Desert Companion

DEALicious Meals, Part I


Photo credit: Christopher Smith and Brent Holmes

Okay,  so the economy’s improving, but it’ll be a long time before we’re all eating gold-dusted moneyburgers like we were before the bust. In the meantime, our fifth annual DEALicious Meals is here to tide you over. From spare-change street food to fine dining deals on the Strip, our annual guide to the city’s tastiest food finds will keep you full for months to come. Happy eating.

Complimentary fries at StripSteak

A wise person once said the best things in life are free. In consideration of StripSteak’s complimentary duckfat fry trio, that couldn’t be truer. While this is somewhat heartier than your typical amuse-bouche, your mouth will nonetheless be very happy with the combination of fries and dipping sauces. Being a Maryland grad, I’m particularly fond of the Old Bay fries in the truffle aioli. While it's not the pairing from the kitchen, my combo will not be denied! JB

Mandalay Bay,


75-cent double chocolate donut at Al’s Donuts

Yes, Al’s Donuts is next door to a dive bar and behind a 7-Eleven, but this ain’t foie gras. Don’t let a little snobbishness come between you and rich, chocolatey bliss. Dunkin’s might be cheaper, but Al’s are still only $.75 apiece and always taste like they were just made. Plus, the dudes behind the counter are at least as sweet as the orbs of vice they’re pushing. You can’t get that extra fix at Dunkin’s. MO

Support comes from

1220 E. Harmon Ave., 735-3039


Glaziers donuts79-cent donuts at Glazier’s

Visit Glazier’s supermarket on any given morning and your nose will inevitably lead you to the shop’s in-house bakery department. There, under a rainbow neon sign that reads “Jelly’s Donuts,” cloudlike puffs of pillowy dough come filled, frosted or in the form of Frisbee-sized fruit fritters. If the choices are overwhelming, stick to the classic glazed donut. A single bite could bring even the most fanatical Krispy Kreme devotee to her knees. DL

8525 W. Warm Springs Road,


$1 chocolate chip cookie at Sunrise Coffee

The fact that after 5 p.m. everything in Sunrise Coffee’s pastry case is only $1 sweetens an already magical experience. You doubt that an end-of-day pastry can be compared to astounding, wand-waving enchantments? Clearly you’ve never tried their chocolate chip cookie. Lightly crisp on the outside, chewy on the inside and lip-smacking delicious all the way through, their cookie will have you questioning your previous junk-food choices and saving your empty calories for happy hour. MO

3130 E. Sunset Road,


$1-$5 Thai food festival at Chaiya Monastery

Hidden away in a residential area near Rainbow and Windmill, Chaiya Monastery hosts an off-the-radar monthly Thai food festival right in their parking lot. Food selections run the gamut from Thai standards such as satay and pad Thai to more unusual, including roti (crepes slathered in condensed milk) and an irresistible tod mun goong (fried shrimp cakes). Imagine a Bangkok street food market, just with a lot more Hangover 1 and a lot less Hangover 2. JB

7925 Virtue Court,


Tacos Mexico$1.69 lengua and cabeza tacos at Tacos Mexico

I once ate pig tongue at a hipster luau in Brooklyn — and it was the worst thing I ever put my teeth into. Cow tongue is different, though. And cow face is good too. Yes, this is a tongue and cheek recommendation. But, you know, literally. These meats, deep in the recesses of the taqueria menu, tend to turn Americans off, but they happen to be the tenderest, tangiest beefs, and Tacos Mexico serves them round-the-clock for only $1.69 each. DH

Multiple locations,


$2.50 carnitas at Yayo Taco

Yayo Taco is back from its hiatus, which means juicy tomatillo Serrano verde, cilantro, and onions smothering the tastiest pork pieces ever to be roasted. The corn tortillas these tiny piles of paradise come on might seem like throwaways, but after they absorb the inner essence, they become clutch. It’s true that as a street-food staple, carnitas sometimes seem omnipresent. Why go elsewhere though, when this egalitarian delicacy has been perfected for $2.25? MO

