Southwest Burger

Southwest Burger at Cafe Cortez
Confession: We are suckers for old school diners, and we are suckers for a chili size. And here we have a pretty damn good chili size at an old school diner, the cafe in the historic El Cortez in downtown Vegas. There's plenty of beef and beans in this chili (even if it does have a distinctly canned feel), and there's plenty of onions, jalapenos and shredded cheese on the chili, on the burger. The bun and meat patty are pretty standard stuff for a greasy spoon like this, but that's the point of a chili size ... that whole greater-than-the-sum thing.


Turkey Pastrami

Turkey Pastrami at The Beat Coffeehouse
There are five sandwiches on the regular menu at this hip new downtown hangout, but the turkey pastrami is not one of them. This was the daily special, but we may lobby for its permanent inclusion. Tender, spicy meat is topped with melted cheese, fresh arugula and wondeful pickled red onions. The soft, chewy ciabatta is the perfect foundation for these ingredients, made all the more impressive by the fact that the Beat gets its bread from Bon Breads. For us Vegas sandwich worshippers, Bon Breads is a holy entity.


Sin City Smashburger

Sin City Smashburger at Smashburger
Enough with the burgers already, huh? Not when this sucker comes your way. Take note that this is the half-pounder, not the average third, which is why it looks like such a monster. It is a monster. A flavor monster.

The thing about Smashburgers is how the cooking process creates uncommonly juicy meat, loosely packed and full of dripping deliciousness. The Sin City version has smoked bacon, melty good American cheese, special sauce and a fried egg, but what really pushes it crazy is the onions. There are both grilled onions and crispy fried onion strings, adding a depth charge of flavor and texture. It's no wonder this relative new kid on the burger block is kicking ass.


The Gold Standard

The Gold Standard at Holsteins
This is the best 17-dollar burger I've ever had.

Holsteins' flagship burger is made with 21-day dry aged beef, which sounds fancy but what does it mean? It means the cow on this bun has a bold, powerful, slightly mineral taste, and it may or may not be your thing, but it sure is different and interesting. I like it. I don't even think it needs as many toppings to complement the beefy flavor, but here's what you also get on the Gold Standard: smoky bacon, tomato confit, goat cheddar cheese, arugula and a tangy garlic-chive mayo. It's pretty perfect in terms of texture and bite-to-bite variation.

This is a fancy burger, but we are noticing that when you're at a fancy burger joint on the Strip, sometimes fancy goes bad. Frequently, actually. Not at Holsteins.