My favorite cliché about living in Las Vegas—and the one I defy most often, sometimes gleefully—is that locals never go to the Strip. Las Vegas Boulevard is certainly not the center of existence for everyone, but the vast majority of us sample the Strip life as much or as little as we want, and eating out is still the top reason for a visit. Though the restaurants are expensive, they’re too good to ignore.
But we’ve turned a corner in recent years. The off-Strip restaurant scene is so great and so balanced, locals don’t need to leave their own neighborhoods—especially if you live near the Lakes, which recently landed its own version of the Cosmopolitan’s acclaimed Estiatorio Milos. The charming, 30-seat Elia Authentic Greek Taverna was created by some former Milos staffers, but it has a character all its own, a warm yet casual space where you’ll want to linger with wine and food all night long.
You can easily make a perfect meal from Elia’s many scrumptious, seemingly simple appetizers, including grilled octopus ($16), gigante beans with tomato and dill ($8) and pork or chicken souvlaki skewers ($6). My must-order items are oven-baked feta cheese with tomatoes, serrano peppers and crusty bread ($10) and the addictive kolokythakia—lightly fried, paper-thin slices of zucchini with creamy, robust tzatziki ($12).
A crisp salad of tomato, cucumber, feta, kalamata olives, green pepper and wild oregano ($16) for the table to share is the next logical step, followed by the whole-grilled Mediterranean sea bass ($29). Tsipoura, the dorade royale or sea bream, is another tender white fish with big flavor treated well at Elia ($29), which also serves salmon ($20) in a similar manner, simply grilled with olive oil and lemon. But there’s more than fish among the entrées. The grilled half chicken with lemon-roasted potatoes ($18) is a feast, and Colorado lamb chops ($36) are an obvious winner.
For dessert, you won’t be able to decide between traditional baklava ($8) or the semolina custard galaktoboureko ($7). Just get both. They’re good enough to make you consider moving to this neighborhood.
ELIA 4226 S. Durango Drive, 702-284-5599. Monday-Saturday, 11:30 a.m.-10 p.m.; Sunday, noon-9 p.m.