nawal with New York-style bagels at Bodega Bagel, which also offers house-made gravlax, white fish salad, and a variety of schmears (including a vegan option); and pastry chef Andrea McLean with Pop N Pies with pies by the slice; among others.
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El Dorado Cantina
El Dorado Cantina opened a second location at Tivoli Village last January. Tacos are the specialty here, with versions featuring carne asada, pulled chicken, carnitas, al pastor, cochinita, filet mignon, braised duck, lobster, grilled Mahi, grilled shrimp, achiote marinated grilled wild salmon, chile verde pork with chicharron, corn rajas, queso Mexicano, grilled cactus, and more. Table-side guacamole comes with serrano chiles, garlic, tomatoes, onion, cilantro, and lime juice.
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Letty's de Leticia's Cocina
Local restaurateur Leticia Mitchell opened Letty’s De Leticia’s Cocina in the 1,842-square-foot former El Sombrero Cafe space at 807 S. Main Street, a location synonymous with Mexican dining since 1950. Letty’s collection of apertivos, or small eats, includes ceviche, grilled corn, chicharrones, and seasoned fries upgraded with Mexican chorizo, Oaxaca cheese, and topped with two eggs. Customers can order heartier lunch and dinner options of tacquitos, tamales, empanaditas, gorditas, enchiladas, and steak ranchera. Tacos include street-style preparations with al pastor, pork belly, and carne asada, guisados tacos filled with choices of pork mole, birria, or chicken tinga and the Ensenada taco created with seared, or battered, fish and shrimp.
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The Garden, the new gay bar from Eduardo Cordova in the Arts District, debuted in June with a menu of small bites, sharable dishes, and a cocktail menu in the former Mingo Kitchen & Lounge space on First Street. Outside, the bar features a garden patio, water fountains, and flowers. A wraparound bar with a white stone countertop creates the centerpiece for the bar, while overhead, crystal chandeliers accented with gold hang over brass and green velvet booths and bar stools, paying tribute to Mid-Century decor. In the center of the lounge area is a custom-made ornate fireplace that also serves as the DJ booth. Chef Jorge Castillo created a small menu with some vegetarian items that includes a charcuterie pretzel board, Angus beef sliders, truffle Parmesan fries, cauliflower wings, spicy chicken tenders, pot stickers, and sweet potato fries.
Chinglish Cantonese Wine Bar
Hong Kong dishes arrived at Boca Park in October with a roster of candied prawns, deep-fried green beans, Peking duck, and roasted pork belly. Chinglish Cantonese Wine Bar joins its sister restaurant, Kosher Chinglish, in the former Melting Pot space, spanning more than 4,200 square feet. At the helm, chef Po Fai Lam, his wife Anna, daughter Kitty Heck, and her husband Ken Heck. Lam’s career spans 45 years, taking him to Hong Kong, Beijing, and San Francisco before landing in Las Vegas. The menu features Peking duck, a dish meant to share, along with Portuguese wok-fried rice with coconut milk curry poured over a bed of chicken fried rice and brûléed under the broiler. Lam shares his chicken dumpling recipe, along with a rotisserie soya chicken leg, deep-fried sweet and sour chicken, wok-tossed candied walnut prawns, and braised tofu with shiitake mushrooms.
Chef Marc Vetri finds a permanent home for Osteria Fiorella, his Italian restaurant specializing in rustic Italian fare. Vetri opened the restaurant at Red Rock Resort in the former Terra Rossa space at the beginning of July. The restaurant offers offers rigatoni with Fiorella sausage ragu and Locatelli cheese, ricotta gnocchi with brown butter and crispy leeks, spaghetti with Bianco di Napoli tomatoes, and Sal’s famous meatballs with bruschetta and ricotta, an ode to Vetri’s father Sal. Other menu highlights include a veal chop Milanese and fried squid with agrodolce. Highlights of the kitchen include a wood-burning oven for the pizzas and a Josper charcoal oven.
