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Posted by on Mar 9, 2018 in Blog, Essays, Las Vegas, Travel | 2 comments

My Ten Best Comfort Meals in Las Vegas — for Under $20

 

 

If I ever get elected to anything important, and there’s no chance of me ever getting elected to anything important, my downfall won’t be because of sex or money — it will be due to my addiction to Reuben sandwiches.

And steak.  And pizza.  And lasagna.  And just about anything else containing the culinary holy trinity of sugar, salt, and fat.

I do love my comfort food.

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Posted by on Feb 7, 2018 in Blog, Essays, Las Vegas, Restaurant Reviews | 4 comments

Not So Well Done — My Review of Heritage Steakhouse (The Mirage)

 

 

Dining out on the Las Vegas Strip used to be a common experience.  This isn’t so true anymore, especially since “celebrity chefs” crashed the restaurant scene, jacked up prices to ridiculous heights, and casinos started charging for parking.  Now, most Las Vegas locals like myself avoid driving to The Strip at all costs.  It isn’t worth the time, the hassle, or the price when so many more alluring options and better values exist much closer to home.

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Posted by on Sep 15, 2017 in Blog, Essays, Restaurant Reviews, Travel | 3 comments

Keller’s Drive-In (Dallas) — The Most Wonderfully Disgusting Burger Joint in the Universe

 

 

My unplanned detour off Northwest Highway onto the oil-stained parking slick fronting Keller’s Drive-In prompted a most peculiar of culinary quandaries.  Namely — should I risk my life for a hamburger?  

From the rusty dangling carports taunting wide-eyed anxiety of an imminent collapse….to the dreary landscape beguiling a knife fight between rival gangs….a pit stop at this East Dallas hamburger haven demands a divine leap of gargantuan faith, garnished with an intriguing sense of unease.

Keller’s Drive-In has been around since before I was born — which is to say when all the Kennedys were still alive.  Growing up in Dallas, I fondly remember Keller’s Drive-In as that last great American hamburger joint before the microwaved abomination of corporate fast-food chains conspired to destroy the world and all but obliterated these genuine small-time monuments to food art and guilty decadence.

All I can say is — thank fucking god this awful place is still around and remains so marvelously defiant.

While we’re now in the midst of a trendy faux-renaissance of the good old-fashioned era of the greasy burger, unfortunately, most of the forgers financed by quinoa-nibbling waifs charge at least quadruple the price of the most expensive menu item at Keller’s — and still aren’t even half as tasty.  Fuck them.  Fuck them with triple patty sideways.

See, Keller’s is the raw real deal.  Taste buds never lie.  Where else in this compromised day and age of mass copy-cat conformity can you wolf down a piping hot guilty pleasure and guzzle a cold beer in the front seat of your car (ALL LEGALLY!) for less than ten bucks?  Indeed, Keller’s isn’t just a teary throwback to bygone authenticity given that its days are probably numbered, memories destined to be bulldozed into an Applebee’s next to Chevron.  It’s a cenotaph to anti-political correctness.  Let me put it this way:  If Jesus ever did return and was an auto mechanic instead of a carpenter, and he wanted to re-do The Last Supper, he’d host it at Keller’s.

On this day, I didn’t plan on eating at Keller’s.  Hell, I wasn’t even hungry.  I was full, even.  But you only live once according to my spiritual leanings and if my time has indeed come to keel over from a heart attack or a switchblade thrust into the abdomen by the newest inductee into the Banditos — then so be it.  My friends, this is precisely how I want to go out — with a scrumptiously sinful artery blocker in one fist and some kind of alcoholic beverage in the other palm, all while mutinously singing The Internationale.

Here.  Check out the menu.  Look at these prices!  “The Best” Hamburger clocks in at $2.35.  Throw in some greasy fresh-cut fries for a buck fifty-five.  Then, kill those intestines with a hearty milkshake for $2.25 (not the corn syrup garbage served elsewhere, but the real dairy product where you can taste the cream).  You can also add a cold beer for $1.75.  Holy shit!  I need to rent an apartment next to this joint!  Or, be buried here.

