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Our favorite foodies eat their way through Las Vegas

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Photo: Nick Coletsos

Rod Stewart was onto something when he wrote the song “Every Picture Tells a Story.” With pocket-sized, high-tech cameras always within reach, nearly everyone has the power to be a storyteller these days, and thanks to the wildly popular mobile application Instagram, we have the power to share those stories with the world. Instagram has connected people and their lives in ways Stewart could have never predicted, and no community has found a better home on the ’gram than foodies—legions of photo-snapping, grub-obsessed people, going to great lengths to document their dining conquests. The cheesiest cheese pulls. The runniest yolk porn. The crispiest fried chicken. It’s all right there, making our stomachs growl while we scroll till our thumbs give out.

Las Vegas has a tight-knit foodie family of its own, archiving the city’s most drool-inducing bites and gaining legions of dedicated followers along the way. We rounded up 10 of the city’s hungriest Instagrammers—each with a unique story and vision of their own—to talk about their never-ending appetites and the great lengths they’ll go to snap a perfect food photo, all for the love of the ’gram.

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      Samiya Jakubowicz - @closetfatgirl

      “Food is a really big thing in my family,” says Samiya Jakubowicz, the face behind Closet Fat Girl. “I’m Indian, and whenever we get together, you just roll out the red carpet and shovel them food,” she says, laughing.

      Jakubowicz says she was the person in college who had everybody over for dinner, hosting elaborate parties for friends. And they were always centered around one thing—good food.

      Her favorite places? “I love Hobak Korean BBQ. I really love Recess Italian Ice,” she says. “I would have to say that on the Strip, I really love Mon Ami Gabi. When my friends visit, I’m like, let’s go there.”

      Originally from South Florida, Jakubowicz started Closet Fat Girl years ago—partly as a suggestion from her now-husband. But it wasn’t until she had her daughter and moved to Las Vegas that her account took off.

      “I had so much time on my hands,” she says, that she started going out to eat and posting pictures on Instagram. “Food has always been my passion, hobby, therapy. I don’t know where it will go, but I’m keeping all my options open. I always say food is an adventure … [and] it’s been such a fun way to explore, and it gave me something to do with my daughter. She’s my mini foodie.”

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      Edward Thompson - @vegasfoodbaron

      Born and raised in Detroit, Edward Thompson’s love for food began when he was a kid, but it wasn’t until he moved to Las Vegas that it began playing a central role.

      The Vegas dining scene, he says, opened up endless possibilities for the then-newlywed, who used restaurants as a way to keep date nights with his new wife fresh. That’s where his foray into Instagram began. “Every Friday we would go to a new restaurant, and I would take pictures. And then it just kind of flourished from there,” he says.

      Now, Thompson wants to show people where to get good grub without breaking the bank. “You can find just as good of food off the Strip for half the price,” he says, listing favorites like the Barrymore, Naked City Pizza, Settebello and CRAFTKitchen.

      The Food Baron’s priority is all about leading people to good food. “I’ll get direct messages all through the week, like, ‘Hey I’m going to be in Vegas, give me a spot [to go eat]. We were in Oklahoma last week and someone sent me a DM [direct message], and my wife was like, ‘What are you doing?’ I was like, ‘I’ve got to hurry up and find a place for this guy to go eat!’”

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      Terri Russell - @savorsincity

      Not many Instagram foodies have endurance athlete on their résumé, but the woman behind Savor Sin City is all about striking a humble balance. When Russell isn’t snapping food pictures, she’s probably training for a half marathon or triathlon—something that’s reflected throughout her food-laden account. But it all started with no expectations, she says, just her love of food and an increasing interest in photography.

      “I did it for fun, and it’s just really grown from there. For me it’s always been a balance of what I’m interested in: training, hiking, being outside, traveling.” Having originally started on Yelp, Russell gained elite status and learned some tricks of the trade before jumping over to Instagram. “If a business is new, you have to give them a break,” she says. “I’m not going to review them right away. That’s not fair to that small business.”

