12.28.2010

Short Rib Grilled Cheese Sandwich

Short Rib Grilled Cheese Sandwich at Grand Lux Cafe
C+
Like its sister restaurant (which is more aptly named), the Grand Lux Cafe is a food factory. The menu is outrageously huge, the place is a well-oiled machine and the food is typically pretty good and served in way-too-big portions. And this sandwich, also, is well-oiled, pretty good and way too big.

Braised short ribs are a menu favorite all over Vegas, and so it was hard to pass up this lunch option. It combines the succulent, slow-roasted beef with a melty but unidentified white cheese and not enough carmelized onions, served on grilled white bread. The ingredient the menu description does not include is butter, as there is a shit-ton of it grilled into the bread. That's okay, as butter is usually the secret to a top quality grilled cheese. Problem is, there's not enough cheese. I'm all for throwing some meat -- especially short ribs -- into your grilled cheese sandwich, but let's keep the proportions proper, huh? Overall, this sucker is very rich, very filling, and completely unnecessary. Balance is tricky, and you're probably not gonna find it in a food factory like this.


The Vito

The Vito Sub at Jimmy John's
B+
In my getting-less-humble opinion, this sub is the best sandwich on the menu of the best monster sandwich chain around. Jimmy John's is just solid stuff: the bread is fresh and great, the meats and cheeses are high quality, and they throw it together in a quick and classic way.

Speaking of classics, this Italian sub has a traditional meat mix of Genoa salami and just-spicy-enough capicola. (Actually, the cappy is a little sweet and a little spicy.) There's smooth provolone cheese, onions, tomatoes, shredded iceberg lettuce and a tangy vinaigrette to bring out the best in the veggies. Like most everything at Jimmy John's, I highly recommend you order the Vito with hot cherry peppers, which add a powerful vinegary kick. An Italian sub is a beautiful thing, and it's pretty good every time at Jimmy John's.

Reuben

Reuben at Zoozacrackers
C
Yes, most everything you'll eat inside Wynn Las Vegas is ultra-delicious and fancy. Does that include this little deli stop near the sportsbook? Eh. Fancy, yes. Ultra-delicious? How about just slightly tasty?

Actually, this half-reuben was solid, unspectacular, and just a little boring. So ... definitely not living up to the Wynn standard. Riding on toasted seedy rye bread, you've got Swiss cheese, some pretty bland, kinda fatty corned beef, crisp, cool sauerkraut that really falls somewhere between typical 'kraut and coleslaw, and Russian dressing with a bit of a bite. Horseradish, perhaps? The bread was the best part. The meat just didn't bring it. I don't care if there's 'kraut or not, a deli sandwich has to be all about the meat.

It's kinda funny ... Wynn is one of the best hotels for food on the Vegas Strip, but the best sandwich spots on the boulevard (Carnegie, 'Wichcraft, Burger Bar, Canter's) are in hotels with lesser overall culinary acclaim.

Famous Star

Famous Star with Cheese at Carl's Jr.
D
Ugh. I gave in, finally. It wasn't a fast food urge that forced me to succumb, it was the damn Carl's Jr. they just opened across the street from my house. I was in a rush, there it was, no line at the drive-through. I'm a sucker. Damn you, fast food convenience. You are evil.

Carl's Jr. burgers, like their counterparts at Burger King, are better tasting than the average fast food burger due to charbroilyness. But this, the standard cheeseburger on the menu, is woefully inadequate in the flavor department. American cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion, pickles, special sauce and mayo on a sesame seed bun ... that's how you make a Famous Star. That's how you bore me to death. Of course, Carl's is home to the crazy "Six Dollar Burgers," which may contain anything from portobello mushrooms to guacamole. But I just can't get excited about this menu or this burger. I'll try my best not to return.

12.13.2010

Pastrami, Vol. 1

Pastrami, Vol. 1
homemade
A-
What if you lived in a city famous for its spectacular food, but none of that food was actually from that city?

What if you could eat almost anything you want at almost any time you want, but not everything is going to turn out just the way it should be?

Why is the best pastrami in Las Vegas made in New York City?

Why can't we make our own stuff? Why? Can't? We?

This is pastrami, dry-brined for three days, home-smoked for over three hours, sliced thick and dropped on dill rye bread with (unseen) garlic mustard. The relatively small size of the 2.5-pound brisket allowed the curing process to go bananas, and so this meat is very salty. Eating it by itself, it is juicy and delicious with all the right notes of coriander seed and black pepper until a few seconds in when the salt sledgehammer smacks your buds out your mouth. But on this pleasant, soft, fragrant bread, it's a magical meal, almost balanced and much more satisfying than any of the high-stacked piles of thin-sliced, fatty, pink meat I've eaten lately.

This is one. There will be two, then three, four, maybe more. I'm going to do this. Wanna taste?

