Ribs & Burgers, Las Vegas NV


Ribs & Burgers

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Lamb Slab with Chips

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Pork Bullets with Chips and Slaw

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Original Burger – Midwestern grain-fed beef, grilled, basted and served on a sesame bun with lettuce, tomato, onion, dill pickles and BBQ & pink sauces

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Onion Strings

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Kid Friendly Maple Bacon Doughnut – Vanilla Ice Cream, doughnut, bacon, maple syrup / Kid Friendly Pecan Banana Split – Vanilla Ice Cream, Godiva caramel, banana, pecans / Kid Friendly Birthday Cake – Vanilla Ice Cream, milk, sprinkles


Invited in by Public Relations while the Australian Team was still in town working on issues related to food, service, and design it was just prior to 5:00pm that a friend and I approached Downtown Summerlin’s Ribs & Burgers, and with a line of perhaps twenty snaking out the front door our first impression was one echoed by several previous visitors – pure chaos, several potential patrons taking a pass while we actively had to seek out our liaison, a three person process that took us through two persons who seemingly had no clue what was going on.


Described (more than once) as a quick casual concept, the focus on quality food without the ‘fine dining’ feel, Ribs & Burgers acts as if their setup is something unfamiliar despite locations such as MTO Café offering the exact same thing, but by shortening the distance from entrance to counter while servers still in-training struggle with a rather limited menu the result is one with peculiar delays and prolonged lingering – the diner eventually receiving a numbered bucket and left to find themselves a seat while food is prepared.


Spending most of the early visit speaking to Mona, a pleasant brand spokeswoman clearly excited by the prospect of brining the high quality concept to US Shores, it was perhaps a ten minute wait between ordering and receiving our food and having heard so much about the braising process, special sauce, and sourcing of meat and produce it was with high expectations that first bites of ‘pork bullets’ were enjoyed – each bite not exactly ‘falling off the bone’ tender, but decidedly well prepared with nuances of sweetness rounded out by several sorts of spice.


Having received no water on order, and only two napkins for a meal that was obviously quite likely to be messy, it was on request that the first was delivered while the second never appeared and allowing for the fact that our order continued to arrive as readied from the kitchen with only one mistaken item appearing unannounced it was onward to the burger, ‘chips’, and onion straws that our dining commenced, the fries completely forgettable and really no better than those from the Golden Arches while the piled-high burger and crispy onions were indeed quite good, the former featuring a great grind beneath a good sear while the latter were surprisingly dainty and entirely greaseless with plenty of natural flavor to be found.


Moving onward to the most intriguing item, the novelty of lamb ribs not lost on someone who loves lamb and finds it far underrepresented on menus here in the States, suffice it to say that the meat’s natural flavor was not overwhelmed in the least by the braise or the baste and although the provided knife was barely capable of sawing through connective tissue adjoining the rack a little elbow grease proved well worth the effort, each saporous bite offering a reason to return even when taking into account the somewhat sizable tab for something served in a ‘quick, casual’ space.


Rounding out the evening with a trio of shakes, at this point a ‘must’ for any place serving burgers in the 702, we were told by the man up front that the team had recently stopped using gelato from Messina as they wanted something more ‘thick and rich,’ but whether an effect of temperature, prep time, or our decision to eschew alcohol only the Pecan Banana Split proved truly memorable in texture or taste – the birthday cake thin and milky with sprinkles clogging the straw while the Maple Bacon Donut tasted mostly like creamy Log Cabin syrup without a bit of pork or smoke to be found.

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TWO AND A HALF STARS: Still finding their footing in terms of service and structure while already serving up some rather excellent ‘American Classics,’ no matter where the concept hails from, it will be interesting to see how Ribs & Burgers does as other similar speed locations with more local recognition open nearby at a lower price point. Certainly offering something a little different, with high quality ingredients readily apparent, it will require a few tweaks to make Ribs & Burgers really ‘work,’ but if these things can get dialed in I’ve no doubt the concept could succeed in several large markets nationwide.


RECOMMENDED: Lamb Ribs, Onion Straws.


AVOID: Birthday Cake Shake, Chips, Expectations of water refills/utensils/share plates/napkins delivered in a timely fashion.


TIP: While service still needs work, and skimping on napkins seems entirely nonsensical for a place serving ribs at this price, it bears mention that Ribs & Burgers does offer a sink with soap at the center of the restaurant for those looking to clean up…or to refill their own glasses with luke-warm water without ice.

WHAT THE STARS MEAN: 5 World Class, 4 Excellent, 3 Good, 2 Fair, 1 Poor


Ribs & Burgers on Urbanspoon

Posted in Dessert, Food, Ice Cream, Las Vegas, Nevada, Pork, Ribs & Burgers, Ribs and Burgers

Old School Brewing Company, Las Vegas NV


Old School Brewing Company


French Toast – Cinnamon Loaf with Fresh, Tart Berries and Dusted with Powdered Sugar

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Biscuits and Gravy (with gravy on side)

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Momma Bear – Quinoa and Blueberry

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Baby Bear – Buttermilk Cakes with Melting Chocolate Chips

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Garlic Knotty – House Made Dough Brushed with Garlic and Herbs, Baked Golden, Served with Marinara

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Cheese Curds – Tempura Beer Battered Wisconsin Curds, Beer Cheese Sauce

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Amaze Balls – Pork and Sausage Meatballs in Apple Chutney Sauce

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Obey The Pizza – Sausage Meatballs, Baby Potatoes, Garlic Cream Sauce, Mozzarella Cheese, Dash of Sriracha

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New Beet Generation – Goat Cheese Melted over Roasted Beets and Arugula on Marble Rye

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Mayham – Sliced Ham, Ripe Green apples, Havarti Cheese (served as a slider without Honey Mustard, normally larger on grilled sourdough)

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Whiskey Bread Pudding – Bread Pudding with a Pecan Whiskey Sauce

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Stout Cake – Rich Chocolate and Imperial Stout Ale


Spending extended time in ‘soft-opening’ in order to perfect their brews and nail-down a menu intended to impress both the gastropub crowd and families alike it was finally on Friday that Old School Brewing Company celebrated their Grand Opening and although I could not attend the festivities due to schedule an afternoon brunch the following day showed signs of a restaurant looking to do big things with the brewery in back already turning out beers that had tables around me singing their praise.


Invited in by one of the owners, an IT-Guy named Nick following his passions into a whole new scene, it was just after noon that I entered the sizable space and greeted by Nick himself as one of the servers had apparently called in sick it was not long before I was seated at a comfy four-top along the restaurant’s outer rim, the decoration still sparse with the center of the room awaiting communal tables while light music played overhead.


Separating the smoky bar and gaming area from the dining confines, and thus allowing customers of all ages to indulge in the 24/7 eats, it was already having spoken with Nick in advance that my menu was crafted and having requested half-portions of several items in order to better sample the cuisine it was only after a sizable delay due to a surprising number of families filtering in from nearby soccer fields that the meal began, my first bites of a dried out biscuit far from inspiring though the spicy sausage gravy was appropriately rich and stick-a-spoon-up-straight thick.


Charting a path that allowed me to see breakfast items first, my second round of food arrived amidst the growing din of children in need of something to fill their mouths, and although I personally would have preferred none of the artificial syrup be added prior to arriving at the table one would be hard pressed to find any fault otherwise in the griddled cinnamon loaf from Bon Breads, let alone a duo of flapjacks from which the Baby Bear was pure fluffiness punctuated by chocolate while the toothsome quinoa and blueberry Mama Bear was the sort of risk-taker that made one think of something priced double at a celebrity chef spot located on the strip.


Clearly forgetting my request for smaller portions, an ‘error in your favor’ later described by Chef Lea as simply getting caught up in the moment as well as wanting the plates to be seen as they’re intended to be served, round three arrived with some of the city’s best garlic knots served up alongside marinara and as good as these were they simply couldn’t hold a candle to the sort of cheese curd treatment one doesn’t even experience in Milwaukee, the squeaky little nuggets just melting beneath light tempura beer batter with sharp beer cheese sauce good enough to be bottled sitting in a sidecar at their side.


At this point realizing I’d need to scale back my eating in order to save room for that which was to come it was to a truncated portion of the humorously named “Amaze-Balls” that I was treated and with plenty of spice in the porky sausage finding levity amidst carrots glazed in sweet chutney the name proved quite appropriate, that same sausage finding even more spice when paired to Sriracha on one of Oldschool’s personal-sized pizzas, the crust a bit more doughy than I’d prefer but the toppings well balanced allowing several divergent flavors their time in the spotlight while also serving to temper the burn.


Rounding out the savories, though there are at least a half-dozen more which warrant attention when I return, it was a duo of sandwiches that Lea sent out and with her time at Skinnyfats already apparent in several prior courses both the substantial New Beet Generation and sized-down Mayham were the sort of things one could probably make at home, but most likely wouldn’t – the goat cheese marrying nicely to the thickly sliced beets on soft rye while the briny ham and crisp apples melded beneath a veil of melted cheese.


Unfortunately informed that the Ice Cream Malt Cake had sold out during the Grand Opening it was with a duo, rather than a three, desserts that the meal would end and while I admit to being an absolute sucker for any form of bread pudding it was actually the chocolate cake that stole the show, the substantial cocoa notes finding a whole new level when paired to frosting imbued with bitter stout…though that isn’t to say I didn’t scrape every bit of the boozy bread pudding plate clean, either…just that the cake is possibly the best I’ve found in this city to date.


THREE AND A HALF STARS: Still a work in progress, the décor needing a bit of work while some sort of sound absorption would go a long way in protecting diners from overwrought kids, there is undoubtedly a lot to love about Old School Brewing Company even for those who do not personally favor beer, a strong compliment to a place that could just as easily mail-it-in with the same boring menu as any number of other 24/7 spots but instead chooses to break the mold with a menu featuring no lack of innovation or intrigue.


RECOMMENDED: Stout Cake, Mama Bear Pancakes, Cheese Curds, Amaze Balls.


AVOID: Biscuit, Artificial Maple Syrup (a pet peeve.)


TIP: Featuring ten beers on tap, including 7 of their own, with the brewery in back and available for tour if one of the owners is around, plus Televisions, Video Poker, and Free Wi-Fi there is no lack of things to do and see while visiting Old School, a collection of Table Games soon to arrive for those looking for some good family fun.

WHAT THE STARS MEAN: 5 World Class, 4 Excellent, 3 Good, 2 Fair, 1 Poor


Old School Brewing on Urbanspoon

Posted in Bread Pudding, Breakfast, Dessert, Food, French Toast, Las Vegas, Nevada, Old School Brewing Company, Pancakes, Pizza, Pork

Biscuits Café, Las Vegas NV


Biscuits Café

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Bottomless Coffee and One for the Road

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Buttermilk Pancakes and Thick Cut French Toast

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Cinnamon Roll

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Buttermilk Biscuits

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Chicken and Sweet Potato Waffles


The only local location of a small chain out of Oregon City, Biscuits Café had long been on my breakfast ‘to-do’ list and with a $5 voucher arriving via E-mail for my birthday I finally decided to play the West Sahara Breakfast and Lunch venue a visit, a seven o’clock arrival finding a few customers already present with the staff bright-eyed and bushy-tailed to say the very least.


Larger in size than one would anticipate from outside, the space easily capable of seating a hundred with at least half that present when I finally departed at 8:15, it was literally as I was being walked to my table that my drink order was taken and by the time I’d actually sat down a full cup of coffee was present, a glass of water joining later and both kept brimming without once requiring reminder or request.


