Bakin’ & Eggs, Chicago IL

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Bakin’ & Eggs

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Intelligentsia Coffee

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Bacon Donut with Maple Glaze

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Glazed and Raised Donut

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Blueberry Scone

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Earl Grey and Golden Raisin Scone

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Red Velvet Cupcake

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Carrot Cake Cupcake

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Triple Berry Pancakes – Raspberry, Strawberry, and lots o’ Blueberries + Lemon Cream

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Banana Pecan Bread French Toast – Hazelnut Ganache + Butter + Bananas + Banana Rum Whipped Cream

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Lovely French Toast – Bread Pudding from butter, chocolate, and almond croissants + brown sugar

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Southern Comfort Bowl – Potatoes + 2 Poached Eggs + Cheddar + Biscuits + Chicken Apple Sausage

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Located on Lincoln Avenue in Lakeview with a footprint far larger than one would assume from the street Bakin’ & Eggs had long been one of the Chicago breakfast nooks I’d been meaning to visit and with selections at Cellar Door Provisions proving rather limited while the morning was prime for a leisurely walk it was with wide eyes that my sister, her fiancée, and I sat down to dine – a ten part order served across three courses soon to follow with only the overly dense scones and overburdened service proving less than excellent during the course of our ninety minute stay. Owned and operated by the folks behind Lovely Bakeshop with a friendly vibe suited for all ages it was inevitably with several selections from the case of freshly baked pastries that our indulgence began and paired to a bottomless cup of hot drip from Intelligentsia both donuts and cupcakes would show nicely, the bacon speckled base of the brioche donut particularly impressive and the carrot cake defiantly light despite a robust spice profile and tangy cream cheese. Moving onward to things more substantial as a small child beside us plowed through a short-stack of pancakes with remarkable gusto it was with a single savory and three more sweets that we proceeded and although the biscuits of the Southern Comfort Bowl suffered similarly to the scones everything else was exemplary, the weekend-only “Lovely French Toast” a true show-stopper with a dense crumb richly imbued by butter while fluffy pancakes took the opposite approach in arriving so light they seemed to threaten floating off the plate, a dollop of whip and lemon cream acting as both anchor and accent to bursting, fresh berries.

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RECOMMENDED: Lovely French Toast, Triple Berry Pancakes, Bacon Donut with Maple Glaze, Carrot Cake Cupcake

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AVOID: Scones and Biscuits both proved far too dense thus leading me to wonder if perhaps old baking powder was at fault versus a simple difference in technique compared to my personal preferences – either way, with so many superior options on the menu I’d not venture to retry either as there are better versions to be found elsewhere in the Windy City.

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TIP: Featuring a thirty minute queue for a 4-top when we were leaving at 9:30 those in a rush should be aware that although reservations are not accepted there is an express counter for baked goods or coffee and with plenty of indoor standing room plus a few seats at the bar even those arriving later in the morning are unlikely to grow weary with waiting.

http://www.bakinandeggschicago.com/home.php

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Posted in Bakin and Eggs, Bakin' & Eggs, Bread Pudding, Breakfast, Chicago, Coffee, cupcakes, Dessert, Food, French Toast, Illinois, Intelligentsia, Pancakes, Vacation

Cellar Door Provisions, Chicago IL

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Cellar Door Provisions

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Kouign Amann

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Ricotta Peach Muffin

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Canele

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Located in Logan Square, with a wall mounted menu that is rewritten daily, Cellar Door Provisions can best be described as a labor of love; a collaboration of three friends who’ve honed their skills in kitchens near and far focused on making great food “worth gathering around.” Locally sourced and open five-days a week for breakfast and lunch it was just after the small store’s 8:00am opening that our party of three arrived and with items still emerging slowly from the ovens our sampling was somewhat limited, the friendly servers quickly procuring a pair of each warm item and delivering them tableside as a light soundtrack played overhead. Clearly attuned to recent trends in regional French pastry with the oft-praised croissants still thirty minutes from ready it was instead in the creamy canele beneath a golden-brown shell that our tasting began and although a bit sweeter than I’ve come to expect the texture was spot-on, a similar bit of praise befitting a Kouign Amann whose still-molten core of butter ran down my wrist as laminated layers shattered and showered the table. Appropriately impressed though slightly short of ‘wowed’ to this point it was last-but-certainly-not-least that we turned to the cheesecake textured muffin and featuring a deft balance of juicy ripe peaches juxtaposing pockets of creamy ricotta each bite provided a beautiful balance of sweet and savory, a touch of streusel topping tilting the balance ever so slightly towards the former and placing it amongst the best muffins I’ve experienced in recent memory.

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RECOMMENDED: Kouign Amann and Ricotta Peach Muffin

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AVOID: Better Canale can be found at Bad Wolf Coffee, though those desiring something more sugary may appreciated what Cellar Door Provisions has to offer.

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TIP: Items are baked throughout the day, but not all items are available when the restaurant opens its doors. Sometimes baking croissants first, other times preparing them only after other items are readied I was told by the clerk that 9:15-9:30am is generally the best arrival time to assure most selections are ready…and not yet sold out.

http://www.cellardoorprovisions.com/

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Posted in Breakfast, Canele, Cellar Door Provisions, Chicago, Dessert, Food, Illinois, Vacation

Rose. Rabbit. Lie., Las Vegas NV

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Rose. Rabbit. Lie.

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Caviar Tacos – Hackleback Caviar, Yukon Gold Potato Shell, Hamachi

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Herb Brioche Rolls – Bordier Butter, Maldon Salt

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Gougeres – Truffle Mornay

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Poached Asparagus – Fried Egg, Warm Bacon Vinaigrette, Herb Salad

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Caramelized Farm Carrots – Moroccan Spice, Cara Cara Orange, Watercress

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Chanterelle Spaghetti – Asparagus, Shaved Pecorino, Wood Sorrel

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Rabbit Fricassee – Vichy Carrots, Rose Petals, Beech Mushrooms a la Greque, Sauce Zingara

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Duck Confit Pasta – Swiss Chard, Parmesan Cream, White Wine

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Crispy Oysters Rockefeller – House cured Bacon, Spinach, Chartreuse, Bacon Dust

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Roasted Foie Gras – Harry’s Berries, Candied Pistachio, Brioche

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Mary’s Free Range Chicken – Roasted Thigh Cordon Bleu, Sous Vide Breast, Summer Truffle, Foie Gras and Spaghetti Squash Stuffing

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Cookie Jar – Foie Gras Macarons, Cake Ball, Rosemary and Basil Truffles, Carrot and Currant Cakes, Biscotti, Brownies

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Chocolate Terrarium – Chocolate Buttermilk Cake, Chocolate Soil, Chocolate Bark, Marshmallow Fluff, Hazelnut Ice Cream, Edible Flowers and Herbs

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Perhaps the most misunderstood restaurant on The Strip and thought by some to have closed down due to its assumed synonymy to Vegas Nocturne it was with little regard for the now defunct show that myself and three friends descended the wormhole of Rose. Rabbit. Lie. and with food and drink as our focus even as various forms of entertainment paraded the dining room I’m happy to report that not only is the kitchen still open, but that it is also turning out some of the most impressive plates in the 702. Considered by some to be misbranded from the start while others bemoan the space as frankly overdone it was just after 6:30 that I arrived to find my friends waiting in the subdued Library Bar and with tab soon settled it was onward to the dining room that we progressed – a cozy fourtop at the center of the room affording us a full view of the well-appointed confines where service would shine brightly amongst the best in the city with a casual wink underlying unwavering knowledge of the menu, ingredient sourcing, and even technique. Often times trending far too loud for casual conversation as acts ranging from a real-life Jessica Rabbit to break-dancing Teens and a Jazz quartet roamed the dining room it was with five small plates that our meal began and with gratis $15 tacos stuffed with roe whetting our palates for more both the truffle imbued gougeres and glazed carrots would prove early favorites, the former an ethereal flavor bomb wrapped in delicate choux while the later deftly walked a fine line between earth and acid. Moving next to two house-made pastas from which the better would be a dispute and then onward to supple sautéed rabbit served alongside creamy fried oysters atop an herbal cream fortified with pork it was finally with the tableside feast of chicken that our savories did culminate and although some may balk at the $98 tab it would be hard to name a better bird in all of Las Vegas, Savoy’s $180 Guinea Hen or Robuchon’s $250+ Pintade taken into account. To this point all smiles it was nearly three hours after our arrival as the band riffed on Elton John that a duo of desserts was presented and although the crowned cookie jar was rather blasé aside from the succulent macarons the much-heralded terrarium was nothing short of a masterpiece; a decadent composition of textures and temperatures with elements both savory and sweet that rivals presentations at Atelier Crenn, Red Medicine, or even Alinea for a finish with flare, an absolute must order for anyone who loves chocolate while though those looking for something more fruit driven (and truly afire) might be wise to consider one of the tableside flambées…something I surely won’t pass up as I plan a return visit before year’s end.

