John Curtas is …

The Worst of Las Vegas

It’s not easy living with the worst metropolitan newspaper in America. But when they invade our territory, something needs to be said. Here are our comments on some of the Review-Journal’s “Best Of…” categories in food and drink.

This isn’t pretty.

You have been warned.

RESULTS OF THE REVIEW-JOURNAL’S BEST OF LAS VEGAS READER’S POLL:

2010 – Best Bar Food

Readers’ Pick:

Timbers Bar & Grill

Multiple locations

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We figure Timbers’ win this year has much to do with a menu that’s heavy on comfort food/bar food favorites, updated with slightly sophisticated touches in keeping with modern tastes. And the beauty of this menu is its vast variety, including seven types of burgers, plus fish, steaks, pizza and more. Longtime winner PT’s Pub finishes a distant second.

Our Pick:

Steiner’s — A Nevada-Style Pub

Multiple locations

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When we think of Steiner’s we think of dark, dank, smoky poker bars — because Steiner’s is none of these things. No, this is a poker bar for the 21st century and it has the menu to prove it, with such dishes as a lamb chop appetizer, the mere memory of which makes us hungry. And we like the fact that Steiner’s has such a sense of place, with the dishes on its menu named after various Nevada locales.

ELV Pick: Steiner’s is okay, Timbers is frozen food heaven, and both are populated by the sort of video poker drones who give our neighborhood bars a bad name. A great example of the low-brow clientele the R-J constantly panders to.

Neither is in the same league as the munchies at FIRST Food & Bar.

Runner Up: Simon at Palms Place.

2010 – Best Barbeque

Readers’ Pick:

Famous Dave’s

Multiple locations

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We wonder how much Dave himself becoming the frontman on his company’s commercials — a sort of latter-day version of that other famous Dave, the late Mr. Thomas of Wendy’s — has to do with this chain becoming front and center in readers’ minds, but we’d guess it’s also because there are so many valley locations that it’s convenient to all. Oh, and those ribs, lip-smackin’ good. Memphis Championship Barbecue finishes second.

Our Pick:

T.C.’S Rib Crib

8470 W. Desert Inn Road

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T.C.’s is kind of the antithesis of Famous Dave’s — one little storefront, versus a slew of locations — but what they do have in common is dedication to the art of barbecue. Three types of ribs are available, but the pulled pork never fails to amaze us with its sweet, smoky, moist and tender wonderfulness. And we absolutely love the fact that we can get fried okra on the side.

ELV Pick: The barbecue in Las Vegas is horrendously bad, and as a dyed-in-the-wool Southern ‘cue snob, we can assure you no one at the R-j or their readers knows a damn thing about the subject. But when we have a hankerin’ for pulled pork or baby backs we go to Memphis Championship Barbecue. It ain’t Maurice’s Piggy Park, or Kreutz’s, or Struttin’ Gates, but is good enough when a craving hits.


2010 – Best Chinese Restaurant

Readers’ Pick:

P.F. Chang’s China Bistro

Multiple locations

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P.F. Chang’s has been the champ for our readers over the years, and we think that’s because the place never gets boring. The chain has led the pack in offering special menus (such as gluten-free) and, in keeping with the economic times, a four-course menu for two for $39.95. Chang’s justifiably famous lettuce wraps are among the choices, so who could argue with that? China A Go Go is a distant second.

Our Pick:

China Mama

3420 S. Jones Blvd.

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China MaMa is far from fancy — it’s in a former bank, and you can still see the walk-up teller windows — but we like it for its simplicity, authenticity and especially for the steamed juicy pork buns and delicate ginger-infused dumplings that leave us craving more. And that, friends, you can take to the bank.

ELV’s Pick: The R-J Staff actually got one right, but then again, even a blind pig finds an acorn now and then.

2010 – Best Deli

Readers’ Pick:

Jason’s Deli

Multiple locations

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There are Jewish delis and Italian delis and then there’s Jason’s Deli, which is neither Jewish nor Italian but is a perennial winner in this category. What’s so special about Jason’s? Well, there’s the turkey muffuletta, which might not be right out of New Orleans, but is about as close as it comes in these parts. And then there’s the fact that you can get a Reuben or a BLT or a salad or soup or a po’ boy or just about anything, should you be in the mood. Capriotti’s finishes a distant second.

Our Pick:

Chef Marc’s Parma Pastavino & Deli

7591 W. Washington Ave.

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Well, Parma Pastavino may be more of a restaurant than it is a deli, but it works the magic of taking us back to the little brick-street Italian spots of our youth. If you go in for dinner, you can get an actual entree from the blackboard specials, but you also can do a little bit of grocery shopping and can pick up one heck of a sandwich — such as a mortadella. And where else, we ask you, can you do that?

ELV Pick: Another example of why the R-J poll is beneath contempt. Jason’s is a pre-packaged homage to the Sysco truck, and Parma ain’t even a deli. (Wethinks some writer or editor at the paper is paying back a favor with this one.) The best deli food in town is at the Carnegie Deli at the Mirage. Nothing else is even close.

