Monday, June 30, 2008

Grub thoughts... an updated version

This blog post was published a while ago, but as time goes on, we discover more great places to enjoy here in Las Vegas. So I'm updating this to include some new favorites. They're at the end, in case you've already read this and want to scroll down to the newer additions.

The first full year that we lived in Las Vegas, we counted 34 different weekends that we had company! You'll discover friends and relatives you never knew existed when living in a resort destination! And although most of our guests stay on the Las Vegas Strip, dining there doesn't always guarantee you're going to find the best meals in town. There are so many hidden jewels for dining, some just a short drive away from the Strip. The places listed below feature some great food, and much more reasonable prices than what you'll find on the Strip.

As my family would say - Mangia!

Lotus of Siam
953 E Sahara Avenue
Las Vegas, NV 89104
(702) 735-3033

A writer for Gourmet Magazine said this might possibly be the best Thai restaurant in the United States. Who knows if that's true, but this one must rank among the top. There isn't a bad meal on the menu, and there are some dishes there make me want to curl up and purr. Try the Catfish Salad, and don't forget the desert of Mango, coconut ice cream and sticky rice.

When you order, you'll want to specify the degree of spiciness, from 1-10. Somewhere around 1-4 is palatable, anything higher and you might want to bring a fire extinguisher. There isn't enough Thai beer in the city to put out that fire.

The location of this isn't far from the Strip, it's located in a funky, seedy-looking strip mall. If you look to the East, you'll find the infamous Green Door. Ask any Marilyn Chambers fan and you'll know what I mean.

The Florida Cafe
Inside the Howard Johnson Hotel
1401 Las Vegas Blvd. S
Las Vegas, NV 89104
(702) 385-3013

Who even knew that there are still Ho Jo's in America?

I'd been hearing good things about this place for a while, but we only recently dined at the Florida Cafe. It's located in the wedding chapel district, where many of the 24 hour chapels are, just up from the Stratosphere. Imagine getting married by an Elvis impersonator, eating Cuban food for your reception, and then hopping on one of the rides atop the Stratosphere for the beginning of your honeymoon. Talk about memorable.

Speaking of memorable, the Cuban sandwiches here are tasty and filling, and the cafe con leche will make you feel like you're in Miami. To add seven years to your life, try the crispy plantains. Yum.

Firefly on Paradise
3900 Paradise Rd
Las Vegas, NV 89109
(702) 369-3971

I'm sort of on the bubble about this place - some meals there have been absolutely fabulous, and others, mild disasters! But they serve great food, and the people watching possibilities are endless.

Did I mention the liquor?

Try a pitcher of Mojitos or Sangria for starters. Then DO NOT MISS the stuffed dates or the roast pork and red pepper Empanadas. Or the Filet Mignon Sliders. Much of the menu features tapas, smaller, appetizer sized portions meant for sharing. It's often noisy and the service can be iffy, but it's great for a different Las Vegas experience.

Major gourmet grub. Try not to rubberneck too much!

Viva Zapatas Mexican Restaurant & Cantina
3826 E Craig Rd
North Las Vegas, NV 89030
(702) 643-8888

Don't judge the food by the exterior! This little gem is sandwiched between a gas station and a muffler shop. It's at least a 10-15 minute drive from the Strip, but I think worth the trouble. What you'll save by not dining on the Strip will pay for the cab.

It's one of my favorite places in the city. You MUST order guacamole made tableside, and don't forget extra cilantro! Great food, great Margaritas, and friendly staff.

10820 W. Charleston Blvd.
Las Vegas, NV 89145
(702) 214-3500

Speaking of Mexican food, if you find yourself out in Summerlin, you might want to check out Agave, if for no other reason to see check out the beautiful interior of this place. It's beyond fabulous, and worth the trip to this part of the city.

Their food is more "Americanized" and some people complain it's a far cry from authentic Mexican fare.


Try the Chile Rellanos stuffed with Rock Shrimp, or the Lobster Empanadas. Or the Barbecued Duck Quesadillas... authentic? Probably not, but damn delicious!

Did I mention the Tequila Bar? It's enormous.

BJ's Restaurant & Brewhouse
10840 W Charleston Blvd
Las Vegas, NV 89136
(702) 853-2300

A fun brewpub that not only serves great beer, but is kid friendly. Huh?

BJ's is a chain from SoCal, and serves some great meals, so that you can wash them down with their hand crafted beers. Try the beer sampler, if you can't make up your mind. I'm partial to the deep dish pizza, but hey- if I were sentenced to die in the electric chair, pizza and beer would be my last meal.

Do they serve beer in prison?

BJ's is also located in Summerlin, in fact, it's nearly next door to Agave (see above)... those people in Summerlin are damn lucky!


Cheap Eats

Roberto's Taco Shop

This little gem also started in SoCal in the mid 1960s and spread to Las Vegas, making many people here very happy. Besides being open 24 hours, and having numerous locations all over the city, their food is cheap, delicious, and authentic. The first time I visited, I ordered a TON of food, wanting to sample everything because it smelled so good! They packed up 5 huge bags of food, and charged me around $30. I thought they made a mistake and had undercharged me! Or had forgotten something. But they checked the bill and assured me it was correct. It was probably enough grub to feed 8 people.

I don't recommend eating in their various locations, I consider it more of a carryout, since there are only a few tables, all of questionable cleanliness. But their food is great, and you'll find yourself wanting to stop there on the way home from a long day. You can't make a meal this good for yourself at home. No way.

