Tag Archives: review

TACO Y TACO: Taco… why taco?

I am as white as they come.

Growing up in the rural midwest, my experiences with real Mexican food started late.  Those of you in SoCal (as the kids call it) will laugh at my inexperience with legit tacos.  I’ve only had the chance to get LA tacos on a few occasions and was absolutely blown away at how cheap and good they are.  That is why I am so happy Vegas has started to get some great options, the best of which seems to be Taco Y Taco.

taco y taco
With a kitchen as open as my mind.

This place is streamlined for high volume like you wouldn’t believe.  3 separate lines for tacos/vampiro/tostadas, each one with different meats.  I had to visit all 3 lines and 3 different people, which is kind of weird when I was the only person there at the time, but it took less than 90 seconds to get all the food.  There’s a huge salsa/sauce bar in the middle of the restaurant, and one man was very angry he was unable to take salsa home with him for free.

taco y taco
Actual candid photograph of the incident.

After having an insanely good vampiro (open faced taco on a crispy tortilla with cheese sauce) in my last LA trip I decided to get another one here and see how it measured up.  I ended up with a carne asada vampiro and cochinita pibil, al pastor, and carnitas tacos.

taco y taco
FEAST YOUR, UH, EVERYTHING
taco y taco
Vampiro sandwich.

I decided to only grab some extra limes from the salsa bar to see how they dress it when they ask “with everything?” and I respond with a reverent nod.  The answer:

taco y taco
DRAMATIZED RECREATION

Whereas the LA tacos I had came with basically just meat and tortilla and you were expected to sprinkle on your extras, the array of salsas and toppings for these tacos were such that they were an absolutely explosion of flavor in your mouth.  Tangy, acidic, crunchy onions and peppery cilantro.  The pork marinade and spices shone through extremely well and everything mixed together into this absolutely incredible few bites of happiness.

All of the above food and a drink came out to only $14, which for the size of the tacos (folding them up resulted in some of the filling to spill out, a problem rectified by me eating it anyway) is super reasonable.  Most mere humans would be completely satisfied by this amount of food.  The vampiro taco, with its two tortilla sandwich appearance, was incredibly messy to eat but even at $4 was a remarkable deal since the amount of filling seemed to be 2 or 3 times as much as each taco had.  The cheese seemed to be just melted cheese rather than a coherent sauce and the carne asada was clearly the weakest of the 4 meats I decided to try, but it was still delicious.

I feel like carne asada falls into the trap of being the “safe choice” for gringos at taco places and they don’t want to do too much to it because they know it’s going to sell extremely well no matter what, so I was disappointed that I chose that meat for the vampiro because I felt like it handicapped it.

I don’t like bias.  I rectified it.

taco y taco
THE BIAS KILLER

Pibil vampiro numero uno.

Go here yesterday.

Taco Y Taco

9470 S Eastern Ave, Las Vegas, NV 89123

3430 E Tropicana Ave, Las Vegas, NV 89121

Open til 10PM on weekdays, 12AM or 2 AM on weekends depending on location.

DU-PAR’S: Where everyone eats like they’re drunk.

Vegas is a pretty new city, even by American standards.  People have ideas of Vegas being like it was in the 1960s, but that’s basically as far back as its history goes.  It was a super tiny town until halfway through the 20th century, and Fremont street was where a lot of the early buildings were built.

Golden Gate Casino is as old as they come.  The address of the place is 1 Fremont Street and their phone number when they opened up was literally “1” (I am deadly serious).  A big part of this tiny building is the diner Du-Par’s, world famous for its shrimp cocktail.

du-par's
Get off my lawn.

There’s definitely a reason that these things have survived the rest of time.  Even after going through 4 price increases in the last few decades, these things are $4 for a huge glass full of shrimp.  The cocktail sauce is a standard cocktail sauce, but something about this just feels right.  It might have to do with the hokey decor of the place, which just reminds you of how many tens of thousands of people have sat in this room and eaten this exact dish which has mostly stayed unchanged for the past 50 years.

Most of the food at Du-Par’s is standard, overpriced diner food.  There are a few deals if you’re really hungry, but there are 3 items on the menu that are absolutely worth checking out if you want to come to Fremont and hang out for a bit and see a bit of Vegas history.  Shrimp cocktail is one of them.  The pancakes are another.

du-par's
More like “I’m a fan-cakes.”

I can’t say much about pancakes other than these are very well done ones.  Fluffy, buttery, and unbelievably filling, it is basically impossible to finish an order of them.

