Food & Drink

The Thrillist Awards: Vegas' Best New Food, Drink & Everything Else of 2015

Published On 12/21/2015 Published On 12/21/2015
Courtesy of Big Ern's

There's been a ton of awesome newness that's sprung up in Las Vegas over the last few months, from mouthwatering burgers to creative lunch menus, to off the Strip Chinese restaurants that serve ham and cheese sandwiches. But what about the VERY best new stuff? The clear standout winners you’d want to see in a clean, concise, and incredibly thoughtful list? Well, look no further, because you’ve found precisely that list.

Courtesy of Old Homestead

Best new burger

Old Homestead Steakhouse

Address and Info

Caesars Palace

Despite being known for plump, delicious steaks, Old Homestead pretty much always had a burger on the menu. However, something wasn't quite right. So the team took their time and came up with a new one that is truly among the best you'll try in Vegas. The Old Homestead burger is made with 10oz of seared dry-aged beef, aged cheddar cheese, caramelized onions, mustard aioli, and stuffed between a brioche bun toasted with foie gras butter. It's served with duck fat fries and bourbon ketchup.

Courtesy of Mob Museum

Best new tourist attraction

Electric chair & gas chamber at the Mob Museum

Address and Info

Downtown

Did you know Nevada was the first state to execute prisoners using lethal gas? The latest exhibit from the museum dedicated to the rich history of organized crime in Las Vegas is the execution chair from the state's gas chamber, which saw a parade of convicts meet their ultimate fate between 1951 and 1983. That's when Nevada officially switched from cyanide to lethal injection.

Courtesy of Rivea

Best new dinner with a view

Rivea

Address and Info

Delano

The restaurant formerly known as Mix shut down over the summer and has reemerged as Rivea, with fresh and simple food inspired by the rivieras of France and Italy. The good news is that it still has the incredible view of the Strip from the 64th floor of the Delano tower. And in even better news, there's more than 1,300 options on the wine reserve list.

Courtesy of Lago

Best new brunch with a view

Lago

Address and Info

The Bellagio

It's easy to find an awesome brunch in Las Vegas, but few come with this kind of scenery. So if you're going to order an eggplant Parmesan Benedict or shredded salmon salad, you might as well sit at a table that overlooks the iconic Bellagio fountains. Stay indoors and check out the view through floor-to-ceiling windows, or enjoy the waterfront breeze from the outdoor patio.

Courtesy of ZUU Fitness

Best new workout

World ZUU Fitness

Address and Info

West Valley

Forget yoga. This Australian exercise concept has expanded into the Western Hemisphere by opening its first US location in Las Vegas. The high-intensity workouts are based on primal animal movements, which means you'll be running around like a gorilla and burning up to 800 calories in just a half-an-hour. And when you burn more calories, you can drink more beer. It’s a win/win.

Courtesy of Big Ern's

Best new BBQ spot

Big Ern's

Address and Info

Fiesta Rancho

After first opening up at the Downtown Container Park, Big Ern's now has an official casino location. In addition to an expanded menu, there's also a big red barn set up on the floor, to add a little Vegas kitschiness to their Southern barbecue menu.

Courtesy of Sunrise Coffee

Best new coffeehouse drink

Sunrise Coffee

Address and Info

East Valley

The baristas share the profits in each drink they personally design, so there's definitely some incentive to come up with intriguing new stuff. The Grasshopper (made by Tyler, if you're keeping track) is made with a matcha farmed from south Japan and blended with organic mint and chocolate. It kind of tastes like a green tea chocolate cake and is more addictive than a Pumpkin Spice Latte from that one place...

Courtesy of Rob Kachelriess

Best new Italian dish

Portofino

Address and Info

The Mirage

In what might be the best twist on a Thanksgiving flavor profile you'll find anywhere in Las Vegas, the butternut squash gnocchi is served with turkey infused parmesan butter, turkey confit, pickled cranberries, dried homemade stuffing crumbles, and topped with crispy brussels sprouts (as well as gold flakes for good measure). It's a prime example of how Chef Michael LaPlaca has given the restaurant formerly known as Onda new life, while offering a few unexpected surprises with every menu update.  