Using their own proprietary batters, as well as coffee from Oregon’s Edenway and Sunfresh Organic Jam, but for some reason taking the low-road with artificial syrup where 100% Maple would have been a far more logical choice given the otherwise high commitment to quality, the menu at Biscuits Café does little to reinvent the wheel but with many options for customization including the “Keeping It Simple” Pick 3 it was with little effort that a large order was crafted – the total still less than $30 before coupon, tax, or tip.


Beginning with the eponymous biscuits, a small and fluffy duo rife with buttermilk that somehow became even more poignant with the addition of butter and raspberry jam, it was these same tangy notes that highlighted a pair of fluffy hotcakes served alongside two pieces of golden-griddled bread, and as much as the custard soaked slices from Wheat Montana Farms and Bakery were indeed delicious beneath butter and Maple Syrup brought from home it was in fact the pillowy pancakes that stole the show, each bite rivaling those at DuPar’s for the best ‘plain Jane’ Buttermilk in town.


Moving next to the Chicken and Waffles, a quartet of peppery hand-breaded tenderloins served over a crispy Belgian Waffle made with Sweet Potato batter for only $9.99, both the chicken and the waffles proved to be far better than one would have assumed for the price and with good brining to the bird plus the aforementioned spice all of the flavors really ‘popped,’ the savory notes a much needed departure from all the sweetness of the pancakes and waffles, not to mention the nearly 12oz Cinnamon Roll that makes the one at Mr. Mama’s seem pale in comparison, the cream cheese frosting spread so thick that some simply had to be set aside to prevent it from being ‘too’ rich.


FOUR AND A HALF STARS: Setting aside the syrup ‘issue’ that seems to mar nearly every breakfast joint of this ilk nowadays Biscuits Café is one of those rare chains that feels entirely home grown and ‘mom n’ pop’ in all the right ways. Great food at a great price, smiley service that never leaves the diner for want, and a menu that executes the basics with ease while offering diners any number of ways to customize to tastes – that’s a breakfast worth going out for any day of the week, not to mention the free Wi-Fi and the fact that they were playing Pearl Jam and Soundgarden while I dined.


RECOMMENDED: Buttermilk Pancakes, Cinnamon Roll.


AVOID: Artificial Maple Syrup.

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TIP: Featuring an online fan-club with birthday and anniversary coupons, a points system for every dollar spent, plus free coffee just for the first time visitor, those interested in visiting Biscuits Café are encouraged to sign up.

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WHAT THE STARS MEAN: 5 World Class, 4 Excellent, 3 Good, 2 Fair, 1 Poor


Biscuits Cafe on Urbanspoon

Posted in Biscuits Cafe, Breakfast, Coffee, Dessert, Food, French Toast, Las Vegas, Nevada, Pancakes, Waffles

Michael Mina, Las Vegas NV


Michael Mina


Welcome Champagne

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Michael’s Signature Caviar Parfait – Hash browns, Egg salad, Smoked salmon, Whipped lemon crème fraiche, Osetra caviar


Joh. Jos. Prum 2012 Wehlener Sonnenuhr Spatlese

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Tartare of Ahi Tuna – Sashimi GradeTuna, Garlic, Pears, Lemon, Chilies, Mint, Piine Nuts, Sesame Oil, Egg Yolk served with Toast

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Hamachi sashimi – Ponzu glaze, yuzu vinaigrette, micro shiso


Honey Wheat and White Roll, Salted and Unsalted Butter

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Heirloom beet salad – Kumquat, endive, Sherry vinaigrette, pistachio puree, “pistachio granola”

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Dungeness Crab Ravioli – Artichokes, Garlic Cream, Burgundy Black Truffles, Black Trumpet Mushrooms


2012 Niagara Estate Inniskillin Icewine Vidal

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Whole Roasted Foie Gras – Carved tableside with Poached Pear, Pear Puree, Spice Cake, Almonds, Foie Gras Mousse with Pear Gelee, Toasted Brioche, Allspice Dram, Long-peppercorn Pain Perdu


“Three Seas Tasting” – Tempura Maitake Mushrooms, Pan seared Dayboat Scallops, Bok Choy filled with Ginger Scallops and Mushrooms, Langoustine, Crispy Skin Tai Snapper, Bamboo rice with Dungeness crab and trout roe, Ginger vinaigrette, Radish, Japanese Pickle

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American Wagyu Ribeye from Snake River Farms – Truffle Potato Puree, Braised Beef Short Rib, Cipollini Mushroom, Royal Trumpet Mushroom, Pinot Noir Reduction


Truffle polenta

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Brussels Sprouts – Crispy Leaves over Tender roasted

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1983 Don Pedro Ximenez Gran Reserva and 2012 Barossa Valley Elderton Golden Semillon

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Blackberry Huckleberry Clafouti – Citrus Crème Fracihe, Macerated Blackberries, Buttermilk Sherbet

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Chocolate Whiskey Cake – Gianduja Cremeux, Salted Caramel, Candied Hazelnuts, Cocoa Nib Ice Cream


Root Beer Float – Sassafras Ice Cream, Warm Chocolate Chip Pecan Cookies

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Strawberry Crème Fraiche Panna Cotta – Crème Fraiche Biscuits, Strawberry Basil Sorbet


Having recently rekindled my fondness for Michael Mina’s Restaurants following a superlative meal at recently opened Bardot Brasserie it was finally on Saturday that I entered the famed restaurateur’s Las Vegas Flagship, the reasons it took so long to visit a combination of factors but the transition from fall to spring flavors more than enough reason to make up for lost time at the side of two friends well known to Chef Mina and the Bellagio team.


Tucked away behind the Bellagio Conservatory, and as such seemingly a hundred miles from the gaming tables and ruckus outside, it was just prior to 6:00pm that I checked in at the hostess podium and led swiftly to a four-top at the center of the room it would not be long before my dining partners arrived, the service already fawning preceding their arrival but becoming even more on-point once all were seated, a welcoming glass of champagne and an offer for the chef to cook for the table an offer no one in their right mind would refuse.


Sophisticate in decor but not a bit stuffy, the light from the Bellagio fountains illuminating the space before sunset with the room nearly full by 7:30, it was with conversation and bubbles flowing that service began, and with a team of waiters led by our young captain presenting each dish with detail and precision it in two of Michael Mina’s classics that we each partook, the caviar parfait originally created by the Chef during his honeymoon featuring all sorts of elegance and texture in its signature stack while the tableside prep of tartare was as smooth as satin, though admittedly so mild that the flavors didn’t truly pop without a touch of finishing salt.


Continuing light with Hamachi Sashimi, best enjoyed with chopsticks in order to appreciate the delicate texture of the flesh juxtaposed by crispy leaves of shiso, and next treated to tender beets atop two types of pistachios with kumquats adding just enough sweetness to accent but not overwhelm it was next to a spring menu teaser that we were treated and although I’m sure the beef ravioli currently featured is just fine and dandy I’m rather certain the soon to debut Dungeness Crab iteration is a significant upgrade, the sweetness of picked crustacean stuffed inside tender pockets kept in check by artichokes and mushrooms with garlic cream and black truffles rising up to bathe the palate with each and every bite.


To this point trending thankfully light it was at the special request of the table that our next course arrived on a large cart, and served alongside a beautiful Ice Wine it was with nearly the whole room watching that Chef Ben Jenkins carved the 20oz roasted foie gras tableside while a team of four arranged the table with all sorts of accoutrements, each buttery slice every bit as decadent as it would seem while the pain perdu, mousse, pears, and dram drizzle were equally exceptional – more fruit served on request with only perhaps an ounce and half of the liver going uneaten…and only because we were told there was more to come.


Undoubtedly acknowledging the effects of so much Foie, and as such sending out a plate described as ‘very light,’ it was next in the Three Seas Tasting that our party indulged and true to the captain’s word each bite on the oblong plate was indeed a study of refinement, every bite displaying its ingredients with maximum impact without weighing on the belly more than a bit – the kitchen coaxing all sorts of nuance out of scallop, langoustine, and snapper through proper preparation and pairing with ingredients to accent and emphasize the subtleties of each.


Still not finished, even with one member of our table ready to wave the white flag, savories would conclude in rare slices of American Wagyu set beside upscale traditional accoutrements and a deep, dark sauce of Pinot Noir and with the small piece of short-rib perhaps even more memorable than the ribeye itself a duo of sides would prove no less impressive, the textural sprouts beneath a pile of crispy leaves amongst the best in the city while the creamy polenta knows no local match in terms of texture or taste, the use of real truffles making all the difference in a city where oil so often is used to please the naive.


Jokingly suggesting that ‘all’ the desserts would be the best way to close out the night it was perhaps my ‘fault’ that what happened next did occur and with two varieties of sweet wine in hand it was to a quintet of servers that our evening would end, one of Michael’s signature Root Beer Float and Chocolate Chip Cookie plates landing before each diner along with one each of the restaurant’s current seasonal desserts, each an entirely different experience ranging from ethereal panna cotta to dense chocolate cake with the warm clafouti falling somewhere in the middle, each tender bite rife with fresh berries while tangy crème fraiche and buttermilk sorbet slowly melted at its side.

UNABLE TO FAIRLY RATE, BUT FOUR AND A HALF STARS BASED ON FOOD AND DRINK ALONE: Denied a bill with comments that “Michael took care of the check” it would be a fool’s errand to suggest that one could walk away from Michael Mina after such a feast anything less than impressed and although one particular pairing did not sit well with anyone at the table it would be equally disingenuous to say that any of the cooking was less than exemplary, everything from tried and true signatures to items not yet on the menu showing a deft hand with both proteins and produce on par with that at far more expensive restaurants fronted by French-born Chefs.

RECOMMENDED: The tableside Foie Gras is an absolute showstopper while the Caviar Parfait, Crab Ravioli, and Truffle Polenta were all equally memorable.

AVOID: If one truly wanted to quibble, the tartare did not really spring to life until a touch of salt was added, the only other issue being a dry white that simply did not play well with the ginger of the “Three Seas.”

TIP: Decidedly a pricey place to dine, those looking to experience Michael Mina on a budget are encouraged to investigate the $68 Pre-theater menu, a veritable deal for the quality of the cuisine with several of the Chef’s classics offered and even some of the signatures available for a supplemental fee.

