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Best of the City: Our expert picks

Whether it’s a sandwich or spa, bookstore or Bloody Mary, hiking trail or tailor, you’ll find the best of it all in the pages ahead. But we wouldn’t  be doing our best if we didn’t make a few upgrades. Thus, our third annual Best of the City boasts a few new twists. In addition to our team of expert eaters, drinkers and shoppers, this year, we also feature picks from neighborhood experts in every corner of the valley, who rave about the bestiest things in their ’hoods.

But perhaps the most savvy expert of all? You. Check out the readers’ poll results on page 65 to see if your favorite made the cut. For you — only the best.

Meet our Team of Experts

Sponsor Message

BROCK RADKE - I'm a food editor at Las Vegas Weekly, a culinary explorer and a second-generation sandwich adventure consultant.

JIM BEGLEY - I'm an avid food- and drink-lover who writes to defraymy obscene restaurant spending habit.

DEBBIE LEE - Maturing from a frozen dinner-dependent latchkey kid to pastry chef, I have a palate that's both populist and plutocratic.

LISSA TOWNSEND RODGERS - I covered bars for alt-weeklies. I also learned to make a martini when I was 6.

JENNIFER PROSSER - I use my deal-finding spidey senses to seek out the city's best stores, services and spas.

Sponsor Message

MISTI YANG - I'm community director of Yelp Las Vegas. Here are my picks - and some from my most trusted Yelpers.

JARRET KEENE - I'm a contributing editor to Vegas Seven and a fully credentialed retro-pop culture nerd.

DAVID MCKEE - I'm a self-styled renaissance man who chronicles the casino industry by day and writes about the arts on weekends.

MIKE PREVATT - On the music beat for Las Vegas CityLife, I'm rock 'n' roll all night and tardy everyday.

JOANNE HAUGEN - I'm a returned Peace Corps volunteer who seeks adventure from the Inca Trail to Iceland to our own backyard in Southern Nevada.

Sponsor Message

TAYLOR BERN - I'm a sportswriter for the Las Vegas Sun who can be found flailing about on local basketball courts.

ALAN GEGAX - I've been hiking Southern Nevada so long , I've come to appreciate the desert's many shades of brown.


Eat & Drink
Nom-noms and big buzzes


Best new pizza (on the Strip)


This Wynn restaurant has always hosted excellent chefs doing their version of casual Italian food. Now, refashioned as Allegro, it has an excellent casual Italian chef — Enzo Febbraro — cooking his food, including killer Neapolitan pizzas that rival any in town, cracker-crisp and finished with artful flair like the focaccia: crème fraiche, smoked salmon and chives. (Wynn, 248-3463,

Best new pizza (in the neighborhood)

Those Guys Pies

Can you find great New York-style pie hiding in our tony ’burbs? Look in the Lakes and find Those Guys, who crank out pristine pizza perfection with uncanny consistency. Go all-white (ricotta, mozzarella and garlic) or all-meat (sausage, meatballs, pepperoni and bacon) and stay happy. And try the cheesesteaks, too.
(2916 Lake East Drive, 629-2626,

Best public house

Public House at The Venetian

There are two different booze-and-grubs with the same name on the Strip, but it’s no contest. The Luxor version is a glorified sports bar. The Venetian spot is the best gastropub Vegas has to offer, complete with a mind-blowing craft beer selection and imaginative cuisine that hammers the sweet spot. (Venetian, 407-5310,

Best underground foodfest

Saturday Night Truck Stop

Think the food truck fad has dwindled? Not so fast. They huddle at industry dive Tommy Rocker’s every Saturday at 8 p.m., serving up their wild and mobile grub and occasionally letting top chefs from the Strip borrow their wheeled kitchens for the rowdy Back of the House Brawl. Be ready for a party if you take this trip. (Tommy Rocker’s, 4275 Dean Martin Drive, 261-6688,

Best fried chicken

Meat & Three

This new neighborhood pleasure cafeteria is all about Southern-style satisfaction, simple meats with soulful sides, and the thick-crusted buttermilk fried chicken sets the tone. Hot and juicy on the inside, savory and crunchy on the outside, this is dream-come-true food. Try it with bacon-dill potato salad.
(10940 Eastern Ave. #108, 473-5577)

Best pancakes


Sorry, fans of Du-par’s. Second place for you. Good news is the top ’cakes are still downtown, at chef Natalie Young’s hipster magnet diner. Hers are a little thinner, a little eggier, with buttery-crunch edges that should be trademarked. There’s even a sausage on top, waiting for that lovey-dovey maple syrup first kiss. (707 Carson St., 534-1515,

Best place to hide from clubhoppers at Encore


Who let all these damn kids in here? Today’s brand of Vegas nightlife can be jarring, but there are still beautiful spaces in our beautiful resorts away from all the oontz-oontz. Let the great chef Theo Schoenegger take care of you at the Chairman’s garden-side restaurant, a delectable shelter. (Encore, 248-3463,

Best place to rediscover your love for Vegas

Picasso’s terrace

Remember the end of the remade “Ocean’s Eleven,” when Brad Pitt and Matt Damon and the guys are super happy and at peace at the Bellagio’s fountains? Wait for perfect weather, then return to this iconic Vegas restaurant space. The backside fountain view, the supreme French-Spanish cuisine and the charmingly superior service will have you smiling just that huge. Trust. (Bellagio, 693-8865,

