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best diner, drive in or dive?

I love your enthusiasm to get off the beaten path, and hate to rain on the parade at all, but walking east/west from the Aria to get away from the Strip is not very pleasant, and is also a pretty long slog before you find the kind of places that you are looking for. The area immediately to the west of the Strip brings I-15 and an industrial section, while heading east on Harmon or Flamingo for "DDD" type places requires a walk pretty much to the UNLV campus before things get interesting (perhaps the closest being Naked City Pizza at 4608 Paradise - the original across town was featured on "Diners, Drive-ins and Dives" a few years back, or Ellis Island at 4178 Koval).

Apr 16, 2015
QAW in Las Vegas

Mom & Pop Mexican

Unfortunate, most of the Las Vegas Mom and Pop Mexican falls a distance from the Bellagio. For just about all of the places listed below in this thread, the cab ride will cost more than your meal (of course part of that are some of the great food bargains in that category).

Apr 11, 2015
QAW in Las Vegas

Mom & Pop Mexican

And more. So many times it comes down to a single dish that a place does well, which really is the epitome of "Mom and Pop". These all fit the description, much like Los Molcajetes, where the matriarch passed away a few years ago, but the kitchen continues to do her memory proud -

El Rodeo
2115 North Decatur
(May not look like much in an old strip mall, but they have been there for over a decade, and I can not recall ever being there when the proprietors were not on hand. My go-to when the mood calls for tacos.)

Las Cazuelas
9711 South Eastern
(Tiny place where everything is cooked with a lot of heart, and my favorite mole in the valley.)

El Birotazo
4262 East Charleston
(A superb Torta Ahogada, by folks from Guadalajara that know how to do it right.)

Los Antojos
2520 South Eastern
(They have been around since the 90's. A slice of Mexico City; "D.F. street food" the way it should be, a steak huarache being a personal favorite.)

La Mexicana
3675 South Decatur
(Another place that has withstood the test of time - a change of pace in the Chinatown area that is to the west side of town what Los Antojos is to the east side.)

El Menudazo
3100 East Lake Mead
(When Menudo or Posole are called for.)

Apr 10, 2015
QAW in Las Vegas
1

Fine dining off the strip?

What will be fun to watch in the years ahead is if The Royal actually becomes old-school chic. The owners are creative folks who have tried, and failed, to carve out a niche, largely because of that location, and in the past two years have pretty much let it sit there. But with the Convention Center now building out all the way to the Strip (taking over the Riviera location, following the soon-to-be scheduled leveling), and Resort World finally breaking ground across the street, The Royal will go from being one of the worst locations near the Strip to one of the better ones. It could ultimately be a success story for those involved, who have been gutting it out through some lean years. I wish them well on that front.

District One, pleasant surprise well worth the visit!

Unfortunately, Lagasse's only fits half of your criteria.

Mar 31, 2015
QAW in Las Vegas

District One, pleasant surprise well worth the visit!

The basic drill for some of us with District One is to follow on Facebook or Twitter, and when they post that they have Razor Clams or Surf Clams available any night, head over. Upon being seated, ask how many they have left, and if the count is somewhere between 8-12 or so, order all of them, to be brought out a little at a time. The regular menu has come across as respectable, without necessarily a "wow" factor, but those clams, and some of their fresh seafood specials, get knocked out of the park. Some decent beer pairings to go along, and also a few terrific Japanese whisky's to finish, something not easy to find in Las Vegas.

Mar 31, 2015
QAW in Las Vegas

Chada and Lotus of Siam: More similar than contrasting

And if you don't mind a little personal indulgence, some follow-up, as Chada gets put to another "Lotus" test. As LVI, the illustrious Mr. Feldman, and a few others have known for years, an occupation that puts me in front of television and computer screens all weekend during football season has become a wonderful cycle because of LOS. For about a dozen years now, it has been a carry-out of four or five entrees every autumn Friday afternoon, and at no time have I ever grown tired of the integrity of the ingredients and flavors. Without doing an official count, I am likely near 1,000 lifetime meals there.

Because of LVI's visit to our fair city last week it was time to put Chada to that test. Not only did we work our way through much of the menu on Wednesday evening, but then it was nothing but "Bank's Kitchen" through the first two major days of the NCAA tournament. It may sound odd to eat not only the same cuisine, but from the same restaurant, three days in a row, but when the quality is there, and the flavors are bright and distinct, it can work. In this case it did, from that fabulous Cornish Hen, actually even better when cold (hence, no photo, since it captured the early morning taste buds before thoughts of pics had occurred), through a sequence of Moo Khum Waan (Charbroiled pork topped with chili mint sauce and Chinese broccoli), Chicken Mussamun Curry, Kua Kling (Stir fried ground pork with homemade curry paste and whole peppercorn), and Roasted Duck fried rice.