WHAT THE STARS MEAN: 5 World Class, 4 Excellent, 3 Good, 2 Fair, 1 Poor


Michael Mina on Urbanspoon

Posted in Bread Basket, Crab, Dessert, Foie, Food, Ice Cream, Las Vegas, Michael Mina, Nevada, Tasting Menu, Truffle

Canonita, Las Vegas NV



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Margarita Trio – Canonita with Patron Silver and Gran Marnier / Jalapeno with Monte Alban Tequila Silver infused with Jalapeno, Orange, Cilantro / Pineapple with Monte Alban and Cointreau infused with Pineapple and Tahitian Vanilla Bean

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Non-alcoholic Trio – Cucumber Melon-Tini, Prickly Pear Juice, Horchata

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Warm Tortilla Chips with Guacamole, Spicy Salsa, Smoky Salsa

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Roasted Mussels and Shrimp Skillet – Tequila, pasilla Oaxacan Sauce, Housemade Chorizo

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Queso Fundido with jalapenos and flour tortillas

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Tuna Ceviche Tostada with Ahi, Red Onion, Lime, Avocado, Cilantro, Serrano Pesto / Posole Verde with hominy, diced pork, green chile, tomatillos, oregano, cabbage, red radish / Chorizo Gordita with lettuce, pico de gallo, queso fresco, escabeche

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Patzcuaro Duck Relleno – Canela and orange duck confit, savory manchamantel sauce, Mexican crema

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Toluca Portobello Mushrooms – Roasted Portobello, Tomato-fennel sauce, seared greens, cilantro pesto, black beans

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Wild Mushroom Enchiladas – Poblano cream sauce, white rice, borracho beans, pico de gallo

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Santa Rosa Pork Barbacoa – Cilantro Rice, Black Beans, Chipotle barbecue sauce with corn tortillas

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Shrimp & Mussels Moqueca with calamari, white rice, peas, carrots, coconut aji Amarillo sauce

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Carne Asada Nortena – Outside Skirt Steak, Sweet Corn Tamales, Roasted Serranos, garlic, lime, cilantro


Iced Double Espresso

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Tres Leches – Sponge Cake soaked in three milks, fresh strawberries, strawberry coulis, Italian Meringue

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Warm Chocolate Brownie – Chocolate-cinnamon Brownie, Vanilla Ice Cream, Cajeta, Candied Pecans

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Coffee Flan – Patron XO coffee, Piloncillo syrup

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Invited to a special afternoon tasting by General Manager Annaliza McKinney, and Robert Menefee of sister-restaurant Aquaknox, it was an unfortunate effect of earlier plans and traffic that saw me arrive late to lunch at canal-side Canonita, but finding my friend out front chatting with the hostess as well as Annaliza herself my welcome could not have been warmer, the two of us led swiftly to the best two-top in the house, mere inches from the gondola filled waters.


Told that the Chef would be cooking for us, but offering up menus in case something specific struck our eye, it was with gracious tableside service from a middle-aged Hispanic gentleman that the afternoon commenced and with a jokey sort of professionalism guiding us through the afternoon one really could not have asked for better, Northeastern-born but Border Grill educated Chef Donna Willey also stopping by frequently to discuss her inspiration and training, as well as techniques implemented in more than a dozen plates plus two trios of drinks.


Undoubtedly a ‘touristy’ setting, the views of artificial sky alongside the canal juxtaposing traditional Mexican decorations within the restaurant’s confines, it was with a trio of Margaritas and chips rewarmed from an outside source that the dining began and finding both the green salsa and Jalapeno Infusion far too poignant for my tastes it was on the Vanilla tinged pineapple cocktail and guacamole that I focused, the former a formidable refresher with alcohol well balanced by the fruit while the later was rather dull without a bit of the chipotle salsa added to taste.


At this point ready to see what the kitchen could do, tables around us receiving all sorts of divine looking plates, it was perhaps ten minutes later that a sizzling cast-iron skillet arrived and with the smell of smoke quickly filling the air it was only once things finally cooled down that we finally had a chance to indulge in the snappy butterflied shrimp, meaty mussels, and housemade chorizo teaming with spice, each taste as good as the last with a second dish of queso fundido proving most fortuitous in timing as the still-bubbling cheese topped in jalapenos was a bit timid on its own, but a near-perfect addition when spread on flour tortillas with some of the seafood piled on top.


Here requesting service be slowed as our sizable two-top was already filled to capacity with plates, glasses, and utensils it was next to a trio of the Chef’s signature appetizers that we were treated and progressing left to right one would be hard pressed to cite a single bite as less than superlative – the ceviche showing clean acidity alongside its accoutrements while the Pozole was equally well balanced and intensely vegetal, the ‘gordita’ a lightly fried set of bites that was at once bold yet nuanced, creamy but acidic, and entirely greaseless with just the right amount of heat.


Obviously unable to forgo anything stuffed with duck, plus generally fancying most things featuring mushrooms, the next three plates were served in slow succession and although the cinnamon tinged fowl stuffed inside a smoky pepper was indeed quite good it was in fact the fungus that saw me swoon, both the black bean laminated Portobello bathed in fennel tomato sauce and the signature enchiladas showing a deft hand with quality produce, Chef Willey’s time at Border Grill undoubtedly well spent.


Now progressing towards heavier proteins, plus an entirely unexpected Brazilian fish stew, suffice it to say that while the Carne Asada struck me as something I could have just as easily had anywhere both the Barbacoa and Moqueca were amongst the very best bites of the meal, the former brightly spiced and easily cut with a spoon before being added to corn tortillas to form makeshift tacos while the later was a seamless marriage of sea and sweet with coconut milk playing foil to notes of spice that only became evident after a satisfied breath between bites.


Moving onward to desserts, originally offered two but eventually seeing three, it was with a double espresso over ice that the meal would come to an end and although personal preferences obviously have much to do with all things in dining one would be challenged to find a better tres leches in town, the fully saturated sponge entirely sweet yet finding levity in strawberries and meringue, while both the brownie and the flan were also quite good – the former obviously quite hefty while the latter proved far lighter than other versions offered in town, the XO just boozy enough to give it some kick while the unrefined sugar syrup helped soften the blow.


UNABLE TO FAIRLY RATE DUE TO COMP, BUT THREE AND A HALF STARS BASED ON FOOD ALONE: Clearly given the VIP treatment, and as such sampling a far greater swath of the menu than the average duo possibly could, the food that Chef Willey is creating at Canonita is at once almost universally approachable yet at the same time bold and complicated in a way that few other Casino-based ethnic restaurants would dare. Admittedly underwhelmed by more routine plates like guacamole, queso fundido, as well as carne asada and still perplexed as to why the restaurant would outsource something like tortilla chips when executing more complex items so well there is no doubt that a great meal can be had at Canonita by those willing to venture away from the tried and true, particularly when taking into account the vibe and the view.


RECOMMENDED: Chorizo Gordita, Toluca Portobello Mushrooms, Shrimp & Mussels Moqueca, Santa Rosa Pork Barbacoa, Tres Leches.

AVOID: Guacamole, Carne Asada Nortena.


TIP: Now offering breakfast at 8am, a limited menu featuring at least one daily special, with the all-day menu beginning at 11am. Reservations available via Opentable, though walk-ins are always welcome.

WHAT THE STARS MEAN: 5 World Class, 4 Excellent, 3 Good, 2 Fair, 1 Poor


Taqueria Canonita on Urbanspoon

Posted in Canonita, Coffee, Dessert, Food, Ice Cream, Las Vegas, Nevada, Pork

Gelato Messina, Las Vegas NV


Gelato Messina – Private Event


Iced Coffee



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Cremino – Salted Caramel Gelato, Crushed Amaretti Biscuits, Soft Meringue and Nutella Brulee

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Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich – Brioche Gelato, Peanut Butter Mousse, Blackberry Jam

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Zuppa Duppa – Marsala Soaked Sponge, Strawberry Sorbet, Vanilla Crème Chantilly

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Fresh Churned Gelato

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Samples – All 40

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To-Go Pint: Italian Nougat, Elvis The Fat Years, Poached Figs in Marsala

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Invited to join a dozen others at a Media Event celebrating the Grand Opening of Australia’s Gelato Messina at Downtown Summerlin it was just prior to 11am that I entered the newly minted space, and greeted by a duo of Public Relations folks including one straight from Sydney the 90 minutes that followed can best be described as an educational event with plenty of samples and stories to help ‘sell’ a brand that is undoubtedly committed to doing things right.

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Officially the Gelataria’s first American Outpost, the built-to-spec space occupying a large footprint at the heart of the recently opened shopping center, a first look at Gelato Messina is likely to see most visitors quickly overwhelmed by the sheer number of flavors and with a large Las Vegas themed mural overseeing a space featuring high ceilings and clean lines the question quickly becomes which of the forty gelatos to try, the samples offered with no limit to those willing to ask and the smiling young men and women behind the counter surprisingly well educated about the product in a city where so many other spots are happy to ‘mail it in.’

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Seated in the back of the space, across from a window where the team could be seen pasteurizing, churning, and preparing with the sort of tools one might associate with Home Depot or Lowe’s, it was first with stories of the shop’s Aussie origins and dedication to quality ingredients that our visit began and perusing Messina’s recipe book as we listened one could not help but be impressed by the tradition or passion, even the coffee crafted to match the quality of things on the other side of the planet with sourcing ‘only the best’ products, whether local or not, stressed in each thought.

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Offered a number of prepped items, including the brûléed Cremino and whimsical PB&J while we watched the head Chef prepare one of the restaurant’s Black Forest gelato cakes from beginning to end, it was after both a mild iced coffee and an ethereal latte that a sampling of the cabinet was finally offered and with thirty-five signatures alongside five weekly-rotating specials offered I’d be lying if I said I didn’t take advantage in trying them all, the risk of palate fatigue briefly considered but thankfully never becoming an issue due to the extremely light milk-fat content which never allowed the tongue to become coated or compromised.


Obviously sporting a huge variety of flavors, some perfectly run-of-the-mill with other offering far more intrigue, suffice it to say that there is something for everyone at Gelato Messina and running the gamut from milky Italian Nougat to bold Chocolate Fondant the question really becomes one of where the visitor’s passion lies, each fruit sorbet a spot on translation of the real deal while items like the Bacon and Pancake studded “Porky’s Revenge” or elegant Apple Pie are studded with baked goods made in house.


Offered the gift of a tiny tin featuring a rich biscuit base beneath a grown up ‘strawberry sundae’ concoction like those offered in plastic cups when I was a kid, as well as a trio of flavors packed into a temperature resistant pint on departure, it was admittedly a tough choice to decide which three had stirred my mind the most but with the Nougat an obvious choice I eventually settled on “Elvis The Fat Years” and “Poached Figs in Marsala” as the others…though the pitch-perfect Pistachio, smooth Coconut & Lychee, bitter-sweet Blood Orange Sorbet, and Gianduia Bianca all warranted serious consideration, to say the least.


FOUR AND A HALF STARS:  Paying nothing for the experience, save for a tip to the scoopers placed in the can atop the glass case, I’m more than comfortable saying that Gelato Messina is immediately the best Gelato in town with the recent closure of Art of Flavors and although prices trend higher than other local scoop shops the amount of time, quality, and craft going into the production cannot be overlooked – a ‘get what you pay for’ experience with almost everything made on the premises.


RECOMMENDED:  Look, decide what sounds good to you, sample it, sample some more, sample some more, then order something.

AVOID:  Tasting off the wooden sticks as they taint the flavor of anything with nuts, request plastic spoon samples.


TIP:  Open 11a-11p Seven Days a Week, those interested in purchasing a gelato cake are advised to call in advance, though several of the whimsical creations are reportedly immediately available to go from cold storage.


WHAT THE STARS MEAN: 5 World Class, 4 Excellent, 3 Good, 2 Fair, 1 Poor

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Posted in Coffee, Dessert, Food, Gelato Messina, Ice Cream, Las Vegas, Nevada, Pancakes, Pork, Tiramisu

Real Donuts, North Las Vegas NV


Real Donuts North Las Vegas

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Large Apple Fritter

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Old Fashioned

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Buttermilk Bar

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Bear Claw

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Crumb Cake


Located in North Las Vegas with the sort of dingy confines that makes one wonder exactly how the place has remained in business for so long it was late-morning when I stopped in to Real Donuts on East Lake Mead, and fortunate to find a new batch of fried treats immerging fresh from the kitchen as I arrived a $6 order was placed, the lone English speaking clerk providing excellent service and explaining a number of the Hispanic baked goods to me, as well, until a few more patrons arrived.


