Some questions are asked over and over again. What's new? Where should I eat? Where can I get foie gras with my taco? 2016 was a good year for restaurants in Las Vegas -- for not only quality, but also an insane amount of variety and creativity. From celebrity chefs to dive bar kitchens, more than a few new spots delivered on their promise to shake things up over the past 12 months.

Standard & Pour

Standard & Pour

Henderson

A great date spot with a casual dining room, lounge, and bar alongside a majestic view of the Strip from the Anthem/Seven Hills area of Henderson. Standard & Pour was put together in part by the team behind Downtown favorite Carson Kitchen. The new place specializes in shared plates and while some offer a fresh take on American comfort food, others belong in a category all to themselves -- like the Snail Wellington (which is exactly what it sounds like) and venison tartare.

Sugarcane Raw Bar Grill

Sugarcane Raw Bar Grill

Venetian

This Miami import specializes in global cuisine in a Cuban-inspired setting -- and nothing is off-limits. Revamping the majority of its core menu to fit its new location, Sugarcane covers a lot of ground while developing the most diverse new menu of the year in Las Vegas. Small plates include tasty bites from goat cheese croquettes to a crunchy marinated fluke with charred onions. Steaks, octopus, and Korean-style short rib are cooked in an open fire grill visible from the dining room while the whole roasted chicken could be the best dish of its kind on the Strip. We're also big on the varied lineup of grilled vegetables. It's hard to find a restaurant in Las Vegas that does so many things so well.

Morimoto

Morimoto

MGM Grand

It's been a long wait, but Masaharu Morimoto finally has a restaurant in Las Vegas. The original Iron Chef is looking to deliver on all fronts -- from sushi where even the rice alone tastes amazing to a teppan grill ready to serve the best sukiyaki you've ever had in your life. He mixes things up with tuna pizza and duck meatball soup with fried rice, but you can't go wrong with anything whether you want to stay traditional or go unconventional. Just draw your inspiration from a meat-carving station in the middle of the dining room and take it from there.

Rob Kachelriess/Thrillist

Naked City Tavern

East Valley

The team behind Naked City Pizza gained nationwide fame for its Guinea Pie and spicy Suicide Fries at two different locations. Now it's moving on to a new concept: Naked City Tavern -- which pushes the boundaries of its casual cuisine after taking over the Blind Tiger video poker bar. The menu covers more ground, including wings and sandwiches, in addition to the signature pizza. But the real fun comes with the "Chef's Menu" -- with a selection of not-so-obvious bar grub. The Foieco is a foie gras taco served inside a homemade corn tortilla while the Charleston Picnic is a South Carolina-style shrimp boil with corn on the cob, red potatoes, and chicken andouille sausage. Our favorite though is the candle made from bacon fat -- yes, lit candle -- which melts while you eat in an addictive oil and balsamic mixture that you won't stop dipping your bread into.  

Americana

Americana

West Valley

This new spot from Chef Stephen Blandino brings fine dining to Desert Shores, with both indoor and outdoor seating that overlooks a small lake. Blandino draws on his experience from Charlie Palmer Steak, with carefully prepared cuisine that includes smoked venison and Japanese A5 wagyu beef. Despite the restaurant's name, the dishes are inspired by recipes from around the world, including New Zealand and Spain, to create a menu that feels adventurous yet comfortably familiar at the same time. A multi-course menu is a great deal -- especially with unlimited wine pairings added in for $25.  

Rob Kachelriess/Thrillist

Toddy Shop

West Valley

The Inn Zone needed someone to run the kitchen at its bar on Rainbow and Westcliff so Chef Hemant Kishore stepped in and made the most of the opportunity with the Toddy Shop. In addition to serving traditional bar food for the regulars, there's also a selection of authentic dishes from South India -- in contrast to most Indian restaurants in town that serve food from the northern region. The traditional favorites include kothu parotta, a stir fry of flat bread, veggies, and beef, and the Pot of Biryani, a mixture of chicken and basmati sweetened with cashews and raisins. Other parts of the menu are fair game, with Jamaican jerk and Asian flavors finding their way in the dishes, including an amazing Chinatown-inspired burger. Everything is made in-house with ingredients sourced from local farmer's markets.

Beauty & Essex

Beauty & Essex

The Cosmopolitan

The lounge atmosphere of Beauty & Essex is a perfect fit for the Cosmopolitan offering plenty of energy to match lively spots like STK and Jaleo just steps away. The pawn shop by the front door is a good gimmick -- whether anyone actually spends money there or not -- and is a fun contrast from the stylish interior that lies beyond the host stand. So bring your friends, enjoy the shareable plates, and don't think twice about keeping your voices down. Just make sure to try The Woodsman (a cocktail made with muddled pears and Woodford Reserve), begin your meal with a few bites from the raw bar, and have the donuts for dessert.

