Glitzy dining rooms flaunting the names of celeb chefs usually get all the culinary attention in Las Vegas. Naturally, we’d want to eat at these alluringly theatrical (and pricey) casino retreats if we were flush with cash from a good poker run. But we also like following the lead of those in-the-know folks who work in their kitchens. When they are off the clock, they get as far away from rigid tasting menus and roulette tables as possible, preferring the simple and vibrant meals that await in off-Strip dives.

We tapped 13 acclaimed Sin City chefs to weigh in on their favorite hideaways, where you’ll see them kicking back over budget-friendly grub like platters of Hawaiian-inspired pork and bowls of real-deal pho.

Wesley Holton

Executive chef at Rose. Rabbit. Lie. (Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas)

vegas_holton

Favorite under-the-radar spot: Amena Café & Bakery, 2101 S Decatur Blvd (702-382-1010, amenacafe.com)

Holton says: “They serve some of the best pita bread and hummus I’ve ever had. They bake fresh every morning, and once their batch runs out, they are out. The bread is also usually still warm and steaming in the bag. Their lamb shawarma is awesome, too.” (Photo: Facebook)


Brian Howard

Executive chef at Comme Ça (Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas)

vegas_howard

Favorite under-the-radar spot: Kyara Japanese Tapas, 6555 S Jones Blvd (702-434-8856, kyaraizikaya.com)

Howard says: “It’s a small Japanese izakaya that serves up great cold beer and sake, but more importantly, some of the best Japanese food in town. I always order a good selection of noodles, yakitori, steamed, and raw items. You can even find some edgy dishes there, like fermented squid stomach.” (Photo: Facebook)

Jeremy Pacheco

Chef at Society at Café Encore (Wynn Las Vegas)

vegas_pacheo

Favorite under-the-radar spot: Rising Sun, 280 E Flamingo Road (702-248-7070)

Pacheco says: “We were big fans of Rising Sun when it was in Summerlin and have since followed the owner, Tony, and his wife to their new location just off the Strip. Tony always has fresh and interesting ingredients. Last time, on his suggestion, I enjoyed eating the sweet shrimp heads raw.” (Photos: Jeff Green, US Menu Guide)


Devin Hashimoto

Chef at Mizumi (Wynn Las Vegas)

vegas_hashimoto

Favorite under-the-radar spot: Island Flavor, 8090 S Durango Drive (702-876-2024, islandflavorlv.com)

Hashimoto says: “It’s a family-run restaurant from the Big Island of Hawaii that cooks, hands down, the best Hawaiian food out here. The atmosphere, the warm ‘Aloha’ spirit, and especially the food bring me back home. They have flavorful, fresh, Hawaiian-style portions at a reasonable price. One of my favorite dishes, not always on the menu, is their smoked pork and sautéed onions, a Big Island specialty.” (Photo: Foodspotting)

Mark LoRusso

Chef at Botero (Wynn Las Vegas)

vegas_lorusso

Favorite under-the-radar spot: Le Thai, 523 Fremont St (702-778-0888, lethaivegas.com)

LoRusso says: “The Le Thai short-rib fried rice is something I would have again and again. I love it. The short ribs are always perfectly braised and the fried egg on top really sets it off. I feel like they put some love into their cooking and the food is well-executed. I also like to see a restaurant downtown do really well.” (Photo: Thomas J. Story via Sunset)


Luke Forzano

Executive chef at SLS Las Vegas

vegas_forzano

Favorite under-the-radar spot: China Mama, 3420 S Jones Blvd (702-873-1977)

Forzano says: “China Mama has arguably Vegas’ most authentic and best Chinese food. It’s Szechuan style, with really bold flavors. I love their pan-fried and soup dumplings, and the pork-stuffed pocket bread is off the hook.”

Joseph Zanelli

Executive chef at Honey Salt

vegas_zanelli

Favorite under-the-radar spot: Novecento 900 Pizzeria, 5705 Centennial Center Blvd (702-685-4900, novecentopizza.com)

Zanelli says: “The Margherita pizza is simple but has fantastic flavor, and is, hands down, the best pizza dough in town. It’s my son’s new favorite.”


David Middleton

Chef at db Brasserie (The Venetian)

vegas_middleton

Favorite under-the-radar spot: Market Street Café, 12 E Odgen Ave (702-385-1222)

Middleton says: “I frequent Market Street Café, in the California Hotel & Casino, because it’s good, affordable, convenient, and—of course—pretty authentic. I always order the oxtail soup.” (Photos: B. Milne, Foodspotting)

Bryan Forgione

Executive chef at Buddy V’s Ristorante (The Venetian)

vegas_forgione

Favorite under-the-radar spot: Rollin Smoke Barbecue, 3185 Highland Drive (702-836-3621, rollinsmokebarbecue.com)

Forgione says: “Beef rib! I’m a BBQ enthusiast and truly appreciate old- fashioned ‘cue. They’ve got it down. They use the short rib cut where it has a lot more meat and natural fat. Texture, moisture, flavor—which are key factors in proper BBQ—are on the money.”


Shawn McClain

Executive chef at Sage and FIVE50 Pizza Bar (ARIA Resort & Casino)

vegas_mcclain

Favorite under-the-radar spot: Bachi HLK, 6825 W Russell Rd (702-220-4560)

McClain says: “I love to get off the Strip and venture out to discover local eateries, mainly on my free time, which is usually breakfast. Bachi HLK is a charming little spot with perhaps the friendliest staff around. The eclectic menu covers a lot of bases, from healthy (goji muesli) to decadent (foie gras). I love the smoothies, the coffee, and the Pocho Breakfast with Portuguese sausage.” (Photo: Facebook)

Marc Marrone

Corporate executive sous chef at TAO Asian Bistro and LAVO Italian Restaurant (The Venetian and Palazzo)

vegas_marrone

Favorite under-the-radar spot: Pepe’s Tacos, multiple locations (pepestacoslasvegas.com)

Marrone says: “I enjoy the huge selection of Mexican-style soft tacos. I always order two cabeza, which are melt-in-your-mouth tender; two lengua, the best around; and two al pastor. They are $1.79 each and always consistent. Top them off with a few ramekins of their housemade salsa verde and salsa picante, and you’re good to go.” (Photos: Cody Boor, Yelp)


Rick Moonen

Chef-owner at RM Seafood and Rx Boiler Room (Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino)

vegas_moonen

Favorite under-the-radar spot: Saffron Flavors of India, 4450 N Tenaya Way (702-489-7900)

Moonen says: “The food is definitely legit. It’s near my house and the owners are great people. I especially love the chicken wings, as well as the restaurant’s amazing naan, lamb rogan josh, chicken tikka masala, and their great vegan dishes. They develop complex flavors in a warm and delicious way.” (Photos: Roni Fields, Facebook)

Ben Jenkins

Executive chef at Michael Mina (Bellagio)

vegas_jenkins

Favorite under-the-radar spot: Pho Kim Long, 4029 W Spring Mountain Rd (702-220-3613)

Jenkins says: “With so many pho spots in Vegas, it seems as if there may be one on every corner. Pho Kim Long is the only one I frequent. The thin rice noodles, slow-cooked shaved brisket, thinly sliced rare steak, and flawlessly flavored, piping hot broth make the perfect concoction for the start or finish to any day.” (Photo: Trip Advisor)