11.30.2010

Egg, Ham & Cheese on Hoagie

Egg, Ham & Cheese on Hoagie at Snacks at Bellagio
C
Though it's one of the fanciest resorts in the world, the Bellagio does in fact have sandwiches. More specifically, it has a sportsbook in its casino, and every sportsbook needs a mini-deli or snack bar. The one at Bellagio is simply called Snacks, and the menu is just as simple. Leading off its breakfast (served all day) offerings is this thing, which includes every single ingredient in its name. The soft scrambly eggs, barely melted cheese and shaved ham almost give me a fast-food-breakfast vibe. The only redeeming bit of this bite is a spongy, delicious roll. Also, it's nice, and odd, to have a pickle spear served alongside breakfast potatoes.

If you're looking for breakfast in Bellagio, definitely opt for buffet, cafe, room service or the magical Jean Philippe patisserie.

French Dip

French Dip at Bob Taylor's Original Ranch House
This old school restaurant is known for two things: being hella old, and serving up great big slabs of smoked prime rib. So this is the lunch version, thin slices of that flavorful beef on a nice toasty French roll, slathered in melted provolone and served with salty au jus for dipping. It's a pretty solid sandwich, but as you can see from this cross section, a little extra beef would've been nice. Thinner slices takes away a lot of the fat and flavor of prime rib, but as far as the ordinarily boring French dip sandwich goes, the ranch house does it decent.

11.20.2010

Buffalo Pot Roast

Buffalo Pot Roast Sandwich
homemade
A+
Leftovers = sandwich greatness.

Roasting a buffalo shoulder was something of a Thanksgiving tryout. Buffalo meat has great taste considering how lean it is, but could the texture be manipulated to replicate mom's beloved pot roast? Hoping for the best, I brought in a secret weapon: piggy. So this roast went in the magic blue LeCreuset wrapped with slab bacon, and accompanied by garlic, celery, carrots, onions and red wine. The result was soft and tender meat, slightly gamey taste, but an overall lack of succulence. Eh, good try.

But after piling all these goodies on two slabs of fresh sliced crusty French bread, slathered with my shit Boetje's Dutch stone ground mustard, we've got a super winner. Rustic, spicy, messy, hearty, totally satisfying ... especially with the chewy bacon and glistening, fat-glazed carrots riding shotgun. This is basically having a bowl of stew and a chunk of bread, minus the bowl. Accidental ideas rock.

11.12.2010

El Korean "Nate" Dog

El Korean "Nate" Dog at HanShikTaco
A
Vegas' first Korean taco stand also serves up these spicy, creamy, tasty dogs. This weiner is split and sizzled up nicely, releasing its savory delights much more than your typical uncompromised frank, dropped in a toasty bun and covered with some customized Asian-fusion toppings: HanShik's very own spicy-sour kimchi, sriracha-spiked ketchup, a thinner yet still formidable mayo, and the special chili seasoning dust that also comes on this fun food stand's delicious, crispy fries.

If you think this looks delicious, wait 'til you get some of these tacos. The Vegas food truck revolution continues, and it sure tastes good.

11.08.2010

The Orleans

The Orleans at Steiner's Nevada Style Pub
B-
A juicy chicken breast, seasoned with some cajun dust and grilled. A sweet, also juicy roasted red pepper. A sharp tasting mound of blue cheese. All this on a soft kaiser bun, with lettuce, tomato and red onion on the side. This is not the best sandwich on the menu at Steiner's Pub. It's downright average. But the pepper is a nice touch, blending with the cheese and adding a little unexpected flavor. Little touches like these are the reason why Steiner's is known to have some of the best bar food in Vegas.

10.27.2010

The Parma

The Parma at Parma
A
Hell yes. We've known Parma Pastavino & Deli as a great little neighborhood Italian joint, but only recently did we stop by for lunch and experience one of the best Italian subs in Vegas. Even more incredible than the taste of this beautiful sandwich is the fact that at six bucks, half of one of these is all you'll need.

Piled on a very flavorful, very crusty hard roll are a variety of meats and cheeses, and the selection could change at the chef's whim. But rest assured all are imported, high quality ingredients like hot capicola, pepperoni, mortadella and classic picnic ham, augmented by provolone and parmesan cheeses. Shredded lettuce, tomato, red onion and a red wine vinaigrette dressing are pretty familiar complements, right? But the kicker is a spicy, vinegary spread of marinated olives and pepperoncini, an element that makes an ordinarily delicious sandwich unique to this shop. Bravo. Maybe we'll get a whole one after all.

10.20.2010

The Engineer

The Engineer at Firehouse Subs
B-
I don't really understand you, Firehouse Subs. Your sandwiches are fine, large soft rolls stacked with mighty portions of meats, but your flavors are merely ordinary and your gimmick is ... firemen? Because firemen are extra hungry? Or everybody loves firemen so they'll probably love your sandwiches? This franchise was founded by firemen, fine, I get that. But what does that have to do with a delicious sandwich?

There's nothing confusing about this straight-ahead sub. The Engineer has a nice pile of smoked, sliced turkey breast (standard stuff without a lot of smoky flavor), mushrooms, Swiss cheese and your everyday hoagie vegetables. In fact, at Firehouse Subs they call it "fully involved," which means lettuce, tomato, mustard, mayo, onion and a pickle spear on the side. Most sandwiches here come warm, though not necessarily toasty a la Quizno's. They're also huge; a large is at least two meals. The new shop that just opened in my 'hood boasts a nice collection of hot sauces if you want to spice things up a bit. The Engineer is tasty and satisfying, but it could definitely use a few shots of something.