Wolfgang Puck Players Locker
Vegas Golden Knights fans now have a restaurant and bar dedicated to the team. Wolfgang Puck Players Locker from the namesake chef and Vegas Golden Knights teammates Alex Tuch, William Karlsson, Deryk Engelland, Shea Theodore, and Reilly Smith debuted at Downtown Summerlin with dishes dedicated to the players, custom lockers lining the walls, and, if fans are lucky, frequent sightings of the NHL players. The menu features dishes such as Tuch’s Reuben sandwich with pastrami, sauerkraut, and Swiss cheese on marbled rye; Karlsson’s vegan burger that uses a Beyond Meat patty and vegan cheese; Reilly’s cheese curds; Deryk’s fish and chips with tartar sauce and malt vinegar; and Shea’s Gooey Deluxe, a dessert with a salted caramel chocolate chip cookie with vanilla ice cream. Other options include Puck’s famous smoked salmon pizza with caviar and dill crème fraiche; Puck’s take on poutine; truffle potato chips with bleu cheese fondue and chives; and seared filet mignon steak frites with bourbon-mustard sauce.
Downtown Summerlin now has a new Japanese restaurant specializing in sushi, shareable wagyu hot rocks, and wok dishes. Jing debuted in the the former 8,600-square-foot Fogo de Chao Brazilian Steakhouse in the Dining Arroyo area on the north end of the sprawling shopping center. The restaurant focuses on steaks, sushi, and seafood in an ultra-chic setting that includes fire and water features.
Mariposa Cocina & Cocktails
Mariposa Cocina & Cocktails opened in November inn the former Shiraz space, bringing a contemporary menu from with the help of consultants Antonio Nunez of The Stove in Henderson and Lanny Chin of The Slanted Door at the Forum Shops at Caesars. Chef Robert Lomeli describes the menu as a twist on traditional Mexican cuisine using high quality ingredients. Guacamole negro, grilled corn equities, queso fundido a la raclette, and nachos made table side with carne asada, carnitas, or chicken tinga start the menu, along with pozole roja, huarache de huitlacohe, and a roster of tacos stuffed with black beans, Mayan al pastor, marinated shrimp, and spicy lobster and skirt steak. Entrees include red chili roasted Colorado lamb chops, carne asada, mole poblano, Mexican paella, and slow-braised lamp shank.
Chef Kaoru Azeuchi moved his restaurant Kaiseki Yuzu from Silverado Ranch to Chinatown with options for multiple small, intricate dishes. The reservation-only kaiseki menu features hot and chilled dishes spotlighting seasonal ingredients. The space features two dining sections, including 10 seats at the open kitchen and two 12-seat dining tables, plus a second area with eight seats at the bar serving sake and Japanese whiskeys, and eight more inside a private dining room.
The Taco Stand
The San Diego-based The Taco Stand opened at the base of the Lotus apartment complex at the corner of Spring Mountain Road and Procyon Street in the Shops at Lotus in Chinatown in June with a menu of Tijuana-style tacos and California burritos. The tight menu features six options — carne asada, al pastor, pollo asado, camaron, pescado, and nopal tacos — with corn tortillas made in house as they’re ordered. Burritos, carne asada fries, and quesadillas round out the menu. A salsa bar features everything from super spicy habanero to chipotle and cilantro sauces.
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The chef behind local favorite Yonaka Modern Japanese and Henderson casual restaurant Purple Potato revealed his latest Asian fusion restaurant, self-described as “honest, gutsy, and often unexpected.” Ramir DeCastro’s Robata En replaces the shuttered 24-hour Vietnamese and Chinese-inspired Lee’s Noodle House at Spring Mountain Road’s Shan Tau Square, close to Arville Street and a few steps from Bank Atcharawan’s Thai-focused Lamaii. DeCastro brings back some Yonaka favorites such as crispy Brussels sprouts, miso buttered corn, and avocado nigiri. Other favorites include shishito peppers grilled with Binchotan charcoal, Jidori chicken served with pickled veggies and house made bread, yuzu tea brined ribs, and miso black cod.
Màs Por Favor Taqueria y Tequila
Más Por Favor Taqueria y Tequila at the Center at Spring Mountain includes two distinct venues, with the front featuring a vintage taqueria serving street tacos and the rear a secret tequila speakeasy. Tacos, of course, are the centerpiece on the taqueria side. Diners can choose from four styles of tacos served on hard or soft corn, hard or soft flour, or lettuce for the shells. The parlor with the secret bar serves house margaritas on tap, and specialty drinks such as Sweet Melons Dude with mezcal, honeydew juice, and Meyer lemon juice; Milk Money with Reposado Tequila, almond milk horchata, honey, and coconut cream; and the Facial with gin, chareau liqueur, cucumber, agave, mint, and lemon juice.