4632 S. Maryland Parkway,


$2.50 tripa tacos at Taqueria el Palenque

Tripe isn’t exactly a staple of Tacos for Gringos 101, but Taqueria el Palenque is shelling out probably the valley’s most approachable version. Perfectly fried, the meaty morsels aren’t nearly as mineral-y as found elsewhere — surprising given the very authentic surroundings — while the frying endows each bite with a bit more texture, balancing its typical chewiness. Order it on a housemade tortilla — completely worth the upcharge — and experience one of the best tacos in town. JB

2722 E. Lake Mead Blvd., 504-3216


$2.99 falafel at Kabob Korner

Aside from the dated décor, the only thing cringe-worthy about Kabob Korner is the name. For $2.99, you can get five beautifully crisp golden balls of falafel that, when tucked into a soft pita with veggies and sesame sauce, may make you weep with joy. This little spot on Fremont might become another cut-crystal “place to be” unless people start doing the logical thing and dropping in. Let’s face it: You can’t eat a chandelier. MO

507 Fremont St., 384-7722


Icecream Sandwich$3 ice cream cookie sandwiches at Sweet Addiction

Longtime Las Vegans might fall in love with the southwesterly Sweet Addiction for its use of throwback Thrifty ice cream, but its the combination of your favorite smooth and creamy delight with fresh-from-the-oven cookies — and the whimsy of creating your own flavor partners — that makes this neighborhood shop a must-try. You knew when you were a kid that money can’t buy you love, but three dollars will bring you joy. BR

5165 S. Fort Apache Blvd. #160,


$3 Asian fusion tacos at Dragon Grille

Fusion tacos remain as popular as when Kogi took the food truck movement by storm. The latest renditions are available from a new valley entrant — Dragon Grille. Assemble your own tacos by choosing from meats and sauces layered atop rice in a corn tortilla. Kalua pig and beef brisket are among the protein options, while toppings include a sweet Korean Galbicue and spicy Asian sweet chili. Without a constant location to pin them to, you’ll have to work to track them down. It’s worth it. JB


$3 fried stuff at Yonaka 

The latest new/exciting Japanese eatery in town, Yonaka specializes in brilliantly colorful, brightly flavored and creatively configured raw fish dishes, way beyond sushi. But the appetizing list of fried dishes, ranging from three to seven dollars, brings even more bang for your buck. Crispy Brussels sprouts with lemon and chili will recalibrate your taste for this wayward veggie, and juicy nuggets of fried chicken with jalapeño, mint and basil are so good, you better start with two orders. BR

4893 W. Flamingo Road #A,


Pizza$3.50 pepperoni slice at Pop Up Pizza

Secret pizza? The real secret is that the savory, saucy, spicy pepperoni slicce at downtown's Pop Up beats the Cosmo's Brooklyn -style hands down.  Vegan pie's great, but there's no better measure than the classic.  The toasted outer layer of golden mozzarella gives way to a asweet and salty tomato gravy, only surpassed by the crisp meaty goodness flown here from Chicago on the regular.  Italian nirvana for $3.50.  This pizza joint better change its name to Permanent Pizza soon. MO

Inside the Union Plaza,


$3.50 chicken karaage at Fukumimi

It’s easy to miss Fukumimi, a small storefront on the face of an aging battlestar-class strip mall that commands a corner of Trop and Eastern. (Fukumimi’s the blip on the north flank of Baskin & Robbins). Just a bit peckish? The $3.50 deep-fried karaage appetizer will tide you over with its four tender
fried-chicken chunks and crisp green salad. Bigger appetites should dive into
the noodle menu, which features generous bowls of ramen tonkatsu ($7.50) with various twists and tweaks. The signature fukumimi bowl ($9.50) — loaded with extra pork slices — will unleash its own battlestar on your hunger. AK

4860 S. Eastern Ave. #2, 631-2933


$3.76 tacos and wine at Stake Out

Ah, the classic American taco night, with a hard shell barely containing ground beef, tomatoes, lettuce (iceberg, of course), cheese, taco sauce and, if you’re lucky, sour cream. It might not be auténtica, but taco night isn’t about auténtica. It’s about comfort. The same can be said for Stake Out, a homey spot where on Tuesdays you can still get two tacos and a glass of wine for $3.76. A better deal? Not outside your childhood home. MO

