Archive for the ‘Wake’

In the News: EL SOMBRERO Closes, WILD Gets Tamed

April 14, 2014 By: John Curtas Category: Chefs, Food, Wake 2 Comments →

After a 64 year run, Las Vegas’s oldest restaurant has closed its doors for good. José and Teresa Aragon (who took the business over from Jose’s uncle, Clemente Griego, in 1970), have fried their last sopaipilla and ladled their last batch of  sweet and smokey salsa.

Eating Las Vegas estimates we’ve eaten at the Big Hat about 50 times since we moved to Vegas in 1981; that figure seems right, but now it seems a little wrong. That’s because El Sombrero embodied everything that is good and noble about family restaurants. The husband was always in the kitchen and the wife was always in the dining room, fussing over and flirting with all the customers. The food was good to boot, with Aragon’s green chile and chile Colorado being fine versions of the New Mexican staples he learned to cook way back in the day — after he returned to Albuquerque after the Korean War.

In other words, it was just the sort of restaurant people are always bemoaning Vegas’s lack of — as they enslave themselves to whatever familiar franchise or chain link makes them open their wallets.

ELV will miss you, José. We will miss your salsa fresca and your huevos chorizo (always greasy and thick, just the way it should be) and the magical re-fills of chips and soda that always appeared at just the right time at the table. And we will miss Teresa’s never-ending smile and calling to customers by name and the Mexican menu with its corny Spanish-English translations…and that gorgeous flan.

But most of all, we will miss those sopaipillas – warm, flaky and slathered in melting butter and honey. They always tasted the same,  just the way they do in New Mexico, just the way you learned to make them in Old Town Albuquerque so many years ago.

In far less sad and nostalgic restaurant news, Joel Schoenmann has reported in the Las Vegas Sun that Wild in The Ogden has parted ways with Miki “Do Cool Sh*t” Agrawal, and has installed chef Natalie Young at the helm to finally give this place food worthy of its decor.

Agrawal, who describes herself as a “serial social entrepreneur,” was a cute little thing….who knew as much about running a full service restaurant as ELV does about quantum particle entanglement. She got the job after meeting Tony “Mr. Personality” Hsieh at one of his numerous networking seminars where he uses his substantial wealth to find cool kids to hang out with.

That the concept and food behind Wild were god-awful is beside the point. What Hsieh and his minions (and most F&B people on the Strip) fail to grasp is that there is a type of restaurant that is dedicated, determined, local and personal. It doesn’t come from hipster hangouts or convention-friendly concepts. It comes from a cook who knows his or her craft and wants to make good food. Such food might be wildly inventive, or it might be workmanlike, consistent versions of the same product day after day. It isn’t motivated by trendiness or accountants, but rather by a desire to work at your chosen craft, to the best of your ability.

José Aragon knew this. It was in his bones….for over 50 years. He never got rich and he never got famous. But we will miss him. The Miki Agrawals of the world we will miss not at all.

Steven A. Shaw “The Fat Guy” Dies at 45

April 09, 2014 By: John Curtas Category: Critics, Wake 5 Comments →


I’m not good at obituaries. Never really written one. Didn’t even know Steven A. Shaw that well. But his premature death yesterday (of a heart attack while still in his 40s) calls for some recognition of one of the original internet “foodies,” a James Beard Award winning author, and one hell of a dining companion.


I Suppose We Should Say a Few Words About the Closing of HOPS & HARVEST

December 18, 2013 By: John Curtas Category: Chefs, Wake 17 Comments →

We'll miss these mini-burgers, not the atmosphere

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Hops & Harvest bit the dust a few days ago less than six months after it opened to great fanfare in Tivoli Village.

Its ignominious demise was hardly a surprise, as we had received a stream of reports over the past few months about how empty it was even on weekends.

H & H marked the first time in Las Vegas’s history that a nationally acclaimed chef had ventured off the Strip and into the neighborhoods. The fact that Bradley Ogden’s star had dimmed a bit over the past twenty years in no way diminished this milestone, and lot’s of us kept our fingers crossed that his bold move to the ‘burbs would herald a new dawn in quality, off Strip dining.

Alas, it was not to be.


Jean Banchet – Cuisinier Extraordinare – Dead at 72

November 26, 2013 By: John Curtas Category: Chefs, Wake Comments Off

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ELV note: Word reached us today of the passing of Jean Banchet – Chicago’s first celebrity chef and one-time operator of the best restaurant in America — on Sunday. Below is a too-brief but heartfelt reminiscence (published last year) of our sole meal at his Le Français temple of haute cuisine, when it was widely considered the ne plus ultra of fine dining in America. (more…)

Burger Bafflement

November 12, 2013 By: John Curtas Category: Food, Wake 16 Comments →

We at ELV are baffled.

We’re baffled because the three best burgers we’ve ever eaten in Vegas — at Elevation Burger, P. J. Clarke’s, and Poshburger have all gone out of business in the past year.

Not that any of their demises was unexpected.


Verily, It Has Come to Pass….

November 09, 2013 By: John Curtas Category: Critics, Wake 15 Comments →

“I think the problem (with your book) can be boiled down to one, four-letter word,” said Huntington Press Publisher Anthony Curtis.

“MaxandAlareidiots?” queried ELV.


Charlie’s Dead, So Let’s Figure Out How to Make Money Off the Poor Bastard

November 07, 2013 By: John Curtas Category: Chefs, Wake 3 Comments →

Bad taste and Vegas really go hand in hand don’t they?

Looking for anything or anyone with good taste in Vegas is generally a fool’s errand, but this press release from the Wicked Spoon Buffet at The Cosmopolitan Hotel and Casino really takes the cake:

Tomorrow (Thursday, Nov. 7) only, Wicked Spoon at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas will be serving several dishes in tribute to Chef Charlie Trotter and his contributions to the food business in the United States.  (more…)


November 05, 2013 By: John Curtas Category: Chefs, Wake 2 Comments →

Now you will not swell the rout

Of lads that wore their honours out,

Runners whom renown outran

And the name died before the man.

To An Athlete Dying Young – A. E. Housman

Charlie Trotter (1959-2013)


Arrivederci Mario Maccioni

August 25, 2013 By: John Curtas Category: Wake 10 Comments →

When I heard last week that Mario Maccioni was leaving Las Vegas, all I  could do was sigh, shake my head, and sink into my chair. The news felt inevitable, but nevertheless filled me with a sense of nostalgia and melancholy that can only be compared to the feeling you get when you know you are closing an important chapter in  life. We’ll get to that inevitability in a minute, but first a little history.



July 15, 2013 By: John Curtas Category: Wake 13 Comments →

Too hip for the room

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Less than four months after it opened, Poshburger shuttered its doors last week, bringing a speedy end to a restaurant that was a mistake from the word “go.”