Listen

News 88.9 KNPR
Classical 89.7 KCNV
NV89 Discover Music
'Jazz'

an member station

Desert Companion

Best of the City: Food & Drink

pizza-3b.jpg

Naked City Pizza
Photo by Brent Holmes

Naked City Pizza

Best Pizza

Naked City Pizza

From an Italy-certified Pizzeria Napoletana (Settebello) to Sin City’s strongest New York slice (Evel Pie), quality ingredients paired with well-executed regional styles have ushered in a new pizz-era in Las Vegas. The pie pinnacle? The gut-busting Buffalo-style rectangles of awesome tossed at Chris Palmieri’s Naked City. Credit a daily-from-scratch ethos, top-shelf ingredients, and details like the “cupped and charred” pepperoni, and youse’ll love it! Multiple locations, nakedcitylv.com (JPR)

 

Best Tacos

Bajamar Seafood and Tacos

Hailing from Tijuana via San Diego, Bajamar Seafood and Tacos offers more than just the standard breaded fish tacos. From the wonderfully tender octopus in the pulpo enchilado taco to the cheesy, shrimp-laden gobernador, each ridiculously good rendition is a fabulous, glorious mess, spilling out from the handmade tortillas onto your plate. Finish them with fork in hand; trust me, no one will blame you. 1615 Las Vegas Blvd. S., 702-331-4266 (JB)

 

Best Wings

Chada Street

Wings are ubiquitous bar food, so for something completely different, escape Buffalo for Chinatown, and Chada Street’s Peak Kai Saap. This small stack of Thai wings is dry-rubbed with a spice combination that’s at once lemony and spicy — a deliciously savory, mild alternative to the slathered wings we love. Pair with an icy Singha and watch the game; different, but the same! 3839 Spring Mountain Road, chadastreet.com (JPR)

Support comes from

 

Best Burger

The Dispensary Lounge

The Dispensary Lounge is a time warp of sorts, harkening back to a time when waterwheels and shag carpeting were chic household decorations, and burger patties were always handmade. Their Steak Burger layers a half-pound of charred ground Angus between toasted bun halves atop a mound of house-cut fries served alongside housemade honey mustard for only $8. Let’s hope they never change. 2451 E. Tropicana Ave., thedispensarylounge.com (JB)

 

Best Appetizers

Bazaar Meat

Appetizers tend to reflect a kitchen’s creativity, as the smaller portions afford chefs more opportunity to explore edgier ingredients and presentations. This remains true even at one of the valley’s edgiest restaurants, Bazaar Meat. From cotton-candy swaddled foie gras-on-a-stick to comically large chicharrónes to the duo of Ferran Adrià-inspired traditional and molecular gastronomy olives, you could make a meal of their appetizers alone. But why would you? SLS, sbe.com (JB)

 

Best Vegan Food

Panacea

Freekah bowl

Photo by Christopher Smith

If your mental picture of vegan food is bland and gloopy, Panacea might be the cure. (Yes, went there.) Its vegetable-forward menu features avant-garde smoothies with inspirational monikers like the Sacred Temple (coconut water, avocado, ginger, kale, spinach, dandelion greens, cucumber, lemon, coconut oil). Inventive bowls abound with whole grains including black rice and freekeh (cracked green wheat) with a kaleidoscope of savory adjuncts like spiced chickpeas, jalapeño-infused tomato water, and Kalamata olive tapenade. The towering, double-decker cheeseburger with agrodolce red onions and chipotle ketchup is mind-blowing. It’s easily one of the top stackers in town, and you won’t miss the “moo” at all. 750 S. Rampart Blvd., panacealv.com (GT)

 

Best Brunch

Bardot Brasserie

With countless restaurants jumping on the brunch bandwagon, this category gets more contentious every year. Well, theoretically. Bardot Brasserie remains confidently and comfortably the best, serving up convivial brunch classics (hearth-baked quiche; smoked salmon with chive mascarpone; ham and Gruyére croque) in a setting of Belle Epoch elegance. I say it often, and I’ll repeat it here: Their brunch out-Bouchons Bouchon. Aria, michaelmina.net (MW)

 

Best Italian

Esther’s Kitchen

One of the most-anticipated local restaurant openings in recent memory, Esther’s Kitchen has brought handcrafted Italian cuisine to Downtown. The fantastic pastas are made in-house, from substantial bucatini to puffy gnocchi. There are plenty of seasonal dishes with produce, from spaghetti squash and mushrooms to parsnips and beets, as well as fresh seafood choices like yellowtail crudo. Succulent meat entreés include free-range chicken roasted under a brick and toothsome porchetta. The house tomato sauce and meatballs are both excellent. The advanced mixology program is scratch, too. 1130 S. Casino Center Blvd. estherslv.com (GT)

 