2010 – Best Desserts

Readers’ Pick:

Cheesecake Factory

Multiple locations

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There’s actually a “weight management” section on the Cheesecake Factory’s Web site, but we note that it doesn’t list any cheesecakes. No matter, we don’t think dieting is what readers have in mind when they vote for Cheesecake Factory in this category year after year. There’s your basic original cheesecake, a red-velvet cheesecake, a dulce de leche cheesecake, a peanut-butter-cup cheesecake … well, you get the picture. Freed’s comes in a distant second.

Our Pick:

Layers Bakery Desserts

2708 N. Green Valley Parkway, Henderson

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What do we love about Layers? Well, for one thing, we can stop in and maybe have a piece of warm Heart of Darkness Cake, with its warm, gooey interior, or maybe a Whoopie Pie or chocolate eclair or Chocolate Mud Puddle (do you see a pattern here?). And we can drool over the rich, elaborate cakes in the case and maybe even take one home. If we feel like sharing.

ELV Pick: Oh Review Journal, why do we loathe you so? Maybe it’s because you’re supposed to have a restaurant critic on staff who’s supposed to know something about food. And yet you let these two atrocities have space in your paper, when you and she are supposed to know that there are dozens of restaurants in town who do superior work with sweets. And you and she should know one of them is up for a James Beard Award next month in New York City.

And that would be Kamel Guechida’s creations at L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon.

Runner up: Guy Savoy and Payard Patisserie and Bistro.

2010 – Best Family Restaurant

Readers’ Pick:

Applebee’s

Multiple locations

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Applebee’s is another chain that does a bang-up job of keeping up with the times. We clearly understand the allure of a restaurant that can offer asiago peppercorn steak with potatoes and vegetables for less than 550 calories. That’s great for Mom and Dad, but there’s plenty for the young’uns, too. What kid could resist an Oreo Cookie Shake or the chance to create his or her own winter adventure story? Mimi’s Cafe is a close second.

Our Pick:

Red Robin Gourmet Burgers

Multiple locations

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Kid food for us usually means burgers, but those appeal to the older generation as well, which is why when we think family, we think Red Robin. Here are signs of how much Red Robin likes kids: They sponsor a kids’ burger-cooking contest, have kids’ recipes on their Web site and even offer back-to-school tips. And hey, we can use those, too.

ELV Pick: To paraphrase Nelson Algren, there are three rules ELV lives by: Never play cards with a man named Doc, eat at a place with “family” in its name, or sleep with a woman whose troubles are worse than your own.

2010 – Best French Restaurant

Readers’ Pick:

Marche Bacchus

2620 Regatta Drive

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When we visited Marche Bacchus’ Web site and clicked on the menu icons, the first one that came up was dessert. We thoroughly understand the appeal of a restaurant that has its priorities so clearly in order, and we’re guessing readers do, too. And with misters in the summer and a fireplace in winter and a killer lakeside location, we always feel cozy. Pamplemousse finishes second.

Our Pick:

Marche Bacchus

2620 Regatta Drive

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OK, yeah, we’re suckers for creme brulee and bread pudding, but we also stick around for the other stuff, the charcuterie plates and the salade nicoise and all the rest of it. Something else we like about Marche Bacchus is the $10 corkage on purchases from the adjacent wine shop, which sure beats the customary 2?- to three-times retail.

ELV Pick: We love Marche Bacchus. Eat there all the time. Have named it our Nevada Public Radio Neighborhood Restaurant of the Year on more than one occasion. But it is not the best French restaurant in town. How it can be in a town that has Joel Robuchon, Guy Savoy, Twist by Pierre Gagnaire, Le Cirque, miX, Payard, and a dozen other examples of French excellence?

Our pick: Joel Robuchon

Runner up: Guy Savoy

We think even the owners and chef at MB would agree.

2010 – Best Gourmet Restaurant

Readers’ Pick:

Todd’s Unique Dining

4350 E. Sunset Road, Henderson

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Todd’s manages to edge out a longtime favorite as the reader pick for this category this year, and we can only guess it’s because more people are discovering the quality of Todd Clore’s food, the prompt and pleasant service and the relatively recession-friendly prices. Rosemary’s Restaurant is a close second.

Our Pick:

Todd’s Unique Dining

4350 E. Sunset Road, Henderson

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We like Todd’s, too, partly because of the convenient location close to Interstate 215 and the Beltway, but especially because of dishes such as goat cheese won tons with raspberry-basil sauce and seared scallops with mushrooms, mashed potatoes and pumpkin-seed butter. Which is making us hungry right now.

ELV Pick: See above. We love what Todd Clore does in Green Valley, but even he would admit that for the full, big deal meal experience, his place can’t compete with Strip big hitters.

Our pick: Guy Savoy

Runners Up: Joel Robuchon, Twist by Pierre Gagnaire

2010 – Best Hamburgers

Readers’ Pick:

IN-N-OUT Burger

Multiple locations

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We’re sure readers know all about In-N-Out’s secret menu, with its 3-x-3’s and 4-x-4’s and probably 1,000-x-1,000’s if you really want one, but we also know they can appreciate the simple — but indulgent — goodness of a Double-Double and fries, both all the better because In-N-Out just does the basics and does them extremely well. Fatburger flips into a distant second place.