Eschewing boxes in favor of bags, and as such sort of haphazardly packing my quintet of donuts with a wad of napkins, it was at a small table in the narrow space that I sat to enjoy and with several families filtering in and out the doors throughout the fifteen-minutes that followed an answer to the earlier proposed question arose, almost every person that entered greeted as a regular with several on a first name basis grabbing a dozen or more colorful pan dulce to go.


Happy to find three of my five selections still-warm to the touch it was with the buttermilk bar that the tasting began and eating only halves to preserve room for a long day of eating I immediately knew restraint would be a challenge, the simple glaze not over applied and thus allowing the tangy interior to shine, a similar sort of experience offered by the sour cream old fashioned that followed – each bite melting on the tongue until the whole cog-wheel was gone.


Finding a great deal of disappointment in the Bear Claw, a doughy yeasted 12oz belly-bomb that was questionably fresh with sickeningly sweet apple pie filling inside, it was after only a small bite that the rest was discarded and somewhat returning to form with a soft cinnamon round topped in sugary crumbles it was with the the ‘jumbo’ apple fritter that the experience finished, the exterior not quite as crisp as the superlative versions at Ace or Friendly but the pillow-soft interior rife with cinnamon and large pockets of sugar-soaked fruit and not a hint of grease.


TWO AND A HALF STARS: Not exactly in the nicest part of town, nor to be mistaken for the doughnuttery of a similar name on West Charleston, Real Donuts of North Las Vegas is another mom ‘n pop spot worth checking out for those in the area, the donuts themselves nothing that cannot be found better elsewhere but the popular Mexican pastries perhaps worth a second look.

RECOMMENDED: Buttermilk Bar, Sour Cream Old Fashioned

AVOID: Bear Claw

TIP: Cash only with no restroom and minimal seating, those looking for a place to linger over coffee are advised to look elsewhere.

WHAT THE STARS MEAN: 5 World Class, 4 Excellent, 3 Good, 2 Fair, 1 Poor

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Posted in Breakfast, Dessert, Food, Las Vegas, Nevada, North Las Vegas, Real Donut, Real Donuts

PublicUS, Las Vegas NV



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Kivu Kigeyo, Rwanda – Pourover Coffee

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Vanilla Glazed Butter Croissant


Brown Butter Banana Bread

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Mixed Berry Muffin

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Blueberry Cream Cheese Scone with Lemon Zest

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Brookie – Fudge Brownie Cookie, Balsamic Toffee Filling

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Brioche French Toast – Apple Butter, Caramelized Bananas, Bourbon Syrup

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Beignets ‘Inspired Toast’ – Berry Jam, Cereal Milk Spread, Granola Cluster, Cantaloupe

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Pear ‘Inspired Toast’ – Banana Jam, Almond Butter, Pecan Crusted Grapes

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Still in a ‘soft opening’ phase, and located on the far end of ever gentrifying East Fremont, it was admittedly with baited breath that I’d watched PublicUS tumblr site ever since the restaurant was announced and as pictures and reviews began to spring up thanks to good words from John Curtas an early morning visit was planned, a quick message sent to Pastry Chef Hemant Kishore seeing the young Chef sit with me throughout my hour-long stay discussing things from the local food scene to his Southern Indian heritage, CIA Training, and inspiration behind each baked good.

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Expansive in size, bathed in sunlight, and specked with handmade seating alongside live plants, it was just prior to 7am that I entered publicUS and finding Hemant just having laid out the daily bread while a few older men sipped coffee it was with wide eyes that I looked upon the somewhat limited offerings, and although the five pastries behind glass would inevitably end up part of the order my interest was even further piqued by a large breakfast menu – three more made-to-order options delivered to the table by still-green service shortly after a cup of rich single origin pour-over.

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Speaking to Hemant as I tucked in, it was logically with warm items that the tasting began, and with the croissant shell shattering after slight flex a vast cavern of buttery aromatics poured forth, the use of quality European product obvious to anyone familiar while the light vanilla sugar glaze tickled the tongue without overwhelming one bit.

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Next delivered the French Toast, a textbook Brioche that may be the menu’s best bargain at $6 for two thick slices, those interested in custard-centered iterations of the dish will be happy to know the PublicUS kitchen is making one of Sin City’s best while the caramelized bananas used both here and in the cardamom heavy banana bread showed great depth of flavor, particularly when drenched by a pot of boozy maple syrup.


Impressed by a scone that would likely confuse a proper Englishman while wowing most American palates with an interior softened by cream cheese it was next to the muffin that my tasting turned, and with an almost pudding-soft interior beneath a lightly browned top the bakery’s best item was found, each bursting berry adding vibrant levity to all the butter, though a ‘light’ breakfast this stump-less round most certainly is not.


Underwhelmed by the $5.50 ‘toasts,’ first off by how thin the housemade sourdough was sliced when considering the fact that a whole loaf can be had for $6, and then by the fact that they took nearly twenty minutes to make and still arrived cold, suffice it to say that PublicUS has a good idea going with the texturally compelling “Beignet” while the pears and almond butter were unfortunately lost amidst the sweet-savory goat cheese crusted grapes of “Pear,” the final bites of ‘brookie’ proving a far better investment as the brownie textured sandwich was delicate yet intense, the vinegar tinged toffee center something I’d gladly have jarred to drizzle on ice cream, or to spread on a more substantial piece of the sourdough bread.


THREE AND A HALF STARS:  Still finding their footing, but clearly a place with big plans plus a team seemingly ready and willing to do things right, PublicUS is a welcome addition to a city long-marred by a lack of innovative artisan baking.  Open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner with an immense parking lot directly next door it will be interesting to see how things develop over the coming months, though I doubt it will take me that long to return considering the bread pudding offered as lunch and dinner dessert.

RECOMMENDED:  Mixed Berry Muffin, Brioche French Toast, Croissant, Brookie.

AVOID:  Inspired Toasts need work.  No matter how high the ingredient quality neither the quantity nor execution justified $5.50 each, the total comprising nearly 1/4 of my tab.


TIP:  Open at 6am for coffee and pastry with breakfast beginning at 7am and lunch tipping off at 11a, those looking for their PublicUS fix later in the day will be happy to know that despite early hours the spot is also open late – 10pm on Sunday through Thursday and midnight on Fri-Sat.

WHAT THE STARS MEAN: 5 World Class, 4 Excellent, 3 Good, 2 Fair, 1 Poor

http://publicuslv.tumblr.com/ or http://www.publicuslv.com/

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Posted in Bread Basket, Breakfast, Coffee, Croissant, Dessert, Food, French Toast, Las Vegas, Nevada, PublicUS

800 Degrees at SLS, Las Vegas NV


800 Degrees at SLS

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Burrata + Beets + Balsamic – Grilled Ciabatta

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Meatballs – Wood-oven baked with tomato, oregano and Parmigiano Reggiano

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Quattro Formaggi with Sausage – fresh mozzarella, garlic, oregano, olive oil with Smoked Provolone, Parmigiano Reggiano, Gorgonzola, Fontina

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Zucca – fresh mozzarella, Parmigiano Reggiano, garlic, oregano, olive oil, butternut squash, caramelized onions, bacon, rosemary oil

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Margherita DOC – Mozzarella di Bufala, Cherry Tomatoes, Basil


Located in the SLS, with a second local found outside The Monte Carlo at the other end of The Strip, it was largely an effect of travel and an ever expanding local ‘to-do’ list that had prevented me from visiting 800 Degrees until Saturday but armed with a $30 off $60 coupon provided by The Code for my birthday it was with a friend I sat down within the languishing casino, our 6:30 arrival seeing more than half the table games without a dealer and nearby restaurants Katsuya and Cleo less than 1/8 full.


Conceptualized by Adam Fleischman, the man behind Umami Burger and a growing empire of restaurants rolling out in the Golden State as well as parts East, the heart of 800 Degrees is the wood burning oven and capable of turning out a Neapolitan Pie in less than two minutes with any number of artisan toppings for under $15 it was only after careful deliberation that our selections were made, the $60 tab proving far tougher to target with just two diners than one would imagine but three pies and two sides achieving the goal with a glass of wine and iced tea to boot.


Exemplifying the ‘quick casual’ counterside ordering concept overtaking much of America’s mid-range dining culture these days, but left to collect items from the cashier when a number is called out, it was perhaps an unfortunate aspect of the size of our order and a few parties following us that the pacing of our meal was marred by having to stand up from the table thrice to gather the goods, but once everything was finally obtained one would be hard pressed to find fault in the quality of any of the cuisine served – a first bite of creamy burrata and beets tinged in balsamic speaking of high quality sourcing soon to be found in each of the oven-singed plates.


Obviously focused on the pizzas, but happy to partake in charred balls of meat slightly smaller than a Titleist or Ping, suffice it to say that the four tender orbs were amongst the city’s best for the price and with plenty of brightly acidic sauce left-over for dipping of crust it was onward to the Margherita DOC that our tasting progressed, each cherry tomato bursting with flavor beneath a bit of salt while milky mozzarella bubbled atop the smoky, pliable crust.

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Said by some to be too ‘wet,’ but in reality a near-textbook rendition of the traditional Neapolitan pie, it was next in two ‘Bianca’ style discs that we sank our teeth and topping the Quattro Formaggi with a bit of crumbled sausage the smoke and savory composition sang, a similar bit of praise to be levied on the oft-praised ‘Zucca’ that matched tender butternut squash to briny bacon with caramelized onions and topnotes or rosemary tickling the palate in each and every bite.


FOUR STARS:  No more expensive than Settebello, despite its Las Vegas Boulevard locale, and featuring far better ingredients than most ‘artisan’ pizzerias located throughout the 702 those looking for a top quality Neapolitan pie at a fair price would be well advised to check out 800 Degrees – one of those rare ‘chains’ doing things right, a rarity to say the least.

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RECOMMENDED:  Zucca, Margherita DOC, Meatballs.


AVOID:  Larger orders are likely to require repeat trips to the counter, something a food runner would easily remedy at what would seem to be a low cost to the restaurant.  Gelatos, additionally, are not made by 800 Degrees but instead by the SLS itself, the $3 per cup cost seemingly excessive compared to the scoops found around town.


TIP:  Proudly offering a crispier style of crust, as well as gluten-free options for those so inclined, locals are encouraged to keep an eye on the SLS Social Media for “Social Sundays” during which 800 Degrees can frequently be had at 50% off.

WHAT THE STARS MEAN: 5 World Class, 4 Excellent, 3 Good, 2 Fair, 1 Poor


800 Degrees on Urbanspoon

Posted in 800 Degrees, 800 Degrees at SLS, Food, Italian, Las Vegas, Nevada, Pork

Grimaldi’s at the Palazzo, Las Vegas NV



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Large Pizza – Half Traditional / Half White with Garlic and Artichoke Hearts

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Dessert Trio – Sampler of Cannoli, Tiramisu, Bailey’s Irish Cream Cheesecake


Vowing to use every free offering and comp sent to me for my Birthday it was finally on Saturday that I decided to venture into Grimaldi’s Coal Oven Pizzeria at The Palazzo, and sporting a coupon that affords one free Large Pizza with one topping (up to $1Smilie: 8) it was only after a bizarre incident at the front desk that I found seating in the restaurant’s main room, a request specifically made in order to watch the pizza makers at work without being exposed to the two-tops dotting the shopping mall’s faux-patio.

