This Restaurant Reinvented the McGriddle
The Silverton Casino, a few miles south of Mandalay Bay just off the Strip, has one of the best buffets in town. It's not that the Seasons Buffet serves up Osetra caviar for cod roe prices, but the menu selection is fresh, diverse, and a better quality than that of most of the mid- and low-grade Strip resort buffets. Signing up for a free Silverton Rewards card knocks a few more bucks off the already-very-low price, and the Bellini Brunch Sunday ($17.99 with players card) includes bottomless Bellinis and mimosas. And that right there is a hell of a deal.
Red Rock Casino
West of the Strip at the freeway exit that takes you to the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, Red Rock Casino's Feast Buffet is a favorite among locals for its international selection of hundreds of fresh items and prices that will make you think it's still the '80s. Scope that $17.99 prime rib-and-shrimp dinner on Fridays and Saturdays with the Boarding Pass players card.
So it's not "cheap" in the sense of being inexpensive, but as far as top-rated Vegas Strip buffets go it is among the more affordable, AND anyone who is anyone who knows anything about literally anything knows that this is hands-down THE best buffet in Vegas. In fact, to call it a "buffet" doesn't even do it justice -- "culinary food hall" (thanks, website copy!) is more appropriate. You can get a weekday brunch for under $30 plus you can add a bottomless beverage package to any meal for $15 (PBR, house wines, mimosas, and Bloody Marys), and by any Vegas standards that's a bargain.
Off the Strip
The nationally recognized cocktail bar -- named the best high-volume bar in America AND one of the "World's Best Bars" -- is also one of the best steakhouses in town, and we're not JUST saying that because of the insane happy hour… but seriously, the happy hour(s) is insane: Monday through Saturday from 5-8pm. AND midnight to 3am, get half-off steaks and other select menu items plus drink specials. Did we mention that the steaks are butchered in-house and are responsibly raised, corn-fed, and hormone-/steroid-/antibiotic-free? HALF-OFF.
Railroad Pass Hotel & Casino
This one is a bit of a hike, being out by the Hoover Dam (but still only about 30 minutes from the Strip), and as far as fancy steakhouses go this one doesn't feel so much "fancy" as it does one great big wide-open generic banquet room, but the steaks are just as good as almost any of the other MUCH more expensive steakhouses around town, with a 12oz filet for $28 and a 14oz rib-eye for $26. Which is just stupid cheap, even with cab fare.
Echo & Rig butcher shop and steakhouse located west of the Strip in Tivoli Village serves some of the best steaks in the Las Vegas Valley at half the price you would pay for something comparable on the Strip (seriously -- a rib-eye for $35.80 is literally half what you would pay elsewhere).
A bit east of the Strip getting out into the Vegas 'burbs, Daisho is a very simple sushi spot that serves rolls lightning-fast off the expansive all-you-can-eat menu, just $20 for lunch and $25 for dinner. Ask about the fresh specials for items that were just flown in that day.
Samesies, though this one is a couple bucks more expensive, has a bit of a Korean flair to the menu, and is in Chinatown, a bit closer to the Strip.
Basically, it's Nobu on a budget, and we mean that with the utmost reverence and respect. Splurge for one of the omakase menus -- STILL way cheaper than Nobu, yet a comparable culinary experience.
Nothing gets more "real" than a taco chain based out of Tijuana, and there are conveniently three to be found around Las Vegas. This is the In-N-Out Burger of taco joints, which is everything you need to know about it.
Paradise and Las Vegas Valley
Taco Y Taco has two locations in the Las Vegas Valley: the original on Tropicana, which looks like just about every other taco joint ever (so good though!), and the newer, prettier one on Eastern in Henderson, which has the same counter service but with a surprisingly badass bar program (including an impressive draft list) and an atmosphere that makes you want to hang out and enjoy a couple of beers instead of just quickly shoveling tacos in your face and getting the eff out.
If you've ever thought to yourself, "What's really missing from my taco-eating experience is thumping techno music," then by God get thee to Tacos & Beer. Delicious tacos? Check. Awesome beer selection? Double check. Events like "Techno Taco Tuesday" and "Nacho House Sundays"? Bet you didn't even know you wanted them, but now you need them.