Our Pick:

Charlie’s Down Under

1950 N. Buffalo Drive CHARLIE’S LAKESIDE 8603 W. Sahara Ave.

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When we worked up a list of the 10 best burgers in Las Vegas a few months back, the Fat Charlie’s Burger was one of the best, for reasons that become obvious when you taste one. It’s 10 ounces of beef plus bacon, a fried egg and cheese — sort of a b

ELV Pick: Once again, the writer’s and editors can’t stop doing this long enough to pay attention to what quality is out there. As much as we like In-N-Out, its burgers can’t hold a candle to those at BLT Burger.

Runner Up: Burger Bar at Mandalay Place.

Readers’ Pick:

Cold Stone Creamery

Multiple locations

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We’ve learned over the years that our readers are people who know what they like, which is no doubt what brings them to choose Cold Stone in this category yet again. This is a place that offers more than 11 million possible combinations of ice cream and mix-ins, so whatever it is you want, they can mix it up for you, right on the cold stone. Baskin-Robbins is frozen out at distant second.

Our Pick:

U-Swirl

Multiple locations

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In a word: tart. That’s what we love about U-Swirl. Yes, they have the regular sweet flavors and the low-fat and no-sugar-added flavors, but they also always have a plain tart and a fruit-flavored tart, which may be mango or pomegranate or peach-mango, for those of us who like things a little less sweet. Plus, we can get as much — or as little — as we want, we can mix up the flavors if we want and we can add whatever toppings we desire, although the pecans are pretty nice with those tart flavors.

ELV Pick: For these dual abominations, the voters, writers and editors should be consigned to a year of frozen yogurt eating. The best, fresh made, ice cream in town is Luv-It-Custard, hands down.

2010 – Best Italian Restaurant

Readers’ Pick:

Olive Garden

Multiple locations

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Family, shamily; what makes Olive Garden a success is that its many locations mean nearly everyone has one in the neighborhood, its prices are reachable even in these recessionary times and its menu is constantly evolving — and, because it’s a big-budget chain, it can remind us of all of that on TV. Dishes such as steak Gorgonzola Alfredo manage to merge lots of current trendy tastes, and that’s vastly appealing. Nora’s Cuisine and Nora’s Wine Bar and Osteria slide into second.

Our Pick:

Gina’s Bistro

4226 S. Durango Drive

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At Gina’s we really do feel like family, because the old country accent is hard to miss. Gina and her employees are always warm and friendly, and we are crazy about dishes such as Brava Gina Bis Pasta, which is farfalle with creamy mushroom sauce, and strozzapreti with creamy pink sauce, sausage and black truffles. And that’s definitely not something you’d find at a chain restaurant.

ELV Pick: Another example of the R-J resolutely ignoring the Strip because it thinks that’s what its lowest common denominator readers want. But if “Best Of” truly means something (and if the editors had any integrity), then that’s what they should feature. Otherwise, call it the “Best of Las Vegas’s Small, Off-Strip, Mediocre Restaurants.” Of course the Olive Garden is a ballot-stuffed joke, but what really offends is ignoring the superior pastas of B & B Ristorante, Bartolotta Ristorante di Mare and Valentino in their shameless quest to sell advertising.

2010 – Best Mexican Restaurant

Readers’ Pick:

Macayo’s Mexican Kitchen

Multiple locations

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Readers went with Macayo’s this year, and our guess is that’s because it serves the Mexican equivalent of comfort food. There’s no weirdness going on — just the kind of Mexican food most Americans grew up eating — and that accessibility, coupled with the accessibility of its multiple locations, is a sure appeal. Ricardo’s is a close second.

Our Pick:

Dona Maria

910 Las Vegas Blvd. South 3205 N. Tenaya Way

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We love Dona Maria for a lot of things, but first and foremost for the tamales, which have a light casing and savory fillings. They are, you might say, both real and spectacular. But we also love the other Mexican specialties served at Dona Maria, plus the kick-your-butt margaritas and the sometimes-raucous audiences for televised futbol games.

ELV Pick: Yet again, a celebration of Mexican mediocrity. Macayo’s and Dona Maria’s feature food straight from Smart and Final. Heaven forbid R-J readers or writers actually leave their comfort zone for a taste of the real enchilada….like they would find at Los Molecajetes.

Runner Up: Los Antojos

2010 – Best Middle Eastern Restaurant

Readers’ Pick:
Paymon’s Mediterranean Cafe

Multiple locations

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Readers have helped Paymon’s grow over the years from a humble storefront on Maryland Parkway to a bigger restaurant and hookah lounge on Maryland Parkway, then the addition of a west-side location and now one downtown. And through the years, it has been a reliable source for consistently good food from across the Mediterranean. Marrakech Moroccan Restaurant is a distant second.

Our Pick:

Ibo Turkish Restaurant

9755 W. Flamingo Road

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That the Mediterranean region is an expansive, diverse place has been driven home by the variety of restaurants with that self-proclaimed designation that have opened in the valley during the past couple of years. There are plenty of differences and similarities among their cuisines, but Ibo serves it up better than many, and in a serene, refined atmosphere.

ELV Pick: Paymon’s consistently wins this category because it stuffs the ballot box better than its competition. It’s a great Mediterranean restaurant only if you know nothing about Mediterranean food. We challenge anyone to eat a meal at Hedary’s, then another at Paymon’s, on consecutive days, and not tell us Hedary’s is better.

