David Clawson closed late last week after a one-year run in a hideous location; Tapas by Alex Stratta is about to close after operating for less than a year at a jinxed one. Neither news was a shock, but both closings reaffirmed long-held suspicions and have caused more than a little reflection around the Eating Las Vegas offices.

One can discuss and dissect the reasons for these failures til the cows come home, but the bottom line is that the bottom line was in the red, and neither owner wanted to continue to fund a money-losing proposition.

Clawson was the bigger surprise. We ate there three times and it was always packed. TBAS started strong, but tailed off quickly, and we had recently received reports of nearly empty dining rooms on weekend evenings.

Both restaurants faced uphill struggles from the start.

When David Clawson opened, I purposely avoided going there for months, both because of my antipathy towards Henderson, and my cynicism about its prospects for success. Turns out I was right on both accounts.

David Clawson — the chef — opened his own joint because he wanted better food in the cultural wasteland that is Henderson. He made the bold move of opening in an out-of-the-way shopping center (20+ miles from the ELV palatial manse), at the top of the Anthem loop in the deepest recesses of Hendertucky. For a customer base, Clawson (the man and the restaurant) was seeking to lure the early-bird, coupon-clipping, cheapskates away from their one-foot-in-the-grave mentality to a chef-driven spot with great food at reasonable prices.

What a glorious, noble fool he was. Anthem residents, along with the franchise-loving families that make up the rest of the Eastern Avenue shithole….er….uh…we mean corridor, couldn’t wrest themselves from their self-imposed enslavement to the cult of cheap, predictable protein. They are the biggest losers of all: folks who give lip service to wanting quality vittles but won’t pay for them.

People get the restaurants they deserve, and Henderson residents deserve the gastronomic hell they’ve created for themselves.


In more subtle ways, Alex Stratta — the restaurant and the chef — had the deck stacked against him as well.

Tivoli Village is a graveyard of good chef’s ambitions and Stratta is only its latest casualty. The only place that has succeeded there is a “concept” steakhouse with lousy meat, cheap ingredients and even lousier sausages. The frightening thing is that Sum-R-lamers flock to Echo & Rig for its soccer mom food (similar to what Honey Salt gets away with) and because of its no corkage fee policy. Neither restaurant cooks anything unique or memorable, but to their credit, at least they are cooking from something other than a franchise agreement. So there’s that.

As much as I loathe Downtown Summerlin (that is is neither a town, nor down, or downtown of anything), at least it seems to be succeeding with food — go any weekend night and you’ll find all 86 restaurants packed to the gills.

Tivoli Village is a charmless place (which is expanding!), that was overbuilt with restaurants from the start. It’s not easy to park, the shops are terrible (unless you’re a teenage girl), and there’s precious little reason for any adult to walk around. Bad feng shui is a bitch and this place has it in spades. Joël Robuchon, José Andrés and Guy Savoy could all open baby bistros in the place tomorrow, serving world-class food at twenty bucks a pop, and they would fall on their face faster than you could say paella alla Valenciana. The only thing that’s keeping Made LV alive are its slot machines.

I knew all of this a year and a half ago when Stratta told me he was opening at Tivoli. First it was going to be in the old Radio City Pizza spot — a place with feng shui so bad it makes North Korea seem like the Champs Elysee. Then it moved to the more visible spot it now occupies — that had failed once with atrocious food (Greek) and then with a fusion-confusion menu (Poppy Den).

Between Stratta’s announcement of his new place (about a year ago), and its eventual opening (last April), he and it were beset with business issues, partnership problems, and format changes, none of which boded well for future success.

But restaurants and restaurant customers are fickle entities, and sometimes you roll the dice and hope for the best.

Alas, it was not to be.

I have nothing but the greatest respect for Alex Stratta. He’s come through trying times both personal and professional, and always has gentle smile and kind words for everyone he meets. Neither he nor Clawson are exactly spring chickens (then again, neither is the person typing these words), but both of them seem like resilient men who know full well the vicissitudes of being a chef. They deserve admiration and respect for trying to make Las Vegas a better place, and for continuing to fight against the odds in doing so.

I regret not telling Stratta, before he opened, that he was making another big mistake, but I couldn’t bring myself to tell David Clawson, when he told me about his closure two days ago, that he was going to be our Restaurant of the Year. (sigh)

16 thoughts on “A Few Words About DAVID CLAWSON and ALEX STRATTA

  1. Seriously bummed man! We need more great restaurants off the strip. I didn’t get a chance to go to Clawson but i really liked AS Tapas. The food is really another level but it’s not really the most approachable menu. Neither place is open for lunch though right? If you’re in a shopping center in the burbs you must be open during the lunch hour.

