Las Vegas tantalizes as an ever-expanding F&B leader

January 30, 2018

Once a culinary backwater, Las Vegas today offers a near-peerless collection of celebrity chefs, master sommeliers and world-class restaurants in one destination.

Accounting for nearly one-quarter of total Strip revenue and just over one-quarter of all Downtown revenue in 2016, food and beverage operations in Las Vegas are staggering. 

One oft-cited measure is the consumption of shrimp—somewhere around 60,000 pounds every day. On a larger scale, on and off the Strip, groups have hundreds of options for every conceivable group palate and budget, from secret hideaways and yesteryear classics to Forbes Five Star temples and culinary choreography as dazzling as the city’s entertainment stages.

“Las Vegas is a 24-hour destination, which lends itself beautifully to allowing business travelers the opportunity to maximize time on the tradeshow floor without missing out on the countless culinary (and entertainment) offerings available throughout our city,” said Chris Meyer, vice president of global business sales for the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority. “Whether you are looking to impress a potential lead, host an unforgettable company gathering, or enjoy an intimate meal prepared by your favorite celebrity chef, Las Vegas is sure to exceed expectations.”

That includes steps that MGM Resorts International is taking to feed those in need. Since August 2016, ARIA Resort & Casino’s banquet department has supplied some 100,000 pounds of excess food, or 80,000 meals, to Three Square, Southern Nevada’s only food bank. Expanded last month to include Bellagio, MGM Grand, Mandalay Bay and The Mirage, the program is targeting 800,000 meals by 2020. 

From giving to gastronomic gaga, Vegas sets the table for success.

The Savory Strip 

At the Strip’s southern end, Michelin-decorated chef Alain Ducasse’s Rivea and adjacent Skyfall Lounge command the 64th floor of Delano Las Vegas, with rentals including two private rooms for 120 guests and an outdoor patio for 100. Six miles to the north, 1,149-foot-tall Stratosphere Casino, Hotel & Tower, acquired last June by Las Vegas-based Golden Entertainment, features the Top of the World restaurant. With menus from Executive Chef Rick Giffen, an acclaimed Vegas veteran, groups of 10 to 300 enjoy private dining and observation deck events 800 feet above the Strip, plus the dirtiest martinis in town at the 107th- floor SkyLounge.

The star-studded parade of other group options in between is mind-bending, including the North Strip’s banquet of vintage draws.

Group dining at sibling resorts Wynn Las Vegas and Encore include Wing Lei, offering the private Dynasty and Imperial Rooms, and Sinatra, where the 14-person Chairman’s Room features a wall-size portrait of Frank Sinatra and Steve Wynn.  

Forming a culinary corridor at the internal entrance to the Sands Expo, the centrally located Restaurant Row at neighboring Venetian Las Vegas and Palazzo Las Vegas is familiar to IMEX America delegates. Group-ready concepts here, such as celebrated seafood-driven AquaKnox (a 1997 Dallas original from star Texas chef Stephan Pyles) and Latin-themed Chica, are among 30-plus restaurants at the fully integrated resort. Many offering private or semi-private rooms, all are available for full or half buyouts. Other standouts include star chef Thomas Keller’s Bouchon, and Carnevino Italian Steakhouse, also on the Ultimate Steakhouse Tour.

 Caesars Entertainment’s nine-resort Center Strip stronghold forms a culinary empire, seated by Caesars Palace.

Every year, the iconic resort hosts the Grand Tasting, the A-list main event of the celebrated Vegas Uncork’d by Bon Appetit weekend, at its five-acre Garden of the Gods Pool Oasis. Another signature feast is the Bacchanal Buffet. Established in 1966 by Nat Hart, Vegas’ original celebrity chef, and revived in 2012 for $100 million, the buffet, featuring 500-plus gourmet dishes prepared daily in nine open kitchens, includes a private dining room for 48 people and event hosting for 500. 

The Roman feast includes 160-person buyouts of Cleopatra’s Barge, the famed 1970 “floating lounge” nightspot; private dining for 60 and special events for 250 at Mr Chow; and two-Michelin-starred, Forbes Five Star Restaurant Guy Savoy, where rentals include the six-person Krug Chef’s Table (the only one in the U.S.) and 150-person buyouts.

While Wolfgang Puck’s Spago, the catalyst for Vegas’ culinary transformation in 1992, relocates from the Forum Shops at Caesars to neighboring Bellagio (in chef Todd English’s soon-to-close Olives space) this spring, Caesars Palace is welcoming the first Hell’s Kitchen restaurant from multi-Michelin star chef and television personality Gordon Ramsay. Taking over the former Serendipity 3 space, the 300-seat, event-capable eatery was slated to open last month. 

Across the Strip, Caesars’ LINQ Promenade is another culinary corridor, with group venues that include Brooklyn Bowl, Chayo Mexican Kitchen + Tequila Bar and Catalyst Bar. Harrah's choices include the Oyster Bar and Piano Bar; the Flamingo has Jimmy Buffett's Margaritaville and retro-style Center Cut Steakhouse; Bally’s offers Burger Brasserie; Paris Las Vegas picks include Napoleon’s Lounge and Beer Park; and Planet Hollywood includes Heart Bar and Gordon Ramsay Burger. Groups also have an elite dining perch at Giada, overlooking the famed Four Corners from the second floor of The Cromwell. 