Last, but possibly the best, Du-Par’s is one of the best places in the valley if you want a slice of pie.  They have a person on hire to come in every day and make dozens of pies fresh, with rotating seasonal varieties.  Luckily, the coconut cream pie is a staple and my god is it satisfying.

du-par's
EXCEPT WHEN THEY CUT IT WRONG AND THE CRUST ISN’T HERE THIS IS BULLSHIT

(When I remarked that half the crust was missing, they apologized and brought out another slice. They’re good people at Du-Par’s.)

You’re not going to tell stories of this place when you get back home, but if you’re looking for a dessert and some Vegas history, there is basically nowhere better to visit.

Du-Par’s (at the Golden Gate)

1 Fremont Street

Open 24/7

SPORTING LIFE BAR: A step above.

A friend of mine told me about this gaming bar that had a late night happy hour food special: $5 skirt steaks.  I was skeptical because gaming bars usually have fine but usually overpriced food, but that seemed like a great deal, and 3 years later I’m still eating at Sporting Life once a week.

sporting
For all your sportsing needs.

The menu here was designed by a former chef of Bouchon Bistro at the Venetian, a Thomas Keller restaurant.  He left a year or two ago to work elsewhere but his menu lingers and it’s extremely well rounded and satisfying.  There are not many entrees that disappoint.

Everyone has one of those foods that other people aren’t that into for whatever reason, but dollar for dollar the steak sandwich at Sporting Life is my favorite sandwich of all time.  It’s the ultimate comfort food for me.  They even started carrying sweet potato fries at my request, and the two go together so well it’s crazy.  When it’s cold outside and I’m not feeling especially social, being able to sit down and enjoy this absolutely delicious plate of food is so bizarre when compared to the normal depressing experience at most gaming bars.

sporting
I took two bites due to muscle memory before I realized I had to take a picture.

This isn’t a place that’s going to win any awards, but PSYCH, OH YES IT IS.  It actually won Best New Restaurant AND Best Bar Food by the LV Weekly the year it opened.  If you’re looking for classic American comfort food done well and for a good price, you’re home.

(PS, if you tell them Jimmy sent you, they’ll let you order some of my sweet potato fries.  And tell Neal hi for me.)

Address: 7770 S Jones Blvd, Las Vegas, NV 89139
Phone: (702) 331-4647
Open 24/7

BRAND STEAKHOUSE: Sounds like a placeholder.

Fun fact: the very first Las Vegas casino I ever stepped foot in was the Monte Carlo.  It seemed like a fairly boring, middle of the road spot back then and that’s how it remains to me today.  The fire that wiped out the top few floors was probably the most amount of publicity it has ever received.  Which is why there is no surprise that its steakhouse fails to distinguish itself as a top choice.

It even overlooks the pit, so we can gamble vicariously throughout the meal.

Brand is a terrible name (seriously, sounds like the Bluth family’s fundraiser to fight TBA). Though the food is perfectly reasonable, I think the price is close enough to being at the Cut or Carnevino level that you should pay the difference for the upgrade.

Full disclosure: We had a comp for this dinner that we obtained through some advantage play.  This allowed us to go fairly nuts and order lots of things. It didn’t affect this review in any way, however.

Our waiter for this evening was Brian.  One of the most jovial, pleasantly attentive waiters I’ve had anywhere.  There are only a few career waiters I’ve had in the years I’ve been eating at nice places and Brian is definitely one of them.  Dude makes hospitality look super easy and I was very happy to see him again.  Definitely advise asking for him if you ever visit.

Every dish you can order at Brand is classic American steakhouse fare, so I will not be explaining to you what a caesar salad and its ilk taste like.  You will have to trust me on quality.

We ended up getting an absurd amount of food, and since the restaurant was fairly empty it did not take long to come out.

steakhouse
Our multidimensional caesar salad.

Some places do way too much to a caesar salad, others barely do anything.  Brand likes to straddle the middle and leave the lettuce untouched other than to toss it with an average caesar dressing and then they go to the trouble to make a parmesan crisp crouton laid on top.  I would prefer cut romaine and normal croutons, but I can’t say it wasn’t good anyway.  For $14, though, it’s definitely not a bargain.

steakhouse

The shrimp cocktail was another more expensive appetizer; 4 fairly large shrimp for $18 is not cheap, though the two sauces (a normal cocktail sauce and a remoulade) were definitely better than average and it was tasty enough.

steakhouse
Whoever invented beef tartare must have been on serious drugs.