Best post- or pre-concert snack

Pretzels and fondue at Culinary Dropout

Whether you’re catching a headliner at the Joint or digging the scene at Vinyl, you’re going to need some fuel, and the Hard Rock’s new pub has a menu full of shareable, lovable snacks. The best are these warm, soft, sea-salted pretzel nuggets with melty provolone cheese dip. Don’t worry, you can come back after the show for more. (Hard Rock Hotel, 522-8100,

Best new steakhouse

McCall’s Heartland Grill

Steakhouses on the Strip are all the same, and they’re all expensive. Nope. The Strat’s newest restaurant is bangin’ for your bucks, stocked with incredible steaks for $30 or less and fun, flavorful bites like lollipop chicken wings, green curry seafood fettuccine, bacon-jalapeño prawns and chili-roasted St. Louis ribs. (Stratosphere, 800-998-6937,

Best secret sandwich shop

Baguette Café

Even if you spot it from the southwest beltway, this place is hard to get to. But once you smell the fresh baguettes and croissants, you’ll know you’re in sandwich heaven, a happy place where the only stress comes from deciding between prosciutto and blue cheese or curried chicken. (8359 W. Sunset Road, 269-4718)



Best classic to revisit


Long before Joël, Guy and even Wolfgang arrived in the valley, Chef André Rochat was our first celebrity chef. While his original eponymous downtown outpost is gone, he can still be found serving classically inspired French cuisine from his tucked-away Monte Carlo outpost. He’s worth tracking down. (Monte Carlo, 798-7151.)

Best hummus


Sababa owner Rami Cohen makes his hummus fresh daily — sometimes in batches up to 100 pounds a day. Paired with some of his made-to-order falafel, you’ve got yourself a simple but delightful dipping meal. (3220 S. Durango Drive, 547-5556,

Best gnocchi from an oven

Due Forni semolina gnocchi

Truth in advertising: Due Forni (Italian for “two ovens”) has only two cooking appliances: ovens. With this in mind, Executive Chef Carlos Buscaglia devised an ingenious method for preparing gnocchi in-house — semolina. Served in a black truffle crema awash with ample Nueske’s bacon, the result is a cavalcade of smoke and umami. Who needs a stovetop?
(3555 S. Town Center Drive #105, 586-6500,

Best poutine

Naked City Pizza Shop

Poutine — fries with cheese curds smothered in gravy — are a gift from our neighbors to the north. Buffalo native Chris Palmeri’s version is dutifully served with hand-cut fries whose freshness is not obscured by the addictive toppings. Since Buffalo’s nearly in Canada, you can rest assured you’re partaking of authenticity. (Moondoggies Bar, 3240 Arville St., 243-6277,

Best off-Strip lunchtime steal

Kyara’s saba shio lunch special

Kyara’s $9 lunch consists of miso soup, salad with ginger dressing, a variety of lightly-fried tempura, steamed rice and your choice of meat. I prefer the saba shio – perfectly grilled mackerel with the smokiness inherent to Kyara’s robata grill offerings. It’s a lot of food, so go hungry.
(6555 S. Jones Blvd. #120, 434-8856,

Best hostel-esque Eastern European haunt

Prince Restaurant

Prince Restaurant may be tiny, isolated and have a cigarette machine in the restroom (seriously), but overcome your trepidation and you’ll find a very inviting staff with an incredibly interesting menu. You’ll wonder why there aren’t Serbian joints on every corner. (6795 W. Flamingo Road #A, 220-8322)

Best taste of Wisconsin

Big Dog’s cheese curds

A native Chicagoan, I appreciate good cheese curds, and those at Big Dog's transport me back to a childhood of cornfields and cow-tipping. Get some alongside a brat and they’ll tender you Wisconsin citizenship for free. (But don’t feel obligated to root for the Packers.) (6390 W. Sahara Ave., 876-3647,

Best use of oxtail and bone marrow

Blue Ribbon Sushi Bar & Grill’s oxtail fried rice

Oxtail and bone marrow: two uncommon ingredients sometimes difficult to incorporate into a single menu, let alone one dish. Blue Ribbon does so seamlessly with its rich oxtail-laden rice topped with an even richer bone marrow omelet. (Cosmopolitan, 736-0808,

Second best use of oxtail and bone marrow

Comme Ça’s oxtail eggs benedict

Not to be outdone by his third-floor neighbor, Comme Ça Executive Chef Brian Howard created his riff on the breakfast classic. Layers of 48-hour braised oxtail, poached eggs and organic spinach sit atop a Gruyere and pepper gougère, all smothered in bone marrow and truffle hollandaise. (Cosmopolitan, 698-7910.)

