Local Eats: Happy Hour At Hawthorn Grill

Happy Hour At Hawthorn Grill
Happy Hour At Hawthorn Grill

Hawthorn Grill is located inside the J.W. Marriott in Summerlin. The hotel is attached to Rampart Casino through a hallway but technically the buildings are separate. This is a relatively new high-end steakhouse that opened earlier this year.

The restaurant prices are appropriate for fine dining in the area. It’s expensive but not out of line. However, the food and drinks on the bar menu (select bar & lounge) are 50% off for Happy Hour.

The burger was a perfectly cooked medium. It was juicy and flavorful. The fries were surprisingly good although I wouldn’t add the mojito sauce next time. Overall, this meal is probably worth $15.

Forget that, the burger and fries were only $7.50. That wasn’t even the best part of Happy Hour at Hawthorn Grill.

I seriously might use Uber or Lyft the next time I visit Hawthorn Grill. Many of their signature cocktails and beer are 50% off. Paying $3-$4 for a Fat Tire or Stone Pale Ale is good but 50% off a $13 Chimay is a great deal. I love beer from Belgium and this Trappist Ale was perfect on a hot day.

$10 for a Happy Hour dinner of a beer, burger, and fries is an excellent deal. Being able to upgrade the experience with a Chimay for a few more bucks is great. I’ll definitely be back and odds are good that I’ll be drinking a few beers this time.

 

Welcoming Fogo De Chao To The Burbs

Fogo De Chao at Downtown Summerlin
Fogo De Chao at Downtown Summerlin

Fogo De Chao just opened a new location in the suburbs of Vegas (Summerlin) and I was happy to greet the restaurant when it opened. The newest location for Fogo De Chao in Vegas is at shopping complex Downtown Summerlin. (Unrelated to Fogo, Downtown Summerlin is quickly becoming my go to dining location when I’m looking for somewhere to grab a bite.)

Fogo De Chao is a chain of Brazilian steakhouses with locations all over the US, Brazil and one in Mexico. Brazilian steakhouses were in the doghouse with me until a recent visit to Via Brasil. That dinner gave me faith that the idea of “gimme all of the meats” could be delicious and not make me feel ill.

Fogo De Chao
Gimme all of the meats

This was my first visit to Fogo De Chao and it did not disappoint.

I was invited to the ribbon cutting and grand opening preview which was quite the experience. It seemed as though the entire staff for the restaurant was working on this night. That was a blessing and a curse. The service was almost too fast and too attentive. Let me explain.

When you order a rodizio style meal the servers will bring you food when the round sign above is on the green side and stop when it’s red. It’s nice to be able to breathe a minute before having a new piece of meat. We actually had to use the red side on this preview night – a lot.

There were so many people working that the service was beyond great and almost too fast. (Awww…too much meat being brought to me too quickly. Call the wahmbulance. I know.) That’s not the worst thing in the world but it wasn’t perfect.

Fogo De Chao - The Meat Service Begins
Fogo De Chao – The Meat Service Begins

Service with a smile…again! Remember this guy at Via Brasil?

Fogo De Chao has 6 cuts of beef on their menu and a variety of chicken, pork and lamb. Looking back I think I had every piece of meat that they offered. The Beef Ancho (ribeye) and Fraldinha (Bottom Sirloin) were probably my favorite items on the menu.

The full churrasco dinner is $49.95 and includes the market table/salad bar. I tend to avoid the market table as I’d rather use that space in my tummy for meat.

The same churrasco for lunch during the week is only $32.95. That’s a great deal if you don’t mind eating such a large meal in the middle of the day.

Note, prices at the Summerlin Fogo De Chao are $2 cheaper than the other Las Vegas location.

Fogo De Chao - Molten Chocolate Cake
Fogo De Chao – Molten Chocolate Cake

I’m not normally a dessert person but after a little post dinner chit-chat and too much delicious coffee it seemed like the thing to do. The (rare) beautiful picture above does the molten chocolate cake justice. This was a perfect way to end the evening.

The food and service at Fogo De Chao were both excellent but the atmosphere in the massive space left something to be desired.

The food made me think I was eating at a Brazilian steakhouse but the room made me feel as though I could have been eating any food anywhere. I guess that’s the difference between a chain restaurant like Fogo De Chao and an independently operated restaurant like Via Brasil.

Both Brazilian steakhouses have good food but have a different way of presenting it. There’s nothing wrong with having different options for different moods.

