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If you thought Las Vegas was all about the Strip, the casinos, the bright lights, the show girls and the lack of clocks, you'd only be half right. A culinary invasion that began 15 years ago with Wolfgang Puck has reached saturation point and it is the Vegas visitor's belly that benefits the most. It wasn't so long ago that Las Vegas was known for its 99 cent breakfasts and all-you-can-eat buffets, but today the world's favorite desert city is also one of the world's favorite dessert cities (and appetizer and entrée too).

Names like Emeril, Nobu, Wolfgang, Jean-Georges and Todd have become just as synonymous with Sin City as the mighty casinos their restaurants grace, and their celebrity status is just one more example of Vegas' opulence and star-pulling power. The award-winning chefs come from everywhere: New York, Austria, California, France, Japan and Philadelphia. From Food Network TV shows and best-selling cook books to the bright lights of Vegas, it seems that you haven't really made it unless a Las Vegas hotel and casino owner puts your signature on a restaurant.

With so much cash and plastic in circulation in Vegas, the cost of dining at one of the city's finest restaurants may not be prohibitive, but securing a reservation might be. Also if you are expecting a meal personally prepared by one of these celebrity chefs, you may be disappointed as few (Ogden aside) actually live and work in Vegas. Most of them visit and work for a few days per month and will definitely have personally trained the chefs. They are also generally involved with most aspects of the restaurants' menus and operations.

Getting a Table

Landing a seat at these restaurants isn't as hard as breaking into a high-rollers' table, but it's not like plopping down at a slot machine, either. Here are a few suggestions on how to make you way into a highly coveted chef hot spot:

Book early: this sounds pretty obvious and it is. As soon as you know you'll be in Vegas, book the restaurant. This way you won't be disappointed. If there is a particular chef whose food you are dying to try, call the restaurant or visit the chef's website to see if there is a chance he or she will actually be in Las Vegas during your visit.

When to dine - Mid week is often your best bet, although if there is a major convention in town (check on the LVCVA website: www.lvcva.com), even a Monday night might be booked solid.

Pre show Vs. post show: Actually both these time slots are considered peak times so ideally, the best time to dine would be during show times (after 8pm and before 10pm), which is perfect if you're not attending a show. Alternatively 5.30pm seems to be a good time to actually get a table- that is if you can bring yourself to eat a large meal at such an early hour.

Use a booking website: Like Vegas.com (tel. 800/864-9587; www.vegas.com). Reservations are free but you have to provide credit card details to secure your booking.

Cozy up to your hotel concierge: Especially if you are staying at the actual hotel where the restaurant of your choice is located. Sometimes they can pull strings that others can't.

Where to Go

Some of the better known Vegas celebrity chef "it" restaurants include:

Getting There

If you want to save a few pennies getting to Las Vegas (and then spend them on enjoying your fine dining), here are a few deals:

For the popular Los Angeles to Las Vegas, route, there are super cheap round-trip fares at Orbitz (www.orbitz.com) if you are willing to fly on a Tuesday or Wednesday -- only $83 including taxes Good for travel until May 10, 2007.

Also from Orbitz, travel to Vegas for the weekend and still save with these sample round-trip fares (including taxes) for travel during the month of February 2007, for Thursday, Friday or Saturday departures and Sunday, Monday or Tuesday returns:

  • From Denver $143
  • From Houston $199
  • From Washington, D.C. $200
  • From New York $263
  • From Miami $265

Travelocity (www.travelocity.com) has the following sample mid-week round-trip fares to Las Vegas currently on offer through its Low fare Alerts section:

  • From Austin $123
  • From Columbus $143
  • From Jacksonville $161
  • From Chicago $163
  • From Ft Lauderdale $181
  • From Memphis $196

Talk with fellow Frommer's travelers on our Nevada Message Boards today.