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10 of the Best Diners and Ethnic Restaurants in Las VegasNovember 18, 2011
Sarah Miller, The Guardian, November 17, 2011
With its gold banquette, green chairs and soft red bar stools, The Henry occupies its little corner of the Strip's hot, new Cosmopolitan Hotel with cheerful sophistication. It's billed as a high-end neo-diner, where "old classics are revamped", and the menu has the obligatory moments of pretension – ingredients are "sourced", avocado and onion are classified under the heading "garden". All is forgiven when the food arrives: succulent burgers; crisp, salty fries; tender, glistening short ribs on a bed of tasty mashed potatoes. If revamped means more delicious than usual, well, we'll live with the side order of foodie posturing.
• The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas, 3708 Las Vegas Boulevard South, +1 702 698 7000, cosmopolitanhotellasvegas.com, main courses from $17. Open Mon-Fri 6am-4pm; Sat-Sun 6am-6am
Omelettes are tricky. Sometimes they're too hard, sometimes too wet, sometimes they don't have enough stuff. But Omelet House has omelettes sorted. This is not just because they have about 30 kinds (classics such as the Western share space with originals like the Loch-Ness Monster, whose name seems to have little to do with its shrimp, cheddar and avocado filling) but because they have really struck that balance between fluffy-ness, eggy-ness, and cheesy-ness – and hot, homemade pumpkin or banana bread is brought before your meal. The panelling, dark, clunky furniture and framed reviews comprise a decor probably unchanged since the place opened in 1978. That Vegas's mayor comes here regularly inspires confidence – in him.
• 2160 West Charleston, +1 702 384 6868, omelethouse.net, omelettes from $7.19, hamburgers from $6.39. Open daily 7am-3pm
You have to get the trout and eggs here: it's a rite of passage. Two golden pieces of trout are cooked on a grill in front of you as you sit at the counter with the Motels, Journey and the Eagles play from a radio – yes, a radio – in the kitchen. It's unclear what kind of oil is being ladled onto the grill, but anything being done in front of your face can't be too sinister, right? At any rate, no amount of hipster irony can prepare you for a place so utterly out of time. The clock belongs on the wall of a classroom or union hall, Tiffany-style lamps over the dining area bring new meaning to the term low-hanging fruit, and liver and onions is not only on the menu, but people actually order it.
• 1700 Las Vegas Boulevard South, +1 702 444 4459, no website, hamburgers from $4.95, speciality hamburgers $8.15. Open daily, 24hrs
Lorin Watada was a chef for an Asian fusion chain called Roy's before he escaped in 2010, brilliance intact, to open Bachi Burger in a Henderson mini-mall. It's a sparse place with spotless concrete floors, sparkling windows looking out to sunlight and suburbia, and Asian-themed burgers crafted with a risky but totally successful imagination. The Bahn-Mi burger – ground beef, pork, shrimp, lemon grass, coriander (and more) – is a deserved favourite but the grilled Bachi Loch Duarte salmon with bacon and ponzu vinaigrette is a serious revelation, salty, sweet, and messy.
• 470 East Windmill Lane, Suite 100, +1 702 242 2244, bachiburger.com, Bahn-Mi burger $9.99, pork belly steamed buns $10. Open Sun-Mon noon-10pm, Tues-Sat 11am-midnight
The Original Sunrise Cafe
It's probably impossible to have a bad day after eating at this popular diner on Vegas's suburban south-east side. The yellow decor's so cheery, the coffee's good, and the menu has cutely named items such as the Bueno Ben and the Peter Brady. At the next table, a kid licks maple whipped cream off his pinkie and says in a serious tone: "I think these are the best pancakes I've ever had." Eggs Benedict, rumoured to be topped with the best hollandaise sauce in town, are steaming hot, creamy and fresh-tasting.
