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Desert Companion

DEALicious Meals: Great dining values with a tasty sense of place

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Big B's Texas BBQ
Christopher Smith

Big B's Texas BBQ

The best meals don’t just treat your taste buds; they ignite your imagination. For our seventh annual DEALicious Meals, we celebrate the plates that truly take you places, whether it’s a bustling Bangkok food alley, a Mexico City taqueria or a hidden rib shack in the deep South. And we tip our fork to areas of our own town that have well-earned reps as culinary destinations. Safe — and tasty — travels!

YardbirdKeeping it real

A taste of authentic global cuisine (or down-home cooking) in unexpected places

Yardbird Southern Table & Bar

In the Venetian, 702-297-6541, runchickenrun.com

Southern food in Vegas has always been like gambling in Atlanta: You might find it, but it’s never that good. That is, until Yardbird opened its doors and taught us what a proper fried chicken is all about. The biscuits and grits are nothing to sneeze at either, and you have to go south of the Mason-Dixon line to find cornbread and okra this tasty.  JC

 

Mint Indian Bistro

730 E. Flamingo Road, 702-894-9334, mintbistro.com

Featuring food from all over the subcontinent —
from the fiery madras curries of Mumbai to the masalas of New Delhi to the momo (stuffed dumplings) of Tibet — Mint covers all the Indian bases with enough sass and spice to keep (it seems) every UNLV professor happy from the lunch buffet to the final day’s dose of dosa.  JC

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Carlito’s Burritos

4300 E. Sunset Road, 702-547-3592, carlitosburritos.com

Craving chile with an “e”? You likely already love Carlito’s. This casual spot has served hard-to-find New Mexican food — an amalgamation of Mexican, Spanish and Native American cuisines — to aficionados since 2009. The key ingredient is the New Mexican chile pepper, served as the earthy “green” or dried into the slightly bitter “red.” Carlito’s covers the comfort dishes of the Land of Enchantment, from green chile stew to chile-smothered burritos, but for something unique, order the chile verde sopapilla: chunks of pork cooked in green sauce and stuffed into a pillow of fried dough. Addicts can’t get enough, so Carlito’s sells burlap sacks of chile during the August harvest. They’ll roast the peppers for you, but we prefer the aromatic ritual of doing it ourselves.  JPR

 

Pho Annie

8390 S. Rainbow Blvd., #3110, 702-326-3388

Whether it’s the deeply flavorful pho, or the chicken curry noodle soup, or a spicy bun bo Hue (rice vermicelli and beef soup), Pho Annie delivers the goods with more intensity and style than is the norm in our valley’s plethora of by-the-numbers Vietnamese noodle parlors.  JC

 

Chengdu Taste

3950 Schiff Drive, 702-437-7888

Sichuan cooking is known for its spice. The valley’s best example: Chengdu Taste, where peppers are used first and foremost for flavor but still bring the heat. Take the toothpick lamb with cumin, a remarkable dish with each lamb morsel individually skewered before being wok-fried and finished with a hearty helping of cumin and peppers. Make liberal use of the napkins dropped on your table by friendly staff — not for your mouth, but your sweating brow.  JB

 

Weera ThaiWeera Thai

3839 W. Sahara Ave. #9, 702-873-8749, weerathai.com

A recent facelift of the premises and the menu has brought this old reliable into the ranks of big-time Thai. Skip the same-old same-old curries and pad Thai, and head straight for the Laotian, duck and Issan specialties. And bring a firehose if you venture above anything “medium spicy.”  JC

 

Zaytoon

3655 S. Durango Drive, #11-14, 702-685-1875, zaytoonlasvegas.com

Unfamiliar with Persian cuisine? Make a beeline to this tiny café and let the staff spoil you with their signature hospitality. Authentic dips, kabobs, and stews attract Iranian families in droves, and the fantastic flavors will encourage diners to pick up exotic items from the adjoining market after their meal.  DL

Zaytoon

 

