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Part Two of both this Guest Post series and David Raatz’s (@raatz) Vegan Dining Guide. You can read the Part One of the Gluttonous Vegan Dining Guide here.

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Center Strip

Starbucks:

This might sound a little silly, but I have to suggest a Starbucks – specifically the Starbucks in the West Wing at MGM Grand. This isn’t your hometown’s generic-looking Starbucks. With a quasi-art deco theme, this place embodies style and grace. It doesn’t feel like any other location in Vegas. Though it’s just steps away from the casino floor, it exudes peace and tranquility. A decaf venti soy latte also helps.

P.F. Chang’s at Planet Hollywood:

This is one chain restaurant that goes out of its way to be vegan-friendly, providing several entrees that are either always meat and diary-free or can be easily prepared that way upon request. P.F. Chang’s also has brown rice – a vegan’s delight – unlike many Chinese restaurants. (By the way, P.F. Chang’s is open until at least midnight every day of the week. Don’t mind its website, which says that the restaurant closes at 12 p.m. Sunday through Thursday.)

The Buffet at Bellagio:

Eating at The Buffet at Bellagio ten years ago helped me learn the intense and varied pleasures of vegetarianism. The strength and diversity of tastes in the vegetables, fruits, noodles, grains, pastas, herbs and spices was mind boggling. And if anything, the food at The Buffet has only improved – for breakfast, lunch and dinner – and the assortment of food has certainly multiplied. I think it’s appropriate that the featured photo at The Buffet website features fresh fruit.

Palio:

There’s another coffee place I must praise: Palio at Bellagio. This classy little room offers another casino respite (so important) and beautiful views of the Bellagio pool. For just a few bucks, you can refill your coffee all day long (or at least 6 a.m. to 11 p.m.) while relaxing, enjoying the scenery, reading the newspaper and strategizing for your next triumph at the tables. Vegan-friendly soups and sandwiches are sometimes available too.

Cheesecake Factory:

The Cheesecake Factory at The Forum Shops is one restaurant that shows salads can be (and should be!) about pleasure, not sacrifice. Cheesecake Factory salads are huge, with a plentiful variety of items. There’s also a large assortment of vegan salad dressings (I almost feel like I need advice from a vinaigrette steward before making a choice!). I also recommend the angel hair pasta entrée. Several hearty veggie side orders add a nice touch. One word of warning about the Cheesecake Factory though: some dishes sound like they’re vegetarian or vegan, but are actually not because they use fish sauce or include eggs. Asking your server is important until you get to know what’s right for you (which of course applies at a lot of places).

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Thanks to a suggestion by Jeremiah Owyang, I asked our Twitter followers if anyone would be interested in writing a guest post for this blog.  A few fabulous twitterers responded. This one, by David Raatz (@raatz) is the first in the series.

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Yes, Vegas-style hedonism is even available for Vegans! Las Vegas offers an amazing array of decadent pleasures for everyone – including vegetarians (people who don’t eat meat) and vegans (people who don’t eat any animal products, including dairy).

I’ve been a vegetarian for ten years and a vegan for five years, and I always look forward to my culinary adventures in Las Vegas. The below, brief manual is a tool for my fellow vegetarians or vegans and for others who are interested in enhancing their Vegas food experiences.

The rundown isn’t intended to be comprehensive. I freely admit that it reflects my biases and favors casual, inexpensive dining. But I hope you find it helpful and interesting.

I’ll start with the South Strip because that’s where I always spend a large percentage of my time. Video poker and blackjack are my favorite activities, and Luxor and its next-door neighbor, Mandalay Bay are my favorite casinos for those always entertaining games.

South Strip

Border Grill:

Mexican restaurants often provide excellent vegan meals, and Border Grill at Mandalay Bay is a perfect example. Border Grill ranks among my favorite restaurants in the world. I love the shaded, patio-style seating near the Lazy River. The fresh air is always refreshing. The patio is an especially fun location in the summer. It seems to be one of the coolest places in town – both in temperature and in hipness. As a bonus, from May through September, you can listen to the Mandalay Bay Beach Concerts!

The Portabello Mushroom Mulitas is one of the most consistently satisfying vegan entrees I’ve had anywhere. The Mexican chopped salad (without chicken) is nearly as good, featuring grilled corn, roasted peppers, avocado, tomato, apple, pinto beans, red onion, tortilla chips and romaine lettuce tossed in coriander vinaigrette. Border Grill’s chips, salsa (red and green) and guacamole are also marvelous.

The only negative is that it’s a long walk from the main casino area. But, you’ll have a guaranteed payoff for your investment of time and energy.

Raffles Cafe:

A 24/7 source for comfort food in a beautiful setting right off the Mandalay Bay casino floor is Raffles Café. It sounds a bit silly, but enjoying the simple goodness of oatmeal at Raffles is an outstanding way to start or end a day, especially with fresh fruit on the side. I’ve partaken many times. The bottomless strong coffee can help you regain some clear thinking if it was lost in the casino madness.

T&T (Tacos & Tequila):

Luxor has a new Mexican-themed place with a lot of appeal (although I haven’t been able to try it yet) – T&T. Chef Richard Sandoval has created several interesting options. The creative-sounding Mediterraneo burrito includes falafel, tahini, tomato, green bell pepper, mint and tamarind pico de gallo. Mouth watering!

See you soon at one of my old favorites like Border Grill –  or perhaps a new hangout like T&T!

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Check back later for the Vegan’s Dining Guide to the Center Strip!

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