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Obscure Joints for Lunch

  • j

Though I've visited Las Vegas many, many times over the years, I haven't been for two years - which, in effect, puts me out of the loop on current dining-out options. But I'll be back for a week next month and need advice. Not for dinner, mind. Browsing through recent posts on this board, I'm delighted to note that many of my favorites - Todd's Unique, Settebello, Lotus of Siam, Rosemary's, Table 34, the more recent Raku - can still deliver the goods. And I think my breakfast favorites - Blueberry Hill, Einstein Bagels and similar dives - are still performing respectably. It's at lunch that I need guidance from the cognoscenti on offbeat, even obscure - and often family-run - neighborhood joints that know how to do it up right. Only proviso: not on The Strip, thanks (though I doubt many of the kinds of spots I'd like could afford the rent). I long ago learned not to walk, drive, sniff the air or dine on The Strip if I wanted to maintain sanity and avoid bankruptcy.

The kind of joint I enjoy is like the one the omniscient, clearly omniverous Dave Feldman pointed me to on a thread a couple years back: Amena Organic Arab Bakery on S. Decatur. It was a winner, little more than a takeout with a few tables and stools, with some of the tastiest Middle East nosh I've experienced - and I trust it's still in action. Dave seems to have an uncanny knack for unearthing such obscure, price-friendly specimens, and for me Amena was his greatest triumph (after LOS). So if he or his fellow noshers know of others in this vein, kindly inform. I'm staying off The Strip, indeed considerably south of it, and will have a car - and am game to drive to just about anything reasonably edible.

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  1. Yikes, that's no pressure! But thanks for your kind words Let me think about it. And are you south as in Henderson or as in the South Point/M area? If I don't get back here, soon, feel free to bug me at the address in my profile.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Dave Feldman

      I'll be lodged at the South Point Hotel, from which it's comparatively easy to get just about anywhere around Las Vegas in my rental car. I'll take a shot on pretty much anything. And if it doesn't work out - such idiosyncratic places don't often bat .1000 - hell, it's only lunch, and there's a good dinner to look forward to later that evening. Lunch time is the time to try something new and/or different. Dinner is when you lean to joints that have satisfied you before - like Todd's Unique, where I've never taken a bad mouthful.

      1. re: juno

        I usually stay at South Point, too. Some good places in the area are long gone. You might want to try Catfish Alley at 467 E Silverado. It's Southern/soul foodish. You need some chowish radar when you eat there, because some of the food is fresh and tasty, and others sometimes seems frozen. Definitely ask them what is fresh. There are often off-menu specials. Nice people. And definitely worth it if you like fried catfish.

        Catfish Alley
        467 East Silverado, Las Vegas, NV 89183

    2. Have you tried any of the Michoacans? (Lindo and Bonito in LV, Viva in Henderson). Huge menu, good value, never had a bad dish.

      I'm also a fan of Florida Cafe, yummy Cuban housed in the Howard Johnson's on North LV Blvd.

      2 Replies
      1. re: GroovinGourmet

        I had an opportunity to try Catfish Alley this past month...it was terrific. Everything was cooked to perfection. I had the Oysters, Spicy Catfish, Greens. Black eyed peas and Hush Puppies...
        Service was great and the restaurant is immaculate! I will make a return visit. The other unique place not far from the South Point is Bachi Burger http://www.bachiburger.com/
        more than just a burger joint... many interesting combinations of Burgers, steamed buns, boba teas and more!!! Try the Shrimp Chips and the truffled fries!!!

        Catfish Alley
        467 East Silverado, Las Vegas, NV 89183

        1. re: ciaogal

          I forgot that BB was so close to South Point. A great idea. Have they sorted out the service problems they had at the beginning? And glad to hear that Catfish Alley is still in good form.

          Catfish Alley
          467 East Silverado, Las Vegas, NV 89183

      2. Fausto's Mexican Grill on Stephanie in Henderson.

        Elephant Bar in the District by the Green Valley Ranch casino.

        What-a-Sub in Henderson in the Black Mtn Industrial park 50 subs available, I believe the street is American Pacific.