Laos Asia Market

3050 E. Desert Inn Road, 702-650-0245

This family-owned grocery store is a dream for the “Bizarre Foods” fan. Look for balut (duck embryo still in its shell), crunchy water bugs, and funky durian-flavored snacks. More sensitive stomachs can enjoy a small selection of traditional dishes (papaya salad, noodle soups) at a communal table.  DL

 

Forte Tapas

4180 S. Rainbow Blvd., #806, 702-220-3876, barforte.com

Owner Nina Manchev’s funky little restaurant blends traditional Spanish tapas with the best of Eastern European cuisine. Marcona almonds and mixed olives are fine little nibbles, but the kachapuri (homemade bread stuffed with a soft cooked egg) and vareniki (Ukrainian potato dumplings) are even better.  DL

 

Prince Restaurant

6795 W. Flamingo Road, 702-220-8322

Head to this hidden dive if you dare. The dark, stark atmosphere is a match for the intimidating chain-smoking male patrons and bare bones menu. ’Cevapi, a Serbian sausage served in sandwich form, is the must-try. Or gorge on the mixed meat platter, piled high with an assortment of links, patties and meats on sticks.  DL

 

Khoury’s Mediterranean Restaurant

9340 W. Sahara Ave., 702-671-0005, khouryslv.com

The sign says “Mediterranean,” but this is really a Lebanese restaurant — and the best in town at that. The fresh-from-the-oven pita bread is so nutty and warm that even my Greek relatives are jealous, and the mezze platter, overflowing with hummus, baba ghanoush, stuffed grape leaves and more, is so good it could make a vegetarian out of you.  JC

 

Sister’s Oriental Market

1732 Fremont St., 702-386-9557

A respite from the hipster spots on the other side of Fremont, this tiny hole-in-wall dishes up legit Laotian food — all for $8 or less. Skip the pad Thai: Khao poon, a spicy noodle soup enriched with coconut milk, and lemongrass-scented sausage are the requisite choices.  DL

 

East Lake Mead

Hit the east side  for a flavorful trip across the border
 

El Jalisquillo TacosEl Jalisquillo

3455 E. Lake Mead, 702-399-8237

Sometimes it’s difficult to tell one nondescript taco shop from the next. But El Jalisquillo is noteworthy for its take on the taco staple: carne asada. Simply adorned with onion, cilantro and spicy salsa roja, these miniature tortillas overflowing with crispy carne asada do not disappoint. If you’re hungry, order a half-dozen, grab a seat and take in some well-deserved Telemundo.  JB

 

Taco Tijuana

In Broadacres Swap Meet, 2930 N. Las Vegas Blvd., 702-642-3777, broadacresm.com

Next time you’re at Broadacres Swap Meet (and yes, you should be at Broadacres Swap Meet), you might want to take note of the crowds around one particular taco stand: Taco Tijuana. They’re afforded an expansive location with a patio because they might be serving the valley’s best al pastor. Crispy and spicy in each bite, it’s possibly even better than Tacos El Gordo. And besides, who doesn’t want to browse piñatas while eating pastor?  JB

 

El Menudazo

3100 E. Lake Mead, 702-944-9706, menudazo.com

The 2015 DEALicous Meal of the Year award-winner is our go-to breakfast joint because of the rich and hearty pozole rojo, although the namesake menudo is a worthwhile option if you’re up for the offal experience. Or check out the carne asada tacos if you don’t want to sip your meal. Whatever your choice, you just can’t go wrong at El Menudazo.  JB

 

Machetes

2722 E. Lake Mead Blvd., 702-417-7081

So there are no namesake long-bladed knives for seeking out treasures in the underbrush at Machetes, but rather the specialty of the house: long quesadillas packed with cheese and the carne of your choice. The house salsas add well-deserved spice to the gigantic tortillas; finish this meal-for-at-least-two with crema and shredded lettuce in a unique take on the Mexican standby.  JB

 

El Elote Loco

In Broadacres Swap Meet, 702-439-7171

Do you like corn? Then you’ll love El Elote Loco. In true Bubba Gump style, El Elote Loco has all things corn: corn on the cob, en el vaso (kernels from a cup) and griddlecakes. Actually, that’s it, but it’s more than enough.  JB