Runner Up: Khoury’s — which may be even better than Hedary’s. As for IBO Turkish and Mediterranean Restaurant and Bar (Whew!), are they still in business? Reports tell us just barely.

2010 – Best New Restaurant(Opened in 2009)

Readers’ Pick:

Carlito’s Burritos

3345 E. Patrick Lane

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Carlito’s serves, it seems, all sorts of burritos, in endless tailor-your-own variety. But considering that it also serves a Frito pie and a tortilla burger — among other things — we can certainly understand the appeal. Ciao Ciao Apizza Angelato finishes a distant second.

Our Pick:

Varadero Cuban Restaurant

5081 N. Rainbow Blvd.

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We love little neighborhood restaurants, we love mom and pop ethnic restaurants and we love those moms and pops who have the courage to open in a dire economy, so what’s not to love about Varadero? But we especially love their well-prepared Cuban food, including a ropa vieja that’s about the best we’ve ever tasted.

ELV Pick: Who? What? Where? Huh? All we know is we got a press release from the Beso folks claiming they won this category. And then these two places show up on the R-J website. Are we being conned? Does Beso deserve any accolades? Will either of these two winners be open a year from now?

Who cares? This category is a joke.

Our pick: Sage.

Runner Up: Twist by Pierre Gagnaire

2010 – Best Other Ethnic Restaurant

Readers’ Pick:

Market Grille Cafe

7920 W. Tropical Parkway 7175 W. Lake Mead Blvd.

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Yeah, we can totally get why readers love Market Grille Cafe, which serves inventive Greek food that’s based on the classics, such as Aphrodite’s Cheesecake with its wondrous baklava crust. Other great things about Market Grille Cafe are that it’s a counter-service restaurant that doesn’t feel like one, that it has reasonable prices and that it now has two locations. The Hofbrauhaus is a close second.

Our Pick:

Via Brasil Steakhouse

1225 S. Fort Apache Road

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Brazilian steakhouses have been one of the more prominent restaurant trends in Las Vegas in recent years, but Via Brasil stands above the rest. The food is great, and with 18 meats coming around on skewers, there’s plenty to like for the fussiest fussbudget. It also has an extensive buffet that could be dinner in its own right, has reasonable prices and is easy to get to.

ELV Pick: The Fat Greek

Runner Up: Yassou Greek Grill

2010 – Best Pizza

Readers’ Pick:

Metro Pizza

Multiple locations

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New York pizza is best! No, Chicago! No, Milwaukee! (Milwaukee?) People sure are passionate about their pizza. Usually, they like the kind they like, and that’s it — which is why we think readers like Metro so much. Metro’s roots are in New York but it’s not parochial about pizza, and all of its many varieties are pretty darn good. (You want New Haven style? You can get it.) Grimaldi’s Pizzeria slices into second.

Our Pick:

Anthony’s Coal-Fired Pizza

6569 Las Vegas Blvd. South

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The thing about a coal-fired oven is that it’s really, really hot, which makes the crust really, really crisp. No soggy crusts for us, and so we love Anthony’s at Town Square. We’re partial to sausage and mushroom, but the specialty pies are good, too, and the coal-fired chicken wings just sort of put the icing on the cake. Or the cheese on the pizza.

ELV Pick: Settebello. The fact that Settebello doesn’t even get a shout out just shows how clueless the R-J and its readers are.

Runner Up: Ciao Ciao

2010 – Best Place for a Power Lunch

Readers’ Pick:

Triple George

201 N. Third St.

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You don’t have to stretch very much to realize that Triple George is a good pick for a power lunch. The power-lunchers tend to be congregated near downtown. And there aren’t a lot of restaurants there that offer its air of quiet sophistication and menu that’s heavy on seafood and comfort food. Or even a steak, if you want it; aren’t the powerful always chewing on red meat? Last year’s winner, Vintner Grill, is a distant second.

Our Pick:

Mccormick & Schmick’s

335 Hughes Center Drive

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Huh, there must be something about seafood and power (and we won’t go any further with that one). Whatever the reason, or correlation, all we know is that every time we stop for lunch at McCormick & Schmick’s we see somebody we recognize from his or her picture in the paper, and we’re not talking the funny pages. Maybe they’re there for the same reason we are — good, fresh seafood, our desert locale notwithstanding.

ELV Pick: We only take our power lunches at Triple George if we know our companions neither know nor care a whit about good food. McCormick and Schmick’s is actually a decent pick, but not in the same league as Capital Grill for big players making big deals.

Runners Up: Palm Steakhouse, Spago

2010 – Best Place for Breakfast

Readers’ Pick:

The Cracked Egg

Multiple locations

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Is it the homemade coffeecake? Is it the Tropical French Toast, with its toasted coconut, macadamia nuts and bananas? Is it, per chance, the gluten-free menu? Whatever it is, readers are all cracked up over The Cracked Egg. Omelet House finishes a close second.

Our Pick:

Egg Works

9355 W. Flamingo Road 2490 E. Sunset Road

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We’re a little parochial, it turns out. (Ya think?) We love Cincinnati chili, and we love the Cincinnati chili omelet served at Egg Works. It’s a whopper, accompanied by seasoned potatoes, and with the banana-nut muffin we’re gone for the day, but what a way to go. Although the egg-crepes, skillets, pancakes and waffles, and everything else are pretty special, too.

