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Tactical Question re Dining in Vegas

Family trip coming up with 2 kids - 7 and 11 (today - happy birthday!). Both are adventurous eaters but randomly picky. Neither eats large quantities of food at a time, almost ever. Actually, neither do my husband or I. He and I are also extremely light drinkers.

Buffet or not? I don't want to pay alot and feel like I could've dined elsewhere, better, for less $. This is a relative question rather than my budget is $x question. I read a blurb from another post that kids are charged same price, or may bring in outside food. If none of us are big big eaters, is it worth it just for the quality, variety, high end items, and experience? If we buffet, is there a best meal to go as btwn bfast lunch and dinner (in terms of bang for buck and wait times being not so terrible)?

What about the celebrity chef restaurant outposts? Any good deals out there in places that won't sneer at me when I bring my kids along?

Finally, the regular nonbuffet, non celebrity, regular old restaurants... tips for affordable good tasting meals? I know this is super broad - we are staying in the Stratosphere and walking up and down the strip. No car. Any cuisine will do, but we aren't big fans of greasy spoon diners.

Appreciate all the help! I will do some research on my own too.

ps - not food question. Someone told me that the nightly pirate show outside Treasure Island might not be appropriate for my 7 y.o. Thoughts?

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  1. Downtown the Fremont Street Experience is fun for kids. Also they have a Light show starts on the hour from 9:00 PM. "Du Pars" up scale Coffee shop open 24 Hours in the Golden Gate Hotel, also downtown.

    1. I wouldn't worry about the TI show unless you are REALLY offended by anything you would see on any beach for swimwear.

      1. That's some walk you've got planned. Your hotel is at the far north end of the strip. You really can't walk to downtown from there and, the strip, itself, is at least a mile long. There is a monorail along the strip but, I'm not sure where to catch it. I believe it stops at all the hotels.

        3 Replies
        1. re: mucho gordo

          The closest Monorail stop is behind the shell of the old Sahara. It goes behind the east side of the strip, stopping at Sahara, LVH (formerly the Hilton), the Las Vegas Convention Center, Harrah's and The Quad, Flamingo, Bally's and Paris, and finally MGM Grand. Note that it stops in the very back of each hotel property.

          1. re: JK Grence the Cosmic Jester

            Friends and I have walked from Fremont to Charleston(not far from the Strat) a few times, and I have walked the Strip during Halloween in costume, so it isn't THAT bad. The Strip is 4.2 miles end to end.

          2. re: mucho gordo

            I've walked it. It's pretty entertaining (and a good way to wear out the kids)...

          3. For the buffet or not question: It depends. I feel like going to a buffet in Vegas is like going up the Eiffel Tower on a trip to Paris; you could skip it, but why? The buffet is as much a part of the Vegas experience as showgirls and slot machines.

            Worth it for quality: Depends entirely on the hotel. Higher end hotel, higher end buffet. I'd rather pay a few bucks extra for Wicked Spoon, Bellagio, Wynn, or Spice Market than endure the sub-Golden Corral slop at the low end buffets like Excalibur, Circus Circus, or Stratosphere.

            High end items: Those are at dinner. My usual buffet meal is lunch. It's not AS fancy as dinner, but the good buffets still have a very nice selection. By the time I'm done, I'm full enough that dinner is a very late meal.

            Kids' buffet pricing: As far as I can tell, it depends on the hotel. Call the ones that don't have pricing online and you'll find out. It looks like the usual kid/adult split is either 8 or 10 years old; your 7 will pretty much always get it, the 11 year old almost never will.

            Celebrity chef restaurants, for the most part, won't bat an eye at your kids as long as they're reasonably well-behaved. Good deals and celebrity chef restaurants are, for the most part, mutually exclusive. One of the few steals in this realm is the Cut of the Week prix fixe menu at Charlie Palmer Steak down at the Four Seasons in Mandalay Bay. Three courses including wine, $48 per person. Problem is, it's definitely a grown-up restaurant; I'd call ahead to see how they prefer to handle kids. You may also be interested in the $20.13 lunch special at Estiatorio Milos inside The Cosmopolitan While it's not a celebrity chef restaurant per se, it's an outstanding restaurant.

            A couple of blocks north of Stratosphere is a phenomenal little place, Viva Las Arepas. It's quickly vaulted to my must-have list every time I'm in Vegas. Bonus: Luv-It Frozen Custard is practically across the street from it.

            Bad news: Stratosphere is pedestrian no-man's land. The closest Strip hotels, Circus Circus and Riviera, are 3/4 mile south. The next closest, Wynn and Treasure Island, are another mile past that.

            As for the Sirens of TI show: It is not appropriate for anyone. The most I've seen of it was when I was walking from Mirage to Wynn, and even THAT felt like two minutes of my life I'd never get back. I couldn't imagine staying for the whole show.

