Dining Guide: Casual American


Each week Neon spotlights a different cuisine in the Dining Guide, with casual American restaurants this week. Restaurants are rated on a letter-grade scale, from A to F. Opinions by R-J critic Heidi Knapp Rinella (H.K.R.) are indicated by initials. Price symbols are based on the cost of an average entree: $ = entrees less than $10; $$ = entrees between $10 and $20; $$$ = entrees between $20 and $30; and $$$$ = entrees more than $30.

BABYSTACKS CAFE

2400 N. Buffalo Drive; 541-6708

Red-velvet pancakes with cream-cheese syrup are a specialty of the house at Babycakes Cafe and, sweetness aside, they're pretty good. But we liked even better the Portuguese sausage and eggs, Mexican omelet and buttermilk pancakes. And next time we'll try the lemon-ricotta pancakes. (3/4/11 H.K.R.)

Overall: A-

$

BLT BURGER

The Mirage, 3400 Las Vegas Blvd. South; 792-7888

Signature dishes: designer burgers and shakes.

THE CRACKED EGG

Four locations in the valley

The Cracked Egg lives up to its reputation as a great little breakfast place, serving such creations as an amazing banana-topped and macadamia-and-coconut-crusted French toast, a truly well crafted Bacon Cheeseburger Skillet and some amazing housemade corned-beef hash, all of which are much more than the sum of their parts. And the homemade coffee cake is worth the trip alone. (8/01/11 H.K.R.)

Overall: A

$

EDDIE D'S FAMOUS ITALIAN SANDWICHES

6870 Rainbow Blvd.; 541-8792

Eddie D's has fantastic service - friendly and affable and efficient - for a counter-service place, and it was on an employee's initiative that we tried the excellent meatballs. And so, naturally, we loved the meatball Parmigian sub as well as a Genoa salami sandwich, though we thought the tiny meatballs in the Italian wedding soup were kind of bland and rubbery, especially by comparison. (2/10/12 H.K.R.)

Overall: B+

$

THE EGG WORKS

9355 W. Flamingo Road; 368-3447, and 2490 E. Sunset Road

The Egg Works works as a breakfast spot because whoever's running the kitchen is creative when it comes to dealing with the basic egg - and lots of other stuff, too. We liked the Works Veggie Benny, the California Crepe, the Cincy Chili Burger and a homemade banana-nut muffin - and the kitschy/farmy/folksy decor of the place. (7/30/11 H.K.R.)

Overall: A-

$

ELLA EM'S SOUL FOOD

775 W. Craig Road; 823-4444

Soul food is the ultimate comfort cuisine, and what Ella Em's delivers is indeed comforting for the soul. The fried chicken (we chose the all-white-meat) was moist, meaty and otherwise a fine example of a classic, the pork chop well flavored but not as meaty as we expected. Cornbread was so moist we ate it with a fork, and the side dishes shone - the black-eyed peas, mixed vegetables, sauteed cabbage, rice and gravy, mashed yams and collards. (1/11/10 H.K.R.)

Overall: B+

$$

FIVE GUYS BURGERS AND FRIES

10271 S. Eastern Ave., Henderson (and three other valley locations); 405-9555

We've discovered our new favorite burger - Five Guys' bacon cheeseburger with lettuce, tomato, onions, mayonnaise and jalapenos, which is a big, juicy mouthful of flavor (and we try to ignore the nutritionals). Five Guys' fries are justly lauded by its fans, whether they're of the regular or Cajun-seasoned camp, and we also enjoyed a regular ol' hamburger, made much less regular with the addition of complimentary pickles, tomatoes, grilled onions and barbecue sauce. (5/25/12 H.K.R.)

Overall: A-

$

GERI'S OLDE PHILADELPHIA

3430 E. Tropicana Ave.; 456-0864

You're likely to leave Geri's smelling like a cheesesteak, but there are worse things, all things considered. The cheesesteaks are indeed authentic, and we liked both the regular version and The Works. Fries were crispy and especially delicious with the herby ranch served with them, and the pierogi, though not noteworthy, at least were pierogi. (10/8/10 H.K.R.)