10.18.2010

The Bearcat

The Bearcat at Johnny McGuire's
B+
How come nobody else is talking about this Johnny McGuire's sandwich shop at the annoying outdoor super mall known as Town Square? It's deliciously consistent. Fine, I'll do it.

It doesn't make sense to call a sandwich The Bearcat, but it sounds awesome. Let's agree on that. This is a wheat roll, soft and fresh, and there are fairly normal toppings on board, but the thing that sets this sandwich off is the purple cabbage coleslaw in a barely creamy, slightly zingy sauce. The menu says there's Thousand Island dressing on The Bearcat, but if that's true it must be blended innocently into this slaw. It's the perfect amount of moisture and a very pleasant taste and texture, a crunchy-drizzly dynamic. Meatwise, you've got plenty of turkey and some crisp bacon, with Swiss cheese, tomatoes, onions and green bell pepper balancing things out. Another fine creation from JM.

10.17.2010

Half Pastrami

Half Pastrami at Bagel Cafe
A
In the case of the traditional deli stacked-meat sandwich, sometimes a half is all you need. Most times a half is all you need. So I usually pair this bad boy with a cup of Bagel Cafe's matzoh ball soup, which is much more food than I need in one sitting.

Bagel Cafe's pastrami is right up there with the best in town, and unlike most deli-type spots, they actually make it in-house. It's sliced thin, juicy with the right amount of fat, and salty with just a bit of spiciness. A dab of spicy table mustard is all you need on this meaty beast, ordered here on simple (also homemade) rye. This is as good a basic pastrami sandwich as you'll find in Vegas, just as tasty as those imported NY and LA sandwich spots as the Strip. And at the Bagel Cafe, you're not gonna take a hit in the wallet.

10.13.2010

BLT Burger

BLT at BLT Burger
A-
Even though the "BLT" in BLT Burger doesn't stand for what you think it does, it's still made up of what you think it is. BLT is another Vegas fancy burger joint, one of the better ones, and its name comes from Laurent Tourondel, the chef originally behind the BLT family of restaurants. I'm not sure if he's affiliated with this burger shop anymore, but it doesn't matter. The burgers are still good. This one has a seven-ounce patty of grilled angus beef, double smoked bacon, lettuce, tomato, BLT burger sauce (which is probably fine but I don't remember tasting) and strong blue cheese. Man, blue cheese and bacon go together.

But the best parts about this burger are the bun, a standard issue, soft-yet-firm sesame seeded roll, and the meat, a custom grind of sirloin, brisket, chuck and shortrib. There's probably a lot more chuck than anything else, but it's a nice, fatty blend, full of beefy flavor with a great texture. And even though this one seems relatively unfancy, it's my favorite burger on the menu.

9.28.2010

Sandwich Sundays Presents: The Afterparty

The Afterparty
homemade
A-
On Sunday, my first attempt at smoking a brisket was a rousing success. Compliments galore. It was tender if not juicy, rich with smoky flavor and augmented with a crisp, black, sharp and savory crust. Overall, almost perfect.

But my favorite way to eat brisket is in a sandwich, so I put it together Sunday night. This thing, too, is almost perfect, with the delicious beef providing loads of meaty satisfaction with each bite. It's topped by a blended barbecue sauce, spicy and sweet thanks to hickory, hoisin, honey and chili oil, and a homemade coleslaw of cabbage, carrot, green onion, mustard seed, almond splinters and an apple cider vinaigrette. The almost fruity-sweet notes of the sauce and the apple-ish tang in the slaw engage in a flavorful slugfest, and then the salt balance from the beef kicks in ... it's powerful stuff. The only reason this isn't a top-ranked sandwich is the bread. Regrettably, I only had plain-old Italian white bread, and while it's suited to just about any sandwich, it's too soft for this job.

9.27.2010

Footlong Quarter Pound Coney

Footlong Quarter Pound Coney at Sonic
C+
Wifey thought I was going to die from eating this, but the truth is it went down relatively smooth. At about 65 calories and 25 cents per bite, is the Sonic footlong a deal? Perhaps.

It's been years since I've had a hot dog from Sonic, and the previous weiner was so grotesque (and a nice shade of gray) that I swore off these suckers. But the quality of this frank was much improved. The chili, of course, is bad news bears, and it feels a little wrong when the high school girl at the drive-through passes you an extra-long, warm and greasy package wrapped in shiny paper. But Sonic has its merits, and this might be one of them. It's hard not to agree with a giant chili dog and a chocolate shake.

9.18.2010

The Raging Bull

The Raging Bull at Cugino's Italian Deli
Across the street from UNLV on Maryland Parkway
B
If Cugino's isn't the best deli and sandwich shop in the area surrounding UNLV, I will be surprised. They do everything here, pizza to pasta to homemade sausage (like these!), and they even have a quality Italian market section of the shop. But terrific sun sandwiches on fresh baked bread has gotta be pulling the students over here.

