32 spots for casual American dining

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.)

Overall: A-

$

BLACK BEAR DINER

6180 W. Tropicana Ave.; 702-368-1077

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.)

Overall: A

$

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.)

Overall: B+

$$

BRADDAH’S ISLAND STYLE

2330 S. Rainbow Blvd.; 702-222-0767

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.)

Overall: A-

$

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.)

Overall: B+

$

BULDOGIS

2291 S. Fort Apache Road; 702-570-7560

Buldogis specializes in fusion food — that would be Korean flavor added to the classic American hot dog — and it works pretty well, as in the Banh Mi Dog, which comes with Vietnamese-inspired slaw and a slice of pork belly. Buldogis is breaking out into burgers, too, and the Bulgogi Burger successfully melded the two cuisines with bulgogi (Korean grilled beef), slaw and mayo. Fried pickle spears were pretty good, but we thought the Classic Buldogis fries needed a bit more seasoning. (11/16/12 H.K.R.)

Overall: B+

$

CARNEGIE DELI

The Mirage, 3400 Las Vegas Blvd. South; 702-791-7310

The Carnegie Deli’s prices are up there — no doubt about that — 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. And borscht was a bracing, refreshing feast of textures and flavors. (5/11/12 H.K.R.)

Overall: A

$$$

CHOCOLATE &SPICE BAKERY

7293 W. Sahara Ave.; 702-527-7772

Except for a slightly disappointing cannoli, everything we had at Chocolate &Spice reflected the meticulous attention to detail that owner Megan Romano has always brought to her pastries — and everything else. We loved the wedding soup, a grilled Brie sandwich, grilled Kalbi beef ribs and two choco-centric pastries, one with clouds of chocolate mousse, the other infused with coffee. (1/25/12 H.K.R.)

Overall: A-

$

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.)

Overall: A

$

THE DAILY EGG

5255 S. Decatur Blvd.; 702-431-4714

Service at The Daily Egg was with a smile but without a sense of urgency, but the food was so good we decided to just relax and go with it. What made it all worthwhile was the Classic Gyro Omelet, the chicken Shawarma Breakfast Pita, crispy home fries, a big fluffy pancake and a cup of well-varied fresh fruit. (1/11/13 H.K.R.)

Overall: A-

$

THE DILLINGER

1224 Arizona St., Boulder City; 702-293-4001

The Dillinger feels more like a bar than a restaurant but don’t let that put you off, because it’s warm and welcoming, just like its home community of little Boulder City. And the food transcends any idea of bar fare, with such dishes as a deftly fire-roasted artichoke, the brisket sandwich, the Ortega burger with its split-and-roasted Ortega pepper, and sides of onion rings and slightly sweet cinnamon-dusted sweet-potato fries. (12/14/12 H.K.R.)

Overall: A-

$

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.)

Overall: A-

$

EAT

707 Carson Ave.; 702-534-1515

Eat — one of the latest additions to the burgeoning Fremont East entertainment district -— has a novel concept: simple food, kicked up a notch or two, served in streamlined but cozy surroundings. We had a few quibbles but really liked everything we had: green chile chicken posole; roast beef on ciabatta with blue cheese, sauteed mushrooms, pickled red onions and arugula; and the DWBLTA, a BLT with avocado and chipotle mayo on toasted sourdough. (11/30/12 H.K.R.)

Overall: A-

$$

THE EGG &I

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

A car-restaurant wreck in 2013 certainly hasn’t kept people away from The Egg &I, which 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.)

Overall: A-

$

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.)

Overall: B

$$

FIVE GUYS BURGERS AND FRIES

10271 S. Eastern Ave., Henderson (and other valley locations); 702-405-9555

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-

$

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.)

