Editor’s Note: At the time of publication, Las Vegas is allowing both indoor and outdoor dining at limited capacity. Keep up with the latest restrictions on dining in cities across the U.S. and Canada.
It’s easy to think of Las Vegas as a neon-filled bubble of playtime and pleasure along the Strip. But real people do live here, and locals will tell you that the off-Strip dining scene has been growing steadily, fed by a booming population drawn to the city’s low cost of living and year-round sunshine.
The dining scene is also fed by the city’s melting pot of cultures and relative affordability. The entertainment and hospitality industries that define Las Vegas regularly bring new arrivals from around the world, bringing with them an incredible diversity of culinary experience. Lower overhead gives people the leeway to try new things, and when culinary professionals from the high-octane kitchens of celebrity chefs on the Strip discover how affordable it is to raise a family here, they stay — and launch inventive new projects of their own.
Here are the top locally owned neighborhood gems you’ll find in Las Vegas today, beloved by locals and visitors alike.
Old Soul (Downtown)
Old Soul is the most recent restaurant by chef Natalie Young, a pioneer of off-strip dining. Here, fine dining is transported from a pre-Prohibition era: The cavernous, 5,000-square-foot space is located within the World Market Center, but manages to feel cozy thanks to the low amber lights, blue velvet banquettes, and antique heavy decor sourced by the chef herself. The menu features American classics such as fried oysters, peas, and carrots dolled up with dill creme fraiche, and a shockingly good meatloaf. In keeping with the pre-Prohibition decadence, the extensive cocktail menu centers around historic recipes and features a wide selection of whiskey.
Dining at the restaurant: Indoor dining is at limited capacity per state law, and the restaurant is currently only open on Friday and Saturday evenings.
Takeout: Takeout is available for special events, like a recent fried chicken pop-up with curbside pick-up.
Golden Steer (Downtown)
Golden Steer is the perfect emblem of the Rat Pack days of old Vegas. Open since 1958 off the end of the Strip, it’s the oldest steakhouse in town and has welcomed the likes of Elvis, Natalie Wood, Nat King Cole, and many others. Inside, you’ll find a clubby atmosphere with red banquette seating, wood-paneled walls, and soft patterned carpet underfoot. Dining here is an experience from another era where tuxedoed waiters — many of whom have worked there for years — gracefully toss Caesar salads and flambé cherries jubilee or bananas foster tableside.
Dining at the restaurant: Golden Steer does not have outdoor seating, but limited indoor seating is available, and reservations are required.
Takeout: All menu items are available for takeout, with some at-home assembly required for specific dishes. Golden Steer has recently launched a new virtual private dining program, with meal kits and wine to cook at home, guided by one of the chefs via webinar.
The Sand Dollar Lounge (Chinatown)
A classic blues joint just west of downtown, the Sand Dollar Lounge opened in 1976 and has hosted musical legends like Muddy Waters, B.B. King, and Mick Jagger. In 2009, three locals bought and revamped the space, and it quickly became a local haunt for live music once again. The Sand Dollar has all the hallmarks of a beloved dive bar — kitsch on the walls, a well-worn pool table, familiar faces on barstools — but with the rare Vegas distinction of a smoke-free dining room. Beyond the music, locals love it for the restaurant’s crispy, thin-crust pizza, including vegetarian and vegan options.
Dining at the restaurant: Reservations are required and tables are limited to four guests each.
Takeout: Pizzas and calzones are available for takeout by calling the restaurant.
Edo Tapas (Chinatown)
EDO Tapas (pronounced ee-dee-oh — restaurant shorthand for “extra day off”) is a restaurant industry favorite. Chef Oscar Edo grew up in Barcelona, and his Catalan-influenced small plates demonstrate an admirable attention to detail, demonstrated in dishes such as the “textures of artichokes” appetizer, that puts together artichokes hearts confit with artichoke purée and artichoke chips. The selection of Iberico pork and Spanish cheeses is a tight, well-curated list, and when you’re ready for bigger portions, order a paella or fideos a la cazuela (a rustic noodle casserole).