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FOUR AND A HALF STARS: Balancing a high price point with exemplary ingredient sourcing and service that stands far ahead of its competition Rose. Rabbit. Lie. may be the most underrated restaurant on Las Vegas Boulevard today and although the sound level often proves far too loud for casual conversation the show itself actually proves quite entertaining, as well. Still up in the air in the post-Nocturne era with a lawsuit hanging in the balance one can only hope that when the dust settles Rose. Rabbit. Lie. will continue to thrive and even if the concept should rebrand or shutter that the culinary team will be kept intact – a meal in the library perhaps the best-of-both-worlds for those seeking truly innovative cuisine in space that seems miles from any casino floor but not yet willing to invest in a night at Pierre Gagnaire’s Twist or e by Jose Andres.

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RECOMMENDED: Chocolate Terrarium, Mary’s Free Range Chicken, Caramelized Farm Carrots, Crispy Oysters Rockefeller, Roasted Foie Gras, Duck Confit Pasta

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AVOID: Asparagus was fine, but undersized and not particularly interesting at the $16 price point while the Cookie Jar was perfectly clever but not particularly impressive save for the macarons – an $18 tab averaging approximately $1.50 per bite for a dozen small sweets.

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TIP: Divided into several rooms with entertainment running in thirty minute sessions and short breaks between those adverse to loud or trendy spots are advised to request a seat in the library but for those happy to enjoy the show (and the added LET) be advised that you very well may end up involved, the dancers and singers often finding their way into the dining room and using open chairs, elevated booths, and floorspace to dance, jump, flip, and or flaunt.

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

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http://roserabbitlie.com/

Rose Rabbit Lie on Urbanspoon

Posted in Bread Basket, Dessert, Foie, Food, Ice Cream, Las Vegas, Macaroon, Nevada, Pork, Rose. Rabbit. Lie., RRL, Truffle

MADE L.V., Las Vegas NV

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MADE L.V.

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Cheesy Garlic Toast – Four cheeses

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Bacon Cheddar Biscuits – Honey salt butter

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Country House Pate – Pickles, fruit mostarda, grilled bread

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Pimento Cheese – Saltines, pretzel chips, breakfast radishes

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Smokey Bleu Cheese Fondue – Thick cut salt & pepper chips

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Black Mission Figs – Balsamic roasted & fresh, goat cheese, pistachios, pomegranate, arugula

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Baked Artichokes – Freekeh Stuffing, Parmesan, Lemon, Herbs, Garlic

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Bacon & Eggs – Thick cut bacon, deviled egg, red onion jam, grilled multigrain

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Breakfast Poutine – Two eggs, fries, turkey gravy, curds

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Dirty Mac and Cheese – Burnt pork ends, four cheese, peas, Ritz Cracker crust

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Butcher Style Chicken Wings – Hot smoked, flash fried, BBQ

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Bag of Donut Holes – Cinnamon sugar dusted

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Banana Pudding – Nilla wafers, whipped cream, salted caramel

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Loaded S’Mores Nachos – Graham crackers, torched marshmallows, toasted walnuts, Oreo cookie crumbs, chocolate sauce, fluff cream

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The newest addition to Tivoli Village, MADE LV fills the seemingly cursed spot formerly inhabited by Bradley Ogden’s Hops & Harvest and featuring the culinary talents of Kim Canteenwalla it was to a wide sampling of the restaurant’s nouveau-American menu that I sat down with eight friends on Saturday afternoon, the results a resounding success as fourteen plates delivered in five courses arrived to nearly universal praise. Offering a relaxed environment with touchtunes playing at a modest levels beneath a bistronomic tin-style ceiling as the Little League World Series showed on a pair of LCDs it was at a large banquette that our party was sat and with the open atrium bathed in sunlight our meal began quickly, the service spot-on throughout our two hour stay with several visits from the Chef himself assuring all was well. Speaking next to the quality of the food it can only be said that while perhaps ‘simple’ by some standards the execution of nearly every dish of the afternoon was nothing short of exemplary and with much of our order trending towards the menu’s heavier offerings it was perhaps unsurprising that flavors presented with aplomb, the cheddar biscuits a full-frontal savory assault finding levity in the creamy house blended butter while both the pimento cheese and rich fondue arrived in plethoric portions with extra chips and crackers offered compliments of the house. Moving next to things more complicated the very few faults of the meal were found in early-season figs that had not yet found maximum sweetness and fries that trended slightly less crisp than savory toppings would afford but with deviled eggs set aside crisp bacon soon followed by reference standard mac n’ cheese plus juicy wings rife with smoke beneath intensely crisp skin one would be hard pressed to complain – a trio of All-American sweets every bit on par with the savories finally rounding out a meal that more that lived up to the restaurant’s promise of “good food, good drinks, and good company” from beginning to end.

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FOUR STARS: With only the heavy handed poutine’s somewhat limp fries and less-than-perfect figs proving anything short of exemplary it would be difficult to say MADE LV is anything less than excellent considering it has been open for less than one week. Generally giving restaurants time to find their footing, particularly with regard to service, those leery of visiting should take solace in the fact that the team is already very well trained and although one cannot be sure Chef Kim will always be present given the fact that he is pulling double (and soon to be triple) duty with Honey Salt it is clear that this is a project very important to him and one in which he and partner Elizabeth Blau are willing to invest; one can only hope that the locals (and location) will return the favor.

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RECOMMENDED: Bacon Cheddar Biscuits, Country House Pate, Pimento Cheese, Smokey Bleu Cheese Fondue, Bacon & Eggs, Banana Pudding, S’mores Nachos

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AVOID: While certainly not ‘bad’ the Figs were nowhere near as large or plump as some and largely lacking in sweetness while the reinterpreted poutine suffered from fries that were simply too limp to stand up to the substantial gravy and perfectly poached eggs.

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TIP: With most plates served in sharing portions from open to close while ribs and chicken are relegated to dinner only one is best served to inquire about portion sizes with the staff – the bacon and eggs, for instance, a very small portion while the rich pimento cheese, enormous artichoke, and poutine can easily feed a larger group.

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

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http://made-lv.com/

Made LV on Urbanspoon

Posted in Bread Basket, Dessert, Food, Las Vegas, MADE, MADE L.V., MADE LV, Nevada, Pork

The Griddle Cafe at SLS, Las Vegas NV

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The Griddle Café

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Saturday Morning Fever Boozy panCAKE Shake – Vanilla Bean Ice Cream, Griddled Buttermilk Cake, Bailey’s, Kahlua, Sweet Cream

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French Press – Medium Roast

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Mouthful of Yum – Godiva Chocolate Liqueur and Crushed Butterfinger with Brown sugar-baked bananas in buttermilk batter, topped with Godiva Chocolate Liqueur Whipped Cream

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Sow Your Oats – Honey, Cinnamon, Rolled Oats, Buttermilk Batter

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Devil’s Daydream Bourbon French Toast – Dark Chocolate Bread loaded with Bittersweet Chocolate chips, dipped in Bulleit Bourbon mixture, topped with Whipped Cream

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Peanut Bubba French Toast – Egg Dipped Sweet French Bread dipped in Peanut Butter Crunch, topped with vanilla whipped cream

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Admittedly taking a risk in visiting any restaurant on its very first day it should only be said that after four excellent visits to the landmark in Los Angeles my expectations were high as I entered The Griddle Café at SLS Las Vegas, the 24/7 space featuring a menu even more adventurous than the original but so dreadfully lacking in service that it almost ruined the work of a kitchen already firing on all cylinders. Ever the trendy space with much of the décor cribbed straight off of Sunset it was just moments prior to 7am when our party of three sat down at a table set for six and with the music a bit too loud but the hostess quite pleasant things were off to a good start, a back-server filling our water and procuring a French Press of bold medium roast coffee before things took a turn for the worst…a twenty minute delay before we flagged down one server to find ‘our’ server who would subsequently fail at nearly every task from taking orders to filling beverages to answering even the simplest of queries. Eventually annoyed enough to demand a manager who would offer nothing but attitude and excuses before finally agreeing to assign us a different waiter it was finally nearly forty-five minutes after we arrived that our first course arrived and decidedly taking the gluttons route with four griddled stacks plus a thick, boozed-up shake the morning improved exponentially with each over-the-top concoction every bit on par with what I’d come to expect from TGC and the all-new Mouthful of Yum more than living up to its whimsical name with light chocolate overtones atop caramelized bananas and Butterfinger’s candy crunch. Faring equally well to the pancakes, and in the opinion of my friends perhaps even better, each bite of French Toast would prove just as impressive as each fluffy flapjack and with the classic Peanut Bubba pairing supple bread to crunchy peanut butter cookies the decadent “Devil’s Daydream” stepped up its game from the City of Angels by adding a woodsy topnote, the warm finish of whiskey finding its foil in intense dark chocolate. Filling out our order, and stomachs, with three pancakes strewn with honey, oats, and cinnamon despite only requesting a ‘short stack’ and liberally topping the buttery cakes with pure Maple Syrup from Vermont as we finished off a fourth French Press it should probably go without saying that our experience was ‘mixed’ but with growing pains perhaps to be expected I can only assume service will get better while the food continues to shine…or at least I can hope…

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THREE STARS: Allowing the food to comprise half of the rating while the rest of the experience makes up the rest I’ll simply say that I enjoyed the food and my friends at Griddle Café enough to make it a ‘good’ experience while each of my visits to the Los Angeles locale trended towards world class. Knowing that ownership was resistant to expanding the concept it is my hope that this was merely opening day jitters and future visits, potentially to be frequent, will fare far better.

