Everyone always wants to know about what’s new in Las Vegas. Over the past couple years, Southern Nevada’s largest city has weathered the challenges of the pandemic, yet things continue to move forward. Between hotel openings and a wave of new restaurants, Vegas has barely slowed down. It’s almost hard to imagine that little over a year ago, the Strip was completely closed, resembling something akin to a post-apocalyptic ghost town.
Yet while things change, the more they remain the same. Las Vegas is sometimes too eager to part ways with its history (often with an over-the-top implosion), but if nothing else, is known as much for its restaurants as its showgirls and casinos. And a few of those spots continue to operate as if the past year was just a blip on the radar. They’ve been around decades-and will probably stick around for decades to come, while mixing great food with a distinctly identifiable atmosphere.
Off the Strip There’s a reason the Golden Steer should be on your bucket list of Las Vegas dining experiences. The restaurant has been operating just west of the Strip for more than 60 years, welcoming the Rat Pack, Muhammad Ali, and countless other celebrties to sink their teeth into prime wet-aged steaks. Some, including Frank Sinatra, even have “favorite” booths named in their honor with corresponding memorabilia and photos hanging on the walls. Overall, the restaurant has a classic dark-and-moody vibe, offset by red leather booths, the occasional stained-glass window, and vintage decor. Old casino chips and other pieces of Vegas history are on display in the bar, while giant bull horns hang above the doorways, including a pair from the original World’s Fair. The timeless atmosphere remains a backdrop for tableside presentations, cocktails, and a service team eager to discuss the dining room’s commanding history. How to book: Place a reservation on the restaurant’s website or have steaks shipped anywhere throughout the country.
Downtown Having a meal at Chicago Joe’s feels like dining inside somebody’s house-which is exactly what it used to be. The single-story brick structure dates back to the 1930s and officially became a restaurant in 1975. It’s been operated by the same family over the years, and much like the menu of classic Italian-American staples, the decor hasn’t changed much, with red-and-white tablecloths, lace curtains, and old wood furniture on display. A single string of green Christmas lights still dangles from the ceiling in a tight corner. Between lasagna, linguini and clam sauce, and veal parm, the menu is all about home-style comfort with few surprises. Chicago Joe’s recently suspended lunch hours during the labor shortage, but is still open for dinner. Contact the restaurant directly for the latest hours. How to book: Call 702-382-5637 or head online to book a reservation.
The Strip The kitsch is strong at the Peppermill, a diner that’s been around since 1972 and seems to be everybody’s favorite place on the Strip to grab eggs and pancakes in the middle of the night. The iconic combination of blue, purple, red, and pink neon with large fake trees and foliage is instantly recognizable and a common sight in countless movies and TV shows. The Fireside Lounge bar area has comfy couches with room to stretch out, although the best seats are around a water feature with a fire pit in the center. The cocktail list is beyond dated-heavy on fruity, sugary staples-but locals love the Bloody Mary, made with a house mix. How to order: No reservations. Just walk in. If there’s a wait at the diner, hang tight with a drink at the Fireside Lounge.
Four Queens Located in the basement level of the Four Queens casino on Fremont Street, Hugo’s Cellar has long been known as one of the most romantic restaurants in Las Vegas-and it’s hard to argue when every lady who walks through the door is handed a long-stem red rose. The chocolate-dipped strawberries are also on the house. Originally known as Hugo’s Rotisserie when it opened in 1973, the restaurant is a showcase of tableside presentations, ranging from salads to begin the meal to a Bananas Foster or Cherries Jubilee to wrap it up. Along the way, you’ll enjoy seafood platters and charbroiled steaks. The brick walls, framed artwork, and fireplace have been in place for years-along with much of the staff. The only thing that’s changed is the wine list, which has now grown to more than 400 bottles. How to book: Book a reservation via OpenTable.
The Strip From the iconic neon marquee to the circular brick entranceway at the front door, Batista’s Hole in the Wall is a comfortably worn-in Italian restaurant in an unlikely spot just east of the Strip-standing out like a sore thumb in the middle of the Cromwell, LINQ, and other tourist destinations. The interior is more kitsch than cozy with the walls overcrowded with busy decorations that range from old vinyl records to rows of miniature liquor bottles (billed as the largest collection in the world). Upside-down buckets hang from the ceiling and posters loudly advertise the regular special: house wine, minestrone or salad, garlic bread, and cappuccino included with every meal-all served under the amber glow of vintage light fixtures. How to book: Call 702-732-1424 to visit the restaurant’s website to book a reservation.
Downtown This Downtown steakhouse is one block north of the Fremont Street Experience. Its rugged look of dark wood tones and deep brown leather is inspired by the Tadich Grill in San Francisco’s Financial District, one of the oldest running bars in the United States. The Triple George Grill has a similar “all business” feel; built near the old Las Vegas Courthouse (now the Mob Museum) and a notorious power-lunch destination. If lawyers didn’t have much to discuss, they’d pull up a seat at the bar. If they needed to confer with a client over a big case, the deep, oversized booths offered plenty of privacy. The photos on the wall each represent a “George”-usually a big tipper or someone with a reputation for being generous. How to book: Book a reservation for lunch or dinner via OpenTable.