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Having more than once been steered away from the Brooklyn Bridge original by New Yorkers whose palates I trust, it was just after 3:00 that I arrived at Grimaldi’s front stand and first refusing a seat at the bar, then basically having to demand to not be seated out front despite the restaurant only being 1/8 full, it was at a small table of my choosing that I finally relaxed, a young woman named Angie who preferred to call me “buddy” throughout the stay providing obligatory service, though often letting me see the bottom of my water glass.


Undoubtedly pegging me a tourist, and likely also put-off by the coupon which must be presented prior to placing an order, suffice it to say that my small table was low-priority compared to those drinking wine and ordering appetizers around me, but amused enough bby action in the kitchen and Martin, Sinatra, etc soundtrack above it really wasn’t too much a bother, the fifteen minute prep-time for my pie whizzing past and the resultant cracker-crisp disk landing before me with cheese still bubbling and crust lightly charred.


Obviously not the artisan pies offered by Neapolitan spots in town, but at the same time using quality ingredients including whole milk Mozzarella and their own signature sauces brought in direct from New York it should come as no surprise that the coal-oven crust is where Grimaldi’s makes its mark, and with good blister, great chew, and just enough thickness to hold up to toppings without being sloppy the flavor profile of both halves was good, if not great – the red sauce trending a bit too sweet for my palate while the white was nicely tinged with garlic, the artichoke hearts a bit overpriced at $4 however, and in desperate need of salt or some marinade.


Boxing up two red slices, as well as two slices of white, and later donating them to a trio of guys with a sign indicating “anything helps” en route to Caesars’, it seemed only fair to give desserts a try considering the complimentary pie, and with the fresh-piped cannoli far out-showing the soggy slop served at celebrated Carlo’s Bakery just a few steps away it is unfortunate that neither the cocoa-heavy tiramisu or overly-sweetened cheesecake could ascend to such heights, the $10 trio a good enough deal for scaled down portions, though if left to do it again I’d simply invest the $4.50 in the plate of two-cannolis, and save the rest for somewhere else.


TWO AND A HALF STARS:  Better than many local purveyors of the “New York Slice,” and served up in splashy environs that clearly cost the restaurant high rent, there are simply far better places for pizza in Sin City than Grimaldi’s – several even under the same roof.


RECOMMENDED:  White Pizza, Cannoli.


AVOID:  Artichokes, Tiramisu.

TIP:  The aforementioned coupon is offered via e-mail to members of the restaurant’s fan-club, though having never visited any of their several Southwest locations I remain somewhat perplexed as to how exactly I ended up on the mailing list.

WHAT THE STARS MEAN: 5 World Class, 4 Excellent, 3 Good, 2 Fair, 1 Poor


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Posted in Dessert, Food, Grimaldi's, Grimaldi's at the Palazzo, Italian, Las Vegas, Nevada, Pizza, Tiramisu

El Dorado Cantina, Las Vegas NV


El Dorado Cantina

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Nachos with Three Salsas

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Queso Fundido – Mexican three cheese blend with chorizo, topped with grilled veggies & pico de gallo. Served hot on a skillet.

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Queso Fundido – Mexican three cheese blend with mushrooms, topped with grilled veggies & pico de gallo. Served hot on a skillet.

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Chapulines – Garlic lime sautéed grasshoppers

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Grande Feast – Steak, carnitas & chicken burritos, pulled chicken & cheese quesadillas, beef & chicken taquitos, Sliced carne asada, grilled chicken, grilled shrimp & chorizo with queso fresco, cactus, grilled onions & chiles, served with beans and rice.

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Flan – Chef’s 80yr old recipe of traditional sweetened condensed milk, evaporated milk, organic eggs & natural cane sugar cooked to perfection.

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Tres Leches Cake – Vanilla cake with rum & three milks, topped with whipped cream & fresh cut fruit.


Spicy Salted Peanuts


Chocolate Covered Graham Cracker Bites


Open 24/7 and helmed by Chef Paco, a Mexico City native whose dedication to quality sourcing cannot be overstated, El Dorado Cantina had long been on my Las Vegas culinary to-do list, and although the Industrial Road location adjacent to Sapphires Gentleman’s Club is unlikely to win the restaurant any awards both the interior of the space and the quality of cuisine are the very definition of ‘diamond in the rough.’


Originally slated as a small birthday lunch with an old friend visiting from Phoenix, but eventually growing to a party of nine ranging widely in age, ethnicity, and culinary experience it was just prior to noon that we entered the softly lit cantina and with televisions showing conference tournament action juxtaposing heavy woods, vibrant colors, and a well-appointed bar it was with the service of a young man named Jesse that the experience would commence, all beverages kept brimming throughout the nearly two-hour stay while plates were presented with excellent pacing and descriptions befitting the excellence of the Chef’s food.

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Beginning with warm chips and a trio of spicy salsas at a pair of tables pushed together in order to accommodate our group it would not be long before an order was elected and with most selecting water as their beverage of choice a trio of appetizers emerged from the kitchen after a mere fifteen minutes, the sautéed grasshoppers a novelty plate that neither wowed nor appalled with a slightly funky flavor somewhat similar to frog legs faintly perceptible beneath acid and spice while two plates of melty cheese served with tortillas were absolutely reference standard, the request for more shells briefly forgotten but soon rectified leaving not a drop from either skillet behind.


Happy to share-and-share-alike it was with little indecision that the table decided our best bet for experiencing a wide swath of El Dorado’s cuisine resided in one of the signature “Feasts,” and briefly doing the math only to realize that cost-per-person would be a mere $20+ it was in the “Grande” offering that we invested our appetites, a pair of enormous platters more than half-filling the large table with not one dud amongst the items to be found.

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Truly a glut of food, the total number of items trumping a dozen while likely weighing in at just as many pounds, it was with the meat selections that tasting began and although the carne asada was ever-so-slightly overcooked for my tastes the shrimp, chicken, and chorizo all impressed while tender vegetables including grilled paddles of cactus more than made up for any perceived lack of moisture – none of this an issue when taking a look at plate two, each overstuffed burrito amongst the best I’ve tasted in recent memory while taquitos were light and greaseless, the chicken quesadilla also quite special with onions adding a smoky, aromatic punch.


Admittedly full, to the point where a solid meal or two’s worth of food was boxed up to go, it was still without hesitation that dessert was ordered and although the boozy tres leches was quite excellent beneath whipped cream and fresh fruit it was Chef Paco’s ancient flan recipe that stole my heart, the texture far more thick than many would associate with the dish, but each caramel tinged bite proving as good as the last until each plate was clean, the chef himself standing tableside and offering gifts from a care packaged straight from Mexico while discussing his passion for cooking as the meal reached an end.


FOUR STARS:  Organic + Non-GMO + 24/7 + Authentic Mexican Food + Next to a Strip Club = an equation only Las Vegas could dream up, and like many things in this fabulous city it works like a charm.


RECOMMENDED:  Mushroom Queso Fundido, Flan, Grille Shrimp, Carnitas Burrito.


AVOID:  Cheese Quesadillas were a bit plain, and Carne Asada was a bit tough on its own.


TIP:  Offering free Flan via Social Media Check-In, those using Yelp or Foursquare are encouraged to take advantage…and for those looking for a real deal El Dorado offers half-off for locals on Mondays with BOGO Seafood Entrees on Fridays – other specials offered through their Facebook account on nearly every day of the week.

WHAT THE STARS MEAN: 5 World Class, 4 Excellent, 3 Good, 2 Fair, 1 Poor



El Dorado Cantina on Urbanspoon

Posted in Dessert, El Dorado Cantina, El Dorado Restaurant, El Dorado Restaurant + Cantina, El Dorado Restaurant and Cantina, Food, Las Vegas, Nevada, Pork

Pantry, Las Vegas NV



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La Colombe Pacific Blend Coffee

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Cinnamon Sugar Donut Bites

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Two Cheddar Chive Biscuits – Honey and Butter

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Blueberry and Banana Nut Muffins

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Abuela’s Huevos Rancheros – Fried Eggs, Black Beans, Corn Tortillas, Cotija Cheese, Avocado Crema, Salsa

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Chicken & Waffles – Texas Pete Fried Chicken, Buttermilk Vanilla Waffle

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White Chocolate Brioche French Toast – Berry Compote & Whipped Mascarpone

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Strawberry Shortcake Pancakes – Strawberry Ice Cream, Vanilla Whipped Cream, Pure Maple Syrup


Long targeted as a place for breakfast given the beautiful space, quality ingredients, and collection of favorites including an ever-changing ‘pancake of the week’ it was finally with friends in town that I sat down at The Mirage’s 24/7 Pantry, a three course order marred only by the confusing menu where dashed-boxes unclearly delineate ‘exclusions’ to the mix & match bakery section while denoting highlights elsewhere, and not every “Take The Best Of It – Comes with Smash Browns” actually comes with the spuds, regardless of what the subtext says.


Offering breakfast all day, and the rest of the menu from 11a until 11p, Pantry is located at the back of The Mirage and with an open café up-front overlooking the gaming floor and a more cozy family-style dining area in back it was in the latter that we sat, a large four-top easily big enough for six set for just three soon greeted by a middle-aged waitress named Rina who dutifully pushed coffee (an excellent roast from La Colombe charged at $5 per pot, without free refills, though diners are left to discover that for themselves) before filling water and taking orders, the request for items to be coursed out loosely adhered to until it was reinforced after round two landed atop quarter-finished baked goods.


Told that the donuts could not be included in the ‘mix & match’ because it was “in a box, see” and then served only one biscuit, instead of the menu-listed two, because “it was part of the mix & match” as though one was supposed to infer this information for themselves, suffice it to say that at $9 the biscuit and two muffins were still a veritable bargain considering the quality and although the donut bites were a bit steep at $5 for six, the crispy sugar shell over a light brioche center was every bit as good as those at Puck’s Postrio which carry a tariff several dollars more – the addition of locally sourced honey, whipped butter, and two types of housemade jam the sort of small details I’d gladly pay a premium for whether dining near home or on the Strip.


Sitting, chatting, and enjoying the first round it was less than five minutes later that a man arrived porting two plates and setting aside the muffins and donuts while informing him to put the brakes on expediting the next course it was soon in chicken and waffles alongside huevos rancheros that we partook, neither served with the ‘smashed browns’ advertised on the menu but both again showing the work of a confident kitchen working with quality ingredients, the crispy tortillas beneath eggs and accoutrements featuring no lack of dynamic flavors or textures while as the spicy chicken featured skin that crackled to the tooth atop a supple and aromatic waffle more than ready to sop up plenty of pure maple syrup served in a sizeable sidecar.


Transitioning back to sweets, another pot of coffee elected even after assuming the upcharge based on the menu’s description, it was perhaps a gluttonous choice to pick both the pancake of the week and four-piece French Toast when eating with friends generally not the sort to indulge in such things but never one to shy away from over-ordering to experience the best of what a place has to offer it was honestly a surprise to even myself just how excellent Pantry’s griddles were, the decadent custard soaked brioche cooked golden and topped with rich mascarpone plus plenty of berries featuring far more chopped chocolate than one would have ever assumed while the fluffy flapjack trio was not only topped with housemade strawberry jam and freshly sliced berries but also imbued with strawberries and cream in the batter and layered between each cake, a large dollop of whip and a small ball of ice cream added to finish perhaps a bit unnecessary, though I certainly didn’t hear anyone complain.


THREE AND A HALF STARS:  Confounded by a menu seemingly built to confuse and up-sell with the sort of service that is trained to turn tables it is almost as if Pantry does not know just how good the food coming out of the kitchen really is, particularly for a 24-hour spot on the Strip – a bit more attention to detail from the front of house would go a long way to giving the chefs the credit they deserve.


