In: Pop-Up Restaurants
Vic Vegas (biceps and all, above) has done it. Jet Tila is doing it. And, Alex Stratta is doing it again. Project Dinner Table has been popping up periodically and selling out when it does. Downtown Vegas will see another Farmer's Market pop up in 2012. Vegas StrEATS and tonight's South Point Food Truck Fest could even be called pop-ups for food trucks. One night only, destination dining (or market shopping), sometimes outdoors. It's the trendiest of all the trends, baby.
Out: Celebrity Restaurants
There used to be a time when casinos would throw cash at a Celebrity Chef and guarantee a dining draw. But some of our best meals recently have come behind restaurant marquees bearing no celebrity name, at all. Bradley Ogden has been rumored to be exiting Las Vegas. First Food's Sammy D is (kinda) leaving. We found a renowned Wolfgang Puck outpost to be rather disappointing. Sorry, Chef Ramsay, but our excitement over anticipating your arrival has dimmed a little, especially knowing that you'll be spending most of your time giving them hell elsewhere. These days, diners are smart about spending their dollar and the food is ultimately what will draw them in, not the name on the door. (Unless the name is Rick Moonen, in which case come for the name, stay for the food, return for both.)
We may have our favorites, but that never stops newbies from attempting to tempt our steak dollars. 35 Steaks and Martinis, Oscar's, and Old Homestead are all new kids on the butcher block with Ramsay's Vegas offering coming later this year. (In and Out. Well played, Ramsay.) Fortunately in Vegas, you'll always have the opportunity to get a good look at a T-Bone without sticking your head up a bull's ass.
As frequently as steakhouses come, some must go. Flamingo's Steakhouse 46 turned off its grill at the end of 2010 while Rare 120 shuttered last year to make room for 35 Steaks. BOA Steakhouse closed its doors inside the Forum Shops forever last week. Steakhouses: always in, often out. Anyone want to lay odds as to which of the newbies named above close first and last the longest?
In: Burgers With A Hook
Burgers will never be extinguished from American fare but can they actually be trending? Just when we were wondering if Vegas really needed another Burger joint, we fell in love with a new one. Each new burger joint seems to be battling the last to position itself ahead of the pack with its own unique spin on two buns and a beef patty.
The buzz at BLT Burger stems from spiking their milkshakes and KGB has been pouring vodka with their burgers. Excalibur just added Belgian fries and sauces. The suburbs first stopped a food truck from Slidin' Thru then paired burgers with an old-fashioned soda bar, extensive wine selections, sake, beer and hand crafted cocktails. Anthony's Burgers and Brews (shown above) at M Resort is now matching their burgers to beers and topping them with stout braised short ribs, spiced pastrami and cranberry-blue moon orange mayonnaise. Burgers may not be new but turns out we can get hooked pretty easily when they're done right.
Out: Traditional Burger Joints
When restaurants can snag diners with a hook, why go traditional? Downtown diners are risking heart attacks to have a cow. Johnny Rockets is grilling burgers in Palace Station while belting outs tunes. Fatburger and Burger Bar are probably two of the most traditional burger joints on the Strip but Hubert Keller's double-B has Kobe burgers and a killer beer menu. Even the newest Burger King couldn't do it their way, the old way, at the Rio. In other words, when the next burger spot opens, look for the hook.
In: Specialty Cocktails
Bars and restaurants have been serving signature drinks for years but establishments are really taking pride in the craft these days. Bellagio alone staffs more sommeliers than we can count, including a record three with the Master title. Public House introduced us to the concept of a beer cicerone. Mirage rolled out 30 cocktails in conjunction with a new beverage program. NY-NY has a program, too. Some of our favorite cocktails are served at Downtown Cocktail Room while Origin India's bartender prides himself in crafting cocktails to your preference. Hyde Bellagio brought in a consultant to create signature cocktails (one seen above) and a liquid nitrogen menu. The Barrymore and Mob Bar are putting updated spins on classic cocktails. Hand crafted, personalized attention, VegasChatter approved.
Out: Truffle Oil
This one's more of a wish than a prediction. Anyone else seeing truffle oil on restaurant tables more than ketchup, these days? You can oil up your mac and cheese. Liberally taste it in your french fries. It's stocked in enough kitchen cabinets these days to fill a category of best truffle oil dishes in Las Vegas. Not that we don't enjoy a well placed synthetic taste of truffle, especially in the form of butter. But, let's stop the overuse before Mickey D's asks if we'd like truffle oil with that.
In: Social Chefs
The opportunity to get inside the head of a Las Vegas chef and show off a Sin City recipe or cooking tip at our next Big Game party has always intrigued our amateur cooking hands. Two local chefs have already taken to Facebook and Twitter to host some Q&A this year, with more on the way expected. The next time the father-in-law wants to take over the grill responsibilities, you can say thanks pops but this is how Vegas does it.
Out: Tableside Greetings
While it's great chefs are popping their heads out of the kitchen and onto the Internets, table-side greetings seem to be on a decline. General Managers check in on our dining experience from time to time but outside of the Pop-up concept, the man in the chef coat has been staying in the back during most of our meals lately.
What dining and food trends would you like to see in Vegas? From your mouths to our ears, let us know!