The Kobe beef tartare (another side note, anything labeled kobe beef is going to be overpriced) was another $20 appetizer that tasted great but the bar is set so high by the price that it’s hard to meet it.

This is also a big pet peeve of mine, but Kobe beef is known for its insane fat marbling.  Tartare shouldn’t be overwhelmingly full of fat because it’s served raw, and raw fat is grainy and completely gums up the texture.  And high marbling of the meat is completely pointless if you cut up the meat so much that everything gets mixed together anyway.  This was definitely an above average tartare as well, but there’s no reason for the gimmicky labeling of Kobe.  My only complaint was the tiny crouton really doesn’t serve very well as the crusty toasted bread usually accompanying tartare.

steakhouse
HASSAAAAAN CHOP
steakhouse
A very phallic looking porterhouse and lobster.

The steaks were definitely the highlight of the meal.  The tomahawk chop is another fairly common gimmick in steakhouses, where it’s a basic bone-in ribeye with an elongated bone left on the steak.  The steak itself was perfectly fine, but fairly small for the fairly large price they charge.  That plate was $70! The porterhouse is a much more reasonable plate, 20oz of (slightly overcooked) steak with a lobster tail and claws served with a corn risotto cake, which is a thing apparently.  I have no real problem with any of these things, honestly.  It was well seasoned with a decent sear.  My steak standards are fairly high, as a lot of you probably know.  Aside from a large gray band, I was perfectly happy with the steak served to us.  The lobster was even better, actual seasoned lobster meat instead of just dunking it in clarified butter and calling it a day.  The risotto cake was even better, and I think putting it as its own dish would be a smart idea.  But when you think that all of the above food cost nearly $200, I’m just not convinced it couldn’t be better spent in this town.

steakhouse
Forgettable creamed spinach.

‘Nuff said.

steakhouse
Overly salted ‘spurgus.

I’m generally a big fan of well charred asparagus, but the tips of these were so overly salted that it completely turned me off to them.  A shame.

At last we arrived to dessert.  We were pretty stuffed at this point but had just enough left on our comp that we ordered a small trio of desserts.

steakhouse
Chocolate cake as dense I am.

Desserts were a definite highlight of the meal.  Whoever is working as their pastry chef definitely knows their business.  The chocolate cake is pretty much chocolate on chocolate on chocolate, which is great (if you love chocolate).  Served alongside cappuccino mousse, I’m usually not a big fan of something so cocoa-fied but it surpassed my expectations and was not nearly as heavy as I felt it would be.

steakhouse
You’re trying too hard.

As subtle and good the chocolate cake was, the “classic” cheesecake was definitely a flower child growing up.  It was a very average cheesecake and they garnished the plate with a strange waxy pressed blueberry roll and some inedible flowers, which is a huge pet peeve of mine.  If I’m going to hurt myself trying to eat something on the plate, it probably doesn’t belong there.  Taste and texture were great though, and I have no real complaints about the actual execution here.

steakhouse
Surprisingly delicious.

They also had a selection of ice creams and we opted for caramel.  I will say, I have a weakness for a well made ice cream and this was no slouch.  The depth of flavor in this caramel was pretty startling and it was clear they made it a very deep caramel.  Eating this with the chocolate cake was a pretty excellent few bites of food.

Overall, I have no serious issues with Brand but it just goes to show how many great options there are in town.  There are cheaper options that are about the same quality and there are more expensive options that have significantly higher quality.  If you’re looking for a reasonably priced strip steakhouse, Brand is a decent place to check out but it’s better if someone else is paying for it.

Brian’s great though.

3770 Las Vegas BLVD. South, Las Vegas NV 89109

(702) 730-6700

Open daily 5 PM – 10 PM

ZEN CURRY HOUSE (express): A big bowl of happy.

Trying new things used to be one of the scariest things for me, mostly because I grew up as a very picky eater.  Now I set a policy where I have to try everything once, which usually isn’t a tough thing for me.  One thing that I think picky eaters have some sort of crazy preconception of is curry from any type of cuisine.

I’ve talked about Indian and Thai curries here before, but never Japanese (which I didn’t even know was a thing until a few years ago).  Apparently there are a lot of people who believe that the spices in Japanese curries prevent many diseases and illnesses, so it is at this time that I must admit something I’ve never told the general public.  I suffer from hungryitis and Zen Curry saved my life.  *sigh* It feels good to get that off my chest.