• 8975 South Eastern, Suite 5, +1 702 257 8877, eatatsunrise.com, eggs benedict or classic breakfast both $7.99, blueberry pancakes $8.99. Open daily 7am-3pm
Since this is the best and the cheapest place for 24-hour service of enormous and totally decent piles of eggs, hash browns and toast, it follows that at any given time a significant portion of its patrons are drunk. Still, this is a very mellow joint. There's something soothing about the pink, violet, and jade stripes in the neon decorations. It's nice of Vegas to have considered that visitors who spend hours abusing themselves by ingesting poison and bleeding money need a place where their coffee is refilled after almost every sip – you may have forsaken yourself, but the Peppermill still cares. So much so, in fact, that the other half of this place, the Fireside Lounge, is a bar.
• 2985 Las Vegas Boulevard South, +1 702 735 4177, peppermilllasvegas.com, breakfast from $11, burgers $12, mains from $16. Open daily, 24hrs
A great place to go if you have arrived in Vegas late at night, even if encumbered by offspring. The walk through the hotel provides a powerful but quick dose of Vegas – giant fake boobs, acres of hair, hammered people screaming about really ugly tattoos they're about to get. Then, escape into the more wholesome, brighter, less-alcohol-soaked atmosphere of Mr Lucky's. Adults should order the $7.77 special (not on the menu) which consists of a pretty righteous steak at that price, three shrimp and some after-thoughty potatoes. Make the kids order the nachos – the combination of real cheese and a sort of cheese product is a metaphor for Vegas itself.
• Hard Rock Hotel, 4455 Paradise Road, +1 702 693 5000, hardrockhotel.com, steak and eggs $4.99, french toast $9.99. Open daily, 24hrs.
Japanese food fans eager to explore beyond both the Strip – and sushi – into the fascinating world of Japanese comfort food will love this teeny-tiny Chinatown restaurant, and hopefully not perish of hunger waiting for a table. Bacon-wrapped mochi (rice cakes), agedashi tofu, salmon sashimi, honey toast and powerful green tea… this slightly weird, very wonderful food is enhanced by the good-looking young Japanese people who serve it. It's the sort of place a celebrity chef goes after work to unwind.
• 4355 Spring Mountain Road, +1 702 367 3151, no website, mains from $10. Open daily 11am-4am
The Beat Cafe
Diners are great places to eat, but not one of the places on this list makes a cup of coffee you'd mention afterwards. The latte at the Beat however – the space was once the waiting room of a medical clinic – is top notch. Everyone makes a big deal about the sandwiches here: $2 for a peanut butter, jelly, bacon, and jalapeno sandwich, but it's the $2 coffee that keeps the punters coming. Look out for the asymmetric haircuts and ironic Van Hagar T-shirts – hipsterness is boring elsewhere but in Vegas, where most of the people-watching involves amazement at the size of hair, boobs, or obesity, it's an exciting thing to be in the presence of.
• 520 Fremont Street, Suite 101, +1 702 409 5563, thebeatlv.com, mains from $5.99, salads from $3.99. Open Mon-Fri 7am-midnight, Sat 9am-midnight, Sun 9am-5pm
Pura Vida Bakery and Bystro
This new and optimistic place in downtown Vegas has the sort of zippy, hey, not eating meat gives us a lot of energy (and interesting hair!) vibe you'd expect. But whether you're animal-product averse, love someone who is or are just curious, this is a good restaurant, period. French toast is cinnamon-y and a little nutty, in a good way, pancakes fluffy, veggie sausage spicy; strong coffee supplants the high usually achieved from ingesting flesh. The place can be cramped, a little warm and a little DIY-ish, but in Vegas, home of climate-controlled, focus-grouped "perfection", these things, along with the pierced and slightly tattered, non-surgically enhanced locals, are welcome.
• 1236 Western Avenue, +1 702 722 0108, puravidavegas.com, waffles, pancakes and french toast from $8.99, weekend brunch from $12.99. Open Mon-Fri 7am-4pm, Sat-Sun 9am-2pm
• Sarah Miller is definitely a Nevada-based writer and author