The Tamale Boat at Al’s Beef
6840 W. Sahara Ave., 702-644-2333, alsbeef.com.
An Italian beef sandwich might be the main draw at this new Midwest-based franchise, but the tamale boat is its secret star. For the uninitiated, Chicago- style tamales, or corn rolls, bear only a vague resemblance to the kind made in any Latin kitchen. At Al’s, the tubes of cornmeal-encased ground beef are smothered with chili, cheddar cheese, and chopped raw onions. It’s just the kind of stick-to-your-ribs fare that will warm you up on a cold Chicago day — or in our case, in an overly chilly, air-conditioned room. — Debbie Lee
Le Pig at The Goodwich
Las Vegas Blvd. S. and Wyoming Ave., the-goodwich.com
Great dining springs up in unexpected places in Vegas: a bao stand in a hair salon, a barbecue joint in a shipping container — and now there’s The Goodwich, a gourmet sandwich stand serving walk-up feasts in the Dino’s Lounge parking lot. While this location seems more apt as a stop-and-frisk checkpoint than a local restaurant launch pad, it has already spawned two Vegas favorites, Naked City Sandwich Shop (which became Naked City Pizza) and Viva Las Arepas. The Goodwich is a worthy addition. The genius of this sandwich stand is in its pairing epicurean fare with comfort food, creating a menu of hand-crafted sandwiches that are both innovative and familiar. One standout is the Le Pig, a pork belly masterpiece. In the version I had, the Le Pig was prepared carnitas-style, with small pork pieces fried to crispy perfection, coupled with a smooth melted Fontina cheese, then drizzled in truffle vinaigrette and sprinkled with chip bits. Since they playfully switch up the menu every few weeks, you'll taste a different rendition — but one that's sure to be just as good. — Chris Bitonti