Luckily, Zen has multiple locations.  I live nearby to its southwest location, which has the same compact menu as its original, but is a small space with no full service.  I was happy to bus my own plate for a stomachful of tasty curry, so off I went.

Oh, hey, a new restaurant!  What’s this place sell?

curry
Click me.

AAHHHHH.  BURN IT.  SEND IT TO HELL. (I really, really hate sushi burritos.)

Right next door is our restaurant du jour.

Express yourself.

Right inside, it’s pretty much barebones.  4-5 small tables with chairs, a really tiny bar and a kitchen extending as far back as the restaurant will go.  The menu is 3 sizes of curry, 3 sizes of rice and a meat choice along with a few small side dishes.  You can also customize spice level and be forewarned, cause this shit is FIRE.  This stuff goes up to “revenge for the a-bomb” level spicy.  I went with a pork katsu large curry with white rice and a side of gyoza (potstickers).

While waiting five minutes for my food, I took a second to take in the atmosphere.  Christmas music, stockings on the wall, and a Christmas tree in the corner?

This is like a diner in Oklahoma with a buddha on every table.

This sounds like it has some backstory or is some weird level of pandering, so I didn’t ask too many questions.  I didn’t have long to think about it though, because my food came up real quick.

They did not wrap my present.

The gyoza were fine.  They were deep fried, there were only 4 of them to an order and they were fairly small for a $5 side dish.  The ponzu they came with was definitely the highlight but the little container was so small it was hard to really dip them without spilling it everywhere.  I probably will order something else next time or skip them altogether, since they seem to be on the menu just to be able to say they have them.

Luckily, my tiny gyoza were overshadowed by the veritable Lake Loch Ness of curry that arrived next.

NESSIE WHAT HAVE THEY DONE TO YOU

The focus of this plate is definitely on the curry itself and not the meat.  I will admit, it’s not the most attractive plate of food.  Brown on brown is not an attractive look for a plate.  Almost all of the meats provided are deep fried which really cuts down on the flavor impact they have on the dish, but that doesn’t even really matter because the curry is the star.  Japanese flavors are traditionally pretty subtle and though this dish was no exception, it’s incredibly hard to stop eating once you take the first bite.  I ordered a spicy level 7 which was enough to get me needing extra napkins and a bunch of drinks.  I’ve heard there are secret levels of spicy beyond 10, but even a 7 is usually enough to get a look of “uh, really?” when you’re as white as I am.

Me hanging with my bros.

Japanese Curry uses a different set of base spices for their curry powder than other forms of cooking, but it’s very high in cardamom which has kind of a citrus flavor which results in a much different taste than you might expect.  This feels very much like eating a big bowl of mashed potatoes and gravy with a piece of turkey or chicken (in a good way).  When it’s getting cold outside, it’s very nice to just settle in a big bowl of Japanese comfort food (and a good prescription for Hungryitis. I’m cured!  It’s a miracle!)

Overall, I definitely recommend checking out Zen.  It’s not the most mindblowing experience, but when you want something comforting and spicy for not much cash, this is a quick meal that can get the job done.  I paid $18 for this pile of food and a drink, but a normal human sized portion can be had for under $12.

Zen Curry House (2 locations)

5020 #1 Spring Mountain Road, Las Vegas, NV, 89146

Tel: 1-702-985-1192

Open: 11:30am-11pm

7835 S Rainbow Blvd. #9, Las Vegas, NV 89139

Tel:702-912-4404

Open: 11:30am-11pm

CHADA STREET: I’ll call this one Chada A and the other one Chada 1.

Can you tell me how to get to Chada Street?  No, seriously, I’m late and they’re giving my table away.

I was terrified coming into tonight.  A few days ago I received an invitation from the good people over at Chada to their soft opening at their new restaurant.  Bon Atcharawan, the proprietor of both locations, certainly established something special and I had only met him once or twice before.  I constantly talk about how good Chada is (I’m sure you’re all sick of it by now) and even though I was incredibly excited, I was also terrified that I would be disappointed by my experience at the faster, cheaper location geared towards Thai street food.

Well this is a load off my mind.

YOU EAT IT ALL.

I was actually incredibly excited to be able to do a tasting menu.  I had never been to an event like this before so I didn’t know what they were planning on doing but I love when I can just sit down, say nothing and just have food start arriving.  First up was a simple appetizer of salty peanuts with Thai flavors.

Subtle beginnings.

