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Stewart + Ogden a pleasant addition to sparse downtown meal options

Normally, when a new hotel-casino opens, news about its restaurants is trumpeted across the land. This was not the case with the Downtown Grand, so naturally an intrepid friend and I decided to do some exploring.

What we found is that the property is folding the Downtown 3rd spots into its restaurant portfolio, which makes sense since they’re just across the street from the hotel entrance, and I believe there’s some ownership crossover there.

Inside there aren’t a lot of options, which wasn’t a surprise because the downtown hotels have much smaller footprints than those on the Strip. There’s Red Mansion, a Chinese restaurant open evenings; The Spread, which is the sports book-side deli; and Stewart + Ogden.

Yup, Stewart + Ogden, which is bound to lead to some confusion, at least for a while. You’ll notice that the restaurant’s name contains a plus sign instead of an ampersand, in the current kinda trendy style, and that the property’s footprint extends from Stewart to Ogden. The name also is, according to the menu, intended to reflect presumably fictional “discussions between food fanatics Archibald Stewart and Peter Skene Ogden” (and to that we can only say “Who knew?”) and to reflect “two very different takes on what makes good food” as it morphs from a breakfast/lunch spot to a “sophisticated bistro” — a dual role that becomes not only convenient but necessary in a small property without a dozen or so restaurant choices.

So. We can’t vouch for the “sophisticated bistro,” because we decided to check it out as an addition to the somewhat scanty variety of downtown lunch spots. But in that role, it delivered.

I don’t know what they do to get a bistro vibe, but during the day Stewart + Ogden is pretty diner-ish, but in a good way. There’s counter seating and aqua vinyl, horseshoe-shaped booths, and stainless steel accents and plastic chairs.

We decided to try a chicken pot pie ($13) in large part to determine if it was just a clone of the one served at Triple George across the street. That wouldn’t necessarily have been a bad thing, since the one at Triple George is pretty good, but for this Stewart + Ogden gets major points for creativity. Although the meat-vegetable mixture was more broth-based than the creamy style I tend to like, it worked in this case because instead of a pie-crust or puff-pastry layer, it was topped with split biscuits covered in melted cheese, which, as they softened, mixed nicely with the filling.

As for the filling: lots of chicken, some peas, carrots and potatoes, but we think somebody may have made a mistake. Instead of the shallots the menu listed, which, although onionlike, are fairly mellow when they’re cooked (and which we couldn’t detect in the filling), somebody had sprinkled on raw sliced scallions, which have a much harsher flavor profile.

Buffalo-style chicken wings ($7) were far more mild than most we usually encounter in this time of incendiary tastes but they were nicely executed, crispy and moist and flavorful, the dip on the side carrying lots of chunks of blue cheese, the pared-down celery sticks (the menu called them “ribbons”) offering a nice crunchy contrast.

The heat that was missing in the wings showed up in the Cubana ($14), a sandwich that didn’t have much in common with a classic Cuban. Yes, there was the pork loin (smoked) and the pressed Cuban-style bread, but it was loaded up with bacon, black-bean “shmear,” Swiss cheese, the chipotle mustard that apparently was the source of the fire, and a cup of cilantro crema on the side to quell it. From the side choices we went with the cole slaw, which was cold and crunchy, with a relatively light mayonnaise-based dressing.

The highlight of our lunch definitely was the dessert (which, you may be surprised to learn, is not always the case). We struggled but ended up with the butter brioche bread pudding ($7), with a raisin rum sauce (a Bananas Foster treatment is an option at $2 more). It was wonderfully satisfying, sort of mellow, not overly sweet, not overly rich and perfect for sharing.

Service throughout was fine, our server definitely earnest if a little much so. All of the personnel at the Downtown Grand seemed friendly and helpful, so I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised to realize later that the reason a managerial type greeted and seated us was because we’d missed the hostess stand out front and entered through the wrong door.

So yes, downtown’s portfolio of good lunch spots has grown once again. Especially if you like bread pudding.

Las Vegas Review-Journal restaurant reviews are done anonymously at Review-Journal expense. E-mail Heidi Knapp Rinella at Hrinella@reviewjournal.com, or call 702-383-0474. Follow @HKRinella on Twitter.

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