Dining Guide: Casual American restaurants


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 between $10 and $20; $$ = entrees between $10 and $20; $$$ = 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 even better were 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-

$

BOULDER PIT STOP

802 Buchanan Blvd., Boulder City; 293-7080

The Boulder Pit Stop isn't fancy -- no doubt about that -- but its kitchen makes a mean hamburger, filled with beefy flavor. We had the Double Pit Burger with its two-third pound patties and also liked the fries, which are served in mountain-sized portions, and the fish and chips, whose shatteringly golden crust cloaks the moist cod within. (9/2/11 H.K.R.)

Overall: B+

$

BURGER BAR

Mandalay Place, 3950 Las Vegas Blvd. South; 632-9364

Upscale-burger spots have been on the increase in this city and country, but Burger Bar is ground zero -- where Chef Hubert Keller started it all. It has a casual, sports-bar atmosphere and casual but very serious food, including three types of beef plus lamb, turkey, seafood, veggie burgers and more. We liked our American-style Kobe with blue cheese and zucchini fries, and also the sliders, a trio of buffalo with caramelized onions, Black Angus with bacon and Ridgefield Farms beef with American cheese, with skinny fries on the side. (5/20/11 H.K.R.)

Overall: A-

$$

CAFE CORTEZ

El Cortez, 600 E. Fremont St.; 385-5200

Signature dishes: prime-rib dinner, Jackie burger.

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

$

EAST COAST EATS

50 Valle Verde Drive, Henderson; 834-4443

Considering that the menu includes pizza, roast beef, pastas, seafood, quesadillas, calzones, sandwiches, burgers, wraps and more, we weren't sure of the focus of East Coast Eats, but the delectable smell of frying fish (really!) lured us to a sweet, flaky and perfectly fried haddock sandwich. We also liked the steak bomb, a pastrami sandwich, Greek salad and housemade onion rings. (10/21/11 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+

$$

FLAVORS, THE BUFFET

Harrah's Las Vegas, 3475 Las Vegas Blvd. South; 369-5000

We reviewed Flavors as part of a Buffet of Buffets sweep of all seven buffets at Harrah's Las Vegas properties, and this one stood out as a bit of a sleeper. It's an attractive space, with natural elements including wood and mosaics, and it has a decent variety of foods served at clearly labeled stations. Worthy of note: linguine with whole clams, pork potstickers, carnitas and bananas Foster. (10/1/10 H.K.R.)

Overall: A

$$

FUDDRUCKERS

4195 S. Grand Canyon Drive; 732-3833, and The Orleans, 4500 W. Tropicana Ave.

Signature dishes: dress-it-yourself burgers, hand-blended shakes.

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+

$

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.

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+

$

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+

$

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 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

While Smashburger's name may seem a little off, 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+

$$$

 

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