Chef of the Year – Brian Howard

Until Brian Howard had the foresight to place an American gastropub on Spring Mountain Road, this three-mile stretch of “Chinatown” was the exclusive province of all things Asian. Now, it’s where gastronauts go for boutique lettuce salads, beet and green apple tartare, and giant steaks served with a dozen side dishes.

Those sides are an homage to the Korean banchan available up and down the avenue, and give a strong hint about how Howard loves to mix and match his meal metaphors. While one table is fighting over an Hamachi collar, another may be torn between the lamb neck with herb crêpes, scallop robata, or Chinatown Clams Casino.

By making Sparrow + Wolf our most interesting restaurant, Howard did more than just fuse a number of cuisines. He bridged a great divide between our various gastronomic cultures, inspired others (Partage, Mordeo Boutique Wine Bar, EDO Gastro Tapas & Wine) to follow suit, and turned this neighborhood into our number one dining destination.


4480 Spring Mountain Road

Las Vegas, NV 89102


New Restaurant of the Year – SPARROW + WOLF

If you’re going to judge the New Restaurant of the Year based upon the splash it made, no one did a bigger cannonball in our restaurant pool than Sparrow + Wolf. After leaving the Strip and wandering in the desert for a few years, Chef Brian Howard found a home smack dab in the middle of Chinatown, and from day one he’s been pulling in locals and tourists with a protein-rich menu that demands you pay attention. Never before has Chinatown, much less the rest of Las Vegas, seen things like clams casino with an uni hollandaise, beef cheek and bone marrow dumplings, and halibut in a white Alabama bbq sauce, and our restaurant scene will never be the same again.

It’s that influence — along with the groovy cool vibe, inventive cocktails, and spot-on service — that will probably prove to be Howard’s legacy. By going so far out on a limb — with his menu, his concept, and his location — he has established a template for chefs who want to break with the corporate culture and do it their way. His is not cooking that bows to any convention (sweetbreads wrapped in grilled romaine with smoked bacon is not exactly grandma-friendly), but it is squarely aimed at the GenX/Millennial customers — those who have come of restaurant-age in the age of the internet. They are the customers who will drive the restaurant business for the next twenty years, and the S+W menu taps right into the zeitgeist.

Whether you’re looking for a fusion homage to the neighborhood (udon Bolognese), hearth-baked bread or coal-roasted beets, Howard has you covered. That he can squeeze so many flavors into such a modest space is a testament to passion and planning. That his intended audience responded immediately bodes well for the future of chef-driven restaurants. I don’t know if Las Vegas has enough dedicated foodies to support other young chefs trying to do what Sparrow+Wolf has pulled off, but its success is a mighty good start for the future of good eating.


4480 Spring Mountain Road


What You’ll Be Having at SPARROW + WOLF

 Tomorrow it will have been open for two weeks. Every chef worth their Victorinox has already checked in, and industry types of all stripes are making a point of making a pilgrimage here to see what all the shoutin’s about.

We’ve been to SPARROW + WOLF twice, and plan a third visit before doing a formal review. But as a public service, we thought we’d post some tasty snaps of some of the more interesting dishes to give you, our loyal readers, an idea of what you’re in for when you check it out.

Two caveats: 1) when we say “the more interesting dishes” we basically mean most of the menu, which is nothing if not interesting, and 2) all judgments are reserved until said review, and nothing said herein should be seen as an endorsement of, or opprobrium for, any of the plates, food, drinks or service.

So, without further ado, here’s what you’ll be doing when you get there:

Cozy interior + Big window + Busy bartenders =

Wine refrigerator + Retail sales available + $20 corkage =

Wood + Wood smoke + Fragrant smell of burning wood (this is a good thing) =

Funny names +  Punny names + 5-ingredient cocktails =

Good stemware =

Good beers + Acceptable wines + Decent prices + New Mexican sparkler =

Fresh baked bread + Butter at the right temperature =

Oyster one way + Oyster another way + Oyster a third way =

Bento box + Charcuterie + Lamb tartare + Lump crab + Big shrimp =

Smoke + Burnt wood + Brown booze =

Beets! + The fact that chefs can’t stop serving me beets =

Oddly arranged artichokes + The fact that thistle lovers like alliteration =

Very Spring-y sweetbreads + Peas + Pea shoots + Bacon-wrapped cabbage + Seasonal eating =

Butcher wings + Burnt tomato + Ndjua vinaigrette =

Hamachi + Lychee + Rice cracker =

Maryland blue crab + Kimchee + Crabmeat + Egg =

Duck + Foie gras + Wood ear ‘shrooms + Salted cukes + Plum-duck broth =

Halibut + Alabama white bbq sauce + Citrus confit =

Dry-aged steak + Cephalopod =

Calamansi + Blueberry + Tart =

That’s enough to digest for one Tuesday morning. We’ll give chef Brian Howard and his crew another week or so to get their sea legs under them before we visit again.

In the meantime, just remember this equation: Sparrow + Wolf = unique gastropub.


4480 Spring Mountain Road

Las Vegas, NV 89102