      That’s because she’s all about maintaining that human connection. For Russell, it’s more about telling a story than who has the most followers. “Every time I post a photo of [me] hiking, I lose followers, but it is what it is,” she says. “I think it’s more real. Four days a week, I’m meal prepping. That’s the balance that I’ve found that’s helped me.”

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      Emily Romero - @eatmelasvegas

      Emily Romero’s passion for food and photography took off years ago. An elite Yelper, Romero had been keeping track of her dining experiences for years, but her wave of foodie fame began to roll when she started Eat Me Las Vegas.

      “I focus on stuff that I want to eat and what I would be interested in,” she says. “I go to Chengdu Taste a lot—it’s amazing. Yonaka is another good one. And I really like Other Mama. It’s such a variety of different things.”

      And while Romero loves to archive her experiences, she isn’t about trends—like anything rainbow- or unicorn-themed—she says. “I like to eat out a lot, I enjoy trying new foods and I love to travel. It’s kind of just a bonding experience, something to enjoy as a group.” Romero’s favorite thing about Vegas? That it’s always evolving and changing—for the better.

      “I think it’s grown so much. I’ve been here about 11 years. There’s always new restaurants popping up, all different types. I like to think of it as a small town with big-town amenities, which is great. I love that we have Puerto Rican food, and I just had Argentinean food the other day. I’d like to see lots more different foods available to us.”

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      Cee Cee Bautista - @vegasmomsblog

      “I started a blog as a mom resource,” Cee Cee Bautista says. “I felt like there wasn’t much of an online community for moms here in Las Vegas, and I was like, oh, I’ll start a little blog.”

      Vegas Moms Blog also features scrumptious-looking food photos. She links her interest in food back to her heritage and familial ties. “My parents are both from the Philippines, and food is a very big part of our culture. I could never get to the point where people are like, ‘I guess I have to eat,’” she laughs.

      Bautista also partners with her friends Heather Dweck, Cindy West and Marianne Yoffee on popular Instagram account Las Vegas Food. To Bautista, Instagram isn’t about going viral; it’s about getting other people just as excited about what she’s doing—and eating.

      “I’m just a fan of food,” she says. “[Las Vegas] used to be the home of the cheap buffets, and we’ve slowly evolved into this amazing food mecca, and there’s room for traditional stuff, too. Las Vegas is like a small town, everybody’s paths cross. So I found a little foodie tribe. I love it, to have people who are just as into food as me.”

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      Lindsay Stewart - @lasvegasfoodie

      Lindsay Stewart self-identifies as a “professional food consumer”—at least that’s what her Instagram bio says. And we agree it has a nice ring to it. The LA ex-pat got her start as an Insta-foodie after she moved to Las Vegas nearly three years ago. “My husband and I we were just interested in all the food options,” she says. “It was really exciting to have everything all in one place. You can travel the world in Vegas with food.”

      Stewart began documenting her dining escapades on her social media profile, but it didn’t take off right away. “We were eating at a lot of steakhouses, but the steakhouses are pretty dark, so my photos didn’t turn out the greatest,” she laughs. “Then we started branching out, going off the Strip and really finding those hidden gems. Everyone thinks Las Vegas is just this gambling place for parties and stuff, but there’s so much more.”

      As for the food, Stewart can’t get enough of brunch—she recommends Giada for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and she’s particularly fond of a few off-Strip treasures. “I love DW Bistro, [and] I also recently went to Americana for brunch, and it blew my mind.”

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      Elnino Felipe - @ninser_the_foodie

      Known by his friends as “Nins,” Elnino Felipe has always loved food, but it wasn’t until social media that he realized how serious he was about the dining grind. Among the first batch of Yelpers in Las Vegas, Felipe was an elite member for years before he decided it was too much to maintain while working as a medic. “It was getting overwhelming,” he says. “I wanted to focus on pictures.”