I certainly wouldn’t say no to visiting Fogo De Chao because of vibe from a restaurant preview night. I generally visit a restaurant to eat good food. Chances are that a return to Fogo De Chao will be in my future.

Checking Out Via Brasil

Via Brasil Las Vegas Rodizio
Via Brasil Rodizio

After a couple of bad experiences at a Brazilian Steakhouse in the past I decided to ignore the Brazilian Steakhouse that’s around the block from my house. When I moved to Las Vegas my feelings against Brazilian Steakhouses were very negative. I basically forced myself to forget that Via Brasil existed even though I pass it almost every day. That changed about a month ago when it was I saw Via Brasil in an email.

It’s easy for me to forget about restaurants that aren’t in casinos. I’m in a casino a few times a week and will usually eat at a casino restaurant if I’m not in the mood to eat at home. A couple of weeks ago I finally decided to drive around the block to a restaurant I’ve neglected for years and I’m glad I did.

Via Brasil Las Vegas More Meat
Via Brasil: More Meat

The concept of a rodizio at a Brazilian steakhouse should be up everyone’s ally. It’s all the meat you can eat for one price. Via Brasil’s rodizio menu’s start at $39.99 (15 meats) but we went for the Rodizio Sterling Menu with costs $49.99. Check out the menu of meats:

1. Picanha (Top Sirloin)
2. Prime Rib
3. Chicken Drumsticks
4. Flank Steak
5. Brazilian Pork
6. Brazilian Sausage
7. Tri-Tip
8. Garlic Steak
9. Sweet & Tangy Chicken
10. Turkey wrapped in Bacon
11. Salmon
12. Filet Wrapped in Bacon
13. Chicken Breast*
14. Chicken Hearts*
15. Beef Short Ribs
16. BBQ Baby Back Pork Ribs
17. NY Steak
18. Porterhouse
19. Leg of Lamb
20. Lamb Chops
21. Grilled Shrimp

Plus

All Dinner Menus come with choice of 18 Made-To-Order Sides served family style and a salad bar. Since those are usually foods that get in the way of the meats we only shared a couple of sides and focused on the meat. That’s a positive EV move for any all you can eat deal.

I don’t eat fish and I don’t eat hearts so I probably had 18 different meats. Let me repeat that I ate 18 DIFFERENT MEATS. Here’s a sample:

Via Brasil Las Vegas Meats
Via Brasil Las Vegas Meats

The sliced Beef Short Rib at the bottom of the photo was probably the best meat of all. It melted on my tongue. I could probably eat a pound of that alone. (Please no comments on the picture of the chicken)

To my surprise the “No More Meat” sign appeared repeatedly throughout the night. I didn’t expect to use it until I was about to pass out from too much food. However…

Via Brasil Las Vegas - Service With A Smile
Via Brasil – Service With A Smile

…the service was so fast that we needed to stop the incoming meat so we could eat for and breath for a few minutes. More important than the fast service was the knowledge of every piece of meat by the staff. There wasn’t a piece of meat that wasn’t perfectly described.

That smile above is as infectious as the delicious meats coming by every few minutes. Every table at Via Brasil was having a great time and laughing. Fidel (not shown) was our head waiter and could not have been nicer or done a better job explaining the different foods available.

Dinner wrapped up with a decent cup of coffee and some ice cream.

The reason I avoided Via Brasil was because previous Brazilian Steakhouse meals left me feeling bloated and not well the next morning. Maybe the meats weren’t cooked properly or maybe they had too much salt.

Via Brasil tasted great and I felt like a million bucks after dinner despite a little gas. I felt great the next day. The day after I was ready to return to Via Brasil.

A rodizio meal at a Brazilian steakhouse isn’t the kind of meal you want all the time. While the food might be delicious there’s just too much food to eat regularly. Unlike some other Brazilian steakhouses you don’t have to eat a rodizio meal at Via Brasil. They have normal meals, happy hour, cookouts, brunch and can be a normal restaurant if that’s the experience you prefer. In fact, my next visit will probably be for Happy Hour.

Follow Via Brasil on twitter to see what specials or events they have coming up.

Disclaimer: This was a rare comp meal but my thoughts are how I really feel.

Bourbon Heritage Month

Bourbon
Bourbon

I’ve only been dabbling in the brown boozes for a couple of years now (see how I found which brown booze I enjoy most on Vegas Chatter). I enjoy a nice scotch every now and again and bourbon less often. It’s not that I don’t enjoy it but my mouth usually craves a different taste (beer).