The best burger, plus fries, plus a milkshake, plus a cold beer comes to — cha -ding! — a grand total of $8.90!

 

 

Allow me to become a bit philosophical.

Food is the most obvious revelation and the ultimate confirmation, that above all else, egalitarianism rules.  Screw everything else.  Fact:  We all want to eat well.  Food is the magnet that makes snooty rich people drive into shitty neighborhoods for no other pursuit than that uniquely scrumptious meal you simply can’t get anyplace else in the city, or the universe for that matter.  Food is the epicenter our most inherent of social and commercial bonds, often between the most disparate tribes.

My rental car pulled up next to a Tesla.  Across the breezeway was a lowrider, which looked to be a ’66 Chevy Impala, though I’m not a car guy (thanks Google).  To my left was a soccer mom with her too many kids in a Toyota SUV.  Behind me was an old paintless pickup truck with a bunch of lawnmowers in the back — presumably all “rapists and murderers” doing their part of keep Dallas green and beautiful.  See, lots more cunts live in Highland Park than Oak Cliff.

Where else but Keller’s Drive-In would I witness a solo visitor from Las Vegas parked right next to an asshole driving a $100,000 car, next to suburban soccer mom, next to a Cheech and Chong wannabee, next to illegal aliens on lunchbreak — all eating pretty much exactly the same incredible meal for the same price?  If that’s not egalitarian awesomeness, then nothing is.

Note, however.  Badass bikers have recently been banned.  [READ “EATER DALLAS” STORY HERE]

 

 

Not often does one accurately describe a popular eating establishment as a total shithole, yet also give it a glowing recommendation.  Well, here you go.  Keller’s Drive-In is a total shithole with fabulous food at ridiculously cheap prices.

Which now brings me to the close.  The culinary encore of this review can be expressed in either one word or perhaps two words.  I’m not sure which.  That word or those words are — POPPYSEEDS.  Ersatz POPPY SEEDS.  I’d crawl over broken glass to devour those poppy seeds.  They’re sewn into every bun at Keller’s Drive-In.  My new sick fetish is poppy seeds.

I’m not sure what exactly is the best thing about Keller’s Drive-In, but the poppy seeds in the bun are right there next to the free knife fight.  Then, there’s the burger.  The burger is so messy, napkins aren’t adequate.  More like you need a beach towel, and perhaps a shower.

Keller’s Drive-In reminds us all of what we once used to be and what can still be, given the will of taste over convenience, the popular demands of quality over quantity, and the indubitable love of great food over mass production.

This is badass greatness on a poppyseed bun slathered in a special sauce.  Blow your dick off perfection with a heart attack in your hand all washed down with a cold brew.

Keller’s Drive-In is absolute magnificence.

 

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Posted by on Jul 22, 2017 in Blog, Essays, Las Vegas, Restaurant Reviews | 0 comments

Restaurant Review: The Black Sheep (Las Vegas)

 

 

The Black Sheep has been getting rave reviews, so I had to pay this cozy neighborhood restaurant a visit.  Marieta and I dined together on a busy Friday evening and were lucky to be seated at the last table available before the inevitable wait list began.

There are many things to love about The Black Sheep.  There are also a few disappointments, admittedly more the result of my personal biases and clashes in tastes, rather than quality or service.  In other words, if you’re into the trendy nouveau restaurant scene, you’ll probably like it more than I did.

First, the good things:  The Black Sheep offers a marvelous variety of food and drink — from specialty cocktails ($9-12) to tasty appetizers ($5-16) to plenty of entrees with a unique flair ($15-25).  There’s at least one item of beef, chicken, pork, and seafood to satisfy most tastes.  I listed the price ranges because, as one can see, this is a surprisingly affordable place to dine out when compared with other contemporaries in this class.

