Despite being one of the most popular destinations in the U.S., Las Vegas can feel like an entirely different planet. Here you see recognizable buildings and landmarks from around the world – but they’ve been replicated and reinterpreted to appeal to the masses without requiring a long/international flight. To follow in the footsteps of Anthony Bourdain in Las Vegas is to take a walk on the weird, wild side of a city known for those two aspects more than any other.
Bourdain says it right when he claims that one must go to Vegas with an almost anthropological mindset: study the fascinating yet foreign culture to try and make sense of it. It isn’t that Bourdain didn’t like gambling destinations – he loved Macau, after all – but rather that this particular part of America seemed incomprehensible: why visit the not-real Eiffel Tower? How can “New York, New York” be more appealing to visit than the real NYC?
Anthony Bourdain visited Las Vegas twice during his television career: once during filming No Reservations (2004) and again a decade later while filming Parts Unknown in 2013. During that time, he goes from a discombobulated Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas mindset to an appreciation of Vegas’ heritage – and a wistfulness for bygone days.
In addition to eating his way across town, Tony Bourdain visits the Neon Museum, goes skydiving with Elvis lookalikes, and takes in an old-style jazz show one night; you too can follow in the footsteps of Anthony Bourdain in Las Vegas, as almost everything he enjoyed during his two trips is still open and available today.
If you’re ready to explore the fascinating fantasy world of Vegas – and seek what realness might be visible around the edges, read on. You’ll discover where Anthony Bourdain ate in Las Vegas and how to do the same.
Want to watch the episodes where Anthony Bourdain visits Vegas?
His episode from No Reservations is available on Amazon and Hulu; the Parts Unknown episode is also available on Amazon, as well as Apple TV.
Where Anthony Bourdain ate in Las Vegas
As you’ll see, Anthony Bourdain ate a lot of different places in Las Vegas, both on and off the strip. The map above gives you a good sense of the places, including ones that are closed; read on to discover each place and what Bourdain ate there.
No Reservations (2004)
On his first trip to Las Vegas, Bourdain is joined by food writer Michael Ruhlman as his traveling companion. Ruhlman is perhaps most famously known for co-authoring The French Laundry Cookbook with Chef Thomas Keller among more than two dozen books. If anyone can help Tony – who is on assignment to write about celebrity chefs in Las Vegas, it’s Ruhlman. Here’s where they go together on this visit to Vegas.
1. Double Down Saloon
Bourdain and Ruhlman start at a spot well off the beaten tourist track – aka The Strip – called Double Down Saloon. Here they gain liquid sustenance before heading out on the town, in the form of a Schlitz (beer) and “Ass Juice,” a fruity, alcoholic concoction that’s reformulated every night.
2. Bouchon at the Venetian
Next, they head to one of Vegas’ most iconic spots: The Venetian Hotel and Casino, with it’s indoor canals and Italian-trained gondoliers. As Tony’s in town to eat at celebrity chef restaurants, they head to Bouchon, the Thomas Keller outpost on the Strip. He and Ruhlman enjoy house-marinated olives, salmon rillettes with clarified butter, beignets de brandade (salt cod), poulet rôti (roast chicken), pommes frites (French fries that Bourdain laments are perfect despite their presence in a town he doesn’t really understand).
3. Nathan’s at New York, New York
Next, Bourdain is feeling a bit homesick so he heads to the place that looks familiar – New York, New York. There, he’s disoriented by his surrounds and tries to recover with a hot dog from Nathan’s. It doesn’t work, and he ends up more confused than ever.
4. Beauty Bar (CLOSED)
After that, Tony heads on his own to a now-closed spot where he gets nail care with a side of gossip and a “girly” pink cocktail to go with it. Beauty Bar was a famous spot on Fremont Street, but unfortunately closed in 2019 after several security issues and incidents with police.
5. Peppermill Fireside Lounge
Don’t worry though – the next place that Bourdain visits is still around, going strong after decades. Peppermill Fireside Lounge is a local landmark, drawing visitors and locals alike; here, Tony again orders “girly” Scorpion drinks… (Just own that you love fruity drinks, Tony – no judgment!)
6. Mesa Grill at Caesar’s Palace (CLOSED)
While vaguely continuing his work on the story about celebrity chefs in Las Vegas, Bourdain and Ruhlman visit Mesa Grill at Caesar’s Palace, which was Chef Bobby Flay’s Vegas outpost until it closed in late 2020. (The restaurant closed so that Flay could open a new Italian-style seafood restaurant in the same place.)
