Desert Companion

DEALicious Meals, Part II

$7-$12 savory stuff at Chocolate & Spice Bakery

Of course the pastries, custom cakes and artisan chocolates are sublime at Megan Romano’s neighborhood sweet spot; no surprises there. The shock comes when you stop in for lunch and realize 1) the basil tomato soup, roasted vegetable frittata, heirloom tomato and mozzarella napoleon and honey maple ham on brioche are as good as it gets, 2) that everything is between seven and 12 bucks and 3) this place still hasn’t been discovered by the west side masses. BR

7293 W. Sahara Ave. #8,


$7.50 noodle soup at ChaCha

This new pan-Asian fun starts at $7.50 and only goes up to $11.95, if you want to “splurge” on the mouth-blasting delight of kimchi seafood ramen in a spicy vegetable broth. The lower end of ChaCha’s noodle soup selection doesn’t skimp on bold flavor,  including rich roasted duck over chewy egg noodles, beefy pho with rare steak and well-done flank, or mixed veggie udon in a Japanese curry-tinted broth. Every noodle culture is well-represented here, and you get it all for cheap. BR

2021 W. Sunset Road,

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$7.99 Lasagna Explosion at Montesano’s

It began as an accident. One day Steve Montesano divided his famous lasagna into thick, hefty portions — yet still had a sliver left over. He cut that piece into bites, breaded, fried and served them to staff with homemade meat sauce. And thus the Lasagna Explosion was set off. A $7.99 antipasti, it’s their regulars’ favorite: rich, melted ricotta with hot pasta in a golden brown crust. So if Montesano’s friendly atmosphere or generous charity events haven’t drawn you, go now and try this. DH

9905 S. Eastern Ave.,


$7.99 Green Goddess at Rainbow’s End

You know when a vegetarian’s like, “It’s so good, you won’t miss the meat?” One sandwich will make you a believer: the Green Goddess. Rainbow’s End has been doing organic since Whole Foods was Safer Way. At $7.99, this wrap is a steal: myriad freshly sliced veggies topped with cheese and wrapped in a locally made pita. This might sound like something you could do at home, but this sandwich tastes like it’s been blessed by a goddess. MO

1100 E. Sahara Ave. #101,


$7.99 pad Thai at Mr. Chop-Chop

Mr. Chop-Chop is a like an urban legend in a way. People are always talking about it, but who’s been? Once you order your first $7.95 pad Thai at this weird little spot tucked away near a Wal-Mart, you start talking about it like Bigfoot. A spicy-as-you-like concoction of al dente noodles layered with chopped peanuts, bean sprouts, and carrot and onion shoots, this dish will make you feel like a pad Thai virgin all over again. MO

5075 S. Pecos Road,


$7.99 meatball parmb at Cugino’s

Cugino’s means “cousin’s” in Italian, and since its owners arrived here from New York seven years ago, it has been embraced like family. Everything is made from scratch, providing a freshness rare around the UNLV campus. The prosciutto sub is their signature, the chicken and broccoli rabe is a hit, but the meatball parm at only $7.99 is their Mona Lisa: a toasted Italian roll with saucy meatballs and melted mozzarella. Bravo, paisanos. DH

4550 S. Maryland Parkway,

Bulgogi Waffles

$8 bulgogi waffles at 28GO

The Transformers, Voltron and Robotech murals might not scream culinary avant garde. But they should. 28GO’s menu is Asian-fusion — fused with American. Their amazing grilled hot dog topped with kimchi and homemade Korean ketchup is a hit. The short rib sliders are a multicultural revelation. My fave, though, is the $8 bulgolgi-stuffed waffle. Tangy marinated tenderloin in a crunchy syrup-catching vessel: It’s a high-tech super-dish made to thwart the evils of dull cooking. DH

4632 S. Maryland Parkway #12,


$8 cevapi at Prince Restaurant

Prince Restaurant is essentially an ethnic social club, providing a valuable tie to the motherland for the valley’s surprisingly robust Serbian population. The menu is awash with Eastern European specialties, the best of which is the housemade cevapi, or miniature sausages. The cevapi ($8 regular, $10 large) are served on a browned, buttered housemade bun alongside kajmak, an addictive amalgam of butter and cream cheese. Slather kajmak onto the bun and you’ve got a smoky, creamy concoction worth seeking out. JB

