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7 neighborhood restaurants worth a visit in the Las Vegas Valley

Want to know a secret about the Las Vegas dining scene? It’s not all about the Strip anymore. Sure, there’s no place on earth that can offer the sheer concentration of world-class restaurants found on that four-mile stretch of Las Vegas Boulevard. But the Las Vegas trend food lovers have been buzzing about lately is the explosion of great neighborhood dining spots. And the good news is, they’re not concentrated in any one area. No matter where you go in the valley, there’s likely a fantastic place to grab a bite nearby. Here are seven great spots in seven local neighborhoods.

Locale (Mountain’s Edge)

Chef Nicole Brisson earned her reputation as one of the town’s top Italian chefs running Mario Batali’s local restaurants on The Strip, and opening the massive Eataly complex at Park MGM. She’s now bringing her love of rustic Italian cuisine and dedication to impeccably sourced ingredients to Mountain’s Edge. With dishes such as guanciale fritters with onion marmalade, crostini topped with anchovies and red pepper mostarda, and ricotta and mint ravioli with rabbit ragu, it only takes a glance at the menu to know this isn’t your typical red-sauce joint. But reasonable prices make experimenting fun, and there’s a great selection of pizzas or a nice New York strip if you want something familiar. 7995 Blue Diamond Road, 702-330-0404, localelv.com

Todd’s Unique Dining (Green Valley)

Todd Clore is a true original of the off-Strip dining scene. Long before the current parade of chefs began beating a path to the suburbs, Clore left his gig at Bally’s legendary Sterling Brunch in 2004, to bring sophisticated-but-approachable cuisine to this Henderson neighborhood. The fact that he’s still there, pleasing his neighbors, 15 years later is a testament to how good he is. The menu leans heavily on classics such as ahi tuna, lamb shank and steak. But the goat cheese wontons with raspberry basil sauce shouldn’t be missed. 4350 E. Sunset Road, 702-259-8633, toddsunique.com

La Strega (Summerlin)

Make sure you make a reservation at this red-hot neighborhood Italian spot where chef Gina Marinelli has been cooking for packed houses nearly every day of every week since she opened the doors in January. The following she developed running Scott Conant’s much-missed D.O.C.G. in The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas may account for some of that. But the true soul of this restaurant was born during her travels through Italy. It’s possible to make a full meal out of small plates from the four categories of appetizers: greens, butcher, farm and ocean. But pizzas and pastas are the true stars of the show. 3555 S. Town Center Dr., 702-722-2099, lastregalv.com

Sparrow + Wolf (Chinatown)

The incredible success of Brian Howard’s Spring Mountain Road restaurant opened the floodgates of Strip chefs looking to take a chance by shattering a host of stereotypes. It offers a complex mix of cultures in a dining corridor that’s simplistically referred to as Chinatown. The restaurant serves smart, experimental food in a sometimes-busy, familial atmosphere. Howard’s creativity continues to lure national food writers out of the comfortable confines of their fabulous hotels to a strip mall that shares a parking lot with Macy’s Furniture Store. But the main reason it’s on this (and just about every other) list of important off-Strip restaurants is because the food is just consistently delicious. 4480 Spring Mountain Road, 702-790-2147, sparrowandwolflv.com

Esther’s Kitchen (The Arts District)

Chef James Trees is something like the Prodigal son of local dining. But when this Las Vegas native returned home after having his fun and honing his skills in high-profile kitchens in California and elsewhere, he also was the one who prepared the celebratory feast. His decision to cook in a neighborhood that was on the verge of becoming the epicenter of the new downtown was smart and lucky. But his simple, honest commitment to doing the small things well is what’s made his pizzas, pastas and signature porchetta staples of the burgeoning Arts District scene. 1130 S. Casino Center Blvd., 702-570-7864, estherslv.com

Metro Pizza (Centennial Hills)

The Las Vegas pizza scene is pretty happening these days. But in the dark days, back when all we heard were complaints about how Las Vegas doesn’t have a signature style, Metro Pizza was proving we didn’t need one. John Arena and Sam Facchini began making New York style pizza in Las Vegas in 1980. In the years since, Arena has become an internationally respected pizza expert, and mentor to a new generation of local pizzaiolos. Now you can get great pizzas and other Italian dishes at all of Metro’s valley locations. But the Centennial Hills spot is where you’re most likely to encounter his protégé Chris Decker, who has emerged as local culinary star and award-winning pizza maker in his own rite. 6720 Sky Pointe Drive, 702-564-6726, metropizza.com

The Black Sheep (Spring Valley)

The fact that Las Vegas’ most interesting spin on Vietnamese cuisine is located in the southwest corner of Spring Valley rather than on Chinatown’s Spring Mountain Road is a testament to just how far off-Strip dining has come in the past few years. Jamie Tran is a veteran of Strip fine dining restaurants Aureole and DB Brasserie, who interprets her Vietnamese-born mother’s recipes through the lens of what she learned in those kitchens. The result is warm, comforting cuisine served in a cozy neighborhood atmosphere. 8680 W. Warm Spring Road, 702-954-3998, blacksheepvegas.com

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