EATING LAS VEGAS – The 50 Essential Restaurants – 49. THE GOODWICH

October 28, 2014 By: John Curtas Category: Downtown, EATING LAS VEGAS - The 50 Essential Restaurants, Food, Reviews


 ELV note: Until The Goodwich opened earlier this year, a good hot sandwich was harder to find than a Mormon distillery. Still less than a year old, it remains the only place to get a a superior version of the meal that made John Montagu famous. Rather than blather on and on about how good The Goodwich’s creations are, we’ll leave it to Mitchell Wilburn to extol its virtues, as he did in a posting back in March. Take it away Mitchell:

Damn man, damn.  I have been so consistently wowed by this place, that I’ve been going back about twice a week.  It does help that it is five  minutes away from my hip (and only slightly dangerous) digs in “The Downtown”, but I would drive from Summerlin consistently and even bear slumming it in Dino’s (and I REALLY don’t like Dino’s) to enjoy these seriously bad-ass sandwiches.

They are occupying the semi-fixed location that Viva Las Arepas once was (now moved down the street to an actual dining room), right out front of Dino’s, conveniently located near the Olympic Gardens gentleman’s club and plenty of the garish kind of weekly-rate motels that make up that part of Vegas.

The Goodwich space is nothing more than a window to order from a a few chairs to devour your sandwich in. What little decor there is is very hip 60s Atomic Age stuff.  It is quite the contrast to the area, but there is a consistent group stopping in for a bite.

The menu is split into a few different pricing tiers: $3 for a quick little booze soaker-upper, $5 for a unique spin on a classic, $7 for a stick-to-your-ribs filling sandwich, and $9 for the ritzy crowd looking for the “Crème de la crème” premium stuff.  Lets take this apart, starting with the…

$3 STUFF:  You got your simple egg on toast and your grilled cheese.  Both of these satisfy the quick thing to stuff in your face either before or after a big night of drinking.  Simple, quick, but done really well.  The Fluff & Nutt however, is a perfect crowd-pleasing dessert.  Griddled white bread, Marshmallow Fluff, Nutella, and a secret crunchy, who’s nearest approximation I can find is some kind of honey-ish breakfast cereal.  Bring the kiddies too. & Nutt foto by

$5 STUFF:  There is a sandwich in this category I am seriously considering the best sandwich I’ve had in years.  My usual go-to for an amazing sandwich is on the semi-secret menu at the Carnevino bar, a dry-aged pastrami sandwich with grilled tomatoes and arugula.  That and one of Good Ol’ Coop’s perfect Negronis is a great meal, even at something of a shocking price tag.  But for the Goodwich “Ham &” to surpass that at just a fiver?  You’ve got the salty, savory ham, and they pair that up with aged cheddar, and a house made mostarda (dried blueberries, cranberries, apple, etc. cooked with mustard vinegar, sugar, and wine).  Blew my mind, probably the best danged deal in town, and I mean that with honesty.  Get that one, now, today.  Go.

Ham &

$7 STUFF:  These are all big, meaty, generous sandwiches in a pretty classic style.  The only one that really deviates from the classic is a patty, which is more like a ground beef cheese steak.  They must cook this in the sauce or something, because it isn’t a patty with sauce on it, it is a spicy (might be too spicy for some), creamy sauce dressing loose ground beef.  These are filling as heck, and worth the $7 as a meal in itself.


$9 STUFF: Oh la la, a sandwich with foie gras mousse?  Could this be really good or really awful?  There has been a trend of really awful “dive-y” food with foie gras on it, so how does their “Foie &” faire?

The mousse is done quite well, preserved the overall rich flavor, the port-braised cabbage is a great sweet/bitter addition, the almonds elevate the flavor well and add texture.

And the crispy chicken skin (add to any sammy for $2!)?  Well that is what a wise man once called “Money”.  Get the “Foie &,” not so you can say “lol foie gras sandwich! XD #selfie #foodporn #sorrynotsorry”, but because it is most definitely a good experience.

“Foie &” foto by

The “Span-ish” and “Le Pig” are both just as good as the foie, and definitely indicative of the immense level of passion and thought the two owners put into their sandwiches.

A lucky star must hang over that little shack in front of Dino’s.  Lucky for the owners (Josh Clark and Jake Leslie) — who have and most certainly will be heading to do big things with their food, but even more lucky for the people who get to eat there.

The Goodwich is coming at a time when everyone is scrambling to open a Downtown restaurant, and so many (especially any of the hokey ones they just opened in the Grand or Plaza or whatever else) are not guiding things in the right direction.  If we had more places like The Goodwich, we would be sitting pretty, and downtown would really  be giving The Strip a run for its money!