That said, if there’s an entire month dedicated to the heritage of bourbon (September) maybe I have an excuse to have a drink a glass of bourbon or two. Adding to the possibility that I may make specific plans just grab a drink of bourbon is that one of my favorite steakhouses in Vegas, Delmonico (The Venetian), has some special dishes and events featuring bourbon in September.

In fact Emeril Lagasse is celebrating the month at all of his Las Vegas restaurants which include Delmonico Steakhouse, Emeril’s New Orleans Fish House and Table 10. Here are the specifics for Delmonico:

Culinary Director Sean Roe cooked up three special bourbon-infused dishes at Delmonico Steakhouse to complement Kang’s cocktails, available daily for dinner throughout the month.

Guests can choose entree of mushroom-crusted filet medallions with smoked apple bacon, caramelized onion bourbon sauce and parmesan cheese ($50); a side of roasted baby sweet potatoes with bourbon pecan glaze ($12); and finish with a sweet dessert of bourbon sticky toffee cake with vanilla chantilly cream ($11).

Kang will host a bourbon tasting event on Monday, Sept. 21 from 6-8 p.m., featuring bourbon specials, tray passed appetizers and live blues music from Dick Earl Ericksen. With one of the largest whisky selections in the U.S., Delmonico’s renowned bar program includes more than 700 varieties from eight different countries. 

Writing this blog post before 8am feels like I’m playing a cruel joke on myself. I’m off to get some more coffee to ease the craving.

Photo: Fork and Plate

Oscar’s Steakhouse Was Even Better Than The First Time

Oscar's Steakhouse at the Plaza in Downtown Vegas
Oscar’s Steakhouse at the Plaza

I recently visited Oscar’s Steakhouse at the Plaza in Downtown Vegas for the first time in a couple of years. I enjoyed Happy Hour on that first visit (see full review at Vegas Chatter) and enjoyed the experience. Unfortunately the Happy Hour deal at the bar is no longer offered and the beer selection is back to mainstream basics.

That was okay for this visit as I was having a meeting in the lounge that would end in dinner in the dining room. You know that iconic dining room at the Plaza that juts out above the main hotel entrance (where valet should be) as you can see in the photo above.

Since that first visit to Oscar’s I’ve been telling people who it’s one of two steakhouses to visit in Downtown Vegas. The other is Andiamo’s Steakhouse at The D. While the steak was great my thoughts remain almost the same.

Filet Mignon at Oscar's Steakhouse in Downtown Vegas
Filet Mignon at Oscar’s Steakhouse

The New York Strip is normally my steak of choice but I decided to switch things up with Joey C’s Filet Mignon (12 ounce $44) prepared medium. Besides a little cartilage you see in this bite the steak was perfect. The exterior was charred and topped with a little kosher salt (which makes everything better) and black pepper. The center was as pink, tender and beautiful as you could want.

The steak was cooked to perfection and it was delicious. The filet was probably better than the NY strip. That’s a rare opinion for me.

Service was great. The bottle of wine selected for us was exactly what I wanted (something fruity and mellow). The vibe and company weren’t bad either. 🙂

This visit to Oscar’s Steakhouse was better than the first time in part because I had a better steak but also because we sat in the dining room instead of the bar. If you’re looking for a great steakhouse experience in Downtown Vegas you really have two options – Oscar’s Steakhouse at the Plaza and Andiomo’s at The D.

Both steakhouses have excellent steak. Both steakhouses are similarly priced and less expensive than the Vegas Strip. Both steakhouses have a unique vibe that can’t replicated anywhere else. I would gladly eat at either steakhouse and I’m glad I was talked into meeting at Oscar’s to reaffirm that thought.

Update: Check out the Best Steakhouses in Downtown Las Vegas at Top 10 Vegas.

Prime At Bellagio, This Is How Steak Dinner Should Be

About a month ago I visited Prime Steakhouse at Bellagio. Dinner was so flawless that I almost forgot about it. Almost.

Prime sits on the Bellagio lake that looks out onto the Vegas Strip. We planned to sit outside on the patio so we could enjoy the Bellagio Fountain Show but it was a bit hot for that. The sun was setting on a 115 degree day and it didn’t seem like the right time to eat steak outdoors. Call me crazy but steak outside doesn’t sound awesome when it’s still 100 degrees outside. We opted to sit inside and ended up with a seat near the window so we could kinda see the show.

