John Curtas is …

ISLA Ain’t Worth It

Somewhere long ago, in a land far far away, when things like restaurant awards were being handed out by publishers looking for ad revenue, someone saw fit to describe ISLA Mexican Kitchen and Tequila Bar as one of our top Mexican restaurants.

It wasn’t and isn’t.

What it is is a large, casino restaurant putting out passably “Mexican” food for turistas who wouldn’t know the real thing if it bit them on their huitlacoches.

How one can have a whole “Mexican” meal, of four different “specialties” and not taste one, dicernable Mexican spice or seasoning in the whole enchilada is beyond ELV’s meagre brain.

The guacamole was given some spice from the pumpkin seeds decorating its top, and there was a wedge of lime to juice things up, but if those weren’t present, all you would have on your hands is a mashed avocado.

Likewise, the tortilla chips were thick, none too fresh, and hard as a rock, the rock shrimp “ceviche” strangely free of any lime or other acidic accents, and the corn cakes with special toppings — beef, pulled pork and chicken — so tepid they could’ve been baby food.

On the bright side, the “skirt steak pyramid” was a lot of well-cooked, reasonably tender beef for $25. Surrounding and topping it were all sorts of do-dads (a swirl here) and gee-gaws (a limp onion there) of no appreciable flavor — Mexican or otherwise.

Our trip down Mexican Mediocrity Lane cost us $63.69 (no booze, one virgin margarita) + $14.31 tip.

You have been warned.

ISLA MEXICAN KITCHEN AND TEQUILA BAR

In the Treasure Island Hotel and Casino

3300 Las Vegas Blvd. South

Las Vegas, NV 89136

702.894.7349

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16 Responses to ISLA Ain’t Worth It

  • Living in SoCal, we have access to some great Mexican food and of course, Isla aint’ that by a long shot.

    For LV tourists though, what’s a good Mexican choice on The Strip? Dos Caminos at Palazzo? That ugly bright orange place that sticks out like a sore thumb outside Monte Carlo?

  • El Sombrero!

  • Don’t eat Mexican food on the Strip, it’s that simple.

  • Hey, are taco trucks allowed on the Strip??

  • Fair enough – and no self-respecting Southern Californian would – and maybe LV locals have other good choices tucked into various neighborhoods – but the reality is the Strip hosts millions of tourists a year.

    Can’t someone give them quality Mexican food?

  • Maybe the answer is that there simply isn’t any?

    That’s what I don’t know – are these other places any good?

  • I have enjoyed Isla’s Tequila bar on several visits. They have a great selection of tequilas that are not present at most other bars in the area and their sangrita is a great drink with a little kick (maybe more than their food has).

  • As someone who great up in Michigan and thought Chi-Chi’s was real Mexican food, I think the ratio of tourists on the strip who understand and appreciate this style of cuisine are far fewer than those that would be happy with Isla, Dos Caminos or a variety of other mediocre spots. Hell, many of them think Mesa Grill is a Mexican restaurant. The best in the city, by far, is Los Molcajetes though I have heard good things about La Madonna and have always had decent meals at both Agave and Frank & Fina’s. Lindo Michoacan and Bonito Michoacan also put out quality dishes most of the time. They might not be like anything in SoCal but are good enough to fill that Mexican-food craving when it strikes.

  • It is tragic when you consider that you can’t have taco carts on the strip but you CAN have people handing out those worthless and tacky escort service cards- which end up littering the streets by the thousands. Brilliant.

  • I wish you would refer back to another review of a Mexican restaurant you would consider to be one of the best in Vegas. I am very disapointed after living in Phoenix.

  • My favorite Mexican restaurant on the Strip (and admittedly it is a very low bar) is Border Grill. Second choice would be Diego.

  • To Jason: Look up Los Molcajetes in the google search box on the front page of http://www.eatinglv.com

  • There is no high quality, consistent, AUTHENTIC, mexican food in Las Vegas
    (that I know of). Rick Bayless could make a killing.
    Thanks to Jhon Curtas for a shot of reality in a city full of tepid “food critics”
    who give every restaurant they visit a positive write up.

  • I could not DISAGREE MORE there is great Mexican in Vegas espcially on the Strip. There are a number of great choices. I am not sure what your background on Mexican Food is but Diego and Isla serve up some of the best. Sounds like you have something personal against great Mexican Food.

  • I think Macayos serves up better Mexican food than Isla. Last year we entered Isla before our show. And proceeded to have some of the blandest and nastiest Mexican food ever. Unoriginal to say the least.

  • I must concur with Brian here. Without a doubt, Border Grill (@ Mandalay Bay) is the best Mexican comida on The Strip. Perhaps it’s because the “Too Hot Tamales” are from LA and did a lot of “studying” in Mexico City, but I was quite satisifed by everything from the homemade guacamole to the chiles rellenos to the flan. Otherwise, go off The Strip to Lindo Michoacan for something less expensive but just as delectable.

    And btw, I just moved to Vegas from Orange County… So yes, I know comida mexicana quite well. ;-)

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