Best Thai

Lotus of Siam

Sometimes it’s best to stick with the old standbys — even if the standbys aren’t standing in the same place. Last fall, the roof caved in at Lotus of Siam’s Commercial Center location, forcing the award-winning restaurant to move from its home of 19 years. Relocated to the former Roy’s on Flamingo Road, the new, high-ceilinged digs are a big change, but the food is as reliably excellent as ever. The extensive menu raises classics to a new level — the fried chicken dumplings are crisp and golden, the Tom Yum Kai soup is as rich, buttery and coconutty as ever. More adventurous diners will still love the peppery Issan beef jerky, the crisp fried garlic prawns, and the celebrated menu of subtly flavored, slow-cooked Northern Thai dishes. The Commercial Center location is set to open its doors until later this year, but we’re grateful that we don’t have to wait. 620 E. Flamingo Road, lotusofsiamlv.com (LTR)

 

Best Japanese

Marugame Monzo

While Las Vegas might have reached peak ramen, there is definitely room for more udon noodles. And Marugame Monzo in Chinatown serves them up — fresh-pulled and deftly cut — with aplomb. Served in both hot and cold styles, these thick, chewy noodles can be ordered in a swath of fragrant dashi (broth) with flavorings including bonito, daikon radish, wakame seaweed, and curry. There’s even silky, creamy miso-carbonara and seafood-tomato versions. Deep-fried tempura sides including shrimp, fish cake, chicken, and soft-boiled eggs are all standout. Still hungry? Opt for a filling onigiri (rice ball) topped with jewel-like ikura (salmon roe). 3889 Spring Mountain Road, facebook.com/marugamemonzolv (GT)

 

Best Chinese

Ping Pang Pong

Call it a delectable blast from the past, redeemed. The long-standing Chinese eatery in the Gold Coast had slipped some in recent years, but Boyd Gaming recently made much-needed upgrades to the décor and kitchen program. Now, the cuisine matches the excellence of yore. The popular lunchtime dim sum service pleases with dozens of small plates delivered by roving carts. The dinner menu ranges seamlessly from mainstream combos like night market fried rice with sliced beef, fresh chilies, bean sprouts, and tomatoes to advanced entreés like stir-fried jellyfish with roast duck in XO sauce. Xiexie, old friend. Gold Coast, goldcoastcasino.com (GT)

 

Best Mexican

Salud Mexican Bistro and Tequileria

Salud shines in this category from its modest strip mall location. Seafood includes ceviche Campechana bursting with shrimp, mussels, octopus, crab, and avocado in ancho-chipotle sauce. The duck carnitas feature red wine-citrus marinade with a berry-jalapeño chutney. Tacos are the main attraction in this culinary lucha libre match — think beef cheek, pork belly, mahi-mahi, octopus, chipotle mushrooms, and lobster for fillings. Adventurous? Live it up with the Brochacho Bomb — a shot of mezcal dropped into a glass of Modelo Negro lager with chapulines (salted crickets) on the side for a crunchy chaser. 8125 W. Sahara Ave., saludmexicanbistro.com (GT)

 

Best Buffet

Bacchanal Buffet

Bacchanal Buffet

Photo courtesy Caesars Entertainment.

In the city of buffets, there is one that wins by more than a nose: Bacchanal Buffet. It’s for one reason: The quality of the food is precedent-setting, whether it’s the fresh Jonah crab, green-applewood-smoked wagyu, or made-to-order dessert crêpes. Sure, there are other “nice” buffets — many of which work on punitively tight budgets that you can taste — but the Bacchanal is the one serving you ingredients worth the price tag. The cheese board alone boasts selections that command $15 a pound and higher at fine foods stores. The price is right, the selection dizzying, the quality amazing. Caesars Palace, caesars.com (MW)

 

Best Bar Food

Starboard Tack

In 2017, Bryant Jane and Lyle Cervenka revived classic eastside bar Starboard Tack, immediately establishing it as a mixology destination. But Jane (pronounced ha-NAY) also created an Asian-inspired menu which is way better than it needs to be for a cocktail bar. From Szechuan chimichurri beef skewers with an outrageously addictive coconut milk-laced peanut sauce to fried chicken fried rice (you read that right), Starboard is worth visiting whether you’re thirsty, hungry, or both. 2601 Atlantic St., 702-684-5769 (JB)

 

Best Desserts

Twist

The pastry program at Twist in the Mandarin Oriental nearly outshines the other courses. Beyond elaborate petit fours, intermezzos, and breads, the Grand Dessert is a stunning tour of five confections, each as complex as any main attraction — take the manjari parfait with almond nougatine and bitter chocolate foam, or the coconut panna cotta with elderflower cream and frozen pineapple. Mandarin Oriental, mandarinoriental.com (MW)

 

