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Getting In -- There are tricks to surviving dining in Vegas. If you can, make reservations in advance, particularly for the better restaurants. (You might get to town, planning to check out some of the better spots, only to find that they are totally booked throughout your stay.) Eat during off-hours when you can. Know that noon to, say, 1:30 or 2pm is prime time for lunch, and 5:30 to 8:30pm (and just after the early shows get out) is prime time for dinner. Speaking of time, give yourself plenty of it, particularly if you have to catch a show. We once tried to grab a quick bite in the Riviera before running up to La Cage. The only choice was the food court, where long lines in front of all the stands (fast-food chains only) left us with about 5 minutes to gobble something decidedly unhealthy.

Saving Money -- So you want to sample the creations of a celebrity chef, but you took a beating at the craps table? Check our listings to see which of the high-profile restaurants are open for lunch. Sure, sometimes the more interesting and exotic items are found at dinner, but the midday meal is usually no slouch and can be as much as two-thirds cheaper.

Or skip that highfalutin' stuff altogether. The late-night specials -- a complete steak meal for just a few dollars -- are also an important part of a good, decadent Vegas experience. And having complained about how prices are going up, we'll also tell you that you can still eat cheaply and decently (particularly if you are looking upon food only as fuel) all over town. The locals repeatedly say that they almost never cook, because in Vegas it is always cheaper to eat out. To locate budget fare, check local newspapers (especially Fri editions) and free magazines (such as What's On in Las Vegas), which are given away at hotel reception desks. Sometimes these sources also yield money-saving coupons.

Be on the lookout for weekday night specials as well. Many high-end restaurants offer prix-fixe menus on their off-nights for significantly less money. You may not be able to sample the truly extravagant dishes, but it'll get you a taste of the good life.

A Final Word -- As welcome as the influx of designer chefs is, you can't help but notice that the majority are simply re-creating their best work (and sometimes not even that) from elsewhere rather than producing something new. So the Vegas food scene remains, like its architecture, a copy of something from somewhere else. And as happy as we are to encourage you to throw money at these guys, please don't forget the mom-and-pop places, which struggle not to disappear into the maw of the big hotel machines and which produce what comes the closest to true local quality. If you can, get in a car and check out some of the options listed below that are a bit off the beaten track. Show Vegas you aren't content -- you want a meal you can brag about and afford, now!

Online Restaurant Inspections -- The Southern Nevada Health District is the organization responsible for inspecting restaurants. Each is visited at least twice a year and then graded (A, B, or C), given demerits for infractions (improper food storage and handling, and the like), and in extreme cases shut down. You can now read the inspections online for every restaurant in town, although you may not want to if you ever feel like eating in Las Vegas again. If you think you and your stomach can handle it visit www.southernnevadahealthdistrict.org.

Price Categories

Very Expensive Main courses $35 and up

Expensive Main courses $30 and up

Moderate Main courses $15-$30

Inexpensive Main courses under $15

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.