There was genuine regret when the last of the cycle had finished. Bank and his crew are doing wonderful things, and it will continue over on Spring Mountain in July (in that long strip mall block between Valley View and Wynn), when Chada Street opens. The second location will be open for lunch, a particular bonus for some of us.

Mar 24, 2015
QAW in Las Vegas

Unconventional recommendations for chowhound

Might this be the time that Guy Fieri's place (https://www.caesars.com/linq/restaura...) actually gets a recommendation? That would seem to connect up to a couple of her preferences.

Mar 19, 2015
QAW in Las Vegas

Trip Report

Courtesy of a visit by LVI, there will be a Chowhound gathering at Chada on Wednesday evening. Which also means that Bank and the crew will be catering my entire NCAA Tournament First Round. We can get the lowdown on the Chada Street timing to pass on (fingers are crossed that they will be open for lunch at that location).

Mar 16, 2015
QAW in Las Vegas

El Dorado Cantina - 24/7 Authentic Organic, Non-GMO Mexican Cusine...next to a Strip Club?

A +1 here. Quality ingredients, and an integrity throughout the process. A nice interior, yet you feel the "mom and pop" love on the plate of a small joint in a strip mall. And a quickie for locals - 50% off on Mondays, which provides plenty of incentive to give them a try.

Mar 16, 2015
QAW in Las Vegas

Desyree leaving Art of Flavors

Actually this does not have to be a heart-breaker - Desyree will still be in the game after a short "break", though her future location has not yet been determined. It simply came down to a difference of opinion between business partners, which happens about every 15 minutes somewhere. Meanwhile Art of Flavors will remain open in its current location, with the folks behind Viva Las Arepas making the gelato, although it is likely that the flavor options will be much less adventurous.

Feb 25, 2015
QAW in Las Vegas

Who's up for LoS dinner May 1st or 3rd? (or both!)

Sunday may fit as well - pending other weekend commitments (Kentucky Derby and Mayweather/Pacquiao will bring the kind of sporting luminaries that may create an obligation or two).

Feb 22, 2015
QAW in Las Vegas

Who's up for LoS dinner May 1st or 3rd? (or both!)

In. That is going to be a rather interesting weekend in our fair city...

Feb 22, 2015
QAW in Las Vegas

José Andrés' Ku Noodle May Go, Griddle Cafe May Change at SLS Las Vegas

As things go from bad to worse, the Griddle Cafe is on the way out, with Saturday the final day. And they were perhaps the biggest success story of the SLS restaurants, in the few months they were open.

Jan 29, 2015
QAW in Las Vegas

José Andrés' Ku Noodle May Go, Griddle Cafe May Change at SLS Las Vegas

The problem here is that there is no particular party that has enough of a vested interest in the property to be a driving force to keep it going. Sam Nazarian's role has been greatly reduced, to the point at which his focus will shift to other SLS ventures, and keep in mind that about $150 million of the investment capital came from EB-5 applicants. Those were folks not necessarily buying in because the concept showed potential for return on investment, but rather that it would bring them an economic green card. For some of them, it is already mission accomplished. At a recent dinner with an executive for one of the larger casino groups, he said that he would bet at even money that the SLS would not make it through the end of the calendar year - the gaming numbers are not even close to where they need to be. This would be a shame, because I am really starting to like Cleo...

Jan 27, 2015
QAW in Las Vegas

70th Birthday Dinner (max $75 per person)

If you want steak, plus some additional options, and old-school service that will fit the occasion, consider Andiamo, downtown at the D Hotel. It will be close on the price point (you can make it), but if you let them know the purpose of the evening up front, they will handle such a setting with a lot of savvy.

Jan 22, 2015
QAW in Las Vegas

BIG Eaters Need a Vegas Strip Steakhouse - Recommendations Please

For a group of your size, and age distribution, take a long look at N9NE at the Palms. You will get the portion sizes you desire, the ambience will be fun, and Barry Dakake does some very good things in that kitchen. They also do a nice job of handling the kind of evening that you are looking for.