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RECOMMENDED: Peanut Bubba French Toast, Mouthful of Yum Pancakes

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AVOID: Priced at $15 the shakes are tasty, but not on the par with the similarly spiked concoctions at Holstein’s or Brooklyn Bowl.

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TIP: While French Toast is only offered in one size the pancake stacks listed price is for a trio and those with more modest appetites can indulge in singles or two flapjacks for $4 or $2 less, respectively.

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

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http://www.thegriddlecafe.com/

The Griddle Café on Urbanspoon

Posted in Breakfast, Coffee, Dessert, Food, French Toast, Griddle Cafe, Ice Cream, Las Vegas, Nevada, Pancakes, The Griddle Cafe at SLS

The Perq, Las Vegas NV

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The Perq

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Banana Monkey Bread

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Bear Claw

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Chocolate Cranberry Scone

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Located just past the entrance of the new SLS and slinging LAMill Coffee from 6am until ten o’clock in the evening every day of the week it was largely a result of my early arrival for breakfast at The Griddle Café that brought me to the cusp of The Perq and although I knew the meal to follow was bound to be hearty I simply couldn’t resist the combination of warm pastries and welcoming baristas, the results a three part order tasted on site and finished later in the day with across-the-board impressive results. In some ways a bizarre space with a long bar juxtaposing the coffee counter and several small tables laid out beneath a textured ceiling gleaming with light The Perq concept is one set to evolve with progression of the day and reportedly baking fresh every ninety minutes (or faster as supply demands) with breakfast transitioning to lunch around 11:00am it was to nearly a dozen warm options that I was tempted at 6:15 and although a pair of fruit tarts beckoned along with a truffled Gruyere scone my order eventually settled on items far more sweet, the fresh scone pocketed with spots of sugar and dollops of butter alongside dark chocolate and bursting berries providing a lovely first bite before I delved into a well laminated bearclaw filled with dense yet subtle frangipane that stands tall alongside that of Henderson’s Friendly Donuts for best in the city, though the Strip based Casino admittedly commands nearly three times the price. Indulging last in a selection warmed-and-topped-to-order it was finally in The Perq’s caramel topped banana monkey bread that I partook and although rumor has it that lunch fares even better than breakfast with cookies, desserts, and gelato-panini taking center stage I’d be hard pressed to imagine any of them better than the textbook brioche pull-apart studded with caramelized bananas, though I unquestionably plan to return and find out, and next time with a cold-brew in hand.

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FOUR STARS: Obviously trending a bit more expensive than mom n’ pop spots throughout the valley but no more pricey than Press, Bouchon, or Payard with pastries thus far on par with all of the above The Perq instantly ups the ante in the Vegas coffee scene by bringing in LAMill, an 18-hour cold brew option and no shortage of espresso, latte, and cappuccino options set to tantalize palates while those favoring tea will can also find their fix; at least seven varieties offered hot or cold with latte options including a Masala Chai I heard two women raving as they sat sipping at a table across the way.

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RECOMMENDED: Bear Claw, Banana Monkey Bread, Chocolate Cranberry Scone.

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AVOID: N/A, though I cannot yet comment on lunch items, gelatos, or items not procured mere minutes after leaving the oven.

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TIP: The only location I’m aware of within the SLS offering all three forms of artificial sweetener those favoring the pink stuff would be well advised to swing by and grab a handful before heading to The Griddle Café; a large supply vessel can be found along the far wall along with simple syrup and several varieties of dairy and lactose-free creamer.

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

http://slslasvegas.com/dining/the-perq

The Perq on Urbanspoon

Posted in Breakfast, Dessert, Food, Las Vegas, Nevada, The Perq

Slice of Vegas, Las Vegas NV

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Slice of Vegas

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Pepperoni New York Slice – $3.95

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Mamma’s Garlic Bread – $8.90 with Mozzarella – Italian bread infused with roasted garlic, brushed with more roasted garlic butter and accompanied with a roasted garlic head

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‘Choked Pig – $18.95 – Pesto aioli sauce, Mozzarella cheese, sun dried tomatoes, bacon and artichoke mix finished with chopped basil and a whiskey sour cream

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Zeppoli – 8.45 with Caramel – Golden fried pizza dough balls tossed in a mix of cinnamon and sugar, drizzled with chocolate

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Located in the Shops at Mandalay Bay close to the entrance of Luxor it was largely a matter of their participation in restaurant.com’s discount program that led me to Slice of Vegas and having received $100 in gift certificates to the website nearly one year prior it was with $25 towards a minimum $37.50 purchase that I sat down at a rounded booth made for four, the USA vs. Brazil basketball game and Dallas Cowboys preseason matchups playing on televisions beneath the din of some forgettable pop songstress. Billed as a space for “Fun Italian Dining” with a take-out station to the left and bar-full of craft brews tucked behind it was just moments before 7:00pm that I took my seat and with the majority of diners tourists with small children the scene was decidedly rambunctious, a duo of servers including the young woman in charge of my table clearly struggling to keep pace with large orders despite efficient back-servers helping to bus tables and refill water. Unapologetically overpriced like the majority of Strip-side dining it was only after a few questions regarding the possibility of a half-and-half pizza (no for specialties, okay if you build-your-own) plus a description of the daily specials that I eventually placed an overzealous order and with an appetizer slice of foldable New York style thin-crust quickly arriving from the exterior facing window my first taste was quite favorable, the gentle crunch and pliable crumb on par with that at Pop-Up or Secret beneath a subtly sweet sauce and bubbling fresh mozzarella. Moving next to mundane garlic bread that no Italian mother would likely lay claim to it was fast on the thick loaf’s heels that my gourmet pizza would arrive and with ample toppings showing a keen eye for balance over the nearly cracker thin crust the meal was soon back on good footing, the punchy sour cream a particularly inspired pairing to mellow the marinated artichokes and herbal topnotes from the pesto and fresh basil. At this point just shy of my gift-certificate minimum I was left with a decision between the restaurant’s signature chocolate cake, a glorified brownie sundae, or balls of fried dough and opting for the later with a sidecar of caramel I’m confident to say I made the right choice – each of the seven cue-ball sized doughnuts perfectly crisp and virtually oiless beneath a hefty shake of cinnamon sugar as the duo of sauces jockeyed for position on the tongue’s already overcrowded sweetness receptors.

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THREE STARS: Dramatically overpriced without the benefit of a 2/3 discount but featuring a more than competent slice along with the best Zeppoli I’ve yet to find in Las Vegas there are certainly worse options for quick casual dining on the strip and although neither service nor setting are likely to win any awards I’d happily come back to explore more of the menu if armed with another coupon, a distinct likelihood considering the general dearth of quality on restaurant.com ever since the rest of Mandalay Bay pulled out several months ago.

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RECOMMENDED: Pepperoni Slice, Zeppoli (and be sure to add the caramel, a $0.50 surcharge every bit worth the indulgence)

AVOID: Mamma’s Garlic Bread – at $8.90 vastly inferior to the free bread offered at any number of mom n’ pop spaces stretching from coast to coast.

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TIP: Obviously not a restaurant targeting the ballers and high rollers perhaps I should not have been caught off-guard when my receipt arrived with the suggested (pre-coupon) tip circled in pink-ink with a *star* next to the 20% but suffice it to say that such behavior has no place in any restaurant no matter what the circumstances, my young server’s not-so-subtle attempt to make a point instead proving insulting and not at all helping her cause in maximizing the night’s earnings.

