The Tasty Outdoors

Our food critic picks his seven favorite spots for alfresco dining

For me, a meal outside in good weather, and in good company, is one of life’s great pleasures. And—barring any more weeklong windstorms—’tis the season. So, here are a handful of great places for alfresco dining, as the Italians call it.


The sprawling patio at this classic French steak house and bistro affords views of the Fashion Show and Treasure Island, not to mention all the action along Las Vegas Boulevard. Morels, a branch of a successful Los Angeles restaurant in The Grove at Farmers Market, also boasts plenty of good things to eat out there, too, including more than 30 artisanal cheeses, 60 wines by the glass and an iced raw bar. There’s nothing like having oysters and Chablis on the patio for lunch. If you’re on an expense account, the Japanese Wagyu A-5 beef will put a dent in it. In the Palazzo, 607-6333.

Border Grill

There are two floors of patio dining at this Mandalay Bay institution: The lush lower floor fronts the hard-bodies sunning and generally being conspicuous at Mandalay Beach, and the upper patio is more restrained, but does look out over the pool, too. The cuisine is good either way. According to founders Susan Feniger and Mary Sue Milliken, the Food Network’s Too Hot Tamales, the food is pan-Latino. They have the best Cuban sandwich in the city, plantain empanadas and the Yucatan’s famous pork dish, cochinita pibil. Mother’s Day weekend brunch is May 8 and 9, so make reservations early. In Mandalay Bay, 632-7403.

Marché Bacchus

Jeff and Rhonda Wyatt are the popular hosts at this wine shop cum restaurant, where the kitchen is overseen by Emeril alum Jean-Paul Labadie. The bucolic patio is perched on a lake in the Desert Shores community, ducks and all. Labadie’s cooking is a combination of classic French and Cajun, so if you want chicken and sausage gumbo or a classic moules frites, you have come to the right place. Before you sit down, browse the “kid in a candy store” wine shop, which is stocked with imported wines you can buy retail and then drink at your table for a civilized $10 corkage fee. 2620 Regatta Dr., 804-8008.

King’s Fish House

This is the closest you get to a San Francisco-style seafood house in the Las Vegas Valley, and prices are moderate. The outdoor seating, in an area protected from the desert sun by a see-though plastic shade, faces a busy walk in the District. There are always at least a half-dozen northwest oysters shucked to order, farm-to-table fresh fish available charbroiled, fried or cooked in the skillet, and terrific soups such as King’s signature white bean and smoked-salmon chowder, served with authentic San Francisco-style sourdough bread. In the District, 835-8900.

El Segundo Sol

Lettuce Entertain You, a Chicago-based company, recently replaced its Café Ba-Ba-Reeba, a Spanish tapas restaurant, with this fresh-Mex concept, complete with a swell outdoor taco stand and more than a dozen Strip-facing tables. The menu was developed by chef Terry Lynch, who has traveled in Mexico extensively, and it includes ceviche, chipotle Caesar salad and a variety of fajitas and tacos. Red snapper, served Veracruz style, is a must. This is a place for a younger crowd, for sipping that margarita after the sun sets. In Fashion Show, 258-1211.

Mon Ami Gabi

Lettuce Entertain You is also responsible for this French-style steak house, which has, in my opinion, the best people-watching on the Strip, thanks to a patio that literally hangs over the sidewalk. Gabi is Chicago chef Gabino Sotelino, who is Spanish, in spite of the French menu and ambience here. The best dishes, natch, are steaks, all accompanied by eccentric signature french fries that literally curl up like ribbons when cooked. Wines are served from a charming rolling cart, and there are classic bistro dishes such as country paté, oysters and crisp skinned roast chicken as alternative choices. In Paris, 944-4224.

The Verandah

This is the only three-meal restaurant included here, so it’s a no-brainer choice for the sumptuous breakfasts, and the terrific Sunday brunch, which includes doughnuts made to order. Creative Four Seasons executive chef Michael Goodman loves his Italian choices, such as the branzino and penne puttanesca that grace the evening menu, but the sandwiches, salads and lunch dishes are a treat as well. The tables of choice are out by the pool, framed by palm trees, in an area that looks, for all the world, like a posh Asian resort. In the Four Seasons, 632-5000.