ELV Pick: Nothing egg-cellent about either one of these. The best breakfast in town right now is a MoZen in the Mandarin Oriental.

Runners Up: Veranda Cafe at the Four Seasons; Country Club Grill at Wynn

Lowbrow Runner Up: M & M Soulfood Cafe

2010 – Best Restaurant With a View

Readers’ Pick:

Panevino Ristorante

246 Via Antonio Ave.

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We still don’t quite understand why the view is so fantastic from Panevino, because to look at the place from Sunset Road you’d think the only view would be the airfield across the street. But walk inside and you find out that this is indeed a breathtaking vista, the Strip undulating before you in a panorama of glittering, out-of-the-fantasy-books colors. The view from Ventano Italian Grill & Seafood finishes second.

Our Pick:

Ventano Italian Grill & Seafood

191 S. Arroyo Grande Blvd., Henderson

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We quite understand that many readers appreciate the view from Ventano, because we do, too. This is another sleeper of a view location because it’s so far from the Strip, but its prospect high on a ridge has the advantage of showing off not only the Strip but the glittering bowl of jewels in the valley around it.

ELV Pick: What would you rather do: eat pathetic Italian food at Panevino while watching planes take off, or decent French whilst looking at the Bellagio fountains from five floors up at the Eiffel Tower Restaurant? We guarantee you’re more likely to get lucky after the latter.

Runners Up: The people watching at Mon Ami Gabi or the spectacular spectacle from the Top of the World at the Stratosphere.

Readers’ Pick:

Red Lobster

Multiple locations

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We once had a friend who would lunch weekly at Red Lobster just to see how many of those Cheddar Bay Biscuits he could wolf down, but we think readers have loftier reasons in mind — such as the wide variety of fresh seafood in preparations that are accessible to most and prices that won’t break the bank. McCormick & Schmick’s is a distant second.

Our Pick:

Catfish Alley

3620 E. Flamingo Road

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Broiled and baked are good, no doubt about it, but often when we want seafood we want fried seafood, and at that, Catfish Alley truly excels. Actually, it excels at lots of things — such as the fried creamed corn; how about that? — and is the kind of quiet neighborhood place we like best, all of which keep it close to our hearts.

ELV Pick: Now we just want to throttle somebody. The two best seafood restaurants in town are Bartolotta and RM Seafood. But if your tastes run to cheapo frozen sh*t, we’d go with the R-J’s picks.

Runner Up: American Fish

2010 – Best Steakhouse
Guest Pick:
Chris Phillips, Singer In Zowie Bowie; N9NE Steakhouse At The Palms
4321 W. Flamingo Road
If you walked into Chris Phillips’ house and opened the fridge, you’d wonder if anyone lived there.
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“I eat out every single meal,” says Phillips, who is half of Zowie Bowie’s lead singers.

He’s a pretty traditional steak and potatoes kind of guy. His favorite steakhouse? N9ne at the Palms.

“I think it’s a combination of super food quality and it’s always kind of like a who’s who of Las Vegas movers and shakers,” says Phillips, who eats at N9ne every couple of months. “I think they have some of the most attractive hostesses in town.”

He’s a fan of the filet mignon, Oscar style. That means the filet is topped with a crab sauce.

Readers’ Pick:

Outback Steakhouse

Multiple locations

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Outback, Outback. Every year it seems our readers choose Outback. While other steak chains have come and gone in the valley, Outback still is going strong, thanks to the knack its executives have for adding new dishes now and then to keep things interesting while hanging on to the favorites to keep things reliable, plus middle-of-the-road prices while those at other steakhouses have skyrocketed. Ruth’s Chris Steak House finishes second.

Our Pick:

Golden Steer

308 W. Sahara Ave.

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What can we say, we’re suckers for history, especially as it applies to old Las Vegas, and the Golden Steer is the epitome of old Las Vegas with its U-shaped leatherette booths, soft lighting and Sinatra-dominated soundtrack. But this 50-something favorite also is beloved to us for doing things right, whether it’s a steak, shrimp cocktail or gin martini.

ELV Pick: Here’s all you need to know about where to find the best steaks in Vegas. As for Chris Phillips — we won’t tell him how to cavort with big, buxom blondes, if he’ll quit opining on prime.

2010 – Best Thai Restaurant

Readers’ Pick:
Pin Kaow
Multiple locations
Along with readers we’ve watched Pin Kaow grow from a simple little storefront to three valley locations — including an expansion and extensive re-do for the original on North Rainbow Boulevard — so its popularity in the Best of Las Vegas poll should surprise no one. Its secret? Consistently good food and service in a pleasant atmosphere. Lotus of Siam finishes second.
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Our Pick:

Archi’s Thai Kitchen

Multiple locations

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We’ve watched Archi’s grow as well, from a simple former fast-food building to three locations in the valley, and experience tells us it’s for the same reasons as Pin Kaow — and that would be consistently good food and service in a pleasant atmosphere. Not to mention the best Thai Iced Tea in the valley.