Dining at the restaurant: EDO Tapas is a small venue with limited indoor dining, so reservations are recommended. Diners will appreciate the rolling gin cart and adventurous diners can order the chef’s tasting menu for the entire table, which comes with a vegan option.
Takeout: Takeout can be ordered by calling the restaurant directly. The chef’s tasting menu for takeout is also available, but diners must order a few days in advance.
Lola’s (Downtown & Summerlin)
Lola’s owner, chef Lola Elizabeth Pokorny, was born in New Orleans, raised in Louisiana, and moved to Las Vegas 30 years ago — bringing the Cajun and Creole flavors she grew up with such as gumbo, jambalaya, and charbroiled oysters. The restaurant even carries a selection of Louisiana beer from Abita Brewery to pair with the Cajun classics. Lola’s has two locations: one in Summerlin and the original in downtown Las Vegas.
Dining at the restaurant: Outdoor seating is available at both locations, along with limited capacity indoor seating. If you’ve got a hankering for beignets, note that they’re only available from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sundays at the Summerlin location.
Takeout: All menu items are available for takeout, including those Abita beers.
When The Black Sheep opened in 2017 in southwest Las Vegas, the industry was abuzz with anticipation. Chef Jamie Tran (who calls herself the black sheep of her family) had just left a coveted Strip position to partner with two other local hospitality veterans. The Black Sheep combines both her Vietnamese upbringing and her fine dining background and opened to instant acclaim, winning Eater Las Vegas’s “Restaurant of the Year” award. Three years and counting, diners still come for her inventive, delightful fare: salmon skin tacos filled with salmon belly tartare, or Vietnamese herb chicken served over yellow curry couscous.
Dining at the restaurant: The Black Sheep is open for indoor dining at limited capacity. Don’t miss the happy hour with special prices on drinks from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. daily. Be sure to make a reservation — Tran is about to become a household name when she competes in the 2021 season of Top Chef.
Takeout: Takeout is available through delivery apps, or by calling the restaurant for pickup.
The owners of Jammyland are Los Angeles transplants and industry veterans who quickly became Arts District fixtures. The restaurant’s enormous, dog-friendly patio is festooned with string lights and decorated with murals, offering plenty of room to socially distance around the backyard fire pits. Jammyland’s thoughtful cocktail menu has Caribbean inflections, such as an upgraded mai tai that combines rare cask rum, aged dark rum, fresh lime juice, housemade curaçao, and orgeat. To accompany those drinks, grab a bite from the Jamaican-influenced menu of small plates such as the jerk chicken wings, beef patty, or vegan-friendly “beef” patty.
Dining at the restaurant: Jammyland is closed for an extended holiday, but will reopen after Vegas’s brief winter season.
Takeout: Takeout is currently unavailable.
Other Mama (Spring Valley)
Other Mama is a seafood-centric, Asian-influenced raw bar tucked into a strip mall just west of Chinatown. James Beard Award finalist Dan Krohmer serves up super-fresh sushi and sashimi alongside plates such as Japanese fried chicken. Knowledgeable servers can tell you about the provenance of that day’s oysters in detail and are a great resource for recommendations from the restaurant’s extensive fish and cocktail menus.
Dining at the restaurant: Other Mama is open for dinner nightly, with limited indoor seating. Reservations are required and are limited to tables of four.
Takeout: Takeout is available for pickup only and can be ordered online through the restaurant’s website.
7th and Carson (Downtown)
Inspired by his upbringing working at his family’s pub in Ireland, Liam Dwyer left the corporate world to launch 7th and Carson, a downtown Las Vegas restaurant housed in a cozy brick corner spot. One of the venue’s highlights is its beautiful, tree-shaded patio out back (that also happens to be dog-friendly!). The restaurant serves approachable new American fare by chef Tracy Ritani — think braised short rib toast, street corn croquettes, and oven roasted beets — with plenty of vegetarian options to boot.
