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Best Las Vegas Restaurants That Have Changed Locations

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It was 30 years ago when Wolfgang Puck, generally credited as being the first “celebrity chef,” changed dining history in this country. In 1992, despite the pundits’ belief that “nobody goes to Vegas to eat,” he opened the second branch of his game changing Los Angeles restaurant, Spago, on the Las Vegas Strip in the Forum Shops at Caesars Palace. Puck’s instincts were right, and the pundits were wrong, and his smash hit kickstarted a tidal wave of famous restaurants and famous chef satellites in Sin City: Le Cirque, Olives, Rao’s, Carbone, Jean-Georges Vongerichten, Emeril Lagasse, Thomas Keller, Michael Mina, Michael Symon, Gordon Ramsay, Bobby Flay, Nobu Matsuhisa, and a bevy of 3-Michelin Star French superstars like Joel Robuchon, Alain Ducasse, Guy Savoy and Pierre Gagnaire. Puck himself currently has four other Vegas eateries in addition to Spago, and several others that have come and gone in the three decades in between.

It all started with Spago, and quickly got to the point where you couldn’t really be a big shot chef if you weren’t in Las Vegas, and that quickly morphed into a red-hot home-grown scene of Vegas originals in addition to transplants. Before Spago, the better restaurants in Vegas were for gamblers, but today people absolutely go to Vegas for the food even if they don’t wager a penny, and with so much star power – many of whom spend more time here than anyplace else – I’d argue that Vegas has the best fine dining scene of any U.S. city. It it all goes back to Spago on the fake indoor piazza and fountain in the Forum Shops.

Only Spago isn’t there anymore.

The first modern iconic Las Vegas restaurant picked up and moved to the Bellagio in 2018. The fine dining eatery is still going strong with its signature European-influenced California fare, and Puck classic inventions that have stood the test of time, including his most famous dish, smoked salmon pizza with dill cream, red onion, salmon pearls and caviar. The Vegas Spago is still a hot table and today it overlooks the elaborate outdoor fountains in front of Bellagio, with what is probably the best restaurant spot in the enormous complex, including prime outdoor seating, instead of indoor “outdoor” seating under a painted sky in its original spot.

Lots of once popular Vegas eateries have come and gone, and other classics have remained in place for decades, predating Spago – one of my favorites is the Golden Steer, a slightly off-Strip, indie, old school steakhouse that was a Rat Pack favorite and is still a Hollywood hangout. But a handful of exceptions have proven so popular, so beloved, so enduring, or are just run by such good businesspeople that they have endured dislocation and returned triumphant in new – and in some cases better – locations. Much of this has coincided with the pandemic, so even if you are a regular Vegas visitor you may not know about some of these shifts in recent years.

Ironically, the prime “lakefront” location Spago now enjoys was previously Olives, the only notable Boston import in Las Vegas, one of the core celebrity-chef restaurants that debuted with the 1998 opening of the Bellagio, the first Las Vegas mega-resort to be built around food from the ground up. James Beard Rising Chef, James Beard Best Chef and Bon Appetit Restaurateur of the Year winner Todd English was the man behind the beloved modern Mediterranean classic, and I was at the Bellagio grand opening, got to know English a little bit, and always loved his cooking. His once burgeoning restaurant empire, which even reached the high seas on cruise ships, shrank considerably, but after some lean times out of the spotlight, he is currently staging a culinary revival and even has a new namesake boutique hotel in the Arts District near Old Downton Las Vegas. I toured the English Hotel (which is part of Marriott’s funky, indie Tribute portfolio brand – and notably one of the very few places in Las Vegas where you can use Bonvoy points, the world’s largest hotel frequent stay program), and it is very cool and has an excellent restaurant that has quickly become a local favorite, The Pepper Club by Todd English.

But the main event is Olives, his most famous brand, and while it started in Boston and eventually reached the Big Apple, today the new Vegas location is the only one in this country (along with the Bahamas and Middle East). It was a fine dining anchor for the still relatively new Virgin Las Vegas when it opened in March 2021. Olives is still serving English’s tantalizing slate of homemade pastas, his famous tuna tartare and the wickedly addictive veal and pork meatballs.

