Ping Pang Pong at Gold Coast Casino
Ping Pang Pong at Gold Coast Casino | Mona Shield Payne / Thrillist
Ping Pang Pong at Gold Coast Casino | Mona Shield Payne / Thrillist
DestiNATION Las Vegas

How to Eat Like Royalty in Vegas Without Breaking the Bank

If you're even thinking of being in Vegas, check out the rest of our DestiNATION: Vegas guide. It's stacked with expert advice from locals on what to eat, where to drink, and what to do.

Vegas eats will go as baller as your credit limit and personal threshold will allow. It's REAL easy to rack up a quadruple-digit tab for two at places like Nobu and Joël Robuchon at the Mansion. But dining out in Vegas doesn't have to be an exercise in buyer's remorse (… and guilt… and regret…). While the days of the $9.99 prime rib dinner have almost entirely gone the way of the Riviera -- and by that we mean ceremoniously blown up -- you can still find great dining deals that will satisfy all your major Vegas food group cravings (i.e., buffets, steakhouses, 24-hour joints) both on and off the Strip.

Mostly off, though. Deal with that now. Download the Uber and Lyft apps and accept the fact that it's either pay the hefty tourist tax for dining out on the Strip or venture out into the sprawling strip malls of the surrounding Vegas metro area to explore the much cheaper -- and in many cases, also better -- locals joints.

cheap eats vegas
wicked spoon, the cosmopolitan
wicked spoon, the cosmopolitan | courtesy of The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas

The buffet is to Vegas what BBQ is to Austin and pizza-by-the-slice is to Manhattan: ubiquitous and practically synonymous with the city itself. There are many good buffets here. There are, however, not many great buffets, especially when you calculate cost against value. Now, if you really want to go all-out on a buffet, do so with the Sterling Brunch at Bally's and eat your weight in lobster tails washed down with bottomless bottles of Perrier-Jouët. But if you're not trying to be so spendy-spendy -- save it for the slots! -- yet still want a variety of tasty food at affordable prices, give one of these a shot.

Seasons Buffet

Silverton Casino

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.

Feast Buffet

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.

Wicked Spoon

The Cosmopolitan

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.

vegas cheap eats
Echo & Rig
<strong>Echo & Rig</strong>

There are so many steakhouses in Las Vegas. SO many. And they are as diverse and varied as the hordes of tourists on the Strip on a Saturday night. From the old-school, Rat Pack-style steakhouses (where the Rat Pack actually once hung out) to the even flashier, even spendier Strip steakhouses like Carnevino and Craftsteak where the per-person check average is probably north of $200, Vegas has a steakhouse for all tastes and all "tastes." But you don't have to blow your entire Fun Fund on one meal to enjoy a good steak in this town, and these places are proof.

Herbs and Rye

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.

DeSimone's Steakhouse

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

Tivoli Village

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).

vegas cheap eats
sushi kaya
Sushi Kaya | Mona Shield Payne / Thrillist

The popularity of sushi in Vegas is a bit of an enigma, what with it being a city in the middle of the desert and all, where fish do not live, because it's the desert. But! Since there is no accounting for good taste or good judgment, especially as far as ANYTHING in Las Vegas is concerned, sushi is a thing here, including cheap all-you-can-eats. They sure aren't Nobu, but they'll scratch the spicy tuna itch.

Daisho Sushi

Paradise Valley

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.

Sushi Kaya

Chinatown

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.

Kabuto Edomae Sushi

Spring Valley

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.

vegas cheap eats
mexican food
Tacos El Gordo | Mona Shield Payne / Thrillist

Mexican food on the Strip is mostly garbage. And not, like, kitschy Tex-Mex/Taco Bell "this is disgusting but it's SO GOOD" garbage, but like, "I just paid $18 for two bland-AF chicken tacos and why is there an entertainment fee added to my bill?" garbage. Lucky for us, and also you, Las Vegas has a large Latino population, and they know what's up for tasty tacos, at prices that actually make sense. 

Tacos El Gordo

Various locations

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.

Taco Y Taco

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.

Tacos & Beer

Paradise

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.

vegas cheap eats
Ping Pang Pong at Gold Coast Casino
Ping Pang Pong at Gold Coast Casino | Mona Shield Payne / Thrillist

Did you know that Las Vegas has one of the best Chinatowns in North America? No, you didn't, because you only think about yourself. Well, it does, and places like Abriya Raku and Chada Thai/Chada Street deserve your time and money while you're here. But if you're aiming for more fast-casual and/or cheap, you'll be quite happy with these upper-end-of-the-cheap-spectrum joints.

District One Kitchen & Bar

Spring Mountain/Chinatown

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.

Monta Ramen

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.

Ping Pang Pong

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.

vegas cheap eats
The Peppermill
<strong>The Peppermill</strong>

If you're doing Vegas right, then at some point you are going to need to eat at 4am, when the regular restaurants have all closed up for the night. You will not be alone; in fact, you might have an even longer wait to get into one of these spots than you did to get into the club. But these places are the go-to's of all the go-to's (and if you happen to be sober-ish at any of them after 2am, the people-watching is world-class).

The Peppermill

The Strip

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.

Hash House A Go Go at The LINQ

The Strip

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.

Pho Kim Long

Chinatown

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.

bottomless brunch cheap eats vegas
bottomless brunch
The Perch | Mona Shield Payne/Thrillist

Vegas is quite possibly the world capital of brunch, not that anyone ever gives it credit. Now, as the world capital of brunch, Vegas has every type of brunch, particularly the boozy brunch and ESPECIALLY the party brunch. You can brunch however you see fit -- we're not your parents and aren't here to tell you what to do, except that when you brunch it should damn sure be with some bottomless mimosas.

Americana

Desert Shores

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."

The Perch

Downtown

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.

Border Grill

Mandalay Bay

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.

vegas cheap eats
China Poblano
José Andrés' China Poblano | China Poblano

Las Vegas is the Noah's Ark of celebrity-chef restaurants, and most of them are very, VERY, veryveryveryvery expensive. Unless it's, like, Guy Fieri's joint. (Which is still more expensive than it has any right to be.) It's not so much that you can do a celebrity-chef joint "cheaply," because you can't, but all things being relative these places are more cheap than their significantly more expensive counterparts.

L'Atelier De Joël Robuchon

MGM Grand

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.

Brioche by Guy Savoy

Caesars Palace

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.

China Poblano by José Andrés

The Cosmopolitan

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.

cheap eats vegas
evel pie pizza
Evel Pie | Mona Shield Payne / Thrillist

At some point, a slice of pizza in Vegas will be the best thing you've ever tasted. Because at some point you will find yourself up way too late, with way too much liquor in your belly, jonesing for a slice. And pizza, like sex, always scratches a particular itch at 2am. Whatever your preference for pie, Vegas has imported it. New York style, Chicago style, super-fancy gourmet foo-foo California style, Neapolitan style, Sicilian style, even Detroit-style pizza. These joints are as close to Vegas originals as you'll find, and they have a bit of a cult following (as well as late hours because, again, 2am is closer than you think).

Secret Pizza

The Cosmopolitan

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.

Naked City Pizza

West Strip

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.

Evel Pie

Downtown

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.

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Nicole Rupersburg is a freelance journalist whose years living in Vegas have done permanent damage to her sense of "normal." She likes to 'Gram things @eatsdrinksandleaves but it's mostly pictures of mountains and beer because that's her #VegasLife.