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. (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, 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. (9/2/11 H.K.R.)

Overall: B+

$

BREAD & BUTTER

10940 S. Eastern Ave., Henderson; 675-3300

The simple name of this breakfast-and-lunch spot belies its broad selection of excellent baked goods and such made-to-order delights as the huge waffle sandwich, in which a pile of creamy scrambled eggs plus cheese and ham rest between two delicate waffles, with an addictive Bechamel ladled atop. (9/21/12 H.K.R.)

Overall: A

$

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. (5/20/11 H.K.R.)

Overall: A-

$$

CARNEGIE DELI

The Mirage, 3400 Las Vegas Blvd. South; 791-7310

The Carnegie Deli’s prices are up there, but so are its portions and the quality of its food. It’s been eons since we tasted sauerkraut as wonderfully pungent as that which topped our open-face Reuben with its tender pastrami and blanket of Swiss, or corned beef with as many layers of flavor as that which formed the foundation of our huge platter of hash. (5/11/12 H.K.R.)

Overall: A

$$$

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. (8/01/11 H.K.R.)

Overall: A

$

EAST COAST EATS

50 Valle Verde Drive, Henderson; 834-4443

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

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. (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. (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. (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. (6/29/12 H.K.R.)

Overall: A-

$

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 the 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. (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-

$

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. (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. (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. 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. (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+

$

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. (6/11/11 H.K.R.)

Overall: A-

$$

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. (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. (7/29/11 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-

$

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. (9/16/11 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. (4/22/11 H.K.R.)

Overall: A-

$

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