Absu at Kuma's Corner
Kuma’s Corner has a serious reputation – as soon as we mentioned we’d be visiting Chicago, we were inundated with recommendations to check it out, and when we arrived in the windy city, our hosts had already made plans for us to lunch there. That lunch was in fact the only plan they made for us.

If you’re not familiar – Kuma’s boasts loud heavy metal, a bustling bar and the best burgers on the planet. Each of the offerings is named for a band, and while many are topped with the same fixings you’ll find at your neighborhood bar, these enormous burgers are anything but ordinary. Juicy and delicious, the hamburger patty on a Kuma’s burger is a 10-ouncer, which is only possible if you weigh it after it has been cooked. I went for the slightly spicy Absu, topped with spicy tomatillo salsa, pepperjack, red onion/avocado relish, queso fresco and a trio of breaded, deep fried chiles on a chewy pretzel roll. Yum is right.

Everything about the Absu was delightfully delicious, but the deep fried chiles were the clear MVP. Breaded in a nice thick batter that managed to be both substantial, crispy and light all at once, the chiles added a spicy bite and a good amount of crunch to a perfectly saucy burger.


Cajun Turkey with Avocado

Cajun Turkey with Avocado at Heidi's Brooklyn Deli
This place confuses me. The first thing on the big menu boards reads "pie," and it smells like they're baking fresh ones, but when I get to the counter, dude tells me they don't have pie. Never have had pie. Those signs are old. How do you explain my nose sniffing out cherry pie? Then he punched me in the nose. Not really.

The problem with this sandwich is it's boring at best -- totally standard sliced turkey, lettuce, tomatoes, bland rye bread -- and creepy at worst, thanks to too much "Cajun" mayo and not enough avocado. It's a good sized meal and satisfying, if you wipe off the gunky weird spread. Maybe I just ordered the wrong thing. If this is supposed to be a Brooklyn deli, I shoulda gone with pastrami or corned beef, huh?


Red Slider

Red Slider at Sloppi Jo's
Pay no attention to the slider on the left. It's a green chile slider in a tortilla, served from the oh-so-awesome Vegas food truck known as Sloppi Jo's, and while it is super spicy and delicious, it cannot be reviewed because it's in a tortilla. (But it's really fucking good and you should eat one if given the opportunity. Seriously. Come on, this is why we link everybody's website to these reviews, so you can track them and eat their food. You won't be sorry.)

Ahem, excuse me. On the right you'll find the slider version of Sloppi Jo's great red burger, a thick and juicy mini-patty of substantial beefiness with bacon, caramlized onion, cumin, a tiny melted pool of havarti cheese and red chile aioli. It's not as spicy as the green chile, but it's hearty, rich, hot and amazing. It's a whole lotta flavor packed into a few oozy, melty, juicy bites. This is the best mini burger I've ever had, on a truck, off a truck, in a restaurant, whatever. The best. The only slider I ever liked better was ... um ... in a tortilla.

Sandwich Sundays Presents: The Monkey

The Monkey
You gotta have a nice veggie sandwich on your roster. You just have to have at least one. The Monkey represents the quest for that perfect combination of vegetables, toppings and bread. It was a real nice try. Almost there.

The bread: kalamata olive ciabatta purchased from the local Whole Foods store, soft, chewy and rustic. The spreads: straight up cream cheese on the bottom, smooth honey truffle mustard on the top. And the goods: sunflower seeds, chunks of juicy green bell peppers, ripe red tomato slices, avocado slices, thin shreds of red onion, and fresh arugula. Overall, a very interesting combination of flavors. The different shape of the bell peppers made for an interesting if not improved bite. We're all about finding new and delicious substitutions for lettuce, and arugula always is a nice, spicy experiment. Maybe there's a better combo here. Stay tuned.

Prime Rib Dip

Prime Rib Dip at Red Robin
The big fancy burgers at supermegaburgerchain Red Robin are pretty good. So why would you order a glorified French dip here? Well, it's pretty glorious. And sometimes you just want a hot beef sandwich and some hot beef juice to dip it in.

Red Robin claims to use prime rib in this sandwich. Maybe it is. Doesn't matter. It's tender, juicy, and flavorful enough. There's melty provolone cheese and caramelized onions. But the second most important part of a dip, after the beef, is the bread. It needs to be strong enough to survive a salacious dunking in au jus, yet still soft enough to bite and chew, all while maintaining its own flavor. This rustic roll does the trick. A solid choice, especially when you can't decide which weird Red Robin burger to order.


The Cadillac

The Cadillac at P.J. Clarke's
Does this look like one of the famous sandwiches of all time, an iconic hamburger, a cornerstone in the history of New York City? Well, it is. This is the Cadillac, named such by Nat King Cole, from the recently opened Vegas version of the venerable P.J. Clarke's saloon. In NYC, this is an institution, apparently. In Vegas, this is just another "classic, simple bar burger," along the lines of the beloved Bradley Ogden burger. On the Vegas Strip, there are eight million fancy gourmet burger places, and then there are restaurants that serve burgers like this so they can say, "Hey, do you really want another fancy gourmet burger? No, you don't. Eat this simple burger."

Emphasis on simple. This thing looks and tastes like the homeburgers my mom or dad used to cook in a frying pan when I was kid. This is not a bad thing. The bun is super soft and squeezable, a nice texture alongside the crispy, thick smoked bacon, melty American cheese and a nice fat patty of freshly ground Angus beef. There's a slice of bermuda onion served on the plate under the burger, which is supposed to serve some purpose but I don't know what purpose is. I didn't eat it. I did, however, wipe some Grey Poupon on the inside of the top bun. It is simple. It is classic. And considering how local foodie critics have drooled over this thing, I am a bit surprised at how simple and homey it is. I could literally go home and make this thing right now. That doesn't mean it doesn't taste good, but it's not really what I want when I order a burger at a bar in a restaurant. Just sayin'.



