Before my stay at the Aria, I had never eaten at their Cafe, but I had certainly heard a lot about it from friends–none of it good. So it wasn’t exactly high on my list. But as these things sometimes happen, early on in my stay, I had a craving for roast chicken. I had planned on eating at one of the hot new restaurants, Bardot Brasserie, or Lago, that night, but after perusing Bardot’s menu, I just wasn’t feeling it, and Lago was mobbed. I wandered between Monte Carlo, Aria and Bellagio for nearly an hour, looking at over a dozen different menus, and no one had what I was looking for. . .except the Aria Cafe. I finally thought, what the hell? I’ll give it a try.
It was around 9pm, and I was clearly overdressed. Everyone else in the place was wearing shorts. To be fair, I was dressed up because I had planned on eating somewhere a bit fancier. In any case, don’t feel obligated to dress up for this place just because it’s in an expensive hotel.
The decor is very contemporary, featuring geometric shapes, and a wall of windows for sunlight (which can be a bit of a problem when it’s shining in your eyes, but I was there after dark that time). It’s a very airy space, with lots of countertop seating for solos in addition to two-tops. There were plenty of other solo diners, so I didn’t feel conspicuous at all.
I had a fantastic dinner that night. The roast chicken was a bit drier than I would have liked, but it was still delicious and satisfied my craving. It came with asparagus (a vegetable I can take or leave, but this being Vegas, I hadn’t had many vegetables or fruits that day, so I ate it). The garlic mashed potatoes were amazingly flavorful. There was a tiny bit of lemon sauce on the plate that was yummy as hell. (Dear Aria: More lemon sauce, please.) Dinner was about $24 before tip. (I only drank water with my meal.)
Service was also very good. My waitress was a bit “old school,” which I much prefer over the twenty-somethings who don’t really know what they’re doing or don’t seem to give a shit about their jobs. There’s definitely something to be said for experience. Overall, I liked the atmosphere of the place, too. In fact, I enjoyed my first dining experience here so much that I returned to eat here twice more during my trip.
After a very filling lunch at Lago, I really just wanted something light to tide me over during my show (Zarkana) on my final night in town. So I had a cup of excellent chicken soup that tasted homemade and fresh hummus with pita triangles, which came with a few celery and carrot sticks for dipping. It was all very tasty. I was really glad to have a healthy dinner; that doesn’t happen all that often in Las Vegas, if you know what I mean! Cost of dinner was just $15.13 before tip. (For those keeping score at home, so far, we’re two for two in terms of reasonably-priced meals.)
While I was eating that night, I had a chance to look around me at other diners. There were two women sitting at a table, not talking to each other at all. They didn’t look particularly happy. There was an Indian couple sitting next to each other at their table (instead of across from each other), and they weren’t talking to each other, either. This is bizarre, people. Isn’t the whole point of eating with other people so you have someone to talk to? Isn’t that why people hate to eat alone? Hell, I was alone, and I felt like I was probably the happiest person in the room. (Hmm…..)
At a nearby table, two young women sat with a toddler who dumped all the sugar packets onto the table and wanted to play with them. Ah, a child with a healthy imagination! Who needs expensive toys, when you can create things out of sugar packets? The women scrambled to clean it up and asked the waitress for another table, because the sun was beating right on them. (Like I said, you have to be careful about that in this restaurant.) They should really invest in some retractable sun shades for the windows.
My final meal of the trip at Aria Cafe was the morning of my departure. I wanted to fuel up before heading to the airport. This was the busiest I had ever seen the Cafe. I had to sit at one of the counters with other solos, which was fine, though everybody there was more engrossed in their mobile devices than they were in engaging in conversation. So I engaged in some people-watching instead. The counter provided an interesting vantage point from which to overlook the restaurant and see people passing by outside the windows.
For breakfast, I had the three-egg breakfast with bacon, English muffins, and fruit instead of hash browns. Everything was delicious, but man, was it pricey–$27 or so with tip. How the hell did my breakfast cost more than either of my dinners?
But, price aside, the upshot is that I had three terrific meals at the Aria Cafe. I don’t think it was a fluke. They’ve obviously got some good staff working the kitchen these days. Breakfast could certainly be cheaper, but otherwise, I give it 4 out of 5 stars.