Take It Easy
Cheese-filled Colombian breads, pastries, and mocktails with a coffee base arrive at a new coffee shop and bakery opening in Chinatown that opened in July. Take It Easy from Josh Molina of Makers & Finders fame debuts Center at Spring Mountain as a roastery for his two coffee shops and a Colombian pastry shop. The bakery features buñuelos, little fried dough balls made to order and filled with cotija, and pandebono, a cornbread ball with cotija and queso fresco, as well as almojabana with queso fresco and feta cheese and pan con queso in individual and family sizes, stuffed with mozzarella and queso fresca. Carrot cake doughnuts, matcha cakes and cake pops, fruit tarts, and a roster of empanadas round out the food side of the menu.
Shigotonin Japanese Tapas & Sake
Shigotonin, a Japanese-style tapas and sake bar, opened in September in Golden Spring Plaza. The izakaya describes itself as offering “traditional Japanese dishes, regional specialties, and homemade cuisine with a modern flare.” Start with cold tofu with ikura, miso cheese, or roast pork, or try grilled mackerel, a salmon baguette, or salmon or scallop carpaccio. A short list of sushi and sashimi options, garlic fried rice, three kinds of chazuke, and tuna katsu round out the tight menu. Shigotonin also offers a range of sakes.
Consider Lamoon a sister restaurant to Lamaii, the Thai restaurant from Bank Atchawaran. The Asian restaurant in Chinatown from Bon Atchawaran, Bank’s older brother, features Thai food from Bon’s wife Bia Hawang and Japanese cuisine from Jay Boonparsook. Diners can scan in a QR code on their phones to order dishes such as coco tom yum with shrimp, soft tofu with mixed vegetables in a clear vegan broth, a taro and chestnut crispy stick, crispy wings with yuzu honey or spicy tom yum, pad kra pow with ground chicken or pork, vegan garlic fried rice, and yellow curry with chicken. For sushi rolls, find the Take Me Out with seared crab, eel, salmon, scallop, and tuna; the Roar with tuna, yellowtail salmon, scallop, and shrimp; Luna mushroom topped with spicy tuna, ikura, and crab meat with mango sauce; and the Girl Gone Wild with shrimp tempura wrapped with eel and eel sauce.
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The X Pot
The robot servers await their orders at the new X Pot at the Grand Canal Shoppes at the Palazzo. The restaurant from founders Haibin Yang and David Zhao created the restaurant that opened its lounge in August and revealed its dining room in September. The X Pot offers a mix of interactive dining and entertainment that includes classic Chinese face-changing performances and visual projections on the walls that can make the room seem as if it’s inside an aquarium, among other fantasy locales. At its core, the restaurant offers a menu of Chinese hot pots with five soup bases such as creamy lobster or Sichuan spicy. A wagyu feast for two comes with a Himalayan salt block grill. Other delicacies include a lamb board, wagyu short rib, kurobuta pork belly, and sliced chicken. Bullfrog legs, pig kidney, duck gizzard, and black tofu also make the menu. Basically, diners pick a broth, add some proteins, and let them cook at the table. Robot servers deliver ingredients to the table.
Kamu Ultra Karaoke
The 17,000-square-foot Kamu Ultra Karaoke with 40 different rooms, each with its own unique decor, opened at the Grand Canal Shoppes in July with private lounges for groups of six to 40 people who want to sing their hearts out to the thousands of songs in the venue’s catalog. The decor is out of this world, with each lounge decked out in its own design. One suite for eight features a waterfall motif while another features roses on the walls. Other themes include neon, the Milky Way, the circus, zebras, an inferno, and a rainbow. Executive chef Marty Lopez — a veteran in Vegas restaurants such as the former Herringbone at Aria, 35 Steaks + Martinis at the Hard Rock Hotel, the former Alizé at the Palms, Delmonico Steakhouse at the Venetian, and Bacchanal Buffet and Gordon Ramsay Pub & Grill at Caesars Palace — takes over the kitchen. The menu features Korean fried chicken, kalbi tacos, bacon-wrapped scallops, and a 40-ounce wagyu tomahawk steak. The venue also offers a bar and bottle service.