            1 Reply
            1. re: JK Grence the Cosmic Jester

              Great advice from JK G. in general, although I consider the pirate show to be pretty much G-rated (I'm local, so maybe I'm jaded). However, I agree, it's terrible.

              Totally agree on the good vs bad buffets. Add Paris to the "good" category, unless it's changed in the last couple of years. I especially like their breakfast buffet.

              Another vote for Viva Las Arepas. However, from there, it's not a very pleasant walk downtown. Consider the bus.

              On the Strip, not celebrity, but I really like Taqueria Canonita at the Venetian. Canal-side, so it's fun for the kids.

              Not really walkable, but a short cab ride out E. Sahara is Lotus of Siam, a board favorite and possibly the best Thai restaurant in the USA. A bit pricier than the average Thai place, but worlds better. If you like Thai food, you shouldn't miss it (skip the buffet, order from the menu).

            2. I'm a fourteen year resident of Las Vegas. The Strip and affordable restaurants is an oxymoron. The locals, for the most part, avoid eating on the Strip due to the high cost.The buffets will not allow you to bring in food. You may want to consider taking the Deuce buses on the Strip. It costs. $8 for a twenty four hour pass. The Deuce is a enclosed double decker bus. Your children might enjoy riding on the top level. The Deuce stops at all of the major resorts. The pass is also accepted on all of the routes throughout the Valley. The breakfast buffet is always the lowest cost buffet. On the Strip, expect to pay at least $15 per person for the breakfast buffet.

              1. Thanks everyone for the responses so far. Notes: bus pass, check. I think that is our plan, but cheap transportation is husband's job, whereas food recs are mine!

                Lotus of Siam - have heard much about it, mostly good, and potentially a stop. Although we get thai food on a regular basis, so there's little novelty in that, even if the quality is great.

                Buffets - if we go, we'll avoid the cheap. It would be great if we could just have that one meal a day and fill up, but our stomachs don't work that way. I will call ahead about kid pricing though.

                TI - will probably go to the pirate show. I may lose some brain cells but the kids will have fun. This trip is as much about them as about the grownups.

                4 Replies
                1. re: sasha1

                  If it's for the kids, you won't want to miss Circus Circus.

                  1. re: sasha1

                    I'm not sure that it is safe to walk to Lotus of Siam - but once you're there it's wonderful.

                    Right across the strip from the Stratosphere is a little scruffy Thai restaurant that is right next to a tacky motel. The food there is surprisingly good. The place is called Ocha and I'm pasting my review from 2011 below here
                    Ocha is a hole in the wall Thai place across the strip from the Stratosphere. It shares a parking lot with a motel with swimming pool and a wedding chapel. Inside is not spectacular - very plain. There's a cop there enjoying his lunch and I believe the front part of Ocha may be a Thai deli - if such a thing exists. I wanted something like Lotus's Nam Kao Tod and I didn't see it on the menu. So I ordered Yum Nam - which was described as "salad with pork tenderskin" or something like that - there were typos and I may have misread it. I also ordered a red chicken curry. The Yum Nam had chewy bits - they may have been tendon and not skin ut they were not unpleasant and easy to chew - there was also pieces of ground pork, salad bits and enough peppers to bring it up to ten stars. I was right that this would be a more than adequate replacement for Nam Kao Tod. After a few mouthfuls the blend of spicy sour and umami kicked in and I found myself rapidly wolfing it down. The red curry was also very nice (and huge) (but not particularly exceptional). All the flavors were fresh and vibrant - just as they are at Lotus.

                    The menu is a lot smaller than Lotus. The place is clearly family run. They serve wine and beer. They also serve water in plastic beakers. All in all, a nice little discovery.

                    The tab was under $20.

                    1. re: kagemusha49

                      You probably mean the Thai BBQ, they do have good food.

                      LeThai is also very good, and is located on Fremont Street.

                      Bar+Bistro is located in the Arts Factory, and they have some good food there, think Latin fusion/tapas. Plus depending on the night/day/morning you are there you can catch a Preview Thursday,First Friday,live bluegrass for the Sunday hangover brunch, painters on the patio, vintage bike night, or any number of events held out on the patio.

                      I like Tiffany's cafe after a long night out. Old School diner that has been featured in movies. You will probably consider it a greasy spoon though.

                      The weather is nice right now, so walking is an option. I have a German friend who was staying at the Super 88 next to the Viva Las Vegas wedding chapel on LV Blvd. He walked everywhere for 9 months,at all hours, and never had an issue.

                      The 7yr old will like the explosions at the TI show. Also catch a fountain show, or two in front of the Bellagio. Night is best for great pics. They also have a great atrium, and the world's biggest chocolate fountain.

