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.