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Las Vegas: free-spirited 'hound seeks chow, no reservations required?

Esteemed 'hounds: I expect that most fine dining options-- including many Chowhound favorites-- in Las Vegas require reservations, particularly around the holiday weekends. I've got a long week-end in Las Vegas ahead of me where my aim is to liberate myself from my grueling schedule. My Day-Timer is staying at home.

I want to lie around the pool, drink fruity drinks, read trashy novels, and occasionally get up to gawk at the sites on the Strip. Maybe pop in to one of those wedding chapels and get married at 3am. Spontaneous. Casual. Low-key. Accordingly, I don't want to make any "commitments;" sadly, even a lunch or dinner reservation seems like too much of a commitment right now.

Do you have any recommendations for good chow --breakfast, lunch and dinner--that is available on a walk-in or more spontaneous basis? Basically, I'm hoping for a list of restaurants to tuck in the inner pocket of my leopard-print purse that I can consult when we reach that, "Hey, we're hungry now, where shall we eat?" point.

We'll be staying on the Strip, but we'll have a car. We'll probably want one "dress-up" meal; otherwise, we're casual people. (There will be two or three of us.) We're open to all kinds of cuisines--we've eaten at Lotus of Siam, Peppermill, Fatburger, the Four Seasons (for afternoon tea), The Grand Luxe Cafe(just ok), Bally's cafe (don't recommend it)...probably some others that I can't remember. We plan to have pancakes at the Wynne because I've been tipped off that they are "the best pancakes ever". We'd love to hit LOS again if we can get in without reservations. Also, we'd probably like a decent steak for at least one meal. We missed Luv-it Custard last time--that's still on the list.

Any ideas? And, Happy Thanksgiving everyone. Thank you!


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  1. Frankly, I think your strategy is a WONDERFUL way to do Las Vegas. I rarely make reservations in Las Vegas, and rarely eat on the Strip. I wouldn't recommend this for folks who don't have a car, but if you do, why not play things by ear?

    I rarely eat breakfast in LV, so one way I cope with potential crowds is by eating at odd hours in places that are open straight through between lunch and dinner.

    I posted about my last trip. Before this, most of my Chinese meals have been in the major section of Spring Mountain Chinatown. Based on Chowhound recommendations, I visited Hue's Thai Sandwiches http://www.chowhound.com/topics/31695... a Vietnamese restaurant that has an extensive menu -- especially at dinner-- as well as bahn mi and terrific fruit drinks). While there, I stumbled onto Penang Malaysian Cuisine and Champion Food, much to my pleasure -- http://www.chowhound.com/topics/31699...
    The fish and roti telur at Penang were outstanding.

    All of these are located at 5115 Spring Mountain, and I'd guess there are other treasures there.

    "Arcosdesign," a Chowhound, tipped me to Mariana's Supermarket at 3631 W. Sahara, a place I had passed countless times. Inside is a snack bar/restaurant that serves excellent tacos and tortas, the best I've had in Las Vegas, and much much more. I enjoyed almost everything I ate in two visits except for wretched tamales. While you're waiting for your food, feast on the unlimited *excellent* (fresh, usually warm or hot) tortilla chips (which you can buy, bagged, to take out) and salsa. Mariana's also serves frsh soups and daily specials.

    The place is packed at prime-time for lunch but not unpleasantly so. If you go at an off-hour (say, before 11:30 or after 2:00), it's much less crowded.

    1. You can always pop in to Rosemary's and grab a spot at the bar. Both barkeeps are top-notch food servers and you can avail yourself of the entire menu, plus the small plates from the bar menu. Go on Sunday night for half-price wine. You've hit some major hound spots in past trips...if you don't know Rosemary's it's high time you did.

      1 Reply
      1. re: GroovinGourmet

        The first time we went to Rosemary's we hadn't made a reservation because we were indecisive and had decided to play it by ear that night. The dining room was full so we ate at the bar from the regular menu. Great experience, fabulous meal, and actually a very different experience from our subsequent meal in the dining room. The bar was very quiet that night and we had ample time to chat with the bartender about anything and everything.

      2. I've found Craftsteak at MGM is a place that you can often walk into or call ahead as it has such a large seating capacity. I've called as I walked out the door for Nobhill a few minutes later and been seated. If you want a dress up dinner that you can do on short notice, Nobhill would be a great choice. Excellent food, service as good as it gets, soothing ambience, and a menu that has something for pretty much any taste. There may be other choices, but these are the ones I know for certain about. I'd also recommend Mesa Grill for lunch, very reasonably priced, fun atmosphere, and the burgers were sooooo good! 877-2dinelv will get you the reservations for all MGM properties, they're very helpful at making suggestions.

        1. The Ellis Island Casino and Brewery features dollar pints and the best BBQ in town:


          1 Reply
          1. re: LordOfTheGrill

            Beware, we once tried to pop into Ellis Island for some BBQ on a Thursday night to find that there was an 1 3/4 hour wait! Who'd have thoguht...?!

          2. At least at lunch, and I suspect at dinner if you aren't eating at 'prime time', you don't need reservations for Mon Ami Gabi if you don't insist on eating outdoors with the view of the (Bellagio) fountains. No need to dress up either, and the food is great, imo.

