photos by Vincent Kwan

Las Vegas has long been known as the city to go to for the best casinos, pools, shows, clubs, bars and nightlife. But in recent years, Las Vegas has been put on the map for being one of the best places for food and restaurants as well. Nowhere can you find more celebrity chefs, world class restaurants and decadent buffets packed into a four mile stretch of land than on the Las Vegas Strip.

However, while this may be an amazing experience and foodie heaven for the weekend guest or the occasional tourist who comes to Las Vegas to splurge, the Strip is not where most locals go to eat, if ever. 

When one thinks of Las Vegas, one does not usually think about attending University here, or studying for that matter. However, for some 30,000 students, and hundreds of faculty and staff, Las Vegas is the place they call home and where they eat on a daily basis. 

So, with the University located just minutes away from the Strip and with thousands of students on campus, just where do all these people eat? And just what do they think about the food scene here in Las Vegas? While the Strip may have some of the trendiest and world-class restaurants and foods around, it is also home to the priciest food in the city. Not somewhere a college student, living on a college student budget can afford to eat every day, unless they work on the Strip, but even then. We went around campus to find out what students thought.

The University of Nevada Las Vegas (UNLV) has been named one of the most diverse college campuses in the United States according to US News. Not surprisingly, Las Vegas is home to some of the most diverse cuisines anywhere. “Since starting University here, I have been exposed to more cuisines and cultures than I ever thought I would,” says Ashley T., a junior majoring in biology. Every classroom and every student organization hosts students from all walks of life and “being in this environment, really allows students to meet and get an opportunity to understand and experience different cultures,” says Eric S., a freshman looking to major in economics. 

Many first-year students choose to live on campus but not surprisingly, many students choose to live off campus in apartments and houses with their family or friends after the first year. As such, students are scattered all across the city and look around their local areas for the best places to eat. “I have really been surprised with how many amazing food options there are in Las Vegas,” says Shannon M., a hospitality student living in Southwest Las Vegas. “Since starting here as a freshman, I have seen so many great restaurants pop up all over the city.” 

Even since I have returned home to Las Vegas, it has been amazing seeing the number and especially the quality of local restaurants go up. “My favorite place to go is especially Downtown Las Vegas with its numerous cafes, coffee shops and small local trendy restaurants,” says Mark P., a graduate business student. “For the best Asian food, but also a lot of other great foods, check out Rainbow, starting at Tropicana and going south,” says Shannon M. “There are so many great places down that street now and new places are popping up every day.” 

I have lived in many cities from New York, to London, and even Shanghai. While I must say that the food scene in those cities far exceeds Las Vegas in terms of size, depth and breadth, I can say that Las Vegas is well on its way to developing a name for itself as having some of the best local food spots. Some of the tastiest foods and most memorable meals I can say for sure, have been in Las Vegas. Some of the best noodles, macarons, pho and tacos I have ever had, have been here right down the street from my house. (Don’t worry, I will point them out in future articles!) Quite an eclectic array of foods, but typical for Las Vegas. 

Many of the students that I talked to found the Las Vegas food scene to be amazing while others who come from bigger cities like Los Angeles or New York, say that the city has a long way to go. When you look at all the food trends and the biggest things happening in other cities, it is true that Las Vegas does not have massive food festivals, halls or outdoor markets like many other cities. 

However, I see Las Vegas as a city ripe for innovation and change in the food scene. With the amount of talented chefs, students, professionals and talented people all concentrated in an area, and passionate about food, there is no better place for food culture to flourish. Las Vegas is a small community and everyone is willing to help each other out and offer support and advice. In future articles, I will be covering some of these amazing opportunities here in Las Vegas and how the city is primed for food innovation and change. I will also be covering local favorite spots and the best things to eat in Las Vegas this fall and winter. Until next time! 

If you’re interested in the student perspective on the food scene in Las Vegas and what “millennials” really care about in food culture nowadays, check us out at Spoon University - spoonuniversity.com/chapter/unlv