                      There is a lot to do off strip too IE; Thunderbird museum at Nellis AFB, Red Rock rec area, Valley of Fire State park, pinball hall of fame, Mt. Charleston, Ethel M's chocolate factory, Springs Preserve, and more, so you might want to look into a rental car-they are not that expensive. I used to rent a car from Avis for a week for $250. With all of the above call before going to double check times of operation.

                      1. re: BIGGUNDOCTOR

                        Well maybe it's changed its name but it is right across the strip from the Stratosphere and was called Ocha

                  2. There is a Thai restaurant named Ocha Cusine that is located at 2211 LV Blvd - the Strat is at 2000. Thai Original BBQ, while not on the Strip proper, is located at 1424 S 3rd St, just north of the Strat.

                    1. Putting in a few more details to the extent it's helpful. We are going for 3 days, so a rental car seems excessive. I think we'll find plenty to keep us busy on the strip. And if the buses go up and down the strip, then we can rest our weary feet if we need to.

                      Bellagio fountain is high on our list, along with the pirate show, the Mandalay fish tank, the tigers, the Aladdin storms, the Venetian canals. Etc. I've only been to Vegas once, 11 yrs ago, but these are the attractions I remember that would appeal to kids. Also Hoover dam, which we'll buy some kind of tour.

                      Of all the places I'd like to eat, authentic Thai is lowest on my list. Not cause I don't like it, but because one kid has a severe nut allergy. Authentic hole in the wall Thai is the likeliest place of cross contamination, or servers who don't understand what we're trying to tell them about the allergy.

                      So, let's take Thai recs off the table. Any other food and entertainment recs certainly appreciated.

                      Another question: if I wanted to take them to Jose Andres or Bobby Flay etcs places over there, is a mid-week dinner reservation a must? Or can you just walk in at mid-week?

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: sasha1

                        My granddaughter also has a life threatening nut allergy and there aren't too many places we can take her. I'm sure you know to call the restaurant and ask and keep an EPI pen handy just in case.

                        1. re: sasha1

                          I recommend reserving at Mesa Grill. They are always busy. Good food and drinks too.

                        2. No doubt you are going to ride the rides at the top of the Stratosphere. I'd check out the Circus Circus Adventuredome (an indoor theme park). There's a short zipline that goes through the Fremont St Experience, which is pretty neat.

                          I've always found eating in the dining room at Payard (Caesars Palace) to be one of the nicest affordable places to eat. I consider it low-key fancy. Brunch is great. At dinner they have the chef and sous-chef in the middle of the dining room cooking meals so you can watch. And for lunch, well I usually just go to the counter and order a sandwich.

                          1. Not to be ~too~ OT, but I haaated LV as a child (San Diego native). My take is: fun for grownups, sucky for kids.

                            I'd get a super athletic kid un-sitter, rent some mountain bikes, and send them to ride the Flume Trail in Tahoe myself.

                            food related: pack some sandwiches. perhaps some chowfolks have some good deli recommendations.

                            1. Folks, please help sasha1 with questions about dining in Las Vegas. Non-food-related posts about entertainment for the family are off topic, though; let's leave them for another website, and keep this focused on food.

                              1. Some of the more casual celebrity chef outposts are kid-friendly. I really enjoyed Otto Enoteca Pizzeria -- one of Mario Batali's places in the Venetian. Plus, it's a kind of cool place for kids, because there's seating "outside" on the (indoor) Piazza San Marco, and there are usually things going on in the square.

                                I suggest before you make firm transportation decisions you look at a map that's to scale, and look at the scale -- what looks like a block on the Strip is often the equivalent of about four regular city blocks. And it might be hot. And when you get where you're going you're going to want to walk around. Hot, tired kids are not having a good time. Rental cars are cheap, and parking is free (I personally love to valet park at the big hotel casinos -- totally worth the $2 tip).

                                If you can get off Strip there are more good dining choices, and the cost savings might pay for the car rental!

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                  Agreed on the rental. I just rented a car from Avis for 2 days while my truck is in the shop, for $56-unlimited mileage. Went with Avis since they take debit cards-I don't own a credit card. With a car you can really explore the food options off the Strip. I ate at Viva Arepas after picking up the car, and it was very good, with good prices.

                                2. If you get over to Mandalay Bay, you might want to try Hubert Keller's Burger Bar. You can choose any type of meat, bread & fixings. Just had a nice lunch today (Kobe burger with foie gras and sweet potato fries). Lots of families.

                                  1. Jean Philippe Patisserie at Bellagio and Aria has very nice sandwiches and beautiful, delicious desserts. It's a very casual, order at the counter place with reasonable prices for the location. The one at Aria is basically in the casino, while the Bellagio location is in a mall-type hallway location, much more appropriate for the kiddos (and closer to Stratosphere).

                                    The desserts are really lovely, lots of choices on display and so good. I have literally licked the little plates they come on.

                                    I would say generally, since none of you are big eaters, buffets are not the way to go.