 

Rubalcabas Taco Shop

5185 E. Lake Mead, 702-452-5832

At first glance, Rubalcabas may seem a lot like a knockoff Roberto’s; in fact, the mascot himself looks like Roberto in an old-timey disguise while the space could certainly pass for one (or any other valley taco shop, for that matter). But rest assured, everything is just a tad more spot-on at Rubalcabas. And the steak and shrimp quesadilla — overflowing with cheese and elevated with the addition of enchilada sauce — is a destination dish. Plus, they’re open 24 hours, so go — now.  JB

 

Pollo Mobile

Pollo Mobile4100 E. Lake Mead, elpollomobile.com

I’m a sucker for street food. And apparently, I’m not the only one, because Pollo Mobile packs a crowd, drawn to the enormous parking lot grill like moths to a flame. This attraction is completely justified, as their pollo al carbon is heavenly — crispy on the outside with ample seasoning and smoke while juicy throughout.  JB

 

Burgers to drive for!

These meaty destination eats turn a day trip into a vacation on a bun

 

Elk BurgerMt. Charleston Lodge

5375 Kyle Canyon Road, 702-872-5408, mtcharlestonlodge.com

Year-’round, one of the favorite destinations of Southern Nevadans is the alpine Mt. Charleston Lodge, where you can partake in the call of the wild with a lean Elk Burger on the lofty patio. There’s even a duo of doggie burgers available if you bring your pooch.  GT

 

Bonnie Springs Ranch

16395 Bonnie Springs Road, 702-875-4191, bonniesprings.com

OK, this Wild West-themed corral in majestic Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area is a bit corny. So why not up the cheese factor with some Pepper Jack on a Cowboy Burger in the old-timey saloon or dining room? The place is a hit with kids, who’ll love the cowboy trappings and turtle pond.  GT

 

The Resort on Mount Charleston

2275 Kyle Canyon Road, 702-872-5500, mtcharlestonresort.com

Stop by this handsome chalet at the edge of the Spring Mountain’s forested slopes for their BBQ Bacon Cheeseburger. It’s made with a succulent short rib-brisket-sirloin beef mix.  GT

 

Las Vegas Paiute Golf Resort

10325 Nu-Wav Kaiv Blvd., 800-711-2833, lvpaiutegolf.com

19th holes are always great places to grab a burger. Slice right from US 95 north of town when you see vibrant green links contrasting with the Desert National Wildlife Refuge in the distance. Try the Bison Burger with deep-fried jalapeños and horseradish sauce to put some zing into your swing.  GT

 

Southwestern Diner

761 Nevada Highway, 702-293-1537, southwestdinerbouldercity.com

No time to put the pedal to the metal on Route 66 to the south? Take in some excellent mid-century signage and small-town charm at Southwestern Diner in Boulder City. Go for the Chili Size, an open-faced burger slathered with the classic tomato-bean-and-beef stew, and don’t pass up the cheddar cheese and onions.  GT

 

Pioneer Saloon

310 SR 161, 702-874-9362, pioneersaloon.info

Reportedly the oldest bar in Clark County (the whiskey started flowing in 1913), there are few nearby escapes that make you feel like home means Nevada as earnestly as the rustic Pioneer Saloon. Boasting original worn wooden floors, stamped tin walls (look for bullet holes), and a Brunswick hardwood bar with brass foot rail, the Pioneer proffers an authentic Old West vibe that serves legions of locals, rugged individualists, and the occasional adventurous tourist. Families are invited to enjoy the sizable patio, and the three-meal menu runs the gamut from a Cowboy Omelet to Shrimp Tacos. We suggest anything grilled outdoors: Ribs, steaks, and the tasty Ghost Burger all satisfy our hankering for the frontier days.  JPR

 

 

Good morning, ya’ll!