ELV Pick: More know-nothingness from the numb nuts at Stephens Media. Lotus of Siam is the best Thai restaurant in Las Vegas — something everyone but the R-J and its readers know.

Runner Up: Archi’s comes in a distant second. Pin Kaow ain’t even in the top five.

We once advised our listeners on KNPR that the best use of the R-J’s “Best Of…” poll was to line a birdcage with it. Nothing in the past ten years has changed our minds in this regard, and sadly, for the foreseeable future, it will continue to be a major reason our food journalism is held in such derision by anyone with a clue.

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33 Responses to The Worst of Las Vegas

  • So basically, all good things flow from casinos? There’s only a scant few “local little known gems” style places in your list, which I think is what the RJ poll aims for.

  • Entertaining reading for sure. The readers’ picks I can understand somewhat, because the chain restaurants somehow manage to attract a lot of customers satisfied with mediocrity, but the newspaper should know better.

  • I shutter every time several restaurants are “recommended” on that list and I don’t live in Vegas! (PF Changs, Cheescake, “These ribs taste like fish” Applebees). I really wish the masses would learn that live is too short to eat frozen mass-market food.

  • love your disdain for the RJ!!

  • Um, you do know that Strip restaurants were listed separately, right?

  • Completely puzzled by the appearance of Yassou & Burger Bar on your list! Those 2 are worse picks than the RJ!

  • The idea of separating Strip venues from the rest of the city merely perpetuates the us-n-them locals attitude which only makes locals miss out on the best things on the Strip.
    Anyway, here’s my similar rant: http://ecgladstone.com/2010/03/worst-of-the-“best”-a-response-to-the-“best-of-las-vegas-2010”/

  • @mike_ch: Actually, there are many, many good restaurants outside of casinos as well. i.e. Vintner Grill, Marche Bacchus, Nora’s, Todd’s Unique Dining, Panevino, Off The Strip, Garfield’s, Mastrionni’s, Cili, Charlie Palmer, Verandah, DJT (Michelin Star restaurant), Triple George Grill, Firefly Tapas Kitchen, Simon, Kennedy, Sedona, Capital Grill, etc. Of course The Strip has all the best ultra exclusive Michelin Star foodie places though. But then again, that’s obvious. I.e. Joël Robuchon, Guy Savoy, Alain Ducasse, etc.

  • Anytime chains are in the readers poll you know something is wrong. Im surprised not to see the Tillerman up anywhere. Glad to see Pamplemouse got mentioned, havent made it to Todds yet but have wanted to check it out.

  • I admire your stamina almost as much as your acuity. I think I have to lie down, now.

  • My God. PF Chang’s. I suppose the Management has already posted laminated, framed copies of the Review-Journal poll naming their “Chinese Cuisine” #1 and posted it over the toilets in the restrooms.

  • Other cities would see reader picks similar to this list. The masses really do like Olive Garden, PF Changs, Cheesecake Factory, etc. Heck, even tourists who go to Las Vegas and stay on the strip will visit these places (PF Changs at P-Ho, Cheesecake Factory in Forum Shops)

    As was mentioned above, there is a “Hotels” category, but there aren’t as many food sub-categories within. (they have Italian but not French)

  • Thanks for all the tremendous comments! As jsmeeker points out, there is a separate “hotels” category…but that’s exactly our point — there shouldn’t be. Las Vegas has one of the most dynamic, creative and delicious food scenes on the planet and the R-J resolutely refuses to recognize it — like it’s some sort of tourism monster that should be kept segregated from the general populace.

    “Best of” should mean “Best of” if it is to have any meaning at all. And the bad joke perpetrated by our only newspaper every year does more harm than good to our tourism and to our community.

  • arent the results voted by the readers??? (not counting the editor picks)
    So wouldnt the fault lay on the deralick readers who voted for the lame spots that you disdain????

  • Well idiot, maybe because most of us can’t afford all those over-priced restaurants on the Strip you’re mentioning?

    Come on and give us a break, the average casino worker can’t afford to visit Guy Savoy’s or Joel Robuchon’s place, or the Capital Grille…

    YOU need to get real and understand that these over-priced restaurants you’re mentioning and choosing (on the Strip) are for tourists, and not for the everyday, repeat customer locals.

    You honestly think that the average family of four is going to get a better deal at Outback Steakhouse or at Delmonico’s? Hmmmm…let’s see now- $80.00 at Outback or $180.00 at Delmonico’s?

    Get real and step into the real world of the average type joe here in Las Vegas.

  • The strip/non-strip (locals vs. non locals) debate is interesting. In a way, I can see why the R-J would want to separate them out.

    I’m not a local. I’m one of “them”. I’m a tourist and I stay on the strip and for the most part, I dine on the strip. Not because I don’t want to mingle with the locals, but rather because getting of strip either means pricey cab rides or renting a car and driving. I really don’t like the idea of fooling around with a car in Las Vegas for a variety of reasons. I can alos see why locals may want to avoid the strip. Lots of traffic. Takes time to get in and out, etc. That said, the times I’ve ventured off strip have been worth the effort.

    If there was just one list, would it be dominated by Strip restaurants? I dunno. I guess it depends on who is doing the choosing. It’s certainly interesting to look at the reader picks in the Hotel categories. The masses aren’t like us (people who read this blog and post comments) They measure dining experiences in a different way. Reading John’s comments, it seems his “disdain” is spread across both the R-J reader/vote and the R-J editors.

