Oh Las Vegas! I have so many feelings about you. As a former resident of Las Vegas, I feel I can speak candidly about the city. Las Vegas and I have a torrid love affair. Well not like a steamy romance with some hot pool boy like you would see in the movies. Las Vegas is more like a one night stand you would have with the Tuesday morning shift stripper who is missing all but 2 of her teeth, and had her great-grandchildren taken away by child services because she brushes her teeth with meth. Las Vegas is horrible, but I am somehow drawn to it for an inexplicable reason. Fine, it can easily be explained for me. Las Vegas has some of the best food in the country. Period. Vegas gets a bad rap in the food world because there are a lot of big names on many of the restaurants’ marquees, but those chef’s don’t actually have all that much to do with their namesake restaurant. I’m not exactly sure why this matters to anyone. Is the food good? Yes. Ok then! Why should I care who made my food? There are some very talented chefs helming the kitchen of many of the restaurants in Vegas, and they get very little recognition because they aren’t Mario Batali, Wolfgang Puck, or Gordon Ramsey. During my most recent trip to Vegas I stopped by some of the big name restaurants but it was some lesser known spots that really stood out to me.
My very first stop after landing in Vegas was Hearthstone Kitchen & Cellar at the Red Rock Casino and Resort. After a very confused 5 minutes where multiple servers were looking for the hostess, no one seating us, and rethinking if we were even at the correct host stand, we finally were able to enjoy our experience. Our waitress was certain we ordered too much food for 3 small girls…she underestimated our prowess. Of our extensive order the pancakes and French toast stood out to me the most. The pancakes were shockingly beautiful. So much so that I looked around to see if other people in the restaurant were as impressed with our meal selection as I was. They were not. Despite the lack of shock and wonderment from the fellow diners, I managed to thoroughly enjoy these beauties. The French toast was another showstopper. Apparently flowers are pretty, and if you sprinkle them on things, then those things become pretty! The French Toast at Hearthstone is comprised of a salted caramel sticky bun topped with a pool of icing, blueberry compote, and served with banana syrup. I have to say I absolutely under estimated this place. I knew Hearthstone would be enjoyable, but I didn’t know it would become my new favorite brunch destination in town.
The newly opened Yardbird Southern Table & Bar at the Venetian was far and away the meal I was most looking forward to. I seem to keep missing the openings of the restaurant. I was dating someone who lived in Miami and broke it off mere weeks before the opening of Yardbird’s original location. Yardbird’s second location in Las Vegas then opened about 1 year after I did a 10 year stint in Vegas. Oh magical restaurant, why do you elude me?! Well, I finally caught this mythical unicorn of a restaurant and was very much placated by the experience. Again, this was another dining experience where we ordered far too many dishes, but this time we struggled to finish any one of the items that made it to the table. Yardbird is known for its fried chicken so we decided to order their signature dish the Chicken ’N Watermelon ’N Waffles; five crispy pieces of chicken with honey hot sauce and bourbon syrup, a cheddar cheese waffle, and spicy watermelon. While Yardbird’s offerings are modern interpretations of southern classics, all of the dishes have a familiarity that makes each dish incredibly comforting. While all of our entrees were certainly enjoyable, it was the Crunch ‘N Munch Bread Pudding that came for dessert that really wowed us. A beyond decadent cast iron dish with M&M riddled bread pudding, popcorn ice cream, and caramel popcorn pieces. Being gluttons for punishment we added a second dessert which continued to impress. The Deep Fried Oreos, while similar to the carnie classic food, was intensified by a coating in Rice Krispies, a drizzling of chocolate, and cookies ‘n cream ice cream. Yeah, it was like that. I don’t know how to describe what joy would taste like, but I would assume it is something like these Oreos . Hmm…so I guess I’ll just have to add Yardbird to my list of favorites too.
My final day brought me downtown to another new spot, Glutton. If Glutton isn’t the most appropriate name for a restaurant considering my habit of eating until I’m sick, and being that it is located in Sin City, I just don’t know what else would be better. Glutton is absolutely a hidden gem, but hidden in plain sight. Glutton is located almost directly across the street from a very popular downtown breakfast place that often has a long line the majority of the weekend. While other saps wait for fairly good food, we were full and happy long before the diners at the other restaurant even sat down. Not only is Glutton great because we didn’t have to wait to eat, but the food is really interesting and far more delicious than anything else for brunch downtown. Glutton’s Peaches & Cream Belgium Waffle was by far the best item we ordered; crispy waffle, slightly firm peaches, bourbon caramel sauce, and sweet ricotta whipped cream. A Shrimp Scampi omelette was also a crowd favorite and enveloped garlic spinach, tomatoes, covered in a rich scampi butter. Glutton was a wonderful end to a fantastic trip. Just the knowledge that never again will I wait in line for breakfast downtown was worth the trip alone!