Jan 06, 2015
QAW in Las Vegas

Cleo at The SLS - bold but balanced, sleek yet sophisticated

The mind is already saying, "must return to pair" - Bone Marrow/Vegetable Beignet; Duck Bastilla/Roasted Mushrooms with Dates & Hazelnuts; Meatball Tagine/Artichoke Raviolo; Garlic Shrimp/Zucchini Keftedes; Lamb Shawarma/Spinach & Ricotta Dumplings; Chicken Tagine/Eggplant with Fennel; etc. And that is before even getting to the Salads, Dips, Kebabs, Flatbreads, or the notion of any of their seven sausages with the Spicy Potatoes. This will just have to be a long and methodical process...

Jan 05, 2015
QAW in Las Vegas

Cleo at The SLS - bold but balanced, sleek yet sophisticated

Finally had a long overdue opportunity to get to Cleo over the Holiday cycle, an evening that left me walking away actually wondering why the hell I had not gotten there earlier. The menu covers a vast array across the Middle Eastern/Mediterranean kitchens, with various cooking styles encompassing a lot of different ingredients. Yet each item that was tried seemed easily within their grasp – the integrity level of the ingredients was extremely high, with well thought-out spicing and execution.

Kibbeh Nayyeh was used as a grazing starter while surveying the menu, and the quality of the lamb was evident quickly, as well as the deft spicing to accentuate that freshness. Then on to trying some interesting combinations across their spectrum – Scallops (Piquillo-Almond puree, Brown Butter), alongside roasted Brussels Sprouts (Capers, Almonds and a light vinaigrette); followed by their Lamb Tagine (Apricots, Silan and Sesame Seeds over Couscous), accompanied by a side of Shishito Peppers (currently at the peak of their season). These were vibrant flavor combinations that showcased the main proteins well, and the execution this night was top notch. The Scallops had a nice carmelization without a hint of dryness, courtesy of the wood-burning oven that handles most of the cooking, and the lamb was wonderfully moist. An Almond/Fig Panna Cotta was an ideal closer.

Cleo will call for many return visits (especially since the service was also on track) - there are opportunities to put together a lot of “tasting” evenings, with the unexpected bonus, especially considering neighbors Bazaar Meat and Katsuya, that you can do it at price points that are dollar-for-dollar as favorable as any on the Strip (there is nothing on the menu over $16).

Jan 05, 2015
QAW in Las Vegas

Solo Lunch on Strip

The big key will be allowing a talented kitchen to be able to do their thing; the owners were really were in the right place at the right time to put that crew together. They were having a pre-opening staff dinner over at Forte a couple of weeks ago, and I got a chance to talk to John Courtney at the bar for a bit. He was excited about the freedom that he felt they were going to be able to have. It can be ground-breaking for Las Vegas; outside of a far-too-brief stint by Louis Osteen, there has not been anything special on the Southern front since a place called "A Family Affair" shuttered more than 20 years ago (the owner wanted to retire, and would not sell his place to anyone).

Jan 03, 2015
QAW in Las Vegas

Solo Lunch on Strip

How about a middle ground? I really want to like Yardbird, especially given some of the talent in the kitchen (Todd Harrington, John Courtney). And there is a quality in their sourcing of ingredients that is admired, so they are worth a first visit. But there is not a lot on that menu that makes that “I have to go back and try again” list (except for the Sunday Chicken, at least once), especially at the price points. On that front, they have been able to get away with something in Miami that would have been difficult to do in a place like Charleston or Nashville, and unfortunately those tariffs became the Las Vegas charges. Of course, they are a place to answer that age-old culinary question – “Can any Salisbury Steak be worth $28?”…

Jan 03, 2015
QAW in Las Vegas

Solo Lunch on Strip

A +1 to Milos, especially since it takes all of about 30-40 seconds to walk from China Poblano to there, which would enable you to try the margarita as well, should you so choose.

Jan 01, 2015
QAW in Las Vegas

Veranda at Dinner - a mixed experience, even at half off.

"Doesn't pay a dime half the time"? Now I feel like using "Really?", but that has already been spoken for in this thread (the Secret Santa prize you want, but has been claimed by another)...

If you indeed want to establish yourself as a viable critic, you need to understand that at the very heart of the process is establishing credibility. No one gets far without it. Comments like the one above hinder that process, and show a lack of awareness that can become troublesome to those that want to trust what they have read in the past.

One of the things that has made John's site useful through the years is that he has been open and up-front about when meals were comped, and when they were not. So how about this - take the time to read through his critiques first, and then try to show a ratio anywhere near "half" of those meals being comped. After finishing that research, it would then be the appropriate time to offer a commentary.

Dec 19, 2014
QAW in Las Vegas

Veranda at Dinner - a mixed experience, even at half off.

