Remember when Hooters was as exciting as restaurants got? Not food-wise, of course, but ummm boob-wise. Well, those days are as dead as the Cold War. Last year I learned this firsthand at the Tilted Kilt and on my recent visit to Las Vegas the point was driven home, hard, at Twin Peaks. It was at Twin Peaks that we basically established our base camp for our time in Las Vegas. The only trouble was it was hard to concentrate on the basketball games with so much else to look at.
Tucked into the back of the Planet Hollywood hotel in Las Vegas is a creatively named restaurant called Cheeseburger. Seriously. And I really mean that it’s a creative name, because the overall ambiance of the restaurant is not cheeseburgery at all. It’s Hawaiian. But, you know, something about what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.
In the depths of the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, there is a multitude of fancy restaurants just waiting for the eating. But wanting to get on the road and needing a quick bite, we made our way to a sandwich shop called ‘wichcraft. I liked the nice little pun they used there, and also thought it might be a Tom Colicchio restaurant because of the “craft” used in the name (I later confirmed this, but I must confess I didn’t know who Tom Colicchio was until a few minutes before settling on ‘wichcraft).
Out in Vegas for a buddy’s 30th (yes, he is that old), we had a bit of a group birthday to celebrate. Ordinarily, this might be cause for someone to expect to drop much more money than they want to. But he chose a place called the Sugar Factory in the Paris and a quick look at the menu revealed something quite reasonable, especially by Vegas standards.
Connected to a candy shop, both sweets and their bar serve as a good waiting area before getting seated. In fact, you can combine the two, as the Sugar Factory has a bunch of sharkbowl-esque drinks, with one even filled with shark gummies. But enough about the sweets and the awesome race we had on each side of the table to see who could finish their massive goblet first. That matters little to an unvegan.
In my continuing quest to find the greatest buffet in Las Vegas (and eventually the world!), I may have found one to stand toe to toe with Rio’s Carnival World Buffet. Situated in Planet Hollywood, the Spice Market Buffet doesn’t fit into the Hollywood theme, at least in name. It also doesn’t bear any resemblance to a Spice Market. Nonetheless, it does use spices and the walls are adorned with food-related movie posters like Attack of the Killer Tomatoes! and Breakfast at Tiffany’s (two very similar movies). The lunch buffet cost 25 bucks, but as soon as I looked around, I knew it was going to be well worth the price.
In Vegas for CES, I was lucky enough to be invited out for a little lunch at Benihana at the Hilton of Las Vegas. I had never heard of anyone going to Benihana for lunch (outside of The Office), but I wasn’t about to turn it down. If you don’t know Benihana, you’ve probably been living under a rock, but as a Japanese steakhouse, they cook in the teppanyaki style, which involves cooking on a huge griddle that also happens to be part of the table. For lunch they were cooking up steak, chicken, shrimp, mushrooms, onions and peppers, plus a salad for a set price of $24.99. This was actually a really good price for both Benihana and Vegas in general, so after ordering a Sapporo, I was ready to eat.
Before I begin, I first want to apologize for the poor quality pictures. For some reason, The Golden Nugget decided that their buffet needed a lot of yellowish lighting, and getting rid of that was no easy task. So even though the pictures are grainy as hell and jaundiced in color, at least they give some sort of idea of what the food looked like…not that looks could do anything to save this buffet.
Now, for some reason I have always loved Fremont Street in Las Vegas. Maybe it’s the guys trying to sell you coke in the middle of the street, the crazy light displays or the free beads at La Bayou. Whatever it is, it has some unvegan allure. And for a while now, I’ve been hearing that Fremont has some damn good buffets. With that in mind, my buddy and I headed to the nicest casino down there, The Golden Nugget, thinking their buffet would be the cream of Fremont’s crop.
If you’ve ever been to Vegas, you’ve probably heard of a nightclub called Tao in the Venetian. But did you know there was also a restaurant called Tao? No? Well neither did I, but when I went to Vegas, my buddy had an elaborate plan of attack one night. First, he found out that the restaurant existed. Next, he found out that you could get into the club for free if you eat at the restaurant. Lastly, he made us a reservation for the place at 9:45 for some pre-club eating. Not much of a clubber, I just hoped the food would be good enough to enjoy without that extra clubbing incentive.
Another fine restaurant I went to in Las Vegas was called Rare 120 Degrees. This restaurant was off the strip at the Hard Rock Cafe, but was a perfect place to stop before seeing Santana there. We had a reservation and got in instantly. It was a good thing we had that reservation, too, because no more than fifteen minutes later, the place got packed. Before I even saw the menu, I heard classic 80s music and one of the greatest movies of all time, Better Off Dead, starring John Cusack, was projected onto one of the walls. I knew I had come to a great place.
As a break from watching horse racing and football at the Caesar’s Palace Casino in Las Vegas, we walked right next to the sports book and into the Mesa Grill. The place is pretty well-known for being Bobby Flay’s restaurant and I guess Bobby Flay is some sort of a big deal because of his Iron Chef work and such, but I still get him confused with Michael Flatley of Riverdance fame. Confusion or no, I had heard great things about the Mesa Burger and zoned in on that when I got my menu.
I was actually a little disappointed by the list of toppings. Horseradish mustard sounded like a bad vegetable concoction, while grilled Vidalia onions made it sound even worse. The redeeming quality of the burger was the double cheddar cheese, so I still ordered the burger with the cheese on it. I told the waiter that I was ordering my burger strangely and he replied that it wasn’t strange at all. This friendliness in an anti-unvegan world showed me that even unvegans are welcomed with open arms in Las Vegas. I ordered the burger cooked medium and he told me they served a very liberal medium, meaning my burger would be quite pink. This was just fine by me.