6795 W. Flamingo #A, 220-8322


$8-$9 pides at Presto Café

Turkish cuisine doesn’t run rampant in Vegas, so stumbling across pides at Presto Café is a welcome surprise. This staple mimics an open-faced Stromboli, with your choice of toppings nestled in light, buttery crust. The Italian robustly combines more common ingredients of housemade meatballs, mozzarella and pomodoro sauce, while the less traditional Blanco melds ricotta cheese, white garlic sauce and pistachios. Either is a welcome introduction to the cuisine of Istanbul (not Constantinople). JB

4950 S. Rainbow Blvd. #130,


$8.49 wood-fired half chicken at Viva Las Arepas

Think El Pollo Loco, minus the bottled charbroil flavor. Viva Las Arepas started as a shack, slinging cheap, late-night grub to a mostly intoxicated crowd. Today, the sunny brick-and-mortar Venezuelan spot offers day- and night-time diners the same satisfying gluten-free cornmeal arepas ($4-$6), plus pork spare ribs ($8.99 with two sides) and salty fire-roasted chicken ($8.49 for a half with two sides) that doesn’t smack of franchise. Pair with a tart passion fruit or guava-like soursop drink. KT

1616 Las Vegas Blvd. S. #120,


$8.50 spicy ramen bowl at Ramen Sora

Warning: The ramen you are about to discover is highly addictive. Turn back now. Ramen Sora has two things that Monta does not: spicy broth and thicker noodles. Soup-slurpers have a choice of three broths: soy-sauce-based shoyu, salt-based shio and miso, the familiar, cloudy bean-paste. Each bowl is loaded with tender pork slices, bamboo shoots, green onion and soft-boiled egg. Spicy ramen ($8.50) is crowned with a scoop of tongue-tingling ground pork guaranteed to leave you fiending. KT

4490 Spring Mountain Road, 685-1011


$8.95 lamb chops at Cuba Café

The waitress is going to recommend the lamb chops ($8.95 for two), and seriously: Get the lamb chops. They’re tender, moist, perfectly grilled, mildly sweet, and will make you curse those misled teenage years you wasted so foolishly on veganism. Served with an herby concoction that will dominate conversation for at least 10 minutes. Next, check out the croquetas ($3.95 for three)  — also meat! — which are something like a tiny ham and cheese corn dog, but better. KT

2055 E. Tropicana Ave. #1,


$8.95 pork-stuffed pocket bread at China Mama

Thankfully, the cooks at China Mama possess more finesse than the menu writers. Although the dishes may not sound appetizing in print (spicy pig ear, anyone?), they’re undoubtedly drool-worthy on the plate. Pork stuffed pocket bread ($8.95 for four) is a lesser-known but equally desirable cousin of the doughy bao sandwich. The thin, unleavened bread is toasted on both sides and topped with sesame.
It’s buttery, but unassuming, and sets stage for the savory filling: fluffy pork crumbles with fragrant green onion and cilantro. KT

3420 S. Jones Blvd., 873-1977


$9-$11 broken rice plates at Pho Bosa

This stalwart Vietnamese hole-in-the-wall added traditional pho to the menu when it moved closer to the Strip, but the criminally inexpensive com tam hay bun (combo plates with “broken” jasmine rice) are the sweet spot. Priced from $9 to $11, these massive meals offer elaborately flavored proteins galore—from grilled pork chops to Korean-style short ribs—plus a puffy, exquisite shrimp cake and a few extra trimmings. BR

3355 Spring Mountain Road #35,


$9-$17 deli meats at Cardenas Markets

You’re under the impression you can’t get a delicious, satisfying meal for your family of four for 20 bucks. You can do better. Get out of the drive-thru line and stop at one of these giant markets, beeline it to the deli counter and behold: grilled chicken to shame El Pollo Loco, the best carnitas in town, or barbacoa-style beef, plus salsas and side dishes to boot. Shop it up Cardenas style. BR

Multiple locations,


$9.50 blue crab sliders at 28GO

The menu at 28GO is crazy fusion, all sorts of wild and playful Asian flavors and presentations. Start your exploration with blue crab sliders ($9.50), totally approachable and utterly tender cakes of panko-crusted crabby goodness on a tomato disc with wasabi-lime aioli and over-the-top balsamic glaze. You’ll be holding onto the sweet Hawaiian roll for dear life and loving every second of this adventure. BR

4632 S. Maryland Parkway #12,


$9.99 vegetable combo at Blue Nile

We all remember mom’s fussy dinner-table adage not to fill up on bread. Well. You know what I’m going to do to your mom? I’m going to take her to dinner at Blue Nile and split the $9.99 vegetable combo with her. Plenty for two, it’s a generous sampler of Ethiopian standards — spicy lentils, sauteed spinach, seasoned green beans, mashed chickpeas, crisp salads laced with jalapeños — and I’m going to soak up all that rich flavor with unreasonably huge swatches of their spongy, juicy injera bread. I’ll stare her down. I’ll eat my bread in grim, silent defiance, a rebel champion of irresponsible deliciosity. AK

