I’ve never lived overseas. But it’s not difficult to imagine that expatriates (or even visitors) get homesick for not only the food and beverages of their motherland, but also the entertainment and companionship of other natives. Fortunately, Las Vegas has its fair share of hangouts for foreigners longing for their homelands. Here are a few that do a good job of creating a home away from home—depending on where you’re from.
Prince Café, 6795 W. Flamingo Rd., 702-220-8322.
This small, dark restaurant with a quaint outdoor patio is run by Serbians, and caters primarily to Serbians, Croatians, Bosnians, Bulgarians and other Eastern European nationals. (Manager Nebojsa Krkeljas estimates as much as 70 percent of his clientele was born in Eastern Europe.) So don’t be surprised if most of the conversation around you is in Serbo-Croat. They come for such national delicacies as karadordeva sincla (rolled stuffed schnitzel) and makedonska pljeskavica (stuffed hamburger), as well as their native beers: Jelen, Lav and Karlovacko. For entertainment, Krkeljas books Serbian-born musician Tale to play traditional songs on Fridays, while soccer and European basketball rule the TV screens.
Crown & Anchor, 1350 E. Tropicana Ave., 702-739-8676.
While Crown & Anchor has two locations, the original near UNLV is much more of an institution for Brits in Las Vegas—honestly, I often forget about its westside counterpart. So I was a little surprised by my bartender’s Polish accent on a recent visit. The vast majority of the customers, however, were clearly proud Englishmen and Englishwomen who enjoy traditional pub grub—Yorkshire pudding, bangers and mash, and assorted pies—not to mention the great beer selection. But the real draw for many is the ability to catch Premier League soccer live from 3-11 a.m. on a weekend morning.
Merkato Ethiopian Café, 855 E. Twain Ave., 702-796-1231.
While Las Vegas has several great Ethiopian restaurants, the one that seems to draw the most African-born customers is Merkato. Obviously, the main attraction is the great food, served family style on a matt of injera (spongy bread made from teff flour). Vegetarians can enjoy such dishes as yemisir wot (spicy lentils) or shiro wot (chickpeas in pepper sauce), while hardcore carnivores can opt for one of the raw beef dishes, such as kitfo. (There are also plenty of cooked meat options.) But also a draw is the traditional Ethiopian coffee ceremony, offered at your table or in the casual lounge. If you’re new to Ethiopian cuisine, be prepared to eat with your fingers.
Rí Rá, in Mandalay Place, 702-632-7771.
There are few places in town you’ll hear more people speaking with a brogue than Rí Rá. That’s partially because a large percentage of the employees are from Ireland, with many coming to the U.S. to learn about the hospitality industry through a special State Department exchange visitor program. But plenty of the customers are also from the Emerald Isle, and they indulge in contemporary Irish cuisine, traditional Irish coffee or a proper pint, all served at antique bars imported from the homeland. Special events include soccer picking contests, live music, the recent early-morning live rugby viewings and three days of St. Patrick’s Day festivities.
Roma Deli II and Wine Shop, 8524 W. Sahara Ave., 702-228-2264.
Las Vegas is packed with Italian restaurants. So why do so many people who truly know Italy come to Roma Deli? Maybe it’s because the casual, comfortable space is really three establishments in one. The lunch and dinner menus boast dozens of traditional Italian dishes, from spaghetti and meatballs and meat lasagna to chicken saltimbocca and rigatoni puttanesca. The deli counter is packed with gourmet meats and cheeses (not to mention traditional Italian desserts). There’s even an attached wine shop. And for Roma’s regular Italian natives, who treat the place as a sort of clubhouse, it has just about every comfort of the Old Country. Well, everything but the Mediterranean.