The 2013 edition of Eating Las Vegas—The 50 Essential Restaurants (Huntington Press) has just come back from the printer. This is the third year for this book, which brings together our city’s top three food critics—John Curtas, Al Mancini and Vegas Seven’s Max Jacobson—and each year there’s a fair amount of anticipation of its release by the city’s top restaurateurs and chefs, who want to know if they made the cut. I publish ELV, but I don’t do the choosing, so the choices are interesting to me, too. What I really look forward to, though, is checking out the low end. By that I mean I like to see which of the city’s best restaurants are also the most affordable.
Each restaurant in the Essential 50 has one of four price designations: “$125 and up,” “$75 to $125,” “$25 to $75” or “$25 or less,” which reflects the per-person price of an appetizer, an entrée, a side or dessert, and one or two lower-priced cocktails. Last year seven choices were in the $25 or less classification. This year there are eight.
Returning from last year are China MaMa (3420 S. Jones), China Poblano at the Cosmopolitan, Monta (5030 Spring Mountain), Ping Pang Pong at the Gold Coast, and Soyo (7775 S. Rainbow). New to the list are Bread & Butter (10940 S. Eastern), Le Thai (523 Fremont) and Mint Indian Bistro (730 E. Flamingo). Needless to say, the food at all of these places is top-notch, otherwise they wouldn’t be in the book. So rather than give you menu details, I’ll take a look at just how affordable each of them really is.
Three of the eight—Monta, Bread & Butter and Le Thai—absolutely qualify for this price category, as you pretty much couldn’t spend $25 at one of them no matter how hard you tried. Monta has a sparse menu of mostly ramen soups, and Bread & Butter serves sandwiches and bakery goods.
Three more—China MaMa, Ping Pang Pong and Mint Indian Bistro—are also solid favorites to come in below $25. These places have extensive menus, and there are some more expensive choices mixed in, but you’ll usually come out under the wire.
The last two aren’t locks for the under: Soyo, serving Korean fusion, bumps up close to the limit. In fact, the last time I ate there, the bill came to $71.50 before tax for a party of three, or about $24 per person. China Poblano? That’s gonna be close. This is an awesome restaurant with small plates that are priced low, but the portions are often tiny and ordering several adds up. If you’re looking for a great meal on the cheap, this one still qualifies—but make sure you bring a little extra pin money, just in case.