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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; $$ = entrees $10 to $20; $$$ = entrees $20 to $30; and $$$$ = entrees more than $30.

AL’S BEEF

6840 W. Sahara Ave.; 702-644-2333 (BEEF)

If you know your Chicago-style Italian beef you know Al’s has been famous for it a long time. Al’s now is in Las Vegas, and since the company takes quality control very seriously, this is the real thing. Get it dry, dipped or wet, with hot or sweet peppers, and fries plain or with any manner of toppings, and chances are good that you won’t find much to beef about. (4/25/14 H.K.R.)

$

BABYSTACKS

550 N. Stephanie St., Henderson (and three other locations); 702-458-0450

The first to serve red velvet pancakes hereabouts has continued its efforts to present new and different breakfast and lunch dishes, many of them with a Hawaiian accent. We loved the Kalua Pig Benedict, complete with sauteed cabbage, as well as the hazelnut pancakes, drizzled with Nutella and topped with scoops of whipped cream dusted with cocoa and chopped nuts. (7/9/15 H.K.R.)

$

BISCUITS CAFE

8465 W. Sahara Ave.; 702-242-2207

Biscuits Cafe departs a bit from the growing breakfast-and-lunch genre in that it’s not overburdened with kitsch, but the food tucks in nicely. In a place called Biscuits we had to have the biscuits and gravy with sausage, which were very good, and we also liked the Biscuits Smoked Brisket Dip, with potato salad on the side. (12/26/14 H.K.R.)

$

BLACK BEAR DINER

6180 W. Tropicana Ave.; 702-368-1077 (also at 2751 N. Green Valley Parkway, Henderson)

You might as well go big at Black Bear Diner, because the only alternative is to go home. But it’s worth it thanks to the charming atmosphere, solid service and good food, such as crispy-edged chicken-fried steak with creamy gravy, eggs and potatoes; house-made corned-beef hash — the meat shredded — with eggs and fried potatoes; and a flaky, cinnamon-rich bear claw that was, well, about as big as a real bear’s paw. (5/10/13 H.K.R.)

$

THE BLIND PIG

Panorama Towers, 4515 Dean Martin Drive; 702-430-4444

Just a short jaunt as the crow files from the always-bustling Strip, The Blind Pig seems serene by comparison but also urban, thanks to its location at the base of the Panorama Towers and decor that evokes an updated “Cheers.” Poutine, a classic Canadian bar food, is nicely done here, and we loved the seared ahi tuna on wasabi mashed potatoes with crispy rice noodles and the flavor of the sausage grinder, although its hot-dog bun serving was kind of odd. (6/26/15 H.K.R.)

$$

BORN AND RAISED

7260 S. Cimarron Road; 702-685-0258

Sliders are the way to go at Born and Raised; they have a lucky 13 of them, many of them quite creative — and delicious, in the case of the Cubano trio we tasted. We thought the barbecue sauce on Bucky B’s Jack Daniel’s Ribs was on the too-sweet side, but a grilled artichoke was right on the money. (9/16/13 H.K.R.)

$$

BRADDAH’S ISLAND STYLE

2330 S. Rainbow Blvd.; 702-222-0767 (and two other locations)

Add to Las Vegas’ fusion profusion the Hawaiian-Mexican cuisine of Braddah’s, where you can get a burrito, bowl or taco (or salad) with things like kalua pig and huli-huli chicken instead of carne asada or carnitas. It’s counter-service; you follow along the line and tell them what to add to your order. We loved our kalua pig burrito despite the grease that drained from it, and also tacos with huli-huli chicken and pulehu steak (no, not together) and a starter of guacamole and chips. (2/21/14 H.K.R.)

$

BRONZE CAFE

The Center, 401 S. Maryland Parkway; 702-202-3100

A friend’s attempt to tempt us into a vegan offering — the Tree of Life sandwich — failed but we ended up tasting it anyway, and seldom has vegan tasted so good. The Vegan Specialty Cake wasn’t as successful, but we thoroughly enjoyed the LGBTQ with its bacon and bacon jam, and the baba ghanoush with warm pita triangles. (8/23/13 H.K.R.)

