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Downtown, Chinatown, The Strip: The Dish On Where To Eat

This March 21, 2014 photo shows cinnamon biscuits with warm strawberry compote at Eat in downtown Las Vegas.
(AP Photo/Hannah Drier)

This March 21, 2014 photo shows cinnamon biscuits with warm strawberry compote at Eat in downtown Las Vegas.

The question we all ask every day, sometimes three times a day is: Where or what should we eat?

And if you’re dining out, the answer is never easy because the number and variety of restaurants in Las Vegas keeps growing.

One way to help navigate the glut of gastronomical choices is through the eyes of a food critic.

Released in May, the fourth edition of “Eating Las Vegas: The 50 Essential Restaurants,” is the work of three critics: John Curtas, Greg Thilmont and Mitchell Wilburn.

The new edition delves more deeply into downtown and suburban restaurants than in past issues. Glutton and Carson Kitchen both received high praise from Thilmont and Curtas.

But don't forget Chinatown. Curtas said that is a special place in Las Vegas with great food at great prices.


What were your criteria for the 50 that made into the book?

Greg: Many of them would be perennial greatest hits. The top 10 in the 50 certainly favor the tourist corridor, but that’s because that’s where the development is. That’s where the money that’s gone into the kitchens and the dining rooms.

John: New York City has a lot of great boroughs in it but it also has downtown Manhattan where all the money is and all the great chefs are. Even if Brooklyn has some good ones.

This book is written both for locals and for the tourist who comes to town, who wants an expert opinion on the best of the best.

What is a place that is really great but relatively inexpensive?

John: I’ll start with Chinatown. Chinatown has 25 great restaurants where for the price of a martini at Wynn Encore you can get lunch for two!

There’s all kinds of great local eats now that were not here six years ago when Max, Al and I did the first edition.

On craft beer culture and coffee culture:

Greg: There is beer culture and there is coffee culture that was not here three or four years ago. I recommend and I love for people to go out and visit Crafthaus in the Henderson Booze District. Bad Beat is also out there.

And also for some reason, Henderson has got the coffee culture going on especially with Sunrise (Coffee House) and Mothership (Coffee Roasters).

John: The coffee culture here has blown up. PublicUs is just off the chain great coffee.

Best cheap restaurant:

John: That puts me on the spot because everybody knows I’m not cheap eats guy at all! I’ll tell you about the most expensive restaurants in town in a heartbeat!

Greg: Not really cheap eats, but good snacking, especially going to the bar, would be Therapy.

John: Smashed Pig is good downtown.

Greg: Not cheap, but we have a section of cheaper eats in the book.

John: If you want to talk cheap eats – go to Chinatown! I’ve been pounding this drum since 1994. Our Chinatown has also blown up. The Japanese chefs are doing fabulous work there. Go up and down Spring Mountain Road and you can eat better and more interesting food. Pho Annieon South Rainbow. Our Korean barbeque joins are having a moment right now. Three new ones just opened up. You want to eat great food for a little price go to a Korean barbeque place.

Top places downtown:

Greg: Carson Kitchen hands down.

John: Glutton hands down. The chef Bradley Manchester is there all the time. It’s as close as one is to two those two places. I’m not arguing with my colleague. They are committed chef driven restaurants. They are there at the stove. They’re meeting customers. They’re cooking. These guys aren’t empire building. They’re there cooking the food like a good old fashioned restaurant. They use the best ingredients and there’s passion you can taste on the plate.

Greg, why Carson Kitchen?    

Greg: Go try the veal meatballs with the sherry sauce and the fresh peas. It is a flagpole dish.

John: I’m officially an old fart now, so Carson Kitchen is just too noisy for me. I love the food there. 

From Desert Companion: Eat This list




John Curtas, food critic, author;  Greg Thilmont, food critic, author

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Joe Schoenmann joined Nevada Public Radio in 2014. He works with a talented team of producers at State of Nevada who explore the casino industry, sports, politics, public health and everything in between.