RECOMMENDED:  Biscuit, Pancakes, French Toast.


AVOID:  Donuts, ordering without asking questions and/or reading the menu thoroughly.


TIP:  Pancake of the Week and off-menu specials can be found on the restaurant’s Facebook page or the small menu board behind the hostess podium for those visiting The Mirage.

WHAT THE STARS MEAN: 5 World Class, 4 Excellent, 3 Good, 2 Fair, 1 Poor


Pantry on Urbanspoon

Posted in Breakfast, Coffee, Dessert, Food, French Toast, Ice Cream, La Colombe, Las Vegas, Nevada, Pancakes, Pantry, Waffles

Yardbird Southern Table & Bar [6,] Las Vegas NV



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Fried Green Tomato BLT – pork belly, greens, tomato jam, house-made pimento cheese


Low & Slow Smoked Chicken Salad – Haas Avocado, Warm Fried Cornbread, Yogurt Dressing

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Mama’s Chicken Biscuits – free range fried chicken, pepper jelly, housepickles, house-made buttermilk biscuit

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St Louis Style Pork Ribs – tender slow-cooked, house BBQ sauce

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Smoked & Roasted Bone Marrow – country bread, onion jam

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Deviled Eggs – fresh chive, smoked trout roe ‘redneck caviar’


Warm Farmer’s Cheese – Watermelon, Olive Oil, Sea Salt

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Shrimp n’ Grits – Florida shrimp, crisp Virginia ham, Nora Mill Granary grits

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Pot Pie – Andouille Sausage, Italian Sausage, Smoked Chicken, Traditional Gravy, Laminated Biscuit Top


Macaroni and Cheese – Torchio Pasta, Five Artisinal Cheeses, Crispy Herb Crust

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Chicken n’ Watermelon n’ Waffles – Fried Chicken, Hot Sauce Honey, Spiced Watermelon, Cheddar Cheese Chow Chow Waffle, Bourbon Maple Syrup


Short Rib n’ Grits – 18oz Bone-In Short Rib, Nora Mill Granary Corn Grits, Charred Corn, Haricot Vert, Sweet Garlic Bordelaise

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Cornmeal Chess Pie – Sorghum Chantilly, Caramel Sauce, Caramel Pretzel, Popcorn

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Deep Fried Oreos – Rice Crispy Doughnut Dough Fried Oreos, Oreo Ice Cream, Chocolate Sauce

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Blue and Black Cobbler – Blueberries, Blackberries, Oat Crumble, Honey Ice Cream


Bacon Butterscotch Cake – Pecan Filling, Bourbon Ice Cream, Butterscotch Sauce


Having previously visited Yardbird Las Vegas five times in the two months since opening, while also investing some of my appetite in Miami at the original in November, there was little doubt where I would spend my birthday dinner with friends and with the private room arranged by Marketing Manager Niceole Ismert and a carte blanche menu prepared by Chef Todd Harrington the experience was no less than exemplary, a few new plates experienced while several old favorites made an appearance at the table where I was joined by six friends.


Mostly allowing the kitchen to chart our course, a few suggestions made by myself so that friends could experience the plates I’ve come to love, every item I’ve described at length prior was just as good as ever and with service a given considering the circumstances everything from lighting to music was tailored to our needs, the only thing not ‘perfect’ being the fact that none of us had come prepared for quite so much irresistible food – most of the plates presented in duplicate at a prix-fixe cost far beneath what one would have paid ordering a la carte.


Speaking now to new items, a total of three including one not yet offered on the menu, much has been mentioned in the past of Yardbird’s smoking program and beginning with the St. Louis Style Ribs with a plethoric pile of bone marrow to follow one would be hard pressed to decide which was a more impressive use of the technique, the former fall-from-the-bone tender with sauce that served to compliment rather than overwhelm while the marrow was heavily imbued with char, the richness cut by housemade onion jam and pickles that made nearly everyone a temporary okra fan.

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Always going above and beyond to invent, create, and improve a menu that has not sat on its laurels for even a moment since the space opened their doors it was after a few more favorites that Todd arrived tableside with an all-new item, and describing the laminated biscuit dough pastry overlying a ‘pot pie’ far more European than what would be expected from the Amish or folks down South one couldn’t help but be impressed, the golden crust again displaying the unabashed talent of the pastry team while the interior was densely packed with several types of meat ranging from smoky chicken to spicy andouille bathed in thick, savory jus.

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Already quite full even before two full plates of the restaurant’s signature “Chicken n’ Watermelon n’ Waffles” arrived, not to mention crocks of macaroni and the newly introduced short rib with charred corn grits, it was with most of the table waving a white flag that desserts did appear and with cobbler, fried Oreos, and a thick wedge of Bacon Butterscotch Birthday Cake all prone to please it was the full sized Chess Pie that officially made my night – a perfect ending to a meal surrounded by friends from a kitchen I knew I could trust with my ‘special day.’

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Posted in Coffee, Dessert, Food, Ice Cream, Las Vegas, Nevada, Pork, Waffles, Yardbird, Yardbird Southern Table & Bar, Yardbird Southern Table and Bar

Dougie J’s Cafe, Las Vegas NV


Dougie J’s Café

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The Riz – French Toast stuffed with Nutella and Whipped Cream

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Big G’s Blueberry Pancakes (1 cake)

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Pink Diablo – Batter Dipped Peanut Butter, Bacon, and Banana on White Bread rolled in Frosted Flakes

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The Bubba – Steamed Pastrami on Marble Rye with Cole Slaw, Swiss, Dougie Sauce

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Fried Chicken and Biscuit with housemade white gravy (1/2 order)

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Blueberry Coffee Cake

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The Bad Influence – Bacon, Pretzel Toffee from Whoa!, Cranberry, Chocolate Chips


Owned and operated by Suni Chabrow with a menu crafted by her longtime friend and business partner, a former bodybuilder and attorney downtown, Dougie J’s Café is Sin City’s only Patriotic dining locale and with a portion of the proceeds benefitting the Memorial Foundation of Suni’s fallen hero son it is undoubtedly the sort of space that everyone would love to see succeed, the potential no doubt there but a few tweaks necessary before the food will truly ‘wow.’


Patriotically decorated without pandering to the “USA, USA” crowd it was after contacting Suni directly about the restaurant’s concept and the possibility of ordering a few ‘half-portions’ to better assess the menu that I arrived at for Saturday lunch and with both Ms. Chabrow and the menu’s creator present throughout my hour-long stay it can only be said that the whimsical cuisine and story of the space was interesting and inspiring, respectively, while both were thoroughly explained.


Largely opting to indulge in breakfast, while allowing the Chef liberty with portion sizes and price, it was with a full order of The Riz that the meal began and featuring well-saturated brioche from Bon Bread at its base the French Toast sandwiching Nutella and Whip was decidedly sweet, a pitcher of artificial maple syrup thankfully unnecessary both here and in the follow-up blueberry pancake that was fluffy and well aerated, more than suitable for sopping up butter as well as blueberry reduction though the berries within the batter were somewhat disappointing and bland.


Chatting with the proprietors as I ate, stories including Soni’s decision to pursue a lifelong passion for making English Toffee striking a chord about the value of following one’s dreams, it was next that a whole order of the Pink Diablo arrived and drawing on concepts other restaurants would just as happily attributed to Elvis both the portion and flavor was plethoric, though much of the nuance was lost due to far too much peanut butter, a half portion more than enough to satisfy my curiosity though I did indeed pay for a whole.


Next sent out a half “Bubba,” a dish I neither desired nor requested but was happy to try given the staff’s glowing reviews, suffice it to say that between the watery pastrami and substantial amount of slaw little of the $6.50 I was charged for the gift was worth it, the ‘Dougie Sauce’ a lone exception with a whole lot of heat packed into the Russian-Style cream.


Back to items I’d inquired about, it was to a haphazard ‘torn’ half biscuit alongside fried chicken with thick country gravy that I was treated next and with the bird pounded flat and nearly flavorless while the biscuit large but no better than Bisquick suffice it to say this was a major miss, a fact made all the more humorous when the man behind the menu idly poked fun at the food at Hash-House-a-Go-Go before also admitting the lazy-man ingredient was used in Dougie J’s signature blueberry coffee cake – a dish still well worth ordering given the substantial use of cinnamon and delicate, buttery crumb.


Unable to make me an Apple Fritter, one of the items I’d specifically requested and one that Suni couldn’t stop raving about even after telling me the restaurant had failed to procure apples on that day, it was with a single “Bad Influence” cookie that my meal ended and served hot and gooey from the oven with bits of Suni’s Whoa! Foods Toffee filling the batter alongside bittersweet cranberries anyone in the area, which means anyone in DTLV or East Fremont, should consider stopping in to grab one…or perhaps a dozen as it may just be the best cookie on Las Vegas Boulevard right now.


THREE STARS:  Originally served a bill with a pre-tip of just under $75 – whole stacks of pancakes, full sandwiches, and a full  order of chicken and biscuits rang up along with what I’d actually ordered…and the Bubba which I had not…but later adjusted to a tally of $62 inclusive of tax and tip, the prices at Dougie J’s are unfortunately far out of line to the quality of product used or served and while I’m happy to donate to a great cause like The Douglas J. Green Foundation I’d have sooner done so on a voluntary basis rather than be upcharged for many of the things I tasted, though there are undoubtedly some gems on the menu to be found.

RECOMMENDED:  The Bad Influence, The Riz, Blueberry Coffee Cake

AVOID:  The Bubba, Chicken and Biscuit

TIP:  Located on a corner with plenty of parking just south of the more happening parts of Fremont and DTLV and open at 8am with seating for 42, those looking to check out Dougie J’s are well advised to also look into Suni’s Whoa! Foods Toffee, both the peanut butter and pretzel offered as samples during my stay found to be melt-in-the-mouth excellent and offered throughout the valley with some of the proceeds also going to the charity bearing her son’s name.


WHAT THE STARS MEAN: 5 World Class, 4 Excellent, 3 Good, 2 Fair, 1 Poor

Posted in Breakfast, Dessert, Dougie J's, Dougie J's Cafe, Food, French Toast, Las Vegas, Nevada, Pancakes, Pork

Honey Cakes Café, Las Vegas NV


Honey Cakes Café

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Butterscotch Muffin

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Red Velvet Pancakes with a scoop of Birthday Cake Gelato

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French Toast with 100% Maple Syrup

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Pecan Bun

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Apple Croissant

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Hazelnut Croissant

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Almond Macaron

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Salted Caramel Macaron

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Oatmeal Raisin Cookie

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Carrot Bundt Cake


Tucked away in a shopping center in Centennial, with early morning hours seven days a week, it was on a whim that I decided to travel up to Honey Cakes Café and although the twenty-two minute drive to an area I really had no other reason to visit proved a hassle due to an early morning traffic incident slowing cars to a crawl my 7:20am arrival found the small café ready and waiting – no customers quite yet, but the shelves and cooling racks stocked with no less than two dozen varieties of fresh pastries while the small kitchen gleaming as a cook stood mixing batters for a variety of made-to-order plates.

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Owned and operated by a gentleman named Anthony, a classically trained baker who has manned and managed the kitchens of some of Sin City’s finest resorts, it was with the Chef himself present and happy to chat that several pastries were discussed and focusing mostly on personal favorites as well as those hot from the oven seven options were selected, a complimentary apple croissant plus two plates from the kitchen and a ball of housemade gelato comprising an order totaling just shy of $40.