Advertised as Vietnamese-American, this is the type of snooty restaurant one might expect on the Las Vegas Strip, at double the prices.  However, The Black Sheep is far friendlier.  It’s tightly nestled in the corner of an L-shaped storefront and conveys much more of a local’s feel, the perfect after-work meeting place, especially singles from the crowd we witnessed.  On the night we dined, the clientele was almost exclusively comprised of younger professionals.

Marieta ordered the Slow-Cooked Short Rib with Yucca Gnocchi on a bed of Summer Squash Ratatouille.  Her dish was stellar (I devoured a third of hers), and was a relative steal at just $20.  The short rib was so tender, no knife was needed.  The medley of beef, gnocchi, and ratatouille was divine.

My order consisted of something more simple — Rainbow Trout in a tasty vinegar sauce.  I’m a Rainbow Trout fanatic, so wasn’t quite sure this would match my palate.  However, the chef grilled the trout to absolute perfection, conveniently deboned, but also served with full head and tail.  My only complaint about the food was my jasmine rice accompaniment was a bit too sticky and clumped badly.  Still, I didn’t come here for the rice, so this was only a minor annoyance.  Also of Note:  The portions are not large.  This is not a place to go if you savor a huge meal.  Think of what you might expect in some fashionable Beverly Hills bistro, sans the attitude.

The Bad:  What was annoying for me was the ambiance, which had several shortcomings.  To be fair, The Black Sheep is a new hit spot, so it’s to be expected that the restaurant is already way too small for the crowds.  That’s not a knock on the establishment, at all.  Yet, while the culinary treats are ample, physical comforts are nonexistent.

For one thing, the spartan tables and chairs, dark concrete floor, and industrial loft look is certainly trendy, but also not the greatest atmosphere for a first date or casual conversation among friends.  The restaurant is very loud, made worse by a sub-standard sound system playing music that’s indecipherable from the ambiance of 75 people within seemingly talking all at once.  One of my major pet peeves is having to strain to hear the person next to me who’s talking in a normal tone of voice, even though my table mate was just 3-feet away.  Many people obviously aren’t bothered at all by this.  I don’t like it.

Another negative was the lighting, where The Black Sheep fails badly.  Many Las Vegas restaurants are at a comparative disadvantage with dining establishments in other parts of the country.  That’s because the sun here is often hot and blazing.  While there’s nothing The Black Sheep can do much about 105-degree afternoons, they should do something about the front windows, which blasts in a headache-inducing glare.  Since the restaurant is open 5-11 nightly (closed for lunch), blinding light is a big problem for diners who come in during the first few hours.  The rest of the place is dark, while sun rays peer through the front like it’s a midnight drug bust.  Sure, a small takeout joint can get away with this annoyance.  An upscale restaurant of this quality cannot.  Something needs to be done about those windows.  At least — pull the drapes.  No one wants to look out into a parking lot, anyway.

Here’s a stock photo (not taken during my visit) which shows the layout.

 

 

The service was excellent.  Our host, waitress, and busboy all seemed to know a great deal about the restaurant, even though they’d been open only two months (at the time of this review).  Staff were on top of every need and checked on us just enough to make sure we were happy without the constant hassle of interruption so often experienced at other places.  Remarkably, our dinners came out in less than ten minutes.  Not sure if this is routine, but the kitchen here can put out food quick — if needed.  A somewhat limited main menu of about a dozen entrees probably speeds things up for the back of the house.  Moreover, a smaller restaurant like this will rely on turnover in order to survive, so the quick service might be part of the standard plan.

So, I credit The Black Sheep on their affordable prices, excellent food, originality, and fast and efficient service.  However, I slightly downgrade them for some problems with the decor and customer comforts.

Also note — Early Happy Hour runs from 5-6 pm with $5 wine, $4 craft beers, and $1 fresh oysters on the half shell.  There’s also a late 10-11 pm Happy Hour for night owls.

Overall, this was a positive experience.  I recommend The Black Sheep and give them a solid 7/10.

Based on the popularity of what’s become one of the hottest new spots in Las Vegas, reservations are strongly recommended.

VISIT THE BLACK SHEEP WEBSITE HERE

 

 

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