I’m not one for boisterous bars, so my favorite places to imbibe (with one exception) are the lounge areas of restaurants. If you’re looking to dance or hook up, this isn’t the list for you ;).
Picasso (Bellagio). In addition to being one of the best restaurants in town, Picasso boasts one of the nicest places to have a drink. The bar itself only seats six, but there’s also a small adjoining seating area. The room is lovely and adorned with works by the artist. Most nights Kirby is behind the bar, and his cocktails are masterful. If you’re inclined to wine, Robert Smith is the resident Master Sommelier. Note: Picasso doesn’t serve food at its bar, so if you’re peckish it’s not the place to perch. Bonus: Picasso has a private patio right on the lake.
CUT Bar (Palazzo). In addition to the 8 or 10 seats seats at the bar, CUT – the Las Vegas iteration of Wolfgang Puck’s Beverly Hills steakhouse – offers plentiful seating in its lounge. The bartenders (usually Damian, Christina and Ryan) are extremely knowledgable about bourbon and whiskey, of which the bar has an extensive selection. They’re equally facile with classic cocktails, and can also make custom concoctions for you. In addition to the “rough cuts” menu of bar snacks, the full menu is available at the bar.
Mandarin Bar (Mandarin Oriental, in City Center). This place is the exception, and it’s pretty heavenly. No walk-in traffic (most people don’t realize the Mandarin exists, let alone know where it is or how to get there). Its floor-to-ceiling glass walls provide an astonishing view up and down the Strip. Tasteful drinks (and some nibbles) served in a refined environment. Best of all: you can actually reserve a table with no minimum or “bottle service” requirement.
Sensi (Bellagio). If you like ginger ale, you have to stop by this bar, because they make it from scratch using a base of ginger juice, lemon juice, lime juice and simple syrup. It’s astonishingly good, and you can enjoy it with or without alcohol.
Sage (Aria). A generous range of bourbons and whiskeys, with enthusiastic and knowledgable barmen. Express even a modicum of interest in the selection and they’ll likely put three or four of them down in front of you to taste before you decide.
Carnevino (Palazzo). While you’d absolutely enjoy a meal in the dining room, if you’re more into happy hour you’ll be very happy here. They have it all: house-made limoncello, a selection of Amaros, and everything in between. You can dine at the bar, either from the full menu or a small bites menu. Two or three of the latter and you’ll be out of there with a very happy tummy for $20 bucks or so.
Picasso (Bellagio). Since Chef Julian Serrano is in the kitchen full-time, this is one of only five AAA 5-Diamond restaurant in Las Vegas (the others are Guy Savoy, Joel Robuchon, Twist, and Le Cirque). What you’ll get is impeccable French food, wine and service in a gorgeous room. It’s our go-to special occasion place. Note: tasting menus only; they start at $115 per person. Call ahead if you want a vegetarian tasting menu; they’re happy to oblige with advance notice, and it’s sublime.
Charlie Palmer Steak (Four Seasons). Tucked away in a downstairs corner of the Four Seasons (another place most people don’t know exists – it’s part of the Mandalay Bay complex, with its own separate lobby and entrance) is this glorious steakhouse. No views to boast of; in fact, it has no windows whatsoever. What it DOES have is insanely good steak and seafood. Pro tip: ask for the MJONE menu. Three courses for $49, includes bottomless house wine. Cheers!
Country Club Grill (Wynn). A long hike through the corridor leading to the convention and meeting area rewards you with this refined room overlooking the famed Desert Inn Golf Course. You’ll feel a million miles away from the Strip, in a good way. Like all Wynn restaurants, it offers both vegetarian and vegan menus.
Yardbird (Venetian). The Miami restaurant, famed for its fried chicken, bourbon and brunch, opened here in January. It was a hit from day one. If comfort food is your thing – think fried chicken and waffles, and/or macaroni and cheese), this is the place for you!
HEXX (Paris Las Vegas). Most of the restaurants with fountain views at Bellagio are pricey fine dining places. HEXX, across the street, is more casual-contemporary, and has outdoor patio seating right on the Strip with views almost as good. Bonus: it’s open 24-7, so if you’re looking for a place to eat after a show or party, it’s a much more attractive version than most of the coffee shops.