Beginning first with a muffin, taken back to the kitchen in order to be rewarmed in the oven, suffice it to say that anyone who fancies butterscotch would be well served to drive up to Honey Cakes ASAP as the Scotch infused batter dotted with golden chips is undeniably delicious without being overly sweet and following this up with a fresh laminated pastry packed with housemade apple-cinnamon compote a theme was established, the flavor of apples in abundance with a relative lack of sugar allowing the buttery layers of pastry to shine.


At this point receiving two made-to-order plates, one with a ball of sumptuous ‘birthday cake’ gelato, it was a bit of a surprise that the pancakes were served far thinner than many Las Vegas breakfast institutions but with rich cocoa notes and a delicate crumb freely lacquered by a pitcher of 100% Maple Syrup the flavors were robust and on par with those several times more costly on the Strip, the French Toast faring slightly less well largely due to the high egg content of housemade brioche and the fact that it was not soaked long enough to allow custard to penetrate all the way through.


Moving back to pastry, the last item consumed within the café arriving halfway through my pancakes and French Toast, one must consider the phrase “the early bird gets the worm” quite appropriate when considering Chef Anthony’s $4.50 Pecan Roll because, while I cannot guarantee it is nearly as good midday, the piping hot version just out of the oven was not only stunning in the quantity of pecans and caramelized sugar packed into each bite, but also by the crunchy shell with stretchy-soft dough within – a reference standard iteration of a classic that I’d rank best in the city by some distance, and on par with the best I’ve tasted anywhere else as well.

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Taking the last five items to go, the bulk consumed with coffee as part of a midday snack, it was only a slightly gummy salted caramel macaron that held the rest of my order back from perfection and with the almond version of the Parisian favorite light and crisp one almost wonders if the former was a one-off mistake – something I’ll no doubt have to determine at a later time when I make the drive back up to Centennial since the creamy housemade hazelnut spread filling another croissant is the sort of thing I’ll crave while the chewy oatmeal cookie and carrot-packed bundt were equally desirable, the later also available in a cake form still calling my name.


FOUR STARS:  Long hidden in the ‘pastry department’ of several Strip-based resorts, but now ready to shine in his own regard, the work that Anthony and his team at Honey Cakes is doing not only meets but exceeds several of the city’s most highly regarded bakeries at a far more friendly pricepoint with ingredients and execution every bit as refined.


RECOMMENDED:  Pecan Roll, Butterscotch Muffin, Apple Croissant.

VOID:  French Toast.


TIP:  Currently offering a $15 off $30 restaurant.com certificate, those looking for a deal are well advised to check it out.


WHAT THE STARS MEAN: 5 World Class, 4 Excellent, 3 Good, 2 Fair, 1 Poor


Honey Cakes Cafe on Urbanspoon

Posted in Breakfast, Croissant, Dessert, Food, French Toast, Honey Cakes, Honey Cakes Cafe, Ice Cream, Las Vegas, Macaroon, Nevada, Pancakes

Yardbird Southern Table & Bar [5,] Las Vegas NV

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Yardbird Southern Table & Bar

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Short Rib n’ Grits – 18oz Bone-In Short Rib, Nora Mill Granary Corn Grits, Charred Corn, Haricot Vert, Sweet Garlic Bordelaise

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Buttermilk Biscuits – Honey Butter, Strawberry Jam

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Maple Glazed Bacon Brioche Donuts – Bacon Bits, Butterscotch Sauce

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Cornmeal Chess Pie – Sorghum Chantilly, Caramel Sauce,  Caramel Pretzel, Popcorn

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Hickory Smoked Coffee Cake – Coffee Ice Cream, Chocolate Sauce

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Apple Hand Pies – Pate Brisee, Vanilla Ice Cream and Graham Cracker Crumble

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Deep Fried Oreos – Rice Crispy Doughnut Dough Fried Oreos, Oreo Ice Cream, Chocolate Sauce

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Yardbird Banana Split – Caramel Popcorn Ice Cream, Vanilla Ice Cream, Banana Brulee, Banana Curd, Chocolate Sauce

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Crunch n Munch Bread Pudding – M&M Chocolate bread Pudding, Popcorn Ice Cream, Caramel Popcorn, Pretzel

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Chocolate Chess Pie – with Chocolate Chips, Orange Blossom Ice Cream, Citrus Marmalade, Chocolate Sauce

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Red Velvet Whoopie Pie – Red Velvet Cake, Fluffy Cream Cheese Mouse, Pistachio Ice Cream, Crushed Pistachios, Raspberry Sauce

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Blue and Black Cobbler – Blueberries, Blackberries, Oat Crumble, Honey Ice Cream

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Bourbon Vanilla Milk Shake – Vanilla Ice Cream, Maker’s Mark, Gingersnaps

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Bacon Butterscotch Cake – Pecan Filling, Bourbon Ice Cream, Butterscotch Sauce

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Admittedly a fan of Yardbird, having now visited the Las Vegas location four times in its first two months of opening with another visit upcoming soon, it was on the invite of Chef Todd Harrington that I stopped in on Saturday to explore the reinvented dessert menu, and although a few of the restaurants biscuits reconfirmed my opinion that there is no better buttermilk version being served anywhere I’ve traveled while the Chef’s newly added shortribs were nothing short of falling off the bone perfection atop a mountain of charred-corn dotted grits, the star of the show was instead Vivian Chang – the woman responsible for twelve sweet selections which frequently left me dumbfounded that they weren’t the result of some old recipe from a grandma down South.


Beginning first with brunch selections, suffice it to say that the retooled brioche donuts are a dramatic improvement on the longjohn of past and with each tender, maple-lacquered bite studded by crispy bacon the ante is further upped by a sidecar of butterscotch sauce, a gluttonous accoutrement I nonetheless found myself dipping into frequently and later adding to the buttery apple pies, one eaten by hand with the second cut up and mixed with ice cream, graham crackers, and the aforementioned caramel for one heck of a makeshift sundae.

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Continuing the morning-meal options, another re-imagined item from Todd and Vivian was presented in the form of ‘smoked’ coffee cake and although the young chef claims the moist bread is only stored in the smoker for two minutes the result is a substantial hint of hickory with chocolate chips and robust coffee ice cream adding just a bit of sweetness, a task completely unnecessary when enjoying the sorghum sweetened chess pie whose creamy texture atop an all-butter crust rivals the best I’ve experienced anywhere in Amish country or the Southeast.

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Transitioning to dinner desserts, both Yardbird’s signature Bacon Butterscotch Cake and Crunch n’ Munch Bread Pudding remain largely unchanged, the latter’s popcorn flavor scaled back a bit in order to let the dark chocolate notes better shine, but with six other desserts also available one would be hard pressed to decide which was ‘best,’ though large groups would be strongly encouraged to look into either the bubbling hot and simply delicious seasonal cobbler or rich Red Velvet Whoopie Pie as each are more than enough to share with the former currently featuring blueberries and blackberries while the silky cream cheese mousse of the whoopie pie is simply too much for even a hearty due of diners to tackle on their own…no matter how much they may wish to try.

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Decidedly not a place for ‘light’ desserts, but one where a few smaller portions can be found, chocaholics and those interested in a true Southern delicacy would be well suited to order the chocolate chess pie served with both the orange blossom ice cream and blood orange marmalade to help to balance out the cocoa’s substantial heft while those looking for something a bit more ‘fun’ should find exactly what they’re looking for in Chang’s inspired take on fried Oreos, the oft-oily ‘fair-food’ staple perfected by protecting the cookie’s texture with batter while rice crispies add texture to both the dough and as a chocolate covered topping to the ball of ice cream at the center of the plate.

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Consistently impressing with both the variety and quality of house-made ice creams it seems only logical that Chang opts to feature them in so many of the restaurant’s desserts, and rounding out the restaurant’s dozen offerings one would be well advised to consider either the upscale Banana Split or Bourbon Milk Shake to finish off their meal, the shake a drink best shared given its substantial portion even though the booze is very nicely balanced by both the vanilla ice cream and whip while the sundae is perhaps the most unexpected surprise on the menu as two types of ice cream along with banana pudding, caramel popcorn, chocolate sauce, graham crackers, and a torched banana provide a veritable ‘choose your own adventure’ of textures and flavors without a single underwhelming bite to be found.

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UNABLE TO RATE:  As the entirety of the meal was comped, with much of my time spent sitting and chatting with Chef Harrington, suffice it to say service was exemplary and with both savories as well as desserts this good played beneath a soundtrack including everything from old-school blues to Them Crooked Vultures preceding Thickfreakness-era Black Keys, Yardbird remains my favorite affordable restaurant on the Strip and a place which I recommend everyone check out for themselves.

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RECOMMENDED:  Biscuits (always,) Sorghum Chess Pie, Smoked Chocolate Chip Coffee Cake, Deep Fried Oreos, Yardbird Banana Split, Bacon Butterscotch Cake.

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AVOID:  For single diners, or even duos, the Red Velvet Whoopie pie is simply ‘too rich,’ something that could perhaps be corrected through the use of a stonefruit or citrus ice cream…or perhaps berries such as those previously utilized in Yardbird’s excellent Red Velvet Trifle.

TIP:  With a talented and passionate team headed by Chefs Harrington and Chang making everything in house, those visiting should be aware that weekly specials as well as seasonal updates are planned and as such not all items listed here are guaranteed to be offered, the cobbler and pies in particular prone to frequent change.


Yardbird Southern Table & Bar on Urbanspoon

Posted in Bread Pudding, Breakfast, Coffee, Dessert, Food, Ice Cream, Las Vegas, Nevada, Pork, Yardbird, Yardbird Southern Table & Bar, Yardbird Southern Table and Bar

Postrio, Las Vegas NV



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Double Espresso on Ice

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Fresh Pappardelle – Fennel Sausage, Bolognese, Italian Parsley

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Bucatini a la Carbonara – Pancetta, English Peas, Parmigiano Reggiano

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Breakfast Pizza – Egg, Bacon, Roasted Tomatoes, Spinach, Vermont Cheddar

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Warm Brioche Doughnuts – Vanilla, Chocolate, Raspberry

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Monkey Bread – Caramel Toffee Sauce, Cream Cheese Sauce

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Buttermilk Pancakes – Cinnamon Spiced, Vermont Maple Syrup, Blueberries, Candied Lemon

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Pear Sticky Toffee Pudding – Brown Butter Pecan Ice Cream, Spiced Pear Compote

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Cinnamon and Dark Chocolate Bread Pudding – Toasted Coconut Ice Cream

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Often overlooking Wolfgang Puck restaurants given the Chef’s general ubiquity throughout the United States it was at the recommendation of a local writer and with the assistance of Ms. Stephanie Davis of Puck’s PR that a reservation was set for brunch at Postrio, and although some of the heavily praised plates from lunch and dinner were not available at brunch while dessert, originally stated as not available was, a noon meal beneath the pseudo-sky of St. Mark’s Square at The Venetian proved mostly impressive – the disorganized service and surprisingly loud ‘Carnivale’ performers aside.

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Themed as an informal indoor patio café with a menu covering a handful of WP classics as well as several Italian plates and California-style pizzas it was with complimentary Mimosas that the meal began and offering cheers to an old friend I’d not seen in some time the menu was perused with a three course order originally requested, a fourth only added at the end of the meal when it was revealed that the work of Kamel Guechida was indeed available, an offer I simply couldn’t resist.

