Surviving as a Vegetarian in Las Vegas
Las Vegas airport ranks dead last for healthy food options
McCarran International ranked dead last in a study of healthy food options at the nation's airports in a 2004 survey conducted by the Physicians Commitee for Responsible Medicine. Neither the Phoenix nor Vegas airports offered a single healthy option in half their eateries. Miami and Detroit received the highest scores. The good news is that healthy options are increasing at airports in general with 75% of airports improving their scores over last year. (see the rankings...)
The message from Las Vegas casinos is loud
and clear: They don't care about
vegetarians. All other metro areas in the U.S.
accommodate vegetarians readily, but for some reason most
restaurant managers on the Vegas Strip remain clueless.
Maybe they think vegetarianism is a fringe interest, but the
reality is that around 10% of Americans are vegetarian or
nearly so, and the figure is even higher for many other
countries (and we all know how many foreign tourists come to
Vegas.) And when notable figures like Mike Tyson, Bill
Clinton, Paul McCartney, poker pro Daniel Negreanu, and even
Steve Wynn going vegan, it's clear that this idea has
definitely entered the mainstream. (see the BusinessWeek
So you're going to have to put a little more effort into
getting fed here than you would in other places.
If you've traveled as a vegetarian before, you probably know
some of the tricks, such as to look for ethnic
restaurants. Indian, Chinese, Middle Eastern, and
usually Italian restaurants all offer veggie options. In
a Chinese restaurant, they'll at least have one vegetarian
dish called "Buddha's Delight", which is just vegetables and
rice. (Just ask the server to make sure there's no
chicken or fish broth, or chicken powder.) Middle
Eastern fare for veggies includes hummus, tabouli, falafel (if
not fried with meats), and dolmas, which are stuffed grape
leaves. For Italian food, there's always pasta, as long
as the sauce doesn't have meat or fish. In a pinch you
can always order a pizza without meat (and without cheese, if
you're vegan). Just stay away from Mr. Gatti's, which
uses meat in their tomato sauce. Incidentally, no
Strip casino buffet is especially good for vegetarians.
Be warned that the buffets typically put chicken powder in the
Asian vegetables, lard or meat in the refried beans, and
chicken stock in the Spanish rice -- and they never
label it as such.
This page is divided into two sections:
- Truly veggie-friendly places with several choices, where you might actually want to go to eat.
- Places with only 1 or 2 veggie "options", useful only for avoiding starvation.
Please let me know of any corrections or worthy additions to this list. (e.g., If it's not on the Strip or downtown, then it should be way better or way more vegetarian than what you can get on the Strip or downtown.)
(multiple and/or exceptional vegetarian offerings)
None of these is completely vegetarian (they serve meat as well), except Go Raw, Veggie Delight, and Rainbow's End.
Komol Restaurant (Thai)
Komol has a generous vegetarian section on their
menu. Vegetarians used to having to pick the one
veggie item at a restaurant will be overwhelmed with
the choices here. The atmosphere is also nice
and the food is satisfying. A warning, I got one
of the dinner sets (#3, I think) and it came with a
soup that was mostly oil. It looked like they
used four parts oil and one part water. The
waiter noticed I didn't eat it and he graciously
offered to bring me a normal soup, which I was happy
to accept. Note that Namaste Indian (below) is
in the same shopping center.
Namaste India Cuisine
Thirteen vegetarian entreés on the menu, not counting
the South Indian dosas. The menu also
reassuringly mentions that they can prepare dishes
vegan. And like all other Indian restaurants in
town, this one has a lunch buffet.
Rainbow's End Natural Foods Cafe
1100 E. Sahara (1.5
mi. W. of the Strip), 702-737-7282, website
Not quite what you'd expect from a natural foods place -- there is no bicycle rack, and in the café your smoothie will be served in a styrofoam cup and your meal will come with plastic utensils. Although there's sit-down seating, you order at the counter. In some places of the store the shelves are only half-stocked, and the cooler doors list prices for products which aren't inside. I saw a staffer snap at a woman who asked for advice on what kind of supplements she should get. However, the café food is completely vegetarian, largely vegan, and delicious. My taro burger was everything you'd want in a taro burger. Do note the limited hours!