Since this was a birthday celebration dinner started with a couple of drinks. Macallan 12 with 4 cubes (of ice) was how I began the night. As usual the ice was nearly melted when the drink arrived and totally gone when I finally got around to taking a sip.

Macallan 12 At Prime At Bellagio Las Vegas
Macallan 12

Each section at Prime has 3 distinct waiters. SW Steakhouse at Wynn has a similar staffing model and it’s wonderful. You’re always speaking with someone who knows their section of the menu, be it a drink, food or otherwise.

There’s always a waiter checking in to see if you need something. THIS is how dinner at a $100+ per person meal should be served. Thankfully the service wasn’t the only great part of dinner.

Bone-In Filet Mignon At Prime At Bellagio Las Vegas
Bone-In Filet Mignon

I’m usually a New York Strip guy but recently have found myself enjoying a filet mignon my last few times out. When I saw that there was bone-in filet mignon on the menu, I had to have it. If there’s one complaint about the filet cut of steak is that it’s not flavorful. It makes sense since there isn’t much fat to keep the flavor in. The bone acted as a flavor saver (TWSS).

The bone-in filet mignon at Prime was outstanding!

As you can see I was so excited looking at the steak that I couldn’t wait to take a picture before digging in. The steak was so juicy and flavorful that I almost couldn’t believe that it was a filet. The steak was so gentle to the touch that I barely had to put pressure on the knife to cut it.

Continue reading “Prime At Bellagio, This Is How Steak Dinner Should Be”

At BLT Steak; No Wine, No Cocktails, No Service

Bone-In New York Steak From BLT Steak At Bally's Las Vegas
Bone-In New York

I’ve been looking forward to checking out BLT Steak at Bally’s since the great New York City steakhouse was first announced. Last night I finally got to dine at BLT Steak. Since the NYC location of BLT Steak was a favorite when I lived there I was hoping for the same in Las Vegas. Any positive thoughts I had of the food were erased by bad service.

I ordered the Bone-In New York steak. Besides the last, and most important, bite it was really good. I don’t like my steak being sliced for me since it normally loses juice and flavor. This steak was prepared well enough that the flavor wasn’t lost. The last bite was a very charred and too burned for my taste – and I like char. I was saving this piece for my last bite and was disappointed.

The hash brown side was bland but fine. The bacon and jalapeño corn was fantastic. The corn was smokey and a little spicy. The corn was the standout dish of dinner.

Now for the service issues.

Continue reading “At BLT Steak; No Wine, No Cocktails, No Service”

BLT Steak Opens At Bally’s

BLT Steak At Bally's Las Vegas
BLT Steak Porterhouse

One of my favorite steakhouses in New York City has finally opened in Las VegasBLT Steak just opened its new Vegas location at Bally’s. To coincide with the opening Bally’s announced that they’ve brought back the famous Sterling Brunch, which will now take place at BLT Steak. Sterling Brunch may be as famous for its high end food offerings as it is for its $100 price tag. No thanks.

I’ve been looking forward to BLT Steak opening since it was announced last year. There haven’t been many reasons to be excited for steak like this in a while. Expect a full review (here or elsewhere) when I get my butt to BLT Steak.

Even though I’ve been critical about Bally’s renovations this will make me go back on my words to avoid this area. Here’s the press release with more information on BLT Steak and the Sterling Brunch.

LAS VEGAS (May 22, 2014) – Now open at Bally’s Las Vegas, BLT Steak brings sophisticated design, quality service and classic steakhouse fare to the revitalized hotel and casino. BLT Steak also reinstates the award-winning weekend staple, Sterling Brunch, starting Memorial Day weekend.

Regarded as the premier brunch in Las Vegas, the Bally’s institution of forty years, Sterling Brunch will make its triumphant return on Saturday, May 24 with the same excellence in service and fare but in a more modern and stylish presentation synonymous with BLT Steak. Sterling Brunch will now be offered both Saturdays and Sundays, and will be showcased in a sleek built-in buffet space with roll-top chafers. Guests will once again be able to indulge in the finest fare of caviar, lobster tails, fresh-shucked oysters, Alaskan king crab legs, and never-ending glasses of Perrier Jouët Champagne, mimosas and bloody marys. Gluten-free items will also be available, and a personally guided tour of all offerings will be given upon request.