Courtesy of Barbara Kraft

Best new take on a buffet

Wynn

Address and Info

Wynn Las Vegas

Forget what you think you know about old-school Vegas buffets, where you slop as much junk on your plate as possible in between bites of stale sushi. The Buffet at Wynn has a new look -- and a new chef -- with more than a hundred new dishes, including Frank Sinatra's family recipe for spaghetti and meatballs and a tasty peking duck. Stations include Mexican street tacos, sushi, crab legs, prime rib, and crepes prepared to order. Around the corner from the chocolate fountain is an impressive lineup of pastries and gelato for dessert. If you want a little more privacy, you can throw a party in the private dining room that's now been added next door.

Courtesy of Skyfall

Best new mixology program

Skyfall Lounge

Address and Info

Delano

Opening up alongside sister restaurant Rivea (both share the same awesome view), Skyfall takes its boozing a step further with the drink menu broken down into subheadings like "Effervescent" for champagne and cider cocktails and "Martini Education" for exploring different ways a traditional martini can take shape. There’s also an old fashioned cocktail set up for any bottle of aged spirit, custom mixers like fresh lemon juice with honey syrup, and exclusive spirits like Chareau Aloe liqueur. Order something other than a vodka cranberry this time around, you’ll thank us later.

Courtesy of Hong Kong Cafe

Best new Chinese restaurant on the Strip

Hong Kong Café

Address and Info

Palazzo

The menu features a fusion of Asian and Western culture that reflects Hong Kong's long history as a British colony (before being handed back to China less than 20 years ago). The result is a deep and diverse selection of food representing a number of regions, from ham & egg sandwiches to Macau-style roasted pork belly.

Courtesy of It's On Me

Best new app for Vegas 

It's on Me (info)
This Las Vegas-based app has technically been around for about two years, but it really caught on in 2015 by bringing in hundreds of new partners. The service eliminates the need for gift cards and allows you to buy drinks, food, a round of golf, and all sorts of local Vegas stuff for anybody with a cell phone. Whether it's a bacon wrapped matzo ball from Andiron, Mob Museum tickets, or a bottle of wine at Ferraro's, it's a quick and efficient way to get on somebody's good side with just a few clicks.

Courtesy of CRAFTkitchen

Best re-use of an old space

CRAFTkitchen

Address and Info

Henderson

Nearly two years after breakfast-and-bagel spot Bread & Butter shut its doors, CRAFTkitchen is putting the location to good use, open 7am-3pm seven days a week. Chef Jaret Blinn is a one-man-show, baking pastries overnight and serving up dishes like a pulled turkey eggs Benedict for breakfast and a chorizo sausage shepherd's pie for lunch.

Courtesy of Lip Smacking Foodie Tours

Best new tour

Lip Smacking Foodie Tours (info
On the Strip
Only have one night in Vegas and can't decide on a restaurant? Go with the "Savors of the Strip" restaurant crawl from Lip Smacking Foodie Tours. Here's how it works: a tour guide will take your group for a walk down Las Vegas Boulevard while ducking in-and-out of a diverse selection of truly awesome spots like Estiatorio Milos at the Cosmo for Greek, Bardot at the Aria for French, and Yusho at the Monte Carlo for Asian. With each stop, you’ll get prompt seating at the best tables with one signature dish after another dropped in front of you. The idea of a food crawl is nothing new, but these guys are pros.

Courtesy of Luke's Lobster

Best new grab-and-go lunch

Luke's Lobster

Address and Info

Fashion Show Mall

Head through the mall, walk outside by the Strip, and turn the corner next to some place named Starbucks... That's where you'll find a cozy seafood shack ready to hand over delicious lobster rolls made with a sustainable tender catch from Maine. Add a bowl of the clam chowder or lobster bisque to your order and you'll definitely make your coworkers jealous when you return to the cubicle.

Courtesy of Bad Beat Brewing

Best new canned beer

Bad Beat Brewing

Address and Info

Henderson

There's a growing segment of beer connoisseurs that believe some craft brews taste better coming from a can. Count the team from Bad Beat Brewing among them. Their new line of cans includes the Ringer pilsner, Bluffing Isn’t Weiss Hefeweizen, and Hoppy Times IPA. It's one of the reasons the brewery has been a growing favorite amongst since it opened less than two years ago.