Over dinner, the pair enjoy tuna tartare, tiger shrimp and roasted garlic corn tamale, the smoked chicken and black bean quesadilla (which underwhelms), and New York strip steak.
7. Mermaid Restaurant & Lounge at Silverton
As his trip to Vegas winds down, Tony heads to another off-beat watering hole: the Mermaid Restaurant & Lounge at Silverton Casino. Here he muses on what brings people to Vegas and likely enjoys a drink or two (though we don’t see that on-screen).
8. Wynn Las Vegas (Room Service)
Finally, it’s worth mentioning that Bourdain stayed at the Wynn during this Las Vegas trip. While the crew generally didn’t show which hotels Tony stayed at, they do mention it here as he orders a huge spread of room service during his stay.
If you want to truly follow in his footsteps, this is the place to stay – and go big sampling whatever they have on the room service menu!
Parts Unknown (2013)
For his return to Vegas, Anthony Bourdain is joined by Michael Ruhlman again; Ruhlman originally hails from Cleveland but calls Vegas home – and has stuck around for the almost 10 years between these two episodes. Taking their inspiration less from Fear and Loathing, the pair indulge themselves a bit more while still managing to enjoy local spots.
9. Huntridge Tavern
As in the first Vegas episode, Bourdain and Ruhlman begin at a local watering hole – in this case Huntridge Tavern. While talking to the bartender, they discover how this place is where those who’ve seen it all come to unwind.
10. Hadrian Villa at Caesar’s Palace
I’m not exactly sure how they determine when something is “above” a five-star experience, but if I had to guess, the meal that Bourdain and Ruhlman enjoy at the Hadrian Villa of Caesar’s Palace (now called the “Constantine Villa,” I think) would qualify as a seven-star meal. In a huge private dining room of the 10,000 square foot, $35,000 per night estate, they enjoy dishes made with the world’s best caviar and fresh black truffle, as well as duck and rabbit with foie gras.
11. The Bootlegger
Chasing one chapter of “Old Vegas” history, Bourdain then visits The Bootlegger, a famous spot for Italian. We don’t see exactly what he eats during this visit, but he recommends both the iceberg wedge with bleu cheese and veal parmesan, which sounds like a great meal to me!
Next, Bourdain meets up with another name you might recognize: Penn Jillette, of Penn & Teller fame. The two tuck into a fresh sushi at Raku, a Japanese izakaya (casual bar). There they enjoy California sea urchin, Spanish tuna, and Japanese river crab, as well as Isaki sashimi, Isaki belly, deep-fried chicken, Himachi belly, and fish collar – a Bourdain fave.
13. Oscar’s Steakhouse
After time to digest, Tony sets out for another meal meeting; this time he’s at Oscar’s Steakhouse named for former Las Vegas Mayor and mob attorney Oscar Goodman. The two enjoy a meal (food unknown) and talk about the old days when Goodman worked for some of Vegas’ most notorious visitors.
After that, Bourdain heads to eat. with Las Vegas artist Anthony Bondi, the restaurant by Chef Natalie Young. This black-owned restaurant is great for supporting that community and a popular spot for casual breakfast and lunch; Tony tries the monstrous grilled cheese and tomato soup that is one of the most popular items on the menu.
15. Lotus of Siam
Lotus of Siam is a popular spot for locals in the know – Vegas has fantastic ethnic foods from around the world since so many people have come to call the place home. This restaurant has two outposts, one on Sahara Avenue and the other on Flamingo Road.
While there, Bourdain enjoys the restaurant’s specialty with Chef Jet Tila: northern Thai food, including nam prik (chili dip), nam khao tod (puffed crispy rice salad with preserved pork sausage), jackfruit salad, pork curry with garlic and ginger, and khao soi – among other dishes.
16. é by José Andrés at the Cosmopolitan
Finally, Bourdain ends his second visit to Vegas with another celebrity chef dining experience. This time it’s with Chef José Andrés at é by José Andrés at the Cosmopolitan. Andrés has since become renowned in the food community for his commitment to local economies and providing meals after natural disasters.
There, Tony tucks into a series of incredible dishes: Ibérico ham and bean soup with black and roasted garlic, nitro almond cup finished with Andalusian caviar, mussels, and olives with “foam,” truffle egg with onion puree and shaved white truffle, crispy chicken skin, salt-roasted foie gras, and many, many more.
Despite some closures over the years, most of the places visited by Anthony Bourdain in Las Vegas are still there and ready to serve you.
Have any questions about following in Anthony Bourdain’s footsteps on the Strip – and off it? Let me know in the comments.