        Kerry's sports Pub in the North end of the valley. Rancho, and Gowan. Thursday is all you can eat rib night, for around $14.

        Fausto's Mexican Grill
        2654 W Horizon Ridge Pkwy, Henderson, NV 89052

        3 Replies
        1. re: BIGGUNDOCTOR

          This thread I started seems ready to poop out, so to those who offered suggestions on where to get a decent lunch at an offbeat, somewhat unheralded, preferably family-run spot during my week in Las Vegas next month, much thanks. Most intriguing: Catfish Alley, a short drive away from my lodgings. It sounds like my kinda lunch joint. Even better, there's no soul food resto of consequence in my home town. Also Bachi Burger. I normally avoid burger restos - they're about as boring as steak houses, in my view - but this one has enough of a twist to be worth investigating. Fausto's Mexican Grill was previously mentioned to me by a Las Vegas friend. I've been to one of the Michoacan restos - can't remember which one - and it was okay, if I recall. The only terrific Mexican place I've found in North America is in Chicago, and it spoiled me forever. I've tried the Florida Cafe twice in the past, but perhaps I ordered the wrong thing. No joint does everything right. You have to know what a resto does well. I've yet to discover it at Florida Cafe. Elephant Bar isn't quite a family-run spot, but worth a shot if I'm in the Green Valley neighborhood at lunch. Subs aren't for me. Nor, ordinarily, are sports pubs - especially on all-you-can-eat rib nights, which for sure would appeal to younger fressers. I'm an older fresser.

          All in all, I've made a good haul. The denizens of this board have always been among the most generous and informative on Chowhound, most especially to naive, clueless, repetitive queries from drop-in visitors like myself. You're all welcome to add more nominations to the question at hand, but already my cup runneth over.

          1. re: juno

            You might want to try La Mexicana. Although if you haven't found any Mexican you like in North America, it means you haven't found a Mexican restaurant up to your standards in Mexico! It might not be a revelation, but to me, it's a great lunch spot: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/543794

            1. re: Dave Feldman

              After reading the La Mexicana thread mentioned above, La Mexicana goes on my try-for-lunch list, along with the suggestions as to what to order there. I'm always game to test my acquired, often-too-rigid opinions, and La Mexicana seems like a good spot to give a workout to. I don't expect a revelation - just a shot at a good, satisfying lunch, which isn't so easy to find in Las Vegas without extensive rooting around. Happily, Dave Feldman and company are doing much of that heavy lifting. It's these offbeat suggestions, ones that dabbling visitors might never stumble upon, that make this particular board such a delight to browse through.

              And now, my dance card for one week of lunches in Las Vegas seems to be filled. If anything useful and/or revelatory transpires during my week of lunching around, I'll report back.

        2. A few family owned suggestions...although not located in the south:

          The Fat Greek - NW corner of Flaming & Decatur
          Kabob Korner - Downtown - LVB & East Fremont
          Los Antojos - SE corner of Sahara & Eastern
          TC's Rib Crib - Desert Inn & Durango

          1. the place i like for a good saturday lunch is Uncle Al's famous hot dogs on Craig & Jones. they have the best dogs ive tasted in a long time. the casing are natural and they have that great "snap" when you bite into them. they have some good themed dogs and the fries are crinkle cut. they also serve malt vinegar ( win ) for the fries as well as good size sammiches. they also have root beer on tap ( double win ) and it is by far way better than barq's or a & w.

            2 Replies
            1. re: AdamRichmanJr

              Uncle Al's will always have a spot soft in my heart because it was the first place we ate at when we moved to Vegas several years ago. I liked the dogs there too. And I am glad to hear they are still in business (I don't live in that neighborhood anymore and never go up there unless I'm visiting friends and then I eat at their houses :-) So many places have closed down.

              1. re: AdamRichmanJr

                Supposedly Uncle Al still has the same owner and the same menu, but they have changed the name of the joint to G R E A T L I N K S .

