Las Vegas is known for great gambling, great golf and great food. We asked several Vegas-area celebs and golf pros -- such as comedian Bill Engvall, author Jack Sheehan and LPGA star Natalie Gulbis -- what their favorite restaurants are.
Whether it's golf or fine dining, you'll find the best of the best in Las Vegas. Don't believe us? Just ask some of the folks who live here or spend a great deal of time in the bright lights.
You'll find their tastes, and their golf games, are varied. But one thing's for sure -- you will definitely find a course (when you're dining) that will fit your eye ... and your stomach.
Going through e-mail addresses and phone numbers, we sent out a few messages to gauge the responses from PGA and LPGA pros, writers and others to see where they spend their free time when they entertain family and friends in Vegas.
Start with "A" and roll all the way to "Z," and you'll find a cuisine to match your hunger. Here are a few to sample as appetizers.
But when it comes to the one he calls his favorite, it's a slam dunk you'll find him off The Strip.
"I like to take family members or guests to Battista's Hole in the Wall restaurant (www.battistaslasvegas.com), located in a tiny shopping mall just north of Bally's Hotel," he said. "It's a reasonably priced Italian restaurant with a diverse menu, and tons of Las Vegas memorabilia and antiques everywhere you look. There's a tiny older gentleman who plays the accordion and strolls from table to table, and he'll take requests, although whenever there's small kids at the table he'll play the Disney song, 'It's a Small World.'
"If you don't have a specific request, you're likely to get 'Take Me Out to the Ballgame' or the theme from 'The Godfather.' We joke that he gets shorter each time we're there because he's so bogged down from all the cash in his pockets. The food is good, the price is right, and you can get in and out in 90 minutes -- all important characteristics for someone looking to go to a late show or explore late-night life on the Strip."
PGA Tour player Bill Lunde -- a former standout at UNLV -- has a special place he and his wife frequent and, it's one he would recommend for that special occasion.
"Olives, located in the Bellagio hotel (http://www.bellagio.com/restaurants/olives.aspx), is an Italian restaurant that offers amazing food, a front row seat for the water show and a great wine," Lunde said. "It's the kind of place to go with a group of friends or for a quiet dinner with someone special. Once we get to Olives, we always wait for outside seating, which offers an amazing vantage point for the water show that plays every half hour in the lake in front of the Bellagio.
"They have heaters outside in the winter months, and cool air comes off the lake in the summer offering some relief from the summer heat. My wife and I always start by ordering a bottle of red wine, a pinot noir called George. The wine goes great with our favorite appetizer, Beef Carpaccio, which is the best I have ever had. By the time we have finished that we have already seen the amazing water show while enjoying some wine, setting the mood for an unforgettable night.
"A couple of favorite entrees of mine are the char grilled ribeye or the Kurobuta pork medallions. You can't go wrong with either one. My wife always gets one of the many different pasta dishes they offer, and she has never had one complaint. The dessert options vary each time we go, but we never leave without sharing one."
Another former Rebel, and a teammate of Lunde's while at UNLV, Charley Hoffman has become a force on the PGA Tour and knows his way around the Vegas fairways -- and the dining scene.
"My favorite place to eat on the Strip is Joe's Seafood, Prime Steak & Stone Crab restaurant (www.joes.net) in Caesars Palace," he said. "The food is excellent and the overall dining experience is far above your average restaurant which truly makes it a fine dining experience. We like to try and sit in Martha's section. She has been with the restaurant for years and in my opinion is one of the best servers I have ever had wait on me throughout all my dining out experiences -- which is a lot with how much we are on the road. My wife and I like to go to Joe's for a quiet date night, a special occasion or just when we are in the mood for a crab. We also like to take friends who are visiting from out of town. Everything on the menu is so good that we often order family style, especially when we are with friends, so we can have a little bit of everything. Here our favorite things to order:
The Stone Crab is a must, even if you order it as an appetizer to share; the vegetable chopped salad; the Dover sole; the New York strip steak; Joe's grilled tomatoes, and I love their Key Lime Pie -- but often don't have room to order it."