The Raging Bull is a simple sausage and peppers sandwich, with grilled bell peppers and sweet onions mounted on a pile of Cugino's own spicy sausage. Of course, you can order the same sandwich with sweet sausage, but why? Actually, this meat tube doesn't pack a lot of heat, but there are strong flavors of fennel and anise in this baby, a well-seasoned treat. The sub roll is crispy and delicious.

9.10.2010

Barbecued Brisket

Barbecued Brisket on panini at Whole Foods
B-
Grabbing lunch at your neighborhood Whole Foods store is always a good idea. With this sandwich, ordered from the relatively quick-serve deli area, I may have screwed up: a wide, flat, chewy, toasty panini probably isn't the most suitable foundation for a nice pile of smoked, shredded beef. But both elements sure do taste good. If your town has some truly great 'cue restaurants, you might not be impressed with the very respectable stuff getting slow-smoked at Whole Foods. But my town is Vegas, and our 'cue could be a lot better overall, and this is decent brisket. The barbecue sauce slathered about was very standard, which is to say too sweet. The fresh, hearty panini, also baked on site, is probably the best part.

9.06.2010

The Soft Elvis

The Soft Elvis
homemade
B+
So we're going to call this peanut butter, banana, honey and bacon on wheat bread creation The Soft Elvis because we are under the impression the King's favorite sandwich is supposed to be deep fried. Not sure if that would have improved or taken away from the wonderful salty-sweet, crunchy-yet-soft balance to be enjoyed in every bite. Perhaps a more formidable bread than this standard, kinda sweet wheat would be an improvement. But what it really needed was more bacon, as the powerful honey, gooey peanut butter and rich, smooth texture of the banana simply overwhelmed the three crispy strips of swine. Next time, the bacon will be thicker and there'll be a double layer of it ... and maybe the deep fryer will get some action. Maybe.

Homemade Turkey Sub

Homemade Turkey Sub at Capriottis
B
An average everyday turkey sandwich is way above average when it's from Capriotti's, because they only serve fresh, slow roasted turkey, pulled into tender, tasty shreds instead of slicing processed birdmeat onto your bread. Cap's standard turkey sub is finished with provolone cheese, shredded lettuce, tomato, onions, mayo, oil and vinegar and a dash of dry seasonings like salt, pepper and oregano. Capriotti's may have gone corporate recently, but this sandwich is far from a Subway-style sellout.

8.27.2010

The Grinder

The Grinder at Which Wich
B
There's a new sandwich in Vegas, and it's this crazy joint Which Wich. The concept comes from a company that also slings smoothies and burgers via similar methods: You arrive at the shop, become confused, and then realize that you're supposed to pick up a Sharpie and a brown paper bag that has the ingredients of your choice. You specify what you want on your 'wich, they put it together (a bit slowly) and make it nice and toasty, and there you have it.

Getting past a complicated process that is meant to be simple, my first Which Wich 'wich comes from the Italian category. The Grinder has salami, pepperoni and capicola, a familiar and savory combination of meats. I added provolone, lettuce, tomato, pepperoncini, oil and vinegar. The sub rolls here are just fine, and toasted to a pleasant crisp that makes for a pretty satisfying bite. I don't think I've had a straight-up Italian sub toasted like this before, as I ususally prefer it cold, but the heat did bring out some different flavors in the meats.

The sandwich choices at this place seem infinite, so yeah ... expect to see more soon.

8.24.2010

Banh Mi Burger

Banh Mi Burger at Bachi Burger
A+
I love banh mi. When presented with this masterpiece at the popular Henderson-area Asian-inspired burger joint Bachi Burger, my first thought is: Why? Why combine two perfectly good, separate sandwiches? I didn't think it would turn out well. (Other burger joints have failed with this concept, and I'm talking about you, BLT Burger on the Strip.)

Incredibly, delightfully, this sandwich provides the classic taste of banh mi with the meaty, satisfying bite of a powerful burger. It really does the impossible. It's accomplished with a patty that blends Angus beef, pork and shrimp, seasoned sweet and sour with sugar and fish sauce. Those familiar Asian flavors pack a punch, but the juicy consistency of this new meat stays true to burgerness. Also on board are typical pickled carrot and daikon, lettuce, and fresh jalapeno slices that came on the side but should be considered mandatory, and the extra special kicker: a totally unnecessary but very welcome slice of pork pate. This element really brings it home, along with the fresh, soft, slightly sweet bun.

There are tons of other Asian burger creations on the menu here, which is exciting. Now we just have to find out if the Banh Mi Burger is head of the class or the tip of the tasty iceberg.


8.22.2010

Amy's Turkey-O

Amy’s Turkey-O at Jason's Deli
B+
Like virtually everything offered at Jason’s Deli, this is a fine, workable sandwich. It’s tasty, even. There’s plenty of turkey. The vegetables are fresh and ripe and it comes with avocado, which is always a plus on a turkey sandwich. The onion roll it’s served on is fresh and provides the right proportion of bread to other sandwich ingredients.

