Firefly Summerlin carries on tapas tradition

It's an understatement to say the first year at Firefly Tapas Kitchen was rough.

The entire menu was based on Spanish tapas but in 2003, Las Vegans didn't know what they were, says chef/owner John Simmons. He had to sell his house to stay in business. For a while, he ran the kitchen by buying enough groceries to last a few hours, then taking money from the register and running out to buy more groceries.

"Business was literally hour to hour," Simmons says. "I almost had to close the doors before we had a chance to succeed."

Somehow, he managed to stay afloat long enough for the restaurant to become one of the most popular spots in the valley, ultimately leading to its expansion. In October, Simmons opened his third Firefly restaurant, this one in Summerlin at 9560 W. Sahara Ave. Last year, a location opened downtown in the Plaza.

He had to take the concept to the suburbs, Simmons says, because demand is still exceptionally high, even with two locations.

"Both places are on an hour and a half-hour wait on weekends," Simmons says, which can discourage people from going.

If opening night is any indication, Firefly Summerlin will become a hot spot, too. Simmons did a soft opening and didn't even have signs up outside. Still, he did 350 dinners.

The menu is identical at all three locations, but Simmons plans to add some new items in the next few weeks. Right now, it's dominated by more than 60 tapas and a few entrees for those who don't like to share, he says. The whole concept behind Firefly is small plates for sharing.

Tapas are all less than $10.

Firefly Summerlin also features the housemade red or white sangria with brandy, wine and fresh fruit.

The restaurant seats 200. Reservations are not required, but are recommended on nights and weekends.

Hours are from 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. Sundays through Thursdays; 11:30 a.m. to 1 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays.

Soups and salads: Thai beef salad, $5.50; gazpacho, $4; roasted baby beet salad, $5.50; warm spinach salad, $5

Chilled tapas: Serrano ham with manchego cheese, $9; smoked salmon toasts, $7

Hot tapas: Tortilla a la espanola (an egg, potato and onion fritta), $.3.50; almond-stuffed dates wrapped in bacon, $4; meatballs, $4.50; empanada, $4.50; baby back ribs, $9.50

Full-size entrees: Paella, $18; herb-roasted chicken, $14; rib-eye steak, $20

Desserts: Caramel flan, $4; fruit and cheese plate, $10; chocolate cherry bread pudding, $5.50

Information: 834-3814