Neighborhood venues offer innovative fare, great food values

When it comes to dining, locals have a vast array of neighborhood venues to choose from — from upscale restaurants to casual eateries and everything in between. Located beyond typical tourist zones are some notable venues that continue to receive rave reviews.

Firefly on Paradise Road is a cozy, Spanish-style hot spot featuring hot and cold tapas plates and house-specialty Sangria. Nearby is Origin India, an upscale dining establishment that features an innovative take on traditional Indian cuisine. Origin India was featured on Rachael Ray’s Food Network travel show “Rachael’s Vacation” in October 2008 and was reviewed in that month’s issue of Ray’s publication “Every Day With Rachael Ray.”

Local diners can experience what Gourmet Magazine once called “the single best Thai restaurant in North America.” Lotus of Siam, located in a Sahara Avenue strip mall just east of the Strip, specializes in distinctive, authentic northern-style Thai food.

For a relaxing, scenic outdoor dining experience, Las Vegans go to Marché Bacchus. Patio seating overlooks a lake in the Desert Shores community, on the northwest side of town. Guests dine on French cuisine expertly prepared by Chef Jean Paul Labadie and can buy a bottle of wine from the cellar — featuring more than 900 selections — to enjoy with their meals.

On West Charleston Boulevard, authentic Italian specialties with a Sicilian accent are served at Nora’s Wine Bar & Osteria across from Boca Park in Summerlin. Further west is Vintner Grill, a lively American bistro with Mediterranean influences.

Recently celebrating its first anniversary in Summerlin, Maru displays a dual personality as a Japanese sushi bar and Korean barbecue restaurant. Fortunately, it does both well at its sprawling, modern venue on Village Center Circle. Korean entrees are large enough for two and come with a plethora of traditional side dishes.

For Asian food of all varieties, locals head to Chinatown, a three-mile stretch of eateries on Spring Mountain Road. One of the newest restaurants in the area, Raku, receives accolades from such culinary luminaries as Paul Bartolotta and Joël Robuchon. Located in an obscure corner of a nondescript strip mall, the 30-seat aburiya, or pub, features serious Japanese grilling and offers appetizer-size culinary delights.

In the last couple of years, a number of restaurants have sprung up south of the Las Vegas Beltway on the west side of town. Two of the best are La Madonna and Mantra Masala. La Madonna, at Fort Apache and Russell roads, serves avant-garde interpretations of Mexican fare and pours its own Alien brand tequila, which took the gold medal at the 2009 San Francisco World Spirits Competition. Mantra Masala, located at Warms Springs Road and Durango Drive, boasts healthy cuisine from India, using fresh vegetable puree, herbs and spices in lieu of unhealthy oil.

At the Beltway and Las Vegas Boulevard South, Town Square Las Vegas has more than a dozen restaurants in one locale. The open-air shopping and entertainment center includes Texas de Brazil, an authentic Brazilian-American steakhouse; Yard House, a casual eatery known for its extensive selection of draft beer; and Brio Tuscan Grille, a casual, white tablecloth restaurant serving northern Italian food.

In Henderson, Bonefish Grill on Eastern Avenue tops the TripAdvisor list of restaurants in this part of town. Founded in St. Petersburg, Florida, the restaurant is famous for its market-fresh fish cooked over an oak-burning grill, which gives the fish a savory, even flavor.

Todd’s Unique Dining has been receiving rave reviews ever since it opened in 2004 on Sunset Road in Henderson. Chef Todd Clore, who worked for many years on the Strip, is known for his creative flavor combinations and his every-changing menu. Nevada Public Radio restaurant critic John Curtas named Todd’s Unique Dining the east-side neighborhood restaurant of the year in 2007.

Curtas’ pick for 2008 is what some residents are calling the best pizza place in Southern Nevada. Settebello Pizzeria Napoletana, located at The District at Green Valley Ranch, serves real Neapolitan pizza — Naples generally being regarded as the Garden of Eden of pizza, the opinions of Sicilian, Chicago- and New York-style fans notwithstanding. Settebello makes its pizzas with imported Italian flour and cooks them in a brick oven imported from Italy.

Those with a sweet tooth can venture over to Eastern Avenue and try a cupcake from The Cupcakery in Henderson. Opened by a former Golden Nugget employee, this bakery caters to a Vegas crowd with a variety of delicious flavors including the Kir Royale, Oh My Gosh Ganache, Tickle Me Pink and the Southern Belle.

Freeds Bakery, a Las Vegas staple since 1959, has been serving highest-quality cakes and baked goods for more than 40 years. The notable bakery has been featured in Bon Appetit magazine, Martha Stewart Weddings magazine and on the Food Network.

For great bread and more, Las Vegans have been patronizing Great Buns Bakery since 1982. After a devasting fire in 2007 destroyed the family-run bakery, a new 25,000-square-foot facility was built on the original East Tropicana Avenue location and opened in 2008.

Nothing Bundt Cakes was developed in Las Vegas in 1997 by two women who perfected the luscious cream cheese signature frosting made with real butter and focused the product line on 8-inch, 10-inch and “bundtlet” cakes. With locations on the east side and west side of town, as well as Reno, Nothing Bundt Cakes has grown to include franchises in California, Utah, Arizona and Texas.

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