I won’t say this blew us away but it was certainly no slouch.  Planters certainly has nothing on these.  I would like there to be more lime leaf and onions but the citrus notes went very well with the salty nuts.  It’s quite salty and would be hard to eat an entire order by yourself.  Definitely a one or two bite thing for me.

They jumped the gun and brought out the spring roll next, which I was very excited for considering my love for the spicy herb spring roll at Chada.  This is described as a veggie and meatloaf spring roll I had a feeling it wasn’t a normal meatloaf.

I was heartbroken when I found out that the singer Meatloaf was not involved.

This is one of few dishes where I feel like there was a direct analogue to a version at Chada and I was somewhat disappointed.  The ones at Chada are filling but have a spicy sauce to go with the pork inside.  The meatloaf here is overshadowed by the extremely strong herb flavor, which I enjoy, but I would prefer if the meat itself was the star rather than second fiddle.  The basic sweet and sour sauce served alongside it could not save it.  A very well executed dish but I think it could be improved on.

Ever present in southeast Asian restaurants, they brought out a chicken satay next.  I enjoy grilled skewered meat and was looking forward to this, though satay is seemingly an afterthought at most places because it’s so easy to do well.

I was disappointed when told I must share.

Wow.  Definitely the best satay I’ve had.  The chicken marinade was super strong and the chicken was cut thick so it was still juicy and delicious when the outside was crisp and extremely well seasoned.  The peanut sauce I could’ve eaten with a spoon.  Was disappointed I couldn’t have more of this dish but unfortunately they caught me when I tried to leave the restaurant with the plate.

I was glad they restrained me though because up next was a dish that everyone could agree on…

This is burned into my retinas.

This pork belly dish might be the most delicious thing I’ve had all year.  I was expecting something similar to the Pad Kra Pow at Chada but this was a completely separate entity.  Thin cut super crispy pork belly with very juicy meat and a green chili sauce with many herbs.  For the purposes of the review, it’s awful to say that something is indescribably delicious but it simply was.  Most pork belly dishes are very heavy but this was a light and refreshing joy to eat.  We actually ended up asking for another plate later on and I could’ve easily eaten another plate just by myself.  At $6 a plate, this is something I could go for and just end up eating two orders myself.  It’s worth coming here just for this plate of food.

After the feeding frenzy subsided, they presented us with a banana leaf that we were told is filled with a fish curry.

It’s a banana leaf, there must be bananas inside.
That was my second guess.

The curry inside looks like a small piece of fish and I took my first bite expecting a flaky piece of fish texture, but it wasn’t there.  The curry is sort of congealed like a custard.  I will say I kind of missed a bit of texture in the dish but the curry itself was delicious, subtly spicy but full of flavor.  The presentation adds to it but I still wish there was some variety in the texture even if it’s as simple as a bit of rice underneath.

I love larb and this next dish was very exciting mostly because I’ve never had fish larb before.  It was no slouch.

If you know me, this has PUT IT IN MY FACE written all over it.

There are few things I love more than grilled meat, onion, spices and lime juice.  This is the kind of dish I want to die eating.  Just a perfect melding of flavors and good textures.  Fish goes well in larb apparently.

The next dish may have been the biggest surprise of the night, however, if only because it’s so unsuspecting.

You should be able to smell this through your computer screen.

We knew the next dish was coming before we ever saw it because the aroma coming from this plate of food was so strong, and I have a terrible sense of smell.  Crab has a great smell and our table REEKED (in a good way) of crab while we were eating this dish.  They called it a crab fat fried rice so I’m assuming all the oil used in this dish came from the crab and wow if that’s a thing I want more crab fat in my life.  One of the all time best fried rice dishes, the only critique I could possibly levy against it is that I wish there was a bit more crispy rice involved.

I was nervous as all hell with regards to the dessert.  I had no idea what to expect.

I was warned against yellow snow, unsure what to do with pink.

I really really really wish I could say the meal ended on an upnote for me.  Two of my three dining companions really enjoyed their dessert, but I couldn’t get into half of it.  The shaved ice inspired vivid memories of snow cones to me and that was fine, and the coconut jelly was better than the ones I had experienced before but the other components didn’t seem to belong to me.  Especially the red beans, which had a strange texture that I didn’t particularly enjoy.  Thai desserts in general always seemed fairly strange to me and I don’t think I really got ‘into’ this one.  Maybe that’s my fault, who knows.

I got to meet chef Aime right after the meal.  I can say with no doubt that the execution on all these dishes was phenomenal and I look forward to eating all of her food for the foreseeable future.

The duck face selfie had bad lighting.

