So, you want to enjoy a good meal but you also have to watch the ballgame, right? Been there, myself.
If you're "in action," it's always more fun to watch your money (hopefully win), and preferably with a big juicy ribeye. I totally get it.
Unfortunately, while Las Vegas is the sports betting capital of the world, the restaurant and dining choices at (or adjacent to) most of the race and sportsbooks leave something to be desired.
Here's another way of putting it: They mostly suck.
Well-respected and longtime food and beverage critic Al Mancini (see: NEONFEAST) reached out to me this week asked about "the best spots in Las Vegas to bet/watch sports and enjoy great food." After 90 seconds of dead silence, once I came to my senses and regained my ability to speak, I managed to come up with a list. A shortlist. Then, a longer list. And finally, a best-to-worst list. I'm sharing it here now. Oh, and be sure and check out Al's recommendations which are linked below.
Note that Al is a much nicer guy than me. He likes highlighting the positives, with I agree is a good thing to do. But I aim to steer people away from spots that don't deserve our business.
That said, here's my shortlist of the best and worst, and some places somewhere (listed alphabetically), along with my thoughts. I should point out that to be included on the lists, the location must have both a sportsbook and dining option together:
Park MGM (Bet MGM Sportsbook and Bar, a.k.a. Side Betty Bar) -- well run and managed. Advance bookings are available online (which is very rare for a sportsbook). Mostly bar food menu, with no frills. But surprisingly affordable prices for a Strip location. Also offers "game day packages" for groups. Prime location, fun atmosphere, convenient to the sports arena on game night. Good sports bar.
Resorts World (Dawg House Saloon) -- often crowded and beware of live music on weekends, but also a comfortable place to watch sports with plenty of terrific specialty cocktails to choose from. If I had to pick one place for a couple of people, this would be it. The bar menu is serviceable, and the food court with many wonderful Asian cuisine choices makes this spot very convenient. [pictured above]
Rio (food court next to sportsbook) -- don't laugh, although the Rio has seen much better days, but the sportsbook is still cozy and well-run. Steps away is a very good Chinese restaurant, freshly cooked pizza, and sandwiches (all counter service and takeout) -- which can easily be brought into the sports viewing area. Pro Tip: Lock up a booth early on gameday, if possible.
Sahara (Chickie and Pete's) -- who doesn't love classic Philly cheesesteaks, burgers, pizza, and plenty of seafood choices wrapped by 50 TV screens around the bar tuned to any game you want to see? Chickie and Pete's has something for everybody, but the very best thing on the menu are the crabs, the house specialty. Messy, delicious, often crowded for the biggest games, but always fun. Strongly recommended.
Wynn (Charlie's Bar and Grill) -- mostly burgers, bar food, and a choice of 16 tap beers. Not the best sports/food venue on The Strip by any stretch, but still gets a passing grade. There's also a high-dollar VIP area that's roped off where you can order food, but it's probably wiser just to hang out inside Charlie's.
Note: Emeril Lagasse’s Sports Bar (Venetian) would have made this list, but it's now closed permanently.
The Linq (Fan Caves) -- what a terrific concept! Comfortable seating apportioned around dozens of television screens sprawled across the first floor of the casino, with the sportsbook just steps away. Good for group reservations, but expensive, and be prepared for very high minimums to lock up a space during the busiest times. The real problem here is, the food here is horrific. Perhaps the worst bar food in the city; service almost ghostly, and pricey (on one of my three visits, we had a $1,500 minimum for the group and the food was so shit-bogglingly bad we stepped into the nearby alley and ordered In-and-Out Burgers). If you go here, eat someplace else beforehand and then enjoy the great variety of beer taps. And be sure and bring a charge card with a high credit line. [pictured above]
Treasure Island (Golden Circle) -- a large venue with plenty of seating and a good sportsbook just steps away. So, you can almost always get seated (not always the case elsewhere). Downsides are--lousy food and way too many hightop tables with barstools which can become terribly uncomfortable if you plan on watching a 3-hour game. But the parking is free, so there's that.
Stations Casino, Coast Casinos, M Resort, Southpoint, Westgate -- all of these food spots can be grouped together because they're pretty much one and the same everywhere. Each of these sportsbooks is very well run, and all have a small deli counter adjacent to the viewing floor. All these places serve the same things -- hot dogs, cold sandwiches, maybe the occasional canned soup on a good day. A few of the pizza joints are pretty good (M Casino is the best). Nothing to brag about here, but if you need a meal while watching the game, these casinos can fill the order with something decent.
Aria -- no food options inside, and nearby fast food places are ridiculously expensive.
Bellagio -- (see remarks about Aria)
Circa Resort and Casino -- the worst managed half a hectare of real estate in the entire city of Las Vegas might be the VIP tables centered smack dab in the middle of the Circa race and sportsbook. This casino promotes itself as a luxury casino with serious sports viewing and betting theme, but on my two prior visits here I was appalled at the lack of dining choices (nonexistent), indifferent service (bordering on rude), and utter lack of attention to customer needs. On my second visit, I politely requested to sit inside the table area and stated our party of 2 was willing to spend $100 minimum per person on food/drinks. We were told in no uncertain terms the bare minimum to lock up a table was $500 for a party of 2. Five-hundred bucks! We declined. Oh, and those tables remained empty during the entire game. I didn't inquire about the outdoor pool (cabanas) or bottle service options. Presumably, I would then need to start taking blood pressure medication. This casino is a disappointment, but the sportsbook/food is beyond absurd. Oh, and bar service here is abysmal, unless you're that gorgeous girl in a tight red dress that was standing sitting there on a Monday evening on Jan. 11th who seemed to command every bartender's attention while I was begging for two Heinekens [sportsbook is pictured above]. Important Note: The sportsbook counter/race and sports department are actually very well run, but the food and beverage and other casino areas get a lower than subpar rating.
Not Rated: MGM, Paris, Bally's, Cosmopolitan, et. al. (I haven't been in those casinos lately), but that reminds me of a great story about the hot dog cart at the Gold Coast. More to come later.
Note: This was first posted to nolandalla.com, but I'm sharing it here because we all like to eat and bet sports.