All the activities available in Las Vegas can build up an appetite, and though Las Vegas can be a gourmet's paradise of fois gras with chocolate sauce--something we actually saw on one restaurant's menu--feeding the kids something they'll like is no problem, because every Strip hotel has a food court with a variety of quick meals and fast food, and there are also the inevitable buffets and round-the-clock coffee shops, where your kids should be able to find something they'll like. We've made it a point to consider your family when reviewing the restaurants. Theme restaurants are a big draw here, especially for boys who can be coddled, entertained, and fed by the likes of NASCAR, Harley-Davidson, or ESPN. And while some fancy restaurants ban children under five, others welcome children of all ages, going beyond offering booster chairs to actually making custom dishes for the little ones. Vegetarian or vegan family members will also find something for their dietary concerns on almost every menu.
Being a vegetarian in Vegas is easy, but being a teenager is always difficult, and, in Vegas, it can be especially hard. Unless you are 21, you are not allowed on the casino floor, and if you look underage, trust us, you will be carded. There are less than a handful of all-age nightclubs, and none of those are located in the actual Las Vegas area. Teens and 'tweens are too old for day care at most hotels, yet too young to be allowed alone in the pool areas. They are not allowed on the Strip after 9pm, or in arcades unescorted during the late night/early morning hours. But do not despair; teens who live in Vegas manage to have plenty of fun, and so can yours. In fact, even the grumbling Goth, rebellious rocker, and truculent teen should find something (they can choose from the likes of huge water parks, shows that will suit their tastes, arcades, movie theatres, malls, thrill rides, swimming pools, bookstores, record shops, comic book stores, and so much more) cool to do, see, eat or buy in Las Vegas, which is saying a lot.
Best Dining Bets
(Editor's Note: For complete reviews of these establishments, simply click here to go to our Las Vegas restaurant listings in our Destinations section.)
Best Burger: Lots of folks love the 24-hour Liberty Cafe, 1700 Las Blvd. S. (tel. 702/383-0196), at the White Cross Pharmacy on the north end of the Strip, but we are actually partial to the juicy, and pricey, burger served lunchtime only at Delmonico Steakhouse in the Venetian, 3355 Las Vegas Blvd. S. (tel. 702/414-3737), served with caramelized onions, Vermont cheddar, and made according to celebrity chef Emeril Lagasse's specification. For drive-through, you can't beat In-N-Out, 4888 Industrial Rd. at Tropicana (tel. 800/786-1000; www.inandout.com), where vegetarians can order cheese-only, and those on Atkins can get a protein burger (no bun); locals agree, they voted it Best Burger in the 2001 Las Vegas Review Journal poll.
Best Kids' Menu: Buffets that offer price breaks for kids, like those at the Luxor, 3900 Las Vegas Blvd. S. (tel. 800/288-1000 or 702/262-4000), or the Flamingo, 3555 Las Vegas Blvd. S. (tel. 800/732-2111 or 702/733-3111), actually can give kids a feeling of empowerment as they choose their own meals. Children can eat half price at any restaurant in the Las Vegas Hilton, 3000 Paradise Rd. (tel. 888/732-7117 or 702/732-5111), but the best actual kid's menu is at the Verandah at the Four Seasons, 3960 Las Vegas Blvd. S. (tel. 877/632-5000 or 702/632-5000), which offers more than just chicken fingers and pizza.
Best Tacos: Palapas Tacos, near Ricardo's, at the MGM Grand, 3799 Las Vegas Blvd. S. (tel. 800/929-1111 or 702/736-4970), are simple, filling, and cheap. The carne asada (chopped steak) tacos, on soft corn tortillas, come two to an order; they'll hold the onions if you ask. Traditionalists may prefer the various fried tacos including mashed potatoes and shredded beef.
Best Secret Meal: It's not on the menu, and it's a real deal; steak and shrimp, a Vegas classic, for $7.77 at Mr. Lucky's 24/7 in the Hard Rock, 4455 Paradise Rd. (tel. 800/473-ROCK or 702/693-5592). Someone in your party should order it, just to prove that parents know cool stuff that isn't always written down.
Best Food Court: Most of the hotels have the same offerings (McDonalds, Nathan's, Häagen-Dazs, Starbucks, etc.), so that it's nice to find some different options. The food court at the MGM Grand, 3799 Las Vegas Blvd. S. (tel. 800/929-1111 or 702/891-7777), has the usual suspects mentioned above, but also has Mama Ilardo's Pizza, which does a nice slice, and Hamada Orient Express, which sells Chinese and Japanese food, including boxes of decent sushi. Menus are in Japanese and Mandarin, along with English, so you know it's the real deal.
Best Alternative Breakfast: Some kids, and grown-ups, just don't like breakfast food. And even if you're a fan of eggs and waffles, that fare can get pretty dull day after day. Along with the usual morning meals, Chin Chin, in New York-New York, 3790 Las Vegas Blvd. S. (tel. 800/693-6763 or 702/740-6969), serves traditional Chinese breakfast foods such as congee (rice porridge) and dim sum (small individual dishes, like steamed dumplings filled with meat, vegetables, or sea food, and many other dishes), including the Chinese version of a barbecue sandwich, cha su bao, chunks of pork or chicken and sweet sauce tucked inside a white doughy bun.