Best Splurge

Riserva steak at Carnevino

In a city where a “splurge” could mean a bottle of Lafite Rothschild worth the price of every car I’ve ever driven combined, I can put one life-altering splurge above all others: the Riserva steak at Carnevino. Carnevino keeps prime cuts that have aged particularly well — 200 days and up — for the Riserva program. Priced by the ounce, this is the fine wine of steaks — intense and complex, with fermented notes of truffle and gorgonzola. Palazzo, carnevino.com (MW)

 

Best Diner

Lou’s Diner

For almost 50 years, Lou’s Diner has been tucked away off Decatur south of U.S. 95. It’s been around forever — and yet under the radar. Nowadays, it’s mostly obscured by a Walgreen’s, but it doesn’t prevent a swarm of locals from filling it daily for a dose of simple pleasures — coffee that’s fresh and hot, and spot-on comfort food, including masterful renditions of such classics as a hearty chipped beef on toast and a Monte Cristo reminiscent of the Bennigan’s stalwart. Be sure to order some toast simply for an excuse to try their housemade jams (I’m fond of the mixed berry), and save room for one of Patty’s cinnamon rolls. 431 S. Decatur Blvd., lousdinerlv.com (JB)

 

Best Late-Night Diner

Peppermill

Peppermill

Photo courtesy of The Peppermill.

Las Vegas isn’t the late-night party town it once was; all the more reason to make this 24-hour Strip landmark your choice for midnight-shift breakfast or post-nightclub grub. Why? Massive portions of tasty diner classics, Casino-era fern-and-mirror furnishings, and some still-smiling staff who have been slinging hash here since 1972, when Las Vegas was still Vegas, baby! 2985 Las Vegas Blvd. S., peppermilllasvegas.com (JPR)

 

Best Coffee

Sambalatte

Sambalatte

Photo by Sabin Orr.

Obsessive baristas and self-taught roasters are slinging great coffee valley-wide these days, but much of our caffeine-fueled rebirth has been localized to Downtown. Ironically, this urban renaissance owes a lot to suburban-born Sambalatte, which proved that locals are happy to pay for top-shelf, expertly prepped coffee in a stylish setting. Founder Luis Olivera recently unveiled an ambitious growth plan, including a roasting facility and a Henderson store. A Sambalatte counter already steams at Symphony Park’s Molasky Building, with a full-size café appearing soon at The Smith Center — an appropriate backdrop for the café’s upscale sensibility. Multiple locations, sambalatte.com (JPR)

 

Best Donuts

Pink Box

Donuts

Courtesy of Pink Box

Donut shops are a dime a (Bavarian créme) dozen, but Pink Box’s offerings stand out, whether classic or eccentric. Enjoy a plain, or contemplate the difference between a chocolate frosted and a chocolate glazed. Dig high-concept offerings, such as a series of cereal-based donuts from Froot Loop to Cocoa Krispie, or the hipster trifecta of a maple-bacon cronut. And some are just plain magical, such as the PB&J, Campfire S’mores, and Fat Elvis donuts. Pink Box has locations in Summerlin and Henderson, with plans to open another soon. For the sake of my waistline and my arteries, I hope it’s nowhere near my house. Multiple locations, pinkboxdoughnuts.com (LTR)

 

Best Cocktail

Jimmie Roosevelt at Rosina

Jimmie Roosevelt

Photo courtesy of The Venetian

The Venetian’s new bar, Rosina, is a small room that glows with mirrored walls, gilded railings, and crystal lamps. Fittingly for such a Gatsby-inspired setting, the drink list runs to classics, such as the Gimlet, the Margarita and the Tom Collins. But their selection of Champagne cocktails puts a modern spin on bubbly that still fits in with the throwbacks. The Jimmie Roosevelt spikes Champagne with cognac, green chartreuse, and a dash of bitters, creating a rich, complex taste out of what is normally pure effervescence. Venetian, venetian.com (LTR)

 

Best Happy Hour

Del Frisco’s

Pair an old-school steakhouse vibe with an exceptional half-price food menu (including steak salad, house-ground hamburger, shrimp) and a VIP (vodka infused with pineapple) and you’re already smiling. Add attentive, friendly service and live piano music, and Del Frisco’s happy hour is your entry-level ticket to a top-shelf dining experience. 3925 Paradise Rd, delfriscos.com (JPR)

 

 

Readers' Poll

 

Best Vegan Dishes: VegeNation

Best Mexican Food: Mi Casa Grill Cantina

Best Breakfast: Marilyn’s Café

Best Sandwiches: Capriotti’s

If you’ve enjoyed this read, wait until you get your hands on a bunch of these reads from contemporary voices mining the good stuff from Las Vegas — all laid out in a gorgeous design experience. Subscribe. It comes to your house. For real!

More Stories

Tacos
Desert Companion
Feature
Tacos
KNPR
KNPR's State of Nevada