Let’s face it: For better or worse, there’s no place quite like Las Vegas. And that uniqueness definitely extends to some of its restaurants.
If this is your first time in Sin City — or if you’re a repeat visitor but had confined your dining to the tamer choices, such as chains and well-trod casino spots — here are a few places to consider, all of them time-honored treasures within the tourism corridor. And we guarantee you won’t find them anywhere else.
Golden Steer Steakhouse
If you miss the Rat Pack era in Las Vegas, the Golden Steer is the place for you. The restaurant opened in 1958, and those legendary performers used to show up here on a regular basis; Sinatra’s favorite booth was even labeled — until management wearied of people swiping the sign. The food leans heavily to steaks, as you might expect, plus tableside preparations of Caesar salad, chateaubriand, cherries jubilee and bananas Foster. And how can you resist a restaurant that refers to a filet mignon as “the aristocrat of tenderness?” 308 W. Sahara Ave., 702-384-4470, goldensteerlasvegas.com
Hugo’s also does tableside bananas Foster and cherries jubilee, but even the dinner salads are prepared at your elbow; choose from among 10 toppings for your romaine, delivered on a rolling cart. There are throwback dishes such as Hugo’s Hot Rock Specialty for Two (meats and seafoods you cook on a hot granite slab), escargots en croute, duckling anise flambe and beef Wellington, and every female customer gets a red rose. Four Queens, 702-385-4011, hugoscellar.com
You want to argue with the late, great Bobby Darin? He reportedly gave the restaurant its whimsical moniker (“pamplemousse” is the mellifluous French term for the lowly grapefruit) because of his friendship with and appreciation for founder Georges La Forge. In operation since 1976, the restaurant is in an old house, and the nook-and-cranny layout is a large part of its charm. So is the formal French service, and quirky specialties such as the Easter-basket-sized cascade of crudites that starts off the meal. 400 E. Sahara Ave., 702-733-2066
Sure, the Peppermill is “just” a coffee shop, but there’s a reason it’s thrived on the Las Vegas Strip since 1972. If you’re looking for an only-in-Vegas vibe it’d be tough to beat the Jetsons-crashed-onto-a-Southern-plantation decor (or the funky ’70s lounge, complete with conversation pit with fire-and-water feature and drinks such as the 64-ounce Scorpion). The food is classic American, fresh and varied and in portions to suit a longshoreman. Don’t believe us? Try the fresh fruit salad in half of a pineapple. 2895 Las Vegas Blvd. South, 702-735-4177, peppermilllasvegas.com
Sure, showing skin is a time-honored tradition in Las Vegas, but you’d be hard-pressed to find many places that have their own belly dancers. Dinner is a six-course prix-fixe affair that won’t blow the mortgage, and the atmosphere, regularly refurbished since Marrakech opened in 1979, is a great place to sit on a satiny pillow and imagine you’re indulging at the casbah. 3900 Paradise Road, 702-737-5611, marrakechvegas.com