John Curtas is …

Max Jacobson

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ELV at the Crossroads

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What’s that old joke? If you see the fork in the road, take it.

Well, loyal readers, Eating Las Vegas is at a crossroad.

Writing about restaurants seems more than a bit trivial in these troubled times.

On the other hand, there’s a lot of cool new stuff going on.

And a lot of old stuff continues to shine  — like the sides and steak yours truly had at CUT the other night:

One part of me wants to dive in and tell you all about the great meals I’ve had recently at:

Allegro

Chuchote Thai Bistro

Le Cirque

Cafe Breizh

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7th & Carson

The Black Sheep

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Hofbräuhaus (yes, the Hofbräuhaus)

Bazaar Meat

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The aforementioned CUT

Oscar’s Beef, Booze and Broads (yes, Oscar’s Beef, Booze and Broads)

Prosecco

Bardot Brasserie

MB Steak

Ferraro’s

Casa Don Juan (yes, that Casa Don Juan)

Chada Street…and…

Morel’s Steakhouse

…just to name a few.

But my heart is heavy, and the blogosphere ain’t what it used to be.

Tens of thousands of people used to want to read these restaurant reviews, now but a few thousand do. Facebook and Instagram turned everyone into a food blogger (this is not a bad thing), and in so doing, created a world where the audience is small for anything but mindless listicles, gossip and food porn.

My personal theory is that once camera phones got better, around 5 years ago, everyone could see decent pictures of what a restaurant’s food looked like. When that happened, reading about it became a chore for all but the most ardent foodies. In other words, blogs like this had a mass appeal right up until the masses could look at purty pictures to hit their low information threshold. Thus did clickbait like “Top 5 Tacos in Town!” and “David Chang’s Favorite Pizzas!” supplant actually learning about food.

Simple-mindedness is the rule these days, no matter the issue, no matter what the topic. The dumbing down of America extends to subjects as diverse as climate change to politics to sports. No one is diving deep; everything is visceral or the Cliff Notes version. Even the President of the United States.

Speaking of mindlessness, people are being murdered wholesale in our country, and not enough people care enough about that, either. Because you know, freedom. If that’s not enough to sober me right out of restaurant writing, nothing is.

No matter how you slice it, there’s nothing deep about food writing. Food writers, critics, journalists, nutritionists, etc., are all doing different forms of the same thing: imparting information (and opinion) to the public to help it eat better, tastier, healthier food. No rocket science in that. Precious little politics, too. But if you want to learn something, you have to pay attention. Just like in elementary school. And just like elementary school, most students would rather be told the right answer than figure it out for themselves.

Loyal readers, I have grown weary of helping you figure it out for yourselves.

About the only thing that keeps me writing these days is contemplating what is left of the Vegas food writing community should I retire. Years ago, I hoped that the free weeklies would morph into a true voice for our food and restaurant scene. All they’ve morphed into is a platform for b-list bars and restaurants, cocktail features, and barely-written “reviews.” I don’t blame the writers, I blame the editors. They know their audience can hardly read (or barely wants to), so on one level, you can’t blame them.

My previous co-author, Al Mancini, professes not to want to write about restaurants anymore, so the worthless rag he works for has him covering hot topics like “What blue cocktails are made without blue curaçao?” and other such drivel. (Memo to Al Mancini: the world isn’t interested in “cocktails of the week,” only the people pushing them are.)

Max Jacobson, god bless him, will never re-join the food writing ranks, and my other former co-authors (Greg Thilmont and Mitchell Wilburn) talented though they are, have neither the coin nor the time to immerse themselves in our foodie scene. Eater Las Vegas is a joke (it’s run by a pathetic woman who, when she’s sober, remembers that she lives in Des Moines, Iowa), and no other local blog is worth a shit. So bleak the landscape is.

And bleak I feel about it. I love writing, and I love going to great restaurants. Combining those two passions in this blog, six books, and 23 years of reviews for radio, TV, guidebooks, ‘zines, and  dozens of periodicals has been a match made in heaven for me. No one has ever covered the restaurants of Las Vegas like I have over the past two decades. No one else is even close. All the food writers in town put together aren’t even close. On average, I eat out more in a week than all of them do in a month.

Am I bragging? Sure I am, but it’s also true, and it’ll be a long time before any food writer comes close to what I’ve done. And I’m proud of it.

But while the body might be willing, the spirit is weak. Sometime next month the sixth edition of EATING LAS VEGAS The 52 Essential Restaurants will be published. Those 52 restaurants (yes, two more this year!) are all mine this time. No co-authors, no dueling reviews. You will get my complete, unvarnished look at the best this town has to offer, plus a snapshot or two about where we fail as a food and restaurant town.

These are the same things I’ve been trying to do on this web site since April 1, 2008, and in various forms since October 15, 1995, when I debuted on Nevada Public Radio. I don’t know if the book will continue after this edition, but I’m fairly certain this web site will post its last toothsome pick, or eviscerating pan, on its tenth anniversary, April 1, 2018.

Until then, bon appétit!

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EATING LAS VEGAS – The 50 Essential Restaurants is Here!

imageTwenty-one years ago, I started writing about the Las Vegas food and restaurant scene.

First with my weekly gig on Nevada Public Radio, and then with every magazine and weekly published in town, I started amassing a library of meals, reviews, experiences, tastes, and sensations that would one day give me the storehouse of information needed to catalogue all of the noteworthy eateries surrounding us.

For years, I imagined the book would be entitled “The Restaurants of Las Vegas,” and for years I knew I would be the one to write it. (Whether anyone would read it was never in doubt, given the booming popularity of Vegas and its food scene throughout the 90s.)

But the 90s came and went, and then 9/11 hit and put a damper on things, and by the early aughts my dream had receded to but a whisper in the back of my brain —  a receding hum of hope that maybe, someday, Las Vegas residents and tourists would have reliable guide to tell them where to find the best food in town. And again, through it all, there was no doubt in my mind who would be the one to write it. (It never occurred to me that I would need help to write it, but as it turned out, I did.)

When Alain Ducasse (2004) and Joël Robuchon (2005) arrived, it signaled the start of a French Revolution of a different sort. Soon thereafter, Guy Savoy and Pierre Gagnaire expanded their brands here, and suddenly the whole world was paying attention to our culinary scene, and taking it much more seriously than it had before, even eclipsing the interest shown after the Bellagio opened in 1998.

Michelin came and went in ‘o8 and ’09, but still no book from yours truly.

I had pretty much given up on my authorship ambitions when Al Mancini approached me in the Spring of 2010 and asked if I was interested in doing a dueling critics thing in a book with him and Max Jacobson. Seeing a chance to finally do what I’d dreamed of doing for fifteen years, I jumped at the chance. From the get-go, I’ve always been more than a little proud that the book takes its name from this web site. (That original title was a bit stuffy, after all.)

Now, after a three year hiatus, we’re back with a bigger, better and more wide-reaching book than ever before. God bless Al Mancini for thinking of it, and Huntington Press for publishing it, and my new co-authors for diving in with me to re-start the franchise.

You can order it now from Amazon.com, or from the Las Vegas Advisor bookstore if you want the best price.

If you travel to Las Vegas, or live in Las Vegas, or eat out in Las Vegas, or know people who do, or wonder about being in Las Vegas and/or eating in Las Vegas, you need this book.

I guarantee it will make you hungry, and take care of any arguments you ever have about “where should we eat?”

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