$

CARSON KITCHEN

124 S. Sixth St.; 702-473-9523

Carson Kitchen furthers “rock ‘n roll chef” Kerry Simon’s tradition of serving comfort food with a contemporary spin in such dishes as Devil’s Eggs, a fried-green-tomato sandwich, cocoa-espresso New York strip, flatbread with wild mushrooms and blue cheese and glazed-doughnut bread pudding, all of which were nearly perfect, although most weren’t quite hot enough. (9/5/14 H.K.R.)

$$

CILI

Bali Hai Golf Club, 5160 Las Vegas Blvd. South; 702-856-1000

Cili — hidden in plain sight at Bali Hai on the south end of the Strip — seems to be frequently overlooked, but it’s a serene, relaxing spot for lunch. And the food’s great, too, including a bread basket of lavash, Parmesan flatbread and garlic toast; a cup of mushroom soup; the caprese salad; and the steak salad. (7/23/15 H.K.R.)

$$$

COFFEE CUP CAFE

512 Nevada Way, Boulder City; 702-294-0517

The Coffee Cup is big on charm, a remembrance of things past on the quaint main drag in Boulder City. It’s quintessential diner, with old license plates and other artifacts. And so is the food, in the form of dishes like chicken-fried steak and gravy, corned-beef hash and eggy French toast, along with more updated offerings, like the Boardwalk Sandwich with scrambled eggs, grilled tomato and Swiss cheese. (1/30/15 H.K.R.)

$

CRAVE AMERICAN KITCHEN & SUSHI BAR

10970 Rosemary Park Drive in Downtown Summerlin; 702-878-5505

Crave goofed, we thought, when they substituted comparatively bland spinach for the peppery austerity of arugula on a duck confit flatbread. Still, the place has potential, which showed in the caterpillar roll and the almond and red pepper dip on the muhammara plate. (5/7/15 H.K.R.)

$$$

CREPE EXPECTATIONS

9500 S. Eastern Ave.; 702-583-4939

If you thought for a minute that crepes aren’t sufficient to sustain an entire restaurant you’d be sadly mistaken because at Crepe Expectations it’s all crepes all the time. The menu of this tiny place is well varied, and we loved our sweet and savory choices, the Avalon with buttered pears, candied walnuts and goat cheese, and the Greek, with grilled chicken fresh spinach, feta and tzatziki. (2/15/13 H.K.R.)

$

DB BRASSERIE

The Venetian, 3355 Las Vegas Blvd. South; 702-430-1235

When the only flaw we noticed during dinner at DB Brasserie was a too-thick chocolate sauce that wouldn’t easily flow out of its cup, you know Daniel Boulud’s casual spot is doing things as the master intended. We loved the country pate Bourguignon, Alsatian tarte flambee, Frenchie burger, steak frites, profiteroles and Black & White Fondant. (9/12/14 H.K.R.)

$$$$

THE DINER

Las Vegas Motorcoach Resort, 8175 Arville St.; 702-263-0146

We love reader tips because we never would have found The Diner without one and it turned out to be a hidden gem, decorated in classic diner style without being too kitschy. That kind of applies to the food, too; we highly recommend the over-the-top Killer Club, the Frisco Burger, chicken fingers and sides of onion rings and potato salad. (12/27/13 H.K.R.)

$

DIVINE CAFE

Springs Preserve, 333 S. Valley View Blvd.; 702-822-8713

The cafe at the Springs Preserve has always been a top-notch location as far as scenery, and now the food and service measure up as well. We loved the hot leek-potato soup, pear and arugula pizza, hot ham and Brie and zeppole/zappolis with an assertive raspberry coulis, and the smiling servers who delivered it all. (9/26/14 H.K.R.)

$

DOUGIE J’S CAFE

603 Las Vegas Blvd. South; 702-826-2344

Dougie J’s has a noble mission — it’s named for the co-owner’s son, who was killed in action, and dedicated to all members of the military — but it has a pleasing atmosphere and good food as well. Sure bets include the burger on a pretzel bun, garlic fries, The Bubba (marble rye with hot pastrami, cole slaw and Dougie Sauce) and the house-made potato chips. (7/30/15 H.K.R.)

