By Vegas Food Nerd

Carson Kitchen is the last restaurant concept brought to us by the late “Rock n’ Roll Chef” Kerry Simon. The restaurant, which is a casual eatery that serves dishes in the style of Kerry’s innovative take on American comfort food, continues to pay homage to the restaurant legend in their space, a portion of the re-purposed mid-century John E. Carson Hotel. The restaurant features two bars, one adjacent to the main dining room with a sleek swanky feel, and a roof-top bar that sometimes features musical acts. Guests can also take their libations out to the renovated courtyard with its outdoor fireplace and colorful murals. The head chef as of December is now Scott Simon, Kerry’s younger brother. He was personally mentored by the notorious chef and is proud to continue cooking in his honor.

Driving up to the restaurant, and finding the place is a little bit like finding a hidden speakeasy. The white building is very nondescript, as is the entrance. Blink too fast, and you will miss it. The signage is so subtle that it’s easy to drive by without seeing it. It’s like being let in on a very tasty gourmet Vegas secret. You will look like a foodie insider when you bring friends to Carson Kitchen, which has dark wood accents and open kitchen expo, offering real-time views of the kitchen preparing the food. There are exposed unfinished wood beams throughout, with modern, sleek accents, and eclectic hanging lanterns. They have high-top community tables on one end of the main room and cozy tables for two and four throughout. The staff is dressed casually, each wearing an iconic rock band t-shirt with names like Pink Floyd, and AC/DC a subtle nod to the heritage of the bistro. A motto tiled on one wall reminds us all to “Keep Calm and Kerry on.” The brick on the other walls warm up the modern space.

When we dined at Carson Kitchen, we started with a bottle of Cielo Pinot Grigio while we perused the menu. The menu is small but has enough variety to satisfy different tastes. We started with the young beets salad. The salad arrived on a bed of sweet regional honey, three herbed balls of creamy goat cheese, crushed pistachios, microgreens and mandarin orange segments. It was delicately delicious with the perfect complementing flavors. The plate was clean in record time. Next up, we shared veal meatballs bathed in a sherry foie gras cream sauce and dotted with peas. The outside of the meatballs were a crispy contrast to their meltingly tender centers, and the decadent cream sauce was spot-on. We finished our lunch with the short rib grilled cheese made on sourdough bread, with gouda cheese, served with their spicy tater tots. It tasted just as good as it sounded. The tender meat melted perfectly into this crispy, creamy treat of a sandwich. Just as we were finishing our meal and about to leave, a skillet of their bacon jam passed by our table. It comes out hot and sizzling in a cast iron dish with a strip of bubbling brie cheese down the center served with freshly toasted crusty bread. Ok, now I know exactly what I will be ordering on our next visit.

It was a perfect homage to the chef that we knew and loved. Kerry transformed our dining scene, and to see him living on with this inventive food is such a pleasure. His presence was felt throughout our meal with the flavor, and murals of his likeness located on the walls. Thank you, Chef. We genuinely miss you.




By Vegas Food Nerd

When a chemical engineer longs for food that reminds him of his home, he does what most enterprising people do: he opens his own restaurant. China native Alan Zhenglan channeled his once after-work passion for cooking and entertaining friends into his restaurant, Chow Mein House. The restaurant, located in an unassuming strip mall, is small but polished, and has a sleek feel to it. The interior, full of marble and linens, gives a fine dining feel to this casual dining spot.

On this visit, we opted to try one of their family dinner specials. We picked our two entrees and added on an order of their pork and vegetable potstickers to start our meal. You can decide to have your potstickers steamed or pan-fried. We love the crunchy crust from the pan, so we opted for the fried version. They were a perfect start to our meal. They also put a couple of bowls of those addictive crunchy noodles on the table that you can’t help but dip in their sweet and sour sauce in between courses. We asked to have their wonton soup with our family dinner, and that came out next. It was a fresh tasting soup filled with perfectly stuffed noodles, a generous amount of veggies, and some shrimp too. The table was very happy with our soup, and we enjoyed our service from the very attentive waitstaff.