      Felipe calls Instagram “an interesting escape” from his daily routine—the complete opposite of his shifts at the hospital. Given his busy schedule, it’s a surprise he finds time to post every day, but he makes it happen. “My friends are like, ‘You drive all across town for food?’ And I’m like, ‘Yes, I will waste gas just to get food’,” he says, smiling. “A lot of people don’t understand that. We’re not eating hot food or warm food anymore. We want that shot. It’s the sacrifice we make. It’s a passion. Sometimes I really just want to eat the food, but I can’t help it.”

      Felipe doesn’t play favorites, but he’s definitely got love for different area codes. “Vegas is my hometown, but LA is my foodie playground,” he says. “I’m hoping they’ll bring more stuff from LA. There’s so much potential [here].”

      His weakness? The food scene Downtown—and anything involving dessert. “I love ice cream and anything that’s colorful, sweet and vibrant,” he says.

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      Suzy Hendrix - @happytummy_702

      Like most food-obsessed folks, Suzy Hendrix used to post her photos to Facebook religiously. “Then I started to realize [that] maybe my friends and family aren’t as interested in food as I am,” she laughs. “I actually got a couple comments like, ‘You know Suzy, I’m on a diet. I don’t know if I can keep you on my feed.’ That’s what first triggered the idea to put it on a different platform,” she says.

      When Hendrix created Happy Tummy 702, she didn’t know anything about Instagram, or the potential it had. “I didn’t know hashtags. I just posted because I wanted to post. I told nobody, none of my friends,” she says. “It still surprises me to this day that my account has evolved to that. It’s really cool to see what opportunities it brings.”

      It has allowed her to follow other interests, including photography. “I took a couple of classes to learn about exposure and shutter speeds and things like that,” says Hendrix, who switches between her Cannon and her iPhone to get great shots. “It depends on what the food calls for,” she says, although she admits there’s no formula for figuring out which photos will go viral, and which ones won’t. “Of course you want it well-liked,” Hendrix says, but to her it’s all about the comments—that “somebody actually took a moment. To me, it speaks volumes.”

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      Amber Allure - @amberallurecupcakes

      You could call this Vegas mom a triple threat—she bakes, does makeup and she also has a thing for fast cars—but like most Instagrammers, she’s humble about where her success has taken her. “I first started because of my home-based baking business,” Allure says.

      “Instagram was a way to show my work and get more customers. I got into beauty along the way and followed all these accounts that inspired me, and I recently got into food blogging and lifestyle.”

      As a stay-at-home mom, Allure says she made her Instagram account as a way to make use of her time, to take her passion projects to new heights while keeping her sights on her family. “I love planning parties for my kids, so I just decided to learn [how to bake]. It all just really started out as a hobby, but it’s taken me so far.” It’s rare that the social-media star isn’t at an event, working on her next post or hitting up one of her favorite spots like Blue Ribbon Fried Chicken, Zuma and Paina Cafe.

      “I love hanging out with groups that inspire myself and other women, and I love hanging out with all the food bloggers. I want to work with more people, collaborate with more people and share my passion.”

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      Paul Ryu - @ryusauce

      He’s known among the foodies for “the Ryu tilt”—the angle at which he takes most of his photos, making each one really pop.

      Originally from South Korea, Paul Ryu moved to Santa Barbara, California, as an international student when he was just 13. With no adult supervision, Ryu did what any teenager would do. He partied … a lot.

      The food thing, he says, came much later in his life, and has served as a constant thread for the newlywed and his wife, Mindi. That passion developed out of the couple’s love for Asian food, and it has only grown from there.

      “Korean food and all that stuff is something that I’m just naturally into,” he says. “I was that guy that was embarrassed of my fridge when I was young because it had kimchi in it and my friends would make fun of me. Now it’s the coolest thing.”

      See that set of perfectly manicured nails in all his photos? Those belong to Mindi—and her hands have become an Instagram institution—not just on Ryu’s account, but on everyone else’s, too. As for the couple’s foodie fame? “I’m not thinking about what leverage I have,” Ryu says. “I’m here for the food. … Maybe I can make a mark in the restaurant industry, that this guy helped our restaurant come from here to here.”

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    Leslie Ventura is a staff writer at Las Vegas Weekly and Industry Weekly. She’s picked the brains of rock stars ...

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