Rob Kachelriess/Thrillist

VegeWay

Southwest

Maybe one day you'll see a version of this on every corner? VegeWay is a drive-thru burger joint that's 100% vegan. It was founded by the chef behind Veggie House, a vegan spot in Chinatown, and some of the dishes do have a bit of an unexpected Asian flavor like the faux roast beef sandwich. But it's the burgers that are the big draw with house-made plant-based patties (that are also sold separately to take home) and surprisingly addictive French fries that have just a touch of endearing sogginess to them.   

Casa del Matador

Casa del Matador

Summerlin

It's not hard to find Mexican food in Las Vegas, but Casa del Matador manages to offer a fresh take on familiar items like street tacos, burritos, and enchiladas. The grilled carne asada and braised carnitas are both exceptionally good but the food is only half the story, so give plenty of attention to your bartender. The Founder's Margarita could be the best take on the cocktail for under $20 -- not too sweet and very smooth. If you want to stick with the hard stuff, there's more than 120 choices of tequila to sip on and a hefty mezcal list.

Libertine Social

Libertine Social

Mandalay Bay

Chef Shawn McClain's latest venture has a lot going for it, living up to the "social" part of its moniker with a bright open dining room that includes two bars, a comfy lounge area, and outdoor balcony seating. The secret weapon however, is the exceptional cocktail program by famed mixologist Tony Abou-Ganim -- with fun stuff like draft cocktails, swizzle pitchers, and shots of house infusions. So what about the food? Most dishes are designed to share, from flatbreads and pretzels to mesquite grilled steaks and seafood. But the just-for-one serving of the Modern Fried Egg seems to get the most attention, a delicate cooked egg still within its shell with caviar and corn pudding.

Rob Kachelriess/Thrillist

Eatt

West Valley

Founded by a French culinary team to offer chef-driven food that's also healthy, there isn't another restaurant in Las Vegas quite like this one. Initially only open during lunch hours, Eatt took its time in perfecting its menu and only recently launched its dinner service. The results are well worth the wait, with careful attention to detail paid to every bite, from soups and salads to chicken and seafood with more than a few vegan and gluten-free options available. Red meat is given a more delicate treatment than what you may find in your typical Vegas steakhouse -- and it's a welcome change of pace. The healthy aspect is counterbalanced by the strong dessert and pastry options although the flavors are drawn more from the natural flavor of fruits than excessive sugar.

Hobak

Hobak

Chinatown

With multiple locations in South Korea, this operation expanded into the United States by planting its flag in Las Vegas. Beef and pork are charcoal-grilled at your table, with an emphasis on the quality of meat and ingredients. It's designed to feel like an authentic street market, with bistro lighting overhead and faux storefronts covering the kitchen, but it's the food itself that will transport diners overseas, offering the best Korean steakhouse experience in Vegas.

Rob Kachelriess/Thrillist

Owl

Off the Strip

On the surface, it appears to be little more than a hole-in-the-wall drinking spot and while the cocktails are great, it's the food that truly stands out. Everything is made in-house from locally sourced and organic ingredients. That means the meat in your burger may have been walking around on four legs less than a week earlier. The menu specializes in familiarity -- but the wings and grilled cheese bacon sandwich could be tastiest versions you'll find in Vegas. The beer list features not only local breweries, but also ones from throughout the entire state of Nevada, with Reno and Virginia City represented. Even vodka and gin is supplied by the Las Vegas Distillery. It's hard to find a bar that champions Nevada more than this place.  

Gordon Ramsay Fish & Chips

Gordon Ramsay Fish & Chips

The LINQ

Gordon Ramsay's fourth Las Vegas restaurant is by far his most casual. In fact, it's pretty much a fast-food joint, with fried items served from a grab-and-go counter. But it would be tough to find Fish & Chips this good anywhere else. Made with Alaskan true cod in a custard batter, they come with a choice of six sauces (try the curry and mango) and "dirty" fries with options for different spices and seasonings. However, it's the Biscoff Shake that steals the show made with pieces of the famous European cookie.

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Rob Kachelriess is a former television news producer who has been writing about Las Vegas in Thrillist for more than three years. He was Managing Editor for Vegas2LA Magazine and his work has recently appeared in Vegas Seven and Vegas Magazine. He is trying to choose between a vegan burger and tuna pizza for lunch. Follow him on Twitter @rkachelriess.