Best hangover cure

Babystacks Café’s Spam scramble

After a night of serious imbibing, what you need is canned meat. High in sodium, protein and fat, it’s nature’s remedy for that raging headache of yours. Babystacks uses eggs with a sprinkle of furikake as the vehicle for this medical marvel, providing the perfect backdrop for the cure. (4135 S. Buffalo Drive #101, 207-6432,

Best dish served on a stone

Carmine Little Italy’s shrimp on a stone

2012 was a year of celebration as we rejoiced the return of Carmine’s shrimp on a stone. This simple dish — shrimp sautéed in garlic and oil and cooked on a piping hot stone — is seriously addictive. One taste of caramelized shrimp and garlic served tableside and you’ll be hooked. (2940 S. Durango Drive, 243-7777,

Best beer bar you’ve never been to

Aces & Ales

This inconspicuous gaming bar boasts the Valley’s most eclectic tap list and hosts numerous special beer events throughout the year. Skip the mass-market brews and instead hunt down some rarities from Aces’ constantly rotating selection. (3740 S. Nellis Blvd., 436-7600,



Best spin on comfort food

Chicken Pot Pie Nuggets at View Bar and Kitchen

Judging by its self-consciously stylish looks, this Tivoli Village restaurant shocked me by recreating — and then elevating — the flavors of my favorite childhood meal. One taste of the crunchy croquettes delivered the gourmand’s version of an acid flashback. Finally, a dish to knock the ubiquitous fried mac-and-cheese off its block. (440 S. Rampart, 529-0090,

Best alternative to a Starbucks drive-thru

The Human Bean

The gridlock every morning outside any Starbucks could incite serious road rage; thankfully for the citizens of Vegas, I can barely honk a horn before my first cup of joe. Impatience reroutes me to this drive-thru, where baristas serve fair trade coffee with a smile — and complimentary chocolate-covered espresso beans! (multiple locations,

Best high-end meal $50 will buy you

“Revive at 5” at AMERICAN FISH by Michael Mina

My commitment-phobic nature loves the “Revive at 5” special, where 10 items — including oysters, lobster rolls and tuna tartare — are just five bucks a pop. Why get stuck with a single entrée when you can peck at 10 small plates? Portions lean towards Lilliputian, but the flavors are definitely big. (Aria in CityCenter,

Best McDonald’s rip-off

Whalers at Rattlecan

Keep your highfalutin’ food rules to yourself. I mix seafood and American cheese with pride, and I’ve got chef Sammy D to back me up. His Whalers mimic the flavors of a filet-o-fish, only they’re served as a trio of sliders. Stick it to snobby foodies not once, but thrice. (3355 S. Las Vegas Blvd., 659-9643.)

Best brunch dish for the homesick New Yorker

Bacon, egg and cheese sandwich at La Cave

La Cave’s version of the bodega breakfast sandwich includes all of the original details (crusty kaiser roll, wax paper), only it’s served in sleek environs that bear no resemblance to the grungy, fluorescent-lit delis of home. Sigh — I suppose the change in scenery is a sacrifice I’m willing to make. (Wynn Las Vegas, 770-7375,

Best creme brûlée (you won’t believe this)

Oyshi Sushi

An all-you-can-eat sushi restaurant is the last place I’d ever expect to find a perfectly executed French dessert. A crackly crust gives way to a wobbly center, and its miniature size is just enough to cure an umami-fatigued tongue. Unlike the screaming orgasm, this is sexy in an understated way. (7775 S. Rainbow Blvd., 646-9744)

Best source for appetizings


If a bagel is the Seinfeld of Jewish cuisine, think of appetizings as his cast of colorful cohorts. This market is my go-to destination for lox, whitefish (both from Brooklyn’s Acme) and pickled herring — all of which bring out the best in a beloved, but otherwise ordinary, ring of dough. (8525 West Warm Springs Road, 614-1111,



Best dive bar

Snick’s Place

Las Vegas’ oldest gay bar is also one of its finest dive bars. There’s the de rigueur dim lighting, noisy jukebox, cheap ’n’ strong drinks, low-key atmosphere. But Snick’s has a Gus Van Sant’s “Barfly” vibe, with an assortment of local scene-makers and aging transvestites, off-duty concierges and amateur psychics, shuffleboard aficionados and some of the most charming bartenders in town. (1402 S. Third St., 385-9298)

Best Bloody Mary

Gold Mine Tavern

Sunday is Bloody Mary day at downtown Henderson’s Gold Mine Tavern. The light slants through the front windows, a few desultory pool games go on in the back, but your focus is on a tall glass of spicy, scarlet tomato juice and vodka — there’s the usual vegetable garnish, but it also comes with a side of ruffled-crisp bacon. Yup, bacon. What else do you need to know? (23 S. Water St., 478-8289)

Best place to watch sports

The Longbar at the D

The Longbar at the D is appropriately named: a bar that extends the entire length of the casino. Lined up behind this yardage are dozens of TV screens — it seems every game is playing, but if your team isn’t on, they’ll find it. Add to the sporting vibe by picking up a hot dog at American Coney Island, just a few steps away. (301 Fremont St., 388-2400,

Best cold-weather drink

Hot chocolate with salted caramel vodka at Jake’s

When the icy wind is howling through the neon, you need something to warm you on every level. The relaxed atmosphere and friendly bartenders at Jake’s are cozy enough, but go to their hot chocolate spiked with salted caramel vodka to get a toasty glow. The drink’s temperature brings heat, as does the sweetness of the chocolate and the spike of the vodka. (2301 S. Eastern Ave., 457-0053)