Circus Circus Whether it’s “The Steakhouse” or “The Steak House” (both are used), always emphasize “The.” Despite being in the middle of a decades-old clown-themed resort, the restaurant draws a reliable mix of locals and tourists, who return regularly for meals in a dining room modeled after an English hunting lodge. What’s the secret? The mesquite grill in the center of the dining room, which erupts in flames every time a new cut is added? The vintage-style dry-aging room near the host stand, which offers a glimpse of the meal to come? Or maybe it’s the employees? Many have been in place for dozens of years and remember customers by name. Add these elements together and it’s a comforting sense of familiarity that contrasts sharply with the tourist trappings of the Strip. How to book: Book a reservation via OpenTable.
Off the Strip With a heavy focus on seafood and Italian-American cuisine, Piero’s first welcomed customers Downtown in 1982, but moved to its current location near the Las Vegas Convention Center about five years later. Dark by design, the restaurant has multiple dining rooms, including one dedicated to the legacy of former UNLV basketball coach Jerry Tarkanian. Another Jerry (Lewis), was also a regular. There’s no cocktail menu. Just ask for the bartender’s take on a classic like a Martini or Old Fashioned. Piero’s signature Osso Buco is a veal shank marinated overnight in tomato burgundy sauce and served with a side of fettuccine. It goes great with the Garbage Caesar Salad (tossed in shrimp and avocado) or Pat’s Meatballs (named after an employee who’s been on staff for decades). One bar features live music. Another has an old brick wall from the ’50s, leftover from a previous restaurant. How to book: Book a reservation via the restaurant’s website.
Centennial Hills Built in 1955, the longest-running steakhouse in Las Vegas was originally the home of Bob Taylor, who began throwing dinner parties for friends and somewhere along the way, the place turned into a proper restaurant. The main dining room still has a homey feel with an arched ceiling, fireplace, and wood-paneling. It’s a quiet destination with the flame, spark, and crackle of a mesquite grill providing most of the energy. The walls are decorated with Old West movie posters and photos of cowboy heroes like John Wayne and Roy Rogers. You get the feeling the old wagon wheels out front have been around since the beginning. Bob Taylor’s Ranch House was once all alone in the middle of the desert on backroads, but is now surrounded by the growing Centennial Hills community in the Northwest Valley. How to book: Call 702-645-1399 to book a dinner reservation. It’s pretty easy to just walk in and score a table during lunch hours.
South Point Already a throwback when it first opened on the Strip at the Barbary Coast (now the Cromwell) in 1982, Michael’s was inspired by the classic gourmet rooms of the 1950s. Just 15 tables for 50 customers at any given time. It once attracted high-rollers, but is more locals-oriented in its current home at the South Point casino. Little else has changed. The room still sports deep red velvet decor, elaborate overhead glass artwork, and unusually attentive service by a team led by a tuxedoed captain. Dinner is meant to unfold slowly over a long evening with tableside preparations and charcoal-broiled steaks. How to book: Reserve a table, preferably well in advance, via OpenTable.
Off the Strip The original Bootlegger Ristorante opened near Tropicana and Eastern back in 1972, but the legacy continues south of the Strip at the Bootlegger Bistro, where the same classic Italian-American style is felt in both the food and decor. Deep red hues are everywhere from awnings and napkins to the paint job on the walls. Even some of the original booths are still around. The restaurant is covered with family photos and plaques honoring celebrity visits from over the years. They’re open 24/7 so stop by whenever you like. There’s also the Copa Club or Vegas Room for private events and a to-go counter, where lasagna and cannoli are in equal demand. The entire operation has been overseen by the same family since opening (featuring the recipes of “Mama” Maria Perry), a Vegas story that dates back to a Fremont Street pizzeria in the 50s. How to book: Call 702-736-4939 to book a reservation or place an order online for pickup or delivery.
Downtown Oscar’s Steakhouse has only been around since 2011, but feels like it’s always belonged in the Plaza hotel, which turns 50 this year. The restaurant is named after former Las Vegas mayor and mob lawyer Oscar Goodman and is covered with memorabilia celebrating not only his career, but Vegas history. It’s not uncommon to see the man himself holding court in the bar, which hosts an open-to-close happy hour Thursdays and Sundays. Yet the true centerpiece of Oscar’s Steakhouse is the circular dining room, surrounded by a dome of windows that let in the neon lights of Downtown. Steaks and seafood are the main attractions on the menu and if you really want to be like Oscar, order “Hizzoner”‘-a stiff martini of Bombay Sapphire with a touch of jalapeno. Goodman loves to share stories during his regular dinner series, which has been far less regular during the pandemic, but returns with a look at Frank Rosethnal (who inspired the book and movie Casino) on September 22. How to book: Book a reservation online. Call 702-386-7227 or email the restaurant to inquire about availability for Oscar’s Dinner Series.Want more Thrillist? Follow us on Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube, TikTok, and Snapchat.
Rob Kachelriess has been writing about Las Vegas in Thrillist for more than seven years. His work has also appeared in Travel + Leisure, Trivago Magazine, Sophisticated Living, Modern Luxury, Leafly, Las Vegas Magazine, and other publications. He feels more “old school” as he gets older. Follow him on Twitter@rkachelriess.