There is very little here to set Amy’s Turkey-O apart from a zillion other turkey sandwiches from a zillion sandwich shops, but that’s OK. Every sandwich doesn’t need to be a masterpiece lovingly created by a zen sandwich master in a fancy, artisan sandwicharium. Sometimes, a sandwich can just be sandwich from a plain old run-of-the-mill sandwich shop, and all things considered, this is a perfectly nice sandwich.

Fried Egg Sandwich

Fried Egg Sandwich at 'Wichcraft
A+
In case you’re wondering, when someone talks about artisan sandwichariums, this is the place they are referring to. This divine sanctuary of all that is good, holy and delicious, was lovingly bestowed upon the people of Las Vegas by Tom Colicchio, and is perhaps the best reason to set foot in the MGM Grand.

The fried eggs, bacon, gorgonzola & frisée creation comes on a ciabatta roll and is one of the most fabulous things to ever happen to the mighty sandwich. The fried egg positively sings in concert with the bacon and cheese, which shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone who has ever feasted on any of these ingredients, separate or combined. The surprise is in how well it all works with the slight bitterness of the greens, and in how nicely the ciabatta roll complements the rest of the ingredients. It is listed under ‘Wichcraft’s breakfast sandwiches, and it is a perfect breakfast food, but I would gleefully eat this sandwich at any time of day. It is a full-on master-class in sandwich perfection, packaged between two pieces of delightful bread, just begging the world to come take a bite. Don’t mind if I do.

8.19.2010

Really Big Chicken Sandwich

Really Big Chicken Sandwich at Jack in the Box
F
Consider my consumption of this disasterpiece a compromise to all those people (and there have been a few) who've asked "When is allsandwich going to review the KFC Double Down?" The answer, friends, is never, because first of all, ew, and second of all, it's not a sandwich. Where's the bread? No bread, no sandwich.

But at least the chicken at KFC kinda tastes good. There is no evidence the fried chicken patties at Jack in the Box, which have the consistency of some kind of forcemeat and no flavor whatsoever, contain any actual poultry. The outside is crisp, but the inside might as well be soggy cardboard. To stack two of these on top of each other in a single sandwich is criminal. The rest of the ingredients are bacon, a white, unidentifiable cheese mess, lettuce, tomato and mayo. There really is no reason to eat this, and it makes me question Jack's marketing plans.

8.18.2010

The Lovelock

The Lovelock (King of Clubs) at Steiner's Nevada Style Pub
B
All the menu items at Steiner's, a friendly neighborhood Vegas bar, are named for something in Nevada. That would explain why this absolutely respectable club sandwich is named after a western desert town that's known mostly for a big prison. Also, it comes with Steiner's great homemade, crispy, waffle-potato chips.

You get to pick your own bread for any sandwich here, so marble rye it is. Good stuff. When you're having such a common sandwich, mix it up with fancy bread. Roasted turkey, avocado, crisp bacon, tomato, lettuce and Swiss cheese round out a familiar but well-balanced bite. And it's a big bite, as you can see, since this sucker is double-deckered, another reason to go for fancy bread. Bountiful avocado and juicy turkey are the dominant flavors, and it's a satisfying combination.

Pulled Porkie

 Pulled Porkie from Slidin' Thru
A
We at allsandwich have outdone ourselves with this, the crappiest sandwich picture of all time. Great apologies to you, dear reader, and to the fine crew at Slidin' Thru, for this picture is a poor representation of one of the tastiest morsels to ever come out of a gourmet food truck. For a group that specializes in gourmet sliders, these guys sure know how to do some barbecue.

The typical slider bun is just fine, fresh and soft, but it's what's on the inside that counts. The slow-cooked pulled pork is wonderfully tender and avoids overseasoning. It's always best to let pig do its own thing. Topped off with beautifully caramelized jalapeno and a sweet, slightly spicy barbecue sauce, the Pulled Porkie is three to four bites of awesomeness. No wonder this is a crowd favorite when the Vegas slider truck is cruising the streets.

8.15.2010

Red & Yellow Veggie Burger

Red & Yellow Veggie Burger
homemade
B-
The veggie burger adventures continue ... Here we have grilled up an ordinary Boca Burger and tossed it on a fresh kaiser roll, with a little splash of balsamic to wake things up. The colorful toppings include green leaf lettuce, sauteed red onions, roasted sweet yellow bell pepper (out of a jar from Trader Joe's) and a bit of goat cheese. It looks pretty. It tastes good, too, particularly the sweet, juicy pepper mixing with the creamy cheese. The biggest drawback here is the lack of crunch or textural alternatives; when you're eating a veggie burger you need to avoid the possibility of mush. But hey, that's what the crispy pickle spear is for.