Highlights from a resurgent South Vegas/Henderson breakfast scene

 

Kitchen Table

1716 W. Horizon Ridge Parkway, 702-478-4782, kitchentablelv.com

Expertly driven by chefs willing to take risks, Kitchen Table has earned its right to justify some excruciating peak wait times. Take into consideration the kind of food people would wait nearly two hours for: foie gras-topped pancakes, house-made sausage samplers, chile colorado, and fresh daily selections of coffee cake, jams, and candied nuts.  MW

 

Coffee HunterCoffee Hunter

7425 S. Eastern Ave. #102, 702-586-5002

Opened by Portland transports, this Henderson spot brought Stumptown Coffee Roasters to the neighborhood, and so much more. It also brought artisanally blended teas, a reliably delicious cronut, and a menagerie of artisanal craft candies. It’s a welcome slice of PDX right in a Vegas ’burb.  MW

 

Craft Kitchen Bakery

10940 S. Eastern Ave. #107, 702-728-5828, craftkitchenlv.com

Chef Jaret Blinn has two decades of fine-dining experience under his belt, and the way he applies it to simple café pastries and sandwiches is phenomenal. Featuring everything from health-conscious, crust-free quiche to decadent white chocolate and cranberry French toast, the menu at Craft Kitchen reimagines the common bistro lunch.  MW

 

Mothership Coffee

2708 N. Green Valley Parkway, 702-456-1869, mothershipcoffee.com

Little wonder that Mothership Coffee is a den for obsessive coffee-lovers: these guys buy raw, dried coffee beans and lovingly roast them to their precise specifications. They supply this goodness to other spots around the valley, but why not go straight to the Mothership? It’s a crisp, clean little café featuring a bevy of house-made pastries and chocolates.  MW 

 

Pour

6811 S. Eastern Ave. #D, 702-527-5544, pourlv.com

Perched on the western edge of Sunset Park, this little coffee shop has cornered the market on fine caffeinated drinks for the area. It’s no surprise: Their baristas spend a lot of time thinking up creative, unique drinks, along with serving up some fine sandwiches and pastries.  MW

 

Omelet House

316 N. Boulder Highway 702-566-7896 omelethouse.net

There is, on the menu, an enigma called “The Flatlanders Special,” which purports to include raw liver, parsnips and sautéed grunion lips. We stick with ham and cheese, which is much less of a joke. Still, the Flatlanders’ corny cheer permeates this popular spot, from the “hi, hon” service to the wall kitsch. The food is best considered hardy — the omelets are plump, the pancakes fluffy and the huevos are nicely ranchero, at least if you’re a gringo. There's lots of what no one here would bother to call “good mouth feel.” The breakfast spuds are locally famous, too.  SD

 

Asian raves

You could spend years sampling the tastes of the Asian flavor epicenter that is Chinatown. Get started with our favorites

 

Niu-GuNiu-Gu

3400 S. Jones Blvd. #16, 702-570-6363

Jimmy Li and Joe Muscaglione have partnered to bring impeccable stir-fries, the freshest fish, and upscale Chinese cooking (and tea!) to a strip mall on Jones teeming with competition. But there’s nothing like the gorgeous platters they’re sending out from this kitchen. They have a menu with countless soups, noodles and stir-fries, but the cognoscenti know to just let Jimmy cook for them.  JC

 

Chada Street

3839 Spring Mountain Road, 702-579-0207, chadastreet.com

Champagne and spicy Asian food are one of those incongruous food-wine marriages that seems just perfect once you take the plunge. And there’s no better place to dive in than at Bank Atcharawan’s ode to Thai street food. His incendiary food lights you up; the sparklers cool you down — all at prices that shame those on the Strip.  JC

 

Hobak Korean BBQ

5808 Spring Mountain #101, 702-257-1526

Korean barbecue is having a moment in Las Vegas right now,
with the recent openings of Goong (on south Rainbow) and Magal (on Spring Mountain Road), and this form of eatery, previously the province of all-you-can-eat-cheap-beef, has gotten a considerable upgrade. There’s nothing fancy about Hobak, but the top-quality meat is shaved thin and beautifully presented — and you won’t find any fault with the banchan or vegetable offerings, either.  JC

