Las Vegas off the Strip: 5 eating gems

Angela Kim

The Las Vegas Strip is home to world-class dining. With restaurants from chefs like Thomas Keller to Mario Batali, there isn’t a shortage of good food. But if you’re feeling adventurous or want a taste of what the locals enjoy, you can venture off the Strip to find some quality eats. If you don’t have a car, don’t fret, because most of these destinations are a bus or taxi ride away.

1. Aburiya Raku

Located in Las Vegas’ Chinatown, Aburiya Raku is a Japanese restaurant open late. Outside, their sign says “Japanese Charcoal Grill,” but don’t expect your regular barbecue, or itzakaya. The dishes are thoughtful and the quantity is restrained – almost like a tapas-style dining experience. On my trip, the agedashi tofu lived up to the hype – the tofu is made daily by the chef and melts in your mouth. Another standout was the the Kobe beef fillet with wasabi. You get a skewer with tender meat cubes with a light smokey flavor from the grill that leaves your taste buds wanting more. And don’t forget to look at the specials because they change regularly. Make sure you make a reservation because the intimate restaurant located in an unassuming strip mall fills up.

2. Lotus of Siam

Don’t be disheartened by Lotus of Siam’s location in a rundown strip mall. When you walk into the restaurant, it’s often bustling in the evening and crowds start funneling in the narrow doorway around dinnertime. The restaurant specializes in northern Thai food and if spice is what you’re seeking, you will not leave disappointed. The dish that I always crave is their nam kao tod, which is a crispy rice that’s been fried and mixed with sour sausage, green onion, ginger, mint, lime juice and fresh chili. You will first taste the spice from the chili, but then the refreshing flavors of the lime juice and mint come through. If you’re looking for a hearty dish, khao soi braised short rib feels like comfort food with each bite. As soon as the dish hits the table, you can’t help but salivate when you smell the sweet coconut and curry. The dish is served with egg noodles and braised short ribs. If you’re planning to eat here on the weekend, I highly recommend making a reservation.

3. Luv-it Frozen Custard

Just a few blocks from the Stratosphere, one of the tastiest dessert places in Las Vegas resides in a lonely lot by a taco stand. Luv-It is a favorite among locals and tourists. This is a no-frills place with a walk-up order window, but what you get is a creamy frozen dessert that the Strip doesn’t have. Personally, I like the down-home feel because it reminds me of ice cream shops I went to when I was a kid. The flavors are posted on a big board above the window and they even have a sign of their daily special flavors. I ordered the Western, which comes with hot fudge, caramel, and salted pecans on vanilla frozen custard. The warmth of the hot fudge and caramel immediately soften the vanilla. The product was a rich and creamy dessert with a bold sweet flavor and a hint of savory because of the salted pecans. If you get a craving for their custard, arrive in the afternoon because they open at 1.

4. The Original Pancake House

If you’re tired of the all-you-can-eat breakfast buffets on the Strip, The Original Pancake House is a familiar place to locals and tourists. The chain restaurant has locations sprinkled throughout America and feels like a more homey Denny’s. They have your regular breakfast fare of fluffy pancakes and oversized omelets, but the dish that makes people ooh and ahh is the Dutch Baby. This puffy signature dish that’s air filled and baked in the oven is served with fresh lemon slices, powdered sugar, and butter.

5. In-N-Out

The quintessential California fast-food favorite also has a location in Sin City by the highway. Expect to see crowds all day long, but if you’re on a budget or want an affordable burger, this is the place you don’t want to miss. Plus, this location has the In-N-Out company store, where you can load up on souvenirs. For the first-timers, the menu is simple – you have your burgers, drinks, milkshakes, and fries – and the quality is fresh and consistent.