Overall: B+

$

THE GRIDDLE

9480 S. Eastern Ave. (and three other locations, one of which is called Mollie's Kountry Kafe); 360-3636

Plate-sized pancakes that are light and fluffy but still substantial enough to hold together, porous enough to absorb the butter and syrup, can be somewhat of a challenge. But not at The Griddle, where they come off the griddle perfectly. We had them as part of a Lumberjack platter that also included a couple of eggs and bacon or link sausage. Also worthy of note: the crabcake Benedict, one of a long list of The Griddle's Benedicts and one with a crab-centric base and a well-executed Hollandaise. (6/29/12 H.K.R.)

Overall: A-

$

GRITZ

1911 Stella Lake Drive; 255-4748

This tiny spot is very much in the no-frills category, but that just seems to fit with its simple theme, which is grits, grits and more grits. We liked the signature grits bowl with egg and cheese and an oh-so-fluffy biscuit, the Alabama among the "state plates," which features thick-sliced bacon along with eggs and biscuits and grits, and a spirited and satisfying chicken gumbo soup of the day, although the peach cobbler was only OK. (5/12/11 H.K.R.)

Grade: B

$

HASH HOUSE A GO GO

Four locations across the valley

Signature dishes: griddled French toast, Sage Fried Chicken.

LA CAVE

Wynn Las Vegas, 3131 Las Vegas Blvd. South; 248-3463

La Cave's name is reflected in the wine-themed interior in which it serves its small plates, but the airy open-to-the-outdoors patio is quite pleasant on a balmy evening as well. We sipped and shared in the small-plates style and were impressed by the bacon-wrapped dates (despite that fact that one was sort of charred), sliced sirloin steak with mushroom fondue and cipollini onions and diver sea scallops with polenta cake and shrimp sauce, although we thought the raclette a little tame, especially for lovers of this characteristically pungent cheese. (4/13/12 H.K.R.)

Overall: A-

$$$

LAYERS BAKERY CAFE

665 S. Green Valley Parkway, Henderson; 221-2253

Pastries and other bakery items are what made Layers Bakery Cafe's reputation - the prevailing scent of butter is evidence of that - but the same quality and care are used in Layers' bistro items. We loved not only the custard-filled and chocolate-topped eclair and lovely raspberry Linzer tart but also the quichelike bacon-and-egg pie and Wingnut chicken-salad sandwich. (8/12/11 H.K.R.)

Overall: A-

$

LBS: A BURGER JOINT

Red Rock Resort, 11011 W. Charleston Blvd.; 835-9393

Signature dishes: designer burgers, fried cheese curds.

LEVY'S BAGELS & DELI

7875 W. Sahara Ave.; 463-9200

If you like pierogi like we like pierogi (all together now), you'll love them at Levy's, where they're made in-house and served the classic way, topped with onions sauteed in butter, with sour cream on the side. We also loved Levy's corned-beef hash, matzo-ball soup, potato salad and stuffed peppers, and a sesame bagel. (11/12/10 H.K.R.)

Overall: A-

$

LOU'S DINER

415 S. Decatur Blvd.; 870-1876

Lou's is the kind of diner you seldom find anymore - which is to say a good one. It's clean and neat, and the service is prompt, and best of all the old-fashioned breakfast favorites are great. We liked the Country Combo, which was eggs, sausage and sausage gravy atop a split biscuit, eggy-edged sourdough French toast with a side of bacon, chicken-fried steak and a green-chili-and-cheese omelet with grits. (9/12/11 H.K.R.)