Get down there, eat every damned sandwich on the menu, come back as often as you can.  There might be no place where the quality is so high and the price is so low anywhere else in Vegas, and you can take that to the bank.

Josh Clark and Jake Leslie

Favorite dishes: Gosh….I don’t know….maybe you should get…A SANDWICH!??!


1516 S. Las Vegas Blvd. South


EATING LAS VEGAS – The 50 Essential Restaurants – 48. ZEN JAPANESE CURRY

October 27, 2014 By: John Curtas Category: Chefs, EATING LAS VEGAS - The 50 Essential Restaurants, Food, Reviews, Spring Mountain Road


It’s tasty.

It’s fresh.

It’s unique.

It’s inexpensive.

It’s chef-owned.

That chef is always at the stoves.

It’s good.

It’s good for you.

It’s as vegetarian or meat-centric as you want it to be.

It’s as spicy or tame as you desire.

It’s clean.

It’s charming.

It’s intimate.

It’s open all the time, i.e. throughout the day.

The service is unfailingly sweet and efficient.

It’s got food that isn’t fancy.

In fact, a lot of it looks like this:

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Or this:


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And sometimes you combine them to have this:

Shrimp with Original Curry

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…or add some tasty condiments:

Pickled radish and garlic

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…to make your tasty plate look like this:

Pork Katsu with condiment toppings

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And if all you want is the world’s most perfectly fried chicken (and who doesn’t love fried chicken?), you can always order this:

Chicken croquette

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As you can see, this food isn’t complicated and it isn’t expensive.

It’s what ELV calls deceptively simple cuisine — food that exists both technically and metaphorically on a different level — like Japanese food in general.

And get this: Takaya-san gets it right every time. We have eaten here A dozen times since it opened and have never ceased to be blown away by the precision and perfection behind every bite. (Those who don’t consider deep-frying an art will get an education with one bite of any of the above-pictured proteins.)

It also happens to be very good for you. (As much as ELV loves Savoy and Gagnaire and Robuchon and Carnevino and Spago, he can’t say with a straight face that he always feels healthier when he walks out of them.)

But when he walks out of The Best Restaurant in Town, he always feels like he’s done something nice for his body, mind and soul.

And did we mention that the chef is always there, cooking his superb recipes, and that those spice-infused concoctions have health-giving properties, and that those spice, herb and vegetable-rich dishes he makes top out at around $12.50?

Add all that up and you have a most excellent eatery and one that puts to shame many a high-flying “concept” restaurant, i.e. places conceived by consultants and run by accountants, e.g., Tivoli Village and every friggin’ spot opening downtown or having opened on the Strip in the past four years.

Some might kvetch that the drink menu is limited (a few good Japanese beers, a couple of middle-brow sakes), and that there’s no dessert to speak of (mochi, coffee jello), but when Snowflake Shavery is right next door, and Sweets Raku is right across the parking lot, there’s no need for such caloric caterwauling.

Besides, when you consider the money and calories you save, you should give the staff a major “domo arigato” for keeping your temptations to a minimum.

Don’t worry if your Japanese isn’t perfect, because everything else about this place is.

Favorite dishes: Spinach Curry; Chicken Katsu Curry; Beef Curry; Vegetable Curry; Kushi Curry; Anything with curry on the menu; Katsu-Don; Chicken Croquette; Pork Katsu; Dee-Fried Shrimp.


5020 Spring Mountain Road


Letter(s) of the Week – WTF Are People Ordering?

October 25, 2014 By: John Curtas Category: Letter of the Week

ELV note: Our recent post about our foodie friend David Greco’s dining exploits in our humble burg drew a number of comments,  not about his main point –  being denied a table in a restaurant with plenty of open seats — but rather about his menu choices at one of our finer frog ponds (Twist by Pierre Gagnaire). The debate over whether to blame the resto or the customer when a dish is lackluster is one we’ve had with many food fans over the years, and we’ll weigh in with comments of our own below, after you’ve gotten a taste of the debate.

(BTW: This contumacious, contentious controversy  is the just the sort of creative, conversational convergence we crave in our confutation man-cave. We realize such conscientious confrontational conflict doesn’t have the currency of more considerable, constructive discourse — such as whether Tim Lincecum has lost is fastball, or Rene Zellwegger her face — but we must conspicuously concede to coveting and conflating such controversial cacophony.

 Let’s examine the positions of the respective parties, shall we?

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Life Is Beautiful on Channel 3 with DUE FORNI

October 24, 2014 By: John Curtas Category: Chefs, Events, Food, Wake Up With the Wagners


October 23, 2014 By: John Curtas Category: EATING LAS VEGAS - The 50 Essential Restaurants, Food, Reviews


Since Desnudo Tacos is kaput for the time being, our staff thought it appropriate to elevate Rodeo Los Reyes de la Barbacoa estilo Hildago to the much coveted “best damn hole-in-the-wall tacos” spot on our Essential 50 list.