    I think the obvious thing to do here is to have the “ELV awards” or some such thing. Take Las Vegas as a whole. No splitting up “strip and non-strip” or “For locals and for tourists. Do it here in in the blog. Or on the KNPR show. Or even a guide book. Yeah.. That’s the ticket. A guide book!

  • Reader picks are always going to skew to the affordable chain-type restaurants, so let that cover the TGI Mcfunsters (to quote Bourdain) in the Valley. If you are going to publish something under the BEST OF umbrella though, make your food critic pick an actual BEST OF or you lose all credibility.

    I’m curious if the RJ ever picks a restaurant two years in a row, or if they spread it around in the hopes of garnering ad dollars or hoping to be “fair”. My perception, which I am too lazy to confirm or refute, is that they do not repeat picks (ie Settebello, Lotus of Siam etc)

  • I believe award shows (Oscars, Emmys, etc.) are “sports” for people who don’t like sports (which is why I don’t get the Espys). This also explains the success of competition shows (Idol, DWTS) and “Best of Lists”. While sports are, for the most part, objective, the other “competitions” listed are purely subjective. Most people will say their favorite is the best. Who are we to say they’re wrong for scoring value and approachability higher than who’s steaks are aged longer, or who’s name is on the door (although not in the kitchen). And who should blame the RJ for trying to sell some product (actual papers, and advertising) in a dying medium. They’re only doing what TV and radio do to stir up ratings, saying something outrageous or controversial to draw attention.

    Does anyone think the “Forrest Gump” is a better picture than “Pulp Fiction” or “Shawshank Redemption” because it won the Oscar that year? Is Joel Rubichon losing business because readers aren’t voting for him.

    I think what’s surprising is that ELV took the bait when (t)he(y) never seem prone to anyone’s agenda.

  • While I am not a fan of the RJ, John, you and I keep arguing about TC’s Rib Crib being the best. My GF and I did go to Memphis reently as she had some free coupons and the ribs were quite good. We were actually more impressed with the Macaroni and Cheese side dish than the one served at TC’s. I am going ot bring the side dish over to Irving at TC’s and have him try it. Persoanlly I find memphis better than Dave’s but still find Lucille’s and TC’s neck and neck. Good riddance to RUB and Salt Lick!

  • I think it’s funny to read these paragraphs where the RJ has to come up with reasons why, yes indeed, the Olive Garden is the best Italian restaurant in town. Their reasons include: a) the convenience of their multiple locations, b) the fact that they are a chain means their advertising is conveniently located on a TV near you, and c) the fact that the menu evolves means that they can feature trendy things like steak gorgonzola alfredo.

    It’s the sort of thing you’d write if someone put a gun to your head and told you to write an essay on why you love Taco Bell.

  • Some of the responses here are inspiring me to point out the more fundamental flaws of the R-J Poll:
    1) Journalistically speaking, if you’re going to say “Best,” then aspire to find the “Best,” not “Most Popular” or “Best for the money” or “Best that doesn’t insult our intelligence.”
    2) When someone defines “Strip” vs “Off-Strip” they are making a ham-fisted choice that ends up screwing a lot of places just because of their address. Should Smith & Wollensky’s be considered “Strip?” Should anything in Town Square? Should Battista’s? On the other hand, what to do with casino venues that are off-Strip but clearly of that caliber, e.g. Nove Italiano or Nobu sushi? These definitions are too slippery and really, overall, just unhealthy for all of us. If it’s good, it’s good. Period. If you want to show something is “Best value” then…call a category “Best value!” (duh)
    3) So many of the categories in the R-J poll made no sense. Best Tacos AND Best Mexican? Best Chinese, Best Japanese, Best Thai AND Best Asian??? Etc. And where’s Best Wine Bar or Best Tapas (two expanding categories)
    4) Having polls for Readers and Staff implies that the Staff are more experienced. But that’s not necessarily true. Does the Sports Editor know anything about restaurants, entertainment, etc.? Who knows? (And does the restaurant editor get to weigh in on Superbowl picks?)

    Producing Professional Journalism (i.e. content that you pay for) implies that there is some level of dedication to giving a damn. The R-J poll again and again shows the contrary.

    http://ecgladstone.com/2010/03/worst-of-the-“best”-a-response-to-the-“best-of-las-vegas-2010”/

  • The RJ should stop calling this “Best of Las Vegas” and simply call it “Readers’ Poll.” At least that would be more accurate.

  • @sugar this was the most intelligent thing said:

    I believe award shows (Oscars, Emmys, etc.) are “sports” for people who don’t like sports (which is why I don’t get the Espys). This also explains the success of competition shows (Idol, DWTS) and “Best of Lists”. While sports are, for the most part, objective, the other “competitions” listed are purely subjective. Most people will say their favorite is the best. Who are we to say they’re wrong for scoring value and approachability higher than who’s steaks are aged longer, or who’s name is on the door (although not in the kitchen). And who should blame the RJ for trying to sell some product (actual papers, and advertising) in a dying medium. They’re only doing what TV and radio do to stir up ratings, saying something outrageous or controversial to draw attention.