              2. juno, have you tried Hawaiian food? I'm talking about the real local-style stuff -- saimin, kalua pork, long rice, mahi sandwich with mac salad, etc. The cuisine itself is very down-to-earth and might qualify as "obscure" -- sort of a blend of native Hawaiian, Japanese, Chinese, Korean, Filipino, Portuguese.

                Las Vegas has a large population of people from Hawaii, and thus has quite a number of small, off-the-beaten-path, mom & pop type Hawaiian restaurants. I think these would be right up your alley.

                Unfortunately, I'm not too familiar with suburban/greater Vegas, where the smaller, more hole-in-the-wall type Hawaiian places are hidden. But, if you don't mind going downtown, Aloha Specialties Restaurant, located inside the California Hotel & Casino, is cheap (less than $8/entree) and has excellent food. Flavors are spot-on to what I grew up with back in Hawaii.

                Aloha Specialties Restaurant
                12 E Ogden Ave, Las Vegas, NV 89101

                7 Replies
                1. re: jjspw

                  The lines can sometimes be crazy long at Aloha Specialties, as they are that popular. My new favorite place to go to for Hawaiian is Aloha Kitchen, at the S Maryland location.

                  One new place I liked on my last trip is Dad's Grilled Cheese.

                  Aloha Kitchen
                  4745 S Maryland Pkwy, Las Vegas, NV 89119

                  Aloha Kitchen
                  4466 E Charleston Blvd, Las Vegas, NV 89104

                  1. re: Wonginator

                    I feel obliged to report on my adventures in Las Vegas lunchland, guided by the many tips I've gathered from this thread. The outstanding tip, in my view, was Bachi Burger. I ordinarily don't care for burger joints - they're invariably boring, no matter how upscale they may be. I'd rather make and barbecue them myself at home. But Bachi Burger had enough twists and turns to make just about every dish inventive, helped along by tasty, Asian-style sauces, dips and toppings, as well as quality meat and a fine, fresh roll. As a starter, you can't beat the edamame. It's done three ways, the tastiest being the one stir fried in garlic, chili and who-knows-what-else. A $3 serving is enough for two, one of the best appetizer deals in town. You'll be licking your fingers for hours afterward. As a main, just about any burger will do (most are between $8 and $9), though I was partial to the kalbi burger. The fries are top notch. There are a number of interesting non-burger mains as well. A nice vibe to this place, with good music in the background, and knowledgable servers. I tried it at both lunch and dinner. Good beer list, reasonable wine and sake prices. A find.

                    I also liked Catfish Alley, a short drive from where I stayed at South Point Hotel, though the tip-off from Dave Feldman was wise - you must pick and choose from among the menu items. I was disappointed that there was no chicken gumbo on offer that day - the boss lady in charge said no one was ordering it and she might take it off the menu. Too bad - chicken gumbo is a good test of a soul food joint. But the deep-fried catfish was satisfying, as any deep-fried dish is. But the potato fries, as I expected from surveying the kitchen, weren't up to much - better to stick with some of the other sides, like baked beans or potato salad. It's a basic, no-nonsense spot with a raffish crowd.

                    Though not nearly as raffish as what you'll find at La Mexicana, a taco shop in a somewhat tacky all-Hispanic strip plaza on Decatur Blvd. When I walked in, there was a group crying and wailing at one table, another group devoutly praying, a third group arguing loudly at another table. I was beginning to wish I'd brought bodyguards. But the scene, presided over by who I take was the affable proprietor, soon settled down and everyone dug noisily into their orders. I started with a beef tongue taco, then moved quickly on to the carne asada torta. A nice little salsa bar added to the fun. There may be other taco shops around that are just as good as La Mexicana, but I don't know where they might be, and don't have the time to chase them down, so I'll stick with this winner when I get the urge. Delicious, and satisfying. Out of soup as well, though. An entertaining joint.

                    The tabouli salad at Amena is outstanding as ever, a meal in itself at $6.99. It's a Dave F. tip from two years ago, and it still stands up. Some pretty good Middle East (mainly Israeli) nosh there, further up Decatur Blvd. from La Mexicana.