 Scenic, too, is the 75-person terrace at celebrated Greek restaurant Estiatorio Milos, one of some 17 group-capable concepts within The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas. Renowned for its charcoal-broiled octopus and signature Milos Special—paper-thin slices of zucchini and eggplant fried, stacked and served with tzatziki sauce and graviera cheese saganaki—chef Costas Spiliadis’ Hellenic haven features an on-site market of fresh Mediterranean fish flown in daily, and one of the best lunch specials in town. 

Other Cosmopolitan enticements include the wondrous multistory Chandelier Lounge, housing three bar concepts and available for private receptions; tapas-driven Jaleo from Chef Jose Andres, featuring interactive paella demonstrations; the first West Coast outpost of Chef David Chang’s Michelin-starred Momofuku, with a private dining room overlooking the Strip; and the first Blue Ribbon Sushi Bar & Grill outside New York City. Add to that rave-reviewed late-night favorite NYC-style Secret Pizza, hidden away on the third floor.

Extending from Circus Circus to siblings Mandalay Bay and Delano Las Vegas, MGM Resorts International’s 13 Strip-based resorts offer another expansive culinary universe.  

Bellagio groups can book private events at Tuscany Kitchen, the first exhibition kitchen of its kind in Las Vegas. Customized experiences include lunch or dinner for 10 prepared by Chef Julian Serrano. Nevada’s first James Beard Award recipient, Serrano’s event-capable restaurants at the AAA Five Diamond resort include Picasso, where the decor includes original Pablo Picasso paintings and ceramics.

ARIA Resort & Casino standouts include Mexican restaurant Javier’s, featuring the world’s largest chainsaw artwork—five intricately carved Mayan creation and Day of the Dead panels weighing 3,000 pounds and stretching 25 feet—and the exclusive Marcos Room for private dining. 


Monte Carlo’s transformation into Park MGM includes two newly opened restaurants, Provence-inspired Primrose, and from Chicago, Bavette’s Steakhouse & Bar. Plans also call for an outpost of NYC’s Italian-style market, Eately.

Event-capable eateries at MGM’s adjacent outdoor entertainment district, The Park, include the Beerhaus. Built in Ireland and assembled in Vegas, Nine Fine Irishmen is among the options at neighboring New York-New York Hotel & Casino. 

 Across the Strip, MGM Grand’s star attractions include three-Michelin-starred L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon (the all-time Michelin champion, with 30 stars), and Morimoto Las Vegas from Masaharu Morimoto, star of Food Network’s Iron Chef America.

Set to open in early 2018, MGM’s new 30,000-square-foot Esports Arena Las Vegas at the Luxor will feature a gaming-inspired food and beverage menu by Chef Jose Andres, becoming his fifth Las Vegas venture. And in true Vegas style, flying wine angels acrobatically retrieve and restock bottles from the four-story, 10,000-bottle wine tower at Mandalay Bay’s Aureole, the Vegas outpost of storied Chef Charlie Palmer’s legendary Gotham restaurant.

Downtown Dine-Around 

In 2016, Downtown Las Vegas recorded more than $161 million (more than 14 percent of total revenue) for food and nearly $107 million (more than 9 percent) for beverages, or roughly $268 million and 24 percent, respectively. Past UNLV Center for Gaming Research figures show that Downtown has bettered the Strip in increased F&B win over the last three-plus decades, up nearly 100 percent for food and 50 percent for drink since 1984. 

Less pricey than the premium-grade Strip, Downtown’s restaurants and bars continue to play a forefront role in the rejuvenation and rediscovered appeal of the original Las Vegas. Old favorites like Atomic Liquors, the oldest freestanding bar in Vegas, add to Downtown's character.

Wide-ranging group options include Oscar’s Steakhouse at the Plaza Hotel and Casino. Housed in a glass dome fronting the Main Street end of the Fremont Street Experience, the restaurant, named for former three-term Las Vegas mayor Oscar Goodman, offers private dining for 100 guests. 

Across the street, developer brothers Derek and Greg Stephens are proceeding with the demolition of the former Las Vegas Club and adjoining properties, ahead of creating Downtown’s first new-build casino resort in decades. Their other properties include the adjacent, newly expanded Golden Gate Hotel & Casino (1906), and at the other end of the Fremont Street Experience, the 39-story D Las Vegas, where group dining venues include Joe Vicari’s Andiamo Italian Steakhouse.

Midway along the Fremont Street Experience, Landry’s-owned Golden Nugget Las Vegas features the nationally acclaimed Vic & Anthony’s Steakhouse and seafood-driven Chart House, both event-capable brand standards. 

