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7.1 Restaurants: The choices you have
Some statistics. It has been estimated that there are over a thousand different places where you can eat in Las Vegas. Couple that with the fact that at any given time, there are more than 250,000 visitors who must eat and you can see the magnitude of dining in Las Vegas. Restaurant choices are limitless.
When we go to Las Vegas, we plan on only two meals. Breakfast (around 8 a.m.) at an all-you-can-eat buffet and dinner at a moderately priced restaurant. On one night we treat ourselves to a very fine restaurant. We always make advance reservations for dinner before we leave home for Las Vegas. If we need to eat in-between, we snack "somewhere." We plan some activity (sightseeing, tours, shopping ...whatever) during the day ...and a show (at least one of which is "expensive") after dinner.
We have a set itinerary day-by-day before we go. We do not leave much to chance. The system has worked over many years and dozens of visits.
Las Vegas Buffets
Las Vegas used to be known primarily for its legendary buffets. They are everywhere ...some are better than others. One thing for sure. There is no better food value in Las Vegas ...they offer a wide variety of food at a very reasonable price! Buffets got their start in the 1940's at the original El Rancho Vegas Hotel as a way to keep guests from wandering off to other hotels and restaurants. We will cover buffet choices in the next section.
In recent years, Las Vegas has branched out from its buffet beginnings to include restaurants of all types and price points ...from inexpensive hotel "coffee shops," fast food and chain restaurants ...to expensive gourmet restaurants featuring celebrity chefs such as Emeril Lagasse. In Las Vegas there is a restaurant for every pocketbook.
Choosing Where to Eat
With so many restaurants to choose from, it is important to plan ahead. It will save you a lot of time and effort. Deciding on a restaurant while you are on vacation is not easy ...especially if you are not familiar with the layout of the city. There are basically four Strip areas in which to eat: South Strip, Center Strip, North Strip and Downtown. We suggest that you dine somewhere close to the activity or show you will be seeing that evening. That means selecting the restaurant after you make your show reservations or evening plans. Start by preparing a list of nearby restaurants.
A good place to start is a Las Vegas dining search engine that lets you select the cuisine (food type) by location, price point and meal served (that is, breakfast, brunch, lunch or dinner.) The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA) has a good one here. You simply select the various options and up comes a list of suggestions along with a link to the restaurant’s website. We like this one because it lists all price points ...not just the expensive restaurants ...or those that paid to be included.
There are some websites that allow you to make reservations at various restaurants over the Internet. But we prefer to call the restaurant and obtain the name of the person that made our reservations.
Restaurant Tipping Guide
Tipping is a way of life in Las Vegas, including restaurants and bars. Bartenders - $1 per drink or 10 to 15% of the total tab if you drink at the bar. Cocktail waitresses - $1 per drink if they come to your table. Restaurant waiters and waitresses - 15% of the total check for "standard" service, 20% for impecable, top notch service.
If you are sitting at the bar or in the lounge, you’ll still want to tip like you’re at dinner. This is especially true if you have been hanging around for a few hours. In Las Vegas, 20 percent is the go-to tip amount but the amount may be slightly lower depending on service quality. However, if you are sitting at the bar you may want to give the bartender a little extra attention. Consider giving about $1 tip for each drink provided. If you really want to stand out, $2 a drink will get you better service.
Don’t forget to bring a few bucks to tip the restroom attendant in whichever restaurant you choose. Most fine dining establishments have restroom attendants in the bathroom who will hand you a paper towel or supply a bobby pin or mint. Don’t overlook this service. Before leaving the restroom, consider throwing a dollar or two tip their way.
Finally, you’ll always want to tip your cocktail waitress. Much like your bartender, a good tip is about $1 per drink. You’ll want to provide a tip even if the establishment you’re in provided you with comped drinks. In addition, you’ll want to tip the valet who parked your car when you arrived at the restaurant.