The tag line says ¡ Todo hecho al momento! and they mean it.  The quality of the barbecued meats and the tortillas and the beans and the salsas they put out (for around ten bucks a platter) is nothing short of phe-nom-en-ol.

In terms of bang for the buck, it can’t be beat.

In terms of having the longest name in Las Vegas restaurants, it can’t be beat either.

To get there, take the Decatur North exit off the 93-95 (across from the Meadows Mall) and proceed north on Decatur. Look to your left a mile or so up the road and you’ll spot the barely lit “Barbacoa” sign in the middle of a seedy shopping center:

Don’t be put off by the bare tables and the fact there are only five people in the joint and three of them work there. Because two of the three are the ladies who are barbacoa-ing their hearts out back in the kitchen….in the “style of Hildago” of course.

The magic they make with these meats puts many a Mexican to shame. Take one bite of the carnitas, goat (chiva) or carne asada and be prepared to drop your taco in appreciation. The salsas will also blow you away.

Yeah, they’re that good.

Favorite dishes: What are you deaf? Get the tacos….all of them.

P.S. This picture doesn’t do them justice.


2115 N. Decatur Ave.


EATING LAS VEGAS – The 50 Essential Restaurants – 47. DESNUDO TACOS

October 22, 2014 By: John Curtas Category: Chefs, EATING LAS VEGAS - The 50 Essential Restaurants, Food, Reviews

ELV note: Unbekownst to us, 2 hours before we posted this today, Desnudo Tacos announced on its Facebook page that it would be shuttering operations at the end of this week due to a lease dispute. As much as it saddens us to hear this, we ‘ll stick by our pick of it as an “essential” Las Vegas restaurant (yes, the food is that good), and keep on the lookout for the new location — which we are confident will happen soon.

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EATING LAS VEGAS – The 50 Essential Restaurants – 46. “The New” EL SOMBRERO

October 20, 2014 By: John Curtas Category: Chefs, Downtown, EATING LAS VEGAS - The 50 Essential Restaurants, Openings, Reviews


The old El Sombrero was Las Vegas’s oldest restaurant. It opened its doors for the first time in 1950, and was considered time-worn and venerable when, in 1970, Teresa and José Aragon took over and started cooking their unique brand of Mexican-meets-New Mexican food. After a 44 year run, the Aragons retired in April and sold the joint to Irma Aguirre. It reopened in August, and what she and Executive Chef Oscar Sanchez have done to the 43 seat space is nothing short of amazing.

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Letter of the Week – WTF with “Fully Booked”?

October 18, 2014 By: John Curtas Category: Chefs, Letter of the Week!/img/httpImage/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_635/weiner1n-1-web.jpg

David knows his Weiners

ELV note: One of our favorite paisans – David Greco – who owns and runs Mike’s Deli on Arthur Avenue in da Bronx, was in Vegas recently, and filed this report (the kind we at ELV love to get from our favorite foodies) on some of his experiences. He also ends his mini-reviews with a question that often bugs us as well as our staff

Dear ELV,

Having a craving for fancy French during my recent visit, I wound up at Twist. I dare say I was disappointed. Dreadfully boring room. OK sure, maybe great place to impress a hot brunette, but service was spotty. For example, no one removed the dirty plates from the entree course until the dessert course arrived.

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EATING LAS VEGAS – The 50 Essential Restaurants – 45. KU NOODLE

October 16, 2014 By: John Curtas Category: Chefs, EATING LAS VEGAS - The 50 Essential Restaurants, Food, Openings, Reviews


Chinese restaurants in Las Vegas come in two sizes: on-the-Strip and overpriced, and off-the-Strip and down and dirty. The holes in the walls are stuck into seedy shopping centers up and down Spring Mountain Road. They are generally excellent, but also, due to their being the genuine article, off-putting to most round eyes. Strip Chinese joints usually charge double for dishes remarkably similar to ones you get a mile to the west, but at least you’re not afraid to look into the corners, and the ingredients are usually better.

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EATING LAS VEGAS – The 50 Essential Restaurants – 44. MARCHE BACCHUS

October 15, 2014 By: John Curtas Category: Critics, EATING LAS VEGAS - The 50 Essential Restaurants, Reviews, Wine


We at ELV are not sure if Marche Bacchus even qualifies for the coveted title of Best-Off-Strip-Restaurant-That’s-Not-In-Chinatown anymore, but we do know this: it’s still our favorite restaurant in Vegas, and the only one we ever want to go to to wile away a weekend afternoon, sipping spectacular wine (at the best prices in town) and engaging in our usual witty display of epicurean aphorisms and gastronomic bon mots.

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