Overall: A-

$$

GRILL 55

Renaissance Las Vegas, 3400 Paradise Road; 702-784-5700

Grill 55 is first and foremost a bar — the laid-back counterpart of the hotel’s Envy Steakhouse — so the atmosphere can get a little crazy during busy times at the adjacent Las Vegas Convention Center, but it serves nothing in the way of old-school bar food. We loved the Truffle Reggiano Fries, the Devil’s Eyes fried deviled eggs, the Signature 55 Burger and the barbecued chicken flatbread pizza. (11/9/12 H.K.R.)

Overall: A-

$$

THE GRIDDLE

9480 S. Eastern Ave. (and three other locations, one of which is called Mollie’s Kountry Kafe); 702-360-3636

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. Also worthy of note: the crab cake Benedict, one of a long list of The Griddle’s Benedicts and one with a crab-centric base and a well-executed Hollandaise. (6/29/12 H.K.R.)

Overall: A-

$

LA CAVE

Wynn Las Vegas, 3131 Las Vegas Blvd. South; 702-248-3463

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 that 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, especially for lovers of this characteristically pungent cheese. (4/13/12 H.K.R.)

Overall: A-

$$$

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.)

Overall: B+

$$

MAC SHACK

8680 W. Warm Springs Road; 702-463-2433

One step from fast food, the counter-service Mac Shack offers economical, well-prepared pasta dishes in a sleek, casual atmosphere and seems to be of particular interest to busy families. We designed our own rigatoni dish with marinara, meatball and sun-dried tomatoes, and also liked the Farmhouse Pasta, farfalle with creamy sauce, ham and peas. But we’d advised skipping the oh-so-plain garlic loaves. (8/10/12 H.K.R.)

Overall: A-

$

THE MARTINI

1205 S. Fort Apache Road; 702-227-8464

The Martini replaced the former Martinis and there’s still an emphasis on the classic drink, with a menu that includes lots of variations and art prominently featured on the walls. 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, although the risotto served with the latter was on the chalky side. (3/30/12 H.K.R.)

Overall: A-

$$

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.)

Overall: B

$$$

NOSH &SWIG SMALL PLATES AND DRINKERY

3620 E. Flamingo Road; 702-456-6674

Nosh &Swig has all the makings of a hipster hangout, which translates to young, fresh ideas about food and décor. We were quite taken with the Fromage Fondue with a “hodgepodge of rustic breads,” the pretzel brats, Sticky Bun Tacos, Chinese Churro and the Cock-a-Waffle-Doo, a riff on chicken and waffles. (1/10/14 H.K.R.)

Overall: B

$$

PRESTO NEIGHBORHOOD CAFE

4950 S. Rainbow Blvd.; 702-293-3332

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.)

Overall: A-

$$

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.)

Overall: A

$$

SMASHBURGER

Multiple 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. (8/11/12 H.K.R.)

Overall: A-

$

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. (2/22/13 H.K.R.)

Overall: A-

$$

SPICY PICKLE SANDWICH COMPANY

7271 Amigo St. (also at 9985 S. Eastern Ave.); 702-263-4350

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+

$

STREET CAR PO’BOYS

1624 W. Oakey Blvd.; 702-901-8788

As you might infer from the rating, Street Car — a big, boxy spot in a seen-better-days shopping center — isn’t a place you’d go for the atmosphere, but that’s OK because the lush interpretations of New Orleans classics more than make up for it, in renditions such as the Streetcar (oysters, shrimp and catfish), Crescent City (muffaletta), hush puppies, fried pickles, fried okra and beignets. (6/6/14 H.K.R.)

Overall: Just go for the food

$$

WILDBURGER

Wildfire Lanes, 4451 E. Sunset Road, Henderson (and three other locations); 702-685-2100

We weren’t crazy about the smoke in Wildfire Lanes that we had to plow through to get to Wildburger, but we were crazy about Wildburger — or at least its food, which would include the Cheeseburger Salad, design-your-own Angus burger and honey-mustard wings. (11/2/12 H.K.R.)

Overall: B+

$

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