In the era of Las Vegas as a foodie haven, it's hard to imagine a time when hungry visitors once had to try to sate their appetites at charmless buffets, vying over the last tepid crab legs. These days, innovative and funky Las Vegas restaurants, launched by celebrity chefs and award-winning restaurateurs, pop up with stunning regularity, delighting diners with experiences both upscale and large-scale, as well as comfy and casual. Of course, innovative cuisine remains the top priority, and it's not unusual to see menus graced with items like roasted bone marrow with bacon marmalade or carnitas tacos with braised pork. Loosen your belt buckles; here are our picks for Vegas's hottest new restaurants.
Widely considered by locals and food critics alike to be the hottest new celebrity chef restaurant to grace the Las Vegas Strip in years, Gordon Ramsay Steak has sent stomachs aflutter, in a very good way. Located inside Paris Las Vegas, the upscale, 274-seat steakhouse spares no expense in ensuring a top-notch meal. Steaks are flown in from New York butcher Pat LaFrieda, then aged a minimum 28 days. If you're having trouble deciding among cuts of beef, a server will wheel to your table a silver steak cart featuring the menu's various cuts for your perusal. Make it your business to indulge in the signature dish, beef Wellington, the buttery pastry and beef complemented by the potato puree and root vegetables. If you're not fit to burst after your meal, satisfy your sweet tooth with a toffee pudding, served with browned butter ice cream and a brown butter sauce.
Since it swung open its doors to the Vegas masses in December 2011, Public House pub in The Venetian has garnered local awards such as "Best New Beer Bar" and "Best Gastropub," while earning the devotion of locals and tourists alike. The casual dining experience offered at Public House may be a welcome respite for folks tired of sipping vodka cocktails -- the pub offers an excellent selection of whisky, scotch, wine and more than 200 different beers, including 24 on tap. The restaurant's cicerone, or beer sommelier, will help you pair your beer choice with your meal. Speaking of food, the Public House menu will fill your belly to the brim with all manner of gourmet pub food, including a pork belly sandwich with apple-fennel slaw and cider aioli. For an even greater protein fix, slice into the dry-aged bone-in 18 1/2-oz. ribeye. If by some grace you've managed to save room for dessert, double up with a 10-year-old tawny port and the chocolate stout layer cake, a divine concoction served with malted milk ice cream and bacon rice krispies.
The brand-spanking-new Bacchanal Buffet opened in Ceasars Palace in September 2012 (after originally closing in 2000). Within weeks, the restaurant had Las Vegas abuzz over its $17-million, 25,000-square-foot space offering an orgy of food. The buffets feature more than 500 food items prepared in 9 show kitchens throughout the space, with an assortment of food that will satisfy both gourmands and gastro-novices. A whopping 80% of all food on the premises is prepared in front of diners -- no gelatinous, hours-old grub in hot trays at this upscale buffet. Guests can stretch their pants waists with buffet standbys such as prime rib, crab legs and bread pudding, as well as innovative options like watermelon and feta salad, charcuterie and pozole (a type of Mexican stew) with handmade tortillas. If you're looking for some post-dinner amore, hit up the oyster bar, where you'll find a selection of the briny aphrodisiacs at your disposal.
Vegas’s reputation as a foodie destination has only been bolstered by James Beard Award-winning chef José Andrés’s opening of China Poblano in the Cosmopolitan resort casino and hotel. The restaurant's Chinese-Mexican food concept has brought an eye-opening twist to the Vegas food scene, both with its unique cuisine as well as its comfortable, low-key atmosphere. The small-plates menu allows diners to combine offerings such as beef tongue or fried-fish tacos with Beijing-style glass noodles or Mongolian beef. Be sure to order the fresh guacamole, served with made-on-the-spot tortillas, or the carnitas tacos filled with braised baby pig, pork rinds and spicy salsa. The cocktail menu is another revelation: Whether you're starting out your night, or need some hair-o’-the-dog the morning after, there are few wrongs a José Andrés Salt Air Margarita can't make right.
If you want your Vegas vacation to take a slightly more punk-rock spin than the cocktail lounges at most casinos offer, head to the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino's newest restaurant, Culinary Dropout. An edgy, if massive pub, the 6,000-square-foot space can seat up to 320 patrons, and is conveniently located near the hotel's pool scene; it even offers a 3,000-square-foot patio with couches and fire pits. While two-thirds of the menu is devoted to boozing (it is Vegas, after all), the grub options are well worth the indulgence. In particular, sink your teeth into an order of chicken-fried pork chops, honey-drizzled biscuits, soft pretzels with provolone fondue or the hard-to-find Iberian Spanish ham from the charcuterie bar. You'll be even luckier to find yourself here for brunch while nursing a morning-after hangover: Order the Cap'n Crunch-crusted French toast with cereal milk custard, and a bacon Bloody Mary, stat!