Desert Companion

The dish: Raising the bar

Double Helix olive poppers

When it comes to sipping and snacking, raise your glass to bar food that pleases the palate

Do you ever agree to meet up with friends for a casual bite over drinks — only to leave disappointed and still hungry? You’ve got a case of the bar-food blues. If you’ve ever groaned at the sight of a nacho platter, complained of chicken finger fatigue or put up with an order of entirely forgettable hot wings, you probably suffer from this common affliction. Fortunately, we have the cure: entree-worthy bar bites that pair perfectly with your drink of choice. 


Olive poppers at Double Helix Wine & Whiskey Lounge

When you’re not quite hungry for a meal but a bowl of pretzels isn’t going to cut it, the Olive Poppers are a nice way to kick off an evening of whiskey-sipping and cigar-smoking at this local’s lounge. Three briny varieties are stuffed with chorizo, breaded and fried, and served with a honey-and-goat-cheese sauce. Just be careful or you might actually start to pop them like pills.

Town Square, 702-735-9463,

Support comes from


Buffalo Fried Oysters and Pot Pie Nuggets at Rx Boiler Room

Rick Moonen’s funky steampunk gastropub (named Desert Companion’s Best New Restaurant of the Year 2013) has an eclectic menu that marries familiarity with creativity. Buffalo Fried Oysters with Frank’s Red Hot sauce and blue cheese is an unexpected match with champagne, but it works. If the shellfish substitute isn’t your thing, you can get your chicken fix in the form of Pot Pie Nuggets — fried tidbits of comfort that pair well with a pale ale.

Mandalay Place, 702-632-7200,


Canadian poutine at Public House

Public House's Canadian Poutine

Disco fries, garbage fries, animal fries ... there are countless ways to name a pile of crispy potato batons topped with stuff. At my favorite gastropub on the Strip, it comes in the form of Canadian poutine. The traditional plate of fries with brown gravy and squeaky cheese curds is given an upgrade with the addition of tender duck confit and an optional (yet oh-so-mandatory) fried egg. For a perfect drink pairing, order a tall stout to tackle the salty beast — preferably whichever one they use to flavor the gravy.

The Venetian, 702-407-5310,


Monte Cristo pops at Yard House

Don’t wait for sunrise to soak up all that booze. The Eat Late menu (10 p.m.) at this beer-centric chain is composed of four creative snacks to nosh on with your nightcap — my favorite being breakfast-for-dinner in bite-sized form. Monte Cristo pops are stuffed with ham, turkey and Swiss cheese, and then finished with powdered sugar and jalapeño peach syrup. In other words, it hits every major food group: porky, sweet, spicy and fried.

Multiple locations,


Fried chicken and haemul pajun at Soyo

A great night of imbibing doesn’t always have to include encyclopedic knowledge of Prohibition cocktails or the service of some handlebar-mustachioed mixologist. At this self-described “barstaurant,” Koreans keep it real with an all-night marathon of cheap beer and soju. To keep their stomachs anchored in place, a platter of fried chicken is the most popular choice. Extra crispy skin and a sweet-and-spicy garlic glaze set them apart from the kinds you’ve had elsewhere. Or, for a more traditional pairing, snack on slices of haemul pajun (green onion and seafood pancake) with a bottle of Makgurli (rice wine). In South Korea, it’s known as a food-and-drink pairing that brings comfort on a rainy day.

7555 S. Rainbow Blvd. #105, 702-897-7696


Philly rolls and Chicken Wing Dip at Naked City Pizza

Naked cityMy love for this popular pizza shop is hindered only by my stomach capacity. The pie is the main draw, but don’t be surprised if you get sidetracked by the “dude food”-friendly dishes on the starter menu. Chicken wing dip, served with grilled flatbread, eliminates the more undesirable elements of eating wings: bones and sauce-stained fingers. Another tidied-up version of a classic is the Philly Rolls. The wrappers are a little too thick, but maybe it’s meant to work as a sponge for an accompanying white garlic sauce. Do you suddenly find yourself too full for the pizza? That’s okay — perhaps, like me, you find a day-old slice to be a guilty pleasure.

Moondoggie’s Bar, 3240 S. Arville St., 702-243-6277,

Naked City Pizza's Philly Rolls

Pork rinds at Brooklyn Bowl

If you’ve booked a lane at Brooklyn Bowl, you had better keep a stash of napkins handy, because you’ll find yourself grabbing a bite of pork rinds between each and every roll. They’re like nachos for the low-carber: a plate of crispy (but not greasy) pig skin ribbons smothered with spicy jalapeños, fresh cilantro and crumbles of queso fresco. It’s a simple and fresh fix that brings life to a gas station snack.

The Linq, 702-862-2695,

More from

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!

KNPR and NPR Thank-You Gifts including t-shirts hoodies and cap

More Stories

Desert Companion
Desert Companion
Desert Companion
All out