Best Pizza: Practically every hotel food court has a pizza stand, and there are also nouvelle style places like California Pizza Kitchen, in the Mirage, 3400 Las Vegas Blvd. S. (tel. 800/627-6667 or 702/791-7223), and Wolfgang Puck Cafe, in the MGM Grand, 3799 Las Vegas Blvd. S. (tel. 800/929-1111 or 702/895-9653), throughout Vegas for fans of exotic toppings on their 'za. For hotel pizza, you can't beat Scirroccos in New York-New York, 3790 Las Vegas Blvd. S. (tel. 800/693-6763 or 702/740-6969). However, Metro Pizza, 1395 E. Tropicana Blvd. (tel. 702/736-1955), located about 15 minutes away from the Strip, not only serves up the best slice in town, but also delivers to all major hotels.
Best Ice Cream: Locals love Luv-It Custard, off the Strip at 505 Oakley Ave. (tel. 702/384-6452), which is almost ice cream, but denser, softer, and creamier, thanks to the eggs and special whipping process. If you don't want to leave the Strip, Schrafft's in New York-New York, 3790 Las Vegas Blvd. S. (tel. 800/693-6763 or 702/740-6969), also serves up frozen custard, along with their own brand of ice cream.
Best Diet Dessert: Olio's wall of gelato offers an alternative to regular frozen desserts. Their fat-free sorbets, some of which are also sugar-free, are made from juices and taste like perfectly ripe fruits. The real surprise is the rich, creamy, dairy-free gelato, which comes in flavors like chocolate-hazelnut, pistachio, and strawberry, as well as the more exotic tiramisu and zabaglione. All are lower in calories and fat than regular ice cream; and, as with the sorbets, some flavors come sugar-free. You'll find them at the MGM Grand, 3799 Las Vegas Blvd. S. (tel. 800/929-1111 or 702/891-7777).
Best Place for Kids to Have an Exciting View While Dining: Buccaneer Bay at Treasure Island, 3300 Las Vegas Blvd. S. (tel. 800/944-7444 or 702/894-7223), wins hands down with kids over 5 because they can watch the Pirate Battle from window seats. If you don't manage to reserve one of these, the wait staff will announce "Pirate battle!" at the start of the combat, so you can rush to the windows and watch; they'll hold your order until you return.
Best Educational Restaurant: America, located in New York-New York, 3790 Las Vegas Blvd. S. (tel. 800/693-6763 or 702/740-6969), features food from around the United States; each menu item is designated with its reputed place of origin. That alone makes for some interesting conversation, but the really neat (yet educational) feature is the 90 ft. * 20 ft. map of the United States, complete with geographic and topographic features.
Best Milkshake: Liberty Cafe at the White Cross Pharmacy, 1700 Las Vegas Blvd. S. (tel. 702/383-0196), on the North Strip, serves them cold, thick, and creamy. If you'd rather sample the fountain goods in a hotel coffee shop, Roxy's Diner, in the Stratosphere, 2000 Las Vegas Blvd. S. (tel. 800/998-6937 or 702/380-777), pours a good one.
Best Thai: Lotus of Siam, 953 E. Sahara Ave. (tel. 702/735-3033), located about 10 minutes east of the Strip, serves the best Thai food in the entire United States, according to food critics, both amateur and professional (Gourmet magazine's Jonathan Gold being one of the LoS's biggest fans). If you have a craving for mee krob or satay, this is the place to sate it, because you won't find much Thai food at any of the casinos/resorts.
Best Hot Dog: Ubiquitous Nathan's Hot Dogs, with their perfect texture, savory taste, and low cost make them a great snack or quick meal. You'll find a Nathan's at Monte Carlo, 3770 Las Vegas Blvd. S. (tel. 800/311-8999 or 702/730-7777), New York-New York, 3790 Las Vegas Blvd. S. (tel. 800/693-6763 or 702/740-6969), and MGM Grand, 3799 Las Vegas Blvd. S. (tel. 800/929-1111 or 702/891-7777).
Best Selection: The Grand Lux Café at the Venetian, 3355 Las Vegas Blvd. S. (tel. 888/2-VENICE or 702/414-1000), gives you a choice of over 150 entrees, appetizers, salads, and desserts, all of which are big enough to split between two or three people. The cuisine jumps from Italian to pan-Asian to American, with stops in Europe, providing a huge, mostly-very-tasty selection. Plus, there's a kids' menu, which your server will recite for you, because it's not printed in the book-sized menu you are handed at the table.
Best Romantic Outdoor Restaurant: The patio at Mon Ami Gabi at Paris Las Vegas, 3655 Las Vegas Blvd. S. (tel. 702/944-4224), faces the Bellagio waters show, making this French bistro the most romantic spot on the Strip as the fountains spray and dance in time to music. After a meal of oysters, grilled steak, or roasted chicken, wine, profiteroles, and espresso, stroll through the adjacent casino/hotel. Then whisper in your beloved's ear, "We'll always have Paris...Las Vegas."
Best Romantic Restaurant View (for a Night When You Hired a Sitter): The food at Alizé is as impressive as its view from three huge windows overlooking the Strip from atop the Palms Hotel, 4321 W. Flamingo Rd. (tel. 702/951-7000). Chef Andre Rochat, from Andre's French Restaurant and Andre's at the Monte Carlo (two of city's most acclaimed French restaurants) and Chef Michael Demeres, formerly of Napa, continually create and execute meals of epicurean perfection.
Do you have your own suggestions for family dining in Las Vegas? Please share your tips and reviews in our Message Boards. Simply click here to get started.