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Dec 5, 2013 06:57 AM

Las Vegas and Henderson, decidedly off the strip, 11/2/13 Dining report

Now living and dining frequently in Las Vegas I figure I should begin to provide some feedback on the places I've been, on strip and off, pricey and cheap. As always, verbiage will be transcribed direct from the blog while photos and a complete listing of plates experienced can be found there.

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  1. Friendly Donut House -

    Freshly transplanted to Las Vegas just days prior and with friends new and old in town an early morning trek after my typical morning run landed me at the doors of Friendly Donut House just after 5:30am, the Henderson breakfast staple already playing host to a sextet of elderly gentlemen holding court over coffee plus a pair of folks joining in. Truly oldschool in terms of design, variety, and price with customers more like kin to the friendly staff it was clear on entry that the presence of a camera was not common around these parts and inquiring into my business I briefly explained, the end result a few laughs and rolled eyes followed by a multitude of suggestions and one congenial fellow refusing to allow me to pay, instead suggesting my half dozen be “placed on his tab,” a tab the clerk suggested he never pays anyhow. Thanking everyone involved and taking my selections to the street it would not be long before the tasting began and opting for variety the most remarkable thing about Friendly was consistency; each fried pastry a textbook example of its genre with light yeastiness to the raised options and supple textures beneath a crisp glaze on the buttermilk and blueberry. Moving next to an impressive Bismarck suggested to me as ‘can’t miss’ by the table of two and then to a delicate cruller with thick cherry glaze it was largely expected that what followed would represent “saving the best for last” and sure enough both enormous bearclaw filled with spiced apples and the crispy apple fritter would prove the best I’ve found in Las Vegas and although perhaps not ‘destination’ worthy, certainly worth a visit for those in or around Henderson.

    2 Replies
    1. re: uhockey

      Encouraged by Michael's detailed review, I made my way (twice) to Friendly Donut House on our April trip. My wife and I ended up sharing an apple fritter, old fashioned and a bear claw. I suspect there are no wrong choices and should I every establish a best of Las Vegas list, Friendly Donut House would be included.

    2. Grouchy John's -

      Moving on from Friendly Donut House with hopes of getting some work done prior to meeting a friend for breakfast at Layers a two hour stop at Las Vegas Weekly’s “Best Coffee Shop” Grouchy John’s would prove more than apt to the task in terms of style, service, and beverage even though baked goods severely lacked. Friendly and efficient with a staff of baristas happy to engage the customer in banter about the myriad coffee concoctions or the day’s events while satellite radio plays overhead and local art decorates the walls it was with some discussion that I eventually settled on “The Jedi,” and although generally a double espresso or Americano sort I have to admit the flavor profile and mouthfeel were perfect while sweetness was not overdone, a sometimes-lost art that I appreciate for allowing the quality of the beans to show. Moving next to the baked goods, the fritter room temperature while the muffin was lightly warmed, and having been told subsequently that neither item is made in house I will simply say ‘good’ as the former was flavorless and dry while the later possessed the texture of a wet sponge – a shame considering the vast number of quality local bakeries from which they could be sourcing instead.

      1. Layers Bakery Café -

        Located in a strip mall off Green Valley in Henderson, Layers Bakery was seemingly the sort of place I would love – an organic artisan bakery focused on cakes, cookies, pies, and a breakfast menu both savory and sweet that looked great for a leisurely meal shared with an old friend…and save for some truly bizarre policies including refusal to use anything but raisin bread for the French toast or to slice more than one cake or pie per day it was. Sterile and commercial in design despite the local owners and organic approach it was just shortly after the 9am opening that I arrived at the restaurant and with my friend running late I was encouraged to order without her, an easy enough process entailing four pastry selections plus one from the kitchen and taking a seat with items to be plated and delivered it would not be long before my choices arrived; my friend walking in mere moments before the French Toast which she declined to taste due to the raisins just as I knew she would. Overall a decent collection with options ranging from crisp and surprisingly subtle Baklava plus one of the most buttery coffee cakes I have had in recent memory to a ‘scone’ whose texture more closely resembled that of a muffin and dense, flavorless bread pudding I cannot say I would venture down to Henderson for Layers, though perhaps if they were slicing (or willing to slice) the Golden Nugget or Bloody Good cake I’d reconsider.