A trendy pho place that could just as easily be found in any hip neighborhood anywhere else in America, District One has late hours, a very reasonably priced menu, an excellent selection of craft beer, wine, and cocktails, and an atmosphere that you'll actually want to hang out in versus grabbing your pho to go so as not to have to sit at a depressing plastic table.
Chinatown and Henderson
With two locations in the Las Vegas Valley, Monta is widely known as the best ramen shop in Vegas. It's small, stylish, stupid cheap, and also serves booze.
Gold Coast Casino
This place has a cult following that reached its apex when Travel + Leisure named it one of the top Chinese restaurants in America, which is why the wait can sometimes be HOURS long. A $3 million renovation currently underway will help alleviate that, but for now if you're looking for dim sum lunch or late-night eats, be prepared to wait.
If you have never been three sheets at the Peppermill at 4am eating Maserati omelets, you have never fully experienced Vegas. Period. The end. This place is an icon of icons, "as Vegas as Vegas gets," and the dark, windowless Fireside Lounge in the back is where all your night's bad decisions go to party without you.
Because The LINQ is centrally located on the Strip, this Hash House is your best bet if you're on foot and badly in need of a giant pancake that, if things get really rough, you can wrap around yourself like a warm, maple-y blanket.
Chinese and Vietnamese food in Chinatown that gets insane lines late night not because it is so good (it's good, it's just not like WHOA) but because it is cheap and it is open.
Located on a man-made lake in the Desert Shores community, Americana serves up excellent contemporary American cuisine (and has a KILLER lakeside patio). Brunch here means unlimited entrees from the large brunch menu for $38, with optional bottomless mimosas and Bloody Marys for an extra $12. LOL, "optional."
Located in the Downtown Container Park, which is a retail and restaurant and I guess experiential shopping center thing made out of shipping containers with a giant metal fire-breathing praying mantis out front (I realize none of those words make sense in that order but just roll with it), The Perch has excellent food and an even more excellent bottomless brunch situation with $15 mimosas, Bellinis, and Bloody Marys from 9am-3pm Friday AND Saturday AND Sunday.
Brunch at the Border Grill, with its convenient location on the Strip (as much as anything on the Strip is convenient), means unlimited small plates from the expansive menu of modern Mexican brunch-ish items for $39 with bottomless mimosas an extra $15, or bottomless Bloodys, micheladas, AND mimosas for $20. Sit outside on the patio under giant yellow umbrellas for a nice view of the Mandalay Bay resort tower and part of the pool area.
Let's make this very, very clear: IT'S NOT CHEAP. There is absolutely nothing cheap about this place. But! It's the difference between a $150-per-person tasting menu and a $400-per-person tasting menu at the Mansion, so. If you want to check "dine at a 'Chef of the Century' restaurant" off your bucket list, do it here.
You will probably never, ever eat at Restaurant Guy Savoy, but Brioche is the next best thing. Just kidding, no it's not, it's a generic grab-and-go kiosk with breakfast and lunch items and is NOTHING like Restaurant Guy Savoy, but at least it bears his name so you can keep living in your fantasy, which is really all that Vegas is about.
The East-meets-West noodles-and-tacos concept from José Andrés is as cheap as you're going to get from the top celebrity chef in Vegas, though if you find yourself caught up in the spirit of "f--- it" while at The Cosmopolitan, pop on over to Jaleo instead and do it right.
Very little is actually "secret" about Secret Pizza inside The Cosmopolitan anymore, based on the perhaps hour-long line down the narrow, unmarked hallway leading to it. What you get here are giant New York-style slices with higher-end toppings -- a bit more gourmet than a slice from, say, a Ray's. Slices are $5-$6 and beer and wine is cheap for a casino and served in plastic cups because you are all animals. It's not the best pizza experience you'll ever have in life, but it's a Vegas thing you should experience at least once.
In Vegas seemingly everything is a transplant from New York or LA or DC or Miami or really, anywhere but here. Naked City Pizza is, however, a genuine Las Vegas original, serving up massive sheet pizzas in a variety of flavors including the "Guinea Pie," which was featured on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives and is covered in meatballs, spinach, ricotta, white garlic sauce, and mozzarella. Check out Naked City Tavern for the full experience, including the edible bacon candle.
Another Vegas original, Evel Pie has brought late-night pizza back to Fremont St. Open daily until 2am -- and 4am on Fridays and Saturdays -- you can order by the slice or lock in the special: a cheese slice and beer for $5.