$

DU-PAR’S

Golden Gate, 1 Fremont St.; 702-366-0378

A return visit to Du-par’s revealed that the pancakes really are superlative — huge and fluffy, delicious plain and even better with butter and syrup. We also liked the New England clam chowder, roasted turkey half-sandwich and slice of apple pie a la mode we got as The Ultimate Trio, although a slab of pork sausage needed to be kicked up several notches. (8/15/14 H.K.R.)

$$

THE EGG & I

4533 W. Sahara Ave.; 702-364-9686

The Egg & I — sister restaurant to the five Egg Works in the valley — was positively packed when we went late on a weekday morning. The draw, no doubt, is the simple American fare, kicked up a notch in dishes such as house-made shredded corned-beef hash and eggs, a Sicilian Skillet with Italian sausage, marinara, peppers and onions and warm banana muffins rich enough to qualify as an indulgence. (6/21/13 H.K.R.)

$

ELIXIR

2920 N. Green Valley Parkway, Henderson; 702-272-0000

Elixir bills itself as “a local lounge” but, following the recent practice among poker bars, its menu lists far more than bar food. Stuffed mushrooms were a good way to start, but we thought the flavors in the French onion soup, beef stroganoff and chicken roulade were a little too generic. (12/16/13 H.K.R.)

$$

FIREFLY

3824 Paradise Road; 702-369-3971 (also at 9560 W. Sahara Ave.)

Firefly’s early 2013 public-health issues understandably stoked a lot of strong feelings but we not only lived through but loved our visit to the new location, where we had a raft of tapas favorites old and new: stuffed dates, fresh garbanzos, heirloom tomato salad, albondigas, piquillo peppers, eggplant cannelloni, an ahi tuna skewer and classic flan, all skillfully prepared. (8/16/13 H.K.R.)

$$$

FOUR KEGS SPORTS PUB

276 N. Jones Blvd.; 702-870-0255

Those in the know go to Four Kegs for the stromboli, and our original, with Italian sausage, pepperoni, salami, ham, marinara and cheese, was excellent. But so was a Philly cheese steak, a meatball sandwich and the fried breaded cauliflower, as well as the friendly service and budget-preserving prices. (6/4/15 H.K.R.)

$

FOX’S SMOKEHOUSE BARBECUE

1007 Elm St., Boulder City; 702-489-2211

Fox’s is both tiny and off the beaten path but well worth seeking out if you’re looking for good barbecue, the supply of which seems to wax and wane in Southern Nevada. We loved the meaty Cowboy Cheese Fries, the pulled pork and brisket and sides of coleslaw, Cowboy Beans, potato salad and macaroni and cheese. (6/27/14 (H.K.R.)

$$

GUY FIERI’S VEGAS KITCHEN & BAR

The Quad, 3535 Las Vegas Blvd. South; 702-731-3311

We didn’t look at Guy Fieri’s Las Vegas restaurant through a veil of snark (although that seems to be the trend) in large part because it strikes us that Guy’s is what it should be, where it should be and when it should be. And so we enjoyed the uber-indulgent Guy-talian Fondue Dippers, Mac-n-Cheese Bacon Burger and S’mores Monte Cristo, although we thought the Drunken Fish Tacos a little bland. (8/1/14 H.K.R.)

$$$

HASH HOUSE A GO GO

555 N. Stephanie St., Henderson (and four other locations in the valley); 702-898-4646

We always though HHAGG’s legendary massive portions were mostly apocryphal but that wasn’t the case with the Pork Benny, and it was perfectly conceived and executed, to boot. We also liked the scramble with sun-dried tomato, basil and goat cheese, house-made strawberry jam, witty faux-country vibe and fast, friendly service. (6/18/15 H.K.R.)

$$

HEARTHSTONE

Red Rock Resort, 11011 W. Charleston Blvd.; 702-797-7344

Hearthstone is quintessentially American, from the name evoking the coziness of Mom’s kitchen to the menu of both entrees and small plates, reflecting the way we eat today. We adored the decidedly offbeat FG&G — foie gras, peanuts and jelly — and also the lobster polenta, scallop tartare and stuffed dates. (3/27/15 H.K.R.)

$$$

JAMMS RESTAURANT

1029 S. Rainbow Blvd.; 702-877-0749

Jamms may just be a little coffee shop, but the owners know how to succeed with a winning mix of the old and the new. We loved the new small-plates option and the mini Mushroom Delight omelet, a pot of bread and the New Jersey Shoppy Joe, a multilayered sandwich of roast beef, turkey, corned beef and more. (4/30/15 H.K.R.)