I had been thinking about starting a separate thread about how out of touch the Strip prices are with the general realities at the current stage of the new millennium, with those wild guesses as to what Las Vegas was going to turn into proving to be extremely misguided (the upcoming Caesar's bankruptcy proceedings are going to shed much light on this). But John Curtas is laying this out in a way that Chowhounds should be able to appreciate, beginning with part I of "Facing Reality: The Strip Has Lost Its Luster" (http://www.eatinglv.com/2014/12/facin...). Prices that were exorbitant before the bubble burst are simply nonsensical now. Of course that does make it awfully easy to find a table...

Dec 19, 2014
QAW in Las Vegas

Scarpetta, Julian Serrano, LOS....help me out please :)

Convenient from the airport to the Aria is Taco Tijuana, at 2554 East Tropicana. They are comparable to Tacos El Gordo in style, and pretty close in terms of quality and execution (it would be fun to do a blind taste-off someday).

Dec 17, 2014
QAW in Las Vegas

Scarpetta, Julian Serrano, LOS....help me out please :)

Note that if you were going to the Tacos El Gordo on the Strip, they are no more, because of a lease issue that could not be resolved (that particular branch will be re-opening at a new location in the spring, albeit not on the Strip). The El Gordo at 1724 East Charleston is still going strong. Alas, not terribly convenient if one is going from the airport to the Aria.

Dec 17, 2014
QAW in Las Vegas

Great Italian

If you want to kill two birds, Italian and steakhouse, with one stone, consider Andiamo, downtown at the D Resort. The food quality will be more than a good fit for what you are looking for, and for a group, the service will be better than you you are going to find at a lot of the alternatives (there is still a little bit of old-school left out there).

If sides and starters are a key to choosing a steakhouse, Cut (Venetian/Palazzo) is simply superb in that regard.

Dec 15, 2014
QAW in Las Vegas

Solo dining for a light eater?

If you are going to be at Art of Flavors around holiday time there are a lot of great holiday flavors, with eggnog in the case this week, a nice pink spearmint that is a great after-dinner closer, gingerbread cookie, and even a pistachio/walnut baklava. Desyree is also making Panettone again starting next week, which is an absolute treat.

Dec 12, 2014
QAW in Las Vegas

Looking for excellent Hawaiian and Vietnamese

Congratulations!

But first, would you settle for "good", instead of "excellent"? That would make things much easier. Not sure we have anything that would rate as excellent, but you might be happy with Aloha Specialties (downtown at the California Hotel/Casino), which has to stay on their game because of how many Islanders that stay at the Boyd properties downtown (California-Fresmon-Maiu Street Station). Some days you even have to wait in line for your plate lunch. Right across is also Lappert's, to satisfy the craving for some Macadamia Nut ice cream. Off the Strip, Island Style at 3909 West Sahara, also fits the bill, with a mix of Korean cuisine on the menu as well. The best poke I have found has been from Hawaiian Style Poke, at 3524 South Wynn, right across the street from the main Chinatown Plaza. It is not a dining destination, but does most business carry-out. Better to get there before early afternoon, since some of the best combinations sell out.

Not sure if there is a great banh mi to be found, but you can get a good one at Kinh Do (West 4300 Spring Mountain), or Dakao (5700 West Spring Mountain).

Or how about this, a chance to combine Hawaiian and Vietnamese both. District One (3400 South Jones) specializes in Vietnamese cuisine, but has been carrying an "Oxtail Loco Moco" as a special for the past couple of weeks. That takes an island standard and pushes it out over the top a bit, a combination that is quite rich, but a lot of fun to eat.

And if you want something at a different level, there is always Roy's (620 East Flamingo). Although they are under a large and growing umbrella, it is not completely a link in a "chain", with chef Quy Trinh able to showcase his own personality through a lot of the menu. There have been some nights there that did raise up to "excellent".

Dec 11, 2014
QAW in Las Vegas

Mission: Fried chicken, Christmas Eve

Not much atmosphere in the evening, and they do close at 8 PM, but the M&M Soul Food Cafe (3923 West Charleston) has been doing fried chicken right for a long time. But I would make sure to check ahead - they are the kind of family-run place that would be likely to close early.

While fried chicken is your tradition, does it have to be "traditional"? There are a couple of places that do Korean fried chicken that are more likely to be open late into the night on Christmas Eve. Consider Bazic Bar & Restoyaky (5115 Spring Mountain Road), or Q Bistro (3400 South Jones) in that regard.

Dec 10, 2014
QAW in Las Vegas