Gulbis, a star on the LPGA Tour, has a home at Lake Las Vegas and will check out the Vegas food scene whenever she's in town. She's a steak girl, and her choices are two great ones.
"Vegas has the best restaurants in the world. We are very lucky," she said. "I usually go to steakhouses. Every hotel casino has one. My two favorites: Palm Steakhouse (www.thepalm.com) in the Caesars Forum Shops -- the food is amazing, and there are private tables with flat screen TVs; I usually order the filet or lobster -- and N9ne Steakhouse (www.n9negroup.com). Steak or fish, everything is fantastic! My favorite dessert is its s'mores. It's a fun, classic, nice steakhouse that has great energy and atmosphere."
Another golf writer friend, GOLF Magazine's "Travelin'" Joe Passov, has, as you might guess, quite a way with words. Especially when talking about food and golf.
"Las Vegas boasts such a staggering array of great dining experiences, it's almost impossible to whittle it down to one favorite," he said. "Since you pressed me, however, I'll pick Rao's at Caesars Palace (www.raos.com). Try getting into the NYC-area original and you'll hear one response: 'Fuhgettabout it.'
"Located on the edge of Harlem, the godfather of classic neighborhood Italian eateries has room for only 10 tables -- with one seating only -- and it's nearly always reserved, all the time. Getting a meal there is like scoring a tee time at Augusta National. It's brutally tough, but it's worth the fuss. When the Las Vegas version opened a few years back, I couldn't wait to try it. It didn't disappoint. Most regulars swear by Rao's signature homemade meatballs dunked in tomato sauce, as well as by a dish known as Uncle Vincent's Famous Lemon Chicken. Both are stellar, I can attest. Nevertheless, the entree that brings me back is the Veal Parmesan. It's not presented in the usual cutlet fashion but rather as a giant chop, on the bone, like something out of an Italian version of 'The Flintstones.'
"It comes breaded, with tangy-sweet marinara sauce and oozing with melted mozzarella. How they get a cut of meat so large to be so tender is beyond my grasp -- but they do. Oh, and the 'Sopranos'-like vibe at Rao's is real: Co-owner Frank Pellegrino had a prominent role on the series for nearly its entire run. Okay, now I'm hungry again."
Seema Sadekar, one of the top female Vegas golfers and a current star on the Golf Channel's hit show "Big Break Sandals Resorts," goes upscale when her family and friends hit the town.
"Aside from golf and snuggling with my animals, eating is a close third on my list of favorite things to do," she said. "Playing on the Duramed Futures Tour and the CN Canadian Tour allows me to travel North America and tee it up at a different course each wee, and dine at different restaurants, too.
"If I want to go and hang out with my girlfriends or just have a few appetizers with my sister, I always choose Nove Italiano at the Palms Hotel and Casino (www.palms.com/dining/restaurants/Nove-Italiano). It is located in the new Fantasy Tower on the third-highest floor, with diamond curtains and luxury tan candles wrapped around the entire restaurant that overlooks the Strip. Chef Geno Bernardo is a golfer himself, and he makes a mean calamari and a scrumptiously juicy steak. Basically, Nove is a million-dollar view with mouth-watering apps and entrees that will change the way you do Vegas.
"When I am feeling ultra fancy, I go to Alex at Wynn, located at the Wynn Resort and Casino. Set in the older tower, it is extravagantly phenomenal. It has the best wines, the dirtiest martinis, and the silverware and dining sets are fit for a princess -- like me. The food is beyond words, and the service is royal; just make sure to block off four-hours or so to soak this experience in. Simply divine!"
One of the best comedians anywhere, Engvall was on the go and heading to Greece for vacation. He kept it short and simple in his e-mail response:
"The one that I really enjoy going to is that great old Italian place (another vote for Battista's Hole in the Wall restaurant) that is right behind the (former) Barbary Coast. We also really like the Aureole Restaurant (www.aureolelv.com) where the girls ride swings up and down the wine tower."
As for a favorite dish, that was easy: "I love everything," he said.
Having known Engvall for four years, I was waiting for a joke or two ... or at least a punchline. One never came. It just goes to show you that when it comes to fine dining in Las Vegas, it's no joking matter.
September 3, 2010