It’s been a long tradition for me, dating back almost 20 years now, to celebrate a nice tournament score with a great meal. I can’t recommend spending half your winnings on a big meal — that’s terrible bankroll management — but if you hit something really big it’s nice to reward yourself.
There are lots of nice places to eat off the strip for very reasonable amounts of money, and I’ll be covering those in the future, but this article will just cover my favorite places that offer a fantastic meal every time. Beware, these places aren’t cheap, and you may love them so much that they will decimate your bankroll over the summer as you find excuses to visit them again and again.
Let’s start with the more reasonable spots, things you can afford even if you don’t final table a bracelet event. These are my go-to spots for date night with my new wife or when friends are in town.
Lotus of Siam
“Lotus on break?” might be the most common question before dinner break during a WSOP event. The place is such a fixture that it goes by one word, and all the pros know exactly what it means – great service, a relaxed atmosphere, and exquisite Thai food. Lotus isn’t just great some of the time, they are ultra-consistent. I’ve never had a meal there that was less than stellar.
One of their locations closed temporarily during the pandemic and hasn’t reopened yet, but we won the coin flip and the location that stayed open is just two miles from the Rio remains. Lotus is so well-known, and so highly regarded, that you’ll often need reservations during normal dinner hours, especially on weekends. The estimated drive time from the Rio is 10 to 15 minutes, assuming you can get out of the crowded back lot during the dinner rush.
Try the Panang Curry; it’s my favorite dish and Siam makes it as well as anyone. The wine selection is excellent too.
Lotus is located at 620 East Flamingo Road. You can grab a reservation by calling 702-735-3033 or online.
If you can’t get reservations at Lotus, give Lamaii Thai a shot. It’s located at 4480 Spring Mountain Road in Chinatown, just eight minutes from the Rio. Reservations are available at 702-238-0567. It’s excellent Thai food from the former sommelier at Lotus who’s created a wonderful spot that’s easy to access, and you won’t even have to cross the strip.
Herbs And Rye
Herbs And Rye is a remarkable value. They feature a variety of options, but focus on steak, pasta, and high-end cocktails. This is one of my favorite spots when friends are in town. And I’m not alone, so you will need reservations, even late at night (they’re open until 2:30). They fill up every night as the rest of the restaurant industry gets off work and comes in to spend their tips on short rib ravioli and prohibition-era cocktails.
You can see the menu here. Happy hour has been extended to include any time they’re open, and they’ve told me that it will remain this way for the foreseeable future, which means anything that has two red stars next to the name is actually half of the price you see on the menu. That makes the steaks, and a few of the pasta dishes, an incredible bargain. The bone-in pork chop, filet mignon, and agnolotti pasta are my personal favorites, but everything they serve is top-notch.
Herbs and Rye is located at 3713 West Shara, 11 minutes from the Rio. Call 702-982-8036 for reservations. Hours are 5 pm to 2:30 am every day.
Their sister restaurant, Cleaver, is also excellent and serves a similar menu. They’re closed at the moment, but should reopen around the start of the WSOP, and they’re a short drive across the strip.
Naked Fish’s Sushi
If you’re looking for sushi, Naked Fish’s is a fantastic little place just a 15-minute drive from the Rio. Prices are very reasonable, though you can spend a pile of dough if you really want to go for it with the chef’s special offerings. I love baked rolls, and these are the best in town. This is high-quality sushi, as good as anything you’ll find on the strip, for a lot less money. You won’t always need reservations, but it’s best to get them anyway by calling 702-228-8856. And try a cup of Nigori with dessert, it’s excellent.
The really baller spots
And now for the real high-end stuff. These are places you can’t go every day, but you’ll be talking about them for years. If you hit a big score, take a few pals to one of these spots for a serious celebration.
Man do I love Jaleo. I’ve had some of the best meals of my life there. Chef Jose’ Andres creates wonderful Spanish cuisine in unique ways that will have you coming back to try a few more things. And it’s easy to get to on the second floor of the Cosmopolitan in the Aria complex. A two-minute walk from the Aria poker room, or less than 10 minutes from the Rio.
I highly recommend having everyone order three or four things that sound interesting and sharing around the table. You’ll discover all kinds of things you didn’t expect to like. And don’t miss the aged Ibericon ham platter; it’s unlike any meat you will ever eat. Scrumptious.
Book reservations online here.
Vegas has at least five really great steakhouses and everyone has an opinion about which one is the best. I’ve tried most of them and heard all the arguments at the tables about why one is better than the other. For my money, and usually quite a lot of it, Delmonico takes the cake.
This is a fine-dining, white tablecloth kind of place, though you won’t need to dress up to get in. But it is old school. Sides are huge, served family-style, and the steaks are dry-aged in-house, starting with some of the finest meat available anywhere. The $60 filet mignon is fantastic, but if you want one of the best steaks on the planet, try the 100% Japanese Wagyu. It’s one of the best meals I’ve ever had. They start with the highest quality Wagyu, dry age it, and add grilled trumpet mushrooms, and a black garlic red wine reduction for six ounces of heaven. Sure, it’s $150 without a side dish, but it’s a steak you can only get here, and you’ll never forget it.
You can book a table at Delmonico through Open Table.
If you thought the Delmonico was pricey, wait until you get a look at the menu at Nobu in Caesars Palace. The first bite of food will get you over the sticker shock — everything here is brilliant. From sushi and sashimi, to Wagyu beef and even desserts, it’s all world-class. I love all of it, but the Wagyu beef served on hot rocks, the black miso cod (my all-time favorite dish), and the whiskey cappuccino dessert are my personal favorites.
They also have a fantastic selection of whiskey, including the 25-year-old Nobu only whiskey from Yamazaki that’s the very height of Japanese whiskey. And if you want to really feel decadent, order some tiny Wagyu tacos as an appetizer. I went to Nobu three days ago and I can still remember the high of the meal as I write this.
Nobu won’t be cheap. If you spend less than $300 a person, you aren’t doing it right. And did I mention the black miso Cod? Please order the black miso cod. Trust me on this one. If you like the savory flavor of umami, the cod has all of it.
You can make a reservation through Open Table, and you’ll probably need one, especially on weekends.