Courtesy of MTO Cafe

Best new breakfast

MTO Cafe

Address and Info

Downtown

Sometimes you just need a good skillet-served breakfast after a long night at the downtown bars. Drag yourself off the curb and into the MTO Cafe for their tri-tip and eggs: a six-ounce espresso-rubbed tri-tip steak with three scrambled eggs, veggies, and hash browns along with a little toast. It's plenty of protein to start the day... even if you need some coffee on the side to actually wake you up.

Courtesy of Douglas Friedman

Best new table-side presentations

Carbone

Address and Info

Aria

The recently opened Carbone has a New York supper club vibe that specializes in traditional Italian favorites, but also features even more fun than stuff like the bone-in Veal Parmesan and Lobster Ravioli. The table-side Caesar salad is nothing new in Vegas, but Carbone may have it perfected better than anyone else. Also, the squash agrodolce is in a class of its own as a side dish, with buttery acorn squash and mascarpone topped with pumpkin seeds. Finish the night off with the bananas flambe -- basically, a mini-bonfire right before your eyes.

Courtesy of Rob Kachelriess

Best new Henderson restaurant

Kitchen Table

Address and Info

Henderson (right?)

It's only open for breakfast and lunch, but the brand new Kitchen Table is offering an ambitious menu that is both challenging and inviting with a perfectly prepared Monte Cristo, tostadas made with pork from a suckling pig, freshly smoked bacon on the patio, and seared foie gras on your choice of pancakes, waffles, French toast, or biscuits. Pop up dinners are planned once a month, giving you no excuse not to check out a place eager to compete with the heavyweights on the Strip.

Courtesy of Sand Dollar

Best bar renovation

The Sand Dollar Lounge

Address and Info

Off the Strip

Around since 1976 as a favorite dive bar for blues fans, The Sand Dollar has been in need of a makeover for quite some time. It reopened over the summer with a fresh new look, live music four to five nights a week, and food trucks taking up the real estate in the parking lot. Musicians like Muddy Waters and Mick Jagger have stopped by over the years, so try to soak in some of the history in between games of pool on their new table.

Courtesy of Double Barrel Roadhouse

Best improved menu

Double Barrel Roadhouse

Address and Info

Monte Carlo

The Double Barrel is doubling down on what it does best: BBQ. With oversized smoke and wood burning grills to infuse bold flavors into the dishes (both old and new), you’ll get meat smothered in the restaurant's own "Vegas" sauce and custom dry rub. You can't go wrong with the ribs or brisket with sweet potato fries on the side, but the pulled pork sliders taste just right with a little melted cheddar cheese on top.

Courtesy of Parlor Lounge

Best new casino bar combo

Center Bar & Parlor Lounge
Mirage Center Bar
Taking up space where the old poker room used to be, the Mirage is hoping this two-for-one combo will help relax and recharge thirsty mouths in between trips to the slot machines on the casino floor. And by "relax and recharge"... we mean load them up with an impressive selection of modern cocktails from Chicago mixologist Liz Pearce. While the Center Bar has an energy that's perfect for people watching (if you're into that sort of thing), the Parlor Lounge will take things down a notch with comfy seating and live piano music in the background.

Courtesy of Rob Kachelriess

Best new lunch off strip

Artisanal Foods Cafe

East Valley

Not satisfied with merely being a retail outlet and food supply company, Artisanal Foods decided to move down the road into a bigger space, expand its operations, and open a cafe. The chef in the kitchen is Johnny Church -- formerly of MTO Cafe -- who is quickly winning over fans with a tight but creative menu where lionfish ceviche is served on crispy wasabi leaves, and organic chicken thigh meat is pressed together and served with mushroom bread pudding. With only 12 seats available in the dining area, online reservations are recommended. Go with the chef's tasting... you'll be in good hands, and you won't have to trouble yourself with the whole “thinking” thing.