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1. Standard & Pour 11261 S Eastern Ave, Henderson, NV 89052

It’s a good thing that Henderson’s Standard & Pour serves small plates because you’re going to have a tough time choosing from the trendy gastropub’s menu selections of new American veggies, fish, meat, and dessert. Start off with the whole smoked romanesco; despite its lumpy appearance, this mutant cauliflower-broccoli baby has a smooth flavor paired with capers, red onions, golden raisins, and fine herbs. Other favorites include the date and bleu cheese jam on bacon bread (basically an adult PB&J) and the crispy oysters with sriracha egg salad (#spicy). Indulge in the beverage program, which offers catchy drinks like the First Date or the Man Candy, both of which air on the sweet side. Don’t leave without checking out the balcony; not only does it have extra plush green velvet bench seating, but it also has a killer view of the Valley.

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2. Sugarcane 3355 Las Vegas Blvd, Las Vegas, NV

The Venetian has a spiffy feature (no, it's not blinds) in Sugarcane, a raw bar and grill with a global menu that's so diverse it's hard to pin down. Guests can choose from a wide array of dishes, from seafood towers and raw delights (crudos and carpaccios), small plates like pig ear pad thai, and large ones like bone-in ribeye with foie gras and creamy polenta. An open-fire grill births the best of them, though, with head-on shrimp, chimichurri steak and Japanese eggplant served charred and hot. In the separate lounge area, rum cocktails assume a seat of honor on the drink menu (the place is called sugarcane, after all) as it's infused with beets and shaken into mojitos, swirled with kiwi puree, or poured into updates on the old fashioned.

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3. Morimoto MGM Grand, Las Vegas, NV 89109

Revered chef Morimoto's imperial chain of Japanese restaurants, which he opened after perfecting his craft as head chef at NYC's Nobu, extends to Las Vegas' MGM Grand, this time with an emphasis on teppanyaki: a hibachi iron griddle method that allows chefs to cook in front of their guests (think Benihana). His haute fusion takes shine: Yellowtail "pastrami" with gin creme fraiche, oyster foie gras, and duck meatball soup with duck confit fried rice. A cocktail exclusive to this location, fusing vodka and sake, draws glasses to thirsty lips. Perhaps the most buzz-worthy sip, however, is Morimoto's Wagyu Manhattan. That's right, the cocktail is made with beef: fat is rendered and added to Japanese whiskey before being mixed with walnut liqueur, bitters, and garnished with burnt orange peel. Where's the beef? In your drink.

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4. Naked City Tavern 6295 S Pecos Rd, Las Vegas, NV 89120

The third time is a charm for chef Christopher Palmeri, who's third Vegas location delivers on the elevated bar food he's become known for in a large, 24-hour outpost on Pecos Rd. The tavern, sporting a large bar area, mounted screens, some 15 arcade games and a juke box, will serve up the pizza and wings that made Palmeri's Naked City Pizza location beloved, but this time with an expanded menu showing off his creative chops. We're talking bacon candles (yeah, a candle made from bacon fat and oil you sop up as it burns with bread) and the Foieco (a red corn tortilla spread with duck confit, foie gras, cilantro and uni cream).

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5. Americana Las Vegas 2620 Regatta Dr, Las Vegas, NV 89128

Desert Shores’ Americana is the brainchild of Charlie Palme alum Stephen Blandino, serving up a fine dining iteration of modern American cuisine. The dinner menu is limited, and it consists of appetizers and main. The Texas Grilled Quail is perched on its dish cheek by jowl with Parmesan risotto and golden chanterelles, while the Smoked Venison Tenderloin is flavored with heady port and served with pickled turnips and bitter greens. Go big or go home with the Japanese Wagyu A-5, put the proverbial cherry on top of your meal with the Lemon Swirled Semifreddo, complemented by hibiscus raspberry tea gelato. As you walk out, your heels will clack on the sleek marble floor as they struggle to support the sheer weight of you and the dinner you just consumed.

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6. Beauty & Essex 3708 Las Vegas Blvd S, Las Vegas, NV 89109 (Strip)

If it strikes you as odd that there’s a seemingly sketchy pawnshop in The Cosmopolitan, think again: the pearly façade actually gives way to Beauty & Essex, a New York transplant that serves inventive cocktails and American tapas -- both raw and grilled -- in an extravagant, Gatsby-like space. Of the light fare, the grilled cheese, smoked bacon and tomato soup dumplings are the clear standouts, while larger dishes like roasted bone marrow with shallot marmalade prove rich and satisfying.

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7. Vegeway 7790 S Jones Blvd, Las Vegas, NV 89139

The City of Sin grew slightly more innocuous when its first vegan drive-through fast-food restaurant VegeWay was established by Veggie House alum Chef Kenny Chye. Designed to rival In-N-Out Burger, this Southwest Vegas joint has achieved an incredible meat-free feat considering its plant-based and cruelty-free practices. Vegan burger options include an anything-but-standard veggie patty that expertly replicates beef both in flavor and appearance, as well as chicken ranch and spicy buffalo chicken burger menu counterparts. Entrees include crispy popcorn chicken, fish tacos, chicken wraps, and salads, curly fries, and sweet potato fries.

