Vegas Off The Strip
Story and photos by Neil Wolkodoff
Years ago, walking the Las Vegas Strip was much easier, and cabs and shuttles were convenient forms of transportation. What appears to have changed is all the strip properties have maxed out shopping, dining, and attractions in their respective areas in the hunt for revenue. Walking somewhere is much harder than before. Straight lines appear to have been targeted for elimination. And, as I found out, taking a cab or Uber might take an hour to go just four blocks. The change in transportation logistics calls for a new approach.
Consider staying off the strip, then commuting in when you want to see a show or restaurant. The Platinum Hotel & Spa, a boutique hotel, offers quiet, sophisticated comfort and convenience at just 1½ blocks off the strip. This casino-less hotel features unique suites which range from 950 to 2,200 sq. ft. (their smallest suite is three times larger than the typical Las Vegas hotel room). The Platinum features a full-service concierge, complimentary valet, the comfortable WELL Spa, indoor and outdoor heated swimming pools which open all year.
Northwest of the strip about 15 minutes, The JW Marriott Las Vegas Resort & Spa is the ideal destination for golfers and others and those who want a little quieter LV experience. So, if you play golf, this property blending easy access to five spectacular courses within a short ride, yet still close to the strip. Summerlin is often called the “Scottsdale of Las Vegas,” and as expected, the resort offers guests a multitude of shopping, nightlife, and outdoor recreation experiences. An elegant 50,000 square foot Vegas-style casino is part of the property for lever pullers. Ten on-site dining options keep you satisfied with the most interesting being the Shizen Japanese Restaurant, which does both table service and table-side tepanyaki. The Spa Aquae has an extensive array of treatments featuring “Bee Pampered” where you get a real honey scrub exfoliation. Additionally, they have one of the best hydro-pool areas of any spa in Las Vegas.
What is Las Vegas without 3,970 dining options? At Giada’s in the Cromwell, the emphasis on comfortable seating with new takes on old Italian dishes. This is not classic Italian, but rather Giada’s creative take on dishes such as Branzini and a chocolate peanut butter torte in a setting like dining in her home. Atmosphere and comfort are best described as Italian elegant.
The most creative approach to Sunday Brunch is the Border Grill in the Mandalay Bay complex. Skip the Godzilla-sized buffets and instead get small gourmet plates. This was voted best small plate brunch in the Las Vegas area, so trust the locals on this one. The artisan selections, like the Serrano ham waffle, are made one at a time and delivered to your table. Like a buffet with someone else’s legs doing the work, and they help you select what is best for your tastes.
South of the strip is Tommy Bahama, a welcome island relief from endless steak, burgers and pizza options. At the north end of the Town Center mall, you can cuddle up and then relax with island-inspired drinks and cuisine like a potent Mai Tai, seared scallop sliders, and macadamia-nut encrusted snapper.
While not a dominant food species in the LV food jungle, there are enough French restaurants to give you choices. Combine exceptional food and five-star service with Eiffel Tower restaurant inside the Paris hotel. Chef Joho’s culinary baby has an incredibly high repeat rate. This is perfect French food with equally impressive service. For lunch, chomp on the Surf & Turf burger topped with crab legs and sweet potato gaufrettes, while for dinner opt for the Muscovy duck breast with wild rice. Most tables at the Eiffel Tower offer a great view of the strip.
Classic Italian perfection is Ferraro’s. Everything is made on the premises from mozzarella to pasta to sausage. Many menu items have stayed on the list for over 30 years. From start to finish, everything is stellar, and you aren’t rushed, you are a guest. The night I visited, vintners from Italy, in town to sell wine to the restaurant industry were having their dinner here. Hmm, they probably know good Italian food. The simple Ensalada Mimmo is a perfect blend of homemade mozzarella, avocado, red onion and tomato. Another specialty prepared to the 9s is Osso Buco. All the deserts are made in house, with a gold medal Pistachio Passion being the perfect finish.
Get local suds with Big Dog’s, a brewery and restaurant, about 19 minutes north of downtown. Their brews have won numerous awards, such as the GABF Bronze for their Triple Dog Dare. With Wisconsin roots, you can chomp down on some hearty dishes such as Pecan Crusted Walleye and made from scratch pizzas and sandwiches in a combined sports bar/restaurant setting.
For the cigar lover, Casa Fuente is the premier cigar lounge on the strip. Open for over 11 years, CF is a mix of bar, cigar lounge, outdoor-type smoking, and humidor. Drop someone off for shopping at the Forum Shops, then get your stogie on with a premium beverage. CF is home to Arturo Fuente brand cigars and sports two other exclusive cigar lines in the large humidor. CF has arguably the premier selection of mojitos in the area, and CF boasts over 100 whiskeys on the spirits list.
Neil Wolkodoff, PhD, is a Sport Scientist in Denver, Colorado who has worked with golfers over the last 15 years. During the rare free times, he travels to exotic golf destinations to see how golf, culture, cigars and local geography mix in different locales. He has penned articles for Colorado Avid Golfer, Golf Digest and Golf Magazine. In his travels, he has golfed with royalty, tour professionals, the local duffer, and the occasional goat. See his work at travelandgolf.info.