by Graceanne Bowe, Product Director, SAPinsider Events
Las Vegas once conjured up images of casinos in the sand, all the free alcohol you could drink, and lavish buffets that made up for in quantity what they may have lacked in gourmet quality.
The casinos are still here, but the Las Vegas strip has become a playground for the rich and famous. Celebrity chefs are represented up and down the strip by high-priced restaurants. One drink and a cover charge to a club can exceed $50. How does the average conference attendee, then, eat well and still submit an expense report that doesn’t turn the CFO’s hair gray?
After being here for a week on business, I have found that it is possible to enjoy meals that fit into my company’s expense guidelines without resorting to fast food that is unappetizing at best—and unhealthy at worst. Here are my top 10 recommendations for BI 2011 and IT 2011 conference attendees.
Take advantage of meals provided at the conference: All conference attendees receive breakfast and lunch daily. Since you’ve already paid for these meals as part of your conference registration fee, they never have to show up on your expense report.
On non-conference days, consider the MGM Grand Buffet for breakfast: For less than $20, you get an “all-you-can-eat” assortment of ho
t and cold breakfast items, including omelettes made-to-order. This is a steal, considering that a bacon-and-egg breakfast from room service starts at $19.50. NOTE: I would not recommend the buffet for dinner-much better quality food is available at reasonably-priced sit-down restaurants in the hotel.
If you like Chinese food, try the Grand Wok and Sushi Bar. Located in the main lobby of the MGM Grand, the Grand Wok offers a comprehensive selection of traditional Chinese dishes for $20 or less.
Wolfgang Puck’s Bar and Grill: If you want a really good meal that’s not overly fancy, this is the place to go. My colleagues and I thought the following were winners: Wild mushroom ravioli with homemade pasta, pancetta-wrapped meatloaf with mashed potatoes, and the mac and cheese—all for roughly $22-$35 per entrée. The atmosphere is comfortable, and the service is top-notch.
Diego: Right at the top of the escalator as you exit the conference center you’ll see Diego on the left. This was one of the most popular spots at last week’s Financials, HR, and GRC 2011 conferences, mostly due to the high-quality Mexican food, reasonable prices ($25 or less for many entrees), and convenient location.
Venture out of the hotel: Combine your dining experience with some of the best sightseeing, people-watching, and free entertainment found anywhere in the U.S. The Las Vegas Strip is a sight to behold, with its larger-than-life landmarks and neon as far as the eye can see. Il Fornaio, located in the New York New York hotel, which is accessible via direct walkway from the MGM Grand, has excellent pasta dishes. My colleague and I enjoyed a pasta meal, 2 drinks, and dessert for $42 per person includin
g tax and tip. For something different, try Samba, the Brazilian steakhouse located in the Mirage, which offers an all-you-can eat barbecue experience for roughly $40 per person. The Forum Shops at Caesar’s Palace have a number of reasonably priced options, such as The Cheesecake Factory and Planet Hollywood. After dinner, don’t miss some of the free attractions up and down the Strip, including the spectacular fountain show at the Bellagio, bawdy pirate show at Treasure Island, and the erupting volcano at the Mirage.
Get over to “old” Vegas Before today’s Strip emerged as the place to be in Vegas, Fremont Street was the hub of activity. Binion’s Steakhouse is a refreshing change from the pricey a la carte establishments where steak starts at $40 and every side is $6 and up. At Binions, you can get a prime rib or rib eye steak dinner for $35-$40, including potato and vegetable, while still enjoying an upscale dining experience.
If you can stand the atmosphere, consider the Rainforest Café: After a long day of learning and networking, some may not be up for the jungle-like ambiance or tropical “storms” every 15 minutes. However, if you can bear it—or if you find it entertaining—the Rainforest Café has some excellent choices for $25 or less.
Some of the fast food joints have hidden surprises: Asian Fresh, nestled between McDonald’s and Nathan’s in the food offers more than the typical fried food in gloppy sauce. You can choose your own meat and fresh vegetables for a custom-made stir-fry. I was also pleasantly surprised that Haagen Dazs now offers fresh fruit smoothies made with or without yogurt.
b>If you absolutely must get room service: The chili, listed as a soup/appetizer, is actually quite hearty and is served with cornbread. Paired with a salad, it is enough for a full meal and doesn’t break the bank. The chicken Caesar salad is also quite good.