        2 Replies
        1. re: uhockey

          Their "Best Chocolate Cake" really is the best chocolate cake on the planet. And next time try an almond toffee didn't do your homework!

          1. re: HaroldandMaude

            They likely don't sell it by the slice because they aren't a very friendly or accommodating place.


        2. Novecento Pizzeria -

          Having already gone off-strip as a tourist to experience Chef Marc’s rustic Italian masterpieces at Parma it was with good fortune that my first weekend as a ‘local’ not only included Marc but also two dozen additional culinary enthusiasts at the newly minted Novecento Pizzeria in Henderson for an afternoon of fun, food, and even an opportunity to work the dough and 900 degree woodfired oven with my own two hands. As much an event as a meal it was mere moments after our party was seated that the education began and kicking off the afternoon with rich steamed-to-order hot chocolate each item to follow would prove superior in both ingredients and in skill, the salads complex and balanced while every item from the oven featured a smoky note of char overlying supple, leavened crust with great chew and a sloppy center. Admittedly a special event from the opening bites to the off-menu dessert pies and Art of Flavors superlative gelato I can only speak to my experience with Chef Marc manning the ovens, but dollar for dollar I’ve yet to find a better pizza in Las Vegas and while that search will undoubtedly go on and potentially uncover one better I’d be truly shocked if it comes from a more humble and dedicated man.

          4 Replies
          1. re: uhockey

            Yes, a nice owner...and trying to provide a less expensive alternative; BUT, his ingredients/sauce are just not up to par with the best in Henderson, Settebello. For fast food, it's OK; but just because the oven is 900 degrees, that's not enough without quality additions.....I've tried it twice, each time with two different toppings and, each time, I was impressed with the technique; but not the finished product.

            1. re: VegasGourmet

              Clearly a matter of opinion, though I've heard the place lacks consistency when he is not on the premises. We're visiting Settebello this weekend, so I'll compare, but in my one visit Novecento was every bit on par with some of the best Neapolitan in the country and I'm not really sure how you "up the game" from DOP Buffala Mozz, San Marzanos, and a good "00" crust.


              1. re: uhockey

                I too went to both Settebello and Novecento this week and was impressed by both places. Novecento was surely cheaper, but I think the flavor was a little tastier at Novecento, though the Settebello pie was prettier. Both were really good examples of the Naples style :)

            2. re: uhockey

              We visited the Eastern Avenue outpost on our April trip sharing a small Margherita pizza - marinara, fresh mozzarella, basil, EVO and fresh grated Parmesan. The crust was mediocre with no discernible flavor or chew and, though the ingredients were fresh, the pizza would have likely have benefited from more time in the oven. Overall, the pizza was a disappointment - where was Chef Marc when I needed him?

            3. Snowflake Shavery -

              Originally intrigued but inevitably underwhelmed by the Fro-Yo fad it was with high expectations that I approached the highly praised Snowflake Shavery hoping that the new ‘foodie’ trend of Japanese Snow Cream would succeed where others had failed, namely creating a reason to ever crave it in a world full of gelato and ice cream. Located, like many wonderful things, on Spring Mountain Road in the same complex as Kabuto, Raku, Monta, Zen, and others it was just after 5:00 when I entered the small shop and greeted by friendly servers and low prices I opted for two small “Cool Combos” and with the all-natural ‘snow’ shaved and topped I made my towards the door to indulge, the delicate ribbons slowly shifting as I walked and the first fluffy bite crossing my lips just as I stepped outside, the flavor quite subtle and decidedly improved by the accoutrements, particularly the egg pudding which I would gladly eat by the bowl topped with or without a scoop of red bean. Admittedly a fan of sweet, decadent desserts and perhaps expecting too much based on the publicity I will simply say that while I appreciate Snowflake’s ethics and ingredients I’m just not their target market – if I want health food I’ll stay home and eat as I always do and if I want frozen desserts I’ll head over to Art of Flavors.