I like the Stratosphere. Its ubiquitous presence and isolated location (is it on the Strip?) seem to make it a target for scorn, but I’ve always encountered a clean, convenient casino-space full of smiling service and plain old fun. It’s the lighthouse/watchtower of Las Vegas, always showing you where you are. Give it a chance.
Dining-wise, there’s more to eat here than just the obvious—the award-winning, rotating institution that is Top of the World. If you haven’t been, you must, and if you have, go back any time for the exquisite, versatile cuisine by chefs Rick Giffen (who oversees all of Strat’s food) and Claude Gaty. Knockout dishes: rack of lamb with Moorish tomato sauce ($58) and “surf and turf” gnocchi with braised beef shortrib and lobster ($52).
Sandwich Carvery 108 is hiding up top, too, where you can fill up on house-roasted meats stacked on fresh kaiser rolls, stuff like guava barbecued pulled pork ($10) or pepper-crusted beef strip loin ($11). The Buffet is a rather sterile experience that reminds me of a college dining hall, but any place where you can pick between congee, lasagna or biscuits and gravy for brunch can’t be all bad, right?
On the promenade level, self-explanatory quick-serves like Tower Pizzeria, El Nopal Mexican Grill and Chicago Hot Dog Construction Company (that’s a great name) blend into cheesy retail shops. The property’s full-service restaurants are huddled in the northern end of the casino, and that’s where you wanna be.
Nostalgia-inducing Roxy’s Diner does breakfast, burgers and shakes right, including Pin Up star Claire Sinclair’s favorite Sin City Burger ($12.99) with fried egg, mushrooms, onions, pepper jack cheese and chipotle aioli. Cozy Italian alcove Fellini’s offers everything from pizza and antipasti to fettucine Capriciana ($17.95), loaded with shrimp, tomato, mushrooms and a vodka cream sauce, and even some steaks and chops.
But if you’re hungry for meat, head next door to the true hidden jewel of the Stratosphere, McCall’s Heartland Grill. Some of the more adventurous dishes have come off the menu since this affordable, delicious steakhouse opened in late 2012, but big flavors remain—the spicy and sweet jalapeño bacon-wrapped prawns ($12) are one of my favorite appetizers in the city, and the chili-roasted St. Louis ribs ($19) are a thing of beauty. The most expensive steak on the menu is $36 for an 18-ounce bone-in New York strip, with fries or baked potato. Tough to top that, huh?
Stratosphere 2000 Las Vegas Blvd. South, 702-380-7777.