You can’t be all things to all people. Yet a new Italian restaurant strikes an intriguing balance between authenticity and inventive touches while helping to shape the identity of a new community in the booming Southwest Valley of Las Vegas.
Basilico Ristorante Italiano is now open at Evora, a master-planned apartment development still under construction that won’t be finished for at least five years. The 160-seat restaurant follows the vision of chef Francesco Di Caudo, a Sicily native who draws on his heritage and experience throughout Italy to build a compelling menu based on traditional techniques and modern ingenuity.
“I come from a country where farm-to-table is nothing new,” says Di Caudio, while emphasizing the importance of ingredient sourcing and simple, straightforward flavor combinations.
Just look at the appetizers. Americans are used to eggplant parmesan that’s breaded and fried without restraint. Di Caudo sticks to a traditional Sicilian recipe with the vegetable sliced thin, sizzled in a pan, and layered with tomato and basil. No mozzarella. On the other hand, the Smoked Cigar is destined to be a signature showstopper. Duck, foie gras, and porcini mushrooms are packed inside a thin, cracker-like shell, presented in a box, and dipped into a glass ashtray. The “ash” in the centre is a black sesame and truffle mix. Don’t be shy about double dipping.
The risotto is bound to be another conversation piece. The recipe uses Carnaroli rice, a starchy grain from North Italy that produces a creamy texture, balancing the saltiness of a parmesan broth with a sweet splash of chestnut honey. The real surprise is the inclusion of Lavazza espresso, manipulated to crackle in your mouth like Pop Rocks candy.
All pastas are made in-house, from a parsnip cavatelli to a lamb and thyme tortellini in a broth filtered from braised prosciutto. Some dishes have a subtle Asian influence, including a hamachi crudo with pomelo (similar to yuzu), Hokkaido scallops with oxtail, and a planned octopus braised in dashi. The flavours come to life inside a sharp, contemporary dining room with deep red chairs and stone, wood, and marble touches. The wine collection is dominated by Italian labels, with a few California and Oregon picks thrown in to round out the list. Bottles are on display near the front entrance and inside illuminated square shelves. “It looks like a fancy restaurant, but when you sit down, I want you to have fun,” adds Di Caudio.
The bar is the heart of the restaurant, ready to serve up to 16 people inside and dozens more via accordion-style windows that open wide to a covered patio. The outdoor space, temperature-controlled with overhead fans and heaters, effectively extends Evora’s open-air plaza with dramatic water and fire features. It’s a natural spot for tastings and special events with a covered stage for live music. Evora is rolling out in four phases, with the first 342 apartments ready by fall. There could be as many as 1,400 when it’s all said and done. Rent begins at around $1,800 for studios and one-bedroom units and goes up to $4,000 for two-story top-floor residences with a loft and Strip views. The community will include swimming pools, pickleball courts, a putting green, a dog park, firepits, EV charging stations, and pavilions equipped with audio and video features.
“Basilico matches the demographic for our apartments,” says Danny Sorge of Digital Desert Development, the company behind the community. “The term ‘youthful sophistication’ has been thrown around about the restaurant and Evora as a whole. It brings something new to the area.”
The development follows a deliberate strategy to have the commercial tenants in place before the first residents move in, occupying a stand-alone building that strikes a commanding presence on the corner of Patrick Lane and Buffalo Drive. Lemon Tree Cafe & Market is already open as a European-style grocery store with plenty of room to sit down with a sandwich and glass of wine. Keep your eyes peeled for Taps & Barrels (a self-service beer hall), Tachi Ramen, and EVOQ hair salon in the months ahead, with more businesses to come. The timing couldn’t be better. The Southwest Valley is on fire right now, with the Durango hotel and casino and UnCommons mixed-use development taking shape as new attractions in 2023. The Bend, a long-promised shopping and dining district, has been in a holding pattern for years but holds promise in an area where everything is getting bigger and better.
Meanwhile, the team behind Evora is staking a claim with Di Caudio running the kitchen at Basilico. The chef’s recent collaboration with Chef Oscar Amador helped Anima by EDO score a recent James Beard Award nomination and reputation as one of the best new restaurants in Las Vegas. Di Caudio first came to Las Vegas to work at Zeffirino at the Grand Canal Shoppes-a gig he expected to last about six months before returning home. Instead, he stuck around and continued to build his reputation at culinary destinations like Sinatra at the Wynn and Ferraro’s off the Strip.
Ultimately, Basilico will be a restaurant to keep an eye on as it develops under Di Caudio’s guidance. The menu will shift and evolve based on the chef’s preferences and the availability of seasonal ingredients. Di Caudio is also planning a smaller menu and social hour for the bar area and a reasonably priced tasting menu with around 10 dishes served family style.
Rob Kachelriess has been writing about Las Vegas in Thrillist for more than nine years. In addition, his work has appeared in Travel + Leisure, Leafly, Supercall, Modern Luxury, and Luxury Estates International’s seasonal publication. Follow him on Twitter @rkachelriess.