Buddy Valastro combines his two favorite things to eat — pizza and cake — at his new restaurant now open at Harrah’s. PizzaCake serves a roster of New York and Sicilian crusts, cookie dough dessert pizzas, slices of cake, and the namesake, PizzaCake. On the Strip side of the fast-casual restaurant sits a small patio, currently awaiting a six-foot-tall, six-layer, rainbow-colored vanilla cake sculpture, more tables, a walk-up window for ordering, and a cake ATM. Inside, the restaurant features photos of his family decorating the subway-tiled space, the walk-up counter, and another cake ATM facing the casino floor.
Bugsy & Meyer’s Steakhouse
The Flamingo Las Vegas debuted Bugsy & Meyer’s Steakhouse replete with a bakery in the front, a speakeasy inside with its own menu in July. The steakhouse takes its name from Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel and business partner Meyer Lansky, who opened the Flamingo Las Vegas in 1946. At the time, the resort brought Hollywood panache as the first resort-style hotel on the Strip.
Inside, the steakhouse offers 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. Studio K Creative out of Chicago worked with designer Jonathan Adler to create the look of the space. Adler built a custom-beaded piece of flamingo artwork that took 100 hours to make. She Hit Pause from New York City selected the artwork. Lobster tails, Alaskan king crab, foie gras, B&M scampi, Point Reyes cheese fondue, and more make the menu. The raw bar kitchen in the main dining room brings shellfish towers with charcoal grilled enhancements. Of course, 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.
Toridokoro Raku, a chicken-focused robata grill from Mitsuo Endo of Raku fame, opened in July inside the former Tatsujin X space near the Palms. While the small venue focuses on chicken yakitori dishes, it does feature a chef’s tasting menu for $75, or a premium version for $80 per person, along with a roster of sakes. Dishes that can be ordered individually include items from the robata grill such chicken heart, cartilage, gizzard, liver, neck, tail, breast with skin, and wing in the $4 to $5 each. The menu includes vegetable dishes as well with onion, sweet potato, pumpkin, or mushroom, each for $2.50 to $30. The robata kitchen includes a bar in front where diners can watch the action.Toridokoro Raku, a chicken-focused robata grill from Mitsuo Endo of Raku fame, opened earlier this month inside the former Tatsujin X space near the Palms. While the small venue focuses on chicken yakitori dishes, it does feature a chef’s tasting menu for $75, or a premium version for $80 per person, along with a roster of sakes.
Dishes that can be ordered individually include items from the robata grill such chicken heart, cartilage, gizzard, liver, neck, tail, breast with skin, and wing in the $4 to $5 each. The menu includes vegetable dishes as well with onion, sweet potato, pumpkin, or mushroom, each for $2.50 to $30. The robata kitchen includes a bar in front where diners can watch the action.
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Sickies Garage Burgers & Brews
A roster of 50 burgers and 50 beers make the menu at Sickies Garage Burgers & Brews, the Fargo, North Dakota-based restaurant that opened at Town Square in September. The menu features the Sickies burger with peppered bacon, fried egg, pulled pork, barbecue sauce, and American cheese, topped with onion rings and a splash of Frank’s Red Hot Sauce; a macaroni and cheese burger; and a glazed doughnut breakfast burger topped with American cheese and peppered bacon. For only-in-Vegas options, look for the Pit Boss with bacon, beef brisket, Jameson sauce, and cheddar cheese; the Black Hole with cheese curds and fried jalapeños; the Vegas burger with house-made fried jalapeños, barbecue sauce, and Gouda cheese; and the High Roller with two patties, pepper jack cheese, fried jalapeños, fried pickles, and peppered bacon, dressed with spicy sauce on three layers of Texas toast.
Biscuits & Bourbon
A rotating array of flights of jam and baskets of biscuits highlight the menu at Water Street’s new Biscuits & Bourbon that opened in September. The restaurant also features barbecue dishes and sandwiches. Look for pulled pork, St. Louis ribs, brisket, and pork belly burnt ends with a choice of sauces including ancho sage vinegar, Hendertucky white, golden mustard barbecue, bourbon brown sugar barbecue, and desert hot barbecue. Most barbecue meats are smoked for at least eight hours by pitmaster Matt Coleman.