Courtesy of Le Macaron

Best new spot for sweets

Le Macaron

Address and Info

The Grand Canal Shoppes

In a town already overloaded with nearly as much macarons as gelato, you really have to do something right to stand out. So Le Macaron not only has all the bases covered with flavors ranging from basil white chocolate to rose petal and Madagascar black vanilla, but also keeps a bottle of champagne on ice and ready to go. Enjoy both sweets and sips on a bridge that spans across the Grand Canal from inside the store and overlooks the famous gondoliers from the Venetian.

Courtesy of Siegel's 1941

Best new boozy coffee drink

Siegel's 1941

Address and Info

El Cortez

The drink is Have a Cigar and its name doubles as your instructions for what to do when it's finished. This adults-only tribute to mobster Bugsy Siegel is made with Zaya 12-year rum, espresso, Monin vanilla, and a dash of Angostura aromatic bitters with a sweetened dollop of cream on top.

Courtesy of Rockhouse

Best new food challenge

Rockhouse

Address and Info

The Venetian

The "Rock Out With Your Guac Out Challenge" is truly an opportunity to put your money where your mouth is... with a four-and-a-half pound burrito stuffed with carne asada steak, pico de gallo, onions, green chilies, cheddar cheese, french fries (yeah, french fries!), and, just to make it healthy, lettuce. It's also drenched in sour cream and guacamole for good measure. Buy it for $45 but if you can finish it off in 20 minutes or less... it's completely free.

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Rob Kachelriess prefers rum in his coffee and pancakes with foie gras on top. Follow him on Twitter @rkachelriess.

Previous Venue Next Venue Venue Description
1. The Old Homestead Steakhouse 3570 Las Vegas Blvd, Las Vegas, NV 89109 (Strip)

Located within the cavernous walls of Caesar’s Palace, Old Homestead is the Vegas reincarnation of the famed Manhattan restaurant by the same name. The menu here is just as timeless: expect robust, juicy filet mignons accompanied by creamy bordelaise sauce and lighter classics like oysters Rockefeller Royale with Pernod crème. With a California-heavy wine list and interior that speaks to the heyday of mid-century Sin City grandeur (think crisp white table linens, plush red leather booths, sultry dim lighting), it’s a great spot for special evenings with your significant carnivore -- providing, of course, that both of you came equipped with fancy eveningwear and a reservation made long in advance.

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2. Mob Museum 300 Stewart Ave, Las Vegeas, NV 89101 (Downtown)

Taking over the former federal courthouse that once held the Kefauver Committee hearings, this 41,000sqft shrine to organized crime is headed by a former FBI special agent of 24 years, and will assault patrons with a pool cue slew of multimedia, multi-sensory exhibits detailing the rise of the Mob, its arrival in Vegas (including its ties to the Gaming Control Board), and its battles with J. Edgar Hoover and several other do-gooders whose sexuality wasn't provocative enough to warrant a movie with Leonardo DiCaprio.

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3. Rivea Las Vegas 3950 S Las Vegas Blvd, Las Vegas, NV 89109 (Strip)

Alain Ducasse's super swanky spot in the Delano Hotel is a mash-up of old world expertise and new world flavors-- think perfectly cooked roast duck breast, but with tart orange sauce; a grilled octopus salad and confit bell peppers. Expect a hefty price tag, but a dining experience as impressive as this is truly priceless, yes?

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4. Lago 3600 Las Vegas Blvd South, Las Vegas, NV 89109

Enjoy the Bellagio fountain shows during dinner thanks to the floor to ceiling windows.

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5. World ZUU Fitness 4985 S Fort Apache Rd #103, Las Vegas, NV (Downtown)

Vegas's hottest workout comes from the Land Down Under-- this Aussie import fitness routine inspired by "primal movement patterns' of the animals of the Outback prioritizes strength training and building aerobic endurance. Break up a sweat and get in touch with the animal within you.

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6. Big Ern's BBQ 707 Fremont St, Las Vegas, NV 89101 (Downtown)

This lunch counter downtown is OG BBQ. Smoking hot pulled pork sandwiches, beef ribs, and brisket populate the menu.

