Guide to Vegetarian Friendly Restaurants in Las Vegas

First of all, understand that Vegas is famous for its big and varied buffets. Some of the most elegant are in the posh resorts on the Strip (Las Vegas Boulevard). Of course there are some Mom and Pop cafes that have veggie meals on their menus in other parts of the city, but for the typical vegan tourist, the most convient are within short taxi rides or walking distance of the most popular hotels.

I’m in Vegas a dozen or more times a year, and all buffets I’ve visited there have, along with the usual meat, poultry and fish dishes, enough varieties of veggie dishes available for anyone to make a complete, nutritious meal, whether breakfast, lunch, dinner or midnight snack. A few are open 24-7.

There used to be an all-nighter in the Boardwalk Hotel with some halfway decent veggie selections, but that closed a year or so ago. In Vegas, old is 25 years or more, and must come down. The Boardwalk was demolished to make room for a huge new mega-resort, condo, shopping combination called the City Center. Let’s hope somewhere in that city within a city there will be a dining refuge for vegans.

I’m not a vegan, but some members of my family are, but as I get older, I tend to confine much of my eating out to veggie dishes. I’ll list a number of Vegas restaurants that, in my opinion and personal experience, offer some attractive veggie dishes. I usually get my Vegas veggie dining at the buffets, primarily because I no longer have the patience to wait in long tourist lines at sit-down restaurants, and then wait at a table for a harried waiter to show up.

1. Canyon Ranch Cafe at the Venetian Resort is operated by the famous spa to the rich and famous stars, and has branches in Tucson and the Berkshires. The Vegas eatery is modest, but elegant, and offers what can be expected at a health spa. Lots of fruit and veggie juices and dishes, with emphasis on fresh, organic and totally natural. Convenient if you’re already a guest at the resort and are doing the health routine at Canyon Ranch. Don’t expect to drop in at the Cafe for a late supper. It closes at six p.m.

2. Veggie Delight at the new Wynn Hotel is as its name implies a place catering to the non-meat eaters. Lots of fresh raw and creative combination veggie dishes. There are some non-veggie items on the menu, particularly foods with milk and cream ingredients. If you’re lactose no-no, make sure you watch what you order.

3. Komol Thai at the Commercial Center prides itself on its Oriental veggie menu, but it turned me off because too many of the dishes are deep-fat fried and much too spiced up. However, iron-stomached friends with me were impressed by the freshness and cooked-to-order crispness of its veggie and meat selections.

4. Long Life Vege on Flamingo Road is an excellent Chinese restaurant, but I couldn’t help making lame jokes that the name was ironic for those of us who remember that the Flamingo, the first luxury resort built on the Strip, was managed by the late mobster Bugsy Siegal. When the Mob thought he was cooking the books, his life became very short. Sorry, Bugsy, but the Long Life is famous for its great family atmosphere and enormous portions of excellent Oriental dishes. Whenever we eat there, we always take doggie bags back to stash in our hotel room’s little refrig. Nothing tastier than a breakfast of leftover Chinese food while watching the desert sun rise over the city skyline.

5. Meskerem on Convention Center Drive near the Riviera Hotel is Ethiopian. I’ve been there several times because a family member who lives in Los Angeles near the Ethiopian shopping neighborhood loves the food. It isn’t really a veggie restaurant, but one of its dishes, called the veggie combo, is an enormous platter of all kinds of fresh and pickled veggies. It is plopped family-style on a big circle of dough, called an injera, that looks like it is waiting for the pizza sauce. Everyone sits around dipping injera into sauces and the family-sized veggie combo. Lots of fun, laughter and clothing stains.

6. Chin Chin in the New York New York Hotel sits along a cute fake little Manhattan neighborhood. While most of the ethnic cafes on the cobblestone streets are nothing more than holes in the wall tourist traps, Chin Chin manages to offer good Chinese food in a comfy, sit-down, watch-the-tourists area. The dishes are made to order and are served steaming hot, and the menu includes many veggie specials. Sort of taking you back to New York, but on a fake, air-conditioned street full of tourists, rather than muggers.

7. The Border Grill in the huge Mandalay Resort serves a lot of Mexican veggie dishes, including a torrid Chile Relleno, consisting of hot peppers, rice, black beans, tomato sauces and panela. If you’re a strict vegan, tell them to hold the cojita cheese. Another veggie specialty is portabello mulitas, consisting of pickled mushrooms and onions, tomato sauce, fried greens and guacamole. I can’t go near the stuff, my two family members love it. Incidentally, Mandalay Bay has its own beach and wave pool, so after eating such spicey stuff, it may be necessary to jump in.