Summer Doldrums

It’s not even officially Summer yet and the mercury has already topped 100 degrees for a solid week.

ELV is glad the days are heating up, because that’s the only thing that’s hot in Vegas these days.

Our restaurant scene may seem muy caliente to some — with Daniel Boulud, Guy Fieri, Mathias Merges and Giada What’s-Her-Name all opening new joints in the last two months — but it’s still pretty boring with a capital “B” from where we’re sitting.

Think about it. No matter how many Food Network stars grace us with their twice a year presence, it is still a far cry from what our humble burg experienced between 1998-2008. Try as he might, ELV has a tough time getting excited over Giada and Fieri (as solid as his new place is), especially when compared to the salad days of Joël Robuchon, Michael Mina, Pierre Gagnaire and Guy Savoy.

Bar food, small plates, insufferable noise levels, and  “C” level chefs masquerading as “A” list celebrities are all Vegas is selling these days, and any thoughts of us ever becoming “Restaurant City” have faded faster than ELV’s hopes for a 36″ waistline.

So, while we’ve implored you to go to Yusho, and crowed about the delights of DB Brasserie, we’re still feeling very tentative about where all this is going. Both of these joints will struggle in the short term to find their audience, while Guy Fieri’s Vegas Kitchen & Bar and Giada’s are where the action is right now. (Fieri is averaging over a 1000 covers a day; Giada’s is expected to do likewise.) The fact that Boulud and Yusho are cooking better, more interesting food means nothing to your average turista.

It was those un-average turistas that beckoned and supported the Robuchons the Pucks and the Savoys ten years ago, but they don’t count in the casino’s eyes anymore…or at least not nearly as much as the fawned over, non-gambling, non-spending, cool-at-at-all-costs Millennials.

We’re not ready to abandon all hope for that generation (ELV has two children that fall squarely within it)….yet, but until they show a desire to eat in places with professional service, a decent wine list, conversation-conducive noise levels and actual, sanitary tablecloths, we’re consigning them to a lifetime of teeny tiny locavore tastings in the hipster hovel of their choice.

As for ELV, he’ll be writing about food when the quality merits it. That means you shouldn’t expect him to get excited about another Honey Salt or celeb chef photo op. That’s what free magazines are for.

As for EATING LAS VEGASThe 50 Essential Restaurants: It looks like 2013 will have been our last edition. Max Jacobson (god bless him) is making progress from his horrific accident, but still isn’t up to the task, and Al Mancini (who had no such excuse) really wasn’t up to the task either.

By the end of summer, we hope to incorporate our contributions to the three editions of the book into this Web site, and provide you periodic updates of our Top 50, plus any changes to existing reviews that we feel are merited.

For the time being, we’ll cool our heels until SLS Hotel opens towards the end of the year (it could be the second coming of The Cosmopolitan), and try not to get depressed about how much the downtown dining scene really, really, sucks (we’re hoping Carson Kitchen, opening this week, will provide it a much needed shot in the arm).

In the meantime, you can share our pain on Instagram: @johncurtas, Twitter: @eatinglasvegas, and Facebook (although we’re almost maxed out on “friends” due to their 5,000 friend limit)…. if you want to keep up with where we’re eating on a daily basis….and what we think about it.

Final thoughts:

R.I.P. Pinot Brasserie. We’re sorry it took us seven years to rediscover the joys of Eric L’huillier’s cooking.

Death Watch: Wild (someone needs to put this gluten-free disaster out of its misery)

The List (where we’ve eaten in the past month):

DB Brasserie


Guy Fieri’s Vegas Kitchen & Bar

Wild (see above)

Pizza Rock

MTO (total hit or miss when it comes to quality control)

O Face Doughnuts

Bin 702 (the only place to drink good wine downtown)

Dumpling King

Nevada Chicken Cafe (in the running for the worst restaurant in town)

Serendipity 3 (never again)

La Comida

Zen Japanese Curry

Rodeo Las Reyes de la Barbacoa estilo Hildago:

(2115 N. Decatur, 702.638.1100 — the best tacos in town, bar none)

John Mull’s Meats and Road Kill Grill

Memphis Championship Barbecue

Art of Flavors Gelateria

Buldogi’s Cafe

Chada Thai

Triple George

Kuma Snow Cream

Scullery (our new favorite watering hole)

Yasou Greek Grille


15 thoughts on “Summer Doldrums

  1. I don’t think Wild is going anywhere. Just came back from a week at the Ogden and business seemed pretty brisk though I didn’t try it.
    O Face donuts are very tasty though but Pizza Rock didn’t impress. Perhaps because we went by the slice.

  2. ELV responds further: By the slice is not the way to go at Pizza Rock, Emmanuel…..but that being said, we were pretty disappointed by our last wood-fired pizza there as well.

    The last time we strolled by Wild (2 Friday nights ago, at 8:00) the place was empty. That being said, if the food was any good we’d be rooting for it. As it is, it’s hard to root for anything about the place….except the design.

  3. As much as I loved DB Brasserie the first week I was there – I went back for a second time and they had already changed the recipe for perfect french onion soup (it is now not good at all), and shrunk the size and quantity of the madeleines.

    Otherwise I’m pretty bored with eating out here in LV as well. Good post, and I wish you’d try to update your book alone if it is possible. Need something to make up for the fact that the Michelin Guide still won’t come back to us.