CCBLT at Comme Ca
There's no doubt about it: the food at The Cosmopolitan Las Vegas is awe-inspiring. Sandwich-wise, we figured the great burgers-and-more-store Holsteins would be the place to go in this cool hotel casino, but turns out there are plenty of badass sandwiches up on level three, too, at David Myers' Comme Ca. (That's the celebrity chef name behind this place, but perhaps props for this delicious treat should go to the pork friendly chef Brian Howard.)

The C.C.B.L.T. puts a succulent twist on one of the most boring classics, throwing great slabs of juicy, fatty, amazing pork belly on lightly grilled bread with crispy bacon, crunchy romaine hearts and a fresh-from-the-graden tasty tomato jam. It's really a simple sandwich, but completely overloaded with salty piggy flavor. Every sandwich on the lunch menu at Comme Ca looks like a winner, but this one's above and beyond, an easy addition to the A+ list.


Chicken Nastro Azzuro

Chicken Nastro Azzuro at Radio City Pizzeria
This brand new Summerlin pizza joint does a damn good chicken sammich. They pan-fry chicken cutlets so they are nice and juicy and crispy with an Italian breadcrumb coating, and post 'em up on a soft, chewy ciabatta roll with shaved prosciutto, fresh mozzarella, tomatoes, basil, and a rich, sweet balsamic syrup. That's a lot of great stuff, and as you can see, there's a lot of chicken piled high on this baby. Go eat one. Another word of advice: this is one of those sandwiches that needs to be taken down with the quickness, 'cuz the sog factor can come in and ruin all that crispy chicken perfection. But yeah, it's huge, so good luck.


The Larry Bird

The Larry Bird
This sandwich is a kalamata olive ciabatta with melted habanero jack cheese, chipotle turkey, red and green heirloom tomatoes and arugula. There are a lot of potent flavors in this sandwich, and while they may not often find their way into a sandwich together, happily they all work together very nicely. The tomato adds a nice brightness and tempers the peppery-ness of the arugula and the heat from the (pretty spicy) cheese. And really, the flavors balance and mingle nicely, but you're dealing with two kinds of heirloom tomato, chipotle turkey and habanero cheese on your sandwich! How could it be anything but awesome? That's right. It couldn't.


Bozeman Beef Dip

Bozeman Beef Dip at Timbers
The French dip seems to have become an American bar food staple, and that's fine with me. Bar food needs to be hearty, and that's a good way to describe a pile of roast beef on a hoagie bun with some au jus on the side for your dipping pleasure. The version of this classic sandwich available at Timbers, one of the larger Vegas video poker/bar/munchhouse chains, is one of the better dips I've had in these run-of-the-mill bars. The beef is slow roasted, tender and delicious, and complemented by sauteed onions, melted provolone and just enough creamy horseradish. The roll is grilled to provide some firm sandwich infrastructure, all the better for beef juice saturation. Nice work, Timbers.


Chili Cheese Smashdog

Chili Cheese Smashdog at Smashburger
This is it. This is the meal that turned me around on Smashburger. You see, the topic of best burgers in Vegas is a hot one, and I am regularly asked/required/tortured to eat/write/compare burgers until I can't take it anymore. So like everybody else, I am something of a Vegas burger expert. And also like everybody else, I have my favorites. Fukuburger is one. In-N-Out always will be up there. There are others. But lately, Smashburger has been around the top of the list, too.

Now it's sliding down, as if it slipped on a buttery, greasy chute to mediocrity. The burgers are very good. The smash-it-on-the-flat-top-grill method is solid, and the toppings are fresh and high quality. But the thing is greasy ... too greasy. A real burger shouldn't be without some dripping fatjuice, but Smashburgers go a little too far. And I realized that when, after having almost every burger on the menu, I tried this dog. It's a perfectly decent, all-beef weiner, topped with beefy chili, grated cheese, onions and pretty jalapeno slices. But they rock the smash method on dogs, too, splitting this sucker open and smushing it flat. With burgers, it creates juicyness. With dogs, it dries 'em out. So it's shiny and greasy on the outside and flaky and super-salty on the inside. Mediocrity. Further oiling things up is the fact that they butter toasted the poppy seed bun. So now you've got greasy dog, greasy chili and greasy bread creating a yucktacular film in your mouth, which is melting, by the way, from these fresh 'penos. A bit much? Yes.

I still like you, Smashburger. I will still eat you. Just not as much.


Swiss Burger

Swiss Burger at Cafe Cortez
This unheralded downtown Vegas diner is becoming a favorite lunch spot for me because the simple, nicely cooked burgers are so consistent. This easy choice has a thick slab of melted Swiss cheese and sauteed mushrooms and onions as adornment. Granted, you can find a mushroom and Swiss burger on pretty much every menu, and there's really nothing special about it. But these are the mushrooms and onions you dream of when you order something like this, perfectly griddled to that state of buttery-yet-still-crispness. Cortez done the plain old burger just right.


Premium Crispy Chicken Club Sandwich

Premium Crispy Chicken Club Sandwich at McDonald's
Whatever the word "premium" means at McDonald's, that's what this tastes like.

I was surprised. It was okay. The bun, which is supposed to be "bakery style," was a little hard, but the lettuce and tomato were in good shape, the bacon actually tasted like bacon, and the chicken was consistently crispy and appeared to actually be all white meat just like the clown says. The cheese. allegedly Swiss, is weird and shiny and has no taste, and the chicken's golden coating could use some more flavor. But all in all, this was a decent sandwich for McDonald's, and I didn't feel like I was going to die after eating it.