All in all, this was an incredible experience.  Bon and Aimee very much care about Thai food and presenting it in the best light possible.  Chada Street is a much more approachable place for people who have never had Thai food before and certainly won’t break the bank with most plates being less than $10.  This trip definitely exceeded my lofty expectations and I can’t wait to go back and try the rest of the menu.  I expect this place to be a staple for years to come.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to do some laundry to stop smelling like crab.

3839 Spring Mountain Rd, Las Vegas, NV 89103

Hours: Tuesday – Sunday, 5 PM to 3 AM

(702) 579-0207

VIVA LAS AREPAS: Viva, uh, this place.

What the hell is an Arepa?

I’m still not quite sure, but I can say it’s pretty damn delicious.  I’d never heard of this Venezuelan treat until just before setting foot inside this place.  It’s just north of the Stratosphere on the BLVD and most Latin-American restaurants in this area are dingy places that make you want to call the health department.

What a surprise this was.  A glorious, very welcome surprise.

I don’t know what that anthropomorphized sphere is supposed to be but whatever she’s selling, I’m buying.

The place is really clean inside, alarmingly so.  Tons of people working in the back which makes sense because it was fairly busy for the time we showed up.  We ordered a ton of stuff in an attempt to find the best food in the house but I really had no idea what I was ordering when I did so.  Just a tip: ask for help.  I’m sure they do it constantly but they know what the good stuff is.

Like a Venezuelan Chipotle.

Turns out an Arepa is basically a crispy english muffin stuffed with meat, veggies and sauce.  They also have some empanadas that were really fantastic, but the sheer variety of Arepas available make sure everyone is going to be happy.  We got shredded beef, shredded pork and kind of a Venezuelan chicken salad with avocado and cilantro.

They’re not reinventing the wheel, but this is some next level comfort food.  This is basically halfway between a taco and a big ol sub sandwich.  The Arepa crunches with every bite despite the soft juicy filling and they do not skimp on the meat or toppings.  Each one is about five bucks each and we had serious trouble finishing the 5 we ordered between the two of us.  Will definitely go back and get two at most next time, maybe just one if I’m getting an empanada (pfft yeah right).

The fried plantains were just fine and the fried thing on the left in the picture below was kind of a sad dessert thing that we don’t need to discuss.  The hot sauces available, however, were really great and I could add a lot and had a nice burn going without it ruining the meal.

I instantly regret this decision.

This mountain of food filled me and my friend up for the rest of the day.  This easily could’ve fed 3-4 people for less than $40.  If you’re walking the strip and want something new, Viva Las Arepas might just be the place to be.

1616 South Las Vegas Blvd. #120

Las Vegas, Nevada 89104

Monday-Sunday  8:00am to 12:00am

SETTEBELLO: Shut up and eat this pizza.

Pizza is something that people hold sacred, partly because people who have visited New York can get snooty and act like they’ve had the “real stuff” after paying $2 for a couple slices and partly because anyone can throw canned tomato sauce on some dough and it still tastes alright.  I’m from Illinois and we definitely do enjoy our deep dish (IT’S NOT A CASSEROLE IT’S A FAMILY TRADITION) but we’re all drunk children compared to the gods making real Neapolitan pizza like they make at Settebello.

 

Can I do a fake Italian accent? FUHGEDDABOUTIT!

Settebello is in The District, a little outdoor shopping center just across from Green Valley Ranch, the only casino directly in the Henderson area.  It’s actually a beautiful little spot and definitely not what you’d expect to be right next to a casino.  I have a friend who lives in an apartment nearby and I can say with utmost confidence I would eat at Settebello almost every day if I lived there.

They’re a very traditional Italian pizzeria, with a few basic antipasti and their woodfire pizza oven.  The floor is sprinkled with flour and you can tell how many pizzas they must churn out a day.

Right after I asked him if he wanted a picture taken, I told him to “act like he’s doing something.” THIS PICTURE IS FULL OF LIES.

Settebello offers a pretty extensive Italian microbrew menu and they actually try to pair their favorite beers with their favorite pizzas, so if you feel like trying a few brewskis feel free to ask your server for the beer list.  A few times, they’ve even done a beer and pizza tasting with the brewery owners.

