Be Kind and Bar Dine

The strip's best counters to belly up to

 Border Grill ceviche bar | Photo by Jon Estrada

Border Grill ceviche bar | Photo by Jon Estrada

The bar stool has become as coveted a seat as those you’d find in the dining room. It’s more casual to pull up a seat, order a drink and a few bites—and repeat as needed. And more often than not, you may learn more about your dish by interacting with the person preparing your food right in front of you. If they like you enough, they might even make something special just for you. Try getting that kind of service in the main dining room! Here are three of the hottest counters in town right now:

The Meat Bar at Bazaar Meat

There are numerous bars at Bazaar Meat in SLS: the Bar Centro cocktail bar, the mobile frozen cocktail bar, the bar that overlooks the open Seafood Kitchen in Sam’s Room … and then there’s the meat bar. There isn’t necessarily an interactive component at the carnivorous-sounding counter seating. Servers still take your order, but you do get to sit within the company of cured meats. Hanging before you are the most glorious of hams, jamon Iberico, made from free-range black-footed Spanish pigs that feed exclusively on acorns. While you salivate over the fancy charcuterie, you can watch as deft hands behind the bar prepare thinly sliced carpaccios. One such dish features paper-thin Japanese beef wrapped around crunchy Parmesan grissini breadsticks that you dip in a sweet, tangy caramelized onion puree. The other favorite takes the flavors of Buffalo wings, using nearly translucent bison meat with pickled celery and blue cheese. For the really raw, Bazaar Meat’s classic tartare is one of the best you can find on the Strip: diced, raw beef sirloin mixed with mustard, egg yolk, HP sauce and anchovy, meant to be tucked into soft Parker House rolls. In SLS, 855-761-7757,

The Ceviche Bar at Border Grill

At Border Grill, you can watch tortillas being made on the hot comal griddle, or even the guacamole, but the festive ceviche counter is a distant cousin to the sushi bar. Whereas the Japanese version has chefs pressing sushi rice into raw fish to make custom nigiri to order, this South American counter features fresh, raw seafood tossed with herbs, vegetables and an acid, which “cooks” the protein, as well as oysters on the half shell or as shooters. Border Grill sources its fish responsibly, so you can feel good when you order the Peruvian ceviche, made simply with mahi mahi, lime, ginger and aji Amarillo chile for heat, served with a crunchy plantain chip. In the Forum Shops at Caesars, 702-854-6700, 

The Raw Bar at Emeril’s New Orleans Fish House

Celebrity chef Emeril Lagasse’s flagship restaurant got a much-needed makeover last year with the bar area opening up to make the space more guest-friendly. Although the full menu is served at the raw-bar counter, you’ll be eyeing the expert oyster shuckers. Strike up a conversation with one of the restaurant’s veteran bartenders while shuckers pry open, then liberate the tasty mollusks from their shells. They’ll keep them coming, too, along with Champagne mignonette, Kicked Up cocktail sauce and saltine crackers, as they do in the South. Come for happy hour from 2 to 6 p.m., or reverse happy hour from 9:30 p.m. until close for half-off Lagasse’s badass bivalves—which, at $1.75 a pop, are the cheapest oysters in town. In MGM Grand, 702-891-7374,


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