BLACK BEAR DINER
6180 West Tropicana Ave.
Las Vegas, NV 89103
Open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, the Black Bear Diner seems perpetually abuzz. The friendly servers hustle about while the place runs like a well-oiled machine. The franchise’s 60+ venues in nine states are a testament to a winning formula. Sometimes there’s a line out the door, but that’s only because it’s worth waiting for.
The menu is extensive and the dishes significant. We tried the Taco Salad and Turkey Burger. They say “you eat with your eyes first” and I am always struck with the sentiment at the Black Bear. Fresh and colorful produce perks up the plates. More importantly, the fare is substantial and tastes as good as it looks. Straight-from-the-oven biscuits and Grandma’s Famous Cobbler are standouts. “Beary” items punctuate the menu, and ursine decor abounds. A comfy booth is just the thing after a long ride.
All on their tempting menu may be ordered to go. The offerings are on the website and is as easy as calling the location near you. If you opt to dine in, Ray Saloom is frequently the manager on duty, and he’s ready to make your visit a satisfying one. Also notable to enthusiasts, the Bullhead City Black Bear is a short scoot away during the Laughlin River Run.
3355 Las Vegas Blvd. South
Las Vegas, NV 89109
Remember the myriad transportation options before we begin. Taxis are easily procured in front of the hotel casinos. Also, there is a monorail system (lvmonorail.com 702-699-8200) and, in this case, the Venetian falls under their “Nearby Hotels” heading. Also,Vegas.com has a Transportation section with bus options, where “Plan Your Trip” forms allow you to plug in your addresses and view potential routes and times. These inexpensive modes are worthwhile for warding off an unfortunate outcome. We wouldn’t want Emeril Lagasse’s “Bam” catchphrase taking on a new crunched metal meaning for anyone.
That being duly noted, we can now responsibly discuss why you would dine at Delmonicos for reasons other than a nice steak. Whiskey is the bacon of the spirits world. Emeril Lagasse’s Delmonico Steakhouse has compiled a weighty book of full-proof offerings. Some 550 handpicked selections from eight countries are offered. Eighteen tasting flights are available if you care to contrast the nuances. Also, in these days of hipster cocktails their spectrum runs the gamut from fun and fruity to traditional standbys. We tried a Monkey Gland, consisting of Oxley gin, Pernod Absinthe, fresh O.J. and pomegranate syrup ($15). My gingery “go-to” Moscow Mule was tasty, as well.
(Above) Playing the wooden spoons at the Hofbrahaus. (Below) Corey Harrison from the hit reality show ‘Pawn Stars’ served as honorary Keg Tapper.
HOFBRAUHAUS LAS VEGAS
4510 Paradise Road
Las Vegas, NV 89169
The stars aligned, and our BikeFest pilgrimage coincided with Oktoberfest festivities at Hofbrauhaus. I considered myself jaded and Vegas-weary, but this amazing place made me rejoice. I still feel the afterglow. The large building is easy to find on Paradise Rd. Inside, the aroma promises (and delivers) tasty Bavarian fare served at lengthy communal beer-hall style tables. I made quick friends in all directions…even upwards, when folks were dancing on my table.
Fellow bikers struck steins with the likes of convention-goers, bachelor partiers, and families hosting out-of-owners. Lovely servers hoisted huge beer steins in plentitude, looking like they stepped off a St. Pauli Girl label. They also had long wooden paddles tucked in the back of their apron strings. A ritualistic shot-consuming/spanking custom was performed frequently. Strange custom. The servers channeled their inner dominatrix, and big bad bikers and geeky computer programmers alike would turn red in the face after a vigorous pummeling. “Yes, Ma’am may I have another…stein, that is!” A more family friendly biergarten room is nearby.
Music classics were played in a frolicking Bavarian style. It was a surreal vision to see the ebullient lederhosen-clad entertainers going directly from Sweet Caroline to Ring of Fire to Margaritaville. Corey Harrison from the “Pawn Stars” was the honorary Keg-Tapper the night we visited. With much pomp and circumstance he was ushered in as all in attendance stood and hailed his arrival.
I had the Schitzel Wiener Art, which is a large, breaded pork cutlet. Is it delicious, especially with a generous squeeze of the lemon. We sampled their various cold cuts, cheeses and pretzels, and all were tasty, but save room for dessert as Strudel, Black Forest Chocolate Cake, and Cheesecake await.
On the way out, don’t forget to stop in the gift shop where you can find Hummel figurines, Bavarian apparel, steins, and items of that ilk. The website is most informative.
M&M SOUL FOOD CAFE
3923 West Charleston Blvd.
Las Vegas, NV 89102
This place is not short on hospitality. The staffers exuded warmth, and you could sense a lot of regulars frequented the place. Our server, Christine, was as astute as she was adorable, and before we knew it, we had piping hot, hot- water cornbread in pancake form in front of us. Their deliciousness warranted a second run. Drinks are served in charming canning jars.