Best unpretentious mixology

Herbs & Rye

The handcrafted cocktail trend often brings “my palate is more refined and exotic than yours” douchebaggery. Herbs & Rye’s multi-page, historically curated menu may intimidate at first, but the relaxed atmosphere and gracious bartenders make ordering a Blood & Sand or an Aviation as easy as calling for a Bud Light. (3713 W. Sahara Ave., 982-8036)

My mom’s favorite bartender

Brett at the Double Down

“You took your mom to the Double Down?” Yes, I did. My dad, too. They like it there, largely thanks to Brett, a nice boy from New Orleans who is equally quick with a Grey Goose martini or a bottle of Rolling Rock, as well as subtly guiding AARP members to the seats that don’t face the anime porn. (4640 Paradise Road, 791-5775)  

Best bar to take pretty much any out-of-town visitor

Frankie’s Tiki Room

The eternal Vegas duty: Showing around the out-of-towners. Sometimes it can be tough to strike the right level of “only in Sin City” for your charges, but Frankie’s never fails. Be they judge or junkie, boss or brother, hip or square, they’re always impressed by the funky original art, hand-carved tikis, hula girl videos — and potent drinks like Fink Bombs and Polynesian Pile Drivers. (1712 W. Charleston Blvd., 385-3110,

Best happy hour, Appalling Number of Choices edition

Elements Kitchen & Martini Bar

Elements’ martini menu is several pages long and features hundreds of choices, from the 007 (Tanqueray, Belvedere, Lillet) to Z’s Foxy Brown (Absolut Vanilla, Godiva, cognac), from a classic Gibson or Lemon Drop to house eccentricities such as the Happy Oyster or Razputin. It may take you all happy hour to actually read the whole thing, so order as you go along. (4950 S. Rainbow Blvd. #100, 750-2991) 

Best Happy Hour, I’m Hungry edition

Nob Hill

The elegantly minimalist space and high-end cuisine of Michael Mina’s Nob Hill doesn’t seem like it would welcome pennywise bar-hoppers. But they do — and warmly, with drink and snack specials from 5:30 until closing. Drinks include wines and cocktail specials for $6, while snacks range from oysters to duck fat fries to short rib sliders. (MGM, 891-7337) 

Best hot-weather drink

W.W.E.D. at the Neapolitan

It stands for “What Would Elvis Do,” and we can all agree that the King would do a milkshake with peanut butter, banana liqueur, bourbon spike and bacon bits sprinkled on top. Absurdly delicious, and just the thing while you watch “Wizard of Oz” or “Sixteen Candles” by the Cosmo’s Boulevard Pool. (Cosmopolitan, 698-7000)

Best cocktail

The Libertine at the Chandelier Bar

The Chandelier Bar’s acres of Swarovski glitter impresses, but not nearly as much as the cocktails. Amid three menus featuring the latest flavors and trendiest techniques, the Libertine is still a standout. It’s got a Maker's Mark base, mixed with orange marmalade (jam-in-cocktails trend!), rosemary syrup (herbal libation trend!) and maple syrup foam (molecular drinkology trend!) for a sweet-savory, addictive taste. (Cosmopolitan, 698-7000) 


Shopping Spree Stores, services and a little fun


Best seamstress

Jessica at Best Alterations

Rushing in breathlessly, I jabber off how I need a dress altered for a party, a suit brought in for a last-minute luncheon — and Jessica accommodates, with a smile, every time. Her work is quick, flawless and reasonable — the holy trinity of tailoring. (Galleria at Sunset, 434-2341,

Best mani/pedi

Costa Del Sur Salon at South Point hotel-casino

Many people don’t even know that the South Point has a spa and salon. Serene and sublime, the tranquil environment boasts glorious water features; the manis and pedis here are so precise, it’ll be your mission to keep your nails in tip-top shape.
(9777 Las Vegas Blvd. S., 797-8030,

Best hair stylist

Kathy Lawson at D’Hair to be Different

If ever I win Megabucks, I will employ Kathy Lawson as my full-time hairstylist. She’ll whisk you in, help you find the right cut and/or color for you, all while regaling you with one story after another. And special-occasion hairstyles are her calling. (6400 Eastern Ave., 612-4570)

Best spa with dolphins

Yoga Among the Dolphins

Just sittin’ here, minding my own business and hating Downward Dog, when an Atlantic bottlenose dolphin — or three — belly up to the glass downstairs at the Dolphin Habitat. Suddenly, my world is more serene, if only for an hour. The power of nature was never greater. (Mirage,

Best spa you don’t know about

WELL at Platinum

I feel like “Winnie the Pooh’s” Gopher each time I visit this heavenly haven — I go there to seek out the darkness, the exclusivity of the most luxurious relaxation room in town. I shroud myself in candlelight and sheer curtains; I want for nothing. (inside The Platinum, 211 E. Flamingo Road, 365-5000,

Best antique shop

A Moment in Time

From the time I hit my first yard sale as a teen, the pursuit of the deal has coursed through my blood like a Corvette along the 215 — the heady, humming rush is fed by antique stores with myriad, eclectic offerings. A Moment in Time has yielded a wealth of gems for me. (1638 E. Charleston Blvd., 388-0051)

Best home design store

Cyan Design at Las Vegas Design Center

Have I walked into an Andy Warhol color explosion? It certainly feels like it when I set foot in this showroom, with its luminescent design scheme and eclectic bric-a-brac. It’s one of the only showrooms at the LVDC that sells directly to the public. (495 S. Grand Central Parkway, #A-236, 586-8402,