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8. Casa Del Matador 1770 Festival Plaza Dr #190, Las Vegas, NV 89135

Casa Del Matador, the Seattle restaurant transplanted to Downtown’s Summerlin Mall, is distinct for more than just the fact that it serves outstanding Mexican food at a shopping center typically known for its generic dining options. Casa Del Matador is a vibrant, buzzy spot decorated with hand-carved metal railings, colorful artwork, and bull skulls, and with over 120 tequilas to choose your margarita base from, it’s ideal for happy hour with your crew. The menu is divided into “Starters,” “Soups and Salads,” “Tortas,” “Tacos,” “Burritos,” and “Enchiladas,” and we recommend the plate of street tacos, with braised beef, carnitas, pork al pastor, house-made chorizo, and shredded chicken tacos, five of Casa Del Matador’s favorite, served with house-made salsas, white onion, cilantro, and cotija.

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9. Libertine Social , Las Vegas, NV 89119 (Strip)

Libertine Social at the Strip’s Mandalay Bay serves up New American bar food by James Beard Award-winning Chef Shawn McClain, including unpredictable small and large plates like ahi tuna cones with whipped pink peppercorn and crème fraiche and Wagyu skirt steak. Mixologist Tony Abou-Ganim’s beverage program rallies around the concept of social cocktails, offering up fruity “fizzes” and rum “swizzles,” meant to serve four. The décor is best described as irreverent; eclectic artwork, like pint-sized guitars and abstract portraits, line the walls, while the words “Stay Wild” are plastered behind the bar in neon, silently condoning your Vegas behavior.

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10. EATT 7865 W Sahara Ave, Las Vegas, NV 89117 (Downtown)

Owned and operated by a professional French culinary team, Eatt feels like a restaurant of the future, what with a menu that features vegetable-centric dishes that are artfully prepared and served in both grab-and-go and dine-in capacities. The kitchen deviates from the predictable healthy-eating canon, too: in lieu of kale, expect zucchini stuffed with its own puree and a colorful mélange of fresh, crispy vegetables, and instead of avocados whipped into guacamole, you'll find broccoli mashed into a surprisingly delicious chip-scooping creation.

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11. Hobak Korean BBQ 5808 Spring Mountain Rd, Las Vegas, NV 89146

At Hobak, you’ll be overwhelmed not by the quantity of menu items (distinguishing it from most other Korean BBQ restaurants), but by their quality. Focusing on pork and beef, the limited selection offers marinated skirt steak, aged short ribs, a number of Angus cuts (rib-eye, brisket, and short ribs), and premium pork belly, jowl, neck, and ribs, all of which are fired up on charcoal, leaving a lingering smoky essence in every bite. The Hobak beef, pork, and family combo platters are supplemented with bean paste stew, steamed egg, vegetables, cheddar cheese, and rice pop ice cream, which is ostensibly an ice cream sandwich with crispy rice crackers bookending creamy matcha green tea frozen goodness.

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12. OWL 3990 W Russell Rd Ste 100, Las Vegas, NV 89118

OWL on Russell Road pays homage to organic American cuisine, its menu serving up greasy, finger-licking appetizers, like Jalapeno Poppers, stuffed with goat cheese, bacon, chives, then flash-fried and served with chipotle mayo (because why not), salads, like the Iceberg Wedge, with red onion, roma tomatoes, and bacon morsels, and vegan plates, like Vegan Deviled Eggs (it’s unclear how this sorcery is possible, but we’ll take it). You’ll be sure to find your boozy vice with some 24 taps -- eight of which are dedicated to Nevada producers -- plus 120 bottled and canned beers, and, of course, 170 different spirits.

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13. Gordon Ramsay Fish & Chips 3465 Las Vegas Blvd S, Las Vegas, NV 89109

Gordon Ramsay’s Fish & Chips at The LINQ Promenade is a takeaway-style British restaurant dishing out Ramsay’s signature fish and chips, comprised of cod filets flown in daily, prepared by salting the fish with lemon salt for 25 minutes to cure it, therein avoiding any potential sogginess. If you prefer the latter half of that glorified British tradition, a menu section of “Just Chips” was created with you in mind. Choose from Dirty #1, Dirty #2, and Dirty #3, made with chipotle, jalapeno, and crisp chorizo; truffle, Parmesan, and chives; and cacciatore spice and fresh basil, respectively.

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