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Sep 15, 2006 05:55 AM

Two Chowhound Favorites Are Tops in Food Ratings in New Zagat Guide to Las Vegas

O.K., I'm a complete hypocrite. Although I'm not as anti-Zagat as some on Chowhound, the guide to Las Vegas is particularly egregious, leaving out so many worthwhile restaurants outside of hotels (I understand that a good percentage of respondents to the Las Vegas guide are tourists).

So I have to say I'm gratified that Rosemary's and Lotus of Siam are given the highest food rating (28) in the current guide. I'm delighted that two independent, standalone, family-run restaurants were recognized, ranked higher than the usual suspects (Nobu, Picassso, Michael Mina, Andres, and Prime received 27s).

That said, Rosemary's landed in 19th place as most popular, and LOS wasn't even in the top 40, beaten by the Bellagio Buffet (fourth!), P.F. Chang's (22nd), and Il Fornaio (34th). It shows how (relatively) few visitors veer off of the Strip.

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  1. Dave, I am from NYC area and spend a fair amount of time "visiting" (my wife would argue way TOO much time) Las Vegas. I will be the first to admit that I can be classified as a certifiable freak when it comes to food and wine and thoroughly enjoy reading your various posts. To me, places like LOS and Rosemary's will NEVER be too far away when I am visiting. But then again, I am one that decided that traveling 6 hours in a car one weekend visiting 4 different Pizza joints in the NY Metro was justifiable (wife and kids, 5-5-3 years olds in tow!). In a sense I agree with your assessment about tourists getting off the beaten path. However I have to admit, when it comes to venturing outside the confines of the strip sometimes the comfort of the casinos is more alluring than trying to get to that certain jewel. And when you talk about the weekend crowds (which I classify myself 90% of the time), that traffic can be downright torturous. However hard some restaurants and reviewers try and build Vegas as a "culinary" destination (And I will be the 1st to argue that IT IS!) the large majority of people will not. If you live in the NY area and someone said, lets go to a city with the best restaurants, 95 out of 100 will not say Vegas. And if they do, they end up being like me...certifiable!

    1 Reply
    1. re: LVI

      You raise an interesting subject -- whether it is easier to visit casino restaurants or locals places. The properties are so huge now, and it often takes so long to get out of parking lots into the casinos, that unless I were eating inside a hotel where I'm staying, I'd say it's usually easier, and often faster, to get off the strip, despite the horrific traffic.

      I think that the invasion of the "name" chefs is only a small reason why Las Vegas has become an exciting food town. I'd attribute it more to the population explosion, and in particular the explosion of workers from so many different ethnicities, and the restaurants that have developed to serve them.

      I don't want to underestimate the influence of the hotels, though. Many of them are pushing QUALITY, when it used to be mostly about opulence and abundance.

    2. The problem of eating off The Strip is easily solved: don't stay on The Strip when you visit Las Vegas. I never do. I'll invariably stay off-Strip, rent a car and make my way to those small treasures - like Rosemary's and Lotus of Siam - frequented by locals. The Strip has some good boites, but - as a food writer in GQ magazine noted recently - with such high prices, they're rarely good value. Two other off-Strip winners: Todd's Unique, on Sunset east of The Strip, and the joint {the name of which escapes me now) that used to be called the Wild Sage Cafe, but which soldiers on under the same ownership in a small plaza just south of the airport. It takes me no longer to get to any of these places than I suspect it would take me to get out of some Strip hotel parking lots.

      1 Reply
      1. re: juno


        The ex-Wild Sage place is called Table 34, a name that I keep forgetting, too. My theory is that travel time goes much faster as long as you're moving. I agree it doesn't seem to take longer to get from Sahara to Warm Springs to eat at Table 34 as it does to go from Caesars Palace to Treasure Island.

        I also prefer to stay off-strip and avoid LV Blvd. whenever possible.

      2. Dave (and Juno)

        I'm curious where you have found are good places to stay in order to be well-located relative to the restaurants you like to visit (Is that an important hotel-selection criterion for you, or even possible from a practical standpoint?). On our next trip we plan to hit Todds and Table 34 for the first time each, and certainly make return visits to LOS and Rosemary's (the latter in spite of the fact that I wasn't highly taken with their version of BBQ shrimp, which seems to put me in the minority--the other stuff they have is certainly worth it though.

        1. To johnb:
          My off-Strip favorite hotels, at the moment anyway, that allow me to get to my favorite Las Vegas restaurants by car in a timely manner, are: the Orleans, on Tropicana about a mile west of The Strip; the Tuscany, on Flamingo a block or so east of The Strip; and, most recently, the newly-opened South Coast, about five miles south of The Strip on Las Vegas Blvd. All offer excellent value compared to Strip hotels. The Orleans and South Coast are exceptionally well-run. The Tuscany, somewhat more expensive than the other two, offers unusually large suites. They're all very comfortable, and the money you save by not staying on The Strip will pay for the car rental you'll need to get to the more out-of-the-way boites in Las Vegas, with enough left over to hit Rosemary's, Table 34, Lotus of Siam or Todd's (nicely-priced wine list) more than once.

          1. Several of the past posts mention value. And while I would agree 100% that staying @ the Orleans or Tuscany (personally would never stay at the Tuscany given a good friends experience last year: SERIOUS questions regarding security and the paper-thin walls) or any other "value" property provides better value than places like the Bellagio, the Bellagio @ $191.50 is not all that UN-reasonable (we are a group of 8 guys who go every year. $191.50 is the average price we all got through the Bellagio website for our upcoming trip 9/28-10/2). In life they say you get what you pay for. Sure, nobody could argue the fact that most, if not all, strip hotels are egregiously over-priced in most categories. However, and this goes back to my original point that people generally go to Vegas to "escape", it is all part of the experience. I could stay at one of the off strip locations and save a little $ but then I am not afforded certain perks, like the lavish pools, shows, and other amenities that are THE major draws to Sin City. And, if I do want to stay @ one of these locations and then come to the strip, I would have to deal with the traffic, parking and be limited to the casino and all other general admission areas. People that say that traffic is not a major problem have never found themselves stuck in weekend traffic. I am definitely in the minority because I DO venture out to "off-strip" locations (as a matter of fact we are going to both Rosemary's and LOS at prime times on the weekend). But I can see why people don't. At the end of the evening, if I stay @ the Bellagio and take my wife to a dinner @ Rosemary's, the cost of that and a dinner @ Picasso is negligible (it all depends on the wine, obviously, but even Picasso has become aware of that and offers decently priced wine parings.) When you add in all the travel costs and time, the off-strip locations end up not being the deal that most profess. However, the thing that cannot be questioned is the quality.