Seven ways to eat Vegas on the cheap

One of my favorites of the books we publish at Huntington Press is Eating Las Vegas, which identifies the city’s “50 Essential Restaurants,” as judged by authors John Curtas, Al Mancini and Vegas Seven’s own Max Jacobson. The launch of the 2012 edition took place Nov. 14, and it was a big deal in food circles, mostly because of the announcement of who made the coveted Top 10 list. Yes, those restaurants are amazing … assuming you have a spare $300 or $400 per person to eat there. However, I’m partial to the ones that cost more like $25 per person.

Each restaurant in the book has a price rating ranging from “very expensive” down to “inexpensive,” and seven carry the latter designation. These are absolutely the best affordable restaurants in Las Vegas. Here they are in alpha order:

I learned about China Mama at 3420 S. Jones Blvd. from the 2011 edition of the book, and it’s now my go-to place for Chinese. Check out the awesome spicy wonton ($6.50) or the sizzling rice soup ($6.95). I don’t think I’ve ever come out of here with a bill above $50, and there are always leftovers.

Considering the high-end nature of the restaurant row at the Cosmopolitan, it’s downright exciting that one of them makes the low-price list. China Poblano serves small plates of all sorts, but the value play is to pull up to the taco or noodle bar.

Monta is a ramen house at 5030 Spring Mountain Road. This isn’t the 33-cent-per-packet ramen we all scarfed in our 20s, but big bowls of noodles (with all sorts of extras) that go for about $7 each. You couldn’t spend $20 here if you tried.

Over on the east side at 2520 S. Eastern Ave. is Los Antojos. It became an instant insider’s play for authentic Mexican food when it leaked that super-chef Alex Stratta is a regular. The consommé loco (chicken and rice soup) is among the top recommendations here.

M&M Soul Food has been a staple at 3923 W. Charleston Blvd. for years. Despite serving lots of meat dishes—such as chicken, sausage and ribs—this is another $20-per-person play (Mancini raves about the banana pudding for less than $3).

The authors call Settebello Pizzeria Napoletana in the District at Green Valley Ranch “the best pizza in town, hands down.” It might not seem like a big deal to get out of a pizza joint for less than $25—but it is when you’re talking about pizza like this.

The final restaurant on the list is Soyo at 7775 S. Rainbow Blvd. I haven’t tried it yet, but Vegas has needed a primo Korean restaurant for a few years now. It looks like it has one.