'Tis true that downtown Vegas is still a bit gritty, and I definitely wouldn't advise stumbling down dark side streets at night, but as long as you exercise normal safety precautions and cross to the other side of the street anytime you see an open exchange of narcotics or screaming, wild-eyed ax-wielder, you'll probably be just fine. This tour of downtown's best restaurants and bars (plus a couple of non-food to-dos) sticks mostly to the heavily populated main drag, Fremont Street, with Eat being the exception--it's a few blocks out of the way along fiercely hot unshaded sidewalks, but once you've sunk your teeth into the shrimp po' boy, you'll agree that it's more than worth the extra sweat. (Hopefully sans the blood and tears.) Viva Las Fremont Street!
For that classic downtown Las Vegas steakhouse experience, hit up El Cortez's famous The Flame for a shrimp cocktail, iceberg wedge and 20-oz porterhouse.
If you love mall shopping but have always felt they should incorporate far more neon into their overall decor, well, here you go. 300,000 square feet of shopping and dining, 3 miles of neon signage. Best toured at night, for obvious reasons.
This Portland girl felt very at home in this hip but quaint downtown dive bar. Can't beat the fireplaces and jukebox, plus it's got a nice mellow vibe that's refreshing after elbowing your way through the Fremont Street melee.
Love this popular watering hole's completely clandestine facade--even without the nearby construction it would look like a closed office building to the casual observer. But inside is a very sexy bar, where you can sip Clever Genevers and perfectly dispensed absinthe away from the bawdy Fremont Street masses.
After dinner at Le Thai, it's but a few steps to this fun little piano bar, which has a strong following among locals. Bartenders sing spontaneous backup, and they've got karaoke too. Super fun and convivial, with reasonably priced drinks.
Set inside a former federal courthouse that hosted Kefauver Committee organized crime hearings back in the day when the mafia ruled Vegas, this neat museum has plenty of mob memorabilia, exhibits and artifacts, like the actual St. Valentine’s Day massacre wall.
If you're spending a night or two in downtown Las Vegas, this old school hotel is perfectly located, with the casino opening right onto upper Fremont Street. No resort fee (but you will have to pay for internet), rooms in the $40s-$50s (get the Rush or Spa tower for upgraded decor), and the famous Tank pool (involving a waterslide that passes through their shark tank) make it a fun, affordable stay.
Sometimes you scan a menu and there's one dish that's love at first sight--in this case it was Le Thai's short rib fried rice, which they kindly made with brown rice for me. Hot, spicy, studded with chunks of terrifically tender short rib--it was one of the best dinner dates I've ever had.
A few blocks from the Fremont Street core and an easy walk (minus the possible heatstroke) along mostly deserted downtown streets, this humble cafe served what was probably the best shrimp po' boy I've ever eaten. The menu promises a "really good pickle" and it isn't yanking your chain--it was a REALLY good pickle.
You're miles from the Strip, but there are still plenty of very pretty people at this buzzy downtown Vegas bar. Opulent interiors with just the right amount of edge, fun DJs and special events, great cocktails (although they can feel a bit pricey for the hood).
Just steps off Fremont Street, this stylish newbie beats the heat with refreshing passion fruit and prickly pear margaritas. Go for brunch--muy bien huevos ranches and bottomless mimosas.