Eating Las Vegas on the Cheap

Chada Street's offerings | Photo by Krystal Ramirez

Chada Street’s offerings | Photo by Krystal Ramirez

After a three-year hiatus, the dining guide I publish, Eating Las Vegas—The 50 Essential Restaurants, is back. This is the fourth edition of the book, which brings together three top local food critics—John Curtas, Greg Thilmont and Mitchell Wilburn—to collectively select Las Vegas’ best dining establishments.

If you’ve seen the earlier editions, I know what you’re thinking: These are the Robuchons and the Savoys and the Le Cirques, and there aren’t any dining deals unless you think a $340 tab is a bargain compared to what you paid last month in NYC. Yes, there’s something to that—the book zeroes in on the city’s best restaurants, and naturally, the best tend to be the most expensive. But that isn’t the case with all of them, and that’s where the deal comes in. A restaurant that makes this list and still ranks as a bargain definitely has something going on.

Each restaurant in the “Essential 50” has one of four price designations: “$125 and up,” “$75 to $125,” “$25 to $75” and “$25 or less,” which reflects the per-person cost for a complete meal. As prices continue to rise, there are fewer in the last category than in previous editions, but there are five this year: Monta Ramen, District One, El Dorado Cantina, Lulu’s Bread & Breakfast and The Goodwich sandwich shop.

Monta (5030 Spring Mountain Road), with its authentic ramen soups, is the veteran, having made the list of 50 in all four editions of the book. Nearby District One (3400 S. Jones Boulevard) features low-cost small plates, including an awesome whole grilled squid, and a good daily happy hour. El Dorado Cantina (adjacent to Sapphire strip club) runs a different happy hour every day when you can snag dollar tacos and shot specials. Lulu’s (6720 Sky Pointe Drive) is a creative breakfast/lunch joint in the northwest. The Goodwich used to work out of a cart near Dino’s bar and is now stationed in SoHo Lofts.

At the next level, $25 to $75, there are 13 more: Border Grill (at Mandalay Bay), Carson Kitchen, Chada Street, Cleo (SLS), Glutton, Inyo, Lotus of Siam, Marche Bacchus, Other Mama, Sen of Japan, Yardbird (the Venetian), Yonaka and Yusho (Monte Carlo). These restaurants aren’t super cheap, but they still rate as a deal when grading on a curve.

There are a few classic deals that deserve mention, including the $1.49 shrimp cocktail in the bar at Skyline in Henderson, the $1.25 hot dog with fixin’s sold from the sports book cart at South Point, the $4.99 steak & eggs at both Arizona Charlie’s, and best of the bunch, the around-the-clock $7.99 complete steak dinner at Ellis Island. Can’t go wrong with those.

Anthony Curtis is the publisher of the Las Vegas Advisor and