600 E. Warm Springs, (702) 944-7243

Not every Vegas restaurant is in a casino hotel, and this family-run bistro is the ultimate local’s gem. “It caters to locals, but when visitors discover it, they’ll come back whenever they visit, even if they’re staying at the Bellagio. It’s consistently high quality and a great bargain. I don’t know how they keep prices so low,” says Stevens. Crepes, potato galettes, and contemporary American cuisine are all served at the chef-owned Wild Sage.

953 E. Sahara, (702) 735-3033

This mom-and-pop Thai eatery in a strip mall specializes in Nissan cuisine from northwestern Thailand. Lotus may not exactly be new, but until recently, it was one of the city’s best-kept secrets. Today, though, a zealous following has led to critical acclaim, including a review in Gourmet magazine that recently rated it the best Thai restaurant in the entire country. The attention has led to nonstop crowds, and many think both the food and service have suffered. But it is still an unusual culinary experience, still family-owned, and still one of the best values in Vegas.
The Fashion Show Mall (702-731-3636), Las Vegas’ shrine to upscale shopping, is wrapping up a huge expansion that includes several new restaurants. Cashing in on the original restaurant craze in Vegas is retail anchor Neiman Marcus. Its eatery, which opens in September, doesn’t have a name yet, but it does have a chef, Jacques van Staden, who was brought in ahead of time to help design the kitchen, an unusual and extravagant tactic. Las Vegas Sun food critic Muriel Stevens has already tasted van Staden’s cooking and adamantly declares, "Mark my words, in a few years he will be the new hot chef in Vegas.” —