Next came our two chosen entrees: the cashew chicken and sweet and sour chicken. The cashew chicken was very tasty with nice crisp-tender vegetables, savory cashews, and a nice savory sauce. The sweet and sour chicken was also exactly what we were hoping for— a sweet delight with just the right amount of crisp to the flavorful chicken. Our menu selections might not have been the most exotic, but the goal was true comfort food, and it was.

Chow Mein House has a great menu that will definitely lure us back to try some of their other offerings. A neighboring table ordered a couple of their noodle dishes that looked very tempting.  It is unfortunate that we visited Chow Mein House 

and didn’t try their Chow Mein, but I always love a reason to return to a great establishment, so yes add that to the checklist for next time.

The restaurant is open seven days a week, but if you are looking for a little added value, they have a nice list of lunch specials that they offer Monday through Fridays, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. It’s a cozy neighborhood spot that lends itself to repeat visits. It’s a family-run place with a staff that graciously treats you like one of their own. Take it from me, I know the big chain establishment with horses out front is just up the road, but Chow Mein House will treat you like one of their own, and spoil you just like you deserve. Now eat something.




By Vegas Food Nerd

On a recent road trip to Reno, Nevada, my husband and I decided to take a little side trip to visit one of Reno’s most historic spots. The world famous Mustang Ranch is a legal brothel, tucked away in a majestic mountain setting, and in the center of it all is the Mustang Ranch Lounge and The Wild Horse Saloon. Anyone can visit the Lounge and Saloon, and check out the legendary establishment.

We were first struck by how beautiful the Ranch was. Just moments off the freeway we were transported to this idyllic setting with warm wooden tones, and accents. As we walked in, we were greeted warmly by the staff and settled into their comfortable, luxurious leather seating. The lighting is romantically dim, and there was a pretty girl dancing on the pole giving my husband just the right amount of eye candy to enjoy while we dined.

The menu features a wide variety of selections with many options for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. It was early evening, and we decided to try a few items from the dinner menu. My husband ordered the ribeye steak, and I decided to order the halibut encrusted with horseradish. I love anything horseradish related so I couldn’t resist ordering it. While we were waiting for the chef to prepare our meals, our gracious host made sure our drinks were cold and continued throughout the evening to give us some of the best service that we had in quite some time.

We started our meal with an order of The Mustang Lounge’s coconut shrimp, and the shrimp were sweet, savory and crunchy and were served alongside a dipping sauce that tasted like a Pi-ńa colada. They were delicious. Next came our salads (included with the dinner), which were fresh and tasty. Our meals came out shortly after we’d devoured the shrimp and salads. I ordered my halibut with their mashed potatoes instead of the rice pilaf. My husband opted for the baked potato to go with his steak as well. My fish was perfectly cooked. It had a nice crunch to the crust from being encrusted in panko as well as the horseradish. You could taste the horseradish, but it wasn’t overpowering at all. The vegetables served on the side were nicely seasoned, and my mashed potatoes were some of the best that I’d ever had at any restaurant. Even my husband whose steak was perfectly seared agreed that they were terrific. The food was served so quickly and was so hot that everything stayed warm the entire time we dined. The portions were generous, and we enjoyed every bite.

After you finish your meal, the staff invites you to take a tour of the rest of the resort, and I highly recommend you do. Don’t let a reality show from HBO influence you on what a legal brothel is. The world famous Mustang Ranch is beautifully maintained, and the different theme rooms are fun to check out. And a big bonus to me was that I could personally thank their chef for the delectable meal she prepared for us. After our visit, we talked about how much we enjoyed our meal and compared it to places in Las Vegas that are all too eager to over-charge the unsuspecting tourist. The experience we had at The Mustang Lounge in Sparks, Nevada rivaled some of Las Vegas’s top steakhouses, and the price is a fraction of what they charge here in Las Vegas. I look forward to our return visit and eating my way around the rest of their menu. It’s a sexy dining experience that every couple should experience.