  2. Sadly,
    The grocer in the shopping center with Clawson is an Alberton’s bought out by Haggen with a closing date before thanksgiving.

  3. This is sad news. I dined at Clawson (the restaurant) and ate outstanding food at reasonable prices. I wish Clawson (the chef) success, and would love him to open another place in the valley, but wouldn’t blame him if he chose not to.

  4. I went to Clawson 2x it was jammed.. every table and all bar seats. Shocking. Alex S I went once on a Sunday night and we were the only table in the whole place. And AS food was good but far from amazing.

  5. My wife and I tried TBAS about 7-ish months ago. Walked in at 5:40-ish. Sat inside. We were the only two inside. Maybe four folks outside. Sat for five minutes before someone brought ice water and menus. Sat for another twelve minutes. There were at least eight employees visible, many of whom walked by us several times…tried making eye contact…no luck. We walked out three minutes after that having NOT EVEN BEEN GIVEN THE OPPORTUNITY TO ORDER A COCKTAIL!
    Maybe the food would have been decent…who knows? We never went back. Good riddance…Alex Stratta or not.

  6. Not sure were all the love for Clawson’s is coming from…I was there a couple of times and the food was just slightly above average at best…one time I sat at the bar maybe five feet away from where Clawson was working….twice in an hour his service people made rather egregious mistakes…when the food runner brought my foie gras he said HERE IS YOUR LIVER SIR….and as he said that I looked directly at Clawson who looked away…second time was with the sherry I ordered and I asked a question to which the response was so bad I laughed….again I looked at Clawson who did not even look up…he clearly heard both comments…so…if you want your high end place to be centered among the hoi polloi that is fine….but your attention to detail must be excellent and clearly it wasnt…good riddance

  7. We have eaten at the finest restaurants in the world and none could equal Alex back in the day (less than five years ago seems like an eternity at this point!). While the environment and management in Vegas is not supportive of fine dining today, and options continue to dwindle, there should hopefully be plenty of opportunities in other cities for his talents.

  8. Didn’t Alex know that every overpriced restaurant that came before his died a painful death at Tivoli? Ego is what made him think that he could actually make it there.

  9. I was thrilled to see Alex Stratta open in Tivoli and went there 4 or 5 times. First time was great, but the food seemed to degenerate to just average by the last time I visited, which was late summer. The service throughout was lax, inattentive, and pretty unprofessional. I decided on the last visit not to keep coming back . I don’t think the location killed the place. I think it was the lack of attention to the kitchen and the staff. Too bad. Would have been a great resource. Sad I never made it to DC’s place, but I don’t have a big enough gas tank to get there from my house.

  10. I live in Henderson, we regularly visit local restaurants & we were devastated to find a dark David Clawson last friday night. So many people who might have been patrons of DC didn’t know about it. We will miss the great food, atmosphere & Meg.

  11. Alex will only succeed if/when he is dedicated and present 80 hrs/wk , gets behind a stove and more than just transiently is involved in the project. Who is bankrolling this?. Alex is great cook and guy. His backers should stop trying to pawn him off as a celebrity. Cook some great fare, pay attention to your guests, and they will come.

  12. Hi John, What is this “Hender-tucky reference?? Is that a slam against Kentucky? You spent your formative years there John. Have you now grown too big for your overalls? Allen and I were just looking over your blog to see if you were still setting the standard for Las Vegas. We have bought a semi-retirement house in Sedona and hope to visit you sometime in the next few years. In the meantime know that Kentucky, at least Louisville, has a fine and varied cuisine and should not be used as a metaphor for sleaze.

  13. John, you don’ t know what Hendertucky is if you are referring to Anthem that way. Anthem has some high end housing for people with enough money that they don’t need to live in core Vegas so they can work as civil servants.

    Hendertucky refers to where the 215 ends between the Fiesta and Lake Las Vegas.

  14. ELV responds: Eating Las Vegas is grateful for Talkingoutofyourass’ geography lesson – that explains why Anthem (filled as it is with high end housing) is crawling with top shelf retail and first class restaurants.
    ELV also appreciates learning that the reason he has lived in the same house for 20 years is because he has been forced to due to the constraints of his 12 month career as a dedicated public servant.

  15. Dedicated public servant who spends government time on his ego stroking website . . .

    My God, you are unbearable. If the rumors I’ve heard are true the staff at most restaurants feel the same way and half your dishes have a good dose of spit seasoning.

  16. ELV responds: Eating Las Vegas appreciates all comments, even when coming from trolls using fake e-mail accounts to vent their spleen. We’d almost swear Talkingoutofyourass is a psuedonym for Bradley Martin, the worm employed by Eater Vegas to complain about us at 20 cents a word. If it’s not, then he and Martin really should meet; they’d have a lot to be uncommonly illiterate about.

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