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




By Vegas Food Nerd

Not far from the entrance to Zion National Park is a smaller town in southern Utah called La Verkin where there’s a family-run restaurant called Stage Coach Grille. Not far from Springdale, the town just outside Zion, this dining spot serves up steaks, ribs, chops, seafood and other dishes— all with a Greek flair. We found this quaint spot after a visit to the park where we had just hiked the emerald pools. The trail, which starts just steps away from the Lodge inside Zion, was a natural marvel. It’s not every day that you find a path that hikers of all skill levels can walk on and venture underneath a waterfall. We were even treated to an exclusive tour guide when a deer decided to join us on our journey just steps away. To get to the lodge, Zion runs shuttles all day long, and don’t let the long lines fool you; they move pretty fast. We were staying in La Verkin for the night and had passed by the restaurant on the way to the park. The building itself makes you want to walk into the place. It’s southwest pink, with a rustic looking patio, and perfect accents all around it, including a metal sculpture of a horse on the roof that is rearing his legs, and glistening in the sun. It stands out in a town full of fast food.

Owners George and Cindy Rodinos wanted to create a place where the food was as fresh and locally sourced as possible: an anti-fast food, prepackaged preparation place where they could connect with locals, and the people who frequently travel through their area. They designed the outside and interior of the restaurant with friends, and their attention to detail is evident the moment you walk in. The interior past the western style wooden swing doors is rustic and fun, featuring yellow walls set off by patches of brick. Wooden floors, furniture and southwest artwork throughout make it a cozy and warm dining experience.

On our visit, we decided to try a few of their daily specials. I got the crab stuffed salmon served with garlic mashed potatoes and sautéed vegetables, and my friends ordered the braised lamb, and the Ahi tuna. Mine was tender and very flavorful. The lamb (because yes my friends share their food, otherwise we couldn’t be friends) was tender comfort food with potatoes and roasted vegetables on the side. The table favorite for the evening was the Ahi tuna. Flown in fresh from Hawaii, the sesame crusted fish was served over wild rice pilaf with fresh sautéed veggies. It was a fresh, bright-tasting dish that we all enjoyed. Our server was attentive and friendly as was the rest of the staff. If anyone passing saw that we needed something, it was brought to us right away. Don’t skip the desserts when you visit. They are all homemade fresh, and a perfect ending to your meal. We sampled their Baklava, and the three-layer chocolate cake— both sweet perfection.

Zion is a spectacle that I highly recommend everyone experience, and when you are there, let’s face it, you have to eat. Stage Coach Grille is a perfect ending to a long day at the park. Take in the grandeur of the views, and fill up on the food that this family so lovingly prepares.

Follow me @VegasFoodNerd 






Located in Summerlin Due
which means two ovens in Italian this little gourmet pizza joint has been cooking up some pretty amazing pies for years.  

Chef Carlos Buscaglia’s recipes and pure dedication to authentic Italian flavors are pretty evident in the food at this trendy modern feeling restaurant.  Like a cracker thin crust then pick their Roman Style Crust, and if you like a bit of chew to your crust like I do then go with their Neapolitan Style Crust.  I’ve been lucky enough to try most of their custom pizzas, and they are all good, and all scrumptious.

It’s not all about the pizza here, though.  They have specials that change from time to time.  One thing you shouldn’t pass up, and I never seem to be able to is their Gnocchi.  They are small semolina gnocchi served in a truffle crema, with bacon and peas.  Decadent and delicate at the same time.  

Their Social Plates section of the menu is also worth exploring.  They have a great Chef’s plate which features Charcuterie and Artisanal cheeses.  But the highlight for myself is their Stracciatella.  If you like cheese and are familiar with Burrata, Stracciatella is the center (best part) of the cheese.  The name means rag in Italian, and they serve it to you with a fresh piece of baked bread and your choice of accompaniment such as roasted red pepper it will make you happy, I promise.  

If you a wine aficionado, you will also like that Duo Forni has an Enomatic Wine System which allows them to pour from over forty plus outstanding limited production wines offered by the glass.  From 10 – 20-year-old Barolos to up-and-coming vintners from hot spots around the globe.


Another great spot for gourmet pies is Settebello.  This small eight-chain restaurant makes Neapolitan pizzas and salads.  Each location does change the menu from time to time based on the availability of ingredients.  

The menu is simple but delicious.  The restaurant is named after the most sought after card in the popular Italian card game called Scopa.  The Settebello is the nickname given to the seven of gold in the 40-card deck. 

When I visited the restaurant, a friend and I split a couple of their pizzas and a salad.  The two pies that we tried were the Emilia (prosciutto cotto, fresh corn, Italian cream, fresh mozzarella, parmesan, basil, and olive oil), and the Filetto (fresh mozzarella, cherry tomatoes, fresh basil, and olive oil.)  They both were very good.  We didn’t realize that the Filletto was basically a caprese salad on top of a warm baked round of bread which was a bit of a letdown.  The Emilia was our favorite, warm gooey cheesy perfection.  

The salad we decided to split while eating our pies was their Involtini di Prosciutto which was prosciutto crudo wrapped around baby arugula and goat cheese.  They topped it with goat cheese, shaved parmesan, balsamic reduction and olive oil.  It was just the perfect balance of flavors.  

The small chain is celebrating ten years here in Las Vegas and if you visit between January 10th to the 16th you can get a Margherita Pizza & Peroni for just $10 and help them celebrate this milestone.  Chef Carmine D’Amato hopes you stop by for your slice soon.  •  Follow me at: @vegasfoodnerd

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