By Vegas Food Nerd

I’ve often said that my favorite thing about living here in Las Vegas is the food. We are the culinary epicenter of some of the world’s best edible experiences. I thought for this holiday issue it might be fun to share some food nerd tips on some gift-worthy adventures that you could share with someone who likes to eat as much as I do, and if I were to be gifted any of them, I would be very impressed and satiated at the same time.

Bon Appetit Grand Tasting

When we first moved here from the Midwest I started a jar to save for the one Vegas foodie gathering that I had long yearned to attend as a young suburban Detroit girl. It was The Grand Tasting by Bon Appetit Magazine. As fate would have it, I am invited to the tasting as a member of the press each year. It takes place at the pool in Caesars Palace, and the top chefs are there standing by a table of food their staff has prepared, encouraging you to eat, taste and yes, get a photo with them. I was downright star-struck and loved trying the different bites each chef prepared.

Krug Table at Guy Savoy

For $500 a person you can sit at the Chef Table inside of Guy Savoy. You get an up close and personal view of the kitchen, a 10-course menu, and two glasses of Krug Cuvee champagne. It’s one of the most exclusive ways to dine in Las Vegas. Choose what night you want to attend with a minimum of two and maximum of six and prepare to be amazed.

E By Jose Andres

Open from Tuesday through Sunday each week, E by Jose Andres is a restaurant inside of Jaleo located in The Cosmopolitan Hotel and Casino. There are only two seatings each night: one at 5:30 p.m. and one at 8:30 p.m. The 21-course tasting menu takes two hours to consume and is a seasonally focused delight to the palate. The chefs are right there to answer any questions and guide you through the experience. You can reserve up to three months ahead, and when you do, they will send you a golden ticket in the mail that you bring to enter this dream of a dining experience. Be sure to check any calorie counting at the door.

Twist by Pierre Gagnaire

Seven courses and seven different wines for $777. Sounds like a lavish price tag, well it is, but the menu which is continually changing due to the seasons is a decadent dream for any foodie on your list. Sure, there are many other more affordable ways to eat in our city, but views like the ones you get at Twist are sure to score you points at the end of your date.

Le Cirque

This is one of the first fine dining outposts to start dotting Las Vegas. Brought to us by the now infamous Elizabeth Blau, Le Cirque is a posh dining choice to share with someone special. Their 10-course tasting menu is priced at $350, but I can tell you from experience if you are looking to be treated like an A-list celebrity then this is the restaurant to take a special someone. You can even call ahead and tell them if you are celebrating something special, or just give them your name and tell them to treat you like a regular. Become the Norm of the fine dining world. Your date will be impressed, and please wear a jacket— it’s sexy.

Joel Robuchon

Joel Robuchon is the highest ranked chef in the world and has been awarded over 30 Michelin stars, and his restaurant at MGM Grand Resort is the only three-star Michelin rated dining destination in Las Vegas. Your bill at the end of the evening is going to hit you for over $1,000 for the night, but 18 courses of mind-numbingly artistic and tongue titillating flavor might just keep you from having buyer’s remorse. It’s an intimate experience that every lover of food should get to experience. You might not always know what you are eating with their exotic presentation of ingredients, but you will always be glad that you popped that bite into your mouth.


Located inside of Mandalay Bay, Aureole by chef Charlie Palmer is a dining experience that is like none other in town. Make a point of ordering a bottle of wine. The Wine Angels at the restaurant will fly up a multi-floor wine tower, clad in Roberto Cavalli-designed sexy costumes to retrieve your selection. It’s like a naughty Tinker Bell getting you some fairy dust to complement their award-winning menu. I had a veal chop there once that changed my life. Well not entirely, but it made my decision to move to Las Vegas that much easier.


