With cost of living continuously on the rise throughout California, Las Vegas has seen unprecedented growth over the past five years. From north near Nellis Air Force Base to Spring Valley and Henderson, it seems every part of town has filled new subdivisions, and along with these transplants have come a wave of new restaurants, ranging from upscale dining to quick casual concepts. There are tacos and ramen, as well as hot dogs and boba, but more recently the highlights have included three big openings from some of So Cal’s finest.

Slater’s 50/50
Originally opened by Scott Slater in Anaheim Hills in 2009, Slater’s takes the latter portion of its name from their famous blend of 50% ground beef and 50% bacon. Highly awarded and cherished by fans, the Slater’s experience begins immediately upon entry, when guests are greeted by beer taps, smiling hostesses and a bevy of TVs showing the best of seasonal sports. Located at 467 East Silverado Ranch Boulevard, and thereby taking a “locals only” approach, it is from appetizers such as “Pork-a-Palooza” and fried macaroni and cheese infused with bacon Slater’s encourages diners to start, though fries cooked crispy by hot oil are also a popular choice (whether made from regular spuds or sweet potatoes). 

Frequently adding whimsy, from the "Best Damn Bacon Cheeseburger” to one called "P.B. & Jellousy" (which features a patty topped with peanut butter and jelly, plus optional ice cream), burgers follow in manners guaranteed to delight. Beers are available by the glass, as well as through a $30 subscription to tempt adults. For kids, or anyone’s inner child, shakes are also featured, with the usual flavors, such as chocolate and vanilla, as well as a “Happy Happy Birthday Shake” that comes topped in Twinkies, cupcakes and sprinkles, and is set ablaze with sparklers.

Best Friend by Roy Choi
Diners at this Park MGM eatery will find themselves surrounded by merchandise within a makeshift bodega en route to the dining room of Best Friend by Roy Choi. Part Korean barbeque, but at the same time a more complete vision of ideas concocted inside the chef’s Kogi Truck, this stunning space represents Choi’s first venture outside California. Featuring murals and illuminated street scenes beneath hanging plants, it is from a menu divided into sections such as "Bowls," "Pots" and "L.A. Sh*t" that diners are asked to make decisions, and from start to finish the focus on big flavors rings loud and clear.

Whether guests begin with cocktails or dive right into plates such as uni dynamite rice or “Slippery Shrimp,” shared plates make Best Friend great for groups, but polished enough for date night. Best Friend wisely keeps the tacos that built an empire – a marriage of marinated beef and cabbage beneath salsa – but it is from the a pot of tamarind black cod with glass noodles, onions and ginger that one of The Strip’s best deals can be found. While guests may not typically think of Korean cuisine for dessert, at Best Friend, it is wise that the meal’s end is placed in Park MGM Executive Pastry Chef Angibeau Philippe’s hands. The “Sundae for Two” are all that and then some, while both Date Cake and Mango Budino compare favorably to sweets sold at twice the price nearby.

The Factory Kitchen
A staple of Los Angeles' Arts District since 2013, The Factory Kitchen debuted earlier this year inside The Venetian’s “Restaurant Row,” a space previously housing B&B Ristorante completely reimagined as an exploration of Chef Angelo Auriana's regional Italian cuisine. The eatery is named for the original downtown space, and Restaurateur Matteo Ferdinandi is showing a lot of foresight by building early in the area. Doors open at 11:00 a.m., and The Factory Kitchen’s prices lower than many might anticipate for sizable portions of food that is both satisfying and soulful. The space is modern in design from front to back, with a lounge up front that is perfect for cocktails or pre-theater bites. Enthusiastic servers offer suggestions, though any table not opting to begin with a plate of perfectly aged Prosciutto atop fried dough with fresh cheese is making a big mistake.

The menu features Focaccina, a “Pizza-like" interpretation of Focaccia di Recco topped by vibrant sauce, and those not counting carbs will no doubt be tempted by pasta, which is signature Mandilli Di Seta executed beautifully by Chef Eduardo Pérez and his Las Vegas team. The Ravioli and Agnolotti are also both exquisite, with seasonal fillings and accoutrements. Prices are appropriate even for secondi and daily specials, with aged-Duck for $33 arguably a bargain considering the location. Saving room for dessert should also be prioritized, as Pastry Chef Jorge Luque takes classics up a notch with both profiteroles dubbed "Bignole" and Las Vegas' best version of the cannoli.