$

JERRY’S FAMOUS COFFEE SHOP

Jerry’s Nugget, 1821 Las Vegas Blvd. North; 702-399-3000

We’ve long been a fan of Jerry’s for its huge, sumptuous desserts, but we didn’t get that far this time, because the entrees we ordered were similarly huge — and similarly satisfying. We loved the beef liver and onions and liked a special of haddock, and the tortilla soup, despite a weird coloring on the chicken. (4/9/15 H.K.R.)

$$

JOHNNY MAC’S

842 S. Boulder Highway, Henderson; 702-564-2121

Johnny Mac’s has been around since 1983 — making it practically ancient by Southern Nevada standards — and that’s reflected in the old-school bar-and-grill nature of the place and dishes like a tomato-basil pizza that was neither thick nor thin and a shepherd’s pie evening special. But they keep up with the times, too, with such touches as the creative and well-conceived watermelon barbecue sauce on crispy-skinned wings that do Buffalo proud. (7/11/14 H.K.R.)

$$

LULU’S BREAD AND BREAKFAST

6720 Sky Point Drive; 702-437-5858

We were a little late to the party with Lulu’s in large part because it’s slightly removed from the major population centers of the valley, but wherever you live, it’s definitely worth a trip. The service, atmosphere and value are excellent, but we were particularly impressed by the food, including the Benecio del Porko, pastrami hash, Lulu’s Breakfast Burrito and The Goombah egg sandwich. (7/10/15 H.K.R.)

$

MTO CAFE

500 S. Main St.; 702-380-8229

Although we thought the menu descriptions could be a little more clear we mostly liked the food at MTO Cafe, including a cheesy potato soup with bacon, French onion soup and the Spam Madame. We also liked the atmosphere of the bright, airy space across from Las Vegas City Hall, with whimsical art for a dash of fun. (3/14/14 H.K.R.)

$$

MICHAEL MINA’S PUB 1842

MGM Grand, 3799 Las Vegas Blvd. South; 702-891-3922

If the words “Michael Mina’s” didn’t begin the name of this sports/gastro/American pub at the MGM Grand we’d probably think it was just fine, but we’ve come to expect more creativity than this from Mina. That actually did show in the Tempura Maitake Mushrooms, although the Frickles, 1842 Burger and A Bit of Everything barbecue plate were pretty garden-variety. (11/22/13 H.K.R.)

$$$

MINGO KITCHEN AND LOUNGE

1017 S. First St.; 702-685-0328

Mingo may have simple — even slightly humble — surroundings, but that doesn’t extend to the menu, which has a wealth of creative flavor and color. The garlic fries (complete with garlic butter!) on a bed of arugula were a great starter, and we also liked the skirt steak salad and an open-faced sandwich of Fontina, Gruyere, bacon, avocado, arugula and sauteed onions, topped with a fried egg. (4/16/15 H.K.R.)

$$

OLD SCHOOL BREWING COMPANY

8410 W. Desert Inn Road; 702-273-BREWPUB (702-273-9782)

Although the expansive space that makes its britches feel a little too big for it is a little awkward, Old School delivers on the beer and the food. To taste the former, order a flight so you can compare and contrast. Among the latter, we can recommend the Chip Hop Hooray, Artichoked Chicken and One of a Kind Pizza. (8/7/15 H.K.R.)

$$

PARK ON FREMONT

506 Fremont St.; 702-834-3160

Park on Fremont definitely has a bar vibe, with much of the food hangover-ready heavy on salt and fat, but some of it measures up to the charm of the whimsical, funky surroundings. We liked the ceviche and chips, the ahi tuna salad and the fried chicken and waffle sandwich, a creative twist on the classic. (6/18/15 H.K.R.)

$$

PDQ

3737 W. Craig Road, North Las Vegas (also at 3010 W. Sahara Ave.); 702-410-6747

Want to know how good PDQ is? They even work magic with white-meat turkey, as in the grilled turkey breast sandwich, the turkey seasoned with thyme and served with cranberry sauce. But we also liked the signature chicken tenders, the blueberry-and-poppy-seed-flecked cole slaw, the skin-on fries and the freshly squeezed lemonade. (6/4/15 H.K.R.)