Best place to out a spot

Master Cleaners

They’ve been married for 40 years, speak five languages, and he used to design shoes. At Master Cleaners, they’re doing more than wrapping up my duds in cellophane. Houri and her husband treat my clothes with what’s best described as artisanship. Every “Care Instructions” tag is read, and every garment returned spotless. (5965 W. Sahara Ave. #C, 362-4085)

Best watchman

Quick Repair Jewelry

Quick Repair Jewelry owner Alberto rescued Yelper Kristal R. just in the nick of time — literally: “I called this repair shop about five minutes before closing. I was 20 minutes away, and I told him that I wanted to resize my fiancé’s b-day watch. He told me he would wait for me, no problem.” A heroic deed for a humble guy: “A great man who owns a great little hole-in-the-wall jewelry repair shop.” (7632 Westcliff Drive, 434-9333)

Best hope for diamonds in the rough

Morgan Taylor Jewelers

Don’t get me wrong — I have nothing against diamonds, but my engagement ring doesn’t get handled with kid gloves. When my diamond gets loose or I crush my band (hey, parties can be dangerous!), I trust Dan and Raoul to set her straight and clean her up good as new without charging a mint. (7995 W. Sahara Ave., 259-8011,

Best bespoke on a budget

Alterations By Ana

When anthropometry (or my domesticity) fails, Ana succeeds. Even mending a button baffles me, and she’s so affordable, that I don’t intend on retaking Home Ec.  Broken zippers, sagging hemlines and misshapen clearance-rack finds go to Ana. (6370 W. Flamingo Road, 227-9596)

Best bet for saving your app

iPhone Repairs Vegas

I wouldn’t know where to eat if it weren’t for my iPhone, so instead of starving, if my screen cracks or a button stops working, I have a plan: Visit one of the highest-rated iPhone repair shops on Yelp. Best part: I can get a foot massage next door while I wait. (3735 Spring Mountain Road #202, 927-6912,

Best man for the job

Las Vegas Handyman

If DIY-er and Yelper Jacob M. trusts Las Vegas Handyman, so do I: “He was very polite and very professional.” And Jacob got something priceless for their very fair price: a bit of know-how. “We wanted to watch him work, as we wanted to learn how to do this in the future. He was very okay with that, and let us ask him questions while he worked.” (248-0550,

Best spot for the squeaky wheel

Professional Brake Service

Their 46-review, 5-star status proves that, like Yelper Theresa C. says, the team here is "honest, friendly, and altogether upright people … (I) would recommend them to any women out there who don't want to be swindled by all the shady repair shops out there!" Bonus: They’ve been known to take Mountain Dew as partial payment. (544 E Silverado Ranch Blvd. #104, 897-1988,



Best hobby shop

Dansey’s Hobbies

A middle-aged man, I didn’t know I needed a remote-control vehicle or laser-cut miniature castle until entering this eastside nook of OCD-fostering wonder. Dansey’s excels in the categories of RC vehicles and dollhouses. Desire a 1/8-scale Revenge Nitro Buggy or a wooden Storybook Cottage kit? Duck in here and indulge.
(4252 E. Charleston Blvd., 453-7223,

Best retro-videogame and repair shop

A Gamer’s Paradise

Not even the treasure in The Legend of Zelda can beat this trove of vintage-gaming pleasures (with two locations). Get your original Nintendo NES system tuned-up, grab an Altered Beast cartridge for the SEGA Genesis or pick up a $40 Atari 2600 system — and fall into a Pitfall marathon. (1550 E. Tropicana Ave., 432-4700, 1000 N. Nellis Blvd. #C, 438-2143.)

Best lowrider bicycle shop

First Choice Bicycle

First Choice is the first place I went for my chrome-spoked lowrider cruiser. The banana seat, sissy bar, white-walls and upward-sweeping ape-hanger handles complement my pimped-out style. Sure, my pedal-powered artwork on wheels suggests I don’t care about ridability. In my defense, cars see me coming for miles. (1000 E. Charleston Blvd., 382-5775)

Best fish store

Atlantis Tropical Fish

The fish here are gorgeously vibrant: Tomato clown nestling inside a pink bubble anemone. Black-and-white banggai cardinals drifting like a herd of banished ghost-aliens. Electric-blue chromis kissing a hermit crab’s twiddling micro-maw. With everything from starter kits to custom aquariums, Atlantis and its cool employees make you feel at sea — in a good way. (1930 Rock Springs Drive, 869-6448.)

