From the highest of high-end restaurants to old-school Sagebrush Saloons, Nevada offers plenty of kooky culinary experiences for the curious foodie traveler.
Without a doubt, Nevada is one of the most offbeat states in the US. Lonely highways are dotted with cowboy hangouts, and century-old saloons buzz with hushed conspiracy theories of a crashed UFO spacecraft. Futuristic cities fizzle with the whir of spinning slot machines, while tumbleweeds blow through desolate Gold Rush ghost towns. Wherever you go, whatever you eat, expect the unexpected.
For hungry Nevada travelers, the adventure begins in Las Vegas. Let’s face it – whatever you want to eat here, you can almost certainly get it. This food-obsessed city is continually pushing the boundaries of contemporary cuisine and earning itself a reputation as one of the most diverse dining destinations in the nation. When it comes to sophistication, Vegas is the equal of NYC or LA. But it also does lowbrow with flair, too, tapping into the visitor’s sense of abandon and excess.
Take the Heart Attack Grill. Never a venue to shy away from controversy, this hospital-themed diner is best known for its quadruple bypass burger, served by waitresses, or rather “nurses”, to a stream of gluttonous patrons dressed in surgery gowns. Awarded the title of the most calorific burger in the world by Guinness World Records (only 9,983 calories per serving!) it’ll kickstart your journey towards upping your weight to 350lb (159kg) – the point at which you qualify for unlimited free food. Clean your plate and earn the honor of being pushed out to your car in a wheelchair. Political correctness is not really a thing here, in case you were wondering.
For something a little less filling, the multi-award-winning Donut Bar, just around the corner, offers a savory twist on the sugary treat – a gooey grilled cheese doughnut. If you want to replicate it at home, take two freshly baked cinnamon doughnuts, slice in half, then spread on a thick layer of butter before lightly toasting on a griddle. Add heaps of cheddar and havarti cheese, and serve with sriracha mayo or chipotle sauce. No wonder it immediately went viral. Launched as a short-term special in 2018, it’s now a consistent bestseller.
Sweet-toothed travelers are equally well catered for. If you’ve no fear of the dentist, we dare you to try the cotton-candy burrito at Creamberry. This Willy Wonka-style confection consists of three scoops of ice cream topped with sprinkles, marshmallows and brownie chunks, all wrapped in a multicolored layer of spangly cotton candy. Warning: it’s probably the most garish dessert we’ve ever seen. If that’s over the top, head to Dirt Dog for some marginally less extravagant deep-fried Oreos and Twinkies.
For more of Nevada’s culinary oddities, you’ll need to hit the highway – no hardship in the road-trip capital of the USA. Head north along US-93 and drop by E-T Fresh Jerky for some delicious jerky that not even an alien could turn down, before turning onto State Route 375, aka the Extraterrestrial Highway. This scorched ribbon of road passes by Area 51, the notoriously secretive air-force base and site of numerous reported UFO sightings. Halfway along the route, the Little A’Le’Inn serves its world-famous alien burger and alien amber ale.
The mining town of Tonopah is a quirky place for a break on your journey. Supposedly haunted, the atmospheric Mizpah Hotel is the best place to stay, though the Clown Motel up the road (next to a graveyard and stuffed to the brim with scary clown dolls) will also give you a night to remember. If you’re heading on to Lake Tahoe, check out the chalet-style La Fondue restaurant in the ski resort of Incline Village on the north shore of Tahoe. The alpine cheese fondue for two, featuring imported emmenthaler and Swiss gruyère melted with kirschwasser (morello cherry brandy), brings the spirit of the Matterhorn to Nevada – the perfect après-ski to round off an afternoon on the slopes.
Dubbed the Biggest Little City in the World, Reno may still be a casino town at heart, but its culinary scene has grown in recent years. The Riverwalk District is home to several innovative restaurants, and a stroll along the Riverwalk is a great way to burn off your newly acquired calories. When you reach the Rolled Mountain Creamery, you can put them all back again with a stir-fried, Thai-inspired “rolled” ice cream. Try the Green Tea Boba: green tea blend and red bean paste, topped with whipped cream, boba pearls and a Pirouline wafer.
Alternatively, if you’re circling back to Vegas, Highway 95 takes you past some of the eeriest ghost towns in Nevada. In the boozy, boisterous gold-prospecting years, windswept Goldfield was the largest city in the state. Today, this “living” ghost town is worth a stop, if only for the Dinky Diner’s sweet tortilla chillers, or an ice-cold beer at the Santa Fe Saloon, served by “Nevada’s meanest bartender”. Be sure to call ahead if you’re planning a visit, as the opening hours can vary.
Another two-hour drive will bring you to the former boomtown of Goodsprings. This dusty detour is worth the effort for the historic Pioneer Saloon alone, which opened in 1913. Here you can wolf down a haunted hot dog with ghost sauce at the Wild West-style bar. From here, it’s only a 45-minute drive back to Las Vegas, where more oddball food adventures await.
The weird and wonderful world of Nevada awaits. Start your journey now