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Eating Las Vegas

Gentle Readers, once more I find myself up in the middle of the night, on the West Coast, blogging. Which ties in nicely with today’s topic, Eating Las Vegas. The city doesn’t sleep, and the casinos don’t have natural light or clocks. Time stops having meaning there.

The Poutine topped with an egg from Public House. When time has no meaning, combine breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

The Poutine topped with an egg from Public House. When time has no meaning, combine breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

However, my tolerance of this bizarre environment does. My ongoing issue with Las Vegas has not been with the city itself, but life inside the conference bubble, where I have to spend the majority of my time. After all, I’m typically in the city to work, not play. However, I do have to eat, and here are my top 3 tips with restaurant recommendation pairings.

Eating Las Vegas

1. Get Off the Reservation! This works on so many levels. First, if the place is so big and fancy that you need a reservation, you’ve increased your exposure financially. I have a certain intolerance of eating overpriced bad food, regardless if it’s on the company dime or mine. Las Vegas can be expensive, so be mindful.

We ate family style at this family friendly restaurant: Lotus of Siam!

We ate family style at this family friendly restaurant: Lotus of Siam!

The other interpretation is also true: if you get outside of the casino bubble to eat, you’ll have a better meal and will extend your Las Vegas tolerance. Leave the strip, listen to Yelp, and try an authentic meal. A recent one at Lotus of Siam was a huge win. Great food family style.

Fried foods stand out at I Heart Burger (but so did the kale salad!).

Fried foods stand out at I Heart Burger (but so did the kale salad!).

2. Go Small or Go Home. So much in Vegas is over the top, that sometimes it’s important to remember that big does not equal good. Two of my favorite places are simple burger joints, not fancy. I always enjoy Burger Bar, I Heart Burger, and The Public House (stick with burgers and the Poutine, thought the salad was lovely).

You’ll notice a theme here, but sometimes a burger and fries is a nice break from the barrage of overly rich food and fine dining. Also, amidst much jeering, I got nice kale salads from both I Heart Burger and The Public House. Thanks team.

Bacon wrapped everything from Mizumi.

Bacon wrapped everything from Mizumi.

3. Don’t Stay Here. If you can’t completely get off the strip, try someone else’s hotel restaurant. Recently I got to try Mizumi at The Wynn. The lobby is stunning, and just not being inside of my complex made a difference to my mood. The menu features a few really amazing things: bacon-wrapped (fill in the blank), pork belly, and beef short ribs. Wow, just wow. Paired with great company, it almost felt like a vacation in the middle of work.

Beef so good we ordered it for dessert.

Beef so good we ordered it for dessert.

So a few tips and tricks for surviving the work side of Vegas, and enjoying your time and food as well. Other favorite spots from the group? I’m all ears.

Send winning lottery tickets, restaurant suggestions, or potential food blog topics to practical cook at gmail dot com. Connect on Facebook: The Practical Cook Blog. (Thanks in advance for spreading The Practical Cook Blog word. Press “like” on Facebook today! Also, follow the food pictures on Instagram @amylewi.)

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Reviews from the Road: Las Vegas Casinos, Where the Food Is a Gamble

Gentle Readers, once more The Practical Cook returns from a Las Vegas convention, wondering how it is possible to eat so many meals in one day. You see, for whatever reason, be it jet lag, hyperoxygenation, or adrenaline, when in Las Vegas, I seem to be eating at least two dinners per day. Lunch is a crap shoot (literally), and breakfast is often overcomplicated.

Beautiful presentation, but beware, those are hazelnuts.

Beautiful presentation, but beware, those are hazelnuts.

So then comes dinner, usually a social affair, and then second dinner, which is a more social affair necessitated by the amount of time and alcohol that has passed since the first dinner. (Thus burgers and waffles, sometimes together, are popular choices for second dinner, whereas first dinner is often either more lavish or more a cocktail and snacks affair.)

The Inevitable Vegas Burger

The Inevitable Vegas Burger

Point being, there’s time to eat a wide selection of things, but I find myself being underwhelmed. Before you reach out to smack me down, let me explain the context.

1. Atmosphere matters to me when I’m eating, and Las Vegas casinos are like Epcot, built on illusion. Epcot does not make me think “gourmet food.”

2. For an industry that relies on hospitality, we experienced some incredibly bad service. I’m willing to put up with quite a lot, I fully understand waiting tables is hard work. But at the point that you deliver eggs on a plate that you tell me is too hot to touch after waiting 45 minutes for them, I can promise you I’m not going to eat them.

Cobb Salad from Dos Caminos, with Chicken and Chorizo

Cobb Salad from Dos Caminos, with Chicken and Chorizo

3. I favor simplicity. Some of the best finds were humble foods done well. A beautiful cheese plate, a composed salad, fried triangles of macaroni and cheese that would make any state fair proud.

Fried Macaroni and Cheese from Burger Bar

Fried Macaroni and Cheese from Burger Bar

In the end, I always enjoy the company more than the food, and have learned to order simply, follow recommendations, and not expect too much. In two trips, I’ve enjoyed the bar food and different Mexican restaurants most.

Carne Asada Tacos at Dos Caminos

Carne Asada Tacos at Dos Caminos

At Dos Caminos, where I landed twice, the real stand-out was the beautifully orange habañero salsa. I’m not a spice-head, and this was a well-balanced salsa with kick on the front of the tongue and this smooth, almost creamy, pumpkin-ness to it. I plan to take a swing at recreating it at home.

This time, I’m happy to say, the Italian-themed hotel featured a lovely coffee bar, which made a very respectable latte. However this blog post owes its title to The Dealer, my aptly self-named barista at my coffeehouse of choice, who supplied me with the perfect road recovery drink, shown here.

Recovery Latte from My Native Coffeehouse

Recovery Latte from My Native Coffeehouse

To my comrades in burgers and waffles, you know who you are, I salute you.

Do you have a favorite restaurant from the casino scene in Las Vegas? Am I the only one craving waffles at 3 AM when there? Post a comment or Tweet!

Send your shrimp cocktails (well, send those elsewhere) and queries to practical cook at gmail dot com. Connect on Facebook: The Practical Cook Blog. (Thanks in advance for spreading The Practical Cook Blog word. Press “like” on Facebook today!)

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Tomorrow, Weekly Menus, Labor Day Edition!

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Filed under Kitchen Philosophy, Restaurant Reviews