I must confess that I fell into the trap of stereotyping the Las Vegas "food scene". "It'll be high volume, deep fried, quick turnaround to get the punters back into the casinos", I thought. After previously travelling through America's Southern States, and being amazed by the variety and sophistication of some of their cuisine, I should have known there was more to Vegas.
For visitors from New Zealand, our trips to "Sin City" are usually quick - two or three days. Hardly enough time to walk The Strip, shop at the Outlet Stores (depending on the dollar), maybe a helicopter trip to the Grand Canyon, take in a show and of course win (lose?) a small fortune in the casinos. This leaves little time to explore Vegas' restaurants let alone risk the uncertainty of an off night or that it has "changed hands" since the last great review on its website.
For our culinary adventure we put our faith in Lip Smacking Foodie Tours - a relatively new company when we met them in 2015, but if you follow them on Instagram you'll see they have gone on to win local tourism awards, and they are highly rated on Trip Advisor. If you're looking for variety, a comprehensive knowledge of the host restaurants and how they fit into the Vegas food scene, then this is the tour for you.
To give you a sense of the experience, our first stop was Javiers - home to the tequila tree pictured below - and before the afternoon was over we had weaved our way through a dizzying array of culinary experiences.
We were enthralled with stories such as the opening of Jaleo by José Andrés who was so committed to creating an authentic Spanish experience with his open-fire wood grill that it sent smoke through the entire casino (the paella was however delicious). And when they brought out the "soul food" we had truly seen it all.
The key things that make this an excellent experience:
- Each restaurant and head chef has an interesting story. We didn't just get taken to "the hotel restaurant".
- Our guides were passionate, energentic and knowledgeable. We were entertained along the way and educated on Vegas history.
- The portion sizes were generous. We weren't left feeling cheated or that we hadn't got good value for money.
- There is no queuing or waiting and the tables are excellent. The restaurants are expecting you and treat you like welcome guests - not just a "tour party".
- Drinks were included on our tour - and this including the opportunity to sample signature drinks.
A Lip Smacking Foodie Tour is one of many experiences a Fine Travel Consultant can arrange as part of a holiday package that includes Las Vegas. Increased airline competition between Air New Zealand and Qantas means we are seeing more special airfares to Vegas, and the main West Coast ports of Los Angeles or San Francisco.