Best laser tag


I’ve already booked my 6-year-old’s birthday bash at this multi-level, 5,800-square-foot arena. There’s a for-parents observation deck where I’ll laugh maniacally as I watch first-graders stumble through blacklit, dubstep-pounding, post-apocalyptic ruins and phaser-tag each other’s LED vests with green laser light beams. A video arcade, snack bar and super-friendly staff make this place a, well, blast. (8125 W. Sahara Ave. #200, 228-0951

Best comics-and-toys nostalgia

Collector’s Playground

Every action figure and comic book my mom threw away when I left for college can be found in this wistful shop at Boulevard Mall (with a second location at Galleria).  All my ’80s-era, movie tie-in, doll-size pals — Predator, RoboCop — are for sale. And printed adventures of my favorite superhero groups can be re-bought. Sports memorabilia for jocks, too. (3528 S. Maryland Parkway #900, 433-8697)

Best vintage furniture

Corner Store

My wife loves this place for its midcentury mod home furnishings. I do, too. The selection and décor touches are so eclectic and imaginative you’ll swear off driving to California IKEAs. Moreover, the analog cameras, ribbon-punching typewriters and rotary phones stashed throughout time-warp me to journalism’s golden years.
(1201 S. Main St., 331-6009,


Visual art, music, culture


Best cultural ambassador

Luana DeVol

Despite having officially retired from the operatic stage, Luana DeVol still “pays it forward” around the country and globe. She’s a frequent vocal tutor in apprentice programs from Aachen to Zürich, Pittsburgh to San Francisco. She gives the occasional performance, too, sounding fresh as a daisy in Opera Las Vegas’ recent “Don Giovanni.”

Best Blu-Ray deals


Some secondhand emporia charge premium prices for discs that look like something the cat dragged in, covered in sticky substances. Behold the row upon pristine row of high-def video at Buybacks, where the laws of supply and demand dictate pricing — meaning you can snap up Steven Soderbergh’s “Contagion” for $5 or season two of “Heroes” for $13. (2580 S. Decatur Blvd., 333-5890; 601 Mall Ring Circle, 568-9008)

Best architecture

Hoover Dam

When The Smith Center brain trust needed to find an aesthetic, it reached back 80 years and copied Hoover Dam. It’s both the grandest and most iconic architectural statement in Southern Nevada. Gordon Kaufmann’s Art Deco scheme, graced by Oskar Hansen’s sculptures and Allen Tupper True’s anthropologically derived décor conspired to create an edifice both of its time and place … a design statement we still struggle to surpass.

Best public art


Roving packs of tourists often obscure that Henry Moore sculpture at CityCenter, to the contemplative art lover’s despair. But if owner MGM acts as though it’s hiding the beaux arts in plain view, there’s no denying the power of beholding the color explosion of Nancy Rubins’ “Big Edge” or the colossal whimsy of Claes Oldenburg’s 19-foot typewriter eraser. It’s the trippiest sensation in town, even when sober.

Best museum

Boulder City/Hoover Dam Museum

Think you’ve got it rough? See what the men and women who built Hoover Dam put up with to make an honest buck in the depths of the Great Depression: hazardous work in a savage climate, enduring indescribable privation. This Boulder City institution tells the story through powerful photo montages, oral histories and some of the best dioramas in Nevada. Afterward, you’ll count your blessings. (inside the Boulder Dam Hotel, 1305 Arizona St., 294-1988,

Best place to see theater

Onyx Theatre

Try to ignore the fetish shop off the lobby and late-night staples like “Confessions of a ’Roid Fag.” Onyx Theatre is like Baby Bear’s porridge: Just the right size and configuration for tragedy and comedy alike. Artistic director Brandon Burk’s mainstreaming of Onyx programming will hopefully reduce its unwarranted “fear factor.” (953 E. Sahara Ave. #16B, 732-7225,

Best place to hear classical music

Doc Rando Recital Hall at UNLV

Wood, warm-toned wood everywhere — except for the soaring organ pipes. No wonder UNLV’s Doc Rando Recital Hall is as sonorous and reverberant as the body of an acoustic guitar. For solo recitals, instrumental ensembles and even — in a pinch — opera, Doc Rando yields sound no other Vegas hall can rival. (4505 S. Maryland Parkway)

Best Strip extravaganza


Ascending skyward, crowned with rows and rows of showgirls, the prodigious stage of “Jubilee!” is a staircase to nostalgia heaven. Where else can you hear an irony-free rendition of “A Pretty Girl is Like a Melody” or see the Titanic’s sinking depicted as the ultimate booty call? The “Samson and Delilah” segment is the funniest spectacle in town. (Bally’s,
3645 Las Vegas Blvd. S.,

Best place to see old(er) movies

South Point theaters 9 and 10

While South Point’s vast “XD” screen usually hosts blockbusters, it’s also proving to be a congenial home for ’50s spectaculars like William Wyler’s “Ben-Hur” and John Ford’s “The Searchers.” The secret ingredient is the screen’s curvature, which brings curved-lens widescreen processes like CinemaScope and VistaVision literally back into focus. (9777 Las Vegas Blvd. S., 796-7111,



Best musicians you’ve never seen

UNLV Jazz Studies Department

It doesn’t get any less cooler than sitting at a library with a bunch of parentals watching a student jazz ensemble. And then the kids do what no Beauty Bar band has ever done: nail a Radiohead cover. Whether in big band or combo formation, UNLV’s nationally acclaimed jazz crew blows minds at every gig. (, search “jazz studies”)

Best breakout hope

Most Thieves

As soon as I heard that two members served as techs for The Killers, I hastily branded their band as opportunists. But this quintet has done anything but ride Brandon Flowers’ peacock feathers, and its ethereal rock contrasts with the bombast of its employers. A budding British fan base portends a future one at home. (

Best troubadour

Wyatt McKenzie

He’s the most fearless singer-songwriter in a town hostile to them. His tunes are like aural Ritalin to Sin City’s distracted audiences and his confessional, imagery-rich lyrics make him the poet laureate of Fremont East. He bailed on us in 2011, but was sucked back by the giant void he left. (

Most perfect indie band

A Crowd of Small Adventures

“Are you cold?” asked the person pointing at my arm while I watched indie rock sextet A Crowd of Small Adventures play. I literally had goose pimples from hearing “Fast Travel,” the crowning achievement of a band that has failed to produce a single sour note in its six-year existence. (

Best musical journeymen


While your band struggles to learn that three-chord Cobain knockoff, improv rock outfit Moksha is impossibly rearranging one of its songs in real time on stage while 200 people boogie faithfully along. Nine minutes later, we attain climax. By show’s end, we attain nirvana — the real kind.

