October 24, 2014

Survival Tips & Vegas Eats | ALA 2014 Preview

ljx140601webALAsurvive1 Survival Tips & Vegas Eats | ALA 2014 Preview

Since Las Vegas is a new venue for ALA’s annual conference, many librarians may be first-time visitors. Vegas veteran Jeanne Goodrich, executive director of the Las Vegas–Clark County Library District, offers her advice for how to survive and thrive in the heat.

  • Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. Late June can be the hottest time of the year in Las Vegas. Drink and carry plenty of water.
  • Wear lip stuff, moisturizer, sunscreen.
  • Don a hat and sunglasses outside.
  • Wear comfortable shoes.
  • Take a sweater for overly air-conditioned inside spots.
  • Don’t think you can walk between venues. Most of the tourist maps are not to scale, and even a mile in the heat can be debilitating.
  • The venues are very large; it can take 25 minutes to walk from your hotel room to the front desk in some hotels.
  • Good news: parking is free at casinos, via either self-park or valet service (please tip: $2 to $5 is fine).

There are lots of things for families and kids to do in Las Vegas, but it is an area that caters to adult-oriented entertainment. Be prepared to see lots of advertisements that you may not be accustomed to seeing. The First Amendment is alive and well in Las Vegas!

ljx140601webALAsurvive3b Survival Tips & Vegas Eats | ALA 2014 PreviewOff the beaten strip

While Las Vegas is justifiably famous for its casinos and the spectacular shows it hosts, Goodrich also offers some alternative advice on what to see while you’re in town.

  • Visit the Mob Museum, the Atomic Testing Museum, or the Pinball Hall of Fame. The Liberace Museum, alas, has closed.
  • If you love neon (and who doesn’t?), visit the Neon Museum and Boneyard. Guided tours only; you must book in advance. It’s across the street from our Las Vegas branch library. Refurbished neon is also viewable in the Fremont Street area and along the Cultural Corridor on Las Vegas Boulevard North. This area has been named a National Scenic Byway.
  • ljx140601webALAsurvive2b Survival Tips & Vegas Eats | ALA 2014 PreviewVisit Fremont Street (downtown Las Vegas). East Fremont is the place for the young and hip: lots of bars and fun places like Insert Coins, which has new and vintage video games as well as bar and food.
  • Visit Container Park (developed by Tony Hsieh of Zappos and his Downtown Project). You can buy a gold nugget from the gold nugget vending machine at, where else, the Golden Nugget.
  • Best pancakes in town: Golden Gate Casino coffee shop, Fremont Street.
  • If you’re bringing kids, the DISCOVERY Children’s Museum is a fabulous educational and cultural attraction…and really fun! Located in the Smith Center complex downtown.

ljx140601webALAeat1 Survival Tips & Vegas Eats | ALA 2014 PreviewLas Vegas is one of America’s hottest restaurant markets. Restaurant review publisher Fodor’s shared the following selection of dining choices with LJ’s readers.

ljx140601webALAeat2 Survival Tips & Vegas Eats | ALA 2014 PreviewFodor’s editors advise that reservations at dinner (and occasionally even at lunch) have become a necessity in many cases. If you have your heart set on dinner at any of the celeb-helmed joints at the bigger Strip casinos, you should book several days, or even a couple of weeks, ahead. On weekends and during other busy times, even at restaurants where reservations aren’t absolutely essential, it’s still prudent to phone ahead for a table.

Prices listed are the average cost for a main dinner entrée, excluding taxes.

Top Picks On the Strip

Caesar’s Palace

Gordon Ramsay’s Pub & Grill. Three things stand out at this comfortable, casual restaurant: the libations, the cheery across-the-pond ambience, and the elevated British pub grub—in that order. The cocktails are strong and diverse, with names like London Calling and God Save the Queen. Choose from 99 brews, and hum along with classic Brit pop and rock tunes while watching soccer on any of numerous flat-screen tellys. Grilled burgers, sandwiches, soups, and salads follow notable starters such as warm, salty pretzels with zesty cheese and mustard and scotch or deviled eggs with house-made horseradish and ketchup. The pot pie sampler (chicken, lamb, beef), crispy fish-and-chips, and lobster mac and cheese are standouts. 3570 Las Vegas Blvd. S.; 702-731-7410. $28

ljx140601webALAeat3b Survival Tips & Vegas Eats | ALA 2014 PreviewSpago Las Vegas. Just as Steve Wynn ushered in the age of the Vegas megaresort with the Mirage, Wolfgang Puck sparked the celebrity-chef boom when he opened a branch of his famous Beverly Hills eatery at Caesar’s Forum Shops in 1992. Spago Las Vegas has remained a fixture in this ever-fickle city, and it remains consistently superb. It’s fronted by the less expensive café, which is great for people-watching at the Forum; inside, the dinner-only dining room is more intimate. Both menus are classic Puck: in the café, sample Puck’s signature pizzas and dishes such as Thai-style chicken salad. Options for the dining room might include pan-seared duck breast with spinach and chanterelle mushrooms or grilled French sea bass with butternut squash puree. 3500 Las Vegas Blvd. S.; 702-369-6300. $45

The Cosmopolitan

FODOR’S CHOICE Comme Ça. The menu at this popular and comfy-casual David Myers restaurant is approachable and innovative. There are daily chalkboard specials, while the regular menu might include roasted beef marrow and oxtail jam with parsley, lemon, and shallots; bouillabaisse teeming with octopus, clams, shrimp, and mussels; and two styles of steak frites. With part of the dining room cantilevered over the sidewalk below, the restaurant has a commanding third-floor view of the Strip. 3708 Las Vegas Blvd. S.; 702-698-7000. $39

