Local heroes: the best places to eat and drink off the Strip in Las Vegas

Argot Murelius - 02/05/2024


As The World’s 50 Best Restaurants, sponsored by S.Pellegrino & Acqua Panna, heads to Las Vegas for its 2024 edition, we’ve scouted culinary ambition beyond the resorts and casinos. Off the famed Strip, you’ll find a vibrant dining scene sparked by pioneer spirit and a sense of freedom. These are the insider spots locals love to keep to themselves

With its countless hotels, glittering lights, world-class shows, never-ending soundtrack of slot machines and innumerable places to eat and drink, if you’re visiting Las Vegas for a few days, you might not even consider venturing off the main drag.

But the city has so much more to offer: step off the Strip and hit the jackpot with some of the greatest restaurants and bars in town, from a Japanese late-night favourite to seriously good sandwiches straight from Florence.

Decadent and the size of a small airship, Colin Fukunaga’s Frankenburgers are equal parts madness and genius. He’s grafted Japanese-flavoured appendages onto America’s beloved comfort-food staple to create a selection of impressively juicy, messy, Godzilla-esque burgers. The bestselling Tamago contains (deep breath): a beef patty with secret seasoning; an over-easy egg; crispy onion strings; teriyaki sauce and wasabi mayo; all topped with furikake. The togarashi and garlic-spiked Jazz Fries are smothered in gravy and sweet chilli sauce. All of this was dreamed up in Vegas’ first food truck, back in 2008, with the permanent locations arriving a few years later.

Chinatown: 3429 S Jones Blvd, Las Vegas, NV 89146
Buffalo: 7365 South Buffalo Drive, Las Vegas, NV 89113

Milpa Mexican Café
Handcrafted from scratch with heirloom corn, chef DJ Flores’ tortillas are the stuff taco dreams are made of. He serves them with smoky charred ribeye asado, lightly battered mahi mahi and a few of your other favourites. Notwithstanding the taco’s snacky superiority, this decidedly off-Strip eatery cranks out much more than that. Flores did a stint at Quintonil in Mexico City where he clearly learned a thing or two about vegetables. His squash-filled tetelas (stuffed triangle-shaped corn masa parcels) need to be experienced, coming topped with fried eggs, roasted cauliflower, shimeji mushrooms and salsa macha.

4226 S Durango Dr, Ste 101, Las Vegas, NV 89147

Atomic Liquors 
No offence to fancy cocktails, but sometimes you just need a simple beer and a shot of house spirit in a dark dive bar. Atomic Liquors is that place. It’s the oldest freestanding bar in Vegas, dating back to 1954 when Stella and Joe Sobchik received the city’s first tavern licence, allowing them to run a drinkery and sell liquor to-go, which they did 24 hours a day to sundry luminaries. Bugsy Siegel, the legendary mobster who opened the Flamingo, was a regular, as was Hunter S. Thompson, while The Rat Pack apparently used to sip libations on the rooftop. Day drinking never tasted so good.

917 E Fremont St, Las Vegas, NV 89101 

Sparrow + Wolf
This ineffably affable off-Strip institution is the epitome of fun dining – the sort of place where you’ll find yourself ordering another bottle of wine because you can’t bear to leave. In the kitchen, chef Brian Howard infuses competently crafted dishes with exciting and unexpected flavour combinations. Borrowing boldly from the Asian pantry, he makes it seem perfectly logical to wrap ground duck, duck confit and foie gras with wood ear mushrooms and jicama in black rice crepes, then top with a fresh bean sprout salad, chillies and herbs before finishing with a coconut, kombu and peanut dressing. Of course you end up staying for a nightcap.

4480 Spring Mountain Rd #100, Las Vegas, NV 89102

Kimo Akiona built PublicUs with his own two hands. He tiled the walls and constructed communal tables around potted trees, he filled shelves with handpicked books and quirky collectibles, then, without an ounce of restaurant experience, he opened Vegas’ most vibey breakfast and lunch spot on a bright corner at the end of Fremont Street. It’s astounding what comes out of his tiny kitchen: burgers and sandwiches on house-made breads, soups and salads, elaborate bento dishes and Spam musubi, a Hawaiian classic and tribute to Akiona’s home State. Add to that baked goods and a solid coffee selection, from single origin pour-overs to espresso tonics, and you’ve got yourself a winning formula.