Interestingly, the original Olives was one of the few top Strip eateries with outside dining, and the new location at the Virgin also has outside tables, a notable plus.

What can I say about Estiatorio Milos? I absolutely love this place, and it’s not only the best Greek restaurant in Las Vegas, it’s probably the best Greek restaurant in North America – except for the other Milos locations in New York, Miami, Los Cabos and the Montreal original (also London, with soon to open spots in Palm Beach and Dubai). I looked back through my files and see that I included it in a roundup of my 10 Best Meals of the Year worldwide in 2017, the Best of Vegas 2019, and a round-up of Best Las Vegas Restaurants. It’s not just great Greek food, it is exceptional in every way, but especially the unrivalled and impeccable seafood sourcing.

The Milos “concept” is centered around a “fish market,” a showpiece giant ice filled counter piled high with a drop-dead selection of amazing fresh fish. Waiters walk customers from their tables up to the display, lead them through the choices while describing taste and preparation options, and this is one of the world’s great seafood programs, with whole fish and shellfish flown in from all over the world, especially the Mediterranean, variety and freshness you just won’t get elsewhere. The focus on using the very best ingredients runs throughout, all the way down to the olive oil and even the Aegean sea salt. Even the non-seafood fare, such as the signature tower of paper-thin fried eggplant and zucchini chips with tzatziki sauce, are stunners. It is fine dining, it is delicious, and it is expensive – some say overpriced – but to me you get what you pay for, top shelf quality. Few Las Vegas tourists would blink twice at the menu prices if it was a fancy Italian, Japanese or steakhouse, and this Mediterranean fare is just as elevated any of those cuisines can be. But because the wine list showcases many Greek selections, bottles run less than at similarly high-end eateries, a savings. I’ve been to New York, I’ve been to Vegas (more than once) and Milos founder Costas Spiliadis just opened Xenodocheio Milos, his first luxury boutique hotel – and another Milos location – in Athens. I’m going next year, and I cannot wait.

For many years the Las Vegas location of Estiatorio Milos was in the Cosmopolitan, but last year it decamped for the Venetian, which has quietly – and quickly – been expanding its already robust culinary offerings in a power move to make it the place to eat in Vegas. Having surpassed the MGM Grand in girth, it is already the city’s largest resort – which is saying something – but Milos gives it a unique edge because while there are plenty of fancy restaurants in just about every other type of cuisine and culinary niche, nothing in town rivals Milos, and I cannot wait to visit the new spot.

The Venetian also lured another longtime Vegas favorite, Smith & Wollensky. From the iconic New York City original, this has grown into one of America’s most venerable high-end steakhouse chains, and is turning 45 this year. One big reason for this success is that it claims to be the only national steakhouse brand that dry-ages and hand-carves its own USDA Prime steaks on-site, and ensures excellent consistency by controlling its supply chain, with all Prime steaks sustainably produced by the Double R Ranch. In addition to great steaks, Smith & Wollensky is famed for its elaborate tiered shellfish towers, and the acclaimed wine list annually earns the coveted “Best of Award of Excellence” from Wine Spectator magazine. The new big thing is a custom whiskey, different from most other increasingly widely available “private cask bottles,” specially created in partnership with Kentucky’s vaunted Maker’s Mark (read more about the new bourbon here).

Smith & Wollensky opened here in 1998 as a rare non-casino eatery, an independent standalone on the Strip. Its original GM, Michael Feigheyr, is now President & COO of Smith & Wollensky Restaurant Group. After two decades, it closed in 2017 and reopened inside the Venetian in 2019, complete with a faux “exterior” done up like the New York original.

There are many different reasons to choose where to stay in Las Vegas, and most of the big mega-resorts have one or more compelling attractions, but wherever you stay, don’t forget that your favorite restaurant – or what my soon be your new favorite- may be somewhere unexpected and worth seeking out.


