In a city where the new thing is sometimes the only thing, those hoping to share hot new nuggets with their group have a lot to choose from.

The biggest thing to hit The Strip last year was the opening of the $375 million T-Mobile Arena—home to the National Hockey League expansion team the Vegas Golden Knights—and adjoining retail and dining space, The Park. The 650,000-square-foot arena can hold 20,000 people and feeds them in the 18,000-square-foot Hyde Lounge.

Celebrity mixologist Tony Abou-Ganim designed the signature cocktails for the venue. More than 50 club seats and 44 luxury boxes offer VIP and group options. Two outdoor stages at the Toshiba Plaza entrance can also be rented for events. The adjoining retail strip features casual outdoor dining. The development is a collaboration between MGM Resorts International and Anschutz Entertainment Group and designed to impress. A private event space for up to 500 people at the new Sake Rok offers balcony-style views of arena activities.

Photo of Lucky Dragon Hotel and Casino, Las Vegas

Lucky Dragon Hotel and Casino opened at the end of last year at the north end of The Strip. The 204-room property is marketed as an “authentic Asian cultural and gaming experience.” It features an outdoor Tea Garden with teas curated by Vegas’ only tea sommelier and five Asian-inspired restaurants, including a “night market.”
The long-awaited arrival of W Las Vegas as a tower inside SLS Las Vegas in the former Sahara space at the north end of The Strip includes celebrity chef Katsuya Uechi’s Katsuya sushi innovation plus two 5,000-square-foot convention rooms in walking distance to Las Vegas Convention Center.

Meanwhile, at Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino, James Beard Foundation award-winning chef Shawn McClain recently opened Libertine Social gastropub.

By late 2018, Monte Carlo Resort and Casino will rebrand as two hotels, NoMad Las Vegas and Park MGM. The transformation will unveil two new restaurants, including an outpost of New York City’s Eataly market, a food market, fishmonger, espresso bar, vegetable butcher and restaurant The New York Times called an Italian food hall. In the meantime, the new Park Theater inside Monte Carlo will entertain groups between performances from Bruno Mars, Cher and Ricky Martin.

Wynn Plaza is currently building out more than 75,000 sq. ft. of street-facing luxury retail and restaurant space at a price of $54 million. This is in addition to the $1.5 billion, 1,000-room expansion of the nameplate hotel known as Paradise Park. When it opens in 2018, rumors are that the Manhattan glitterati haunt Cipriani and L.A. experiential coffeehouse Urth Caffe could take their place next to Tableau, Andrea’s, Mizumi and Sinatra.

Over at Aria Resort & Casino, $154 million is what it will take to cook up an additional 200,000 sq. ft. of new, technologically advanced, flexible meeting space across four stories. This LEED Gold option is steps away from Julian Serrano Tapas, with its classic Spanish masterpieces of seafood, and will open in February 2018.

This winter, Gordon Ramsay will open a 300-seat Hell’s Kitchen restaurant, named after his popular television show at Caesars Palace. He will be joined next year by Charles Phan with San Francisco’s modern Vietnamese favorite, The Slanted Door. Another celebrity chef, Robert Irvine, will open Public House, his pub concept, in Tropicana Las Vegas this year.
Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas recently welcomed guests to three new restaurants. Momofuku, David Chang’s first West Coast venture; Christina Tosi’s Milk Bar bakery; and Rainer Becker’s Zuma sushi bar and robata grill.

Just off The Strip, Red Rock Resorts’ face-lift and 33,000 sq. ft. of new space at Palace Station will include new meeting and convention space, a new 14,446-square-foot buffet dining room, two new restaurants and a 9,099-square-foot bingo hall. They should all be “soup-ed up” by 2018.

From the remains of the former Stardust, Malaysia-based Genting Group is investing $4 billion in Resorts World Las Vegas to create a 3,000-room, modern Chinese-style tower complex that will open in 2020.

Farther off The Strip, Alexis Park Resort, the only major nongaming venue, will begin renovation of its 496 suites and 50,000 sq. ft. of meeting space in November.

Celebrity Beginnings

Jim Begley, a food and drink enthusiast who writes for the in-hotel magazine, About Las Vegas, remembers the days when visitors had only three options for eating on The Strip: coffee shops, steakhouses and buffets. Then, in 1992, chef-to-the-stars Wolfgang Puck brought his seasonal cuisine and global influences to town with the opening of Spago at The Forum Shops at Caesars.

fresh food las vegas

Photo of Picasso Restaurant at Bellagio Las Vegas

Steve Wynn raised the bar on the idea of celebrity chefs-in-residence when he convinced superstar chefs Todd English, Jean Georges Vongerichten and Michael Mina to open branded eateries at Bellagio Las Vegas. He went on to set international dining standards with the creation of Picasso under Julian Serrano, a name that has become synonymous with award-winning cuisine. Wynn eventually sold his property to MGM Resorts International, but when he opened his eponymous resort, the rule was that the chefs had to be physically at the property and many became part of the community, nurturing a new generation of culinary talent in the desert.

“That ignited an arms race,” Begley says. Now images of celebrity chefs flash larger than life on marquees along with musical acts. Giada de Laurentiis (The Cromwell Hotel), Bobby Flay (Caesars Palace Las Vegas), Guy Savoy (Caesars Palace), Tom Colicchio (MGM Grand Las Vegas Hotel & Casino and Mirage), Mario Batali (The Venetian and The Palazzo), Emeril Lagasse (MGM Grand initially and now at The Venetian and The Palazzo), and, as of last October, Iron Chef Morimoto (MGM Grand), turned their kitchen credentials into big draws for a city that used to be known for a different type of sin.

It was not all wine and rosemary, however. The recession hit the travel industry—and Las Vegas in particular—hard. That ended up being good news for the local foodie scene. When things slowed down in 2008, restaurants let a lot of that top, expensive talent go. Some creative cooks filtered to the neighborhoods where they began starting off-The Strip restaurants such as chef Sheridan Su’s classic-American-diner-meets-Asian-comfort-food concept restaurant Fat Choy and Mitsuo Endo’s charcoal grill house Aburiya Raku.

As the local economy has started bouncing back, some of the talent is returning to the glass towers, Begley says. Still, some chefs enjoy the opportunities for creativity away from The Strip, so stepping away from the neon could have its benefits for an adventurous group.

Further Reading:

Nevada Meetings: Served on a Silver Platter