$

THE PERCH

Downtown Container Park, 707 Fremont St.; 702-854-1418

In keeping with the rest of the Downtown Container Park The Perch is tiny, although not as tiny as some, and its cool indoor seating is especially appealing when it’s sticky hot outside. Of year-round appeal is the creatively prepared food, such as The Louis crabmeat salad with avocado and Bibb, the Bianca arugula-and-cheese flatbread and a wonderfully refreshing, tart house-made lemonade. (7/2/15 H.K.R.)

$$

POT LIQUOR C.A.S.

Town Square, 6587 Las Vegas Blvd. South; 702-816-4600

Pot Liquor serves tender, moist, deeply flavored barbecued meats (the “C.A.S” stands for “contemporary American smokehouse”) but also yanks the Southern tradition out of the doldrums with dishes such as deviled eggs with chicken skin cracklings, a fried-green-tomato salad with goat cheese, chili with a corn cake underneath and fries with Alabama white barbecue sauce. (11/21/14 H.K.R.)

$$

PRESTO NEIGHBORHOOD CAFE

4950 S. Rainbow Blvd.; 702-293-3332 (and 19 S. Stephanie St., Henderson)

That Presto is different from the average neighborhood cafe isn’t immediately noticeable but is manifested by its healthful emphasis and the Turkish flatbread pides, with a crust that’s lighter than a pizza. We loved our Italian pide and some ahi tuna sliders and were positively crazy about the very offbeat mushroom soup. (3/7/14 H.K.R.)

$$

REMEDY’S

530 Conestoga Way, Henderson (also at 3265 S. Rose Parkway); 702-478-8300

Some blogger named Remedy’s The Cure one of the best burgers in the country and we couldn’t find much to argue with, partly because of the fried parsnips that top a patty of pork and beef stuffed with fontina and crowned with soy-marinated onions, jalapeno jelly, lettuce, tomato and spicy mayo. But we also loved the fried pickle straws; the pretzel-crusted chicken, Smoky Western barbecue and Philly cheese steak sliders; and the Whiskey Steak Tacos. (6/5/15 H.K.R.)

$$

RISE & SHINE

10690 Southern Highlands Parkway; 702-202-4646

Rise & Shine is adorable, with big flower-shaped umbrellas suspended from the ceiling and servers in pajamas, but whimsy wouldn’t be enough if the food didn’t measure up. It does, in fact, in entrees such as The Ultimate Steak & Egg Breakfast and corned-beef hash and eggs, as well as the restaurant’s pot of bread and French-press coffee, which comes with a timer. (10/4/13 H.K.R.)

$$

SHAKE SHACK

New York-New York, 3790 Las Vegas Blvd. South; 702-222-6730

Although we don’t understand why people in New York would stand in line for hours to eat there we did like Shake Shack, part of the new outdoor plaza at New York-New York. The cheese fries were particularly appealing, and we enjoyed the ShackBurger, SmokeShack, overloaded Shack-cago Dog and a chocolate-peanut butter shake. (3/20/15 H.K.R.)

$

SKINNYFATS

6261 Dean Martin Drive; 702-979-9797 (also at 8680 Warm Springs Road)

A lot of healthy-choices restaurants don’t survive because while Americans talk the talk, we don’t always walk the walk. SkinnyFats appeals to both the good and bad sides of our natures with healthy dishes such as Flat Chix & Greens and Slaw Chee, and with “happy” dishes like the Meltdown double-burger on toast and Happymess layered truffle fries. (12/12/14 H.K.R.)

$$

SOUL FOOD CAFE

7320 S. Rainbow Blvd.; 702-998-9780

Perfectly fried chicken is more of an art than a science and the artists at Soul Food Cafe have perfected it, with juicy meat that fairly spurts when the golden-brown crust is breached by knife and fork. We also loved the hot-water cornbread that was served as a starter, the fried okra, black-eyed peas, hush puppies, grilled pork chops and yams and hated the fact that we were too full to even consider dessert. (2/22/13 H.K.R.)

