Once the promised land of dirt cheap eats, Las Vegas's influx of world class eateries has boosted the average meal ticket total to $3,594*, so it's helpful to know where you can get the very best eats for the very best price. Here's your guide to a few good happy hours, the best of the buffets, the good 'ol $8.99 porterhouse steak special, and even some secret late night slices. (*An unscientific estimate, but probably quite accurate)
This long-time Vegas favorite's first come, first serve policy plus its legions of fierce devotees mean you might have a wait, but it's worth it for the famous pan roast and fresh oysters. And from 1am to 9am, the late night specials are in effect--$3.50 Bloody Marys and half dozens of oysters for $8.99.
Better known for foie, truffles, and its mind-boggling four-story wine tower than cheap eats, Aureole nonetheless has a super happy hour--nightly from 5:30 to 7pm, you can feast on $8 yellowfin poke and sirloin sliders, washed down with $6 cocktails and pinot noir.
Tucked behind Bally's, this no frills brewery and casino is beloved for its 24/7 $8.99 steak, baked potato & beer special (you need to sign up for the players club to get the discount, but that's free) and $5 table games. It ain't fancy by any means, but it's a little slice of Vegas throwback heaven.
Living the Four Seasons life is easier than you think--drop by this posh bar between 4 and 7 pm for happy hour...nobody has to know your cocktails and antipasti plates were only $5 each.
This popular Caesar's Palace sushi spot is even moreso during the daily Red Sun happy hour (4-7pm Sun-Thu, 4-6 Fri & Sat), when sake is $3, well drinks are $5, champagne is $6, and nearly 30 sushi rolls, appetizers (try the kobe meatballs and baked cod miso in lettuce cups), and even desserts can be had for $2-$6.
For once being late to lunch was actually a good thing, because thanks to arriving at the Wynn buffet just a few minutes before lunch ended, we stumbled upon perhaps the greatest secret ever--that if you arrive at the end and eat through the half hour between dinner service begins, you get the best of both worlds. Aside from that, this buffet was beautiful, so many diverse stations and dessert choices, a great value.
Pure Las Vegas swank with a meaty bent, this Michael Mina restaurant offers happy hour 4-6pm daily, with $6 Stripsteak Sours, $3 beers and $7 small plates like the blue cheese sliders and spicy salmon poppers with ponzu. Just don't be surprised if you end up staying for grilled lobster tails and truffled mac n' cheese.
Have yet to try Brazilian-Peruvian-Japanese fusion? That's about to change, and during the twice daily happy hours (Sun-Fri 4-7pm, then there's "reverse happy hour" from 11pm to close), you'll score delicious deals like $6 mojitos, caipirinhas and small plates--try the green bean tempura and flash fried river crabs.
If you want to experience what's arguably the poshest hotel in Las Vegas without actually spending hundreds of dollars a night to stay there, pop into the gorgeous 23rd floor Mandarin Bar for Jazz Sundays--there are live bands and drink specials weekly from 4-8pm.
Treat yourself to a cappuccino and a bag of tiny cookies from the case at this darling Grand Canal cafe, where the classic European pastries and coffee drinks won't break the bank, and the outdoor tables are absolutely perfect for people-watching.
The first time I saw a sign at a Las Vegas buffet that asked customers to respectfully limit their meal time to 2 hours, I laughed. But on your first Bacchanal approach, you finally get it--how on earth are you going to try all this in a day, much less two hours? There are 22 flavors of ice cream alone! Go for lunch--it's a great overview of offerings, you can sleep off your food hangover at the pool afterwards, and it's cheaper than dinner (especially since dinner balloons to over $50 on weekends).
If you take the escalators up to the third floor of the Cosmopolitan, to the right of the communal pool table, you'll see a long, narrow hallway lined in record album covers, sans sign. That's the entrance to Secret Pizza, and you should get to know this special spot early on in your trip (we went every night). They're open until 4am, serving classic NY-style slices that don't break the bank. You can also order a whole pie, then sell it off to the hordes waiting in line, stilettos in hand. (Just kidding, but it crossed our minds.)