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7. Sunrise Coffee 3130 E Sunset Rd, Las Vegas, NV 89120

This East Vegas coffee house is all about being ethical. From their fair trade, single-origin coffees to their homemade pastries with local ingredients, every product that comes out of Sunrise Coffee has been meticulously made with careful intention. All the food served here is vegetarian or vegan, with many gluten-free options as well. The vegan baked goods are particularly popular, as is the avocado-heavy breakfast sandwich. Espresso drinks can be served traditionally or with a handful of homemade syrups including their signature creme brulee. This neighborhood spot is popular with locals and students, who love its casual atmosphere, free wifi, and quietly buzzing sense of community.

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8. Portofino 3400 S Las Vegas Blvd, Las Vegas, NV 89109 (Strip)

Chef Michael LaPlaca brings his coastal Italian cuisine to the Mirage Resort & Casino. Using ingredients imported from Italy, LaPlaca creates modern takes on traditional dishes (like chicken parm served with house-made sausage). The cozy, intimate setting is perfect for a romantic meal.

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9. Wynn Las Vegas 3131 Las Vegas Blvd S, Las Vegas, NV 89109

The second Vegas outpost of Steve Wynn's luxury resort empire, Wynn boasts five-star hospitality, award-winning restaurants ranging from fine and casual dining, the live aquatic theatre show La Rêve, high-end boutique shopping, premier nightclubs, and opulent poolside cabanas.

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10. Skyfall Lounge 3940 S Las Vegas Blvd, Las Vegas, NV 89119 (Strip)

Skyfall is located within the 43-story Delano Las Vegas, an upscale hotel with chic, modern suites, floor-to-ceiling windows and luxe bathrooms (can you say jacuzzis). Take in panoramic views of the Strip at this breathtaking cocktail lounge and roof bar. It doesn't even matter that the drinks are good when you have a view like this (but rest assured, with Death & Co bartenders at the helm, the drinks are damn good). Skyfall Lounge is socated adajacent to Rivea, French master chef Alain Ducasse's elegant ode to French/Med fusion fare.

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11. Hong Kong Cafe 3325 Las Vegas Boulevard S, Las Vegas, NV 89109 (Downtown)

Chef Simon To's Hong Kong Cafe located within the Venetian Hotel is a feast for the senses. Picture ruby red prawns with simmering chili peppers and verdant bok choy; heady lychee cocktails; and delectable white rice.

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12. CRAFTkitchen 10940 S Eastern Ave Ste 107, Henderson, NV 89052 (Off Strip)

This Vegas proximate organic breakfast and lunch spot specializes in healthy, hearty fare. The smoked salmon sandwich on a toasted pretzel bun hits all the spots; sweet, salty, savory. Follow up at their bakery for tasty housemade goodies like croissants and bear claws.

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13. Luke's Lobster 3200 S Las Vegas Blvd., Store 8501, Las Vegas, NV 89109 (Strip)

NYC import Luke's Lobsters has hit the big time in Vegas with a spot inside the supersized Fashion Show shopping mall. Cool your heels from window shopping with New England style lobster rolls, brews, and chowders.

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14. Bad Beat Brewing 7380 Eastgate Rd Ste 110, Henderson, NV 89011 (Off Strip)

Like the brewery it self, all of Bad Beat's brews derive their names from gambling lingo, but the beers themselves are not about luck. For years founder Nathan Hall worked out of his garage to create original recipes before taking a gamble and starting brewing professionally in 2014. They have five year round beers as well as seasonal, barrel aged, and small batch (like any respectable craft brewery) brews. Our favorites are the refreshing light and evenly spiced Bluffing Isn’t Weisse (year round hefeweizen) and the rich, smokey, coffee-forward Morning Payoff (seasonal imperial breakfast stout). They only distribute in Nevada, so we suggest you book a trip to Vegas sooner rather than later.

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15. MTO Café 500 S Main St, Las Vegas, NV 89101 (Downtown)

MTO is a pleasant spot to grab breakfast or lunch (or both!) because of a laid-back and comfortable atmosphere, made-to-order options like pancakes, waffles, sandwiches, soups, and salads.