  4. ….cant find this anywhere on the NET…under another name perhaps…

    Rodeo Barbacoa estilo Hildago

  5. Try “Tacos El Rodeo” in your searches. Still not a lot of info out there, but that is the place.

  6. Try Mark’s ribs at Postrio on Father’s Day – trust me – will be the best you will ever have!!!

  7. John, I think the dining scene in Las Vegas is much like television today. In my mind it has not been the same since the writers went on strike a few years ago. They started with all this reality show crap. Cheap to produce compared to creatively written and well acted shows. Yet the masses seem to love it. From Pawn Stars to Duck….whatever to storage wars. WTF!!!! And these food network shows have made average chefs into some kind of cult following because Martha thinks that using a little garlic and herbs is something innovative. “lets go out for some Eyetalian tonight honey, Olive Garden has a special on”!! Miss the witty comment, but things simply are not that humorous in the city right now. Don’t see it changing anytime soon though. cheers

  8. John–Thoroughly enjoy your reviews and am truly saddened about the Eating LV book’s demise–that is my Las Vegas eating bible. PLEASE keep it updated on here. That book is one of the best combos of incredibly incisive info-packed critiques combined with outright hilarity ever written. And a point/question for you sir–while the LV dining scene might be boring to you, as someone who is a major foodie and who hits your town 2–3 times a year, I can assure you that in these small doses it is still absolutely amazing and incredibly exciting. Imagine if you visited a city five times in the last two years and experienced Raku, L’Atelier de Joel R, Carnevino, Cut, Jaleo, Sage, Julian Serrano, China Poblano, Comme Ca, Stripsteak, and a few others all for the first time–it is excruciating for me to decide where to have my 2–4 dinners each visit! Kabuto, Le Cirque, and Lotus of Siam are on the short list for this summer. And maybe lunch at Fieri’s-interesting review. Thanks again for doing what you do and my thoughts are regularly with Max and his recovery.

  9. ELV I echo the comments of Doug D. Please maintain your incisive reviews and humor. I have given out at least of dozen of your books to out of town friends and former colleague’s. Hope you can update it on this site or revised later edition.

  10. ELV responds: Thanks to all for the thoughtful and flattering comments.

    It’s readers and avid foodies like you that keep me motivated to keep reporting on the Vegas food scene, and your comments make the Eating Las Vegas that much more worthwhile for serious gourmets and the dining out public.

    And Doug D. is right about my boredom complaint: it’s the product of being spoiled and perhaps being too close to the subject. But, in my defense, I see very little innovative thinking going on in Vegas anymore. And I don’t think we’ll see the likes of Le Cirque, Michael Mina, Savoy et al (or any upscale concepts) opening here again in our lifetime. (sigh)

    Merci beaucoup and bon appétit to all,


  11. John
    I know you are there pretty regular as are we when we are in town but I must comment on MB. I was charged with hosting a group of 5 couples + us for diner “somewhere off strip” was the request. Due to the location of our house I thought of VG but decided to take them to Marche. Wow I must say things were really great that night.
    Over the past weeks I have seen the comments about wine prices etc on this site. For those who have never been, Marche has a wine store attached and the prices are store prices. It was fun for several wino’s in the group to be shown around the store by the sommelier. They got some great recommendations and all were fantastic. On the strip our wine would have come to $1800 or more here it was less than $800 for 10 great bottles.
    But the food was really the star. Some welcome changes to the menu and every single dish of every course was well above average. For 1/2 of these Western Canadians they said it was the best meal they ever had.
    I am not sure how much time Alex is spending there but that night he had things running tight.
    Just thought I would add to Doug’s comments that for most people the dining scene in Vegas is still much better than any of us have near our homes.

  12. I agree with pretty much everything that Doug said, Mr. C. I’m wondering if the ELV50 might return in some other form, even if it’s just your own personal list. If book sales were that bad, perhaps a website or app would be a better way to do it.

  13. First, even when we disagree, I always want to hear ELV’s opinion. I, too, would like to encourage you to write more, even if it’s to provide a more nuanced or updated look at familiar places.

    Two comments on your comments. First, I dined at Rodeo and had their barbacoa, as I love eating lamb in nearly any form. Their tortillas were especially outstanding, probably the best I’ve had in town, and I enjoyed the barbacoa a great deal and will return. Still, based on the one visit, I’d rate Los Antojos to still have the best tacos in town. I’d be interested in hearing you elaborate on your thoughts here.

    Second, I could list a litany of culinary sins for Nevada Chicken Cafe, and would understand why someone would not recommend it, although, I must admit, that at times when I’m in the neighborhood and don’t feel like cooking I’ll pick up a grilled chicken there on my way home. But in the running for the worst restaurant in LV? Would you rather eat at, say, Claim Jumper or other restaurants of that ilk? Have they gotten a “C” from the health department? Are they on par with Firefly? I’d like to hear you elaborate on what makes you so down on this place. Given a choice, there are a lot of restaurants I’d pick NCC over, although I’m certainly not going to put it on my Essential 50.

    Seems to me there are a number of restaurants on your “recent” list that you haven’t written about, and more you haven’t written about in a while. I know I’d love to get your thoughts on those.


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