4800 S. Maryland Parkway, 798-8383


$4 calamari tacos at Curbside Café

Years ago, Curbside Café owner Doug Porter had a west-side brick-and-mortar seafood joint. Since transitioning to mobile dining, he hasn’t forsaken his roots, offering a duo of memorable seafood tacos — blackened mahi mahi and fried calamari. While mahi mahi is somewhat common, calamari tacos are a rarity and a nod to Porter’s past. Lightly breaded and mixed with pico de gallo and salsa blanca, these tacos boast a noticeable heat without overwhelming the subtle squid. JB


$4 ceviche and $5 coconuts at Cocos Frios

With summer’s oppressive heat upon us, we’re all on the lookout for refreshing meals. For coconuts and ceviche, look no further than the trailer in the tire store parking lot on Nellis south of Owens. Seriously. The ceviche ($4 and up) is not overly acidic and well-balanced, while coconuts ($5) and their accompanying water are a perfect summertime snack. Pay no attention to the passing traffic and you may find yourself transported to a tranquil beachfront resort. JB

1395 N. Nellis Blvd.


Badger Cafe$4-$6 burgers at Badger Café and Dispensary Lounge

Within a half-mile of one another on east Tropicana are two of the town’s best bargain burgers — at Badger Café and Dispensary Lounge. Both have an outstanding dive ambiance — Dispensary has a waterwheel and lawn furniture, while Badger is replete with Wisconsin paraphernalia — and each serves a damn fine burger with the proper char on their handmade patties. Make an afternoon of it, walk off some calories and you can decide on your favorite. JB

1801 E. Tropicana Ave.,
2451 E. Tropicana Ave.,


$4.95 chicken gumbo at Weeziana

The stand-alone food court that hosts Weeziana, along with other nichey micro-eateries, is like a cheap foodie United Nations. Here, peddlers of curry, kimchi, hot wings, tacos and po’ boys come together to solve Las Vegas’ lunch problems. For operating out of a glorified cubicle, Weeziana manages a broad menu of sandwiches, fish baskets, gumbos and desserts (including from-scratch corn bread), but my favorite quick lunch is their spicy, chunky
and satisfying $4.95 chicken gumbo. Bump it up two bucks for their seafood rendition, which features fat shrimp
and crab legs. AK

6475 W. Charleston Blvd., 822-4626


$4.99 curry plate at Kaba Curry

It’s a simple build-your-own situation at Kaba and it begins with lumps of white rice and ultra-savory, slightly sweet Japanese curry gravy for $4.99. Add your favorite tasties for a dollar or two more, stuff like hamburger steak, fried chicken cutlet, potato croquette or Filipino egg rolls. Sprinkle on a 50-cent topping or two (kimchi, corn, cheese?) and commence shoveling into your face. Try not to grin too much while you’re eating. BR

6475 W. Charleston Blvd. #160,


$5 appetizers at Zenshin

Wade through the classic locals’ casino gauntlet of jort-clad chain-smokers, and you’ll be rewarded with Zenshin, an understated sushi restaurant hidden in the southwest crevice of the South Point. Its daily 2-6 p.m. happy hour slashes appetizer prices in half. Skip the standard sushi and instead cast your line for well-executed apps such as $5 hoisin pork belly buns, Asian corn dogs, garlic edamame and a delicate and flavorful salmon poke. Quench the wasabi burn from a $5 cocktail menu rife with stripper names and innuendo: Strawberry Bangkok, Blushin’ Jasmine, Monkey Jacket. AK

Inside the South Point hotel-casino,


$5 meatless eats at Veggie House

You can totally pretend this is just a solid, good value Chinese restaurant. Order appetizers for $5, devour a $6.50 lunch special with broccoli shrimp or fish with hot bean sauce, or share a few entrees that rarely reach the $10 tipping point (we recommend spicy crispy beef or pineapple duck). It’s not that important that no meat product is served at Veggie House, because you won’t be able to tell the difference in the delicious dishes coming out of this creative kitchen. BR