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16. Carbone Italian Restaurant Aria Resort & Casino, Paradise, NV (Strip)

A reboot of the acclaimed NYC restaurant, Carbone in the Aria Resort and Casino is Las Vegas' model luxury Italian restaurant. From the bar counter glossed to a light-reflecting shine, to the classic black and white flooring, to white tableclothed tables perfectly spaced out to allow uniformed wait staff to dance gracefully in-between, the entire operation is dressed to a tee to fit the dictionary definition of upscale dining. Even the menu impresses with dishes that go beyond your mother's meatball marinara, with stunners like the veal marsala, lobster fra diavolo, and linguini vongole.

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17. Kitchen Table 1716 W Horizon Ridge Pkwy Ste 100, Henderson, NV 89012 (Off Strip)

A self-described "social eatery," the Kitchen Table in Henderson promises good food over quality conversation. Serving three square meals, you're bound to experience service with a smile over breakfast, lunch or dinner.

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18. Sand Dollar Lounge 3355 Spring Mountain Rd, Las Vegas, NV 89102 (Downtown)

Since 1976, the Sand Dollar has been a Vegas home away from home for rock 'n roll legends-- Mick Jagger, B.B. King, and Prince have all stopped by for craft cocktails on the house. In fact, nearly all of the Sand Dollar's drinks are named for these stars' greatest hits: try a Rolling Stone with rye and bitters, the Born on the Bayou benedictine and bsinthe combo, or a Purple Rain with luxardo cherries.

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19. Double Barrel Roadhouse 3770 Las Vegas Blvd S, Las Vegas, NV 89109 (Strip)

Keep it casual at this eatery in front of the Monte Carlo, where they're serving up down-home, Southern-inspired bites like chicken fried steak, cheddar cheese grits, and chicken pot pie.

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20. The Center Bar 3400 Las Vegas Blvd S, Las Vegas, NV 89109 (Strip)

The Center Bar in the atrium of the Mirage Hotel should be your first stop before a night of high rolling. Steps away from the casino, double down on crafted cocktails like the house Mirage Spritz with Grey Goose, grapefruit and pomegranate liqueur, and Prosecco, brought to you by premier mixologist Liz Pierce.

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21. Parlor Lounge 3400 S Las Vegas Blvd, Las Vegas, NV (Strip)

Low key elegance is the name of the game at the Parlor Lounge located within the Mirage Hotel and Casino. Cozy up to the bar and sip Sazeracs while local and nationally renowned jazz artists play smooth grooves on the house classic Steinway grand piano.

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22. Artisanal Foods 2275 E Sunset Rd, Las Vegas, NV 89119 (Off Strip)

The ultra gourmet Artisanal Foods market just opened a niche, in store cafe that's worth getting up early for-- with only twelve seats (!!), it's first come, first served for these elegantly understated dishes, which include a salad of charred escarole, pancakes with foie gras gastrique, and hand cut pappardelle.

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23. Le Macaron Grand Canal Shoppes at Venetian, Las Vegas, NV 89109 (Downtown)

A new arrival in the shops at the Venetian, these tasty, flaky, sweet treats from France are trés bonne! Mange on bon-bons, pain aux chocolat, gelato, and macarons in every color of the rainbow.

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24. Siegel's 1941 600 Fremont Street, Las Vegas, NV 89101

Open all-night with fantastic breakfast options.

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25. Rockhouse 3535 Las Vegas Blvd S, Las Vegas, NV 89109 (Strip)

Rockhouse is an adult's playground, set right on the Strip in the middle of America's least responsible city: Vegas. With 9000sqft of space, this warehouse-sized venue has three bars, 83 TVs, pool tables, beer-pong tables, tire swings, and a mechanical bull. This place was clearly expensive to build, but they're not pretentious at the Rockhouse—the overall vibe here is of a Southern dive bar, from the weathered wood to the industrial lighting. Their food is cooked to match, as this self-described "ultra dive bar" churns out a steady stream of bar food classics like sliders, wings, and hot dogs. A menu of inventive and boozy cocktails is also available, patronizingly divided between "girly drinks" and "manly drinks."

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