Viva Las Vegas: 36 Hours in Sin City

I did something I never thought I would do — willingly go to Las Vegas. For pleasure. In June.  The reason I say willingly is that I’m not at all into gambling, and it is perilously hot in Vegas in June (Triple digits hot!). My best friend Michele and I made the trek to the desert to witness what was rumored to be the final Guns ‘N Roses show, either ever or for quite some time. The concert was so disappointing that the former might be for the best; Axl should hang up his Hot Topic jacket and oversized caballero hat for good. The bright spot in the brief trip was the incredible dining — three amazing and decadent-yet-relatively-affordable meals at highly regarded restaurants: Bouchon, Nobu, and Otto. Please note that I say affordable as each of our meals included multiple courses and glasses — plus a bottle — of wine or sake. Compare this with the $36 (!) we spent on two meager, over-iced Bloody Marys at the casino bar, for some perspective.

Knowing the concert would be something of a gamble, I selected restaurants I was familiar with, having dined very well previously at the Yountville Bouchon, as well as the New York locations of both Nobu and Otto. I assumed all would be terrific experiences, but I was honestly beyond blown away by both the hospitality and the food. At each restaurant, it felt as though we were celebrating a birthday or anniversary (rather than trying to make up for the concert or the disappointing French Open final). Every restaurant provided that little extra something, and it was not exclusive to our table. One look around each dining room made it clear servers and sommeliers were happily tailoring menus and recommendations — creating experiences — for an extremely diverse group of diners. These hospitality professionals understand that Vegas diners are looking for an extraordinary time — and they deliver that in spades.

Las Vegas welcomes almost 40 million tourists a year. There are 356 Las Vegas restaurants on OpenTable. New York City attracts more than 50 million visitors a year, with approximately 2,000 restaurants on OpenTable within the five boroughs. Thus, Las Vegas restaurants are better poised to get repeat diners, oftentimes on the same trip. This may explain why everyone is treated like a regular — you’re just a lot more likely to become one, even in a matter of days.  Don’t get me wrong — I love New York! But in Vegas, I felt really loved.

Click through the sumptuous snapshots from these meals — and let us know what your favorite Las Vegas dining spots are in the comments or over on Facebook or G+.

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