            1. Just returned from Vegas. Went to LOS without a rez on a Monday night. Big mistake. Waited an hour for a table BUT IT WAS WORTH IT!!! So, if you don't mind waiting. . .
              Also had the 25 cent martini lunch at Commander's Palace in the Aladdin. Didn't need a reservation, place was virtually empty but don't let that scare you off. The food was excellent. And that's not just the 4 martinis talking.

              2 Replies
              1. re: Rondo

                Commander's Palace is one of my favorite places to dine in Vegas as well. We went for lunch awhile back and didn't need a reservation. They had great gumbo and this duck dish that was so incredibly tender and delicious.

                1. re: Rondo

                  My son was in Vegas over Halloween weekend and called Friday afternoon for a Friday night reservation at LOS and was told they were booked up. That day was a holiday in Nevada (Nevada Day, ie statehood day) so that might have made Vegas busier than usual. I felt badly because I had told him he would like LOS, but forgot to warn him to make a reservation early.....

                2. Go to LOS during lunch. We've done that the last three trips and we get in and sit down immediately. Just ask for the menu as the buffet isn't too great.

                  Since you have a car Rosemary's is great but since you don't want reservations I'd again recommend them for lunch.

                  Commander's Palace, again for lunch, with the 25 cent martinis is great.

                  Skip the dinner buffets as they all seem to have HUGE lines around dinner time.

                  Ellis Island does have excellent BBQ. Walk in and the BBQ is on your left, near the Metro Pizza stand. Unless you get there at 4pm when them open, do expect to wait however.

                  1. Rosemary's is awesome you need reservations and it is a drive this would be my dress up and spend big night.

                    The Mediterranean Cafe & Market on Maryland and Flamingo is very good ethnic food if you want to try something different.

                    Delmonico in the Venitian was very good for lunch no wait and smaller portions.

                    Always in order is a In and Out Burger.

                    And for a great breakfast the Original Pancake House on Sarah can't miss.

                    Have fun,

                    1. Thank you so much, everyone, for your wonderful recommendations. I knew I could count on you. Unfortunately, I didn't get out and about as much as I'd hoped--the traffic was more congested than I expected, which made it hard for us to get around. Eventually, we ditched the car and went only to places we could walk to. Our strategy turned from chow-seeking to traffic avoidance. Nevertheless, we did have a fabulous time and came home refreshed and relaxed, which was the point, even though we didn't try the best chow in town.

                      Do not despair, however, thinking that your recommendations will go unappreciated; we plan on getting back to Vegas at least one more time this winter and I will, again, tuck this list in the inner liner of my purse and do a better job of pursuing good chow.

                      We ate at Ellis Island, which was a hoot. We tried the steak special, though, not the BBQ. The person in our party who wanted steak was delighted (I think he can't resist a bargain), so, we'll go back next time, too. And I'll order the BBQ.

                      I wholeheartedly recommend the pancakes (either the buttermilk or blueberry stack) at the Terrace Pointe Cafe in the Wynn. Wait a few minutes if you have to for a table outside so you can have your breakfast overlooking the pool. The pancakes will set you back about $14, but they are light and fluffy (about an inch thick each), and are served with a little dish of whipped butter and a warm carafe of real maple syrup. The blueberries in the blueberry stack are plump and juicy and the size of marbles. I also had a ham steak on the side (to avoid sugar overload), which was thick and nicely grilled.

                      We also tried the Monte Carlo Pub and Brewery. I'm not a beer drinker, but those who tried the home-brewed pale ale thought it was nice (although, they gave slightly higher marks to the pale ale at Main Street Station, which had more of a home brew feel.) I ordered the fish tacos--they were fine, not exceptional. They had a portabella mushroom+bacon sandwich that wasn't as rich and decadent as I wanted it to be (anytime I order bacon, it had better be decadent.) Also at the Monte Carlo, we ate dinner at Dragon Noodle. Abysmal service and average food, but, actually, the egg rolls (pork) hit the spot for me even though they were fairly ordinary. There is something unreal about being able to eat whatever you want at about any time of day.

                      Quark's in the Star Trek Experience (the Hilton) was fun, even though the food was only average. You feel like you're eating in a spaceship; the wait staff are dressed in Star Trek uniforms and occasionally a Andorian will wander past. The menu is a great read and all of the food is presented "space age" style. We ordered one of the big, bulbous drinks to share--the Captain Kirk: it was bright, neon blue and smoking (from dry ice.) I ordered jambalaya (blah, don't bother) and a salad, which was fine. We also had the tower of onion rings, which was fun. Other tables ordered the ribs, which were flaming at their tables and I was jealous.

                      I mentioned Main Street Station. Nothing remarkable, except the home brewed beer and the price point. I had a portabella mushroom sandwich there, too, which, again, was adequate.

                      Anyway, thank you again. I'm book marking this thread and will report back after my NEXT trip to Vegas in the next couple of months.


                      2 Replies
                      1. re: The Dairy Queen

                        So, taking advantage of the new photo feature, here is a photo of the buttermilk pancakes at the Terrace Pointe Cafe at the Wynn.

                        Also, of the bulbous drink at Quark's in the Hilton

                        And, the steak special at Ellis Island.


                        1. re: The Dairy Queen

                          Oh no! I've just heard back from the friend who alerted me to the fantastic, as-big-as-your-plate, superthick buttermilk pancakes at the Wynn, and he says they've changed them! Now, they are three little pancakes that fit on your pancake in a single layer, rather than a stack of three, each as big as the plate. I don't know if they've changed anything else, but I'm devastated that they've messed with a good thing. :( Why oh why!