Italian food is all about simple ingredients used well and shown in their best light and so the best way to figure out if a place is good is to order the simple stuff.  If they mess it up, it’s not a place I will give my business.  One of my favorite dishes to test this out is a caprese salad, and I have to say that way more places botch it than I might want to admit.  Settebello nails it, with perfect balance of proportions.  You can get some of everything in each bite and they don’t drown it in oil or vinegar.  You don’t end up with 10 uneaten rounds of tomatoes or a pile of cheese at the end.  And they bring out extra balsamic just in case you need it.  If I were skinny, this would be all I need to be happy.

It almost makes me want to be skinny.

We also decided we need to try the meatballs which aren’t always on the menu.  Slightly dry in the middle but the sauce was simple and delicious.  The flatbread was fine but seems like too much.  I would be fine with just the meatballs but some people need to have something to dip into the sauce I guess.

Before you ask, yes, I burned myself on the cast iron.

Lastly, there’s nothing I can say about the pizza except it’s almost perfect.  We ordered two, one being the Margherita because I feel like it’s the best way to judge if a pizza place is up to snuff and one my buddy Gabe ordered from the specials list.  It featured a jalapeno pear marmalade which I chastised him for.

Holy.

Crap.

I can say hands down that these were probably the two best pizzas I have ever had.  Perfect pizza crust is hard to do and I won’t claim it was flawless here.  It didn’t stand up as well as it could’ve but the outside was nice and crispy, it was very light and didn’t overpower the toppings at all.  The balance of the sauce and the cheese was phenomenal and I love how they left it on long enough for the little blisters to form on the edge.  A real sign of a properly cooked pizza.

The real star, however, was the jalapeno pear marmalade.  It completely blew me away.  It sounds weird at first, but it added a subtle spicy sweetness to the whole pizza that balanced incredibly with the acidic tomato sauce and the great mozzarella they use.  The red onions had some great texture.  I usually always stick with the Margherita because it’s so simple and perfect but I think I have a new favorite.

It’s hard to imagine there being better pizza anywhere.

Apps will run you less than $10 and the pizzas are perfect size for one person and will run you twelve bucks.

Settebello is THE pizza place to go to in town.  I’ve heard a million people offer up just as many places that offer “the best” but none even really hold a candle to this.  Come for the beer, the pizza, the meatballs, whatever you want.  Just come here.

Locations: The District at Green Valley Ranch, 140 S Green Valley Pkwy, Henderson, NV 89012

Phone: (702) 222-3556

9350 W Sahara Ave #170, Las Vegas, NV 89117

(702) 901-4877)

Hours: Open daily · 11:00 am – 10:00 pm

OYSTER BAR (AT PALACE STATION): No one comes here, it’s too crowded.

“Oh hey Jimmy I love oysters.”

SHUT UP, THIS ISN’T FOR YOU.

Yes, they serve oysters at the Oyster Bar at Palace Station.  They’re fine.  They’re somewhat expensive so if you’re into spending money to gamble on your well being (you’re in a Vegas casino so who isn’t AMIRITE) then you’ve come to the right place.

HOWEVER.

This place makes a bomb-ass pan roast.  What is a pan roast you might ask?

THIS GODDAMMIT

A big bowl of spicy seafood, tomato, and cream stew with a big scoop of rice on top.  It’s really hard to describe how satisfying and comforting a bowl of this can be without having experienced it.  I don’t know why this place makes such a good dish but it does and I’m not going to question their methods.

But I digress.

“Uh, table for two?” “LOL”

This is the Oyster Bar, right next to a couple banks of slot machines.  There are less than 20 seats at the bar and it takes approximately an hour or longer to order, get your food, eat, pay and leave so you can end up waiting quite a long time.  I’ve seen a 30 person line before which took around 2-3 hours to get seated from the very back.  This place is CRAZY popular on the weekends around 1-2 AM.  If you want to experience it, best choose when you’ve been out all night around 8 AM or go for lunch because this shit is seriously crazy.  So crazy, in fact, they actually disconnected their phone because they got tired of answering how long the wait is.

Though the options look numerous, the best stuff is simple and straightforward.  We got a pan roast (also try the gumbo.  VERY good gumbo), white chowder, and my incorrigible colleague got a dozen oysters.  They can make the pan roast or gumbo as spicy as you like and the spice adds a LOT of flavor so feel free to order an 8 or a 9 if you’re feeling brave.  Fair warning, the chefs have different spice levels so some of them have a 6 that’s pretty mild and some have a 4 that can make your lips tingle.

I wanted to say the world’s first steampunk restaurant but I know that isn’t true.

