Sometimes, even on vacation, you just want a tasty burger. During my last couple of trips to Vegas, I've finally been able to try two burger joints (In-N-Out Burger and The Burger Bar) that had previously eluded my best eating efforts. Having checked those two spots off the list, I can now offer my tourist's guide to Vegas burgers.
In-N-Out Burger—The franchise closest to the Strip is at 4888 Dean Martin Drive, which is essentially a couple minutes drive west on Tropicana from New York New York. Set your expectations dial on "greasy spoon" and you'll enjoy the experience. I had the double cheeseburger "Animal Style" (mustard-grilled patties, extra spread, and grilled onions). It was a juicy, greasy, satisfying burger. The fries were a little undercooked and underwhelming, even under a blanket of cheese and grilled onions. Overall, a good meal, but I can't say that I get the cult-like devotion many people have for this chain (similar to the cult of White Castle). I think Smashburger and Culver's offer significantly tastier burgers for chains. But at 2:00 a.m., In-N-Out is a solid Vegas option, particularly for those who may have had a drink or ten.
Margaritaville—Located on the Strip as part of the Flamingo complex, Margaritaville offers decent but not special burgers at decent but not special prices. But the burgers are plenty tasty when combined with a margarita or three. Also try the appetizers: the nachos are huge, while the crab/shrimp/mushroom cheese dip is particularly decadent (but not for the Lipitor crowd).
The Burger Bar—The original "upscale" burger restaurant by acclaimed French chef Hubert Keller*, The Burger Bar is located in the Mandalay Place shops between Mandalay Bay and Luxor. You can get Black Angus, grass-fed, or Kobe beef burgers, as well as bison, ostrich, turkey, or veggie burgers. Then, you can pick a chef's selection of toppings, or build your own burger, selecting from normal toppings like mushrooms, cheese, and bacon, or going more daring (and expensive) with foie gras, truffles, or caviar. You can also get a variety of amazingly tasty housemade sauces in lieu of the standard mustard and ketchup, and a variety of fresh baked buns are offered for all burgers. The sweet potato fries and thick cut onion rings were exceptional. Order one of the dessert "burgers" or milkshakes to satisfy your sweet tooth. The vibe is a "classy" sports bar/pub, and there are plenty of interesting beers on tap and in bottle, as well as some house specialty drinks. Service was friendly and fairly quick. Altogether a highly satisfying dining experience. Be prepared to spend $25-$35 per person (including an alcoholic beverage), but it is worth the price.
BLT Burger—The "BLT" stands for "Bistro Laurent Tourondel" after another acclaimed chef with a chain of eateries. BLT Burger is located in Mirage, just down the hall from the entrance next to the Caesars Forum shops, near the sports book and poker room. Again, you can choose from a number of base burgers (Angus, Kobe, lamb, turkey, chicken, salmon, and veggie), but the toppings are significantly more limited, as are the bun and drink selections. The sweet potato fries are excellent, and the jalapeno poppers are the best I've ever had—large peppers filled with a smoky chipotle cheese, sided with a spicy-sweet salsa. Huge milkshakes are available, with or without your favorite booze or liqueur. Ambience is contemporary/trendy bistro, and the servers wear t-shirts with a variety of humorous sayings, such as "Tip waiters, not cows." Again, a meal will run $25-$35 per person (including an alcoholic beverage), and again, definitely worth the price.
Le Burger Brasserie—This is what a French sports bar would look like, if the French had real sports. Located on the walkway between Paris and Bally's, Le Burger Brasserie offers Angus beef, Kobe beef, chicken, turkey, veggie, and lamb burgers (I highly recommend the lamb burger), in a variety of chef-selected versions, or in a build-your-own mode. There is a good variety of toppings; I suggest trying prosciutto or pancetta in lieu of basic bacon, while goat cheese and pesto add an interesting twist. You also can select from a number of fresh-baked bun styles. The sides are rather pedestrian, but the thick fries are a solid choice and plenty to accompany a very generously-sized burger. Ambience is upscale sports bar, including provocatively clad waitresses (for those into such things). There is a full bar with daily drink specials (2-for-1 drinks during certain hours, and cheap buckets of beer). A meal will run a little cheaper than the other two upscale places, more on the order of $20-$25 per person (including an alcoholic beverage).
Although I enjoyed all of these places and would recommend all of them, based on a combination of food quality, location, and price, it's not surprising I have eaten most often at Le Burger Brasserie. But if you are looking to impress, the culinary creativity at The Burger Bar is a notch above the rest.
* The significant other was reviewing the menu and asked me, "Why is there a Helen Keller burger?" This occurred while we were both stone sober. 'Nuff said.