Everyone should have the Vegas experience at least once. But after that initial blowout, you may be interested in something that doesn’t involve painful hangovers and 4am walks of shame. Fortunately, you can return to the Neon Capital and experience something entirely different than what’s offered on the strip: restaurants on Fremont Street in the heart of old town.
We know what you’re thinking, but there’s actually a lot more than casino-conceived steakhouses in the area, and many of the neighborhood’s unsung culinary heroes really are worthy of an indulgence. To help guide your non-strip adventures, then, we’ve picked our five favorite non-steak eats within five blocks of legendary Fremont Street, only 15 minutes from the strip.
1: Project BBQ
Something about those flashing lights and whirring slot machines gets us craving BBQ. Luckily, there’s a spot right across from the Plaza Hotel on the corner of Main and Fremont that forks up every kind of smoked/pulled/basted meat you can imagine. Dubbed Project BBQ, the longstanding food truck is a great option for those with an appetite who want to eat and wander. Our recs: Pulled Pork Tacos with slaw and a side of churros (yes, churros). Diet be damned? Get a plate of the cheese-smothered chips with bacon, too.
Few hear “Vegas” and think “pub,” but the Smashed Pig is a sudsy exception to that rule. Fremont Street’s own gastropub, the Pig is wrapped in eccentric, superhero-inspired wallpaper while the menu weaves among traditional pub grub, BBQ, and all-American fare. If you’re hungry for a taste of the Old World, the Bangers and Mash with onion gravy are a must, but otherwise, dig into the tongue-tickling Yum Yum Shrimp and Smashed Cubano. Don’t you dare leave without a pint of something crafty (we’ve fallen for the Lovelady Double IPA).
3: Evel Pie
Pizza is delicious always, anywhere. Good pizza, that is. If you’re in agreement, make the trek to Las Vegas Boulevard and Fremont where you’ll be seduced by the singularly Evel Pie. The welcome party is undoubtedly unique: an oversized American flag, bumper stickers galore, and pinball machines converge in an oblong space. The magic, however, is in the pizza. Ogle the hand-tossed, cheesy pies behind the glass and choose your pleasure, or opt instead for a doughy calzone stuffed with ricotta and your choice of meats. Keep in mind: This isn’t a fancy joint, but it doesn’t have to be. Something about their pizza hits the spot — every time. Plus, you can’t go wrong with a restaurant that pairs pizza and pinball.
4: Le Thai
An Asian star in the Fremont district, Le Thai manages to blend the best of American diner aesthetics with traditional Thai accents — like rattan chairs and leafy green plants. The menu, meanwhile, is a happy mix of Westernized Asian treats and more authentic Thai dishes. As always, we recommend trying some uniquely Thai dishes, like the Larb Salad (ground chicken or pork accompanied by greens for folding into a wrap) and the coconut milk-rich Panang Curry. Be sure to order a Thai omelet on the side; this fish sauce and green onion-bedecked Thai staple is actually quite addictive.
Care for some mid-century flair with your Gyro Tacos? Grab a seat at Carson Kitchen where industrial-chic design and American comfort food converge. As with many restaurants these days, you can go “tapas style” with small plates like Tempura Green Beans or rocoto-laced Killer Shrimp, but we encourage indulging in something more substantial. The coca and espresso-rubbed NY Strip is an undeniable winner, while the Black Rice & Oxtail Risotto transports you across the ocean to Italy. Land on a sweet note with the Glazed Donut Bread Pudding because … yes.
Vegans and vegetarians never get enough love — unless you stumble into VegeNation. Here, the menu is all about plant-based fare, underscored by a broader mission to move away from meat-centric dining everywhere. A minimalist, open design gives food all the glory, and rightfully so. Classic comforts like Spaghetti and “Meatballs” are reimagined at VegeNation, and we’re not at all disappointed they sport no beef. The same can surely be said of the Mad Daddy Burger, which piles gooey mac and cheese on collard greens on BBQ sauce on a secret sauce. Oh, and there’s a veggie-based burger in there somewhere, too. If you’re just feeling snacky, the Loaded Sweet Potato Tots are a salty-sweet delicious must, while the Elote Tamale always tempts with its secret sauce and Parm coating.
Hatsumi is a simple, modern Japanese stop wrapped up in 1980s Tokyo hospitality. What does that mean exactly? It means good food, good fun, and plentiful sake. Don’t expect sushi here, though; dig into plates of porky Gyoza, Crispy Quail, or Tonkatsu Eggplant instead. And save some room for their signature skewers; these are served à la carte at $2-5 a piece so you can pile a plate high with the likes of skewered beef, bacon-wrapped tomato, chicken liver, okra, and a few other off-the-wall ingredients. Round it all out with palate-cleansing Napa Cabbage Kimchee, Edamame, or Cucumber Salad.
Bonus: Oak & Ivy
All that eating is likely to make you thirsty. We’ve got you covered; hop on over to the quaint Oak & Ivy off 7th and Fremont for a whiskey-based cocktail that is masterfully rendered. You can order whatever it is that gets you by at home, but the magic here happens when you give the bartender the chance to make you something new. Just be sure to share your preferences (favorite whiskey, flavors you enjoy and don’t enjoy, ingredients you love and hate, and so on) and be wowed by the creation that appears. If you’re keen on sticking to the menu, the barrel-aged cocktails are sure bets — especially the Angel’s Envy-swirled Manhattan.