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Five Side Dishes That Can't Be Missed in Las Vegas

In the continued effort to crank out new features on Tasting Las Vegas like Kate Gosselin shoots out Ed Hardy wearing offspring, please welcome to our new series; Five Things That Can’t Be Missed in Las Vegas!

These are by no means meant to be “Best of” kinds of lists, just a small collection of memorable eats that should most certainly be eaten.  Many of these “Can’t Be Missed” lists will have multiple editions over time when the mood is right and my creativity is not.

This first installment shines a spotlight on an often forgotten, sometimes frightfully treated as a throwaway part of the plate; the side dish.  Just as Al Borland brought a harmonic resolve to Tool Time, a good side dish completes a course and can make up for what the entree lacks visually, texturally and in flavor.  A side dish can elevate the entire main course to stardom or it can totally sink it (yes, months later and I still remember you, hideous Pork Cannelloni at Sage).

Here are Five Side Dishes That Can’t Be Missed in Las Vegas (in no particular order):

1.) Spätzle at Hofbräuhaus

Spätzle from Hofbräuhaus

Spätzle from Hofbräuhaus

My personal disgust towards German-style soured cabbagey meats prevents me from eating the delicious spätzle (pronounced shpets-leh, at least that’s my vote) with what it probably pairs up with best, but no matter; my love of brown-to-beige foods has no limits.  Yes, I am totally contradicting myself from the grandiose opening to this post about compliments to texture, flavor and look, but life is full of contradiction. The spätzle at the Hofbräuhaus is mighty tasty.

Some Bavarian recipes call for the pasta dish to use beer instead of water in the making of the dough.  I really can’t tell you if the Hofbraühaus does or not because I’m usually hammered from a mammoth liter or two of Dunkels Beer by the time the food gets to the table.

2.) Israeli Couscous with Pistachios at Black Pepper Grill

Israeli Couscous with Pistachios from Black Pepper Grill

Israeli Couscous with Pistachios (with French Dip) from Black Pepper Grill

The Israeli Couscous with Pistachio side dish at the Black Pepper Grill in Henderson (they claim Las Vegas, but the Eastern Ave. location is on the Henderson side of the street) has done something that no other side dish I know of has done; give you the only reason to go to a restaurant.

The Black Pepper Grill is a restaurant filled with moderately priced, okay-quality food that you’ll find in just about every American restaurant in this sometimes boring land of ours.  The menu choices and quality don’t give you a reason to drive across town to go to it, but the Black Pepper Grill is an adequate choice of convenience to those in the Silverado Ranch-ish area.  This is until you stumble upon the couscous side dish.

Wonderfully tangy, cool and fresh, the Israeli Couscous with Pistachios is a perfect choice for spring and summer and blissfully elevated my mediocre French Dip to a memorable lunch in an unmemorable place.  My unsolicited advice for the Black Pepper Grill is to close the doors and redraft the entire menu with this side dish as your starting point.  The vibrancy and uniqueness of the essence of the couscous might be the acid that’s needed to cut through the monotonous, beneath mediocre stranglehold that neighboring BJ’s Brewhouse has on the area.

3.) Cold Fingerling Potato Salad with Dill at Naked City Sandwich Shop

Cold Fingerling Potato Salad with Dill behind a Naked Royal from Naked City Sandwich Shop

Cold Fingerling Potato Salad with Dill behind a Naked Royal from Naked City Sandwich Shop

I’ve become an instant fan of the Naked City Sandwich Shop after my first visit.  It’s a little hole in the wall cranking out some deliciously fresh food. How can you not be a fan?

Potato Salad is a very personal thing. Relish or no relish?  Mustard or no mustard? Celery or no celery? That’s just the tip of the iceberg of personal preferences people adamantly defend or attack when it comes to potato salad.  This potato salad is perfect for the season as well as a compliment to the hand-crafted sandwiches.

I’m going to go out on a very shaky limb here as I’ve only had it once and practically inhaled it due to its tastiness, but the perfectly cooked (and I mean perfectly) fingerling potatoes were mixed with a sour cream / mayonaisse blend (I could be completely wrong, but that’s what I thought it tasted like), very finely diced and tastefully restrained onion and plenty of fresh dill.  If spring was potato salad, this would be it in my mouth.  Refreshing and satisfying.

4.) Kiss My Grits at First Food and Bar

Kiss My Grits (with Dr. Pepper BBQ St. Louis Style Ribs) from First Food and Bar

Kiss My Grits (with Dr. Pepper BBQ St. Louis Style Ribs) from First Food and Bar

I love grits. I love First Food and Bar. Therefore, I love grits at First Food and Bar.  Especially when they are lusciously cheesy, what corn-eating red-blooded American doesn’t love him or herself a good grit?

I was first introduced to the Kiss My Grits side dish when it was used as a comfy bed to lay their BBQ Beef Brisket upon, but now with the new menu, they get their own little ramekin next to their brand spanking new Dr. Pepper BBQ St. Louis Style Ribs (miles better than the brisket predecessor).  With the seemingly constantly changing menu, I hope both the ribs and the grits are going to stick around for a while (as in forever) because they are both must-haves at a must-go dining establishment.

5.) Fat Fries at Burger Bar

Fat Fries (with Burger) from Burger Bar

Fat Fries (with Burger) from Burger Bar

Yeah yeah yeah, so not too many (ok, any) vegetables made this edition of the side dish list, but remember this list will come around again sometime in the future with five totally different items, and maybe I’ll have something memorable and green in the meantime.  But, I would be remiss if I didn’t give a shoutout to the greatest french fries on planet Earth.

Yeah, you heard me; Greatest French Fries on Planet Earth.

I am perplexed as to what they do to make the Fat Fries so irresistible. I’m pretty sure they do the proper double-fried technique to get the crispy outside and creamy inside, but I don’t know what they fry them in.  I asked the waitress to which she claimed Vegetable Oil.  I have to call shenanigans on this as there is no effing way for a potato to be this effing delicious without being graced with some wholesome animal fat.  My suggestion is to get ranch to dip them in, although these fries are more than able to be eaten dry and on their own. The best.

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Mike Dobranski is a professional musician, amateur blogger, eater of good food, poker junkie, master of the inappropriate comment and bad husband to a wonderful wife. Follow him on Twitter at @MikeDobranski.

Follow Tasting Las Vegas on Twitter at @TastingLasVegas.

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