The Palazzo

I Love Burgers. At lunchtime, many denizens of the surrounding mall like to relax and refuel in this large, lively restaurant that is short on décor but long on flavor. Whet your appetite with the fried mac ’n’ cheese bites; crispy, dill tempura–battered fried pickle slices; or a trio of sliders to share. There are several varieties of fries you can order to accompany juicy beef or specialty burgers such as ground Wagyu with truffle cheese. There are leaner choices, too, such as salmon, veggie, turkey, and even buffalo burgers or soup and salad. The milkshakes, slushies, and smoothies are addicting. A multitude of domestic, imported, and artisan beers are also available. 3325 Las Vegas Blvd. S.; 702-791-1800. $19

The Venetian

Bouchon. French Laundry chef Thomas Keller is the star behind this stunning French bistro and oyster bar in the Venezia Tower. Soaring Palladian windows, antique lighting, a pewter-topped bar, and painted tile create a sophisticated take on French country design. A charming garden outside is perfect for a postmeal stroll. Return for breakfast or brunch, when you might try bread pudding–style French toast or a smoked salmon baguette. Bouchon has three freestanding bakeries in the Venetian, offering breads, pastries, and confections. 3355 Las Vegas Blvd. S., Venezia Tower, 10th fl.; 702-414-6200. $35

Wynn Las Vegas

FODOR’S CHOICE Wing Lei. With all the panache of an Asian royal palace, this recently renovated fine-dining restaurant serves some of the choicest Chinese food on the Strip. Chefs present contemporary French-inspired cuisine that blends Cantonese, Shanghai, and Sichuan traditions. 3131 Las Vegas Blvd. S.; 702-248-3463. $44

Tableau. Isolated from the busier parts of the Wynn, this bright, airy restaurant overlooks a serene pool and well-manicured garden off the gleaming Tower Suites lobby. For breakfast you might try duck hash and eggs, banana sour cream pancakes drizzled with warm maple syrup, or eggs Benedict with smoked salmon and chive hollandaise. For lunch, try items such as the soft-shell crab sandwich or the steak salad with port wine onions and crispy potatoes. 3131 Las Vegas Blvd. S.; 702-770-3463. $22

Top Picks Off the Strip

ljx140601webALAeat4b Survival Tips & Vegas Eats | ALA 2014 PreviewENVY Steakhouse. A hip restaurant at the elegant Renaissance Las Vegas, ENVY offers an update of the steakhouse concept. The contemporary dining room is bathed in jewel tones, and the young and knowledgeable staff are quick to explain the creative cuisine or suggest wines from the 1,500-bottle repertoire. Among the sides, consider the positively addictive truffle-Parmesan fries; pair them with a 40-ounce tomahawk chop, or any of a number of more average-size steaks. Other choices include pan-seared Chilean sea bass with a truffle-butter crust, braised oxtail spaghetti, and vegetarian lasagna. 3400 Paradise Rd.; 702-784-5716. $38

FODOR’S CHOICE Lotus of Siam. This simple Thai restaurant has attained near-fanatical cult status. Consider the starter of marinated prawns, which are wrapped with bacon and rice-paper crepes, then deep-fried and served with a tangy sweet-and-sour sauce. For a main course, try dishes such as charbroiled beef liver mixed with green onion and chile, or the chicken and vegetables with Issan-style red curry. Be warned—some of the dishes may very well be the spiciest you’ve ever had. Another of Lotus’s surprises is the phenomenal wine list, on which you might find a vintage to cool your palate. 953 E. Sahara Ave.; 702-735-3033. $25

Roy’s. A popular import from Hawaii, Roy’s is plush without feeling pretentious or overdone—a good bet for a relaxed, elegant meal. You enter the restaurant along a torch-lit lane, and a highly professional, friendly staff work the bustling dining room. Executive Chef Roy Yamaguchi has become synonymous with creative Hawaiian fusion fare, such as the ahi poke, lilikoi pear salad, or sesame-crusted ono. There’s a full sushi bar, as well. The food bar overlooking the action in the kitchen is perfect for those dining alone. 620 E. Flamingo Rd.; 702-691-2053. $32

And if you just want desserts (or your just desserts)

Bellagio

ljx140601webALAeat5b Survival Tips & Vegas Eats | ALA 2014 PreviewFODOR’S CHOICE Jean Philippe Patisserie. Chocolate—dark, white, and milk—flows from a tall glass fountain at the entrance to this stunning pastry shop just off the Bellagio’s iconic conservatory. This artful homage to chocolate has decadent desserts, including cakes, cookies, gelato, hand-dipped chocolate candies, and particularly memorable crepes (try the one filled with mango, coconut, passion-fruit, and pineapple sorbets). Seating is limited. It’s open late, until midnight on Friday and Saturday and 11 p.m. the rest of the week. 3600 Las Vegas Blvd. S; 702-693–7111. $8.

To help get the table you want, download Fodor’s City Guides app for Las Vegas. In addition to booking restaurant reservations, it offers insider tips and recommendations for the best sights, shopping, dining, and nightlife. Fodor’s has made the app available for free, June 26–July 1, so librarians attending ALA can use it during the conference.

This article was published in Library Journal's June 1, 2014 issue. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.

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  1. Veggie? Consider Joining the Vegan and Vegetarian Librarians community in ALA Connect: http://connect.ala.org/node/91838

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