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

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http://www.sliceofvegaspizza.com/

Slice of Vegas on Urbanspoon

Posted in Bread Basket, Dessert, Food, Italian, Las Vegas, Nevada, Pizza, Pork, Slice of Vegas

Viva Las Arepas and Art of Flavors [2,] Las Vegas NV

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Viva Las Arepas

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Fried Pork Rinds & Yucca Root

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Fried Plantains

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Wood Fire Chicken Arepa with Tomato, Lettuce, Onions

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Roasted Pork Butt Arepa with Tomato and Cheese

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Guava and Cheese Pastelito

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Set beside Art of Flavors, where another star-studded sampling had just concluded in the best ‘ice cream sandwich’ ever to cross my lips, it was with long-held interest and a touch of gluttony that I finally entered Viva Las Arepas; my “some for now with the rest for later” order rooted not only in convenience but also in hopes of avoiding a later trip from home for dinner. Ever popular amongst locals and tourists alike with a menu focused on the Venezuelan flatbread sandwich alongside additional items both grilled and fried the time was just past two on my arrival to the deceptively large space and greeted by a short line with the dining room 2/3 full it would not be long before I found myself standing at the counter, a friendly middle-aged man expediting orders and assigning me number #36, my five boxed selections delivered to the table a mere fifteen minutes thereafter. Clearly a restaurant vested in its core with a menu infrequent to change it was in a duo of ‘sides’ that my meal began and although bland plantains dripping with excess grease quickly proved inedible the unlikely star of the show would in fact be the wood-grilled pigskins, a crispy exterior overlying supple fat with intense brine offset by tender chunks of fried yucca. Moving next to a pair of arepas it was with the wood grilled chicken that I started yet with flavors no better than the frozen stuff from Roots sold at Walmart I quickly moved to the pork-butt, the flavor almost indistinguishable from the bird as a trickle of oil ran down my hand into the napkin below. At this point tossing what was left of each sandwich to instead sample the rinds and root with accompanying sauces it was finally with the $2 Pastelito that I finished and although tasty enough to stand on its own I couldn’t help but think that for a buck per bite I’d have been better off staying next door with another scoop of gelato.

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TWO STARS: Exceptionally greasy with flavors that generally lacked any particular ‘pop’ aside from the briny pork rinds and super-sweet guava my overall take on Viva Las Arepas is that its sustained popularity is largely a result of novelty and low prices with the later probably far more important than the former considering the location and clientele. Certainly not as interesting as other ethnic eats around town nor as well executed as traditional sandwich shops in Chicago, Phoenix, or Seattle I guess I’d consider a repeat visit to experience some of the wood grilled meats but it certainly isn’t a priority – not even with Art of Flavors ever beckoning recurrent visits right next door.

RECOMMENDED: Fried Pork Rinds & Yucca Root

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AVOID: Fried Plantains, Roasted Pork Butt Arepa.

TIP: Often featuring daily specials including three chicken thighs for a mere $6.50 on the day of my visit there is no doubt Viva Las Arepas offers a good value on the dollar but taking into account the quality of the product I’d sooner check out one of the local taco stands or ramen joints for ‘bang for the buck’ dining.

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http://www.vivalasarepas.com/

Viva Las Arepas on Urbanspoon

Art of Flavors

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Samples – Chicken and Waffles, Indian Chicken Curry, Pistachio Baklava, White Chocolate Cookies and Cream, Pistachio, Butter Pecan

Lombardo Grilled Gelato Panini – Gorgonzola Gelato, Pear Chutney, Walnuts

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BONUS: With little changed since my original visit (http://endoedibles.com/?p=13163) save for upgraded decor I’ll keep this update brief – order the Lombardo Grilled Gelato Panini and thank me later for it is by far and away the best “ice cream sandwich” I’ve found to date. Ever innovative and amongst the very best businesspeople in Las Vegas suffice it to say that Desyree, et al are a true local gem and with textures on par with reference standard operations like Capogiro, Grom, and Il Laboratorio with daily innovations far outstripping any of the above I would go so far as to say that there is no gelateria doing what Art of Flavors is doing stateside today…a grilled ice cream sandwich with savory and sweet in perfect harmony just another feather in the cap of a space that continues to wow.

Art of Flavors on Urbanspoon

Posted in Art of Flavors, Dessert, Food, Ice Cream, Las Vegas, Nevada, Pork, Viva Las Arepas

Carson Kitchen, Las Vegas NV

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Carson Kitchen

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Crispy Chicken Skins – Smoked Honey

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Bacon Jam – Baked Brie, Toasted Baguette

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“Devil’s Eggs” – Crispy Pancetta, Caviar

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Wellington Empanada – Beef Tenderloin, Duxelle

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Gyro Tacos – Lamb, Tzatziki, Cucumber, Tomato

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Rabbit Ragu – Spaghetti Squash, Parmesan

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Sprouts & Spuds Hash – Onions, Bacon, Balsamic

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Wild Mushroom Flatbread – Caramelized Onions, Cabrales Bleu Cheese

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Bourbon Fudge Brownie – Brown Butter Bacon Ice Cream

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Glazed Donut Bread Pudding – Three Rum Caramel, Vanilla Crème Anglaise

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Not Your Father’s “Twinkies” – Organic Wheat Beer, Mandarin Orange Coulis

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Located in the slowly revitalizing Carson Building and steered by Chef Kerry Simon to nearly universal praise since opening the doors it was still with modest expectations that I met two friends at Carson Kitchen on Saturday and although largely ignoring Simon since a visit to his namesake restaurant during its residence at The Hard Rock Hotel I’m happy to say that lunch in the new space at 124 South 6th Street proved quite pleasant, a blaring Police-heavy soundtrack and service prone to trigger several ‘pet peeves’ aside. Small in size but chock-full of character with exposed beams and cinder-block styling surrounding the central kitchen it was just moments after 11:30 when our trio sat down and after an idiot-proof explanation of a menu “designed for foodies” with “everything is delicious” idioms aplenty it was on a meal of eleven items that we settled, the majority of the selections coming from those designed to share and each proving well priced given the quality and quantity of ingredients involved. Clearly leaning on Simon’s penchant for comfort food whimsy and benefitted by the skills of Executive Chef Matt Andrews it was specifically at our request that items rolled out of the kitchen with deliberate individual pacing and beginning first with creamy deviled eggs crowned in briny bubbles of roe the hits came quickly, a back-to-back pairing of chicken skins and bacon marmalade each justifying their early ‘signature’ status while a follow-up of nutty rabbit cooked tender in bright tomatoes over shredded squash showed equally well. Generally underwhelmed by the meaty lamb ‘tacos’ wrapped in lightly charred pita and finding the empanada overwhelmed by the onion-heavy sauce it was back on good footing that the kitchen found itself with a deep bowl of crispy sprouts balanced by pork plus balsamic and culminating in a flatbread teaming with mushrooms beneath an especially heady blue it was onward to dessert that we progressed, a trio of options served simultaneously with both the subtly sweet bread pudding and decadent brownie arriving boozed up and bound to impress.

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THREE AND A HALF STARS: Still new and as yet finding its footing with some of the more clever riffs on ethnic eats suffice it to say that Carson Kitchen is one of those ‘hip’ restaurants poised to make noise in the slow renovation of downtown Las Vegas. Still an imperfect vision trying a bit too hard to be everything to everyone with servers that are seem a tad overzealous to push drinks and more expensive items while tossing about buzz-words in an environment that trends just a touch too loud I look forward to seeing how the menu evolves with time, a return visit likely to occur far sooner than the seven years it took me to revisit a Kerry Simon restaurant the first time around.

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RECOMMENDED: Chicken Skins, Bacon Jam, Donut Bread Pudding, Sprouts and Spuds Hash.

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AVOID: Beef Wellington Empanadas, Gyro Tacos, “Twinkies”

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TIP: Happy to pay for good food and fortunately unaffected by small upcharges suffice it to say that few things annoy me more than when a server offers “more bread” to go with an item – in this case the bacon jam – and then applies an upcharge without making it known. Sure, $1.50 is not a big deal, but at least have the common courtesy to inform the diner of the policy, otherwise don’t be surprised if I recoup that cost from your tip.

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http://carsonkitchen.com/index.php

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Carson Kitchen on Urbanspoon

Posted in Bread Pudding, Carson Kitchen, Dessert, Food, Ice Cream, Las Vegas, Nevada, Pork

Earl of Sandwich at The Palms, Las Vegas NV

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Earl of Sandwich at The Palms

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Holiday Turkey – Turkey, Cornbread Stuffing, Gravy, Cranberry Sauce

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Hawaiian BBQ – Grilled Chicken, Ham, Swiss, Pineapple, BBQ Sauce

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Oatmeal Raisin Cookie

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Chocolate Chip Cookie

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Ghirardelli Double Chocolate Brownie

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Located across from the golden arches in a far less fanciful space than its Planet Hollywood sibling I really had not planned to visit Earl of Sandwich on Saturday morning, but when my friend from 24 Seven suggested she was stopping by to pick up lunch for later I decided “why not?,” a pair of shared sandwiches and three fresh baked sweets each making me wonder why I’d waited so long to give the Earl a go. Another 24/7 operation with offerings including sandwiches, soups, salads, and wraps plus a later day menu of pastas and more it was just after 7:15am when we arrived at the small storefront and each opting for a sandwich that was subsequently split and swapped I bid my friend adieu before sitting down to eat, my first bite of the Hawaiian BBQ crunching through golden bread to discover notes of bright citrus overlying tender proteins with a smoky finish well balanced by the brine of Swiss. No less compelling than its island themed counterpart yet far more comforting in the midst of a Las Vegas summer it was only after finishing my half of the ‘cue that I turned to the Holiday Turkey and although more of a ‘fork and knife’ affair than a proper hand-held I will simply say that there may be no better sandwich in Sin City, the cornbread stuffing a perfect accoutrement to rich gravy and briny bird while the cranberry jam lends subtle sweetness at the end. Every bit worthy of its substantial praise, particularly for a ‘chain,’ it was finally in a few baked goods that my meal would finish and although neither cookie will win any awards the oft celebrated brownie would indeed prove a worthy bite, the soft and smooth center with crispy edges as good as any I’ve had in recent memory and all the better given the fact that it was free (with signup for the fan club.)

