Strip's food offerings getting kicked up a notch

A rendering of Eataly at the Park MGM. Mario Batali’s foodie mecca is one of several dining venues opening next year on the Las Vegas Strip.
A rendering of Eataly at the Park MGM. Mario Batali’s foodie mecca is one of several dining venues opening next year on the Las Vegas Strip.

On a recent Sunday morning in Las Vegas, after a sunny stroll down the Strip, I arrived at Eggslut inside the Cosmopolitan. The Los Angeles import is known for its breakfast sandwiches topped with ingredients like wagyu tri-tip and caramelized onions. It's also known for its line. On this particular day, that line stretched down a resort hallway, dozens of visitors hoping to preempt hangovers with two-hander sandwiches hot off the griddle.

Though Eggslut opened in 2016, it was the leading edge of a wave of new Cosmopolitan restaurants that continued into 2017. Steps away on the second floor, Momofuku and Milk Bar debuted earlier this year, and upstairs on the resort's restaurant row, contemporary Japanese eatery Zuma arrived, while Blue Ribbon Sushi made way for the Bromberg brothers' beloved New York brasserie Blue Ribbon.

In terms of food, 2017 "was absolutely the year of the Cosmopolitan," said Las Vegas Weekly editor at large Brock Radke. "They sucked up almost all the restaurant energy on the Strip. They kind of remodeled their whole restaurant landscape without changing the good stuff that was already there."

Barbecue pork at Chica at the Venetian.
Barbecue pork at Chica at the Venetian.

Other notable arrivals this year included Lorena Garcia's Chica at the Venetian, which serves a Latin American menu not available elsewhere on the Strip, and Bavette's and Primrose, early harbingers of the grand transformation of the Monte Carlo into the Park MGM and the Sydell Group's NoMad Hotel.

Bavette's gives the classic steakhouse a vintage-inspired update, evoking the past while staying rooted in present trends towards more casual dining experiences. Primrose, meanwhile, is a "French-ish" three-meal restaurant that Radke described as a "next-level casino coffee shop," if casino coffee shops served bouillabaisse and fried chicken Provencal in an outdoor garden. 

Both restaurants could be considered an amuse-bouche for a slate of dining developments on the horizon in 2018.

Celebrity chefs and a Palms makeover

The most hotly anticipated entrants to the Strip scene are also coming to Park MGM and NoMad. At the latter, Daniel Humm and Will Guidara will open a location of their NoMad restaurant, which takes the precise, artful cooking that earned three Michelin stars at Eleven Madison Park in New York and lets it exhale into less formal presentations without sacrificing any flavor. Meanwhile, Park MGM will welcome Mario Batali's Eataly, a culinary theme park devoted to a mix of restaurants, retail and fast-casual counters doling out focaccia, gelato, lasagna and cannoli.

Radke said another as-yet-unannounced restaurant is likely to round out the new resort's dining repertoire. "There's a lot of speculation about what that's going to be," he added, nodding to the Sydell Group and MGM Resorts partner chefs in other markets, including Roy Choi (the Line L.A.), Spike Gjerde (the Line D.C.) and Marcus Samuelsson (MGM National Harbor).

Traveling north on Las Vegas Boulevard, Wolfgang Puck's Spago, largely credited with jump-starting Las Vegas' restaurant revolution, will close at the Forum Shops and reopen at the Bellagio, where it will have prime real estate, including a patio overlooking the famed fountains.

Filet mignon at Bavette’s at the Monte Carlo, which is being transformed into the Park MGM and the NoMad.
Filet mignon at Bavette’s at the Monte Carlo, which is being transformed into the Park MGM and the NoMad.

Meanwhile, the Forum Shops at Caesars also has a highly anticipated opening on the calendar for 2018: San Francisco's modern Vietnamese landmark the Slanted Door is opening its first location outside of California and bringing an underrepresented cuisine into the spotlight along the casino corridor.

Elsewhere at Caesars Palace, Gordon Ramsay will unveil his fifth Las Vegas restaurant with Hell's Kitchen, a 300-seat eatery themed around the chef's hit cooking competition, and Giada de Laurentiis will debut her second restaurant, Pronto by Giada, a quick-serve stop delivering casual renditions of the TV star's signature California-Italian cooking.

Finally, during Red Rock Resorts' third-quarter earnings call last month, CFO Steve Cootey revealed details regarding the Palms Casino Resort's $485 million makeover.

"The Palms is an iconic resort and was always known as the place to see and be seen in Las Vegas," said Cootey. "Through our redevelopment of the property we intend to not only restore to that memorable status but take it to the next level of excitement by crafting the perfect mix of classic Vegas hospitality and extraordinary new experiences delivered through world-class partnerships."

Those partners include Clique Hospitality, which will open a rooftop "social club," and Tao Group, tasked with creating a 29,000-square-foot nightclub and 73,000-square-foot, year-round pool club for the casino that was once king of the Vegas nightlife scene.

Tao will also bring its global street food restaurant Vandal from New York to the Palms, where it will join a full slate of fresh dining options, including a new steakhouse, a buffet opening in December, a Bobby Flay seafood concept, a barbecue spot from chef Michael Symon and an Italian restaurant from Marc Vetri.

Radke said he's excited to watch the Palms revival unfold under Red Rock Resorts' leadership.

"They're the best possible people to take that thing over because they already know how to run stuff that kind of splits the difference between a tourist and a local audience," he said.

With a beefed-up list of restaurants and nightclubs on their way in 2018, there will be plenty of reasons to pay the Palms a visit.

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