 

J&J Szechuan 

5700 Spring Mountain Road, 702-876-5983, jjszechuancuisine.com

J&J Szechuan is my number one choice whenever I need my lips to be numbed. Meaning: They don’t skimp on those haunting, nerve-tingling Szechuan peppercorns here, nor do they ever fail to shower almost every dish with peppers of the lethally hot and red-roasted variety. Not for the timid, but this is the real deal in Szechuan food, with a new and gweilo-friendly picture menu that’s remarkably accurate about everything — except how much liquid you’ll need to put out the fire.  JC

 

Yui Edomae Sushi 

3460 Arville St., 702-202-2408, yuisushi.com

Having recently honeymooned in Japan, I’m now a sushi snob of the first order. (Which is what I was before I went there, but that’s beside the point.) No one in town slices their sushi so fine, takes as much loving care with their tofu, or presents such wonderful wagyu (which merits a menu of its own). Yui is as close as you can get to a trip to Tokyo.  JC

 

Inyo Asian Variety Restaurant 

6000 W. Spring Mountain Road #1B, 702-248-0588, inyolv.com

When they say “Asian variety,” they mean it. Everything from Chinese dumplings to Japanese yakitori to Korean chicken wings grace this menu — all done by a distinctly non-Asian chef: Gregg Fortunato — and all of it done so well that more than a few Spring Mountain Road chefs (of the distinctly Asian variety) are dropping their chopsticks in awe. Inyo is of Las Vegas’ true culinary gems.  JC

 

Pollo Inka Express

2440 S. Maryland Parkway, 702-522-7871, polloinkaexpress.com

Peruvian food has never become a staple of the Vegas dining scene, but the arrival of SoCal’s Pollo Inka Express is an attempt to make it more accessible. The specialty of the house is the pollo a la brasa — a ridiculously crisp-skinned rotisserie chicken heavy on the cumin and paprika. Load up on slightly green aji pepper sauce and order a side of buttery cilantro rice, and you’ll have your introduction to the wonders of Peru.  JB

 

Trattoria Nakamura-Ya

5040 W. Spring Mountain #5, 702-251-0022

Wafuu pasta is the name for the spin Japanese chefs give to classic Italian pasta dishes. Take one bite of Kengo Nakamura’s linguine with uni tomato cream and you’ll see what all the shouting’s about. Trattoria Nakamura-Ya is making some of the most interesting food in Las Vegas, making it a must-eat on any foodies’ bucket list.  JC

 

The new classics

Whether it’s sipping coffee at the diner counter or canoodling in a dark booth, these newish spots ooze old-school vibe

 

Du-par’s Restaurant and Bakery

Suncoast and Golden Gate casinos, dupars.net

Esquire once crowned Du-Par’s buttermilk hotcakes the best pancakes in the U.S. I’m not sure when or whether that lofty title is accurate, but what I do know is that the browned, inexplicably light and buttery flaky discs are manna from heaven. In fact, since they’re cooked in butter, you hardly need to add any more. But we all know more butter makes everything better, right?  JB

 

Nora’s Italian Cuisine

6020 W. Flamingo Road, 702-873-8990, norascuisine.com

Nora’s isn’t as brash as a big swingin’ steakhouse, but it has the casual confidence of an old pro who’s been around the game. Intimate and moody, this Italian classic captures the feel of the best kind of upstanding neighborhood paisan joints that dot the Northeast. Simple, timeless preps bump up against original creations, but it’s the unfussy classics that drop you through the memory hole to 1972 Hartford or 1948 Queens or 1963 Philly.  JS

 

Bardot

In the Aria, 702-590-8610, michaelmina.net

More than a year of experimenting with Belle Epoque recipes made this gorgeous space in the Aria a time capsule back to the days of Escoffier. This is old-school French cuisine the way it was always meant to be — better yet, from the hands of a restless rising star in the culinary world, Chef Josh Smith. Part of Bardot’s secret is painstaking simplicity. For instance, their chicken roti is literally just roast chicken, but every detail has been so lovingly labored over, its fresh, savory intensity is nearly transcendent.  MW

