Realistic Dining in Las Vegas

Las Vegas has some of the best-and most expensive-restaurants in the world, all within an approximate 4 mile area. From Emeril Lagasse to Bobby Flay to Guy Savoy, to all of the lesser known celebrity chefs, there is a wealth of culinary experience from which to draw…but not for the average tourist, especially if traveling with kids. That’s a whole different ballgame.

For those quick to point out that one shouldn’t even be taking kids to Sin City in the first place, there really are many great things to do there for those under 21, and many families do take kids with them when visiting. So what are the best options for eating meals that are more “normal” than fancy cuisine at greatly inflated prices?

Vegas was always known for its buffets, but they are no longer the cheap eats of the past. Expect to pay upwards from $15 for breakfast, $20 at lunch and $25 per person for dinner at resorts on the strip. (Children under 12 usually receive discounts.) A breakfast buffet could be the best choice if your family enjoys breakfast foods and has a busy day planned. After eating at one of those, most folks aren’t hungry until late afternoon. A buffet’s obviously not for anyone who isn’t a big eater, but even picky diners can find a something to meet with their approval. Plus, buffets aren’t all that much costly than buying items a la carte from a resort coffee shop. (Coffee, milk, juice, and a croissant or muffin can cost $10 per person,) Overall, the value is significantly greater.

However, if a family has opted for breakfast at Denny’s (on the strip near the Venetian) or McDonald’s (near Denny’s and in Circus Circus and Excaliber) with the idea of splurging on a nicer lunch, there are choices in the upscale food courts of the Venetian and Caesar’s Palace. Here, prices are a bit more hefty ($4 for a slice of pizza, for example), but the ambience of being in beautiful surroundings and looking out into the casino may be worth it. The Miracle Mile Shops in Planet Hollywood and the eateries in New York New York also provides small kiosks and tables that offer assortment to all family members at less cost than sit-down establishments.

Most strip resorts’ casual restaurants have wide menu selections, but expect to wait either in line or wait for meals, which take time that you could spend elsewhere. Usually, the portions are large, but the average Vegas hotel room rarely offers refrigerators (or even coffee makers, for that case). Most entrees start around $10.

For those who are looking for a themed, chain-type restaurant appealing to both kids and adults, Vegas is home to the Rain Forest Café, House of Blues, Planet Hollywood, Hard Rock Café, and Margaritaville. Expect to pay at least $15 per person and spend at least an hour.

Should your itinerary take you to downtown Las Vegas, you’ll find down-to-earth prices for full-course dinners and satisfying food. However, it may not be worth the $30 round trip cab fare just to go there for one meal. On the other hand, combining dinner with the Freemont St. Experience, and shopping for moderately priced souvenirs, may be worth it.

It’s not impossible for a family to eat well at a reasonable cost while in Las Vegas, but it does take a little research-and probably a bit of walking!

What about “unrealistic” dining experiences? You know, the ones that start about $100 a person per meal? Every resort has several upscale dining facilities, with names that are recognizable throughout the world. Since my family and I did not frequent those restaurants, I cannot offer opinions, but other’s views may help in your choice. Check with on-line review sites to get an idea of current pricing and offerings at places that allow the dining experience to transcend into once-in-a-lifetime dining memories. That’s what great about Vegas-it has something for everyone-all at the same time, and all in the same general area.

(Note-On a recent trip to Las Vegas, the author’s sit-down restaurant choices were the Flamingo Resort’s Paradise Garden Buffet, the Flamingo Tropical Breeze Café, Rain Forest Café, Bay City Diner and Wolfgang Puck’s Spago.)

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