Surviving Vegas is an exercise in balance. One day you might spend a month’s rent on a 15-course tasting menu after renting a bungalow at a day club that includes nothing other than nine-square-feet of shade and cranberry juice. The next day, though, you and your friends can sit down to a great meal somewhere that you won’t have to yell across the table to hear each other or spend more than you were hoping to. When you’re looking for some of the latter, use this guide. These are the 18 best casual places to eat where you won’t have to check your banking app before you give the waiter your card or be worried about a sparkler attack.
It’s hard to find a watered-down mix of liquor and bubbly water in Vegas that costs less than $10, much less a whole dish. At Shang Artisan Noodle, every item on the menu is under $10 (except one seafood option that’s $11.25). Plus, with the fun murals on the walls and the people twirling fresh-made noodles right in front of you in their open-air kitchen, you get way more for your money here. None of the dishes will disappoint, but their pork rib noodles in a pork and chicken broth is our favorite. Make sure you do a count-off before you leave, though, because we’ve definitely left people behind while they stand, faces pressed against the window, hypnotized by the spinning noodles.
One person you’re with is gluten-free except when they’ve been drinking, another hates shellfish, and the lone vegan in the group has taken to eating a bar they brought from home under the table at most dinners. Bring everyone to Lucky Penny and then bask in the gratitude that will inevitably come pouring in. The menu covers a lot of ground, with all-day breakfast, sandwiches, salads, and a whole separate vegan menu, among other things. Everything is under $25, including steak frites and a waffle grilled cheese that you won’t have to share with most of the people we listed above.
There are two signs that should hang over the Eureka Casino. One that says, “Las Vegas’ smokiest casino,” and another with “Home to the most underrated burger in Sin City.” But once you take a deep breath and walk directly to the back of the casino where Fat Choy is located, you’ll find a cute, small diner-looking spot with colorful wallpaper and red vinyl booths. Get the Fat Choy Burger - it comes with short rib, bacon, and a fried egg and is worth the less-than-enjoyable trip that you endured to get there.
This may sound strange, but you’re not actually coming here for the fish. It’s good, don’t get us wrong, but this spot in The Linq Hotel is worth visiting for the chips alone. There are four different options and our favorite is the Dirty #1, topped with crispy chorizo and jalapeno. The better idea though, is to go with a group and share all of them. It’s also a great place to grab takeout and go for a nice evening walk with whoever you’re with.
It’s 5pm and every single person in your group has separately texted you asking about the dinner reservation. No, your friends haven’t suddenly become super time-conscious, they’re all just still full from lunch at Viva Las Arepas. This Venezuelan restaurant downtown specializes in arepas (all of which are under $8), but we’re big fans of getting a few empanadas as well. And before you leave, grab a guava and cheese pastelito to go because if you’re already pushing dinner back, you might as well get a snack.
Dinner and a show at most hotels and casinos is going to be an expensive night. But, if you’re hoping to not spend quite so much, head to Q Bistro where you can follow fried chicken with karaoke next door. A regular order comes with six to eight pieces and is $12, plus you can pick from five different sauces (the soy garlic is our favorite). Just bring that one friend who always talks about having been in All-County chorus in the fourth grade and you’ll barely be able to tell the difference between them and Celine.
You’re pretty sure the Flamingo’s neon sign has been burned into your retinas at this point because you now see it whenever you close your eyes. It’s time to take a break from the Strip and make the 20-minute trip to Red Rice in Henderson to see what lies beyond that long stretch of fluorescent road. This Chamorro restaurant serves food from Guam, and the best move is the Hafa Adai plate - essentially their greatest hits all together including BBQ chicken, BBQ spare ribs, red rice, and chicken kelaguen. Then follow the rule that if you see beignets on any menu, you order them - theirs come with a mango drizzle and should not be missed.
Sharing overpriced sliders in a cabana with more people than buns is less than ideal. So when someone suggests “seeing what’s on the pool menu,” offer up The Henry instead and just start walking until everyone follows you. Come for lunch or dinner and stick to the salads and sandwiches, though make sure you get an order of the warm pretzel rolls with cheese fondue for the table - or maybe just for yourself to not share with a single soul.
Last night has left you with just the twenty that you hide in your sock for emergencies, a lost wallet, and a 4pm meet-up with your kind but annoyed Uber driver. When you need something for lunch in the meantime, but your friends refuse to lend you money for the seventh time, head to Brasa Roja, a Colombian restaurant just five minutes north of the Strip. At $4.95, the steak and chicken specials, both of which come with rice, beans, and salad, are the answer - and if you get an extra order to go, that driver might not be quite so angry.