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FOUR STARS: At $6.49 per sandwich it would be hard to call Earl of Sandwich a ‘deal’ in the era of “Five Dollar Footlong(s)” but with superior ingredients, friendly customer service, and a focus on quality over quantity I’d happily pay more for twenty bites of crunchy bread stuffed full of flavor than fifty of subpar carbs overwhelming a thin layer of cold-cuts and processed cheese.

RECOMMENDED: Holiday Turkey, Ghirardelli Double Chocolate Brownie

AVOID: Cookies were rather run-of-the mill considering the $1.99 tab; certainly not bad but also not worth the cost or calories.

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TIP: Sign-up for the free fan-club (online or in person) will score you a free brownie on the spot and a free sandwich on your birthday.

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

http://www.earlofsandwichusa.com/

Earl of Sandwich on Urbanspoon

Posted in Breakfast, Cornbread, Dessert, Earl of Sandwich, Earl of Sandwich at The Palms, Food, Las Vegas, Nevada, Pork

24 Seven Cafe, Las Vegas NV

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24 Seven Café

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Buttermilk Pancakes with Bananas Foster

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Corn Flake French Toast

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Carrot Cake

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Chocolate Dipped Brownie

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Sort of ‘tucked away’ despite its large footprint just off the gaming floor at The Palms it was an early morning meeting that beckoned me to 24 Seven Café and although backroom favorite “Fortunes” is soon to shutter I’m happy to say that while the restaurant is unlikely to win any awards for innovation all four items that were shared at our table proved not only generously portioned, but quite delicious as well. Featuring an all-day menu save for a few items reserved only for dinner it was minutes before 6:00am that I met my dining companion in the hotel lobby and greeted by a pleasant hostess before being transferred to the change-of-shift servers we were given our choice of tables; a comfy booth with room for four ours for the following fifty minutes. Largely unpopulated given the early hour with choices running the gamut from griddled favorites to gourmet burgers it was in a duo of the former that we invested and with the kitchen exceedingly expeditious given the dearth of additional patrons it would not be long before our breakfast arrived, a pair of Texas Toasts dredged in custard and cornflakes soon bathed in warm syrup sitting beside a four-stack of fluffy flapjacks with a sidecar of boozy bubbling bananas easily justifying the $2.50 surcharge. Sharing plates as conversation flowed free it would not be long before both stacks of carbs were diminished and with check soon settled it was only as we reached the exit that I noticed the pastry case now full, a collection of cakes and cookies calling out to my substantial sweet tooth with my friend agreeable to further indulge – the end result a chewy yet subtle brownie half-coated by a dark chocolate standing in stark contrast to densely spiced carrot cake finding its foil in tangy cream cheese far less sweet than most.

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THREE STARS: Unable to comment on the savories but delivering better than I’d expected both from the griddles and in sweets 24 Seven Café is one of those places that every casino needs and the vast majority has. Clearly not as creative as Planet Dailies, Pyramid Café, Roxy’s, or others but happily holding its own when it comes to breakfast classics 24 Seven is exactly what it sets out to be and not one bit less; a good meal at a good price, 24 hours a day and seven days a week.

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RECOMMENDED: Pancakes, particularly with the Bananas Foster. Carrot Cake as well.

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AVOID: Buying baked goods before 7:00am when the new ones roll out; I can only imagine the 12+ hour aged croissants hardly warrant their $4 tab.

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TIP: Several player’s specials run 1/2 price from midnight until 6am including $8.99 Steak and Eggs or Prime Rib and savvy locals should also keep an eye on mailers as $10 off $20 or more coupons are frequently included for those carrying a Club Palms card.

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

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http://www.palms.com/casual-dining/24sevencafe

24 Seven Café on Urbanspoon

Posted in 24 Seven Cafe, Breakfast, Dessert, Food, French Toast, Las Vegas, Nevada, Pancakes

Alize, Las Vegas NV

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Alize

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Iced Tea

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Baguette, Pretzel Roll, Gluten Free with Herbs, Butter

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SUMMER MELONS Balsamic, Herbs

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RUSSIAN GOLDEN OSETRA CAVIAR Salmon Gravlax, Crème Fraîche & Buckwheat Blinis

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MAINE LOBSTER Ratatouille, Tomato-Garlic Aïoli, Crispy Potato

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SAUTÉED FOIE GRAS Caramelized Peaches, Blackberry Purée, Candied Sunflower Seeds

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FOIE GRAS TERRINE Smoked Duck & Artichoke Crêpe, Orange Marmalade, Candied Pecans, Basil

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DOVER SOLE Potato Purée, Spring Vegetables, Sauce Amandine

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GAZPACHO Strawberry, Tomato, Red Pepper

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DUCK BREAST Honey-Lemon Cake, Foie Gras, Sautéed Spinach, Leeks

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RABBIT TENDERLOIN Corzetti Pasta, Fava Beans, Rabbit Bratwurst, Espelette Mustard Velouté

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RACK OF LAMB Apricot Couscous, Cucumber, Almonds, Cilantro Za’atar, Lamb Jus

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GNOCCHI Truffle Parmesan Cheese

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LA TUR Port Poached Prunes, Candied Pistachios, Rosemary Raisin Crisp

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POINT REYES BLUE CHEESE-STRAWBERRY CROUSTILLANT Balsamic Reduction, Candied Pistachio

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ELDERFLOWER Gelee, Exotic Fruits, Kiwi

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CARROT CAKE SOUFFLE Cream Cheese

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MIGNARDISES

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Pronouncing itself proudly as “Alize at the Top of The Palms” in a manner indicating the restaurant’s location matters as much as the cuisine it was with high hopes stemming from an April meal at Andre’s that a friend and I sat down to dinner on Saturday night and although the highly acclaimed 270+ degree view of The Valley more than lived up to the billing I only wish I could say the same for the rest of the night; a middling affair of mostly good food and subpar service marred further by a menu seemingly built to confuse. Every bit the elegant space with fine linens and a subdued color palate perched 55 floors above the casino below the Alize ‘experience’ begins the moment one exits the elevator and quickly whisked away to a prime Strip-side table after checking in with the hostess the night started out well, menus presented and questions answered with two resultant chef’s tastings to follow including a single substitution granted at a $10 surcharge in order to experience Andre Rochat’s signature Sole, a textbook rendition served with sauce Amandine that would prove the highlight of the meal. Featuring the culinary talents of Chef de cuisine Mark Purdy with a trio of options offered at each course it was after an elegant amuse and a trio of breads matched to exquisite butter that the proper menu began and with bumbled presentations including several mispronunciations dotting the evening it should really come as no surprise that it was only after the meal that we were made aware that the “first” course carried an additional $20 charge, the caviar itself underwhelming in quality and quantity while the delicate fish instead proved the star of the show. Moving next through the $135 progression of well appointed lobster salad to a standard duo of foie gras that soon gave way to the luxurious Sole and a pair of underwhelming lighter proteins before a thick cut of lamb it was largely with minimal risk that each course arrived and although culminating in a perfect soufflé after well appointed cheeses one could not help but feel a bit bored, a lively conversation with my friend as the lights of the Strip illuminated notwithstanding, of course.

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TWO AND A HALF STARS: Apparently content to rest assured of awed diners based on location alone Alize is yet another in a long line of Las Vegas restaurants serving food that is simply “good enough” without truly pushing the envelope of creativity, several dishes using identical ingredients throughout the course of the tasting menu as clueless servers actually go out of their way to point out the fact that “here we see <blank> again” while simultaneously failing to correctly pronounce words like veloute or Za’atar. While I have no doubt that one could easily craft a memorable meal here by ordering in three courses with a side of gnocchi or lobster thermidore complimenting the full-sized Dover Sole as a prelude to the soufflé I’d personally be hard pressed to return unless looking to wow someone else by the view, there are simply far better restaurants in town in the ~$200 (or far less) range.

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RECOMMENDED: Dover Sole, Lamb, Souffle, Gnocchi, Gluten Free Rolls

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AVOID: The Rabbit was overcooked and underseasoned while the duck was lost in the sweeter accoutrements. Taking into account the portion size I’d additionally skip the $20 supplement for caviar service – something I’d have likely done anyhow had our frigid female captain actually made us aware that the supplemental cost existed for more than just the bottom truffle option as indicated on the menu.

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TIP: For those truly interested, take a look at the current menu (don’t worry, it only changes two-times per year, you probably still have time) and try to decipher course one in the setting of the menu’s description regarding the first option being Purdy, the second being Rochat, and the third being Vegetarian. Is the caviar A) A supplemental course, B) A Course where the third option (with truffles) carries a $20 surcharge, C) A simple mistake where the second is actually the vegetarian option?

