Is the idea of a “vegan vegas” in the land of gambling, martinis, cigars and the $4.99 prime-rib special an oxymoron? In 2007, the Las Vegas Review-Journal memorably noted that, “Being a vegan in Las Vegas is like being coconut-intolerant on Gilligan’s Island.” A vegan diet is one free of animal products, such as meat, fish, fowl, eggs, dairy, honey and gelatin. Millions of people adhere to such diets, including a growing number of Las Vegas’ 41 million annual visitors.
But like an aging movie star, Las Vegas has shown an uncanny ability to continually re-engineer itself to meet the world’s changing tastes. Today, the billion-dollar casino hotels of the Las Vegas Strip barely bat an eye at the idea of providing tasty vegan dining to their customers. As Eating Vegan in Vegas, an e-book by Paul Graham, puts it, “If it can happen here, it can happen anywhere.” Even Prime Steakhouse at Bellagio now boasts a vegan risotto, made with pureed tofu rather than butter and cheese.
Crush at MGM Grand Hotel & Casino also offers a vegan menu, as well as vegetarian, dairy-free, gluten-free and shellfish-free options. “We have been really excited at the menu’s reception. People are happy and often surprised we offer it. They don’t have to search to find a suitable dish or say, ‘I’ll just have … ,’ ” says Crush Executive Chef Billy DeMarco. “We want our vegan guests to have the same experience as any other guest, but it feels good when they thank us for doing it.” A traveler doesn’t need to be a full-time vegan to enjoy the food. “Vegan doesn’t have to be boring,” DeMarco says.
Restaurant MGM Grand Hotel & Casino
Vegan choices include roasted cauliflower with garlic, chili and mint; a risotto made with tomato fondue and arugula; a tempura tofu made with oyster mushrooms and carrot miso broth; and Gardein “chicken” — whose meaty texture comes from soy, wheat and pea proteins, and vegetables and ancient grains — made with broccoli and lemon-garlic sauce. At Crush, the cheeseless flatbread pizza with dates and jalapeños is a great choice.
2. Julian Serrano
Aria Resort & Casino
The elegant, crystal-filled restaurant named for chef Julian Serrano in Aria is famous for its Spanish tapas. Vegans will find a selection of tapas that includes sautéed baby spinach with pine nuts, raisins, apple and shallots; asparagus a la plancha, with green asparagus, almonds and romesco (a nut-and-red-pepper-based sauce originally from Catalonia); savory sautéed padron peppers with orange zest, sea salt and orange glaze; and grilled Japanese eggplant with “escalivada,” or smoky sauce, and Marcona almonds. There’s also vegetable paella with saffron rice for two, perhaps with sorbet for dessert.
3. Sprinkles Cupcakes
The LINQ Hotel
The Linq (formerly known as the Imperial Palace) offers the High Roller, a 550-foot-tall Ferris wheel with observation cabins affording commanding views. Ride it and treat yourself to a vegan red-velvet cupcake (marked with an edible “V”) with tofu cream frosting, served
daily at Sprinkles Cupcakes.
4. Holstein’s Shakes and Buns
The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas
Holstein’s, an affordable restaurant at The Cosmopolitan, offers a simple vegan patty: the Urth burger served with lettuce, tomato, cucumber, avocado and sprouts. If you prefer your buns tiny, The Cosmopolitan also offers Urth vegan sliders. Holstein’s also puts a vegan twist on the all-American burger-and-shake meal. Among Holstein’s Bam-Boozled Shakes, like The Fat Boy, the Drunken Monkey and, yes, the Maple Bacon, is the Vegan Coconut Raspberry. Vegan but arguably healthy, it’s made with coconut sorbet, raspberries, Skyy raspberry vodka, Three Olives Coconut Vodka, toasted coconut marshmallow and soy whipped topping.
Encore at Wynn Las Vegas
The restaurants at Encore, like those at its sibling the Wynn Las Vegas, offer a vegan and vegetarian menu developed in conjunction with chef Tal Ronnen, called the best vegan chef in America by no less than Oprah. Andrea’s at Encore offers faux-chicken lettuce cups and shishito peppers, vegan sushi rolls and shitake-mushroom-encrusted tofu steak. For breakfast, Society Café Encore offers selections like a vegan French toast, as well as Florentine Benedict made with smoked tofu, spinach, English muffin and a tomato-based “Hollandaise” sauce. Wynnlasvegas.com/dining/finedining/andreas
6. Veggie House, Veggie Delight
For travelers willing to venture off the Las Vegas Strip, the city has many restaurants offering vegan alternatives. Vegan or vegetarian visitors to Vegas’ Chinatown (yes, there is one) will find restaurants like Veggie House and Veggie Delight. Their offerings include “beef’ with broccoli, orange and mushroom “chicken,” pineapple “duck,” noodles, soup, deep-fried tofu and more.