The menu has some unusual fare unseen at most restaurants, but not uncommon to the genre—salmon croquettes, oxtail, and chitterlings. We had catfish and fried chicken, which featured special seasoning with crunchy exterior, succulent interior. I went there looking forward to it, and it lived up to expectations. These main dishes came with a broad choice of three sides and we selected collard greens, macaroni and cheese, black-eyed peas, yams, cornbread dressing with gravy, and fried okra. We asked for a small sample of the chitterlings (pork intestines). For the uninitiated, they can be a gastronomic stretch, but it’s fun seeing what’s on the next dish ahead.
M&M is open for the day’s three meals. The cafe is located at the end of a strip mall and could easily be missed. It helps to review an Internet map, and perhaps ride with their phone number in leather pocket. Their website has hours, menus, and more information. When you get that Southern Sunday Dinner feel, this is the spot. Save room for the Sweet Potato Pie, Banana Pudding or Peach Cobbler.
OLD SCHOOL PIZZERIA
2040 East Craig Rd. Ste. 101
North Las Vegas, NV 89030
As if there isn’t enough magic in Las Vegas, there is a dynamic duo conjuring not-to-be-missed, amazing culinary feats. Belying the unassuming restaurant’s exterior, chef Gio Mauro (from a Sicilian restaurateur) and sous-chef Darrin Baker (former saucier of Royal Palms Phoenix) imbue their craft to the lucky ones who have discovered this gem. Internet urban city guides offer countless raves about their superlative pizzas, which use inspired combinations of ingredients for adventurous foodies, and conventional medleys for the traditionalists.
Our visit included a remarkable pie consisting of prosciutto, cherry tomatoes, arugula, a nutty date cream and various specialty cheeses. The crust had an appealing crunchy edge and flavor nuances conveying a well-honed baking technique. We also enjoyed the Crazy Good Chicken, which is oven roasted, top-quality chicken served aside Yukon Gold potatoes, all flavored with thyme and garlic. Baker explained how the chicken is cooked sous-vide, meaning in a vacuum. This influences the texture and flavor, revealing a hearty dish, succulent and savory.
Cannoli. I weep at the thought their signature Sicilian pastry is a state away from my home. It is simply the best I have ever had. Sidled up to an espresso, it is the perfect moment to reflect on the meal just relished. This dessert is a marriage of crunchy pastry with sweetened, delicate ricotta filling.
This is not your average pizza joint. It is in a class of its own. Mauro and Baker recommend you eat the pizza fresh from the oven. They also chastised me for taking pictures when I should have been eating. The stylish dining area is tidy and consists of four tables and seating area near the exhibition pizza prep area. The staff is friendly and I heard glowing compliments from multiple patrons.
ROLLIN SMOKE BARBEQUE
3185 Highland Drive
Las Vegas, NV 89109
This is geographically influenced southern style barbeque. The Holland family hails from Arkansas, but has drawn on influences from neighboring states to distill methods and perfect flavors. The result is quickly winning over Las Vegas patrons and garnering accolades. Louisiana contributed thoughts of spice; Texas lends itself to such items as beef ribs; St. Louis speaks of tangy sweetness; and hints of Memphis round it all out, explained Pit Master Dusty Ardoin. Owner/Executive Chef John Holland was formally trained at the Cordon Bleu. Those two, and the rest of the culinary team, truly have a way with meat.
Southern hospitality abounds at this smoky venue, set in an unlikely industrial area. It is, however, not far from the Strip. There are two interior dining areas and a picnic table out front. One room sports a wrap around mural featuring friends and loved ones. The place is appropriate for families, night owls, and those needing a finger-licking fix. They also caterer with mobile smokers, and sell BBQ party packs.
The menu has all manner of reasonably priced barbequed meats, as well as fish, shrimp, breads, wraps, desserts, and more. I highly recommend the beef ribs, but you can’t go wrong with any of the choices. They are fall off the bone tender and the flavor well balanced. This is a joint worth visiting often to work your way through the offerings. The dozen or more sides are not an afterthought. Some are old family recipes, others modern fusions. Try the kicky Jalapeño Coleslaw, Bacon Potato Salad, and Waffle Fries. Delicious onion strings top dogs, burgers, and more. Presentation is charming casual—foil lined baskets with peppers and pickles accessorizing the piping hot fare.
This is the kind of place you’ll look back and say, “we knew you when.” It is not hard to foresee Rolling Smoke expand to multiple locations. When speaking with the family, you sense the sincerity and thoughtfulness in always maintaining quality and consistency.
Heed driving directions and follow your nose. Don’t be surprised to see professional ball players, UFC fighters, World Poker Champions, realty star and builder Danny Koker and his crew at Count’s Kustoms, and other notables chowing down.