If you can easily categorize Vegas casinos, then Harrah’s should definitely be considered a place to party. Its Mardi Gras-ish theme might be in need of refreshment, but consider the traffic into and around the boozy outdoor Carnaval Court pavilion, and how it flows straight into the lively Piano Bar. Harrah’s keeps it moving, keeps it casual and keeps it fun.
But it’s not a casino known for great food, which is exactly why I chose Harrah’s for some deep dining exploration. My experience tells me there are tasty eats to be found everywhere on the Strip, even at the casinos without ample celebrity chef action or complex cuisines galore. And after eating most of what Harrah’s has to offer, I’ve proven myself right.
There actually are some big names at Harrah’s—Toby Keith and Kerry Simon. They probably wouldn’t make for a very good Top Chef matchup, but at least you know what you’re dealing with. Toby Keith’s I Love This Bar & Grill may be the restaurant with the highest profile here, though it’s hidden away on Level 2. In fact, locating any food at Harrah’s, with its sprawling labyrinthine casino floor that seems to wind for miles, can be an overwhelming hunt, especially if you hit the frozen margarita spot on the way in.
- 3475 Las Vegas Blvd. S., 369-5000.
As far as themed restaurants go (Toby Keith is a theme. That’s what I’m saying.) you could do worse than this relatively rowdy country-rock bar, with its menu of comfort grub, standard barbecue (baby back rib dinner, $34.99) and white trashy treats (fried bologna sandwich, $14.99; deep fried Twinkies, $6.99). Simon’s KGB Burger, meanwhile, is one of the more consistent burger depots on the Strip, and it just started a fun, new burger-and-shake-of-the-month feature. I like the Southwest Burger ($13) with avocado, pepper jack, pico de gallo and more on a jalapeño-cheddar bun, though I’m not sure what its proper shake pairing would taste like.
Harrah’s has a standard café, a standard Chinese joint, two Starbucks, and a wild make-your-own sundae ice creamery called IcePan. My favorite discovery, barely noticeable behind the Flavors buffet line, is the quiet, cozy Oyster Bar, where decent clam chowder and rich pan roasts are made. A very artfully composed Crab Louis salad ($15) proved a happy surprise, with a mini-mountain of crab meat, sweet Russian dressing, ripe little tomatoes and hard-boiled eggs, plus a few extra cracked crab legs. Vegas needs to bring oyster bars back full-time, if you ask me.
The true gem of the Harrah’s dining stable is without question the Range, a steady and long overlooked steakhouse. Take an elevator up to a huge room covered in Strip-front windows and cowboy murals, where a jazzy duo entertains from a circular, red lounge and the affordable menu has all the greatest hits. Creamy five onion soup ($9) is not to be missed, served in a hollowed-out onion, and the crispy, meaty crab cake appetizer ($17) will fill you up like an entree. There are classic salads and steak and seafood standards, but the ambiance is the fun part here. It’s a throwback, just not too far back. If Caesars Entertainment renovates Harrah’s anytime soon, it’d be fun to see this simple joint left intact.