7.31.2010

The Meadow

 The Meadow at Eddie D's Famous Italian Sandwiches
edsworldfamoussandwiches.com
A
It’s hard to pick a favorite sandwich at Eddie D’s, but The Meadow is certainly worthy of the title. The eggplant on this sandwich is sliced thin and then battered and fried, but it’s the cheese and broccoli rabe that push this delicious sandwich over the top. Thick, sharp slivers of provolone cut right through the eggplant and bread with a zing that brings taste buds to life. The broccoli rabe, stewed in a tomato-y sauce that replaces the usual marinara, brings a unique freshness to the sandwich. It’s a good eggplant marinara, with a mighty kick of flavor and character.

7.28.2010

Spicy Baja

Spicy Baja Burger at Smashburger
A
Smashburger has exploded onto the already crowded Vegas burger scene, and rightfully so. These burgers taste fresh and are decidedly not fancy. Their cow is never frozen and their method is to slap a third- or half-pound ball of meat on the grill and "smash, sear and season" it right then. The result is a non-uniform shape, juicy texture and a nice griddle-char on the outside. It's quite pleasant. The franchise goes the extra mile by adding a customized burger to the menu in each different city where it opens. The Sin City Smashburger will have to be reviewed at a later date.

The Spicy Baja adds a flavorful, Tex-Mex accent to an already solid burger. Your meat is dressed in melted pepper jack cheese and mounted on a "chiptole bun," with guacamole, tomato, lettuce, chipotle menu and fresh jalapenos riding shotgun. The only spicy in this equation comes from those bright green discs, and that's plenty. My baby bro couldn't take the jalapeno heat and was wishing for the pickled version, but as usual, he's way off base. The veggies are fresh, the mayo is virtually undetectable, the guac cools things off and provides a textural counterpoint, and the cheese-and-meat combo is just right.

Some people consider Smashburger a fast-food franchise and don't think it belongs in the conversation of Vegas' best burgers. It's a casual joint, with service akin to Fatburger, so call it fast food if you want to but the stuff is good. And so far, the Spicy Baja is my favorite sandwich on the menu.

7.26.2010

Turkey Avocado

Turkey Avocado Sandwich
homemade
B
Simplicity is a champion. Smoked, sliced turkey, from any store deli, on whole grain wheat bread, not toasted or anything. Insteady of nasty mayo in between, mash a ripe avocado with a little salt and lemon juice and spread away. Sliced roma tomatoes. Romaine lettuce. There might be a little garlic mustard under there, too. That's it. Simple wins.

7.25.2010

Grilled Cheddar Panini

Grilled Cheddar Panini at 'Wichcraft
B-
Eating this delicious, cheesy sandwich in the MGM Grand's version of Tom Colicchio's gourmet shop 'Wichcraft made me realize that grilling bread, while creating a universally desirable crispy texture, takes away most of the flavor of that bread, an especially significant loss of you're sticking something like sweet pumpernickel in a buttery panini press. So if you're using tasty high quality ingredients like pumpernickel, smoked ham and thin slices of green apple by these methods, maybe I'm not getting all those flavors in each bite. Maybe I'm just eating a grilled cheese.

That being said, this is a pretty damn good grilled cheese, though the bread appeared to be more marble rye and less pumpernickel, and the cheese may have been too smooth and creamy to be white cheddar. Tang from those apples snuck in every now and then, but ham and cheese dominated. This may be my least favorite sandwich out of all the different offerings at 'Wichcraft, which goes to show you how great this shop is.

Large Roast Beef Sandwich

Large Roast Beef Sandwich at Arby's
F+
Is Arby's pure evil?

In honor of an impending moratorium in fast food consumption, I hereby present one of the staples of fast food sandwichdom, the "roast beef sandwich" at Arby's. Is it necessary to review and rate Arby's? Of course not. And if you're going to do it, shouldn't you do the Beef 'n Cheddar, so you can use sickening words to describe the unholy congealment of heat-lamped beef, waxy processed cheese goo and hyper sweet barbecue sauce? Yes, probably. But then I would have had to eat one of those, and this is really all I can take. The plus on this letter grade comes from simplicity: just bread and meat. It is meat, right?

7.17.2010

Deviled Ham

Deviled Ham Sandwich
homemade
D
Did you know Underwood's Deviled Ham was first created in 1868? It tastes like it. I love it. Here I have smushed it across wheat bread and placed a boring leaf of lettuce on board. Never let 'em tell you fine dining cannot occur in the home.

7.11.2010

Double-Double

 
The Double-Double at In-N-Out Burger
A+
This is it. This is the definitive American hamburger in my book, and good luck convincing me otherwise. Two never frozen beef chuck patties, lettuce, tomato, onions, American cheese, and "spread" (You know what it is. It's good stuff.) on that slow-rising sponge dough bun. It is an iconic sandwich, a symbol of California, and since that's one of the best states, purely American. In these burger obsessed times, I refuse to become obsessed with burgers. I doubt there will be another burger added to the A+ list here at all sandwich, and if there is, it likely will be the Awful Awful of Reno, Nevada. But that'll probably be it.

