John Curtas is …

The List

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The List

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Everyone knows ELV loves restaurants. That’s why he’s been obsessing over them for 50 years and  writing about them for 22.

ELV — the man, the myth, the inveterate fresser —  first fell in love with restaurants when he was a mere tadpole of 6 — when his mum and dad would take the family every Sunday for breakfast at Ronnie’s in Orlando, Florida.

We used to sit (all six of us) at a booth right inside and to the right of the front door. (People watching was my parent’s favorite sport, and boy, did we ever get an eyeful every weekend.) I can still taste the fist-sized, house-made pumpernickel rolls — dark and sour, loaded with finely-chopped, melted onions, tri-folded into the dense, chewy dough. Dad used to buy them back the sackful to take home, and one of my first food epiphanies came from unfolding the roll and stuffing it with rare roast beef (that dad also brought home from their deli counter).

(I even remember going off into a little corner of our house, or sitting on our sofa alone while doing this, the better to enjoy the savory-sour marriage of soft bread and beef all by myself. To this day, when I’m really hungry and there’s something really good to eat in the house, I enjoy sitting off in a corner by myself, enjoying it in the most primal and infantile sort of way.)

Nothing beats eating alone sometimes, just as nothing can compete with watching the human comedy pass by, over good food, good company and the ones you love.

(As usual, The List* contains all of those places at which we’ve dined over the past few months. All places are highly recommended, unless otherwise noted.)


Libertine Social


Zydeco Po-Boys

Ocha Thai

Bazaar Meats

Omelet House (Terrible with a capital “T”.)

Yuzu Japanese Kitchen

Chengdu Taste


Weera Thai

Andiron Steak & Sea

DJT (Some remarkably good food, in an old-fashioned, Miami Beach-like lobby, with some killer seasonal specials. Put aside politics and dig in. Just try to forget where the money is going.)

THE Steakhouse at Circus Circus

Charlie Palmer STEAK


Carson Kitchen

Standard & Pour

Itsy Bitsy Ramen & Whiskey (Ramen that’s gone from decent to terrible, with the worst whiskey list since Whiskey A-Go-Go .)

La Comida


B&B Ristorante


Gelatology (Best. Gelato. In. Town. Period.)


Mon Ami Gabi

Du-par’s (Get the pancakes. Or the patty melt. Or a slice of pie. Skip everything else.)




Art of Flavors

Rick’s Rollin Smoke BBQ (I wouldn’t eat here with Al Mancini’s palate.)

The Smashed Pig

El Sombrero Mexican Bistro


La Cave


Halal Guys (Inexplicably popular food at unbelievably low prices for undeniably dumb Yelpers. I guess that explains it. I wouldn’t go back here if the food was free. Because that’s what it tastes like. Cheap ass, free food.)

Due Forni

Chicago Joe’s (No one gives a shit anymore and it shows.)

Harvest by Roy Ellamar

Estiatorio Milos


Mr. Chow

Spartina (In L.A., I know, but worth a drive just for Stephen Kalt’s fabulous pastas.)


Bardot Brasserie

The Goodwich

Emeril’s Fish House


André’s (Au revoir to a French classic.)

Goong Korean BBQ

Hobak Korean BBQ

Magal Korean BBQ (We ate multiple times at all three of our new, upscale’d Korean ‘cue joints, and Magal gets our nod as the best of the bunch.)

Delices Gourmands French Bakery and Cafe

Yui Edomae Sushi

EATT Healthy Food (Eat. Here. Now. For the healthiest French food in town.)

Le Pho


L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon

Beer Park (For lover’s of serious suds and serious bar food. Even Budweiser tastes better here. Go figure.)



The Perch (Everything tastes like it came out of a freezer bag, because it probably did.)

Lotus of Siam


(That’s 66 restaurants in 90 days if anyone’s counting.)


Yep, ELV loves restaurants like vanilla loves fudge, like peanut butter loves jelly, like Donald Trump loves grabbing cats.

It started at a very young age and has continued right through into our sixth decade of life.

We love restaurants for their theater, for people, for the food, and for the civilization they represent. But mainly we love them because they remind us of that little boy, sitting in a big, semi-circular, low-backed booth on a late Sunday morning with his family, waiting for those pumpernickel rolls to show up, while his mom and dad made him the happiest kid on earth.

We SALUTE You on Labor Day

You know who never gets Labor Day off?

Chefs. And cooks. And bar backs. And dishwashers.

Nope, they never get three-day weekends. (Well, maybe they do, but not like the rest of us.)

Especially on Labor Day. And especially in Las Vegas (Nevada, not New Mexico).

Because over 315,000 hungry souls invade the High Mojave this weekend looking for fun, sun and sustenance.