5115 Spring Mountain Road,


PBJ$6 PB&J dessert at Republic Kitchen

This school lunch mainstay gets a French makeover at Republic Kitchen, where the childhood and, uh, aging-bachelor staple is cut into mini-sandwiches, deep fried like French beignets, sprinkled with powdered sugar, topped with whipped cream and served with chocolate and strawberry dipping sauces. Un-nostalgic, this $6 remake is decadent: nutty and sweet, crunchy and soft. It also inspires frequent requests from friends to trade. DH

9470 S. Eastern Ave.,


$7 bar bites at View Wine Bar & Kitchen

Let’s get the happy hour tractor beam out of the way first: The charming View Wine Bar offers $2 “draft” red or white wines and $3 Stella Artois during the early evening hours. But stay for lots of well-priced and tasty dishes, including a killer “farmers market” salad with fried goat cheese nuggets for $7, roasted chicken with pesto for $12, and one of the most buzzed-about new burgers in town for $13. BR

Tivoli Village, 420 S. Rampart Blvd.,


Baguette Cafe$7-$11 sandwiches at Baguette Cafe

Everything here is so good, it's infuriating.  Why? It's only open Monday through Friday, even though it'd be the perfect quiet weekend morning munch.  The fragrance of strong coffee and fresh croissant lures you in, then difficult decisions abound:  Prosciutto on panini or baguette? Or curry chicken or caramelized eggplant?  Bleu or brie or both?  Never has sandwich selection been so deliciously frustrating.  If it didn't smell so damn good in here maybe we could concentrate.  BR

8359 Sunset Road, 269-4781



DC BONUS: STEALicious Meals     Bonus

A taste of Sin City at home

Want to whip up old-school Vegas flavor at your pad? Chefs and mixologists spill their secrets on classic Sin City recipes

By Debbie Lee


Shrimp cocktail

The secret: zingy cocktail sauce

“Shrimp cocktail is a classic, but so often it just isn’t made well,” says Rick Moonen of rm seafood and the forthcoming Rx Boiler Room at Mandalay Bay. “The key to good cocktail sauce is the freshly grated horseradish. You can use it on oysters, clams, shrimp — you know, it works with any shellfish.”

1/2 cup Heinz chili sauce

1/4 cup ketchup

2 tablespoons horseradish, freshly grated

2 teaspoons to 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1 tablespoon gin

7 or 8 shots of Tabasco sauce

salt and pepper to taste

1. Whisk the chili sauce, ketchup, horseradish, lemon juice, gin, and Tabasco together in a bowl.

2. Season with salt and pepper.

3. Refrigerate in an airtight container until you’re ready to use it. It will keep for up to 6 weeks. Makes about 1 cup

(Note: To grate a small amount of horseradish, peel the root and grate it on a microplane. Add a few drops of white vinegar and a pinch of salt. You’ll be amazed how the vinegar will release the pungent aroma of the horseradish. For larger quantities, peel the horseradish and chop it relatively fine. Drop the horseradish into the food processor and process until you’ve got fine, even bits. Season with white vinegar, a teaspoon or two of water and salt.)

 (adapted from Fish Without a Doubt by Rick Moonen & Roy Finamore. Reprinted by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.)


Prime rib

The secret: a flavorful salt crust

Down with the cheap prime rib dinner! Chefs Kim Canteenwalla and Joe Zanelli of Honey Salt spare you from having to eat the flavorless flesh seen baking under buffet heat lamps around town. “Making it at home ensures a fresh roast,” says Canteenwalla. The secret for this standout supper is two roasting temperatures — an initial blast of heat for a delicious crust, followed by low and slow roasting for a juicy interior.

1 10-pound boneless prime rib of beef

1/2 bunch fresh thyme

6 tablespoons sea salt

4 tablespoons freshly ground black pepper

2 tablespoons garlic powder

4 tablespoons paprika

2 tablespoons fennel seed

1/2 cup vegetable oil


1. Allow prime rib to rest at room temperature for two hours before cooking.

2. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Strip thyme leaves from stalks and discard stems. In a small mixing bowl, whisk thyme with remaining dry spices until thoroughly combined. Coat the entire surface of the prime rib in vegetable oil and season with spice mixture.

3. Transfer meat to a foil-lined baking sheet and cook for 15 minutes. Lower oven temperature to 250 degrees and continue roasting until the internal temperature of the prime rib registers at 115 degrees (about 90 minutes.)

