Don't Go To Las Vegas To Gamble -- Go For The Food

Deep fried green beans TAP sports bar mgm grandMegan Willett/Business InsiderDeep-fried green beans at MGM Grand’s TAP Sports Bar.

Most people associate the bright lights of Las Vegas with gambling and outrageous nightlife.

But stop going to Vegas to gamble — go for the food.

Las Vegas has always been an under-the-radar oasis for foodies, with high-end options like Joël Robuchon, Guy Savoy, and Thomas Keller’s Bouchon Bistro.

And tourists have started to take note. Gaming has gone from 60% of revenue in 1970 to 37% of revenue in 2013. “The Las Vegas market has clearly shifted to be something else beyond just a casino market, driven by conventions, shows, hotel rooms, and savvy marketing,” reads an excerpt from a research note from Morgan Stanley.

And though the above chart illustrates that the amount of money spent on Vegas restaurants has remained relatively constant, what it doesn’t show is that the taste in cuisine is shifting.

More than 60 new restaurants have opened, been designed, or plan to open in Las Vegas, according to Travel & Leisure. Many of these are affordable establishments with entrées in the $US15-$30 range.

It makes sense that the food scene is expanding: Thanks to Vegas’ nearly 40 million annual tourists, the restaurant industry rakes in an estimated $US8 billion annually, according to Applied Analysis. The demand for great, attainable food is there, and the city has begun to deliver.

Contrast this with a decade ago, when the Vegas culinary scene was an arms race for hotels on the Strip to acquire a five-star restaurant. “When I first came 10 years ago, we felt a sort of competition between the restaurants that were within the casinos to set up these quality restaurants,” Joël Robuchon told Business Insider.

MGM Grand did ultimately open a Joël Robuchon, as well as Robuchon’s L’Atelier, both of which now boast Michelin stars. For more ultra-high-end dining the Strip, the Bellagio has Picasso, a restaurant filled with works by the late artist, the Mandarin Oriental has highly-rated Twist, Aria has barMASA and Jean Georges Steakhouse, and Caesars Palace has Guy Savoy. The list goes on and on.

If you want to break the bank to eat amazing food, Las Vegas has you covered.

But whereas it used to be all about the fine dining, Vegas restaurants today are placing more value on quality food at affordable prices. Hotels now have sports bars, buffets, and sushi spots with ridiculously good food, and these places are mere doors away from the fine dining powerhouses that used to dominate the scene.

Bellagio buffet las vegasMegan Willett/Business InsiderThe scene at Bellagio’s Buffet, which can seat almost 600 people and has a huge selection.

And then of course, there’s the true heart of the Las Vegas culinary scene, which has also seen a revamp: the buffets. From the huge selection at theBellagio Buffetto the amazing food at the Cosmopolitan’sWicked Spoonand the high-class fare at the Bellagio’sJasmine, Vegas buffets are shaking their abysmal reputations.

There’s no doubt the food scene in Las Vegas will continue to get better as new restaurants open on the strip and add to the city’s burgeoning foodie culture.

So the next time you’re in Sin City, skip the sinning and get right to the food.

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