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NOTE: The $20 Supplement (x2) was taken off the bill once I questioned/complained, but not after snide comment and actual argument from the aforementioned captain. Credit to GM Stavros Georgiou for making nice where his team apparently could not.

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

http://alizelv.com/

Alizé on Urbanspoon

Posted in Alize, Bread Basket, Dessert, Foie, Food, Gnocchi, Las Vegas, Lobster, Nevada, Souffle, Tasting Menu, Truffle

Tiabi Coffee & Waffle, Las Vegas NV

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Tiabi Coffee & Waffle

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“Snickers” Iced Coffee

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Lollies – Red Velvet, Nutella & Almonds

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Kisses – Sliced strawberries, chocolate drizzle and whipped cream, served Belgian style

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Viva Las Elvis – Bananas, peanut butter, chopped bacon and honey

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Honey I’m Home – Vegan Churronimo waffle tossed in cinnamon and sugar topped with vanilla ice cream and honey

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Tucked away in a small strip mall off Maryland Parkway and dotted with cute décor plus paintings from local artists it was alongside two friends that I sat down for a midday snack at Tiabi Coffee & Waffles and as much as I really wanted to like the kitschy little spot and their menu of made-to-order takes on the European classic our experience could best be described as mixed, an effect of dogmatic rules regarding the use of discounts and coupons alongside batters that proved utterly unremarkable, the toppings alone serving to save the day in the case of standard and $1-upcharged “Belgian” options, both. Apparently named as an acronym of the underlying motto “to inspire and be inspired” with free WiFi and an innovative drink list including a rich caramel and cocoa infused iced coffee for myself plus a heavily praised honey cream iced latte for my friend it was after only a few moments of indecision that our order was placed and chatting while we waited the tasting soon began with a duo of $2.50 “lollies,” the single strips of spongy dough pressed between hot metal proving paltry in portion and largely flavorless save for the sweet finishing drizzle that unfortunately warned of things to come. Entirely eschewing savories in favor of items far more sweet it was after perhaps a twenty minute wait that our proper order arrived and beginning first with a doughy Belgian topped with fresh berries beneath artificial tasting chocolate I quickly turned my attention to the alternatives, the Elvis faring a bit better by balancing sweet and savory over a slightly more study base while the “Honey I’m Home” proved the best of bunch in its sugar-crisp coating overlying a somewhat dense crumb – its “veganism” thoroughly compromised by honey and ice cream but the result all the better for it.

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TWO STARS: Undersized, underflavored, and generally underwhelming I’d like to think that perhaps my impression of Tiabi Coffee & Waffles was simply a matter of personal tastes but having experienced far better selections just that morning at Waffles Café plus several additional options ranging from Liege to Brussels throughout the Valley I simply cannot think of a reason I’d rush back to Tiabi except to use up the rest of my gift certificates, a fact that at least makes me grateful for the free WiFi and clever coffees plus a soundtrack that ranged from Interpol to Skynyrd during the course of our hour-long stay.

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RECOMMENDED: Honey I’m Home, Iced Coffee

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AVOID: Chocolate Sauce, Overpriced Lollies, and the doughy $1 Belgian Upgrade. Take note also that cake pops and cookies are not made in house.

TIP: For those using Yelp! Check-Ins, GroupOn, or gift certificates bought through SMA’s charity event earlier this year be wary of the verbiage and realize that there is good chance every patron will have to pay separate in order to reap the benefits, even if you are all clearly sitting together and sharing the bounty.

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Note: Both “lollies” were free based on our Yelp! Check-Ins, but a third was declined as one of us did not purchase a ‘separate’ item outside the three waffle order.

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

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http://iwanttiabi.com/

Tiabi Coffee & Waffle Bar on Urbanspoon

Posted in Breakfast, Coffee, Dessert, Food, Ice Cream, Las Vegas, Nevada, Pork, Tiabi Coffee & Waffle, Tiabi Coffee & Waffles, Waffles

Chang’s Hong Kong Cuisine, Las Vegas NV

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Chang’s Hong Kong Cuisine

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Har Gow

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Steamed Custard Buns

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Egg Custard Tarts

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Baked Custard Buns

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Siu Mai

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Baked BBQ Pork Buns

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Steamed Egg Custard with Shrimp in Mushroom Broth

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Chives Bun

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Baked Sweet Red Bean Bun

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Pan Fried Dumpling with Chives Shrimp & Pork

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Steamed Pork Buns

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Congee with Chinese Donut

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Fried Shrimp Ball

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Taro Bun

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Broccoli in Oyster Sauce

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Roast Duck with Bao and Hoisin

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Walnut Prawns

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Described by someone I trust as the best Dim Sum in our little patch of the desert it was with high hopes that myself and three others sat down just after 11:30am at Chang’s Hong Kong Cuisine and although the Saturday Cart traffic pattern would frequently prove frustrating throughout the course of our 90 minute meal it was nonetheless with broad smiles that we worked out way through over a dozen baskets of dumplings and buns before culminating in a $12 prepped-to-order Roast Duck amongst the best in the city alongside kitchen fresh walnut prawns far outperforming their modest $6 tab. Undoubtedly a gluttonous meal but one priced competitively to that of KJ or Cathay House with food on par with the former and far superior to the second as items felt to be ‘too old’ by servers were twice delayed until fresh versions could be procured from the kitchen it was with a wide swath and steady pacing that we cut our path through a selection of over fifty options and with only the overly thick wrapper of the har gow and oily pan-fried mixed dumplings proving less than impressive to my tooth an 88% batting average was still quite impressive for any dim sum spot, let alone one situated well outside of Chinatown on an industrial stretch of South Decatur. Having already spoke to the quality of the crispy roast duck and snappy prawns skillfully balanced between cream and crunch beneath a milky sweet sauce it should generally go without saying that freshest items proved the strongest options throughout our meal and with the herb-tinged congee a personal favorite along with molten baked custard buns I’d be remiss to not also mention a pair of novelties that proved equally impressive, the first featuring steamed egg custard topped with tender shrimp in an umami-laden broth and the second a delectable Red Bean Bun delivered as a sticky golden spin on the cinnamon roll with a slight-savory finish bridging the classic Chinese ingredient to a Western palate in a way that many traditional Dim-Sum ‘sweets’ do not.

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FOUR STARS: With dim sum prices starting at $2.25 and topping out at a mere $6 with the option to either order from the cart or pick via check-box based sheet I’d personally place Chang’s Hong Kong on equal footing with some of the better spots in the SGV, Richmond BC, or even Toronto based on cuisine alone and although not every item was perfect the ratio of ‘great’ items to those simply good or average was far better than most, a strong statement that will no doubt see a return visit unless another contender steps up to the plate and proves superior in the weeks and months to come.

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RECOMMENDED: Baked Custard Buns, Steamed Egg Custard with Shrimp, Baked Sweet Red Bean Bun, Congee, Roast Duck, Walnut Prawns.

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AVOID: Glutinous Rice Wrappers proved a bit thicker than I’d prefer while the lone pan fried option was a touch greasy.

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TIP: Yep, the restrooms are dirty and the service is perfunctory – what did you expect? Just wash your hands, use a paper towel to open the door, and don’t hesitate to flag down a server should you want something fresh from the kitchen or off the a la carte menu.

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

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http://www.changscuisine.com

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Chang's Hong Kong Cuisine on Urbanspoon

Posted in Chang’s Hong Kong Cuisine, Dessert, Food, Las Vegas, Nevada, Pork

Waffles Cafe, Las Vegas NV

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Waffles Café

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Banana Split – Chocolate Waffle with Banana, Ice Cream, Chocolate Sauce, Almond, Sprinkles, Whipped Cream ($8.19)

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The Sweet P – Pumpkin Waffle, Apple Pie Filling, Vanilla Ice Cream, Caramel, Cinnamon ($7.95)

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Located in Centennial and another long-term member of my breakfast ‘to-do’ list it was finally on Saturday Morning after a stop at the new Al’s Donuts and Café Burger that I decided to stop by Waffles Café and although a suspicious server inquiring as to why I was taking pictures of the wall-mounted menu was a touch off-putting the food itself proved well worth the trip. Every bit a ‘locals only’ sort of spot, hidden in a small strip-mall on the East side of North Durango, it was just after 7:30am that I entered the brightly lit space and finding myself to be the restaurant’s only patron until a family of four arrived at eight o’clock both order and service were expedited, the mother and sons team chatting amongst themselves in the kitchen while I watched Obama address the Iraq situation via wall-mounted LCD in back. Obviously content in sticking to the waffle-centric theme with a menu entailing options either sandwiched or standard it was only after substantial debate that I eventually settled on two of the items listed under “Specials” and declining further customization beyond making my Banana Split base chocolate I’m happy to say both piping hot options proved divine, the mountainous split’s base harkening the flavor of hot cocoa beneath ripe bananas while the Sweet P’s supple crumb was soaked through with cinnamon spiced apples and a liberal ladle of caramel for a decidedly sweet experience just barely reined in by the slowly melting ice cream.

