Las Vegas is home to a wealth of culinary gems and not just those found in the large casino hotels. Locals know some of the best eats are found off the Las Vegas Strip, in neighborhoods all across town. From notable diners and beloved sandwich shops to an abundance of ethnic cuisine, Las Vegas has a lot to offer foodies.
If you love Mexican food and want something more authentic, deviate from the strip and try one of these three locals’ favorites:
1. Roberto’s Taco Shop
Although technically considered a fast food chain, Roberto’s Taco Shop serves some of the best Mexican food. They have convenient locations all over Las Vegas — some even open 24 hours — so you can get your Mexican food fix around the clock.
Locals love Roberto’s and it is not unusual to hit at peak times, like lunch, and find no tables anywhere. They have a large menu and feature a number of traditional Mexican specialties, like chillaquiles and menudo. The portions are large and they are never stingy with ingredients. Roberto’s prices are reasonable and the food is as good as any taco shop in Southern California.
They have a salsa bar with a few different options, ranging from mild to really hot, and they have the pickled carrots, peppers, and onions that you find in traditional taquerias.
2. Ricardo’s of Las Vegas Mexican Restaurant
This is another Las Vegas institution. They have been around since 1979 and have been voted the “Best Mexican Restaurant” by the Las Vegas Review Journal Reader’s Poll 22 times since 1983.
Ricardo’s menu is varied, with traditional Mexican cuisine and Southwest dishes. Since this is a traditional sit down restaurant, the prices are much higher than somewhere like Roberto’s Taco Shop. Some of the chicken and fish entrees are over $16 at Ricardo’s so keep that in mind if you are a budget traveler.
The restaurant features a full bar and a great menu of drinks. Be sure to try one of their signature margaritas — their prickly pear is one of the best margaritas I’ve ever tasted. There is a private room for group functions and wedding receptions — their catering department is excellent at preparing for special functions.
Ricardo’s is conveniently located not too far off the strip on the corner of Decatur and Flamingo and catching a cab back and forth is relatively cheap. Like many locals’ favorites, Ricardo’s tends to get packed during peak dining times. You can now make reservations online through Open Table, or you can always snag a seat and the bar and still order off the menu if the wait is too long.
Ricardo’s of Las Vegas
4930 W. Flamingo Road
3. Dona Maria’s
If it is authentic tamales you are after, then head over to Dona Maria’s on Las Vegas Boulevard, near the Stratosphere Hotel. Located in the older, less glamorous part of Las Vegas Blvd., this little hole-in-the-wall serves some of the best tamales and Mexican food you will have.
Signature tamales include pork in a mild sauce (red), chicken in a spicy sauce (green), Monterey jack cheese and green chilies, and sweet pineapple and raisins (dessert). The tamales are sold individually, and by the half dozen or full dozen if you just want to get some to bring back to your hotel. I’d recommend staying and trying a few other menu items as well. Items like avocado or nopal (cactus) tacos, traditional pozole, and a tamale enchilada style are among some of my favorites. They are open for breakfast now and feature a number of delicious and traditional breakfast specialties for those who are early birds.
Dona Maria’s has a second location in Summerlin, which is bigger and features newer decor, but the original one in downtown is hard to beat.
Dona Maria’s Tamales
Centro – 910 S. Las Vegas Blvd, (702) 382-6538
Summerlin – 3205 N. Tenaya Way, (702) 656-1600
Hours for both: Sun – Thurs 8:00 am – 10:00pm, Fri – Sat 8:00am – 11pm