Spring Mountain & Wynn Road (1.5 miles W. of the Strip; get on the #203 bus at Sands/Spring Mountain next to the Fashion Show Mall or the Wynn) • 702-310-6565 • 11am-9pm
A little-known, tiny Vietnamese/Chinese café, specializing in faux meats. Everything on the menu is at least vegetarian, and can be made vegan for $1.00 to $1.50 extra. The menu is extensive and the food is good, and brown rice is an option. Vegans should note that the smoothies are made with milk unless you specifically request otherwise. Also note that this place is just a block away from Ronald's Donuts (see below).
4600 Spring Mountain Road (1.5 miles West of the Strip, near Arville St.), 702-873-1032
If you're not a veg*n for health reasons, you'll love
this place, since you can't get more junk food than
white flour, sugar, and oil. Most of the donuts
and pastries here are vegan, and are on two completely
separate shelves from the non-vegan stuff. Also note
that Veggie Delight is only a block away from
Ronald's, so if you're already making a trip out for
one of these places, the other one is close.
Note that they tend to close EARLY, like around 4pm.
505 E. Twain Ave (1 mile E. of the Strip; on Spring Mtn./Sands/Twain, which is all the same street. Get on the #203 bus on Spring Mtn. or Sands. It runs about every 30 mins. and gets there in 5 mins.) • 702-796-4177, website
The Vegetarian section of their menu boasts a
whopping 17 vegetarian entrees, not even counting the
veggie options on the South Indian part of their menu
Mint Indian Bistro ★★★
Editor's pick! Their menu explicitly
lists seven vegan entrees, as well as an
additional two more vegetarian entrees. They
also have vegan naan (!), and explicitly list
which appetizers and breads are vegan.
Wow! Why can't all restaurants be like
this? But I'm not done yet -- their $10.99 lunch
buffet is almost entirely vegetarian and has several
explicitly-labeled vegan items. Eighteen thumbs
Gandhi India's Cuisine
4080 Paradise Rd. (1
mile E. of the Strip along Flamingo; catch the #202
bus on Flamingo)
A whoping 19 vegetarian choices are listed explicitly
menu. And like just about every Indian
restaurant in town, they have a lunch buffet.
Gaylord's India Restaurant
3700 W. Flamingo (in the Rio, 1 mile W. of the Strip) • 702-777-7923 • 777-2277, website
Elegant dining, with entrees at around $16. Dinner 5-11pm nightly, brunch buffet Fri/Sat/Sun 11:30-2:30pm. A staffer came to our table to take our picture to try to sell it to us.
4165 S. Paradise Rd. (1.5 miles E. of the Strip along Flamingo), 702-792-2207, website
Menu has a vegetarian section with five separate entrees. Also has five veggie sides and four appetizers. Everything on the menu that's vegetarian is denoted with a special mark. And brown rice is available instead of white!
4480 Paradise Rd. (1.5 miles E. of the Strip, across from the Hard Rock, next to CVS) • 702-73-INDIA • website
Elegant Indian dining. Voted Best of Las Vegas in the local paper. The atmosphere is impressive in every way -- the lighting, the furniture, the tableware, everything. There are eight vegetarian entrees (avg. $14) though I expect a bit more than that in an Indian restaurant. Still, the food was good, and if you want a lovely dining experience, this is it.
Cottage Café - Ethiopian Cuisine
4647 Paradise Rd. (1.5 miles E. of the Strip between Harmon & Tropicana, 1 block S. of Hard Rock), 702-650-3395
Menu is about 1/3 vegetarian, but what you really want is the Vegetarian Combo, a generous serving of all the other dishes. The food is superb and it's my favorite of all the many Ethiopian restaurants I've been to. (It's also my favorite restaurant of any kind in Vegas.) But note that some others had a different experience, as evidenced by some negative reviews on Yelp. Open until 10pm or midnight (it varies).
One of the better Ethiopian restaurants, with a large
vegetarian section. Most dishes are $5, and the
veggie combo is $10.