The thing about the Double-Double is its success as a sandwich. Let's get back to basics for a sec ... what makes a perfect sandwich? A brilliant combination of flavors and textures made easily munchable by great bread. In-N-Out serves the best bun in the fast food world. That's not up for debate. And the ingredients here add up to something much greater than the sum of this burger's parts. Whether you prefer your onions grilled or raw, they work with/against the cheese and sauce in a sublime way. And the fact that In-N-Out has never served me wilted lettuce or a scary tomato makes all the difference. Double-Double, welcome to standard-bearer status.

Homemade Meatball

Homemade Meatball Sub at Capriotti's
B-
Let me begin by apologizing for this photo. It is a bad portrayal of a good sandwich, and there is barely a glimpse of the tasty meatball goodness held inside this warm, soft roll. Fact is, it's a miracle I managed to take a picture of this thing, devoured at the food court at the Red Rock Resort. You see, I had been drinking by the pool all day, it was a late lunch, and I needed to get this sandwich in me, in a hurry. I promise better pictures of meatballs in the future.

Of course, intoxication can certainly affect the grading process as well. But I have had many Capriotti's meatball subs, and they are always good. There is a fair portion of meatballs, a nice amount of sauce, and plenty of melting provolone. The meatballs themselves and the sauce could benefit from some depth of flavor. But if you are craving a meatball sub and browsing easy access sandwich shops, there are few better than Capriotti's version. In a few nap-inducing seconds, this thing was tasty.

6.23.2010

The Elliot Ness

The Elliot Ness at Eddie D's Famous Italian Sandwiches
edsworldfamoussandwiches.com
C+
Okay, we are a little obsessed with Eddie D's sandwich shop. And yes, it is close to headquarters, but that doesn't change the fact that it's overall delicious. (We had a little something to do with this.) It's currently ranked as our top shop in Vegas, trailed by Johnny McGuire's, 'Wichcraft, Capriotti's and more. These rankings can change at any time, so stay tuned ...

You're not going to find the Elliot Ness on the menu. It's a recurring special on the chalkboard up front. It's got a great name, but it's an average sandwich -- pastrami, melted cheese, coleslaw, Russian dressing -- with the exception of one element: French fries. Maybe this is Pittsburgh-style, a la Primanti Brothers? The chewy roll brings enough starch to this party, and these thick (and tasty) steak fries are a carb overload. The potato-ness overpowers what turns out to be pretty good pastrami, very lean and thinly sliced.

This grade is probably a bit low for this sandwich. But there are too many A-level options at Eddie D's to stick with this. For example, if you want a true untouchable, try the meatballs.

6.14.2010

Crispy Cornmeal Salmon Sandwich

Crispy Cornmeal Salmon Sandwich at Hash House A Go Go
B-
Hash House A Go Go is a Vegas breakfast/brunch favorite, with lines going out the door on weekends. Its "twisted farm food" concept and huge portions are a lot of fun, which explains why the place has received celebrity attention and the benefits of TV appearances. Most of the food is good, even if it's too much food to finish.

When giant portions meet sandwich, it's usually disastrous. The whole point of a sandwich is convenient deliciousness, right? Who wants a messy ass sandwich? This thing is very big and slightly messy, but the gigantic cornmeal-fried hunk of salmon was worth the trouble. The huge wheat bun could have been a bit more soft, but it was tasty and did its best to support the fish, probably around a 14-ounce filet of fresh farmed salmon. Cornmeal is probably my favorite fried fish coating, so perhaps I'm a sucker for this one. It was moist and juicy inside without any raw spots with a thin, crispy coating, and the kitchen didn't screw up and oversalt the cornmeal. The fish alone was great. The red onion, red leaf lettuce and bland chili mayo didn't offer much.

6.02.2010

Buffalo Burger

Buffalo Burger at Burger Bar
B+
I'm tired of writing about burgers. Why is everyone so enamored with such typical foodstuff? I tell ya, it never ends. Every few weeks someone is asking me What's the best burger in Vegas? or What's your favorite burger? For the most part, a burger is a burger. If you go to McDonald's, it's gonna suck. If you go to a place like Burger Bar in Mandalay Bay, it's not gonna suck. It's not complicated. And other than pizza, I can't think of anything more subjective than burgers. There's no such thing as Best Burger Ever; it depends on how you like your burger. Yes, I picked In-N-Out over that famous burger at Bradley Ogden at Caesars Palace. Get over it.

To me, it gets a little tricky comparing burgers from a restaurant that serves only burgers to fancy, upscale eateries that happen to do a great version of the hamburger. Burger Bar was pretty much the first gourmet burgers-only joint to pop up on the Vegas Strip, and while there are quite a few more these days, I think it's still the best. You can build your own, like I did with this buffalo, provolone, roasted pepper and bacon burger, or order a signature burger with chef-tested and approved flavor combinations. If you really want something special, I recommend ordering one of the kitchen's creations. But it can be fun to experiment. That's what I did here, and it was a success. Buffalo is my favorite substitute for beef because it maintains so much flavor with a lot less fat. This meat was cooked perfectly, medium rare, juicy and satisfying. The combination of crispy bacon and sweet peppers was a little weird, something I've never had together before. It worked, but I might have been better off using something with a softer flavor for my veggie topping.

