Poolside Sampler

Vegas has some memorably good food among the other fun at its water playgrounds

Most of us go to our opulent resort pools to sun, view all the eye candy and party with friends. But more and more pools are offering eclectic dining choices, too—well beyond burgers, nachos and fries, which I’m so over.

One of the best places for poolside cuisine is the intimate, tropical backyard of the Four Seasons, with the giant gold façade of Mandalay Bay looming above it. Food from adjacent Verandah restaurant is available here, and anything from chef Michael Goodman’s menu is superb. On a recent visit, I had a tuna sampler served in a Japanese bento box, a delicious seafood mac and cheese, and a gorgeous flat-iron steak. There are also poolside amenities such as frozen grapes or an elegant Evian spritz, performed by the staff, every 20 minutes.

The downside is that you have to be accompanied by a hotel guest. If you don’t have that hook-up, the Verandah’s patio area is the next best thing.

Credit: Anthony MairAsian Chicken Salad at Daydream.

Credit: Anthony MairUltimate Grilled Cheese at Wet Republic.

Amenities are more basic at M Resort, where the pool area is cloistered off into a 21-and-over section called Daydream (admission varies, and some days it is complimentary), in addition to an all-ages area. Lounge on chairs or sit sheltered from the sun at the pool bar, whose counter is lined with clever frozen strips on which to keep those brewskis cold.

Deflecting a complaint about the $6 Bud Light and $8 hot dog, our bikini-clad waitress quipped, “Pretend you’re at Disneyland.” For a better deal, order the delicious, oversize Asian chicken salad, which is $14.95.

Wet Republic, the ultra-pool area at the MGM Grand for registered guests, moves decidedly upscale. Got 10 grand to blow on the food-and-beverage minimum for one of the pool’s ultimate bungalows? The Kardashian family did, for sibling Kourtney’s recent birthday bash. Rumor has it they spent seven times that amount!

Plebes like me, though, have to be content to lounge by the three pools and eat from chef Michael Omo’s poolside menu. Start with a refreshing cocktail “push-up.” Then enjoy the excellent Kobe beef sliders stocked with bacon, cheese, mushroom and onion (four to an order) or the indulgent Ultimate Grilled Cheese, three cheese roll-ups grilled to a golden brown on the edges.

Things are also heating up over at Bare, the small but sexy pool club at The Mirage, run by the Light Group on Thursday through Sunday. To get there, you’ll take an elegant, meandering walk past the Secret Garden. Once inside this 21-and-over area, you can sit by the pool under shady umbrellas or at the cushy tables on a raised mezzanine level.

The menu is basic but solid, put together by Light Group executive chef Brian Massie. I like to start with a ginger caipirinha, made with Ginger Skyy Vodka. Two of Massie’s more imaginative dishes are the zesty buffalo chicken wrap and the toothsome lobster tacos, served in a cute metal contraption that holds all four of them.

Then there is the new sheriff on the block: the 60,000-square-foot Encore Beach Club at Wynn. It’s the only pool there open to the public, though admission is $40 for men, $30 for women (Friday and Saturday).

Credit: Anthony MairThe Tuna Paillard at Switch.

But the appointments are unmatched on the Strip: 26 cabanas on two levels, an array of orange lounge chairs suspended directly over the club’s three pools, rows of giant palm trees and a light show during the evening to go with the deafening music.

The pool menu, by David Snyder, is full of cool choices such as grilled octopus and the Big City Red Hot Dog. But reserve my place at Switch, on the patio, open for lunch Friday and Saturday. Admission is free for diners, and you get an unobstructed pool view and excellent dishes by chef René Lenger. The tuna paillard and buffalo mozzarella with heirloom tomatoes are amazing.