Miko's Izakaya (Japanese)
500 E. Windmill (5 miles from Mandalay Bay) • 702-823-2779 • website
They have a separate vegetarian menu (which you have to ask for), unusual for a Japanese restaurant, so if you've always wanted Japanese vegetarian, here's your rare opportunity. Here's the full PDF menu; scroll down to the last two pages for the vegetarian section. I'm still suspicious that some of the items might be made with fish stock, because it's hard to separate Japanese from fish, and since when I inquired about that for the sukiyaki, even the proprietor had to ask the cook to make sure there was no fish stock. They don't bother to list their hours on their website. They boast about being owned by a traditional Japanese family but at least one of the proprietors is American-born, and speaks less Japanese than I do. He also bad-mouthed Koreans who open Japanese restaurants.
Go Raw Café
(See the description for their other location above, under WEST.)
Whole Foods Market
Las Vegas Blvd. S, in Town Square Shopping
Large organic / natural foods grocery store.
listed from North to South
Mount Everest India Cuisine
3641 Sahara @ Rainbow
(2 miles West of the Strip; take the #204 bus from
Offers a whopping 18 vegetarian items on their menu.
3553 S. Rainbow (4
miles West of the Strip)
A veggie-friendly Mexican restaurant. Their sopa and rice contain chicken broth, but at least they tell you that in large bold letters on the menu so you know what not to order. Their beans are fried in canola oil and they have a vegetarian section on their menu with six different entrees. The overwhelming majority of the menu is meat-laden, but it's still nice when a restaurant takes specific notice of vegetarian diners by printing a note about ingredients and offering a complete vegetarian section on its menu.
Red Velvet Café
Disapointingly, there's nearly nothing on the menu that's vegetarian or vegan by default, but several menu items are noted with "Vegan option available." They do have lots of vegan desserts, which is rare. And they have lots of good reviews on the veg site HappyCow.
Go Raw Café
A raw foods restaurant which appears to be all vegan as well. Their full menu is listed on their website, which is a nice touch. I've eaten at the West location (see below) several times and the food is always very impressive -- even my non-vegetarian, now-raw friend suggested we eat there more frequently. Prices are a tad higher than you might expect, but if you want gourmet vegan raw food, this is it.
Whole Foods Market
8855 W. Charleston (9 miles West of
the Strip), 702-254-8655, 8am-10pm every day
Two West locations for this large organic/natural foods grocery store.
Out of Business
Long Life Vege Restaurant 4130 S. Sandhill; closed in 2011
Shalimar Fine Indian Cuisine 3900 Paradise Rd
Raw Truth Cafe East
Erby's Vegetarian Cafe & Juice Bar 4596 W. Spring Mntn. (2 mi. W. of the Strip)
(typically only one or two veg. options on the menu)
listed from North to South
Most Strip hotel restaurants now have at least one thing that's vegetarian. I'm not going to list the one or two vegetarian options for each the dozens of Strip restaurants out there, but instead I'll list (1) entrees that are a little more interesting than normal, (2) cheap eats, esp. familiar fast food.
listed from North to South
In Terminal C.
4147 S. Maryland Parkway (just S. of Flamingo; 2 mi. E. of the Strip), 702-731-6030
More of a quiet restaurant than a café, offering a $13 Vegetarian Combo (hummus, tabouleh, falafel, dolmas, baba ghanoush, fries, and a few other items), a vegetable kabob, eggplant parmesan, and a few veggie pastas and sandwiches. Perhaps three of the eight combo items have dairy, and you might have trouble asking for substitutions. I tried to ask for a non-dairy version, but when the plate was delivered there was a suspicious green and white item. My conversation with the server went something like this:
Me: And none of this has dairy?
Merkato & Axum Ethiopian Restaurants
855 & 8630 E. Twain (2
E. of the Strip), 702-796-1231 & 640-9440
If you want Ethiopian, Cottage Café and Abyssinia (above) are much better choices. Merkato and Axum are right across the street from each other, in a not-so-great neighborhood, and the atmosphere and food are both below average. At Merkato the cooked greens were quite rancid. (Leave a bag of frozen vegetables on the counter for a couple of days and then open it, and it's the same smell.) Merkato's food was also super-greasy. I saw a roach scurry across the bar. The vegetarian section of the menu was rather sparse, and the description for one of the items there was vegetables and beef! At Axum, I've never had drier, nastier injera in my life.