Located adjacent to Sea Thai, Indigo Lounge and Drai’s After Hours, BLT Steak occupies approximately 7,000 square feet, with nearly 240 seats. A curving bar and accompanying lounge greet guests before entering the main dining room, which seats approximately 170 and can be separated into small, intimate dining rooms that can be utilized for large parties or special events. A separate private dining room seats up to 14 guests. Relaxed yet contemporary elegance is felt throughout the space with art reflecting icons of New York City, synonymous with the flagship BLT Steak. Rich wood finishes with a backdrop of warm neutral tones are accented with touches of polished stainless steel, amber and tangerine.

Since first opening in New York City in 2004, BLT Steak has become one of the most recognized steakhouses in America and abroad with an earned reputation for superior service and classic steakhouse fare in a bistro-like setting. The signature popovers, airy golden Gruyère-laced puffs of dough served warm, start every meal, while weekly blackboard specials highlight the best the season has to offer. BLT Steak staples also include tuna tartare, chopped vegetable salad, Dover sole, peanut butter chocolate mousse and, of course, legendary USDA Prime and Certified Angus® steaks, from the 28 day dry-aged NY strip to the bone-in rib eye. The wine list, which is modeled after other BLT Steak Wine Spectator “Best of Award of Excellence” award-winning lists, will feature more than 300 wines with Old World selections from the regions of Burgundy, Bordeaux, Piedmont, Tuscany, Riojo and many others.

BLT Steak joins Bally’s exciting center-Strip revitalization which includes the addition of VÉRONIC Voices, Indigo Lounge, the 756-room Jubilee Tower, the all-new Jubilee show, and the Grand Bazaar Shops™, opening late 2014.

BLT Steak is open daily, with the bar open at 5 p.m., dinner Sunday – Thursday from 5:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. and Friday – Saturday from 5:30 p.m. to 11 p.m. Sterling Brunch begins May 24 and is offered Saturday and Sunday from 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Please call 702-967-7258 to make reservations or for more information.

Ruth’s Chris Open At Harrah’s

Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse opened last week at Harrah’s Las Vegas to minimal fanfare, which is appropriate. Ruth’s Chris is a chain of steakhouses similar to Morton’s, Smith & Wolenski, Del Frisco’s and The Palm. Chain steakhouses aren’t the most exciting but they do play a role in the world of steak.

Ruth’s Chris is not bad. But it’s also not great. I’ve enjoyed quite a few good steaks at various Ruth’s Chris across the country. Sharing a porterhouse for two and getting a second plate of 1,800 degree butter to finish off the porterhouse is fun.

So what role does a decent high end chain steakhouse play in this world? All of the chains above offer good meals in a lot of locations. They generally aren’t destination steakhouses. Steak eaters will never say “I have to go to Harrah’s for Ruth’s Chris!” like the may say “we have to go to MGM Grand for Craft Steak.”

However, if someone is staying at Harrah’s getting a steak at Ruth’s Chris is a good option if you don’t want to leave the hotel. Notice I’m saying “good” and not “great” or “amazing”. There’s something to be said for the comfort of being familiar with the quality of the food and service at a restaurant.

Ruth’s Chris at Harrah’s will be a fine and convenient choice for people staying at Harrah’s and don’t feel like going elsewhere for dinner or don’t have a reservation elsewhere.

Bottom line: I would eat at Ruth’s Chris if someone else wanted to go or if I was staying at Harrah’s, but wouldn’t wouldn’t go out of my way for it.

Sure, an independently owned and operated steakhouse might be better or interesting but at least I know Ruth’s Chris won’t try to kill me and that’s more than I can say for Gordon Ramsay.

Photo: Ruth’s Chris

Betting Dork: The 2nd Annual Vegas Lifestyle Show

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Last year I was fortunate enough appear on The Betting Dork podcast to talk about Las Vegas. It was their first annual “Vegas Lifestyle Show: A Man’s Guide to Sin City”. The Betting Dork podcast is normally an intelligent discussion about sports betting, so this is a little different for their audience. This is one of my favorite podcasts so it was an honor.

The podcast was popular enough to have a second edition. This year the podcast grew from a segment to a full-blown podcast with the addition of Vegas Runner and Marco D’Angelo. We cover the following topics over the hour-long podcast:

  • Super Bowl Parties
  • Best Sportsbooks
  • Favorite Steakhouses
  • Stripclubs
  • Nightclubs
  • Shows (kinda)

This was incredibly fun to record and I’m honored once again. There were several times where I had to step away to keep the laughter off mic. Here are links to download and to listen online.