This is a family run Italian restaurant located just across from The Hard Rock Hotel, and it’s a genuinely authentic take on that. Most nights when you visit one of the family is either seating you, and/or cooking your food. Osso Bucco? Yes, yes, yes, and their Italian take on a wedge salad will have you craving a repeat visit to this warm off-the-strip destination.

Sparrow and Wolf

Detroit bred chef Brian Howard has been making a new name for himself since leaving his position at The Cosmopolitan. Sparrow and Wolf is his passion project, and it shows. He is creating a new form of American cuisine combining old-world cooking techniques like open fire cooking with modern techniques. The plates are meant to be shared and will be rotated based on seasonality, and the chef’s preferences. It has the foodie world in Vegas whispering with delight.

Emeril’s New Orleans Fish House

Emeril is one of the first “celebrity” chefs to infiltrate Vegas, and he is still one of my favorites. It’s not the priciest menu in town, isn’t that a relief? But it doesn’t disappoint. I’ve visited on several occasions, and it’s always a happy place to take a friend. Get the gumbo, trust me. They always offer tempting, and wallet-friendly happy hour specials. Pay homage to the guy who helped to revolutionize Las Vegas out of 99 cent shrimp cocktails to the gourmet outpost it is now. Thanks, Emeril. Bam! Look what you helped to create.




By Vegas Food Nerd

Tucked away in a strip mall next to a La Bonita Market, and Lee’s Liquor in Las Vegas is a family run treasure that Guy Fieri featured on “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives,” but that’s not what makes this gem of a place stand out. It all began in 2009 when Nina Manchev opened Forte European Tapas. Originally from Sofia, Bulgaria, Nina moved to Vegas with her parents at three years of age and has stayed much to the delight of locals in the know. Nina started Forte while she was still going to college at UNLV. She saw a hole in the dining scene and decided to bring her robust family traditions to her new restaurant. Her father helps her to develop the recipes, and as  Forte European Tapas has evolved, she has brought her unique flavor to the menu that celebrates dining going back to ancient times.

When you first walk into Forte European Tapas, I was struck by the quaintness of the space. The bar is inviting, and the deli and market section begs for some good foodie perusing. The seating area is an eclectic mix of fun and homey decorations. On one side is high tops, and the other is comfy cozy couch seating. It’s a setting that is conducive to deep conversation, and of course a lot of eating. The walls are adorned with art, faux plants and other wild knick-knacks that make you feel like you have temporarily left our neon city and been transported into a small café in Europe.

When we were seated, the server introduced us to the spice blend on the side of your table housed in a cool carved wooden box. She instructed us to pour some olive oil into our small plates, and then add small scoops of the spice mixture to the oil to create a delicious dip that we used as we devoured their warm bread while deciding what to order from their delightfully unfamiliar offerings.

We ordered the Thracian clay pot that Guy Fieri sampled on Triple D. Because hey, if it’s good enough for that wild-haired food host, then it is good enough for us too. Then Forte’s take on Beef Stroganoff, a wild mushroom pelmeni covered with a stroganoff ragu, and their Vereniki (hand-made dumplings, filled with potato, and topped with fried onions). We finished off the order with a pitcher of their white sangria. The Vereniki came out first, and it was love at first bite. There was no denying the home-made tenderness to the dumplings, and the sour cream on the side was a fresh, bright accompaniment. My favorite dish of the three came next. The beef stroganoff was a tender melt in your mouth delight. And Guy’s Clay Pot? It was delicious as well, full of authentic flavors, and something I might have enjoyed more at brunch time.  Which, by the way, is a reason to dedicate a Sunday to visit because it is the only day of the week that Forte serves the Spanish delight Paella.

Cheers to Chef Nina, and her family for bringing this outpost from Bulgaria to Las Vegas. Her family heritage shines through her food and entices the pallet to indulge for repeated visits. I highly suggest you experience for yourself next time you’re in Vegas.

Follow me @vegasfoodnerd

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