The buzz: After spreading the word with a series of pop-up events around town, Bruce Kalman finally has a permanent brick-and-mortar location for SoulBelly BBQ. It was worth the wait. Sandwiched between two breweries (Nevada Brew Works and HUDL) in the Arts District, the bar and restaurant is brand new, but already feels like a comfortable, worn-in neighborhood hangout with picnic tables and a stage for live music among indoor string lights and Southern-industrial decor. Meats are smoked outdoors and sliced in full view of customers through a glass window near the ordering counter.
The food: You'd get few arguments if you called this the best BBQ in Las Vegas. The brisket is so buttery and flavorful, it doesn't need any sauce (but don't let that stop you from slathering some on top). Along with chicken, ribs, and other meats, it's smoked over Texas post oak in one of two heavy-duty thousand-gallon propane smokers. With a stable location, SoulBelly is now adding sandwiches to the menu (including a wicked smoked turkey club and grilled cheese with Kalman's own pepper relish) and an awesome wedge salad with smoked tomato vinaigrette and pork belly in place of bacon. In between bites, sip on Jiggle Juice, a bagged whiskey lemonade with a subtle hot-pepper kick.
The cost: BBQ platters are $24-28, meats by the pound are $24-28, links are $8, and sandwiches are $10-19. When it comes to drinks, cocktails are $10-13 while beer runs $5 to $8.
The buzz: With the pool deck still under construction, Virgin Hotels remains a work in progress, but the property's restaurant lineup is already a great excuse to visit. Kris Yenbamroong's Night + Market is the most ambitious concept, putting a SoCal spin on traditional Thai dishes. The front of the dining room is on the casual side and spills out onto the casino floor. Request a booth in the back for a more elevated experience.
The food: Plates are designed for family-style sharing. So take advantage of the idea to get familiar with as many flavors as possible. The massaman curry is an engaging mix of coconut cream, Indian spices, and large slices of sweet potatoes with fried flatbread on the side to soak it all up. The California influence is strongest in the pad kee mao (drunken noodles), mixing wok-tossed rice noodles with vegetables and pastrami from an LA diner. Night + Market is looking to introduce a raw bar in the near future, but is currently offering seafood towers in a choice of sizes. Otherwise, the lobster pad thai = happiness. Yenbamroong makes a point to feature natural wines with an emphasis on whites to counter the spiciness in much of the food.
The cost: Seafood towers are $85 or $190. Other dishes range from $16 to $40. Cocktails are $16-20 and glasses of wine are $15-18.
The buzz: One Steakhouse has a loose vibe and lacks the pretentiousness of counterparts on the Strip, yet still feels very much like "an experience." The space was formerly home to MB Steak (back in pre-pandemic days when Virgin Hotels was the Hard Rock), but has been reinvented with a more welcoming atmosphere. The bar area was opened up to feed off the energy of the casino floor and sits underneath an elaborate crystal light fixture that slowly changes color throughout the evening. An upstairs lounge for overflow seating has windows that open wide toward the Strip.
The food: In a wise move, One Steakhouse retained the services of Executive Chef Patrick Munster, who knows how to balance familiar favorites with inventive modifications. Why have one surf and turf on the menu when you can have three? All presented on a charcoal grill at the table. Similar interactive touches are seen in the lobster bisque (with a creamy broth poured over chilled, fresh lobster seconds before you taste it) and the photogenic Baked Alaska dessert. No spoilers, just have your camera ready. Steak purists can't go wrong with a serving of Japanese Wagyu or a bone-in Tomahawk, sliced for two with a perfect char to balance out the rich, marbleized beef. For a change of pace, try the ricotta gnocchi with brandy peppercorn sauce as your side dish.
The cost: Appetizers and salads $14-23, sides $12-23, chilled seafood $19-165, and entrees $28-64. Steaks run $42 to $160 with options for surf-and-turfs at $87-95 and a Tomahawk Feast for 10-12 people that's $1,200
The buzz: Madero Street Tacos, a quiet operation on Carson Avenue near the Downtown Container Park, joins a growing trend among new Mexican restaurants in Vegas (like Masazul and Milpa) of preparing masa and tortillas from scratch. Every sauce is made in house as well, even the sour cream. There's a heavy emphasis on takeaway and delivery orders, but tourists will appreciate the easy walk-up access (especially after a round of drinking on nearby Fremont Street). The restaurant is also a ghost kitchen for Clevelander's Hamburgers.
The food: Chef Francisco Alvarez, a veteran of the Michael Mina Group and other high-end restaurants, based his menu on family recipes while taking inspiration from regions like Jalisco and Mexico City. His stamp is seen in touches subtle (cucumber in the pico de gallo) and dramatic (a cheesy crust grilled around tacos for dipping into a bowl of birria, a Mexican consommé). Large appetites will appreciate the enormous Enchilada Burrito, but a meal is best enjoyed when spread out among as many different tacos as possible.
The cost: Tacos $3-5 (plates $13-17), burritos $5-15, and $2-6 sides (street corn, guac and chips, etc).
The buzz: James Trees helped turn the Downtown Arts District into an up-and-coming culinary destination with Esther's Kitchen and is now bringing his eye for fresh ingredients and expert Italian cuisine to the west valley with Al Solito Posto. The new restaurant, which takes over the old Brio space at Tivoli Village, makes full use of a large contemporary dining room and outdoor patio by the shopping district's fountain. The service team operates with the flair and style of dinner club captains and the prices are incredibly customer friendly (a trend at all of Trees' concepts, including Ada's, a wine bar around the corner that is one of the best places to grab a drink in Las Vegas).
The food: From the moment you try the house-made focaccia bread (accompanied with a chunky combination of roasted garlic, herbs, and cheese mixed on the spot), you know you're in for something exceptional. Trees and his team (which now includes Executive Chef Steve Young) spent weeks perfecting new recipes for classic Italian dishes, ranging from a flavorful minestrone to an irresistible chicken Parmesan. Prefer to go vegetarian? The eggplant parm is prepared with Chinese eggplant and fanned out like a flower. When it comes to steaks, the ribeye cap is a true deal at $36. Try the tiramisu for dessert, revamped with a fluffy meringue-like exterior and topped off with a rich espresso sauce at the table.
The cost: Appetizers and salads $9-21, pastas $16-23, steaks and entrees $20-58, desserts $5-22, cocktails $14-16.
The buzz: Chef Andrew Ye, a Californian who formerly ran the kitchen at North Italia, is delivering on what could be the best counter service restaurant in Las Vegas. Walk up, order, wait, and eat. At first glance, the menu seems relatively simple, but the dedication to ingredients and prep is high level. Much of the produce is sourced via Ye's own relationships with California farms. Some items (like pasta and chocolate) are imported from Europe. The dining room is simple and sparse, but has a charming low-key, modern feel.
The food: The miso-glazed salmon bowl is one of the most delicious quick lunches in Vegas, prepared with Verlasso salmon, vegetables, and earthy Japanese-style brown rice. Heartier appetites will appreciate rigatoni topped with a thick bolognese, slow-cooked for up to five hours with ground beef, pork, and veal. Dishes change frequently with the season. An appetizer of delta asparagus, from a crop harvested just a few short months each year in Northern California, is the latest example.
The cost: Starters and salads $4-15, entrees $13.50-20, sides and desserts $3-6.