It isn’t one of the more promoted activities in Sin City, but take in the combination of sexy locals, celebrities aplenty, and visitors from around the globe, and the people watching at Las Vegas hotels has to be some of the best anywhere. Right now, while the weather’s warm but not quite blistering, the best place to do that is at one of the Strip’s many outdoor dining spots, most of which — along with the free entertainment — offer good quality at reasonable prices… Here are some of my favorites:
Mon Ami Gabi, Paris Las Vegas
In many respects, the Grand Mere of Stripside dining, Mon Ami Gabi remains the standard. After ten years, MAG remains well maintained, with a great staff and solid French brasserie food, but also a vegetarian sampler, several fish choices (even Skate), and over 10 different kinds of frites. A few weeks back I had a Steak Bordelaise at the bar that was, well, perfect. If you don’t want to wait for the patio or pavilion, the extensive interior (modeled after an idealized Parisian bistro — but thankfully not overburdened by the cliché Lautrec prints) is pleasantly romantic.
Serendipity 3, Caesars Palace
The new kid on the block, S3 has been busy seemingly since the moment it opened. Truly a right place-right-time restaurant, the whimsical NYC transplant (the interior feels like an oversized Wonderland/Wonka fantasy) is positioned in the Strip-side agora for prime people watching while you share one of their “famous” Frrrozen Hot Chocolates or other cool creamy confections (including alcohol-laced milkshakes)… washed down with a huge sandwich, salad, short rib pot pie or big cone of fries. Your napkin ring may have a prize inside, so don’t forget to look.
Lavo , Palazzo
With a change of chefs, the Mediterranean lounge/club/restaurant can now take more advantage of its prime patio with a creatively approachable new menu. The creatively classic southern Italian menu offers Kobe beef meatballs, a serious carbonara (and lots of other pastas), solid fish selections, steaks, some cleverly cooling signature cocktails, available as pitchers.
Social House, T.I.
One of the most serious and complete Japanese/fusion restaurants on the Strip, Social House has full sushi, sashimi & sake selections, kobe beef and other creative tastes in a dramatic atmosphere.
Stripburger/Café Ba-Ba-Reeba (Fashion Show Mall)
A value entry in the gourmet burger race, Stripburger has solid beef, turkey and veggie options, Summery drinks, and a hot fudge milkshake that will make you comatose (no, that’s good!). The connected Ba-ba-Reeba is a Spanish tapas bar, which offers pintxos bites, as well as hot tapas, Serrano ham, paellas, sangrias, and a lot more.
Other choices include Nine Fine Irishmen (New York, New York) with a two-level patio and traditional Irish pub food (sheperd’s pie, lamb stew, cod & chips, Irish breakfast)… Ra Sushi (full Japanese menu, and great Bento box lunch deals!) at Fashion Show… the Mexican bordertown flavored Diablo’s Cantina (Monte Carlo)… The modernized tiki bar Trader Vic’s, with a particularly roomy patio, and Hawaiian Tropic Zone, which offers plenty of eye candy, with their American/Asian menus (both at Planet Hollywood)… Margaritaville (Flamingo), home of the Cheeseburger in Paradise, perhaps the only Strip patio open for breakfast (7 a.m.!) also offering conch fritters and a big kids menu… and lastly, both Dal Toro (the restaurant/lounge attached to the Lamborghini dealership), and the Palazzo Sportsbook have Strip-side patios too!
If drinking is your top priority, Christian Audigier (T.I.), Pure (Caesars), Tao (Venetian, and Rok Vegas (New York New York) all have view patios…and if you want to gaze from a more air-conditioned environment, Joe’s Stone Crab, Sushi Roku, and BOA Steakhouse (all Forum Shops at Caesars), Capital Grille, Maggiano’s and the Neiman Marcus café (all Fashion Show Mall) and The Range (Harrah’s) have good view seating. Here’s looking at you! No, really
Insider Tip: For a truly unique outdoor dining experience, visit Bartolotta Ristorante di Mare (Wynn), and congratulate chef Paul Bartolotta, who just won the James Beard Award for Best Chef Southwest. He will reward you in kind, I assure.
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A contributing editor at VEGAS Magazine, E. C. Gladstone also interviews top Strip entertainers, restauranteurs, moguls and behind-the-scenes players for other local and national publications and websites. Like many Las Vegans, he sleeps only when absolutely necessary.