Overall: A-

$

THE MAPLE TREE

6000 W. Spring Mountain Road; 362-5151

Some of the things we had at The Maple Tree were excellent, like the housemade corned-beef hash with perfectly over-light eggs, a lovely chicken-noodle soup and a steak dip, while others appeared to have been cooked at too high a temperature. Still, we liked The Maple Tree, which has much in the way of neighborhood-breakfast-and-lunch-spot charm. (11/25/11 H.K.R.)

Overall: B+

$

THE MARTINI

1205 S. Fort Apache Road; 227-8464

The Martini replaced the former Martinis and there's still an emphasis on the classic drink, with a menu that includes lots of variations and art prominently featured on the walls. But the food, which is a couple of notches above bar food, measures up quite nicely, especially the Martini Sliders, Margherita flatbread and chicken scallopine, although the risotto served with the latter was on the chalky side. (3/30/12 H.K.R.)

Overall: A-

$$

OMELET HOUSE

Three locations in the valley

The key to whether a breakfast spot is a good one often is revealed by late morning, and so it is at Omelet House, which continues to pack 'em in. They're there for the likes of the six-egg (or four-egg "baby") omelets such as the Green Hornet, with tomato, avocado and cheddar, and the chocolate chip pancakes and fried potatoes, but especially for the superlative signature pumpkin bread. (2/23/11 H.K.R.)

Overall: B+

$

THE ORIGINAL PANCAKE HOUSE

4833 W. Charleston Blvd. and 4170 S. Fort Apache Road

Signature dishes: apple pancake, German pancake.

ORIGINAL SUNRISE CAFE

8975 S. Eastern Ave.; 257-8877

The "homemade" corned-beef hash didn't much taste like it, but we liked a lot of other things about the Original Sunrise Cafe, including the speecy-spicy Bueno Beni, a toasted bagel, the fried potatoes and the coffee when it was fresh. And we liked the fact that the Sunrise's name was reflected in its sunny-yellow paint job and the sunny attitude of our server. (1/28/11 H.K.R.)

Overall: B

$

PEPPERMILL RESTAURANT

2985 Las Vegas Blvd. South; 735-4177

If you haven't eaten at the Peppermill you should, because it's nothing if not unique. A very cool throwback whose magnolia-and-neon decor looks like a Southern plantation exploded and rained down on the set of a futuristic '70s TV show, it also happens to serve good (and reliable) food and in copious portions. We loved the Pastrami Burger with creamy potato salad, Walnut Creek Salad with pear-cilantro vinaigrette and rosemary focaccia and fresh fruit salad in a pineapple boat. And don't miss the lounge, complete with fire-breathing fountain. (6/11/11 H.K.R.)

Overall: A-

$$

PINK'S HOT DOGS

Planet Hollywood Resort, 3667 Las Vegas Blvd. South; 405-4711

While we wouldn't stand in line for an hour and a half like people do at the L.A. original, yeah, Pink's Hot Dogs are pretty good, we have to say. We liked the Planet Hollywood Dog and the Pastrami Reuben Dog, and sides of onion rings and chili-cheese fries were - to grant the highest compliment - county fair worthy. (6/3/11 H.K.R.)

Overall: B

$

SAMMY'S WOODFIRED PIZZA

Five locations in the valley

Signature dishes: designer pizzas, tapas.

SAMMY'S L.A. PASTRAMI & BURGERS

2191 E. Tropicana Ave.; 736-1698, and at 4035 S. Decatur Blvd.

It may not look like much from the outside, but Sammy's puts together one heck of a pastrami sandwich, and we can vouch for the Italian beef as well. This also is home to some of the crispiest fries in town, and you can get them topped with pastrami, rib-eye, chili, cheddar, grilled onions, bacon, jalapenos and three fried eggs, if you want. Mini corn dogs and homemade lemonade were pretty good, but as for us, we'll stick to the sandwiches and fries - and use the drive-thru. (8/13/10 H.K.R.)

