Photo courtesy of Oscar’s Steakhouse
Everyone always wants to know about what’s new in Las Vegas. Over the past couple years, Southern Nevada’s largest city has weathered the challenges of the pandemic, yet things continue to move forward. Between hotel openings and a wave of new restaurants, Vegas has barely slowed down. It’s almost hard to imagine that little over a year ago, the Strip was completely closed, resembling something akin to a post-apocalyptic ghost town.
Yet while things change, the more they remain the same. Las Vegas is sometimes too eager to part ways with its history (often with an over-the-top implosion), but if nothing else, is known as much for its restaurants as its showgirls and casinos. And a few of those spots continue to operate as if the past year was just a blip on the radar. They’ve been around decades—and will probably stick around for decades to come, while mixing great food with a distinctly identifiable atmosphere.
Off the Strip
There’s a reason the Golden Steer should be on your bucket list of Las Vegas dining experiences. The restaurant has been operating just west of the Strip for more than 60 years, welcoming the Rat Pack, Muhammad Ali, and countless other celebrties to sink their teeth into prime wet-aged steaks. Some, including Frank Sinatra, even have “favorite” booths named in their honor with corresponding memorabilia and photos hanging on the walls. Overall, the restaurant has a classic dark-and-moody vibe, offset by red leather booths, the occasional stained-glass window, and vintage decor. Old casino chips and other pieces of Vegas history are on display in the bar, while giant bull horns hang above the doorways, including a pair from the original World’s Fair. The timeless atmosphere remains a backdrop for tableside presentations, cocktails, and a service team eager to discuss the dining room’s commanding history.
How to book: Place a reservation on the restaurant’s website or have steaks shipped anywhere throughout the country.
Having a meal at Chicago Joe’s feels like dining inside somebody’s house—which is exactly what it used to be. The single-story brick structure dates back to the 1930s and officially became a restaurant in 1975. It’s been operated by the same family over the years, and much like the menu of classic Italian-American staples, the decor hasn’t changed much, with red-and-white tablecloths, lace curtains, and old wood furniture on display. A single string of green Christmas lights still dangles from the ceiling in a tight corner. Between lasagna, linguini and clam sauce, and veal parm, the menu is all about home-style comfort with few surprises. Chicago Joe’s recently suspended lunch hours during the labor shortage, but is still open for dinner. Contact the restaurant directly for the latest hours.
How to book: Call 702-382-5637 or head online to book a reservation.
The kitsch is strong at the Peppermill, a diner that’s been around since 1972 and seems to be everybody’s favorite place on the Strip to grab eggs and pancakes in the middle of the night. The iconic combination of blue, purple, red, and pink neon with large fake trees and foliage is instantly recognizable and a common sight in countless movies and TV shows. The Fireside Lounge bar area has comfy couches with room to stretch out, although the best seats are around a water feature with a fire pit in the center. The cocktail list is beyond dated—heavy on fruity, sugary staples—but locals love the Bloody Mary, made with a house mix.
How to order: No reservations. Just walk in. If there’s a wait at the diner, hang tight with a drink at the Fireside Lounge.
Located in the basement level of the Four Queens casino on Fremont Street, Hugo’s Cellar has long been known as one of the most romantic restaurants in Las Vegas—and it’s hard to argue when every lady who walks through the door is handed a long-stem red rose. The chocolate-dipped strawberries are also on the house. Originally known as Hugo’s Rotisserie when it opened in 1973, the restaurant is a showcase of tableside presentations, ranging from salads to begin the meal to a Bananas Foster or Cherries Jubilee to wrap it up. Along the way, you’ll enjoy seafood platters and charbroiled steaks. The brick walls, framed artwork, and fireplace have been in place for years—along with much of the staff. The only thing that’s changed is the wine list, which has now grown to more than 400 bottles.
How to book: Book a reservation via OpenTable.
From the iconic neon marquee to the circular brick entranceway at the front door, Batista’s Hole in the Wall is a comfortably worn-in Italian restaurant in an unlikely spot just east of the Strip—standing out like a sore thumb in the middle of the Cromwell, LINQ, and other tourist destinations. The interior is more kitsch than cozy with the walls overcrowded with busy decorations that range from old vinyl records to rows of miniature liquor bottles (billed as the largest collection in the world). Upside-down buckets hang from the ceiling and posters loudly advertise the regular special: house wine, minestrone or salad, garlic bread, and cappuccino included with every meal—all served under the amber glow of vintage light fixtures.
How to book: Call 702-732-1424 to visit the restaurant’s website to book a reservation.
This Downtown steakhouse is one block north of the Fremont Street Experience. Its rugged look of dark wood tones and deep brown leather is inspired by the Tadich Grill in San Francisco’s Financial District, one of the oldest running bars in the United States. The Triple George Grill has a similar “all business” feel; built near the old Las Vegas Courthouse (now the Mob Museum) and a notorious power-lunch destination. If lawyers didn’t have much to discuss, they’d pull up a seat at the bar. If they needed to confer with a client over a big case, the deep, oversized booths offered plenty of privacy. The photos on the wall each represent a “George”—usually a big tipper or someone with a reputation for being generous.
