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Best of Vin Narayanan

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Vin's Top-10 places to eat in Las Vegas

5 April 2010

By Vin Narayanan

10. In-N-Out Burger
If you don't live out on the West Coast, this burger joint ranks as a "must eat" in Vegas. Yes, it's fast food. Yes, Las Vegas has tons of great restaurants. But the burgers here are legendary for a reason. If you haven't been to In-N-Out, make sure to eat there the next time you're in Las Vegas. It's almost a lock that once you taste the food, you'll be a fan for life.

9. Gaylord India Restaurant
I don't recommend many Indian restaurants. I grew up eating Indian food, so my standards are impossibly high. But I can recommend eating at Gaylord India Restaurant, which is located in the Rio. I make a point of eating there at least once while I'm covering the World Series of Poker, and I'm never disappointed. The service is quick, attentive and unobtrusive -- and that's a difficult trifecta to hit. And the food is absolutely excellent. Frequently served in old-school Indian copper dishes (which keeps the food appropriate warm or cool), the food at Gaylord always has the right mix of spices and flavor, which is difficult to achieve in Indian cooking.

8. Lagasse's Stadium
It might look a bit weird to have a sports bar in list of top places to eat in Las Vegas. But once you taste the food at Lagasse's Stadium, you'll understand why. Every dished served by celebrity chef Emeril Lagasse's kitchen staff is exquisitely prepared. Yes, it's bar food. But it's the best bar food you'll ever eat. Last month, I had a remarkable Virgin Mary soup that was served with small grilled cheese sandwiches. And the soup and sandwiches were the best I'd ever had -- bar none. What's more remarkable is that every dish is like that. And when you combine the remarkable atmosphere, the great Palazzo location and all those TVs -- you get a great place to eat.

7. Grotto
If you're looking for a fine Italian dining experience with a moderate price tag, the Grotto is absolutely the place to go. The Grotto, which is in the Golden Nugget, is the only restaurant on this list in downtown Las Vegas. But don't let the downtown location fool you. Eating at the Grotto is an experience comparable to any strip restaurant. The waiters know exactly which wines go with the food. The food is delicious. And the atmosphere is warm, inviting and elegant. (Read about my last trip to the Grotto).

6. Dal Toro Ristorante
Las Vegas has a plethora fine dining options. But it also has good variety of casual dining restaurants as well. And Dal Toro is at the top of that list. The food at Dal Toro -- primarily Italian -- is very good. But it's location that separates this restaurant at the Palazzo. Dal Toro has an outdoor patio that overlooks the Las Vegas Strip and is directly across the street from the big "pirate show" at Treasure Island. Diners eating outside on the patio can enjoy the TI show, the sights of the Strip and some pretty good Italian food. And if you're lucky, former Miami Dolphins coach Don Shula will be dining in the table (and chair) right next you -- like he was on my last trip to Dal Toro.

5. Capital Grille
While In-N-Out Burger is a West Coast phenomenon, The Capital Grille is primarily an east of the Mississippi place. Yes, there are a handful of locations west of the Mississippi, but work with me here people. On the East Coast, the Capital Grille is both an outstanding steakhouse and a place to been seen eating. In Las Vegas, it's just a fabulous steakhouse. And it's well worth eating at. The decor is reminiscent of the days where the rich and powerful gathered in plush, smoke-filled rooms to make the decisions that affected a nation. Only the rooms aren't smoke-filled anymore. Instead, mahogany rules, along with comfortable chairs and great food. Vegetarians will also find something delectable to eat at this steakhouse, even if it involves ordering off the menu. The service is attentive and unobtrusive. And its location in the Fashion Show Mall is convenient. If you're looking for a great dining experience, you have to try this place at least once.

4. Wynn Buffet
This is the best buffet in Las Vegas. There's no competition. It's that good. It's almost as if the best chefs in the world gathered together and tried to create a buffet experience that patrons would never forget. And they succeeded. With 16-live-action cooking stations and the most impressive array of desserts you'll ever see, the Wynn Buffet is easily the best in town.

3. Stratta
I dined at Stratta for the first time this March, and I walked away very impressed. Stratta, located next to the Wynn sportsbook, is easy to miss. But you don't want to do that. The experience is too good to pass up. Like the rest of Wynn, and Encore for that matter, intimacy is the key to Stratta's success. The dining room is small, but each diner has plenty of elbow room. The kitchen is set up so diners can peek into it from their tables. And the waiters are excellent. They know every ingredient in every dish on the menu. They know what dishes go together well. And they're experts in pairing wines with food. My dining companion for the night was a wine aficionado and wound being very impressed by the waiter's skill on that front. I ordered off the menu that night and ended up with a succulent pasta dish with a light, but spicy marinara sauce that I can't wait to have again. If you dine at Stratta, you'll walk away with happy memories. And that's the sign of a good restaurant.

2. Julian Serrano
While restaurants at the Wynn and Encore are all about intimacy, Julian Serrano -- a fantastic tapas restaurant that sits inside Aria -- is all about being part of a larger experience. It sits near the registration desk of Aria, and it feels like it's part of the greater part of CityCenter instead of a discrete dining room. You could feel the buzz of Aria, CityCenter and the casino while dining there, making it a very unique experience. But what separates Julian Serrano from the rest of the list is the food. Simply put, these were the best tapas I've ever had outside of Spain. In fact, these tapas easily rival anything I had in Spain!! My dining companions thought the paella (which I skipped) was average. But the consensus was the tapas were outstanding. The flavoring was perfect. But more important was the fact that even though we ate a ton of food (and drank plenty of sangria), we did not feel stuffed. We were comfortably full. And that's the sign of a truly great restaurant. When you can eat a ton of food and only feel full (and it all tastes great!), the chefs have done their job.

1. Sinatra's
This is the best dining experience I've ever had. But I can't possibly do justice to the experience Chef Theo Schoenegger and Sommelier Jonathan Feiler gave us in a Top-10 list. Instead, read Gary Trask's account of our dinner. And then you'll understand why Sinatra's is my pick for best place to eat in Las Vegas.

Vin Narayanan
Vin Narayanan is the managing editor at Casino City. When he's not writing or editing stories, he likes to play Chinese Poker, Badugi, Razz and any other "non-traditional" poker game. He also thinks blackjack is his best game and loves game theory.

Before joining Casino City, Vin covered (not all at the same time) sports, politics and elections, wars, technology, celebrities and the Census for USATODAY.com, USA WEEKEND and CNN.

A proud graduate of Michigan State University, Vin can be found on most nights and weekends trying to find a way to watch the Spartans play football or basketball.