And someone has to be working their tails off to feed them. From our vaunted frog ponds to the lowliest buffet, our restaurants will be humming today.

Labor Day also kicks off  “The Season” in our humble burg — the time of the year when the bargain-hunting day-clubbers leave, and every conventioneer, honeymooner, bevy of bachelorettes:

….and high-roller in da woild descends upon us, looking for whatever their version of “fun” is.

And, as we said, they all have to eat and drink.

And spend a lot of money doing it.

So, on some level, all those restaurant workers are probably not that unhappy about slaving away at the stoves today, because the living they make at it is probably better than it is in almost any other city in America.

Still though, they’re working today and you probably aren’t, so hats off to them: the good folks who feed us (and 42 million visitors a year), so well.

While we’re at it, The List*:

Ferraro’s Italian Restaurant and Wine Bar (Great food, greater than ever, even greater wine list.)

Hachi Japanese Yakitori Izakaya (Just opened – yet another izakaya around Spring Mountain Road – worth a look.)

Mothership Coffee (Get the coffee; use the pastries as a doorstop.)

PublicUs (Coffee and pastries don’t get any better around town.)

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EATING LAS VEGAS – The 50 Essential Restaurants – 2014

Here it is food fans: our inclusive, independent, infallible, indispensable, indomitable, inevitable, individual, incorruptible index of Las Vegas 50 most “essential” restaurants. It represents our educated opinion of the best food and restaurant experiences Las Vegas has to offer, in descending order of importance to our food scene.

Put another way, these are the restaurants I would take another food writer, gourmet, world-class chef, or ardent food fan to if they asked me to take them on the ultimate epicurean tour of Vegas, and we had a month to complete the task. (For those of you who are wondering: every one of these places has been visited multiple times by yours truly. Many of them have fed us at least a half a dozen times, and in ten of them we’ve eaten more meals than we can count.)

Readers of the last printed edition of this title, will notice that 21 of the 50 entries are new — that’s how much our food scene has changed since we released the 2013 edition in November, 2012. The year ahead may be a quieter one as far as new openings are concerned, but don’t bet on it.

There may finally be enough interest (and affluent warm bodies) downtown to finally give that area some traction in the finer foods department (thank you Kerry Simon), and the venerable Strip hotels are going to be upping their games now that some of their stores are starting to show their age (are you listening MGM and Caesars?) Smaller hotels with a few, top flight offerings seem to be the wave of the future (à la the SLS), although Resorts World might be a behemoth that changes the game the way the Bellagio did in 1998.

All of us at Eating Las Vegas hope this will be the start of a tradition — that of releasing our 50 Essential list every Nevada Day/Halloween. We will be updating some of the reviews throughout the year, and you can look forward to our “new look” Web site coming on-line within the month, which will make accessing the 50 Essential much easier, as well as all past and current content.

In the meantime we will continue to give you Las Vegas’s only erudite, incisive, unfettered and un-compromised opinions on its restaurant and dining scene….and never forget that we at ELV stand by our ELV Guarantee: All Opinions Right Or Your Money Back!


1. Joël Robuchon

2. Restaurant Guy Savoy

3. L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon

4. Raku/Sweets Raku

5. Carnevino

6. Twist by Pierre Gagnaire

7. Bartolotta Ristorante di Mare

8. Kabuto Edomae Sushi

9. Picasso

10. Estiatorio Milos


11. Yonaka

12. China Poblano

13. Julian Serrano

14. Sage

15. Allegro

16. China MaMa

17. Mizumi

18. Le Cirque

19. db Brasserie

20. Giada – The Restaurant (on Earth – The Planet)

21. Rose.Rabbit.Lie.

22. Yusho

23. Carson Kitchen

24. Spago

25. Lotus of Siam

26. Michael Mina

27. CUT

28. Bouchon

29. Bazaar Meat

30. Eiffel Tower Restaurant

31. Forte

32. Due Forni

33.  Jaleo

34. Rao’s

35. District One

36. Chada Thai

37.  Cleo

38. I-Naba

39. Sen of Japan

40. B&B Ristorante

41. Monta

42. Nakamura-Ya

43. Mint Indian Bistro

44. Marche Bacchus

45. Ku Noodle

46. El Sombrero

47. Desnudo Tacos/47.1 Rodeo Tacos Barbacoa estilo Hidalgo

48. Zen Japanese Curry

49.  The Goodwich

50.  Art of Flavors

Honorable mention: Delmonico; Chocolate & Spice Bakery; La Comida; Wing Lei, Botero; Katsuya by Starck; Honey Salt; Prime; Table 10; Mundo; Comme Ça; Top of the World; Aloha Speciaties; Soyo; O Face Doughnuts; Bin 702; Border Grill; Tacos El Gordo; Buddy V’s; Herbs & Rye.

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