It’s not where you think.
Just 1.5 miles west of the North End of the Las Vegas Strip—in an area few travelers venture out to—is a cluster of Asian restaurants serving everything from Korean BBQ to boba tea. It couldn’t be more different than, say, Treasure Island’s over-the-top pirate theme or The Venetian Resort’s attempt at replicating Venice’s canals with stripe-shirted men paddling tourists along.
This neighborhood is the real deal.
Welcome to Las Vegas’ Chinatown. Marked by an ornate archway on Spring Mountain Road, a road that takes you out to Red Rocks if you keep heading west, this entrance is not that different from Chinatowns in San Francisco and New York City. And yet instead of historic high-rise buildings, this sea of bright and shiny strip malls spanning four blocks also celebrates cuisine from Asian cultures. More importantly, it’s where members of the local Asian community often eat.
Big Dan Shanxi Taste
Fresh off being nominated as a semi-finalist for a James Beard Award (for Best Chef Southwest), Hongrui Xin is the chef/owner of Big Dan Shanxi Taste, serving up casual, affordable eats that are nothing short of eclectic. For example, a cumin lamb burger and two hot oil noodle dishes (with tomato and eggs or vegetable egg and pork), pita bread soaked in beef soup, or stir-frying beef soup.
This fusion of Japanese and Thai cuisine, serving dinner only, is not your typical casual Asian restaurant. Pour-over coffee, Vietnamese-style coffee, and Thai coffee are joined by French wines as your beverage options to pair with sushi (sporting fun names like Girl Gone Wild or Boyz), pad thai, boat noodles with pork or beef, yellow curry or rad nar (fried chicken breast in gravy over rice noodles). Desserts also skew Thai with on-trend ingredients, such as the pung pung Nutella (square toast topped with Nutella and banana).
Looking for a morning jolt that’s not Starbucks? Or a donut not from a chain like Winchell’s? Load up on mochi donuts and sweet iced coffee at Mochinut. Now in 26 states, this is one of two Vegas-area locations. Very Insta-friendly, donuts are in bright pink (strawberry), yellow (banana milk), green (pistachio, matcha, and melona), red (red velvet), and purple (ube and taro) hues, along with the wildly popular Milk Pebble. Pair with a sweet boba tea or coffee in six flavors.
The Golden Tiki
Retro (or retro-inspired) bars in Vegas are a dying breed. Open since 2015, The Golden Tiki’s known for fruity, tropical-inspired cocktails and live Hawaiian music, and décor shockingly similar to Waikiki in the 1960s. Asian-inspired food is on the menu, which spans evening eats like coconut shrimp and crab rangoons on the Surfboard Platter, as well as Sunday brunch (with Korean BBQ anchoring the Bloody Mary). During happy hour (4 p.m. to 7 p.m. on weekdays), specialty drinks are $8, and six food items (including Lion’s Head Meatballs: pork meatballs in Schezuan Chili sauce) reduced to $4-$8 each.
HANU Korean BBQ
It’s rare to find a Korean BBQ joint for vegan, vegetarian, and pescatarian diners but the massive all-you-can-eat menu at HANU Korean BBQ easily accommodates preferences—like 50 options for the low price of $14.95, $29.95 or $38.95, which you grill yourself on your booth-sized table—menu such as tofu steak, radish wraps, salmon steak, scallops, japchae (vegetables stir-fried with clear, glass noodles) veggie egg rolls and vegetable tempura. Craving meat? The options are endless, from thinly sliced pork belly to Wagyu beef rib fingers, along with items you’d expect at a Korean restaurant, such as kimchi pancakes and bibimbap.
Chef Kenny’s Asian Vegan Restaurant
Three blocks west of Chinatown, but still on Spring Mountain Road, and in Korea Town Plaza, chef-owner Kenny (known as Chef Kenny) puts a new twist on dim sum with his all-vegan menu. This includes sushi nigiri with jackfruit and mushroom, not seafood. He even riffs on typical sushi rolls such as Dragon Roll, California Roll, and Spicy Tuna Roll with fish-free options.
85C Bakery Cafe
This sweets-infused café, for both pastries and coffee/espresso/tea drinks, may be a chain (in California, Washington, Nevada, Oregon, and Texas), but it’s based in Taiwan, and this is the only Vegas outpost—and there’s nearly always a long line. You’ll find the café in Shanghai Plaza. Thankfully, like most Asian-style bakeries, the line weaves through the offerings so you can just load up your plastic tray with the goods. For Asian-inspired pastries, look for Matcha Choco Bun, Mango Custard Bun, Milk Pudding (popular in Japan), and Taiwanese Borof (a Taiwan favorite). Pair with unique drinks like Sea Salt Caramel Coffee or Tiger Boba Latte.