Vegas has become a city for foodies, and many big names on the culinary scene have Strip outlets, including Todd English (Olives at Bellagio), Mario Batali (Carnevino, an Italian Steakhouse at the Palazzo), Wolfgang Puck (CUT at the Grand Canal Shoppes, among others), Joel Robuchon (an eponymous restaurant at the MGM Grand) and Alain Ducasse (Rivea at the Delano).
Meanwhile, Vegas buffets live up to their lavish reputation, but don't expect to pay $3.99 for all you can eat -- evening foodfests at Strip hotels can easily top $20. You can save money by going midweek and doing breakfast or lunch instead of dinner. For cheaper eats, head Downtown, where the older hotels offer dinner for a pittance (look for discount coupons in tourist brochures), or opt for the 24/7 resort cafes instead of the boldfaced-name restaurants. Also, check out a happy hour (they're everywhere) and fill up on half-price appetizers.
Emeril Lagasse adds spice to the MGM Grand with his Emeril's New Orleans Fish House, where the dishes include seafood gumbo and barbecue shrimp. He also kicks it up at his Delmonico Steakhouse at the Venetian, where you can enjoy tableside preparations of Caesar salad, and at Table 10 at the Palazzo, offering casual New Orleans dishes.
Chef-owner Thomas Keller (of Napa's French Laundry fame) enlivens dining at the Venetian with his Bouchon entry, which serves up bistro classics in a relatively relaxed setting.
The Las Vegas movers and shakers have lunch overlooking the Strip at the Eiffel Tower Restaurant at Paris Las Vegas, serving French-influenced cuisine partway up the resort's replica tower. Decadent seafood dishes and roasted rack of lamb with tarragon jus are popular splurges here. Reservations are a must.
For less extravagant fare, build your own burger at Hubert Keller's Burger Bar at the Mandalay Bay, picking from meat choices that include Kobe or Angus beef and Australian lamb. (There are turkey, chicken and veggie options too.) Then choose from an amazing list of toppings -- think pineapple, jalapeno bacon and even shrimp.
Sushi magic is performed under the guidance of Nobu Matsuhisa at Nobu at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino. Sleek New York decor meets dishes including creamy spicy crab and shrimp tempura (try the snickerdoodle toban yaki for dessert).
Fun, cheap and oh-so-relaxed, the San Diego import Hash House a Go Go offers mammoth portions of good ol' comfort food at low prices -- and locations are strategically scattered about town including at the LINQ Hotel and the Plaza Hotel.