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THREE AND A HALF STARS: Locally owned and operated with each waffle made to order from one of five bases alongside a plethora of options for customization Waffles Café is the sort of place that likely has something for everyone and with each item offered for $5-$9 inside the restaurant’s cozy confines it also represents a veritable bargain given both the size and the quality of each selection, the individual waffles at least 1.5x the size of those at Tiabi or Crepe Shack & Waffles with toppings on par, if not better at a similar price point and more variety across the board.

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RECOMMENDED: SWEET P.

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AVOID: Chocolate Sauce tastes like Hershey’s while other toppings fared far better, hindsight being 20/20 I would substitute caramel, Nutella, or one of several alternative toppings in the future.

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TIP: Despite sporting the same name and somewhat similar menus Waffles Café on North Durango is independently owned and operated with no relation to the Aliante Waffle Cafe in North Las Vegas.

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

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https://www.facebook.com/wafflebroslv

Waffles Cafe on Urbanspoon

Posted in Breakfast, Dessert, Food, Ice Cream, Las Vegas, Nevada, Waffles, Waffles Cafe

Al’s Donuts and Café Burger, Las Vegas NV

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Al’s Donuts and Café Burger

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Ham, Egg, and Cheese Kronut with Sugared Kronut Holes and Hash Browns

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Apple Fritter

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Cinnamon Crumb Cake

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Sour Cream Old Fashioned

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Kronut Petite – Raspberry, Chocolate and Cream, Double Chocolate, Peanuts and Chocolate, Cinnamon Swirl Raspberry

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Every bit the “only in ‘merica” mash-up of Centennial’s Café Burger and UNLV stalwart Al’s Donuts that the name would imply it was just as the doors unlocked at 7:00am that I entered Tenaya Village’s newest tenant and although rather disappointed with my lone visit to Al’s Southeast Flagship I must say the expanded menu, larger floor-plan, and general cleanliness of the space is unquestionably a step up. Apparently concocted as a merger of two separate enterprises and generally keeping their goods divided aside from a bit of donut/bun fusion it was unsurprisingly to a full range of fried pastries that my early morning visit was met and although the friendly staff of two middle-age women informed me that the full-menu was in fact available I largely stuck to the carbs, a bahn mi or burger breakfast simply not my style when confronted with sweets. Beginning with the tried and true in the form of a mixed box of donuts both classics and fancy I was immediately impressed by quality of the crumb in old fashioned while the fritter proved far less greasy than I remember from the spot on Harmon, a plethora of apples folded into the crispy, cinnamon-laced dough. Moving on to things more novel it was not long before my breakfast sandwich arrived and offered at a mere $3.99 with a two sugared kronut holes plus hash browns the ham, egg, and cheese was relatively standard fare propped up by a now-softened kronut and although the concoction arrived a touch soggy after a trip to the microwave it still proved a pleasant foil to the intense sweetness of a quintet of 75-cent ‘kronut petite’ showing off admirable levels of lamination while house-made fillings delivered far better balance in this format than the full-sized versions I’d experienced from Al’s in the past.

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THREE STARS: Improved in every way from the location just off the campus of UNLV Al’s Donuts and Café Burger is another solid option in the growing Centennial breakfast scene and with low prices plus sized-down fritters and the Kronut Petite anyone in the area for Waffles Café or Baby Stacks would be well served to stop by for a snack, neither the price nor the portion likely to set you back in the least.

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RECOMMENDED: Kronut Petite – Raspberry filled versions in particular, Apple Fritter, Sour Cream Old Fashioned.

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AVOID: Cinnamon Crumb Cake Donut was simply too dry while the breakfast sandwich would have likely fared better in texture if prepared in an oven or toaster, though the flavor itself was admittedly quite good.

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TIP: Open Seven Days a week but infrequently updating the online menu suffice it to say that your best bet is to stop by early for fresh donuts and to call in advance about the burgers and sandwiches offered that day.

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

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http://www.cafeburgergroup.com/index.html

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Posted in Al's Donuts, Al’s Donuts and Café Burger, Breakfast, Dessert, Food, Las Vegas, Nevada, Pork

Herbs & Rye, Las Vegas NV

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Herbs & Rye

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Clover Club – Gin, Lemon, Raspberry Syrup, Egg White

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The Farmer Flatbread – Double Thick Bacon, Spinach, Cracked Egg, Crème Fraiche

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Truffled Mac n’ Cheese

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Pork and Figs – Gorgonzola, Garlic Mash, Fig Glaze

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Sweet Potato Tots with Marshmallow and Honey Crust

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Old Granddad Bread Pudding with Vanilla Ice Cream

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Heavily praised for an extensive era-specific list of craft cocktails with a menu full of sustainable organic meats and plates far more interesting than the average bar or lounge Herbs & Rye had long been a place of interest and with recent reports suggesting the kitchen to be firing on all cylinders I finally decided to stop by, a Saturday feast for one in the dimly-lit dining area my reward for eschewing alternative plans on Las Vegas Boulevard South. Designed in a style somewhere between “Old time Vegas” and stripped-down speakeasy with a less-than-ideal location on West Sahara it was with eyes still adjusting from the 6pm sun that I entered the small tavern and greeted at a small podium by the woman later to be my waitress I was quickly led to my choice of tables, a menu soon in hand presenting tough decisions with a resultant four item order divided into two courses accompanied by one of nearly a dozen gin based cocktails I’d have liked to try were my liver’s capacity on par with that of my gut. Obviously a space prone to becoming lively as the night wears on but only perhaps half-full during the course of my meal it was after perhaps a ten minute wait that my cocktail arrived and featuring a lovely balance of fruit juxtaposing juniper notes beneath a cloudy of foam the Clover Club was a hit, the flavor profile particularly refreshing when matched to a rich opening duo of tender macaroni unfortunately overwhelmed with truffle oil and a crisp, lightly charred flatbread that fared far better with briny bacon finding its foil in the tang of crème fraiche. At this point debating an Aviation versus the Bee’s Knees it was a bit to my surprise that my second round arrived immediately on the heels of my first and forgetting the second cocktail as it was likely to arrive far too late to be enjoyed with the food I instead dug straight in, the 12oz bone-in piece of pork seared perfectly and coated with bleu over hand-smashed potatoes amidst a jus of pork and poached figs, the later laying split alongside the protein and still intensely sweet…though certainly not as much so as a bowl of tender tots bathed in a pool of honey beneath snowcaps of toasted marshmallow that ranks amongst the best “sides” I’ve had this year. At this point sated but happy to go another round it was to an oral explanation of the restaurant’s desserts that I was finally treated and although large sharing portions of sugared doughnuts and a skillet cookie were hard to resist it was instead in the day’s special that I partook, the piping hot chunk of booze-soaked baguette crowned by a ball of vanilla ice cream proving very ‘special’ indeed with butter and cinnamon bubbling at its base as if the kitchen had known I was coming and prepared it just for me.

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THREEE AND A HALF STARS: Slightly more expensive than your average pub-grub and non-casino cocktail lounge but at the same time executing both on par or better than several spots on The Strip Herbs & Rye fills a unique niche in the local dining scene, a place where one would be just as well served in a three course meal with the family as they would be to settle in for a few drinks with friends.

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RECOMMENDED: Pork and Figs, Sweet Potato Tots (with $3 Honey and Marshmallow Supplement), Bread Pudding (a daily special.)

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AVOID: Truffled Mac n’ Cheese.

TIP: With hand butchered grain-fed organic steaks served at half-price during happy hour along with a couple of interesting appetizers and pastas suffice it to say that one could happily start a night-out at Herbs & Rye before heading to the strip and save a substantial amount of cash, the only necessity being a cab-in-waiting or a willing designated driver as the extensive cocktail list is likely to tempt most to drink more than one.