$$

SOUTHWEST DINER

761 Nevada Highway, Boulder City; 702-293-1537

We first heard about Southwest Diner from readers raving about the rhubarb pie. Yes, it’s wonderful, but we also liked the shredded-beef nachos, chicken enchiladas and house-made pot roast, and the friendly service and slightly kitschy, slightly country and very cozy interior. (7/30/15 H.K.R.)

$$

THE SPARKLINGS

8310 S. Rainbow Blvd.; 702-293-5003

We couldn’t quite figure out The Sparklings so we’ll just take it at face value as a fairly homey restaurant with a menu of some familiar and more offbeat dishes. And we enjoyed all we sampled: bacon-and-date-wrapped meatballs with tomato sauce, brown-butter gnocchi with butternut squash, spaghetti with mushroom and bacon cream sauce, a turkey and Brie sandwich and the flourless chocolate cake. (10/17/14 H.K.R.)

$$

STRIP N DIP

873 S. Rainbow Blvd.; 702-823-2835

Strip n Dip doesn’t do a whole lot of things but what it does, it does exceptionally well. And that would include both the fried and grilled chicken strips (baked is another option), crisp french fries, indulgent mac and cheese and housemade sauces: Buffalo, honey-mustard, barbecue and an exceptional wasabi cream. (5/21/15 H.K.R.)

$

TABLE 89

7160 N. Durango Drive; 702-365-7777

Table 89 is the perfect restaurant for our times, as it follows the trend toward better-quality food served in a more casual environment, in this case counter service. We had great appreciation for the Crispy Coconut Shrimp Skewers, grilled chicken and hummus wrap and Chicken Tequila Fettucine. (5/1/15 H.K.R.)

$$

THE TAP HOUSE

5589 W. Charleston Blvd.; 702-870-2111

The Tap House brags about their wings and rightfully so; they were crisp, meaty and flavorful. But we also loved the Fellini’s Pizza, complete with house-made sausages as well as mushrooms, bell pepper, salami and black olives, a hearty minestrone soup of the day and the chicken parmigiana. (5/7/15 H.K.R.)

$$

TIABI COFFEE & WAFFLE BAR

3961 S. Maryland Parkway; 702-222-1722

Tiabi held promise from the moment we caught a whiff of the butter, sugar and milk used in its waffles and kept it with excellent food and friendly service in simple, pleasant surroundings. We loved the Viva Elvis with — natch — peanut butter and bananas, the ham-cheese-avocado South American waffle sandwich, the Kisses, with chocolate and strawberries, and affogato, a shot of espresso over ice cream. (4/23/15 H.K.R.)

$

TOMMY BAHAMA

Town Square, 6635 Las Vegas Blvd. South; 702-948=8006

We weren’t enamored of Tommy Bahama’s Cobb salad because of a personal conviction that kale should come with a government-issued warning label, but we loved the smooth, tropical getting-away-from-it-all vibe as well as dishes that included macadamia-encrusted goat cheese, a quadrilinear loaf of bread and the Parmesan-crusted Sanibel Chicken. (6/12/15 H.K.R.)

$$$$

TOM’S URBAN

New York New York, 3790 Las Vegas Blvd. South; 702-740-6766

Tom’s Urban confused us a bit because the Tom’s Big & Sticky Rib Rack touted on the restaurant’s web site was nowhere to be seen on the menu, but once we inquired we got where we were going, and the barbecue gods came through. We also liked the Lowcountry Shrimp and Grits, the XiangXiang Crispy Duck Wings and the Sticky Belly Steamed Buns, although we’d suggest a pass on the avocado and cheese mashed potatoes. (5/29/15 H.K.R.)

$$$

YARDBIRD

The Venetian, 3355 Las Vegas Blvd. South; 702-297-6541

Yardbird is a bit of a pickle because some of its dishes are designed to serve two to four, some not, but most of what we had was superlative, including the house-made pickles. Also Warm Farmer’s Cheese, short rib with grits, an heirloom tomato salad with peanut hummus and Mama’s Chicken Biscuits. (4/17/15 H.K.R.)

$$$

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