Fremont East draws include Therapy, a gastropub offering the 50-capacity Loft, or 150-person buyouts. Housed in the former Mid-Century John E. Carson motel, nearby Carson Kitchen, from late celebrity chef Kerry Simon (his brother Scott now at the helm), is a lively small-plate haven and event standout. Along with dining room and outdoor patio space for 45 to 70 guests, groups also have prefunction space in the motel’s courtyard. 

Opened last summer, group-capable 7th & Carson, with its “Oven, Garden, Land and Sea” menu, offers cooking demos with Executive Chef Gregg Fortunato (formerly with Blue Ribbon Sushi Bar & Grill at the Cosmopolitan) and custom cocktails from “Liquid Chef” Oscar Takahashi.

La Comida, from the Morton Group, which is also behind La Cave Wine and Food Hideaway at Wynn Las Vegas and CRUSH eat, drink, love at MGM Grand, tempts groups with authentic Mexican fare and 100-plus tequilas. Meanwhile, Turmeric Flavors of India offes a modern take on classic South Indian fare, full vegan menu included.

Just opened in Downtown’s burgeoning Arts District, Esther’s Kitchen marks the return to town of Vegas chef James Trees. Named after his great-aunt, his “seasonal Italian soul food” concept includes private events and catering.

Off-Strip Specialties

Surging gaming and entertainment operator Station Casinos is amplifying its acquisition of Palms Casino Resort by overhauling the storied property’s restaurant collection as part of a $485 million phased makeover slated for the next 12 months or so.

In the last quarter of 2017, Palms closed six F&B concepts, including N9NE Steakhouse, Ghostbar and celebrated local chef Andre Rochat’s 56th-floor dazzler Alize (the latter two both opening at the resort in 2001). 

Celebrity-driven replacements reportedly include a seafood concept from Bobby Flay, barbecue restaurant from Cleveland’s Michael Symon and Italian restaurant from Philadelphia’s Marc Vetri. Furthering its reputation as one of Vegas’ most energetic resorts, Palms is also introducing a 100,000-square-foot dayclub, nightclub and dining venue from the powerhouse Tao Group, tapped as the “largest dance music venue in Las Vegas.”      

 Following a roughly $6 million transformation, The Palms’ former Bistro Buffet reopened last December as A.Y.C.E. (“All-You-Can-Eat”) Buffet, serving hundreds of dishes prepared by Station Casinos’ Certified Master Chef David Kellaway and colleagues in an open food hall format.  

Station Casinos’ family of 10-plus properties include the luxurious Red Rock Casino, Resort & Spa, some 10 miles west of the Strip, and Green Valley Ranch Resort Spa & Casino in Henderson. 

Red Rock’s multiple restaurants include the flagship T-Bones Chophouse, offering private and patio dining for 10-200 guests, and slated to debut this month, Masso Osteria from acclaimed chef, author and restaurateur Scott Conant. Green Valley’s award-winning collection includes Hank’s Fine Steaks and Martinis and Tides Seafood & Sushi Bar.

Also in Henderson, luxurious M Resort Spa Casino, offering 92,000 square feet of dynamic space, including catered event options at its 25,000-square-foot pillarless M Pavilion, features dining draws such as Jayde Fuzion. Recognized as one of Vegas’ best overall restaurants by OpenTable's Diners' Choice, this Asian-fusion concept offers three all-you-can eat sushi and Asian menus. Other options include Anthony’s Prime Steak & Seafood, honored with Wine Spectator's Award of Excellence last year.

Located a few miles south of Mandalay Bay, South Point Hotel, Casino and Spa offers 11 dining options, including local favorite Michael’s Gourmet Room. Opened in the former Barbary Coast in 1982 and relocated to South Point in 2007, this 50-seat red-velvet Vegas icon is renowned for its tableside service and old-school classics like chateaubriand for two. Diverse other selections include Silverado Steakhouse, Big Sur Oyster Bar and Zenshin Asian Restaurant.

Unique off-Strip options include the hip Booze District in Henderson, an alliance of artisanal producers including CrafHaus Brewery, Bad Beat Brewing, The Chocolate Makery and Las Vegas Distillery. Grape Expectations, the Nevada School of Winemaking, which just opened the Valley’s first winery—family-run Vegas Valley Winery— offers tours, tastings as well as a wine lounge.

Set on 180 acres just west of Downtown Las Vegas, Springs Preserve is a national historic site commemorating the ancient desert location that would become Las Vegas. 

Offering year-round programming and multiple event venues That include Southern Nevada's most extensive botanical gardens and the LEED Platinum-certified Desert Living Center, the venue is also home to the Divine Cafe. Featuring indoor and outdoor patio seating with scenic Strip and valley views, the restaurant offers hands-on cooking classes in its chef’s kitchen, which can be customized for groups.  

Destination Henderson 

Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority 

Vegas Means Business

Visit Boulder City

Visit Laughlin

Visit Mesquite

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About the author
Jeff Heilman | Senior Contributor

Brooklyn, N.Y.-based independent journalist Jeff Heilman has been a Meetings Today contributor since 2004, including writing our annual Texas and Las Vegas supplements since inception. Jeff is also an accomplished ghostwriter specializing in legal, business and Diversity & Inclusion content.