It was 30 years ago when Wolfgang Puck, generally credited as being the first “celebrity chef,” changed dining history in this country. In 1992, despite the pundits’ belief that “nobody goes to Vegas to eat,” he opened the second branch of his game changing Los Angeles restaurant, Spago, on the Las Vegas Strip in the Forum Shops at Caesars Palace. Puck’s instincts were right, and the pundits were wrong, and his smash hit kickstarted a tidal wave of famous restaurants and famous chef satellites in Sin City: Le Cirque, Olives, Rao’s, Carbone, Jean-Georges Vongerichten, Emeril Lagasse, Thomas Keller, Michael Mina, Michael Symon, Gordon Ramsay, Bobby Flay, Nobu Matsuhisa, and a bevy of 3-Michelin Star French superstars like Joel Robuchon, Alain Ducasse, Guy Savoy and Pierre Gagnaire. Puck himself currently has four other Vegas eateries in addition to Spago, and several others that have come and gone in the three decades in between.

It all started with Spago, and quickly got to the point where you couldn’t really be a big shot chef if you weren’t in Las Vegas, and that quickly morphed into a red-hot home-grown scene of Vegas originals in addition to transplants. Before Spago, the better restaurants in Vegas were for gamblers, but today people absolutely go to Vegas for the food even if they don’t wager a penny, and with so much star power – many of whom spend more time here than anyplace else – I’d argue that Vegas has the best fine dining scene of any U.S. city. It it all goes back to Spago on the fake indoor piazza and fountain in the Forum Shops.

Only Spago isn’t there anymore.

The first modern iconic Las Vegas restaurant picked up and moved to the Bellagio in 2018. The fine dining eatery is still going strong with its signature European-influenced California fare, and Puck classic inventions that have stood the test of time, including his most famous dish, smoked salmon pizza with dill cream, red onion, salmon pearls and caviar. The Vegas Spago is still a hot table and today it overlooks the elaborate outdoor fountains in front of Bellagio, with what is probably the best restaurant spot in the enormous complex, including prime outdoor seating, instead of indoor “outdoor” seating under a painted sky in its original spot.

Lots of once popular Vegas eateries have come and gone, and other classics have remained in place for decades, predating Spago – one of my favorites is the Golden Steer, a slightly off-Strip, indie, old school steakhouse that was a Rat Pack favorite and is still a Hollywood hangout. But a handful of exceptions have proven so popular, so beloved, so enduring, or are just run by such good businesspeople that they have endured dislocation and returned triumphant in new – and in some cases better – locations. Much of this has coincided with the pandemic, so even if you are a regular Vegas visitor you may not know about some of these shifts in recent years.

Ironically, the prime “lakefront” location Spago now enjoys was previously Olives, the only notable Boston import in Las Vegas, one of the core celebrity-chef restaurants that debuted with the 1998 opening of the Bellagio, the first Las Vegas mega-resort to be built around food from the ground up. James Beard Rising Chef, James Beard Best Chef and Bon Appetit Restaurateur of the Year winner Todd English was the man behind the beloved modern Mediterranean classic, and I was at the Bellagio grand opening, got to know English a little bit, and always loved his cooking. His once burgeoning restaurant empire, which even reached the high seas on cruise ships, shrank considerably, but after some lean times out of the spotlight, he is currently staging a culinary revival and even has a new namesake boutique hotel in the Arts District near Old Downton Las Vegas. I toured the English Hotel (which is part of Marriott’s funky, indie Tribute portfolio brand – and notably one of the very few places in Las Vegas where you can use Bonvoy points, the world’s largest hotel frequent stay program), and it is very cool and has an excellent restaurant that has quickly become a local favorite, The Pepper Club by Todd English.

But the main event is Olives, his most famous brand, and while it started in Boston and eventually reached the Big Apple, today the new Vegas location is the only one in this country (along with the Bahamas and Middle East). It was a fine dining anchor for the still relatively new Virgin Las Vegas when it opened in March 2021. Olives is still serving English’s tantalizing slate of homemade pastas, his famous tuna tartare and the wickedly addictive veal and pork meatballs.