Best hip-hop

Rhyme N Rhythm

Live hip-hop is always the best hip-hop, and this septet slays with performance forte and stylistic versatility; they’re our version of The Roots. When the Strip slammed the door on hip-hop, RNR blew it open again by literally playing on the
Boulevard sidewalk — and by the force of its charm and chops. (

Best scene booster

Patrick “Pulsar” Trout

He’s almost too earnest and anti-hipster for downtown — he wears his pro-wrestling fandom as proudly as his ’frohawk — but his tough love and tireless promotion earns him unimpeachable credibility. (

Best venue

Boulevard Pool at The Cosmopolitan

I’ve seen The xx perform on its fourth-story stage through a dream-like drizzle, Wayne Coyne of The Flaming Lips nearly roll over the wall rails in his crowdsurfing bubble-ball, and countless bands play the Strip-nestled venue before they even play their first Coachella. Those are but a few landmarks for a venue surrounded by them. (Cosmopolitan, 698-7000,

Best music scene survivor

Neon Reverb

Downtown’s downscaled but enduring bi-annual music festival has run a gauntlet that would shame the most brutal Roman army. If organizers can just seduce a major booze sponsor and avoid being steamrolled by deeper-pocketed competitors, they’ll emerge from the scene’s atomic warfare as rock ’n’ roll cockroaches. (

Best club comeback

Body English at the Hard Rock Hotel

It’s a Victorian hangout so alluring, Virginia Woolf would have emerged from her stuffy parlor to party there. You don’t often think “classy” when it comes to the property with the Rehab pool, but its old-fashioned poshness and intimacy feels like the Brit cousin to San Francisco’s Great American Music Hall. (Hard Rock, 693-5000,

Best DJ


This local DJ’s grinning mug is so inescapable that you almost want to punch it. But take in his exuberant mix of electro-house, indie and dance classics, and you’re likely to get knocked back yourself. Mike Mohammednur didn’t land umpteen club residencies by kissing butts — he moved them. (


Get a move on Sports, games and outdoors


Best endurance event

Ragnar Relay

Ragnar’s slogan for its nearly 200-mile, 12-person relay race is “Run. Eat. Sleep? Repeat.” Someone forgot to add “massage sore feet,” “bundle up to run in the middle of the night” and “air out stinky van.” After the race, I took a nap and signed up to do it again. (

Best bargains on outdoor gear

REI Garage Sales

Forget Black Friday. The hardcore gearheads are hanging outside REI at two o’clock in the morning waiting to dig through discounted hiking boots, backpacks, tents, bike parts and more. A kayak and ski goggles at more than 50 percent off? As a desert rat, I'm sure I’ll need them eventually. (Boca Park, 710 S. Rampart Blvd., 951-4488; Henderson, 2220 Village Walk Drive #150, 896-7111,

Best spectator event

Sin City Rollergirls

These hardcore but sexy athletes boast names like Janesaw Massacre, Taylor Swiftkick and Juicy Coutorture. Watch a two-minute jam of knocking elbows and knees as the two teams try to keep each other from scoring. Repeat for an entire 60-minute match. (

Best urban green space

Floyd Lamb Park at Tule Springs

Cross the threshold into Floyd Lamb Park and time slows down. On a jog along the park’s shaded paths, you’ll see fathers fishing with their sons (yes, fishing) and families laughing over springtime picnics. It’s a breath of fresh air that makes one more mile easy to run. (9200 Tule Springs Road, 229-6297)

Best underrated local sports team

Las Vegas Locos

Locals bemoan not having a professional sports team, yet overlook the Las Vegas Locos, a polished UFL team with solid passes and in-depth running plays. Fans are scarce, so front-row seats on the 50-yard line are easy to snag. Instead
of complaining, I’m more likely to buy season tickets. (

Best outdoor enhancement you didn’t know about

Las Vegas Ski & Snowboard Resort’s expansion

Locals still balk when I mention Las Vegas’ ski resort. They’re even more surprised that it just kicked off its 50th year with a multi-million-dollar renovation. The facelift included a new, eco-friendly lift for easy access to the Rabbit Peak trail. Ski bums will appreciate the 14 new runs. (6725 Lee Canyon Road, 385-2754,

Best healthy getaway

Red Mountain Resort

I don’t know if it’s the variety of exceptionally fresh food on the menu, the plentiful fitness class options or the sound of my yoga instructor’s flute during my sunrise stretch, but something soothes stress and invigorates my spirit when I escape Las Vegas for this retreat near St. George. (1275 E. Red Mountain Circle, Ivins, Utah, 877-246-4453,