4180 W. Desert Inn Road, 485-1158


Short rib grilled cheese$10 short rib grilled cheese at Fat Choy

Bacon does not in fact make everything better. In the case of Fat Choy’s grilled cheese, a filling of luscious braised short ribs puts the standard breakfast strips to shame. Gooey provolone and onion jam lend a cheesesteak-like quality to this popular sandwich, while the rib meat — braised in a bath of soy sauce, rice wine and rock sugar — adds the signature Asian flair that put chef Sheridan Su on the map. DL

inside the eureka, 595 E. Sahara Ave.,


$10 curries at Chada Thai & Wine

Chada is simply the most exciting new restaurant in Vegas, making the low prices for its authentic, dynamic Thai dishes tough to beat. Big plates hover between 15 and 20 bucks, soups and curries go for 10 or less, and a long list of snacks will keep you busy forever. Try tamarind chicken wings or a plate of braised and fried pig parts (both $8), crab and ginger lettuce wraps ($9) or amazing chili-mint charbroiled pork ($8). BR

3400 S. Jones Blvd. #11A,


$11 lamb sliders at Shakespeare’s Pub

Classic British pub fare, this $11 appetizer was introduced by Shakespeare’s Pub and Grille’s former owner — a Scotsman. The new regime kept it on, even though customers tend to shy away from lamb. But why? Hath not a lamb luscious flavors, just like beef? Be it not rich in essential proteins? If you braise it, does it not become succulent and savory? Served on a roll with gravy, does it not become dramatically good? They doth protest too much. DH

790 Coronado Center Drive, 837-7900,


$12.99 half tray meatball pizza at Meatball Spot

Firebrand chef Carla Pellegrino’s fun and friendly Town Square eatery specializes in two things — crispy, chewy, almost-deep-dish pizza and tender, tasty, home-style meatballs. Order the best of both worlds with a half tray pie ($12.99) saturated with tangy tomato sauce and golden brown mozzarella, plus loads of the Spot’s classic pork-beef-veal meatballs, each bite offering plenty of spice mingling through finely ground meat. One slice is a meal within itself. BR

Town Square, 6605 Las Vegas Blvd. S. #145,


$13 vegan farmer’s toast at Honey Salt

Thanks to Kim Canteenwalla of Honey Salt, even the most militant vegans can now find a place among foodies and ladies who lunch. The chef’s farmer’s toast — an open-faced sandwich made with hummus-slathered artisan bread and a confetti of colorful vegetables — is a thoughtful and artfully composed option for the often-neglected ethical eater. Finish with a glass of “green goddess juice” on the side for a virtuous (but still tasty) end to your meal. DL

1031 S. Rampart Blvd., 445-6100,


$14 lomo saltado at Inka Grill

A recipe dating back to Peru’s 19th-century trade boom, the most popular dish at Inka Grill is both delicious and historic. Named “jumping loin” for the way Chinese immigrants tossed soy-sauce marinated beef in a wok with onion, bell pepper and tomato, lomo saltado, served with fried potatoes and rice, is a marriage of indigenous Andean ingredients with Far East cooking. It seems pricey at $14, but is cheaper than a flight to Lima, and just as transportive. DH

9400 S. Eastern Ave.,


$20.13 three-course lunch at Milos

While East Coast expats often grieve over the dearth of good bagels in this town, Canucks are a more fortunate bunch. As part of Costas Spiliadis’ Milos three-course lunch, legendary St-Viateur bagels are flown in direct from Montreal. Silky slices of Nova Scotia smoked salmon and all of the accouterments (sharp rings of red onion, mouth-puckering capers, and cream cheese for schmearing) are also included. It’s a plate that any carb fiend, Canadian or not, will relish. DL

Inside The Cosmopolitan,


$22 all-you-can-eat sushi at Sushi House Goyemon

All You Can Eat sushi is not for everyone; however, under the right circumstances, it can be quite the windfall. This is true of the spread at Sushi House Goyemon, where high-quality fish is being served alongside Japanese staples. Besides the sushi, don’t miss the seared pork belly or innovative desserts. And here’s a secret: If you’re dining there after 11 p.m., you can even order Monta’s renowned shoyu ramen. Just keep that secret between us — they’re busy enough already. JB

5255 S. Decatur Blvd.,

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