ESPN Host Doug Kezirian Thinks That Vegas Is Worth More Than a Quick Visit

“The places on the strip are a different animal. But you should also know that the competition is high. Meaning: you just might find the best international food you’ve ever had right here.”

Doug Kezirian
Photo courtesy of Doug Kezirian
Photo courtesy of Doug Kezirian
Doug Kezirian has worked in the sports betting space for over 15 years. He’s the host of ESPN’s Daily Wager as a betting analyst and has appeared on several ESPN platforms. Notably, he’s from Los Angeles, is a Raiders fan, and is delighted that they’ve landed in his hometown of seven years. As told to Liam Pierce.

First of all, I just want to welcome out-of-town Raiders fans. I know you might miss your team—in Oakland or L.A.—but we’ve got a lot to offer you. Obviously, that is, when COVID restrictions are lowered.

The best way for me to describe Las Vegas is to say that it’s a city of 2 million people, but that the strip is only a four-mile street. So you do the math. There are so many restaurants on the outskirts that are incredible. And yet there are also some hidden spots in the center of things that are secretly just as good.

In normal times, there are so many things you can do here, but the pandemic really hit Vegas hard because it’s such a tourist town. Nevada restaurants are only allowed to do 25 percent business. Vegas relies heavily on conventions so it’s hard to understand how it can be the best it can be right now. It’s important to support the tourist industry to highlight these businesses.

Unlike certain boutique-y towns, my favorite restaurants are not speakeasies. The first place I take outsiders to is a spot called Lotus of Siam. A lot of people say it’s the best Thai food they’ve had in America. As a personal favorite, the Nam-Kao-Tod is mind-wrecking. Crispy rice with pork and a bunch of spices? Unreal. And sometimes I just order three of these appetizers to serve as my meal.

The places on the strip are a different animal. But you should also know that the competition is high. Meaning: you just might find the best international food you’ve ever had right here. You’re not going to survive in Las Vegas if you don’t bring it—kind of restaurant Darwinism.

And that goes for the sports teams as well. You can see that in the new Raiders stadium, and how well the Golden Knights are playing. The expectations are high.

I’m from L.A., so I grew up eating quality Chinese food. When I’m getting that craving, I actually hit New York, New York, where Chin Chin is located. The entire menu is solid but for me, it’s really just about eating my favorite dish from my high school days. The dressing for the chicken salad is unparalleled.

Javier’s, inside of Aria, is the best Mexican food you can find here. A lot of their dishes are topped with loads of sauce, so it’s a little messy. With that being said, the food is delicious and the service is really solid as well. Their signature margaritas complete the experience.

Born and Raised is a popular bar and restaurant that’s actually worth the hype. It’s a great spot for watching games. Beyond that, there’s Naked City Pizza, which is almost like two bars packed into one spot.

One place that’s near my house is called Skinny Fats. The menu is literally split in half—between “healthy” and “happy” options. I usually opt for the truffle fries and corn risotto balls as my unhealthy option but then for the main course I grab the More Cow Bowl. 

There’s a spot called Firefly that has great tapas. A Firefly waiter one time recommended the dates, and I was intrigued. Then they arrived stuffed, bacon-wrapped and they were incredible. Their hanger steak is also really good—same with their charcuterie. Firefly’s presentation is very, very solid and sangria is part of the overall experience.

And then there are the steakhouses. I’ve got a business proposition that I imagine someone will eventually steal. Lobster mac and cheese grabs everyone’s attention but rarely does the large dish get ordered as a side. So why not serve a smaller portion in a shot glass, much like we are seeing with desserts? I cannot imagine anyone will decline a slight cheat.

Cleaver is one of the best due its high quality and ambiance. The staff always recommends something bone-in and the paintings of Chris Farley and Chevy Chase are fun. And the Golden Steer is a classic spot—the kind of place that Jimmy Hoffa might be buried under.

But aside from eating and the obvious things to do in casinos, there’s so much off the strip. Even with a bachelor party. You can go hiking in Red Rock and feel like you’re in a completely different place. You can go to Lake Mead, you can play 36 holes. When that’s all paired with the strip: if you can think of it, it’s a possibility.

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