Dining at the restaurant: Both outdoor and indoor dining is available at limited capacity for brunch, lunch, and dinner. For a real local treat, book the chef’s high tea for two, which includes tea sandwiches, savory bites, and sweets with a pot of tea. The experience must be booked 24 hours in advance, and the restaurant will reimburse diners for one hour of parking with any reservation.
Takeout: 7th and Carson offers a curated list of menu items available for both pickup and delivery through the restaurant’s website, with alcohol orders for pickup only. You can also add a $5 donation to support the restaurant’s meal program for the homeless with your order.
Ohlala French Bistro (Summerlin)
Classic French bistro dishes are perennially satisfying, and Ohlala hits all the right notes, pulling from the chef’s upbringing in Provence. Located in a quiet northwest Summerlin neighborhood, Ohlala’s floor-to-ceiling windows offer a bright and comfortable setting for enjoying croque monsieurs and quiches at lunchtime. At night, the restaurant pulls its drapes and lights candles to create a romantic environment with a menu that includes moules frites, sole meunière, beef tartare, and duck magret.
Dining at the restaurant: Indoor dining is available with limited capacity. Don’t miss the weekend brunch, which includes a bottomless mimosa option.
Takeout: The full menu (with the exception of the mussels) is available for both pickup and delivery through the restaurant’s website.
Sparrow & Wolf (Chinatown)
A veteran of high-end casino restaurants, chef Brian Howard looked to his own travels and the restaurant’s Chinatown location for inspiration when he opened Sparrow & Wolf. The result is an eclectic menu of artfully plated dishes such as beef cheek and bone marrow dumplings, miso and lemon grilled oysters, and sweetbreads with shiitake mushrooms and fermented black bean sauce. The restaurant’s sleek, brass-and-tile-accented interior makes for a date night to impress.
Dining at the restaurant: Reservations are required and tables are restricted to four guests each. Stop by for dinner, weekday happy hour from 5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m., and brunch on weekends.
Takeout: Takeout is available by calling the restaurant directly. Sparrow and Wolf also has an expansive pantry program with full meal kits, fresh-baked breads, marinated meats, and house-made charcuterie and sauces. Pantry items must be ordered a day in advance.
Every Grain (Downtown)
Hidden in a strip mall just east of downtown, Every Grain is the latest endeavour by James Beard nominees Sheridan Su and Jenny Wong, and their most personal: The restaurant’s rice boxes were inspired by the Taiwanese home cooking Sheridan grew up with. The menu is anchored by a custom blend of Koshihikari (a Japanese short grain rice), forbidden black rice, brown rice, and red rice. Diners then have the option of topping each box with a variety of proteins, such lu rou fan, a homey braised pork dish, or the chefs’ beloved Hainan chicken from the pair’s recently shuttered restaurant, Flock and Fowl.
Dining at the restaurant: Every Grain does not have outdoor dining, but indoor dining is available at limited capacity. If dining inside, be sure to try one of the restaurant’s artisanal teas that are brewed to-order.
Takeout: All menu items are available for takeout, except the Hainan chicken. But fans needn’t be discouraged: you can get the Hainan chicken for pick-up if you order in-person.
Piero’s (Convention Center)
Piero’s is the 1980s Italian answer to the Golden Steer, boasting several decades of hosting power lunches and serving the Strip’s celebrities. This family-owned restaurant still serves many of the signature dishes that were on the menu the day it opened, such as osso bucco and the same linguine and clams that Frank Sinatra once ordered. Film fans may recognize Piero’s from the movie Casino, starring Robert DeNiro, which filmed many scenes in its dining room.
Dining at the restaurant: Piero’s is open for dine-in at limited capacity on Friday and Saturday evenings. A health declaration form must be filled out and signed by each guest before dining, and family-style service is only available on request. Call ahead to hear about the weekly off-menu dinner specials.
Takeout: All of Piero’s menu items are available for takeout by calling the restaurant.
Sonja Swanson is a food and culture writer based in Las Vegas via Seoul.