My favorite is a chicken burrito with guacamole; it's the size of my forearm and feels like it has a pound of chicken in it. For about $5.00 Talk about a deal!

Capriottis Sandwich Shop

Like Roberto's above, Capriotti's are located all over the Vegas valley, and feature outrageous sandwiches that you'll crave long after you've left Vegas. Unless you have an appetite like a Kobayashi, the six-time hot dog-eating world champion, order a small. The large sandwiches are off the hook, as Guy Fieri would say.

They have a HUGE selection of vegetarian "meats" not to mention the Bobbie, a Turkey dinner on a bun. It includes turkey, cranberry sauce, stuffing and mayo. Forget about a traditional Thanksgiving meal- pick up one of these and head to Red Rock for a picnic. URP.



Red Square
Mandalay Bay Hotel
3950 Las Vegas Blvd S
Las Vegas, NV 89119
(702) 632-7407

I'm just guessing, but I'd say the average Las Vegan doesn't visit the Strip, unless they work there. Too much traffic, too expensive, the reasons are numerous. And while some of the Strip restaurants there are just wonderful, you can't live here and regularly drop a few hundred on a meal. It's insane. There is one place, however, that I feel deserves a mention here. It's a restaurant, yes, but it's also a bar, and that's the real reason to visit Red Square.

If the decapitated statue of Lenin outside isn't enough to draw you in, nor the 25' bar made of ice, the vodka vault might do it. Borrow a mink coat and hat and step into the 10 degree cooler, sampling one of 200 vodkas with your friends. The martini list is awesome; for something sweet, try a Key Lime Martini. For a severe buzz, try the Chernobyl.

Just be sure you're not driving home!

This place is everything that's fun about Vegas and more- great booze, lots of fun people, a truly amazing experience. I went there with a group of friends for my birthday celebration one year, and ended up doing shots with 4 tourists that were in town for a convention! I'm not sure, but I may have crawled home. Who can remember?

And I don't even consider myself to be a big drinker!

I could write about this place for two hours and not capture the true essence of this place. Try this link and see what everyone else has to say: Yelp:Red Square

One last thing- this place is expensive.... but it might be worth every penny.


Some new additions to this list...

Dragonfly, an Asian Joint
3900 Paradise Rd.

Dragonfly on Paradise.

Located next door to it's sister restaurant, Firefly, Dragonfly offers some of the best sushi we've had in LV. We arrived early, because we were attending a concert at the Hard Rock, which is nearly across the street. Imagine our surprise to learn it was happy hour, which offered some great deals on their food.

If you like spicy rolls, you can't go wrong with a Volcano roll, and the Tuna Sliders were simply fabulous. One of my pet peeves is restaurants that serve boring (naked) edamame, so I was nicely surprised to find their take on edamame had a little bite to it. I'm guessing it was a dusting of cayenne in their sesame vinaigrette.

The lobster fan among us ordered a Vegas roll and once again, a very pleasant surprise. Huge chunks of lobster, outstanding presentation.

With all the great places to eat here in LV, one of the true tests of a restaurant is if we would want to return, and Dragonfly deserves a definite yes. Well worth fighting the small parking lot and dodging the limos from the nearby Ruth Chris Steakhouse.


Kings Fishhouse
2255 Village Walk Drive, Suite 139
at The District, in Henderson

One of the nicest things about King's is that they offer some fish that you won't find in the more mainstream seafood restaurants - like Sandabs, for one. Never had them? You MUST! on your next visit. Their oyster selection is vast, which is great considering we're in the middle of the desert.

Our only complaint EVER (and we've visited their place quite often) was with their sauteed spinach. After ordering some fried fish, it's nice to trick yourself into thinking you're eating healthy by ordering the spinach. But we've found that the garlic is not only plentiful, but often nearly raw. Great for keeping the vampires away, but not so great when it's oozing out your skin for the next three days.

My advice? Ask for it well done when you place your order, and you'll be fine.

They've finally updated their website to include a menu, and they even have a few recipes, as well. You may want to visit their site to see if they have a location near you. You'll be dreaming about the Sandabs for days.


A couple of final thoughts-

First- what a great city if you love food, like I do. I feel particularly lucky to have been raised by parents who exposed me to a huge variety of food at an early age. Foodwise, everything about this city is superb. The Asian markets sell sushi grade fish at very reasonable prices, and there's a Hispanic store here that has a produce department to die for.

Finally, when I just reread this, checking it for errors, misspellings, etc., it dawned on me that I sound like a big drunk! I'm not, but I do enjoy pairing food with an appropriate libation. In fact, I have a copy of Modern Drunkard magazine on my coffee table, but only because it has a killer martini recipe in it.

Speaking of Modern Drunkard, check this out: You know you're a Drunkard when...

Note: this post is my opinion, and mine only. I have no intention to tick anyone off, or offend any readers, and I certainly don't own stock in any of these places! Please drink and eat responsibly!

Vashe Zdorovie!


tmusichans said...

I enjoyed reading your blog! Makes me wanna come to Vegas! Haven't been in a while. I also checked out your ETSY store. Great stuff!! Hope your sales at the Farmer's Market were a success.

Anonymous said...

I live here too! First in Summerlin and now in Spring Valley. This is truly a wonderful place to eat (and I don't mean the Strip!)

I was shocked to learn of the CCHD closing of Dragonfly, but all seems to be repaired and it is open again. (How embarrassing!)

You haved listed some great places.

Take care!