                    I'm sorry I didn't get to Uncle Al's (or whatever it's called nowadays) or Dad's Grilled Cheese, or any of the Hawaiian spots, because I have a hunch I'd like them as well. But there was only so much eating I could do. The regulars on this board sure came up big for me on this trip. Much obliged for all the good scawf.

                    1. re: juno

                      Thanks for reporting back, and I'm glad that almost everything worked out. I'm afraid you've permanently missed Dad's Grilled Cheese. It is no more.

                      I've never experienced anything like you did at La Mexicana. In my experience, it's usually been downright quiet, although sometimes the TV blares, especially if a big soccer game is on.

                      I've never been to Bachi, and as I usually stay at South Point, I'll make it a point on the next trip.

                      1. re: Dave Feldman

                        Dad's Grilled Cheese is no great loss. Tried it a few times and wasn't impressed. A half dozen of my friends also came back with similar reviews.

                        La Mexicana has been good in the past but have to say my last couple of trips there I was slightly disappointed. Not bad, but the food (especially the carnitas) wasn't as good as before. Still some of the best chips in town though.

                        Tried the Fausto's in Henderson and found it extremely disappointing. Maybe I've caught them on a bad day or something, but I can't think of a single thing I liked about their food.

                        After having been to the Lindo Michoacan on Desert Inn a number of times and the one on Sunset in Henderson and finding them to be decent, I tried the one on the hill with a nice view in Henderson about a month or so ago. It was quite possibly the worst Mexican dining experience I've ever had, and I've been to a lot of Mexican food establishments over the years both here in Vegas and elsewhere. The service was average at best, but the food itself was horrendous. I actually didn't say anything at first, but about midway through the meal (which I never finished it was so lousy) my friend who was with me brought it up and said " Is it just me, or is this food pretty bad?". Like me, he agreed every single thing was either extremely bland, or if it did have taste, it tasted very poor. I was shocked that this place was related to the other Michoacans. Those were decent, this one was terrible.

                        For Mexican food I usually hit Los Antojos which has always been solid, Los Molcajetes although it's been a while, one of the 4 Cardenas Markets which have a little food court and excellent Al Pastor, or if I'm way out on the east end of town in Henderson Rosarita's Beach taco shop which have really good carnitas and soft chicken tacos.

                        Bachi Burger has been a winner the few times I've been there, definitely worth a stop if you're in the area.

                        As for Hawaiian, I work with a lot of Hawaiians and they recommended Island Flavor on Durango and Windmill. I've tried about 5 or 6 different Hawaiian places in town and this was without question my favorite.

                        I've had a hankerin' for a good hot dog lately and Great Links is on my list of places to try, although it is quite a drive from where I live.

                        Los Molcajetes
                        1553 N Eastern Ave, Las Vegas, NV 89101

                        Rosarita's Beach
                        72 W Horizon Ridge Pkwy Ste 100, Henderson, NV 89012

                        Island Flavor
                        , Las Vegas, NV 89113

                        Lindo Michoacan
                        2655 E Desert Inn Rd, Las Vegas, NV 89121

                        1. re: Dave Feldman

                          Note to Dave F.: in retrospect, there WAS a soccer game blaring on the TV at La Mexicana, though the criers, the prayers and the shouters didn't seem to be paying much attention to it. No matter. After my initial astonishment at the uproar, I merely regarded the noise as local color. It's places like these - with good food at modest prices, with an offbeat clientele presided over by a lively proprietor - that help give neighborhoods their character, and cities their distinctive cultural feel. Much as I enjoyed the much-superior Rosemary's and Todd's Unique, I think fondly of joints like La Mexicana, Amena and Bachi Burger. May they never get too uppity and start accepting reservations.

                          1. re: juno

                            Another of the reasons I like La Mexicana so much is that they don't rely totally on the antojitos. Many of the specials are often good, especially the soups and stews. And yes, the owner is very cool.

                        2. re: juno

                          I would not be upset if you did not find Gumbo at a soul food restaurant, as it is not soul food, it is cajun. Having lived in Texas for quite a few years, it was not on any soul food restaurant there.