Best adrenaline rush

Exotics Racing

I was one of only a few women prepping for my supercar experience, but in the driver’s seat of an Audi R8 V10, my driving was just as powerful on the course. Reaching 100+ MPH on the 1,800-foot stretch of the 1.2-mile track, I, too, proved my need for speed. (6925 Speedway Blvd., 405-7223,



Best boot camp

Boot Camp Las Vegas

It doesn’t matter what good shape you’re in. The trainers at Boot Camp Las Vegas push you up to — and beyond — what used to be your limit with the weights, the logs and the tires (oh my, the tires). Try this out. You may not like it, but your body will love it. (767-8797,

Best gym

UNLV Student Recreation and Wellness Center

The ideal gym is different for everybody — mine includes exposed pipes, no mirrors and Michelle Branch turned up to 11. UNLV’s has enough amenities to appease most anybody, it’s open to the public — and it’s never crowded. That’s the upside of a commuter school. (4505 S. Maryland Parkway, 774-7100,

Best running trail

Pittman Wash Trail

The renovations to this four-mile multi-use trail (running, biking or even speed walking, if that’s your thing) in Henderson are done, complete with new lights, some new surfaces and fancy new signs. Enjoy at your leisure, but look out for
the shirtless 6-foot-8 guy coming up on your left. (N. Valle Verde Drive and Windmill Parkway,  267-4000,

Best basketball player

Anthony Bennett

There were glimmering signs of greatness when Bennett played two years at Henderson’s Findlay Prep, but once he got to UNLV this year he entered another stratosphere. Enjoy him while you can: Bennett’s physicality and versatility have him pegged as a top pick in June’s NBA draft.

Best pro poker player

Phil Ivey

Televised poker made stars out of lot of people — most of them for their eccentric personalities as much as any table skills. The exception: Phil Ivey, a Las Vegas resident for more than a decade. The low-key Ivey doesn’t try to make a star of himself. He just wins — including eight World Series of Poker bracelets.

Best fighter

Martin Kampmann

From chokehold submissions to rapid-fire hands, Martin Kampmann has a full arsenal that makes him a threat every time he steps into The Octagon. His record — 20-6 to start 2013 — doesn’t stack up to the sport’s elite, but he’s the best guy going in Las Vegas.

Best boxer not named Floyd Mayweather Jr.

Jesse Magdaleno

In the time it takes you to read this, Magdaleno would have been able to knock out you and the 10 people sitting nearest you. The kid packs a punch, though it’s the speed at which he can throw those haymakers that puts him on another level.



Best camping

Valley of Fire

I am deeply in love with Valley of Fire, and thanks to the campsites tucked away into the nooks and crannies of her vibrant red rocks, I get to sleep with her. Well-tended sites feature dark skies and potable water throughout. The campground fills up fast, so arrive early. (397-2088,

Best place to see bighorn sheep

Boulder City

No need to search the wilds of Nevada to find our state animal. They’re often found munching roadside turf (and clogging traffic) right off US-93 in Boulder City. For more reliable viewing, wake early and head to Hemenway Park, where bighorns have been filmed battling right on the grass!

Best lesser-known hike

Kraft Mountain Loop (aka Gateway Canyon Loop)

Kraft has a little of everything, except crowds. In only four miles, this hike jams in a rugged ascent, views of Calico Basin, a rainbow of sandstone, fun rock climbs and a bouldering field. And because it’s not on Red Rock’s Scenic Loop, it’s free! (

Best place to see stars

Kyle Canyon Road

Las Vegas has sprawled nearly to Mt. Charleston, which means we can enjoy some excellent stargazing just outside of town! There’s a large parking lot 12 miles up Kyle Canyon Road, where the skies are dark enough to enjoy a meteor shower or simply enjoy the view overhead.

Best hardcore hike

Bridge Mountain

This is a must-bag for any serious Southern Nevada hiker. Starting atop Rocky Gap Road, Bridge Mountain’s trail climbs steeply through the pines before striding across bare rock. A few harrowing scrambles later, hikers can stand atop a massive mountain-top arch.

Best bike ride

River Mountain Loop Trail

Our local government spent a small fortune building a 35-mile path around the River Mountains, and it shows. With paved trails and multiple parking lots, cyclists can start their ride almost anywhere and get as much scenery and cardio as they can handle. I recommend the lake shore. (365-2191,

Best walking trails

Sunset Park

After Sunset Park’s major renovations, there’s no shortage of wide and winding walking paths through the park’s new “natural” (read: replanted) areas. The paths now have better lighting, informational signs throughout — and the new bathrooms are downright usable. Keep a sharp eye for rabbits, and the occasional coyote (in the park, not the bathrooms). (2601 E. Sunset Road, 455-8200)

Best outdoors website

Jim Boone,’s curator, has a mission mirroring mine: Get people outdoors in a safe, responsible way and let them fall in love with the land. To that end, his website serves as a database of every significant plant, animal, trail and road in the wilds of Southern Nevada. (

Best place for bird-watching

Henderson Bird Viewing Preserve

This little-known preserve’s 140 acres feature a handful of ponds interwoven with peaceful, wheelchair-friendly paths, all frequented by local and migrating birds. The staff will even loan you binoculars. (350 E. Galleria Drive, 267-4180)