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

http://www.herbsandrye.com/

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Posted in Bread Pudding, Dessert, Food, Herbs & Rye, Ice Cream, Las Vegas, Nevada, Pork, Truffle

Guy Fieri’s Las Vegas Kitchen & Bar, Las Vegas NV

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Guy Fieri’s Las Vegas Kitchen & Bar

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Stumptown Roasters House Blend

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Chicken Fried Bacon Biscuits & Gravy – freshly baked, giant buttermilk sage biscuit with crispy chicken-fried bacon, soft scrambled eggs & black pepper breakfast sausage gravy

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Dragon’s Breath Chili Cornbread Benedict – sweet cornbread topped with Dragon’s Breath Chili, house white cheddar cheese sauce, scallions & two soft poached eggs

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Shortbread Pancake & Berry “Pot Pie” -vanilla shortbread pancakes stuffed with a mixed berry compote & whipped cream

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Maple Bacon French Toast -house baked brioche soaked in maple syrup custard & griddled in brown butter topped with dark maple syrup, candied bacon & brûléed banana

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S’mores Monte Cristo -brioche, graham cracker butter, marshmallow & chocolate with chocolate & raspberry dipping sauces

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In a city where the next big thing is always a week or two away and the majority of local ‘critics’ are essentially writing fluff-pieces based on comped meals arranged by the folks in marketing at major casinos I knew I needed to wait a while before visiting Guy Fieri’s Las Vegas Kitchen & Bar and with a new brunch menu launched on August 1st without a whole lot of hype the time finally seemed right, myself and two others sitting down for four of Chef Leitera’s newest creations plus one of Fieri’s outlandish desserts just after 10:00am on Saturday with the restaurant just under 3/4 filled. Not particularly a fan of the spiky haired celebrity but able to appreciate his place in pop-culture it was with an open mind that I approached the doors of the Linq-side locale and greeted by a hostess plus a surprising lack of ‘branding’ (compared to the likes of Ramsay, Puck, or even Batali) we were quickly led to a table, the service to follow effusively friendly and surprisingly efficient with questions she could not answer deferred to visits from the GM and chef himself. Every bit the lively scene one would expect of a ‘tatted-up’ venue spilling from indoors to out yet far less loud than many thanks to high ceilings, reclaimed woods, and plenty of glass it was with the first of several cups of Stumptown Coffee in hand that our morning began and with The Doors alternating to country tunes and 70s hits overhead it would not be long before our savory course arrived, each plate well-crafted with subtle nuances to be discovered amidst decidedly conspicuous portions as the biscuit proved amongst the best in Vegas while the chili walked a fine line between heat and sweet, the white cheddar lending a sharp salinity at the top of each bite. Always a sucker for sweets it was onward to the griddle that our meal progressed and again investing in a duo I was immediately impressed by the toothsome cornmeal pancakes enveloping a core of butter cookies and fresh fruit only to then be let down by the French Toast that was simply too ‘wet’ with custard to stand up to the heavily sugared bacon and sugar-torched fruit, the amalgam altogether too sweet and in need of some sort of textural variance – perhaps something along the lines of a trip to the deep-fryer in order to crisp the bread as was done in the case of a ‘Monte Cristo’ more than happy to eschew any façade of healthiness as smoky marshmallow fluff encased in golden brioche found balance in cinnamon spread and rich chocolate, the housemade raspberry preserves a nod to the classic adding a fruity finish that lingered long on the palate.

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THREE STARS: Bearing in mind that my thoughts entail only breakfast/brunch and not the absurd later-day menu that does not contain a single item of interest to me save for the onion rings and dessert suffice it to say I walked out of Guy Fieri’s Las Vegas Kitchen well sated and with a smile on my face. Taking into consideration the legions of fans and backing from Caesars the restaurant could just as easily have ‘mailed in’ brunch like so many other Strip restaurants but instead they have opted to craft a whole new menu of innovative plates, turn down the noise, and serve it at a price-point befitting the location and quality of the cuisine…add in the choice to serve Stumptown with copious refills for $4 and the only thing preventing a return visit is the brevity of the menu, the remaining four brunch items not nearly as creative as those above.

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RECOMMENDED: Chicken Fried Bacon Biscuits & Gravy, Shortbread Pancake & Berry “Pot Pie,” S’mores Monte Cristo

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AVOID: Maple Bacon French Toast

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TIP: Bottled Stumptown Coldbrew is available for $4 and considering the double-price policies at Starbucks on the Strip represents a veritable bargain for coffee, though the same could be said of the bottomless cup inside. With TVs tuned to sports I could actually see this being a decent place to catch Big10 Football given the 9am start times – perhaps something to suggest considering the restaurant offers an iPod based survey of the experience to each table at the end of the meal and thus seems interested in feedback.

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

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http://www.thequadlv.com/restaurants/guy-fieri.html

Guy Fieri's Vegas Kitchen + Bar on Urbanspoon

Posted in Breakfast, Coffee, Cornbread, Dessert, Food, French Toast, Guy Fieri, Guy Fieri's Las Vegas Kitchen & Bar, Las Vegas, Nevada, Pancakes, Pork, Stumptown, Stumptown Roasters

Pink Box Doughnuts (Spring Valley,) Las Vegas NV

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Pink Box Doughnuts on Durango

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Mound’s Bar

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Peanut Butter Cheesecake with Butterfinger

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Lemon Meringue

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Cheesecake

Continuing a torrid rate of expansion that has seen a single standalone expand to three counters and a kiosk in the past year it was through the serendipity of signage that I noted the new Pink Box Doughnuts in Spring Valley and with the flagship’s minivan parked in front of Fabulous Freddy’s delivering fresh goods I could not help but stop by, a quartet of flavors I’d not tried amongst the eighteen offered on South Durango that day. As always featuring friendly service from an all-female staff it was just as shelves were being loaded that I entered the large Convenience Store and soon followed by three more patrons who’d apparently been waiting in the parking lot we each asked several questions before orders were placed, boxed, and in my case taken to the curb for consumption. At this point fairly familiar with the brand and its propensity for options both raised and filled it was with modest expectations that I began my tasting with the Coconut-flecked Chocolate ‘Mounds’ and much like previous cake based options from Pink Box the result was middling at best; an overly dry crumb beneath light glaze proving far less inspired than any of the options to follow – a trio of brioche-style pockets each stuffed with housemade filling from which the weekly special of peanut butter tinged cheesecake soon shown the brightest, though the tangy lemon curd was not far behind with its punchy sour opening dissipating into a smooth and sweet finish.

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THREE AND A HALF STARS: Continuing to expand their production with no apparent drop-off in quality or creativity Pink Box remains my pick for best novelty donuts in the Valley and although most of the cake options don’t stack up to some of the well-established mom n’ pop shops around town the creative twists like Fat Elvis, Nutty Pig, and other filled options should be more than enough to keep people coming back for more.

RECOMMENDED: Peanut Butter Cheesecake, Lemon Meringue, and pretty much every filled option I’ve had at any of the three locations I’ve thus far visited.

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AVOID: All cake options save for the sweet potato tend toward dry.

TIP: Delivered fresh at 7:00am and available until sold out one is well advised to arrive early on weekends in order to guarantee a good selection; two of the persons behind me in line purchased two-dozen each for events later that day.

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

http://pinkboxdoughnuts.com/

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Posted in Breakfast, Dessert, Food, Las Vegas, Nevada, Pink Box Doughnts on Durango, Pink Box Doughnuts, Pink Box Doughnuts Spring Valley

Norm’s Eggs Cafe, Las Vegas NV

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Norm’s Eggs Café

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Red Velvet Pancakes

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Cinnamon Swirl French Toast

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Banana Nut Pancakes

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Located on South Durango and open from 6am until 3pm seven days a week Norm’s Eggs Café had long been on my breakfast ‘to-do’ list and with a morning half-marathon of miles already under my feet it was just after the small storefront opened that I arrived on Saturday, a smiley young server setting tables while Norm himself manned the oven and stove. Every bit the quaint space its name would imply with exposed brick, worn wood, and a kitchen-side bar wrapped around a well-culled menu of classics from breakfast and lunch it was admittedly with carbs on my mind that I approached an order and eschewing a few interesting specials in favor of a trio of griddled goods the results were mostly what one would expect – as tasty and well made as what a skilled home cook could make but without all the prep-work and cleanup hassles involved. Beginning first with French Toast before progressing to pancakes I will simply say that for my tastes the former was a bit too ‘bready’ but more than making up for it were the flapjacks, both styles proving delightful with unexpected levels of fluffiness despite thinly spread batter and each well paired with subtly sweetened cream cheese frosting flooding the red velvet while pockets of fresh banana dotted the nut-strewn buttermilk, neither really necessitating a bit of the unfortunately artificial maple syrup…though with an out-the-door tab under $20 I’m not sure it would be fair to expect the real deal.

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TWO AND A HALF STARS: A solid little breakfast spot with a friendly staff the food at Norm’s Eggs isn’t going to change the face of breakfast but for price and quality I’d much sooner eat here than any of the national chains or several of the overpriced Strip eateries selling similar quality for double the cost.

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RECOMMENDED: Pancakes were excellent, neither too dense nor too thin, the banana nut achieving an almost pudding-soft center where pockets of molten fruit juxtaposed crunchy bits of walnut.

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AVOID: The Cinnamon Toast featured too dense a crumb to sop up much of the custard, thus producing an eggy golden exterior overlying a center too ‘bready’ for my tastes. Those fancying a more American style of diner-style French toast may be pleasantly surprised.

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TIP: Short Stacks are two, Full Stacks are three, and each batter is distinct – a mix n’ match pancake sampling is likely a good way to go, though daily specials and a few off-menu Asian specialties add intrigue enough to warrant future visits.

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

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http://normseggscafe.com/

Norm's Eggs Cafe on Urbanspoon

Posted in Breakfast, Food, French Toast, Las Vegas, Nevada, Norm's Eggs Cafe, Pancakes