There’s always that one person who refuses to miss watching their team play, but very unconvincingly says, “I’ll be fine if you all go out without me,” when you know you’ll never hear the end of it. Avoid a fight and just bring them to Born and Raised. The bar food is better than you’d expect for somewhere with TVs this large and almost everything, from the chicken katsu sliders with tonkatsu sauce to the bulgogi tacos to the grilled artichoke, is $15 or less. If your friend needs further convincing, tell them that there’s even a private bungalow that can be reserved so they can watch the game in peace.
It’s almost time to leave for your flight, so you have two options: spend the remainder of your budget on the penny slots or leave Vegas with barbecue stains on your shirt. Go with the second choice and the stains will be worth it if they’re from this spot in the back of the Ellis Island Hotel and Casino. They only serve chicken and baby back ribs, but both are basically perfect, and if you aren’t in a rush, go to the casino’s help desk because you can save $3 on your meal if you sign up for a player’s card. Which means you now have enough money for those penny slots - two birds with one stone.
Izakaya Go is somewhere you’ll leave feeling like you just learned a secret, even though it’s a quick five-minute drive from the Strip, because the food is so good and super reasonably priced. The Happy Hour menu is available from 10pm-3am and is one of the best deals in the city, though most items on their regular menu are already under $20, with lots of options under $10. The tuna belly steak and fried oysters are highlights, as are the skewers.
If last night was for, “F*ck it I’m getting the $100 tomahawk steak,” then today is for Naked City Pizza. Most things on the menu are under $15, and a whole, very shareable 12-slice specialty pie is $25. Though what you should really focus on here are the wings: they’re the best in town and you can get them anywhere from mild to hot Sicilian-style. Get the loaded fries to go with them and it might be the only meal you need all day.
There’s bound to be a day during your stay in Vegas when nothing goes according to plan. You overslept, someone isn’t answering their phone, and you missed the omelet station at this morning’s breakfast buffet. Thankfully, there’s always Market Street Cafe in the California Hotel. It’s large enough for last-minute groups and everything on this Hawaiian diner’s menu is great. The two real stand-outs, though, are the prime rib special (available from 3-10pm) and the oxtail soup which is only available from 11pm-8am, but is the best thing they serve. Just be sure to look at your phone while you’re eating, in case that one friend finally decides to respond to your frantic texts.
Your stomach has finally had it. You’ve just barely survived this week on red vines from the snack bar, nachos, bites of other people’s food, and margaritas. The only remedy is something close to a home-cooked meal and the best place in Vegas to find that is at Mama Bird. Regardless of when you visit (they’re open from 7am until 8 or 9pm), you’ll find something that will make you feel as warm inside as you’ve been feeling outside every time you step into the sun. Everything on the menu is under $30, though most dishes are under $15. And since you’re being responsible today, reward yourself with the watermelon lemonade - it’s only $3 and is basically mandatory.
We’re pretty sure the last person to come to Las Vegas and not eat at the Peppermill wasn’t allowed to come back for five years. Well, maybe that sounded more plausible with a few drinks in us, but we really wouldn’t be surprised if it were true. This 24-hour spot works just as well for middle-of-the-night breakfast food as it does for a reasonably-priced lunch. Our favorites are the crab cakes with roasted red pepper cream sauce and the chicken parmesan, which will be enough to feed you and your friend who bought drinks for everyone at the bar last night. Just keep your receipt because they might be checking it at your gate before you board.
Pool parties can be a lot of fun. Pool parties on an empty stomach, however, usually end in disaster. Bringing everyone to the Goodwich before is as close to a guarantee as you can get for a day that includes alcohol sipped out of a glass that’s a full foot tall. You’ll find some of the best sandwiches in the city here, like the “Ham&” with mostarda and aioli. Take an extra to go, like the Fluff ’n Nut, which comes with burnt house-made marshmallow fluff and Nutella, because a mid-party snack can only help.
There are two things that everyone should know before going to Pizzeria Monzu. The first is that the Roman-style pies here can easily feed two or three people and they’re some of the best in the area. The second is that the crepe lasagna isn’t meant to be shared. Sure, your friend might order something else and add in, “We’ll just trade bites,” but you don’t need that person in your life and, at under $20, it’s a dish you can feel good about ordering all for yourself.