One of the reasons this place takes so long is the way they make the food.  They have 6 steel pots that are heated by super high pressure steam systems.  They only have enough power to heat 3 of them and it takes a bit to clean them, so they can usually only make 3 pan roasts at a time. But damned if it ain’t worth it.  Trust me though, once you’re sitting and waiting on your food, it can feel like an eternity.

I suppose I should say something about the oysters.

They only taste about 60% as good as they look.

*sigh*

They’re fine.  They’re nothing to write home about.  Oysters that are too big get tough and have a really weird texture with the abductor muscle that isn’t readily apparent with smaller ones.  These were pretty big and kind of tough so I can’t really recommend spending $20 on a dozen of them.  But if you love oysters then splitting a dozen with friends before you get some pan roasts isn’t too bad an idea.

However, the chowder…

IT’S CHOWDAH.

This bowl was deceptively big, by the way.  A big bowl of delicious clam chowder full of seafood and made of what I think is probably the best broth I’ve had in a white chowder.  A lot of chowders skimp on the clams and go heavy on potatoes but this place has the ratio pretty perfect.  Great for someone who isn’t too hungry for a pan roast but wants something hot and delicious.  Or you can just get a cup of the chowder anyway.

UN-DIGRESS.

I’M BACK BITCHES

Combo Pan Roast.  Shrimp, Crab and Lobster. $24, but to most humans it’s enough to bring some home with you.  And may I just say that this might be the most reheatable dish I’ve ever had.  Even if you just have a microwave, this tastes just as good if not better the day after you get it here.  Soup is a wonderful thing.

$70 for two people at 4 AM on some random weekday.  Not the cheapest option available, but probably one of the best and you leave stuffed.  I’d say it’s close to a must try.  You get your money’s worth.

Address: Palace Station, 2411 W Sahara Ave, Las Vegas, NV 89102

Hours: 24/7

TOFU HUT KOREAN BBQ: Seriously, it’s mostly meat.

It’s usually good news when you have to wait half an hour to get seated at 11 PM on a weekday.  This is one of those cases.

Tofu Hut is an amazing value Korean BBQ place just west of the strip on the edge of what I call Asiatown.  There are a ton of Korean BBQ places but few of them are cheap and some of them have not great quality food.  Tofu Hut somehow has both of those things.

BUT NOT TOFU LOL

They stop seating just after 1 AM but they’re open 7 days a week.  So if you feel like gorging yourself around midnight this is one of the better places to go.  They have a sign-in sheet in the waiting area that is usually 4-5 groups deep since they have a limited number of cooking tables inside, but trust me: It’s worth it.

We get seated, give a few selections off of their menu and a flurry of appetizers arrive.  Kimchi, pickles, potato pancake, fishcakes, noodles and a few others which are delicious though unidentifiable to my caucasian brain.  All of them are solid and sate my intense hunger until the meat actually arrives.

Well that was delicious, check please!

A salad is also always brought out and honestly it’s one of the better simple salads I’ve ever had.  A very light and tasty vinaigrette over tiny shreds of lettuce.  Definitely nice with the fatty and spicy meat and sauce to come.

One thing that makes this place really separate from the other Korean BBQ places (other than the price) is the quality of their short ribs.  Typically korean short ribs (kalbi) are not a great cut of meat with little bones with lots of gristle on them.  This place serves you basically a big piece of steak instead and it’s definitely the best kalbi I can remember having.  Any carnivore would approve.  We also ordered marinated sliced pork, a steamed egg (weird name for a great dish, definitely order it), and marinated sliced ribeye.

The unholy triumvirate (plus salad).

The actual cooking is up to you and though I don’t have a problem with that I’m sure some will.  This is pretty typical for a Korean BBQ place and helps keep the price down, though to be honest I wouldn’t want them cooking it here because the biggest problem with this place is that the service is seriously lacking.  Drink refills, food orders, and table cleanups happen pretty slowly and it probably contributes to it taking so long to get a table.  But at a certain point, the food is so good– I DON’T CARE GIVE ME THE TONGS.

Probably worth mentioning that this place is all you can eat.  Yeah.

Imagine this picture 6 times in a row and that’s basically what this meal was like.

Tofu Hut has a pointless name and not great service but is definitely a mainstay in my evening eating.  It’s definitely one of the more crave-able late night meals in town and is so insanely cheap at $20 per person after tax and tip that you can justify going a few times a week.  Just make sure you’re prepared for a short wait to do so.

Address: 3920 Spring Mountain Rd, Las Vegas, NV 89102

Phone: (702) 257-0072

Hours: Open daily · 11:00 am – 2:00 am