5. China Mama: This Chinese restaurant might have some of L.A.’s San Gabriel Valley’s dishes all rolled into one. There are plenty of Sichuan choices like mapo tofu to pick from, plus pan-fried dumplings, xiao long bao (soup dumplings), scallion pancakes, and large, spicy caldrons of Sichuan stews that one might find at a place like Chungking. Either way, the prices are about as affordable as food can be, with wide, circular tables that are ideal for large parties (of course, there are lazy Susans). With all of the fancy Chinese restaurants on the Strip, it’s hard to think of a better Chinese restaurant in Las Vegas than this one, especially for the price.
MUST ORDER DISHES: Hot and Sour Soup, Fried Rice Cake, Dan Dan Noodles, Xiao Long Bao Soup Dumplings, Green Onion Pancake, Pan Fried Pork Buns, Eggplant with Basil, Beef Rolls
6. Commonwealth: This craft cocktail bar isn’t quite up to snuff when compared to the best of L.A., San Francisco, and New York, but for a town that’s used to well drinks and bottle service, it’s encouraging to find the tide turning, especially in revitalized Downtown Fremont Street. There are bars like Vanguard, Downtown Cocktail Room, and the Cosmopolitan’s Vesper Bar that are producing classics and innovative drinks using more unique spirits, but Commonwealth is a locals bar through and through. The vibe is a quasi-Speakeasy, old-timey type thing but it’s also a lot more fun than a lot of the other bars. The outdoor patio makes for a great fair-weather spot to imbibe while the interior blends loud tunes with crafted drinks. There’s also a true speakeasy called The Laundry Room that’s only accessible with a reservation.
MUST ORDER DRINKS: Blood and Sand
7. D.O.C.G. [CLOSED]
The elongated room of Scott Conant’s D.O.C.G. makes it one of the most convivial places to have a meal in Vegas, along with its shareable bowls of pasta, wood-fired pizzas and composed plates. The service staff is extremely professional, especially the wine service, which is almost a fine-dining level despite being a more casual establishment. The place has an urban vibe that’s reminiscent of a New York restaurant, with brick walls, exposed incandescent bulbs and Antipasti like risotto arancini and warm beet salad with fresh burrata make good starters. While Scarpetta next door touts Conant’s iconic spaghetti, other pastas reign here, such as the mushroom cavatelli or “arrabiata” seafood pasta loaded with lobster and shrimp. Desserts are also impressive, with the signature caramel budino offering an unforgettable finish.
MUST ORDER DISHES: Arancini, ‘The D.O.C.G. Pizza’ with Fonduta, Egg and Truffles, Lardo Wrapped Prawns, Pici with Black Truffles and Braised Duck Sauce, Cavatelli, Diver Scallop
8. Freakin’ Frog [CLOSED]
This craft beer bar is definitely on the dingy side, but the selection makes up for it. For lovers of all things hops, yeast, and malt, it’s one of the better places to get a rare craft brew. Adam Carmer, who also teaches at nearby UNLV, started this Las Vegas original, which is also a great place to get acquainted with one of the largest selections of whiskey anywhere. The food, however, is worth skipping.
MUST ORDER DRINKS: Craft Beer, Whiskey