 

Carbone

In the Aria, 866-359-7757, aria.com

It’s not a staid old matron or a self-conscious re-creation. Aria’s Carbone is instead an elevated manifestation of the classic Vegas steakhouse. From the black-and-white checked floor of its tony bar to the no-one-needs-to-know-you-paid-for-your-date curtained booths in the dining room, soundtracked by a healthy blast of Prima. Oh, and the food happens to be some of the best Italian in the city. If you can resist the $64 veal parm trap, go for the far superior sweet, savory pork chop and peppers.  JS

 

DB Brasserie

In the Venetian, 702-430-1235, dbbrasserie.com

DB Brasserie is a place where the Belle Epoque of 1920s Paris never ended, and coq au vin never went out of style. The menu is all of the most crowd-pleasing versions of French bistro food, with a couple modern staples thrown in (try the escargots spätzle, burgundy snail fricassee intermixed with chicken “oysters”) — all with the kind of finesse and style both Daniel Boulud and Vincent Pouessel are known for. MW

 

Barbecue nation

Take a tasting tour of the valley’s barbecue — moist towelettes recommended

 

RibsBig B’s Texas BBQ

3019 St. Rose Parkway #130, 702-260-6327, bigbztexasbbq.com

The newest entrant to the valley’s barbecue scene, this Henderson spot is filled with wooden picnic tables and a Lone Star State sensibility. Try the very tender tri-tip steak imbued with mesquite and oak smoke — from wood brought here from the owner’s family farm in South Texas, no less.  GT

 

Rollin Smoke BBQ

3185 S. Highland Drive, 702-836-3621; 725 Las Vegas Blvd. S. 702-462-9880, rollinsmokebarbeque.com

Head to the Deep South by proxy at this popular off-Strip eatery. Try the “Big Hawg,” loaded with meaty shreds of piggly-wiggly doused in vinegary, Carolina-style sauce and topped with zippy chipotle coleslaw. Deep dive further into their wide menu with the all-you-can eat extravaganza.  GT

 

Pot Liquor CAS

6587 Las Vegas Blvd. S., 702-816-4600, potliquorcas.com

For a modern approach on the venerable foodways that gave birth to American barbecue, grab a table at this bustling joint in Town Square. Rock ’n’ roll it with a big plate of Memphis-style spareribs and side of kale and cashew salad.  GT

 

M&M Soul Food

3923 W. Charleston Blvd., 702-453-7685; 2211 Las Vegas Blvd.S., 702-478-5767, mmsoulfoodcafe.com

For some no-fuss, high-calorie, down-home cooking, this establishment on West Charleston is a local classic. My favorite: the whole chicken slathered in house sauce with mac and cheese, and collard greens on the side. There’s a location near Downtown for tourists, too.  GT

 

Lucille’s Smokehouse Bar‑B‑Que

11011 W. Charleston Blvd., 702-220-7427, lucillesbbq.com

One of the liveliest places to eat in the west valley, this huge place in Red Rock Resort serves up gigantic platters of smoked beef ribs. Top them with a variety of sauces and keep your napkin handy. In fact, tuck it in your collar.  GT

 

Memphis Championship Barbecue

2250 E. Warm Springs Road, 702-260-6909; 4379 Las Vegas Blvd. N., 702-644-0000, memphis-bbq.com

Have a Green Valley-sized hunger for some barbecue? Start here with the tangy Fried Green Pickles. Move on to a heap of Burnt Ends, savory bites of beef that are pure, concentrated flavor.  GT

 

Fox Smokehouse BBQ

1007 Elm St., Boulder City, 702-489-2211, foxsmokehousebbq.com

What began as a barbecue competition team grew into this gem, a family-run smokehouse joint that’s well worth the drive to Boulder City. You can’t go wrong with anything on the menu, but I recommend the smoked bratwurst on Texas toast and a scoop of satisfying potato salad.  GT

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