    Does anyone think the “Forrest Gump” is a better picture than “Pulp Fiction” or “Shawshank Redemption” because it won the Oscar that year? Is Joel Rubichon losing business because readers aren’t voting for him.

    I think what’s surprising is that ELV took the bait when (t)he(y) never seem prone to anyone’s agenda

    Most of you ELV followers are full 0f $h*t anyhow. Rais’in the roof over some god awful newspaper. Like we didnt know that already. Grow up!!!

    ELV follwers – I’m sure you jackasses and your families enjoy garbage food at garbage places time to time. Get off your high horse. Do you bitch at the grocery stores you shop at when they sell you those shitty ass unripe bananas or what about all that flavorless produce from mexico and chile. And what about all the rain forest being burnt down to feed your cravings for juicy ass steaks. The RJ is isnt the problem – ITS YOU, LOOK IN THE MIRROR.

  • This is a food blog written for people who treat food like others treat sports, poetry, cars and art. It’s not supposed to be objective or cater to the “real world average joe” types. If you eat dinner at Outback Steakhouse, then you probably shouldn’t be here anyway, as you clearly don’t appreciate how much better a steak from Delmonico’s truly is.

  • Heh. I thought The R-J’s “Best of (What, Exactly??!!)” poll results were released last month… But since I stopped caring about The R-J long ago, I barely noticed.

    And for all the apologists trying to rationalize those horrifying “reader picks”, I’d just say that maybe those picks would be more enlightened if The R-J had actually bothered to visit more of our top-tier restaurants and not let their advertising department handle “Best Of…”.

    And really, all of you who mentioned this whole problem of letting the “Best Of…” list become a name ID contest are right. If they had really wanted to produce of “Best Of” list, they’d have the actual reviewers do their jobs so that the readers are better informed when they vote and the reviewers do their job when providing the paper’s picks.

  • The readers’ choices remind me of the KQED poll of years ago. It’s absolutely incredible to me that places such as the Olive Garden, PF Chang’s, Applebee’s, and Red Lobster would be considered good by anyone not in the MidWest.

    The food we’ve been served at three Red Lobster locations (Hayward, Bakersfield, and Burlingame) have convinced us to never go near another, even in Las Vegas.

    Our last two visits, we were quite pleased with Lotus of Siam. We also like Florída in a motel on Las Vegas somewhere between Main and Charleston.

  • Ibo is not really serving Turkish food any more. Huge disappointment. They’ve converted themselves to an oh-so-generic steak and chops joint. Just a few legacy items remain. Sad.

  • Yes there is a separate section of the RJ poll/pick for restaurants found in Hotels. While most of them are fine and tasty places to have a meal, the choices in this classification are even more perplexing to me.

    I can’t discredit the readership for applying the same value judgments of the general poll to our “hotels only” poll.

    But surely; the “Best of Las Vegas – Hotels” picks from the RJ would reflect some discernment – at least be debatable – as to what is Best of Las Vegas, when all they have to pick from, are hotels! Not so.

  • And btw, here’s the hotels section. And believe it or not, you’ll find this EVEN WORSE! Guess who the readers picked for “Best Eye-talian”? And guess who The R-J staff picked for “Best New Restaurant”? I doubt you’ll be pink with envy.

    (Oh, and yes, the readers really picked Beso for “Best New Hotel Restaurant”!)

  • Dearest ELV, a friend forwarded this to me and I really enjoyed your criticisms on the RJ as yes they don’t know what the hell they are talking about and they seem to just pull out info from a top-hat than to have any truth to what they say as it’s a fact that most of the Vegas Restaurants just totally suck and to give any press to the franchise crap really supports that. I just wonder with a large majority of locals who moved here from Big food towns such as Chicago,New York, Los Angeles and me being from Boston, why on earth does Vegas allow so many crappy franchises pollute the city aka Chili’s & Panda’s Chinese food. These places amongst many are an insult to Americans also Inn and out burgers totally suck unless your 12 years old. I ate at PF Changs and that place sells plastic starting with the overly plastic smiles that obnoxiously overrun the whole experience of eating out as a way for you not to complain how crappy the food there is. I mean unless you migrated to Vegas from some cow-town in Kansas and never got exposed to different foods you may just say stuff like outback is good when it is so overrun with sodium, and to be honest your Greek restaurant choices also are lousy as I have eaten there and was highly disappointed and I have just resorted to eating at home til I go take a week end in Los Angeles and eat wonderfully there. We Need A Total Food Revolution in Vegas and I want to lead it!!! I am sick of the crap they sell to the public as food.

  • There is NO serious food critique at the RJ what a joke.

  • Denny is a fake foodie in disguise.
    A true foodie must be able to discern good food at all price points.
    Every true foodie knows in-n-out is the BEST at what they do.
    They serve basic, fresh hamburgers, fries, and shakes at a reasonable price.

    What do you mean “if you’re 12″?
    An adult who is serrious about food can”t enjoy an innout burger??
    Gettouttahere. And YOU want to lead US?

    Go read The Solace of Food: A Life of James Beard by Robert Clark
    and write back when you’re done.
    Food revolution? Who areyou Jamie Oliver?
    We have a leader- John Curtas
    Start your own website.

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