The Dante

The Dante at Eddie D's Famous Italian Sandwiches
C-
Is this the first case of disappointment at our beloved Eddie D's, or merely a letdown caused by personal preference? It's hard to say. But the Dante, one of the many cold sandwiches on the menu named after a character from The Sopranos, certainly is simplistic: A crackly Italian sub roll with tons of prosciutto, roasted sweet red peppers and fresh mozzarella. The bread, cheese and peppers are wonderful but mild, requiring some extra kick. But there's no mustard, oil or spread of any kind on this sandwich to contrast those flavors and textures and add some extra moisture. And then we get to the real problem ... A thick pile of prosciutto that clumps together, creating a wet, fatty mouthful of something that looks and feels like raw chicken. Tough to swallow. I like prosciutto, but typically as a secondary meat on a sandwich, a situation where its decadence can complement rather than bat leadoff. The Dante just isn't working.

5.26.2010

Hot Pastrami

Hot Pastrami at Carnegie Deli
A
Wow. Tough call.

First of all, read this. My feelings about the Carnegie Deli outpost in the Mirage have always been the same: it's a tourist trap, they make silly, huge, wasteful sandwiches, and it's not that good anyway. But ... I gave Canter's Deli another chance, and it paid off. Then I read two food critics' opinions on my city's best pastrami, and both claimed Carnegie. So I had to do it. To conclude a recent evening of Stripwalking, I took a seat here, drank a cup of coffee and munched on a small bowl of big, juicy pickles, and ordered the straight-up hot pastrami on rye with a side of fries.

It's fantastic. I'm going to have to compare and contrast: this sandwich is quite a bit bigger than Canter's. More meat, and it has more fat and more flavor. It is significantly more moist. Even though I prefer leaner sandwich meat, I really loved the stuff. It's a great pile of long slices of pastrami, whereas Canter's was sliced so thin, the meat almost becomes shredded. Carnegie pastrami has more texture and bite to it. But I couldn't grade this sandwich higher because Canter's rye is superior. This bread is just okay. Not so fresh, maybe? A little dry and not a lot of flavor or crispy-on-the-outside satisfaction. It couldn't handle the meat. The classic deli mustard on the table was just fine.

So what have we learned about forgiveness? More importantly, this pastrami checkup should serve as yet another reminder to my fellow Vegas locals that if you're not rockin' the Strip, you're missing out. Our best food is down here, people. Eat it.

5.24.2010

House Special Sandwich

House Special Sandwich (banh mi) at Hue Thai
B+
Banh mi is a special sandwich. It represents an organic combination of two wildly different cultures and cuisines, French and Vietnamese. I love banh mi because the elements that come together to make this sandwich are so different.

Hue Thai, a second-story restaurant in one of Las Vegas Chinatown's many restaurant-laden strip malls, serves a diverse menu of Chinese, Vietnamese, Thai and Lao food. The cuisine here is a muddled mix of different traditions rather than stick-to-your-roots authenticity. There are several different meaty ingredients to choose from to anchor your banh mi, mostly cold cuts and grilled meat and not so much of the classical terrine you would find on a truly authentic banh mi sandwich. But on the House Special sandwich, there is a slab of something called Chinese Meatloaf. While I'm sure it's composed mostly of pork, and its texture leads me to believe it was steam-cooked, there's really no way of knowing what I ate on this baby. But it was good. There also is grilled pork, salty and sweet, and a sliced ham-like cold cut on the House Special.

For veggies, it's got cilantro leaves (and some stems, too, for fun!), jalapeno, lightly pickled carrot, cucumber and daikon. The bread is an ultra-crispy French baguette, nice enough to make that crackling sound (you know what I'm talking about) when you bite in. The thing about banh mi at Hue Thai is the price. They're cheap. It's about 4 bucks for a smallish sandwich. One sandwich leaves me wanting more. Two whole sandwiches makes me full for the day. It's a great deal either way.

BK Breakfast Muffin

BK Breakfast Muffin at Burger King
F
Fuck you, Burger King.

Like everyone else, I occasionally succumb to advertising. I thought the commercial was funny, the one where the king and his big plastic head break into McDonald's corporate offices to steal the McMuffin file and then scoot off into the night. Funny and effective, because it made me wonder: if BK really is making a replica of the McMuffin, a signature item in McD's evil repertoire, and branding it by admitting theft, can it really be exactly the same as a McMuffin?

The answer is no. Impossibly, it is worse. Much, much worse. Completely disgusting. Inedible. Granted, it is an English muffin -- or at least some dried-out, brick-hard, tasteless version of one -- with scrambled egg, sausage and melted fake cheese. There once was a time that I found some merit in occasionally eating fast food, particularly sampling new items from fast food menus, because I figure it's cheap and normal, and most people in America are eating it on a somewhat regular basis. This way, I will never slip too far into the snobbish, self-important realm of the traditional food critic or restaurant writer. Like a politician who tours the scary side of town to shake hands and hold babies, I could stay in touch with the common eater always. But after this "meal" ... fuck all that. I'll stick to taco shops and greasy diners to get my regular-people-regular-food fix. Breakfast at BK is out.