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DUELicious Meals: Contemporary upstarts take on classics

MiX vs. Du-par’s

Sometimes it’s the atmosphere and not the food that makes the meal. So when you stare into your $2.99 tulip glass of Sea Monkey-sized shrimp at Du-par’s (inside the Golden Gate Casino), remind yourself that you’re not there to sample pristine seafood. It’s all about experiencing classic Vegas. Eavesdrop on locals and soak up the scene while you pick at your prawns and nibble on saltines. But for those who prefer something a little more refined, consider Alain Ducasse’s shrimp cocktail at MiX. The Derrida of fine dining deconstructs one of our city’s most iconic dishes and then reassembles it with horseradish cream, tomato syrup and candied lemon. You will see the once ho-hum dish with a new set of eyes — at least, for the few seconds before you devour it. DL

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Du-par’s inside the Golden Gate hotel-casino
1 Fremont St.,

MiX inside Mandalay Bay hotel-casino
3950 Las Vegas Blvd. S.,


Nosh & Swig vs. Casa Don Juan

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Nachos are one of those foods that lend themselves to variation — whether that means choosing jalapeños over green chiles or reimagining in Asian, Southern or seafood versions. Casa Don Juan serves a classic plate of nachos in a classic Mexican restaurant, right down to the Frida Kahlo mural and weekend mariachis. A heap of tortilla chips is topped with a pile of beef, chicken or pork with cheese and sour cream (customize with more of the chips or either of the salsas that automatically come to your table). Nosh & Swig specializes in fusion-y twists on comfort food served on small plates in an urban-minimalist setting. Their Nachos O’Brien is an Irish-styled rendition — a pile of house-made potato chips are heaped with peppered beef and Dublin cheddar cheese. It’s not as spicy as the trad version, but with a bit more stick-to-your ribs gusto. LTR

Nosh & Swig 3620 E. Flamingo Rd.,

Casa Don Juan 1204 S. Main St.,


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Elements vs. Du-par’s

Oh, fluffy delicious and sticky sweet, a cushiony soft meeting place between banana pudding and marshmallow fluff. Du-Par’s pies are legendary, but their banana cream is among the best. A luxurious pillow of whipped cream tops rich banana filling, golden and thick with slices of banana. The crust is flaky and somehow remains unsoggy despite the moistness of the pie. However, if you’d like that banana cream taste, but are looking for something a bit less dense, Elements Kitchen & Martini Bar offers a white chocolate banana cream pie martini. It’s made with Cruzan banana rum, crème de banana liqueur and Godiva white chocolate. The white chocolate adds a bit of sweetness and density to the banana, while rum gives a bit of caramel and brown sugar — think pie crust. Elements’ suburban location, low-lit décor and mature clientele are the opposite of Du-Par’s Fremont Street vintage diner-shininess and tourist-heavy crowd, but both will satisfy your sweet tooth. LTR

Elements Kitchen & Martini Bar
4950 S. Rainbow Ave.,

Du-Par’s 1 Fremont St.,


Love Grub Truck vs. Republic Kitchen & Bar

These are not the frozen tots of your youth — pale, soggy, zapped in a microwave (although the directions specifically called for baking!). Although plain, Republic Kitchen & Bar’s tater tots ($6) are perfect — crispy, golden, perfectly salted, fluffy inside but crunchy outside, with a bite that’s like chomping on a crinkle-cut potato chip. Good news: You’re a big kid now and can have seconds. Bad news: You’ll want thirds. Try them with Sriracha sour cream for a potato-skin experience. Sloppy tots are for lovers, friends and drunks on First Friday. Love Grub Truck’s mobile specialty piles tots high with nacho cheese, black beans, pico de gallo and chicken. Don’t dismiss them because the cheap cheese sounds dubious. The panacea that is greasy food after a night of drinking has the power to cure any skeptic. Best shared, if you can manage. KT

Love Grub Truck for locations

Republic Kitchen & Bar
9470 S. Eastern Ave.,


Honey Salt vs. Ferraro’s

Fried calamari is our collective appetizer Achilles heel, is it not? Everybody’s got it. It’s almost always the same, almost always mediocre at best. But we keep trying. Why? Maybe because we remember the time we shared it with wine-lubed friends at Ferraro’s happy hour, all crunchy and a bit chewy and delicious with a squeeze of lemon (the squid, not the friends). It was only eight bucks, so we got another plate. But wait, is that ... is Honey Salt’s version completely different? It’s $14 on the afternoon menu, but there are Ipswich clams in there, too, plus roasted shishito peppers and a luxurious lemon aioli for dipping. All of a sudden we’re not settling for fried calamari, we’re craving it, thanks to neighborhood favorite restaurants old and new. BR

Honey Salt 1031 S. Rampart Blvd.,

Ferraro’s 4480 Paradise Road,