Vegas is the exact opposite of a “small town.” Even if “back home” is really some large city, Las Vegas will be different. At home, you will be used to your familiar haunts and favorite bistros and bars. Las Vegas overwhelms with so many choices among so many things – many of which may be totally new to you! Even the other visitors add to the sensation, as they come from all over the world, creating a jumble of impressions that can make you feel as if you truly were in Oz or on some other planet. Waiters in Las Vegas restaurants grow accustomed to a paralysis that sets in for visitors when they start to order food. Like everything else in “Sin City,” the restaurants offer so many options that it is really hard to know what to choose. Making good choices quickly is important for anyone who comes to Las Vegas with a long list of things to do. Here’s how it’s done:
Where to Go? (or Not!)
If small children are along, rule out all quiet and elegant places. They don’t welcome children, and the adults will just spend their time holding their breath for worry about the kids.
If you are a family or a large group, rule out any place with a very specific cuisine or menu. Go for the buffets, where everyone can choose what he wants, where the wait (if any) will be short, and where a big group can easily be accommodated.
If you are a couple looking for somewhere quiet, head in the opposite direction. Choose a small location, perhaps one with drapes and carpets. Look for a place with a menu that does not appeal to small children or family reunions. Remember that “lounge” in Las Vegas often means music – either recorded or live – which may make quiet conversation impossible. Not all elegant places are expensive. Try the bistros.
For the adventurous, try the places you’ve never heard of before. Use the Internet to inform your choices. If you want to retreat from all the new and strange sights of Las Vegas and take refuge in a comfort zone, choose one of the many restaurants that are part of a national chain, which may be familiar to you already.
How Much to Pay? Decide in advance how much you want to spend for your meal. Look for sample menus (online, in the hotel or outside the premises). If you’re passing by a place that looks nice, go inside and ask to see the menu. There’s no obligation, of course. To convert your total budget into menu prices, calculate backwards. Each person or couple will be different, but the process is the same. For example, if you have a budget of $ 100 with drinks, that’s $ 50 per person. This implies about $ 40 prior to tax and tip. Take out the cost of drinks (maybe $ 10), which leaves $ 30. That’s probably a $ 15 entrée and a couple of sides or appetizers or desert. What to Order? Las Vegas eateries can set you adrift in a sea of a million or more possible selections. To find firm ground underfoot, try one or more of the following tactics:
Intuition. Go with what your first urge is. After all, it’s your appetite talking, not your brain. Don’t waste time thinking too much.
Prudence. The reverse of using your intuition is to think about what you want from your food. If you’re on a diet, then go for nutrition instead of calories. If you’re stressed, go for comfort. In a case of doubt, avoid daily specials (which are designed to use up leftovers or which have the most profit for the restaurant). In an unknown restaurant, head for staple menu choices that are hard to get terribly wrong.
Declare Part of the Menu Off-Limits. If the menu is too big, just rule out all but a manageable portion. Save the rest for another day.
Sheep May Safely Graze. If someone else knows what he or she wants, go along with them. Be a member of the flock. Give up your freedom of choice in exchange for the freedom from choice. Even if you are alone, you can check out dishes as they head for other tables. Say that famous line from When Harry Met Sally: “I´ll have whatever she’s having!”
Be a Lone Wolf. The opposite tactic also works. If you think it’s boring to imitate the others, strike out for something new and different. Be adventurous! Take a risk! After all, you’re in Las Vegas. Hope for the best. Don’t over-think it.
As a last resort, Celebrate! So you consider all the other tactics and still can’t decide? Then decide that it’s your birthday. Or your anniversary. Or graduation. You are on vacation. Have a good time. Splurge. Order the dish that you normally would never order because it’s too special. Throw yourself a party.
Allergies. Don’t forget that just because you have escaped your work-a-day personality for a while, you have not escaped your body. You are still allergic to seafood, or peanuts or whatever it is that afflicted you back home. Las Vegas servers will tell you that some vacationers actually forget that they can’t tolerate certain foods. Don’t spoil the vacation by loosing track of these things. In a case of doubt, write yourself a note.
Benjamin Hughes writes for Vegas365.com, the authoritative source of information about Las Vegas, from hotels to restaurants, nightlife, gambling and many other activities. To get in touch with him, and for more information about Las Vegas, visit http://www.vegas365.com and go to the “contact us” page.