How to book: Book a reservation for lunch or dinner via OpenTable.
Whether it’s “The Steakhouse” or “The Steak House” (both are used), always emphasize “The.” Despite being in the middle of a decades-old clown-themed resort, the restaurant draws a reliable mix of locals and tourists, who return regularly for meals in a dining room modeled after an English hunting lodge. What’s the secret? The mesquite grill in the center of the dining room, which erupts in flames every time a new cut is added? The vintage-style dry-aging room near the host stand, which offers a glimpse of the meal to come? Or maybe it’s the employees? Many have been in place for dozens of years and remember customers by name. Add these elements together and it’s a comforting sense of familiarity that contrasts sharply with the tourist trappings of the Strip.
How to book: Book a reservation via OpenTable.
Off the Strip
With a heavy focus on seafood and Italian-American cuisine, Piero’s first welcomed customers Downtown in 1982, but moved to its current location near the Las Vegas Convention Center about five years later. Dark by design, the restaurant has multiple dining rooms, including one dedicated to the legacy of former UNLV basketball coach Jerry Tarkanian. Another Jerry (Lewis), was also a regular. There’s no cocktail menu. Just ask for the bartender’s take on a classic like a Martini or Old Fashioned. Piero’s signature Osso Buco is a veal shank marinated overnight in tomato burgundy sauce and served with a side of fettuccine. It goes great with the Garbage Caesar Salad (tossed in shrimp and avocado) or Pat’s Meatballs (named after an employee who’s been on staff for decades). One bar features live music. Another has an old brick wall from the ’50s, leftover from a previous restaurant.
How to book: Book a reservation via the restaurant’s website.
Built in 1955, the longest-running steakhouse in Las Vegas was originally the home of Bob Taylor, who began throwing dinner parties for friends and somewhere along the way, the place turned into a proper restaurant. The main dining room still has a homey feel with an arched ceiling, fireplace, and wood-paneling. It’s a quiet destination with the flame, spark, and crackle of a mesquite grill providing most of the energy. The walls are decorated with Old West movie posters and photos of cowboy heroes like John Wayne and Roy Rogers. You get the feeling the old wagon wheels out front have been around since the beginning. Bob Taylor’s Ranch House was once all alone in the middle of the desert on backroads, but is now surrounded by the growing Centennial Hills community in the Northwest Valley.
How to book: Call 702-645-1399 to book a dinner reservation. It’s pretty easy to just walk in and score a table during lunch hours.
Already a throwback when it first opened on the Strip at the Barbary Coast (now the Cromwell) in 1982, Michael’s was inspired by the classic gourmet rooms of the 1950s. Just 15 tables for 50 customers at any given time. It once attracted high-rollers, but is more locals-oriented in its current home at the South Point casino. Little else has changed. The room still sports deep red velvet decor, elaborate overhead glass artwork, and unusually attentive service by a team led by a tuxedoed captain. Dinner is meant to unfold slowly over a long evening with tableside preparations and charcoal-broiled steaks.
How to book: Reserve a table, preferably well in advance, via OpenTable.
Off the Strip
The original Bootlegger Ristorante opened near Tropicana and Eastern back in 1972, but the legacy continues south of the Strip at the Bootlegger Bistro, where the same classic Italian-American style is felt in both the food and decor. Deep red hues are everywhere from awnings and napkins to the paint job on the walls. Even some of the original booths are still around. The restaurant is covered with family photos and plaques honoring celebrity visits from over the years. They’re open 24/7 so stop by whenever you like. There’s also the Copa Club or Vegas Room for private events and a to-go counter, where lasagna and cannoli are in equal demand. The entire operation has been overseen by the same family since opening (featuring the recipes of “Mama” Maria Perry), a Vegas story that dates back to a Fremont Street pizzeria in the 50s.
How to book: Call 702-736-4939 to book a reservation or place an order online for pickup or delivery.
Oscar’s Steakhouse has only been around since 2011, but feels like it’s always belonged in the Plaza hotel, which turns 50 this year. The restaurant is named after former Las Vegas mayor and mob lawyer Oscar Goodman and is covered with memorabilia celebrating not only his career, but Vegas history. It’s not uncommon to see the man himself holding court in the bar, which hosts an open-to-close happy hour Thursdays and Sundays. Yet the true centerpiece of Oscar’s Steakhouse is the circular dining room, surrounded by a dome of windows that let in the neon lights of Downtown. Steaks and seafood are the main attractions on the menu and if you really want to be like Oscar, order “Hizzoner”‘—a stiff martini of Bombay Sapphire with a touch of jalapeno. Goodman loves to share stories during his regular dinner series, which has been far less regular during the pandemic, but returns with a look at Frank Rosethnal (who inspired the book and movie Casino) on September 22.
How to book: Book a reservation online. Call 702-386-7227 or email the restaurant to inquire about availability for Oscar’s Dinner Series.
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