The Unsung Center

Paradise Road offers the full gamut of dining spots, and you can even walk it

Paradise is the great in-between space in Las Vegas. Linking the airport, UNLV, the convention center and the Hughes Center, it stands in the center of town and yet remains a step or two outside the spotlight. A collection of hotels, condos and office towers, it also has one of our most diverse collections of restaurants.

Start with Firefly (3900 Paradise Road), where the vibe is effortlessly cool and the selections are endless, from bacon-wrapped stuffed dates to potent sangrias. The view from the patio includes a towering grove of palms shielding the handsome Wells Fargo building.

Up and down the street you’ll find cuisine from nine countries and five continents. In the same strip mall as Firefly, Satay serves a variety of Asian cuisines in its flagstone-lined dining room (it’s also home to the Chicks Waffles & Burgers’ breakfast menu). At the back of the Havana Cigar Shop is a great little bar that’s perfect for a discreet rendezvous, but if you need a more festive spot, there’s live belly dancing at Marrakech, a Moroccan eatery.

Paradise is also steak-house central: Heavyweight chains such as Morton’s (400 E. Flamingo Road), Del Frisco’s (3925 Paradise) and Ruth’s Chris are clustered within walking distance. Other upscale chains grace the intersection of Paradise and Flamingo roads, including McCormick & Schmick’s (335 Hughes Center), which has reliable seafood and a sweet little happy hour in the bar/patio, and Gordon Biersch (3987 Paradise), which operates a sleek outpost. But just as you’re about to dismiss this stretch as Boca Park Central, a gritty strip mall houses the hearty Indian buffet at Gandhi (4080 Paradise).

Near Harmon Avenue sits the renovated Hard Rock, where Ago serves chic Italian in an elegant room, and the Mexican fare at the Pink Taco is raucously tasty. Across the street, in a small strip center (4080 Paradise), you’ll find classic cheese steaks at Capriotti’s, upscale Indian at Origin India and the legendary osso buco at Ferraro’s.

The stout Hofbräuhaus (4510 Paradise) is the road’s great southern bookend, the last bit of urbanity before the road makes its journey to the airport. Grab a seat, festival-style and dig into sausages, schnitzel and giant steins of superb beer, while tubas play German folk tunes. If you’re lucky you might catch the lederhosen-clad waitresses administering an ass whooping with a paddle to (one hopes) a tourist.

Las Vegas is starved for what we might call “classic” urbanism. Downtown hits the spot in fits and starts; the Strip is impressive but sometimes too much to handle; and the great commercial arteries—Sahara, Charleston and Flamingo—are wide and uninviting. Paradise may not be the city we dream of, but it’s the city as it is: multifaceted, jumbled, unplanned, occasionally walkable and unexpectedly satisfying.