Overall: A-

$

SERENDIPITY 3

Caesars Palace, 3570 Las Vegas Blvd. South; 731-7373

Don't let the rumor mill fool you; Serendipity 3 is about a whole lot more than its Frrrozen Hot Chocolate. We were particularly pleased with an entree salad of heirloom tomatoes with burrata, a crab-artichoke dip with lots of crab and great ciabatta dippers, a BBQ and Blue Burger and also the Black and White sundae, even though it was mostly just sweet. (7/29/11 H.K.R.)

Overall: B+

$$

SHARI'S DINER

1900 N. Buffalo Drive; 870-6424

With the exception of the sticky-salty gravy on the pot roast we liked Shari's old-school diner favorites - and especially Shari's old-school diner atmosphere. Particularly worthy of note were two Shari's originals, the Philly Cheese Steak Fries and The Brie-Licious burger, and a bit of sweet, delicious wretched excess, a peanut-butter malt. (7/06/11 H.K.R.)

Overall: B+

$$

SMASHBURGER

Four locations in the valley

Smashburger is the new burger chain in town, and while its name may seem a little off - who wants smashed food, aside from, maybe, potatoes? - the burgers, which are smashed onto a flat-topped grill as they're cooked, are juicy and addictive. We loved the Sin City Smashburger, with its fried egg, bacon, cheese, grilled onions, haystack onions and signature smash sauce, a create-your-own option with everything but the kitchen sink, the fried pickles and the Smashfries. (6/11/10 H.K.R.)

Overall: A-

$

SPICY PICKLE SANDWICH COMPANY

7271 Amigo St. (also at 9985 S. Eastern Ave.); 263-4350

We weren't enamored of the soups at the Spicy Pickle but the sandwiches were just fine - the Yard Bird, with its strips of chicken with fresh spinach, apple, blue cheese and bacon, smeared with honey mustard and served on honey multigrain, and the Three-Cheesini, with Swiss, cheddar, provolone, tomato and red onion on grilled marble rye. We also liked the pasta salad served as a side and the fact that the sleek counter-service spot is a great place to grab a quick lunch. (3/16/12 H.K.R.)

Overall: B+

$

SUGAR FACTORY AMERICAN BRASSERIE

Paris Las Vegas, 3655 Las Vegas Blvd. South; 331-5100

Sit outside or near the windows at Sugar Factory and you'll have a great view of the Strip and the Bellagio fountains beyond, and the opportunity to try some good dishes, including steak frites and fried macaroni and cheese pops. A Nicoise salad was overdressed and a turkey crepe overly bland, but milk and cookies provided a classic comfort-food finish. (9/16/11 H.K.R.)

Overall: B+

$$$

UPPER DECK GRILL AND SPORTS LOUNGE

Callaway Golf Center, 6730 Las Vegas Blvd. South; 897-9500

Signature dishes: burgers, specialty sandwiches, breakfast and dinner.

THE VERDICT'S INN

801 Las Vegas Blvd. South; VERDICT (837-3428)

The Verdict's Inn somehow manages to reflect the spirit of the revitalizing downtown itself, especially in the Downtown Cobb, a salad that is as diverse as the restaurant's neighborhood with its salami, sliced egg, ham, turkey, chicken, cheddar and blue cheeses and enough cilantro to provide a nice spark. The Nolo Contendere Pastrami was more average but tasty nonetheless, thickish but tender slices of pastrami piled onto marble rye along with Swiss, Thousand Island, coleslaw and Dijon. (4/20/12 H.K.R.)

Overall: B+

$

WINDY CITY BEEFS 'N DOGS

7500 W. Lake Mead Blvd.; 410-5016

Two of the best things that ever came out of Chicago - not including pizza, which of course ranks right up there - are hot dogs and Italian beef sandwiches, and both are done quite well at Windy City Beefs 'n Dogs. We liked the authentic-Vienna-beef dog dressed up right. The Italian beef, served wet with cheese and peppers and giardinera, was a soggy mess but an excellent one, and the chili-cheese fries were the best we've had in ages. (4/22/11 H.K.R.)

Overall: A-

$

 

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