1126 E Fremont St, Las Vegas, NV 89101

Anima by Edo
Edo Gastro Tapas & Wine’s new kid sister, Anima by Edo, is intent on showcasing chef Oscar Amador Edo’s innovative takes on classic Spanish dishes, with global influences abounding. A bite-sized striploin carpaccio is perched on a cheese-filled, puffy puri bread, while a Peruvian scallop crudo mingles with tom kha sauce and candied lime. Anima’s pasta game brings a dose of fun to a truffle cavatelli with salsichón and English peas, which gets a tableside swirl of beef marrow, straight off the bone – that then becomes a drinking vessel for a shot of amaro, if one is so inclined.

9205 W Russell Rd #185, Las Vegas, NV 89148

Golden Steer Steakhouse
Steaks and stories since 1958, Golden Steer is Vegas’ oldest continually operating tavern. History hangs heavy among the red leather banquettes and wood-panelled walls with Wild West paintings. This is where you go for thick cuts of meat and baked potatoes larger than Frank Sinatra’s ego, for tableside-prepped Caesar salad and Bananas Foster, and for the ambience at the generous bar, where martinis are de rigueur.

308 W Sahara Ave, Las Vegas, NV 89102

Esther’s Kitchen
Esther was chef James Trees’ great-aunt, and the person who encouraged him to pursue his passion for the culinary arts, and there’s plenty of feel-good spirit in this Arts District restaurant. Trees’ menu is a well-crafted ode to Italy, with wood-fired pizzas, sharable plates of charcuterie and dips (don’t pass on the ‘nduja) to spread on the house sourdough bread, as well as pastas made à la minute, of which the radiatore with trippa alla Romana is a moreish revelation. If you hear a bell ring, it means someone bought the kitchen a round of beers; for a breezy $8, you should do the same.

1131 S Main St, Las Vegas, NV 89104   

Soulbelly BBQ
Soulbelly BBQ occupies a former mechanics workshop. The restaurant shares an outdoor terrace with the (excellent) HUDL brewery, smokes its meats on that same space and boasts a stage where Journey recently played unplugged. Don’t stop believin’… in BBQ, beer and live music. Chef Bruce Kalman is the smoker, pitmaster and founder of this impeccably laidback eatery, where the brisket has just the right amount of fat, the turkey is profoundly smoky and the vinegar-vibrant Carolina pulled pork is not to be missed. Don’t skip the mac and cheese with chicharrón crumbs either, or the disco fries that give poutine a run for its money.

1327 S Main St, Las Vegas, NV 89104

Herbs & Rye
The bar’s website tells it like it is: “We make pretty good steaks, and really good cocktails.” While some people frequent Herbs & Rye for a ribeye after midnight (it closes at 3am), savvy patrons come because it’s a really good watering hole: No.25 on North America’s 50 Best Bars 2024 list, no less. Owner and mixologist Nectaly Mendoza’s menu is a timetable of the city’s drinking history, organised by epoch, from the Gothic Age and Prohibition via the Tiki Boom to the Revival Era. The ambience is pure old school and steaks are half price during happy hour. 

3713 W Sahara Ave, Las Vegas, NV 89102

Aburiya Raku
Raku is an authentic Japanese restaurant on a forlorn Chinatown corner where chef Mitsuo Endo runs a hushed operation that is frequently ranked the city’s best Japanese. Expect ultra-fresh sashimi, skewered morsels cooked over imported Binchō-tan charcoal, the most generous homemade agedashi tofu in the history of izakaya, as well as seasonal specialities. There are omakase options for those who order them in advance and a rotating list of sakes.

5030 Spring Mountain Rd, Las Vegas, NV 89146

All’Antico Vinaio
UnCommons, a new, mixed-use complex where the southwest corner of Vegas meets Red Rock Canyon, is clustered around pop-up shops, a food hall and a sandwich shop. But this is no garden-variety hoagie joint – it’s All’Antico Vinaio, the famed panini peddler from Florence. Picture a piece of house-made schiacciata bread (please don’t call it focaccia) the size of a security blanket. Now picture it smeared with house-made sauces, perhaps a truffle or pistachio cream, then imagine it stacked with imported cured meats and cheeses before it gets wrapped in wax paper and handed to you like a newborn baby.

8533 Rozita Lee Ave, Suite 100, Las Vegas, NV 89113

The list of The World’s 50 Best Restaurants 2024, sponsored by S.Pellegrino & Acqua Panna, will be announced on Wednesday 5 June from Las Vegas. To stay up to date with the latest news, follow us on Instagram, Facebook, X and YouTube, and sign up to our newsletter