4. Allow meat to rest for 15 minutes before carving.


The Zombie

The secret: fresh falernum

While Las Vegas casinos played host to a few popular Polynesian restaurants in the 1950s and ’60s, today’s tiki enthusiasts need to journey off the Strip for their fix of Zombies and Mai Tais. At Frankie’s Tiki Room, head bartender Allison Hartling uses a housemade falernum that any cocktail connoisseur can recreate at home. “You must juice and zest your own citrus,” she says. “It’s what makes the drink.” Hartling adds that falernum is not limited to Zombies—“It goes great with any tropical juices like guava.”


Falernum recipe:

1/4 cup whole raw unsalted almonds

12 limes

8 ounces fresh ginger

16 ounces Way & Nephew white overproof rum

1 pea-sized piece of whole nutmeg

20 whole cloves

2 whole allspice berries

1/4 teaspoon almond extract

3/4 cup sugar

3/4 cup bottled or purified water

1. Place almonds in a skillet and toast over medium heat until they begin to brown. Transfer to a cutting board and allow to cool. Chop into coarse pieces.

2. Using a microplane grater, zest limes and reserve. Juice limes and strain to remove pulp. Reserve 4.5 ounces of juice and store in a tightly covered container, refrigerated, until needed.

3. Mince ginger into matchstick-sized pieces.

4. In a covered glass container, combine rum, lime zest, toasted almonds, nutmeg, cloves, allspice berries and ginger. Cover and allow to macerate at room temperature for 24 hours.

5. After resting period, pour mixture through a fine mesh strainer into a large bowl. Press firmly to extract as much liquid as possible. Discard solids. Add almond extract and reserved lime juice.

6. In a small saucepot, heat water and sugar over medium heat until sugar is dissolved. Let cool and combine with macerated liquid.

7. Store falernum in a bottle or jar. Will keep, refrigerated, for about two weeks.


Zombie recipe:

3/4 ounce Appleton Special gold rum

3/4ounce Myer’s dark rum

1/2ounce Lemon Hart 151 proof rum

1/2 ounce maraschino liqueur

1 drop Pernod

1/4 ounce falernum

1/4 ounce grenadine

2 dashes Angostura bitters

2 ounces pineapple juice

1/2 ounce white grapefruit juice

3/4 ounce lime juice

Build over ice in a 14-ounce old-fashioned glass, then pour contents into a cocktail shaker. Shake, then re-pour into the glass. Serve garnished with pineapple and cherries.

(adapted from Liquid Vacation: 77 Refreshing Tropical Drinks from Frankie’s Tiki Room in Las Vegas by P. Moss)



The secret: the perfect panade

Turn your home into a Rat Pack-approved red sauce restaurant with this classic recipe, courtesy of Rao’s executive chef Dino Gatto. A panade, or breadcrumb mixture, is the key to his moist and light meatballs. “We add the water, cheese and breadcrumbs in layers,” says Gatto.  “If you add it all at once, the results are drier, making it to tough to mix and shape the meatballs.”

1 1/2 pounds ground beef

1/4 pound ground pork

1/4 pound ground veal

3 garlic cloves, minced finely

1/2 cup chopped parsley

Salt and pepper to taste

2 eggs, lightly beaten

1/2 cup water

1 1/4 cups grated Parmesan cheese

1/2 cup plain breadcrumbs

vegetable oil, for frying

1. In a large bowl, add the ground meat and garlic. Form the meat into a well shape, and then add parsley, salt, pepper, eggs, and water to the center of the mixture. Sprinkle cheese on top of the wet mixture as if covering it, followed by the breadcrumbs.

2. Using clean hands, mix ingredients from the outside of the bowl towards the middle, rotating the bowl and folding the meat into the wet ingredients until combined. When finished, shape mixture into meatballs that are roughly the size of golf balls.

3. In a medium sauté pan, add enough oil to coat the cooking surface and heat over medium high for approximately two minutes. Add the meatballs to pan and cook until golden brown, approximately 4 minutes each side. Transfer meatballs to marinara sauce and simmer over low heat. (If you prefer to bake them, you can place them on a cookie sheet and bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes.)

4. Plate in individual bowls and serve with marinara.

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