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Joined by an interloping indoor pigeon who was almost as entertaining as the stilt walkers and singers to our side, it was after a long delay that the man who originally served our drinks was finally ‘assigned’ our table and with the lone special of steak and eggs declined it would not be long before two half-portions of pasta arrived, the wide pappardelle soft and smooth beneath bright tomatoes teaming with aromatic sausage while the al dente round noodles slicked with egg yolk and tossed simply with peas and pork was absolutely textbook, perhaps the best version of the dish served in a resort with no shortage of Italian options from which to choose.

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Always amused by Puck’s Pizzas, at this point a prerequisite for dining at any of his restaurants, it was with brief consideration of both the mushroom iteration that we opted for the newly added breakfast pie and although I’d have preferred the egg to be served runny after the baking process the general balance of the pie was admirable, a hefty amount of sharp cheddar and bacon most detectable on first bite with the light char notes of crust and vegetal notes lingering on the palate thereafter.

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Choosing ‘one of each’ from the “Batter and Breads” section, suffice it to say that any disappointment regarding soups and sides available only at dinner were mostly forgotten and although the sticky bun was generally underwhelming both in size and in flavor while the stack of cinnamon dusted donuts was far less impressive than those served at Yardbird, the fluffy pancakes with pure maple syrup, blueberries, and candied lemon were absolutely excellent – the $13 price-tag notwithstanding.

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Acknowledging that less ‘batter’ would have been ordered had I known desserts were ready to go it was without batting an eye that two of five delectable sounding options were selected to compliment a double espresso over ice and having last experienced Chef Guechida’s work at Joel Robuchon it came as no surprise that the pastry chef’s work completely stole the afternoon’s spotlight with both the buttery brioche pudding loaded with chocolate beneath intense coconut ice cream and the pear-based sticky toffee cake with pecan studded ice cream the texture of silk absolutely mesmerizing, each elegantly presented and surprisingly restrained in a manner equally befitting the Grand Canal Shoppes or the MGM Grand’s 3* crown jewel of the Chef’s past.

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THREE STARS:  With prices similar to several of The Venetian and Palazzo’s alternative Brunch options, but portions far smaller and service that seemed disjointed throughout our stay, Postrio falls squarely in the middle of the road for on-strip upscale midday dining – the food likely familiar to those who know Wolfgang Puck while the desserts are every bit as good as one would expect from one of America’s best pastry chefs.

RECOMMENDED:  Desserts, Bucatini a la Carbonara.

AVOID:  Sticky Bun.

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TIP:  Currently offering Free Mimosas to all brunch-goers with a 20% discount available in the Grande Canal Shoppes/Fashion Show coupon book those interested in finding a deal are advise to investigate both, the later definitely softening the blow of “strip-side” pricing found up and down Las Vegas Boulevard.

WHAT THE STARS MEAN: 5 World Class, 4 Excellent, 3 Good, 2 Fair, 1 Poor


Postrio Bar & Grill on Urbanspoon

Posted in Bread Pudding, Breakfast, Coffee, Dessert, Food, Ice Cream, Italian, Las Vegas, Nevada, Pancakes, Pizza, Postrio

Grand Cafe at Red Rock, Las Vegas NV

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Grand Café Red Rock

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Sticky Bun

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Apple Fritter

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Chocolate Chip Buttermilk Pancakes

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Tableside Flambee Bananas Foster French Toast

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Kitchen Sink Cookie / Oatmeal Raisin Cookie

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Carrot Cake Bar

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Located within walking distance of my door, and visited frequently for movies as well as meals at Hearthstone, I’d admittedly not given much thought to Red Rocks Resort and Casino’s other dining options until I found out an old colleague was in town for a Bariatric Surgery conference and with her packed lecture schedule largely precluding lunch or dinner the decision was made to meet up at Grand Café for breakfast, the resulting meal anything but ‘physician approved’ but surprisingly delicious with service that outperformed nearly any of Las Vegas Boulevard’s 24/7 dining options by a country mile.

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Arriving just after 7:00am, but requiring a reprint of my Boarding Pass in order to collect on a $15 coupon, it was a few minutes later than anticipated that the two of us sat down in the large dining area overlooking an expectedly empty pool and deferring the order to me with the stipulation that we must try the pancakes a three-course meal was requested, a smiling Hispanic waitress effortlessly managing a half-dozen tables while keeping water brimming and the silver coffee pot of surprisingly balanced brew filled throughout the hour long stay.

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Starting off with two pastries, the chopped pecan topped sticky bun and house-made apple fritter both rewarmed at our request, it was much to my astonishment that Red Rocks’ in-house pastry team makes items throughout the day in order to replenish supplies and although the fritter was a touch too oily despite being jammed-packed with apples the nicely laminated bun unraveled as a textbook spiral, the exterior golden and crunchy while the interior featured a springy yeasted stretch packed with butter and cinnamon notes.

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Moving onward to entrees, the four-stack of chocolate chip studded buttermilk flapjacks taking no shortcuts and fluffy as can be despite the bargain basement price of $8.78, there was no way I was passing of the “house specialty” Bananas Foster French Toast and with an unexpected tableside show of liquor-laced caramel being lit ablaze as it was poured over thick egg-bread with whipped cream added afterward every single bite of the dish was well worth not only the $8.95 tab, but also the signature status – easily one of the best off-Strip French Toasts in town and the only one I know of that is delivered with such flair.

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Sitting, chatting, and sipping at third pot of coffee with my friend stating she couldn’t possibly eat another bite it was only here that I realized I’d not yet spent the requisite $30 to qualify for use of the coupon and leaving aside just how much of a bargain that indicates for the rest of what we ordered it also justified the purchase of a trio of desserts, the elegant carrot cake beneath crispy praline bark proving quite moist even before considering the rich cream cheese frosting while both of the cookies were admittedly quite sweet, though soft centered with a crispy rim that held up nicely for an afternoon snack later that day.

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FOUR STARS:  Using the coupon with a total bill after tax and tip ringing in at a mere $26 one would be hard pressed to name a better bargain for such a large amount of surprisingly well made food in any Southern Nevada casino and with service proving better than several places charging more than twice the price for food no better I’ve little doubt I’ll revisit Grand Café sooner rather than later, at the very least to sample some more of the extensive pastry case…though I can’t rule out another order of fiery French Toast, as well.

001 - Grand Cafe Red Rock (31)

RECOMMENDED:  Bananas Foster French Toast, Buttermilk Pancakes, Sticky Bun.

AVOID:  Apple Fritter, as there are simply better versions available elsewhere at less than the $1.25 cost.

001 - Grand Cafe Red Rock (27) 001 - Grand Cafe Red Rock (36)

TIP:  Open 24/7, with everything but the Prime Rib and a few specials offered throughout the day and night, those looking for a bargain are encouraged to keep an eye on local mailers and papers, the $15 off $30 easily enough to feed a family of four for less than $20 if ordering right.

WHAT THE STARS MEAN: 5 World Class, 4 Excellent, 3 Good, 2 Fair, 1 Poor


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Posted in Breakfast, Coffee, Dessert, Food, French Toast, Grand Cafe, Grand Cafe at Red Rocks, Las Vegas, Nevada, Pancakes

The Pig, Chapel Hill NC


The Pig

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Hand Cut Pimento Cheese Fries with Cheek Bacon

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All Dark Meat Fried Chicken with Pickles, Hush Puppies, and Slaw

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Hickory Smoked Whole-Hog BBQ, Roughly Chopped and seasoned by Cider Vinegar Sauce with Pickles, Hush Puppies, and Slaw

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Sweet Potato Bread Pudding

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Banana Pudding

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Targeted as our final meal in the state of North Carolina, a post-game destination after watching Roy Williams run the 4-Corners in honor of Dean Smith against Wake Forrest in the dome bearing his legendary name, it was just moments prior to 3:00pm that we entered The Pig and with a sign at the door proudly promoting the use of locally-raised hormone and antibiotic-free pork the barbeque that followed was the very definition of ‘saving the best for last.’

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Perhaps a bit more hip and trendy than traditionalists looking for a spot like Ole Time or Allen & Son would prefer, but at the same time offering all the essentials plus some whimsical specials in a space far less commercial than The Pit, it was only after standing back perusing the laminated menu and chalkboards that an order was placed, the $45 tab after tax and tip speaking to higher ingredient quality while the décor was mostly wood, tile, and Formica with a few swine-centric ornaments strewn about.

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Waiting only ten minutes while a few more parties sporting Tar Heel Blue filed in, it was with both appetizers and mains served simultaneously that we sat impressed by the portions and uncertain of where to start a mixed tasting would ensue, first bites of the crispy hand-cut potatoes beneath spicy pimento cheese and briny cheek bacon proving far better than later bites after the oil set in while both the slaw and hushpuppies were as good as we found during our trip, the later rich with herbs beneath a particularly crisp shell.


Focusing next on the “Carolina Classics,” though here served as separate plates as opposed to in combo form, the question of whether the brined bird or cracklin’ studded pork was better is truly a matter of taste because no matter how you rate it they both were reference standard, the former just short of Beasley’s for best in The Triangle while the later was even more succulent than that at Ayden’s Skylight Inn, a tremendous amount of smoke proving an adept balance acid and salt.


Not exactly a spot for sweets, but trying far harder than many mom n’ pop houses of ‘cue, it was a menu of four specials that we were left to navigate and with the banana pudding an obvious choice my personal preferences also saw a bowl of steamy bread pudding arrive alongside, the former nothing to write home about compared to those at Mandolin, The Pit, or others while the sweet potato pie-meets-flan concoction was surprisingly mild, the tuber’s natural starches providing most of the flavor alongside milky tones with whipped cream added for sweetness as well as to lighten the load, each bite still stick-a-spoon-up-straight thick.


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Posted in Bread Pudding, Chapel Hill, Dessert, Durham, Food, North Carolina, Pork, Raleigh, The Pig, Vacation

Neal’s Deli, Carrboro NC


Neal’s Deli

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Buttered Biscuit with Jam

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Pimento Cheese and Bacon Biscuit

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Dark Chocolate Walnut Brownie


The third stop on a morning breakfast run that had already seen beguiling biscuits at Sunrise and woeful disappointment at Ye Olde Waffle Shoppe, Neal’s Deli was recommended by a well-traveled gourmand as a ‘can’t miss’ place for upscale deli cuisine and arriving to find every seat filled and a line two-deep surrounding the counter I nearly walked out for simple lack of a place to stand, a man at the window-side bar fortuitously getting up just as I entered graciously offering me the stool on which he’d just sat.


Using my coat to mark my space, and getting in a line of eight that moved surprisingly fast, it was with Take-Out menu in hand that decisions were made and although both soups and pastrami seemed to be selling like hotcakes it was once again in biscuits that I’d invest – the buttermilk batter just entering the oven as I sat down to enjoy a plastic wrapped brownie chewy with dark chocolate and punctuated with slightly bitter nuts.


Slightly prolonged in my wait, but likely to benefit from biscuits served hot and fresh, it was with an elderly local that I struck up some chat and told that I’d made ‘the best choice’ in ordering the pimento cheese and bacon biscuit his words soon rang true moments after the man behind the counter called out my name – the fluffy golden crumb tinged with buttermilk proving quite nice with simple strawberry jam but finding a substantial upgrade when sandwiching spicy cheddar spread and crisp bacon that didn’t seem particularly ‘Jewish Deli,’ but was delicious just the same.


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Posted in Breakfast, Carrboro, Chapel Hill, Dessert, Durham, Food, Neal's Deli, North Carolina, Pork, Raleigh, Vacation