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Desert Companion

Side dish awards: More raves and faves from a great culinary year

Slice of the Year

The Forager at Five50 Pizza Bar

The city’s best slice is an honor that’s in constant flux — I’ve never said no to any combination of bread and melted cheese. This year, it’s Shawn McClain’s Five50 at Aria that provoked an epicurean epiphany. Previous pies were admittedly unmemorable, but a forager slice (mushrooms, spinach, rosemary, whipped ricotta) from the to-go counter had all of the qualities I demand in perfect pizza: a crunchy but foldable crust, a complex crumb and pristine toppings. DB

In Aria at CityCenter, 877-230-2742

 

Burger of the Year 

Jerk Turkey Burger at Carson Kitchen

In topsy-turvy days for Downtown Las Vegas dining, one thing is sure: Kerry Simon’s Carson Kitchen is a hit. And amid a standout menu, the seemingly understated Jerk Turkey Burger is a patty-meets-bun revelation. It’s a simple but tall construction: juicy, Jamaican-inflected ground gobbler is topped with mango chutney-laden cabbage slaw and skewered inside a puffy, toasted bun. To the side comes a cylinder of tater tots sprinkled with some irresistible spice mix. Greg Thilmont

124 S. 6th St., 702-473-9523, carsonkitchen.com

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Sandwich of the Year

Tie: BP Porchetta at The Blind Pig and Biloxi Buttermilk Fried Chicken at Honey Salt The Blind Pig’s Italian-style offering comes as a toasted ciabatta piled with crispy chunks of herb-stuffed Duroc pork spiked with Calabrian peppers, arugula and aioli. Honey Salt’s grinder puts breast meat inside a brioche roll along with cabbage slaw, Durkee-style mustard sauce, and pickle slices in a tangy tribute to the American South. GT

The Blind Pig, 4515 Dean Martin Drive, 702-430-4444, theblindpiglasvegas.com; Honey Salt, 1031 S. Rampart Blvd., 702-445-6100, honeysalt.com

 

CrepeCrêpe of the Year

Classic Buckwheat Crêpe at Marché Bacchus

The classic buckwheat crêpe, that thin and rustic Breton pancake, has an elegant home along the water at Desert Shores. Marché Bacchus’ plating wraps tender roast chicken chunks, seasonal mushrooms (from enoki to chanterelle) and a light thyme-tinged Mornay sauce inside a pair of dusky galettes. In true Gallic form, a salad of mixed greens with vinaigrette comes on the side. It’s a combination that falls somewhere between comfort food and light repast. Pair your crêpes with a glass of vino on the patio for maximum Marché Bacchus ambiance. GT

2620 Regatta Drive, 702-804-8008, marchebacchus.com

 

Cornish Pasty Co.Pies of the Year

Cornish Pasty Co.

This friendly nook in Commercial Center packs a mother lode of variations on the Cornish pasty, the ergonomic “hand pie” that had its origin as a portable miner’s meal. The menu starts traditional — think fillings such as steak, potatoes, onion and rutabaga — with the house signature: The Oggie. Then the “paaa-stees” branch into Italian, Cajun, Indian, Greek, Mexican and vegetarian territories. The crusty beauties are always accompanied by sauces from red wine and mustard creme to tzatziki and good old HP brown. There are even a few dessert combinations, including a big peanut butter-banana-raspberry jelly nugget. GT

953 E. Sahara Ave., 702-862-4538, cornishpastyco.com

 

Surprise of the Year

Rose. Rabbit. Lie.

With its unveiling, Rose. Rabbit. Lie. introduced its novel supper-club concept where the entertainment blended seamlessly with the dining experience. While Executive Chef Wesley Holton brings a sterling pedigree to the kitchen, it’s still remarkable exactly how good Rose. Rabbit. Lie. is while becoming a bona fide culinary destination. Most surprising of all? Holton is serving some of the Strip’s best Italian fare — so good, I’d argue that Rose. Rabbit. Lie. is one of the Valley’s best Italian restaurants. Yes, his pastas are that good. JB

In The Cosmopolitan, 877-667-0585, roserabbitlie.com

 

Comeback of the year

Viva Mercado’s

After suffering more than a year without one of the valley’s best Mexican restaurants, Viva Mercado’s is back with the same menu crafted of quality ingredients and attentive prep. There were some detours, including the moving and upsizing of the original location just as the recession hit, but 23 years after Bobby Mercado opened the first Viva Mercado’s at Flamingo and Decatur, his regular diners have returned, feasting on an impressive menu that boasts pages of traditional recipes augmented by a vegetarian Mexican menu that rivals the choices at many bespoke veggie spots. Viva Mercado, indeed! JPR

9440 W. Sahara Ave. #165, 702-454-8482, vivamercadoslv.com

 

Restaurateur success story of the year

Elizabeth Blau and Kim Canteenwalla

A short time after you read this, the husband-and-wife team of chef Kim Canteenwalla and restaurateur Elizabeth Blau will have three of their own off-Strip eateries to watch over. Though they worked together on the successful projects of others for years (Society Cafe, Buddy V’s, Simon Kitchen), it wasn’t until 2012 that the power pair pursued building their very own culinary playground and launched Summerlin’s successful Honey Salt. Now, with their nearby Made LV Tavern taking names, and Andiron Steak & Sea prepping for its first diners soon, we’re salivating to see just how far these two tastemakers can take the suburban dining scene. JPR

 

Bar food of the year

Sporting Life Bar

What happens when you open up a sports bar with Daniel Dalton, a former sous chef from Bouchon, at the helm? You get the best bar food in town: savory pork belly atop cheesy polenta, fall-off-the-bone confit chicken wings, the valley’s best fried pickles. And be sure to check for Dalton’s specials, ranging from yellow curry to roasted trout in brown butter to veal presse. Veal presse? See, this ain’t no PT’s. JB

7770 S. Jones Blvd., 702-331-4647

 

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