Eating smart

Sometimes it’s hard to find a good deal in Vegas. No, not the “sort of” good deals you can find if you eat dinner at 2 a.m., bring a coupon and like your eggs painfully rubbery and overdone. I mean a really good deal.

Earlier this year, Zagat released a survey stating that Las Vegas has the highest meal cost in the nation when dining out — a whopping $47.53 average. That’s above New York ($41.76) and Miami ($39.86) and $12.09 more than the national average.

Eating in Vegas can be expensive — especially if you want to try our gourmet restaurants or a celebrity chef’s creations.

On my nights off, I like to get together with my friends and dine at one of our fabulous Vegas eateries. But if you’re out as much as I am, the tabs start adding up. Here are a few tricks I have personally tried and tested for you that might help while dining around Vegas.

The lounge menu at American Fish offers $5 dishes during happy hour.

The lounge menu at American Fish offers $5 dishes during happy hour.

Happy hour, happy wallet

As Jimmy Buffet would say, it’s five o’clock somewhere. But happy hour isn’t just for drinking anymore. Many restaurants have drink specials like Mandalay Bay’s Hussong’s Cantina’s buy one, get one traditional margaritas during happy hour. However, there are plenty of restaurants that also offer food specials.

For example, if you want to try some of American Fish’s delicious cuisine, but may not have the time or money for a whole meal, you can order any dish from the lounge menu for just $5. With options like oysters on the half shell, smoked salmon BLT, prime rib sandwich and foie gras poppers, that’s some serious value.

The happy hour at American Fish takes place Sunday – Friday from 5 p.m. – 7 p.m. Select dishes and drinks are offered at a happy hour rate. American Fish is located in Aria at CityCenter.

Watch the extras

Sometimes the little things can add up. When dining at a restaurant, a simple diet soda can cost between $3 – $5. If you’re a family of four, that can be an extra $20 added to your bill—and you haven’t even eaten yet. If you order a bottle of water for your table, that can run you $6 – $8.

Happy hour is an affordable way to try new cocktails and cuisine.

Some cocktails can be as much as $20 per glass, which adds up.

Of course, if you order alcoholic beverages, they will be more. Cocktails can be as much as $20 per glass.

Some restaurants in Vegas serve entrées à la carte. This means, no vegetables, no potatoes — just steak. So, if you want the fixin’s, you’re going to have to pay — sometimes as much as $12 per side dish. Granted, these sides are usually meant to be shared around the table, but if you order three, that comes to an extra $36 added onto your check.

I think you should definitely enjoy things like beverages and side dishes while here in Vegas. But note that you could easily spend more than $50 at dinner and walk away not having an appetizer, an entrée or dessert.

My advice: keep your eye on the prize and watch those extras.

Sharing is caring–about your bottom line

While sharing isn’t always possible, there are restaurants in Vegas that encourage passing dishes around your table. A number of tapas-style restaurants or restaurants featuring small plates have popped up around town recently.

Dining options like Fleur by Hubert Keller at Mandalay Bay make sharing your house-made Burrata or tuna tacos a fun and interactive way to try new dishes without breaking the bank.

Small plates on the Fleur menu start at just $3, but most are $7 – $17. A few highlights include a cheese platter ($16), onion soup velouté shooters with truffle oil ($7) and parmesan paprika popcorn ($3).

Larger portions make restaurants like Hash House A Go Go a good value.

Larger portions make restaurants like Hash House A Go Go a good value.

Big portions, big savings

Not everyone is competitive eater Joey Chestnut, winner of Martorano’s Masters Meatball Eating Championship two years in a row in Vegas. But sometimes, going someplace that serves larger portions pays off.

Restaurants like Hash House A Go Go, Café Martorano at the Rio and the Grand Lux Café at the Venetian all serve larger-than-average portions.

If you order an entrée that is too big, one option could be to take it home and have it for lunch or dinner the next day. This works out especially well if you’re staying in a hotel room that has a kitchenette. Hotels such as Trump and Cosmopolitan have kitchens available in some of their rooms. Stay in for a night and enjoy your beautiful hotel suite.

Vegas should be enjoyable to everyone regardless of your budget. I hope these cash-conscious tips help you navigate Las Vegas in an indulgent, yet affordable way.