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Desert Companion

Best of the City: Bested & tested

You bested it, we tested it

In which Desert Companion assesses your top choices in our Best of the City readers’ poll

 

1. Looking for David Lynch

Our readers’ poll pick for best local band? Brumby, Brumby, Brumby! Indeed, the landslide of votes suggests either rabid, frothing fandom or a surgically coordinated ballot blitz. But, since this alt-feelsy breeze-rock quartet looks so fresh-faced and pure of soul, we’ll give them the benefit of the doubt. My favorite Brumby track is “Chariot,” a mannered bricolage of the best parts of the post-indie genre: gently driving rhythms, choral lift and soaring Jonathan Livingston Seagull vocals that even manage to work magic on the icy dead neutron star that is my heart.

For best vegan/vegetarian restaurant, you chose Downtown’s VegeNation (vegenationlv.com). And boy, were you right! After a thorough graze of the menu, I can report rich, vivid, bright flavors that belie the dread stereotype that says vegan = kill me, this tastes like wet sawdust. The raw tacos — a crunchy veggie and nut mulch wrapped in a collard green — are tangy and nicely textured, and the signature burger’s mushroom patty is rich and satisfying. Even the vegan sushi (?!) is good, with avocado and, uh, some other pureed yummy stuff I don’t remember specifically but do remember being yummy encased in chewy “forbidden” rice. Totally had a case of postprandial grogs, but, man, didn’t those grogs feel light ’n’ healthy!

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And finally, one respondent said the best thing about North Las Vegas is the German-American Social Club, saying it was a right out of a David Lynch movie. How could I resist? On a recent Friday, I went by during its posted hours, only to find an empty parking lot and locked doors. Silence at my repeated knocking, an answering machine ate my phone calls. But I agree: the subtle menace of this denial, coupled with the desolate, crumbling parking lot as northtown traffic whooshed by on Lake Mead Boulevard, created a distinctly Lynchian tableau.

— Andrew Kiraly

 

2. Eat. Walk. Shop.

I thought I had it in me, friends — that is, the guts to eat a lot of sweets at Freed’s Bakery … until I actually had it in me — that is, about half of what I’d ordered, plowed into my guts. I chewed, valiantly; I was there on your behalf, after all, and I wanted to go the extra tart. You voted Freed’s the best bakery, and I went taste-test your taste. Best? I’ll see about that! I ordered a bearclaw, a raspberry-pecan log and what appeared to be a hubcap of apple and dough. I considered all this round one. A Falstaffian grinder of some gusto, I figured I could get through at least two good, evaluative rounds.

But the first round took me clean out. The bearclaw was routinely terrific; you’ve gotta try pretty hard to screw up a bearclaw. The raspberry-pecan log was more complex, built around folds of berry-infused dough; it was superb, just perfectly short of too sweet … but, oh, that dough — utterly filling. I ate some of the giant apple Danish anyway, and I don’t regret it. Freed’s bestness: confirmed. Leaving was sweet sorrow: So much remained untasted. Goodbye, chocolate-walnut thumbprint! Goodbye, eclair! Goodbye, linzer tart — I’ll miss not eating you most of all …

In cool hindsight, we might’ve guessed that the category best urban hike would self-select East Fremont as the winner. For one thing, you do love Downtown, from the Mob Museum (best historic attraction) to the Writer’s Block (best bookstore) to the Hydrant Club, the private dog park that boasts a merry band of ballot-stuffers. (“I really only care about Hydrant Club,” someone voted under best pizza.)

For another, the area is obviously denser with signifiers of urban mojo than anywhere else, from its vivid festoonery of street art to more species of visually intriguing humans than there are ants. East Fremont and environs are poised between the gentrifying gleam of new investment and the stubborn grunge that keeps it marketably “urban.” I mean, as you walk off the Freed’s pastries on your urban hike, look down at the thick, Pollockian swirl of stains, splotches, dribbles, smears, drips, smudges, blotches, spots, blemishes, splatters, blots and splashes that freckle the concrete, and try to imagine how they all got there Delirious! Disgusting! Talk about street art.

Exactly the opposite points can be made about your choice of best thing about Henderson, which is the family-friendly outdoor mall The District at Green Valley Ranch. I have seen the face of suburban strollability, and it has an Anthropologie.

— Scott Dickensheets

 

3. Best-laid plans

I designed my Best of the City crawl to comprise a day of self-indulgent surprises. I’d begin by picnicking with my dog at the Clark County Wetlands Park, which readers chose as a best thing about the East Side, follow that with a massage at best spa pick the Golden Nugget, and end with happy hour in Henderson at Born and Raised, voted best neighborhood bar.

But dogs aren’t allowed at the wetlands (it being, you know, a wildlife preserve and all), and a good friend scheduled a last-minute birthday dinner Downtown, entailing some hasty schedule-scrambling. That my day nevertheless turned out to be delightful attests to both the survey winners’ quality and the city’s hospitality.

I started with a lunch of stuffed mushrooms and a cold Stella Artois at Born and Raised, open just a few months in Tommy Rockers’ old south-side location. The place is spacious and comfortable with a good balance of couches and tables to enjoy fare that’s gourmet by bar standards. The mix of regulars and tourists, diners and table-gamers suggests it’s hitting its market, though I wondered if any of them were as annoyed as I was by the wall-to-wall TV screens, slightly excessive even for a sports bar.

A quiet walk in nature was just the thing to clear my ringing ears, so I headed northeast to the Wetlands Park to meander its trails through shoulder-high rushes and over the gurgling wash. Less then a yard from the parking lot, I spotted a family of quail; by the time I got back to my car, I’d seen ducks, an egret, a bunny, a roadrunner and some scat suggesting coyote. I’d also heard enough high-pitched squealing to make me happy the place is drawing youngsters and jar me out of complete reverie.

But that was coming next, in the form of a Swedish massage and eucalyptus-scented steam bath at the Golden Nugget spa, an oasis of calm hovering unexpectedly above the Fremont Street Experience. This is no sprawling, mid-Strip super-spa (the gym and salon take up much of the floor), but it’s got all the comfort of a high-end resort in boutique form, complete with attentive staff and plush robe. I could’ve lounged there all day — any service, acquired at a hefty locals discount, buys you that privilege — if weren’t for my dinner date. To which I showed up restored and ready for the next round.

—Heidi Kyser

More Best of the City: These are the champions | Readers' poll | Personal Bests

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