Vegan Las Vegas!
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE
Don’t have a cow, man. Plant-based cuisine is hot in Sin City.
By Shawna Kenney
Sin City is known as the land of excess, home to all that is over the top, including food — all-you-can-eat buffets, bottomless Bloody Marys, world-renowned steakhouses. What’s a vegan to do? Years ago, not much. But today’s Vegas has gone through a plant-based makeover. The hip off-Strip Downtown area is the new hot spot for vegan eats.
Even some of the resorts now offer special menus. Tim Connolly, a master cook at Nobu, a high-end Japanese restaurant inside Caesars Palace, says he’s seen a shift in recent years, “where even long-standing staples like Komol or Paymon’s, which aren’t fully vegan or vegetarian, have plenty of options on their menus.” The Wynn and Encore hotels have paired with celebrity vegan chef Tal Ronnen to offer alternative plant-based menus in every one of their restaurants — you just have to ask (many of the menus are not posted or offered automatically).
So channel your best bad Elvis — Vegan, Las Vegas! — and start eating your way through town.
Owner Sacbe Meling founded Pancho’s Vegan Tacos to prove “you can go vegan and not lose any of your traditional flavor.” Try the soft street tacos, huaraches and sopes, or grab a dozen tamales for $19.99 while they’re hot — Meling says they can barely keep up with the demand. Since opening in December 2016, the colorful diner with the words for “vegan” in different languages painted on the walls has been popular with families, both vegan and non. Qué rico!
The sunshine-filled eatery offers down-home breakfast favorites like banana-covered French toast and whole grain waffles in blueberry sauce.
Just off-Strip in Downtown, the sunshine-filled eatery offers down-home breakfast favorites like banana-covered French toast and whole-grain waffles in blueberry sauce. For lunch, the Food Not Bombs Bowl, a mash-up of black bean chili and tofu scramble, might bring aging punkers back to the old days. Cheerful animal paintings on the walls and environmental literature champion the plant-based movement. VegeNation, which has been in operation since 2014, also hosts pop-up community yoga, art shows and DIY workshops.
It’s definitely not a vegan establishment, but you can get a Moshi Moshi (seaweed and jalapeno, minus the mayo) or El Mexicano (hold the bacon) vegan dog for $7.99 at this popular gourmet hot dog joint. Located in Container Park — a cool outdoor shopping area built from shipping containers, with funding from Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh — it makes for a family-friendly place to stroll and people-watch. Hit up Jojo’s Jerky next door and get some snacks for the road. The Caribbean Jerk is a salty, dehydrated cactus chew with notes of cinnamon, pineapple and allspice in its rub, while the Sweet and Sour Ginger Basil Peanuts make for handfuls of goodness too.
This gourmet raw and vegan eatery sits right across from Cheffini’s, also in Container Park. Owner and chef Stacey Dougan, who believes in the healing power of food, serves up hearty entrees like Raw Angel Hair Zucchini Pasta and Green Chili Enchiladas (all around $10.95), as well as fresh-pressed juice made in-house and sampling plates, which can be shared outside on the community tables while watching the kids climb the nearby Treehouse playground. The restaurant also does eco-friendly vegan catering, using biodegradable supplies and sustainable practices.
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While all of the Wynn Las Vegas restaurants offer some sort of vegan menu, some are better than others (Allegro had only a handful of options the last time I was there in March, and the server wasn’t sure whether they used Daiya or nut-based cheeses). Mizumi at the Wynn is a fancy night out, complete with an awe-inspiring vista of Japanese gardens and waterfalls. There are dozens of vegan standards on the main menu. I recommend the ishiyaki bibimbap and truffle salt edamame — both light-years beyond the sad avocado roll or mere miso soup offered by other sushi restaurants. Chef Devin Hashimoto was voted “Best Chef on the Strip” by the weekly city magazine Vegas Seven in 2012 when he first came to the restaurant. Reservations are a must, and there’s a dress code.
More Vegan Vegas Hot Spots
- Slice of Vegas: While the pizzeria nestled inside Mandalay Bay serves plenty of meat and cheese, its extensive vegan menu displays more than the afterthought of some other slice-to-go places.
- Veggie House: The reasonably priced Chinese restaurant in Chinatown (Note: Some of its fake meats do contain egg — be sure to ask) also has the new Vege-Way drive-thru, where you can get a double veggie burger, curly fries and a vegan milkshake.
- Cinnaholic: Stoke your stomach with warm, vegan gooey goodness at one of two locations on the outskirts of town before hiking Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area. Or just put yourself into a carb coma with frosting and fruit-topping combos.
- Ice Cream: Top off a weekend of excess with a vegan ice cream sandwich from Cream, a mainstream ice cream chain that keeps vegan and gluten-free options on hand. Perfect Scoop is another local favorite for its almond-based ice creams, boba teas and coffee frappés.
- Violette’s Vegan Organic Café & Juice Bar: Known for its organic juices and smoothies, this colorful west side restaurant also serves the popular Sassy Wings, crafted from homemade seitan.
- Shawna Kenney, OZY Author Contact Shawna Kenney