Interestingly, the original Olives was one of the few top Strip eateries with outside dining, and the new location at the Virgin also has outside tables, a notable plus.

What can I say about Estiatorio Milos? I absolutely love this place, and it’s not only the best Greek restaurant in Las Vegas, it’s probably the best Greek restaurant in North America – except for the other Milos locations in New York, Miami, Los Cabos and the Montreal original (also London, with soon to open spots in Palm Beach and Dubai). I looked back through my files and see that I included it in a roundup of my 10 Best Meals of the Year worldwide in 2017, the Best of Vegas 2019, and a round-up of Best Las Vegas Restaurants. It’s not just great Greek food, it is exceptional in every way, but especially the unrivalled and impeccable seafood sourcing.

The Milos “concept” is centered around a “fish market,” a showpiece giant ice filled counter piled high with a drop-dead selection of amazing fresh fish. Waiters walk customers from their tables up to the display, lead them through the choices while describing taste and preparation options, and this is one of the world’s great seafood programs, with whole fish and shellfish flown in from all over the world, especially the Mediterranean, variety and freshness you just won’t get elsewhere. The focus on using the very best ingredients runs throughout, all the way down to the olive oil and even the Aegean sea salt. Even the non-seafood fare, such as the signature tower of paper-thin fried eggplant and zucchini chips with tzatziki sauce, are stunners. It is fine dining, it is delicious, and it is expensive – some say overpriced – but to me you get what you pay for, top shelf quality. Few Las Vegas tourists would blink twice at the menu prices if it was a fancy Italian, Japanese or steakhouse, and this Mediterranean fare is just as elevated any of those cuisines can be. But because the wine list showcases many Greek selections, bottles run less than at similarly high-end eateries, a savings. I’ve been to New York, I’ve been to Vegas (more than once) and Milos founder Costas Spiliadis just opened Xenodocheio Milos, his first luxury boutique hotel – and another Milos location – in Athens. I’m going next year, and I cannot wait.

For many years the Las Vegas location of Estiatorio Milos was in the Cosmopolitan, but last year it decamped for the Venetian, which has quietly – and quickly – been expanding its already robust culinary offerings in a power move to make it the place to eat in Vegas. Having surpassed the MGM Grand in girth, it is already the city’s largest resort – which is saying something – but Milos gives it a unique edge because while there are plenty of fancy restaurants in just about every other type of cuisine and culinary niche, nothing in town rivals Milos, and I cannot wait to visit the new spot.

The Venetian also lured another longtime Vegas favorite, Smith & Wollensky. From the iconic New York City original, this has grown into one of America’s most venerable high-end steakhouse chains, and is turning 45 this year. One big reason for this success is that it claims to be the only national steakhouse brand that dry-ages and hand-carves its own USDA Prime steaks on-site, and ensures excellent consistency by controlling its supply chain, with all Prime steaks sustainably produced by the Double R Ranch. In addition to great steaks, Smith & Wollensky is famed for its elaborate tiered shellfish towers, and the acclaimed wine list annually earns the coveted “Best of Award of Excellence” from Wine Spectator magazine. The new big thing is a custom whiskey, different from most other increasingly widely available “private cask bottles,” specially created in partnership with Kentucky’s vaunted Maker’s Mark (read more about the new bourbon here).

Smith & Wollensky opened here in 1998 as a rare non-casino eatery, an independent standalone on the Strip. Its original GM, Michael Feigheyr, is now President & COO of Smith & Wollensky Restaurant Group. After two decades, it closed in 2017 and reopened inside the Venetian in 2019, complete with a faux “exterior” done up like the New York original.

There are many different reasons to choose where to stay in Las Vegas, and most of the big mega-resorts have one or more compelling attractions, but wherever you stay, don’t forget that your favorite restaurant – or what my soon be your new favorite- may be somewhere unexpected and worth seeking out.

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