As the movie Dodgeball once explained: “Las Vegas. A city built of hot sand, broken dreams, and five-dollar lobster.”
The hot sand speaks for itself, and we’ll leave those broken dreams alone for now since it’s the five-dollar lobsters that we’re after now. See, the problem with modern Las Vegas (other than the hot sand) is that the five-dollar lobsters, prime ribs, shrimp cocktails, etc. of yesteryear have dried up. They’re gone like the last drop of water on the hot sand (okay, that’s the last one).
Adventurers headed towards Sin City expecting to find cheap buffets and steaks are quickly going to realize it’s quite the opposite. They’ll be finding themselves eating under a picture of a celebrity chef, a replica of Hell’s Kitchen, or at world-famous Nobu paying $300 for omakase. It’s is totally worth doing once as long as you go early enough you can stop by the pizza place later to get full.
In other words, a city that was supposedly funded by losing money to casinos has decided that gourmet food is also an excellent way to separate one from their funds.
Therefore, you certainly can go to a room that bears that name of a celebrity who may or may not set foot in it more than once a year and pay for the privilege. The other option, though, is to skip the big names and find a place that lets you eat like it was 1950s Las Vegas and pay a lot less than 2020 Las Vegas prices. Even better, you’ll enjoy every bite.
1- Earl of Sandwich
That’s right. If you want to feel like you’ve had a meal for a high roller, you should eat a meal fit for royalty. Yes, we’re talking about a sandwich, but not any sandwich. It’s an Earl of Sandwich sandwich.
Like Vegas elevated gambling and turned it into an art form, the Earl of Sandwich works magic on a collection of artisan meats, cheeses, veggies, and bread. When you go, be sure to check out their seasonal offerings (including Thanksgiving on a sandwich), the Earl’s Club (a hearty mix of meat, bacon, and cheese), or any of their other signature offerings. Most importantly, try one of their chocolate chip cookies and see if you can avoid devouring them in one bite.
Best of all, a sandwich won’t break the bank as it leaves you feeling full. Find it at the Miracle Mile shops located inside the Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino.
2- Bonanno’s New York Pizza
Bonanno’s is an interesting little pizza place in the food court near the shark reef in Mandalay Bay. It’s probably not going to end up on a lot of “Best of Las Vegas” restaurant guides, but that’s mostly due to its fairly unassuming nature as food court foods go.
However, if you spend any amount of time in the Mandalay Bay, you’ll notice a lot of people who work there are carrying around Bonanno’s pizza boxes in sizes ranging from a single slice to large pizza. Even better, Bonanno does exactly what it is supposed to do; pack a lot of flavor into each bite without costing a tremendous amount of money. Seriously, give it a try if you’re on that side of the Strip.
3- Monta Noodle House
How does a huge bowl of noodles, fried rice, pork belly, or gyoza sound for less than eight dollars? Have your attention yet? Good, then head down to the Monta Noodle House, located about ten minutes east of the Strip on Spring Mountain road.
Located in a strip mall, it’s the type of place you can imagine that local Las Vegans visit when they want to eat and not pay Las Vegas prices. If you go, try the spicy tonkatsu ramen with kimchi and nitamago (egg) or a hearty regular-sized pork belly bowl served with rice.
4- Marilyn’s Café
Marilyn’s Café is a throwback to the days of old in more ways than one. This café with an upscale diner menu in a modern diner environment rests in the Tuscany Suites and Casino, near Bally’s and Paris Las Vegas. Entering into Marilyn’s Café feels homey, a feeling that gets one in the mood for old-school type of comfort food at a reasonable price.
Fortunately, Marilyn’s Café serves exactly that – diner favorites like old-school breakfasts (eggs, sausage, ham steaks, and bacon anyone?), biscuits and gravy, pancakes, patty melts, burgers, grilled cheese, pot roast, and, of course, prime rib. Even better, the prices will make you think you’ve gone back a few decades. They’re only charging sixteen bucks for a pound of prime rib or $10.50 for a pot roast dinner. Still, that’s not all Marilyn’s is serving up. If you’re looking for something healthy, they have a fitness menu. And if you want something a little less American-style comfort food, they have barbecue, pizzas, carne asada burritos, and ten grilled shrimp for the far-too-reasonable price of $13.99.
In other words, Marilyn’s Café is a bit of gem. You’re not going to find a place that takes this much care for that price.
5- Biwon Korean BBQ & Sushi Restaurant
If you’re willing to go off the Strip for about ten minutes by taxi or Uber, then you really ought to find your way to Biwon on Sahara Avenue. For about twenty-four dollars, the good folks at Biwon will sit you down in front of your own grill and hand you a menu. Your job is to point at the meats, appetizers, sides and ice cream you want and then to cook it when they bring it to you (don’t cook the ice cream, actually.) That’s the beauty of the Korean BBQ: you tell the restaurant what you want, and you get it cooked exactly how you want as often as you want.
Even better, you can pay a few dollars more and get the all-you-can-eat sushi to go along with your all-you-can-eat meat. There’s really no downside to all the meat and sushi you want, especially when the service and quality are as high as they are at Biwon. Enjoy this fine eatery until 3 a.m. if you so choose!
6- Ports O’ Call Buffet
We couldn’t leave a buffet or two off the list. This is Las Vegas, and we’re trying to be frugal. Not crazy. You just can’t have a Vegas meal without a Vegas buffet. Our first stop on the tour of Las Vegas buffets is the Ports O’ Call Buffet in the Gold Coast Casino.
Ports O’ Call is not the fanciest venue, but then again, you’re not paying the fanciest price. Instead, this seven-station buffet includes American, Chinese, Mexican, and Seafood stations (among others). It even offers such tempting delicacies as weekend champagne brunch for a mere $16.99 and a steak and shrimp dinner on Fridays for $21.99. You won’t find a better value for all-you-can-eat food anywhere in Vegas. Definitely give them a try.
7- Flavors Buffet at Harrah’s Las Vegas
Our last high-roller-at-low-stakes price comes to us from the Flavors Buffet at Harrah’s Las Vegas. At $31.99 per person for dinner, the buffet is at the high end of the price curve. However, one has to do a buffet when they’re in Las Vegas, and Flavors Buffet remains one of the more affordable.
This buffet advertises that it is “offering more tastes in one place than any other Las Vegas buffet.” They back up that claim by offering Brazilian BBQ, pizza, Italian, rotisserie chicken, shrimp, crab legs, sushi, Chinese, all-you-care-to-drink champagne for brunch, and a soda machine fit for a mad scientist. Oh, and be sure to stop by the dessert case for a little something to finish the meal, like an offering from the gelato station.
All in all, you’re going to pay a bit more, but you get a lot more. Harrah’s gilds the lily quite nicely, making you feel like you’re at the latest luxury hotel when really you’re buying a rather budget-friendly meal. It’s a win for any customer. At the end of the day, isn’t that what Las Vegas is all about?
The sights, smells, and sounds in Las Vegas have been scientifically designed to make you spend money. There are plenty of great places in Sin City that will cost you an arm and a leg to dine, and many of them are absolutely worth every penny. On the other hand, your vacation does not need to rest only in the arms of the expensive dining experience. If you’re willing to look a little more and perhaps leave the Strip for a few short minutes, you are going to find a meal that is both cheaper than the fancy places and every bit as delicious. We encourage you to live like a high roller as much as you can, and when you can’t (or you just want to bury yourself in all-you-can-eat sushi) hop into a cab. Low stakes eats are just a few blocks away.