RATTLECAN - SHOTS, BURGERS, AND BEER
by Vegas Food Nerd
A new burger joint is opening on the Strip. Yawn… Haven’t we heard that and the words “Ultra Lounge” to the point of excess? Seems like high profile chefs everywhere are climbing all over each other, like the carp at Lake Mead, for a chance to open a restaurant that is a “new” concept in burgers. Ugh! When I was invited to check out the new Strip/burger hotspot “Rattlecan”, that was my first initial thought on the matter. Then I heard good ole Chef Sammy D (who helped to bring us FIRST Food and Bar at the Venetian) was to be a part of it, and also that this cool new “hip” spot was going to be the most entertaining way to do the sports book in a long time. And finally, I gotta mention this part: the part that is going to make you go to this place before I even tell you if I liked the food or not. Ready? Wait for it…. THEY HAVE A MECHANICAL PICKLE that you can ride, akin to its somewhat distant relative – the mechanical bull. Sorry, I was just channeling Neal Patrick Harris for a second.
Chef D teamed up with HGTV’s season 4 Champion of Design star, Antonio Ballatore, to create the experience inside the can. It struck me right away with the feelings of the era of the MTV Metal hair that Rock of Ages just couldn’t restore for me. Yeah, that’s right I’m giving away my age here, but that was my era – an era often made fun of, often misunderstood, an era of which I have many, MANY, embarrassing photos of my husband, and his close relatives. And I’m not ashamed. Yes, I owned four pairs of Doc Martens, and I am proud, yet not ready, to put them back on again, or ever, hopefully. Those things were heavy! The designer is, himself, a former wannabe rockstar, and his design in this restaurant really speaks to that. Modeled after Manhattan’s lower east side, it’s got a gritty backstage at the State Theater or St. Andrews kind of feel to it. (If you are from Detroit, you will understand, or toured there, you’ll understand. If not, Google it. I can’t do everything for you.) To put it in layman’s terms: seeing Axl Rose walk by with a couple of groupies wouldn’t shock you. The place was also purposefully tagged by some of the most renowned street artists of our time. Also something that shows my age: I had no idea what any of the renowned artists were called and had to do a bit of studying on the subject to be able to share it with you. Prior to this, the only street artist I’d heard of was from that movie with the guy who looked a lot like Lenny Kravitz and wore a bathrobe most of the time. Squat-something???? Anyway, I’m wandering again. Ballatore rounded up artists including AIKO, KRINK, HOW, and NOSM, Curtis Kulig, KING RUCK, Kenneth Cappello, Richard Duardo, and Jersey Joe – and they got busy claiming their turf, to create the creative and captivating murals that surround the restaurant.
“It’s like the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for Street Artists,”said Ballatore.
The atmosphere on the inside is fun, gritty and exciting, but if you’ve got a Vegas newbie in town and you want to show them the sights, I highly recommend sitting on the balcony. Right now, it looks on the nightly gondola rides and the winter ice skating rink, and is an optimum viewing platform for the Mirage volcano. You can’t see the whole volcano, but you see enough. In addition to that, it’s a much better way to dine on the Strip, without feeling like you’ve got thousands of stalker tourists staring you down while you dine. It was a bit chilly on the night we visited – hopefully they will amp up the heaters as the temperatures cool.
Upon invitation to this quirky little joint, I was told by my invitor that Rattlecan promised one of the best hangover remedies in town called “The Hot Mess”, and it’s just that. This burger is topped with mashed potatoes, chili, cheese, chicken sticks, onion rings, pickles, melted onions, grilled corn, pickled jalapeño, ranch drizzle, cheddar, polish dog…. Getting the idea yet? Though the real hangover remedy that I did a bit of Internet digging on to confirm is the signature Rattlecan Pickleback, which is a straight shot of Jameson followed by a pickle juice chaser. Sounds bizarre I know, but pickle juice has long been a homeopathic cure/preventer of the dreaded hangover. Sure you are supposed to chase the pickle juice with a couple of aspirin and a big glass of water, but come on, you’re in Vegas, people! We drink before we chase, or is it vice-versa? Either way, it’s a fun play on words that does speak to the vibe a lot of us are looking for in Sin City.
Our server was Katy, and she was just spot on – checking on us repeatedly throughout the night. Once we sat down and took in the view, she told us that it was national pickle day – and me always one to cherish and celebrate any holiday related to food – I felt obliged to order Sammy’s Pickle Sampler. There were two types of dills, a pickled egg, pickled cauliflower, a pickled green tomato, and pickled carrots. Biggest surprise on the plate was the egg. At first we were sure that we were going to hate it, but then it turned out to be very good. If you like hard-boiled eggs, you will love pickled eggs. The tomato however, was disappointing, and our least fave on the platter. Little too sour and not enough of I’m not sure what. Next, on suggestions from several staff members, we tried Red Hot Chile Poppers (ha! Wait now, I get it, play on words Red Hot Chili Peppers-the band. Get it?) These were deceptively spicy (the burn snuck up on ya’), but we really enjoyed these bacon-wrapped jalapeño shrimpies. The other app that we tried was the BBQ Pork Donut (Crisp Tempura BBQ Pork stuffed roll with a honey drizzle and pickled jalapeño). Now, I like bbq pork, and I love me some donuts, but I am not too sure that they should be combined in this fashion. The flavors were good, but just didn’t play out well for my liking. Next up we chose the Ahi Burger and two types of their fries – the Gravy & Cheese, and the Asiago & Truffle. We were tempted to try the world’s spiciest pepper in dip form, “The Ghostbuster”, but our server warned us, that while she liked spicy foods, this one was off-the-charts and even she couldn’t handle it, so we passed. Apparently, for the night, we were afraid of that ghost. Back to the burger. This Ahi Burger was just killer; it had Asian slaw, crisp wontons, avocado, wasabi, mayo, pickled ginger, all on a sesame brioche bun. It was very good – I would have preferred it cooked a little less, but overall, it was a perfect blend of tastes that I will be returning to the can to taste again. The Gravy Fries were different – not mind-blowing – but it was my first experience with poutine: that signature Quebec treat which features cold cheese curds on top of fries covered in gravy. Not horrible by any means, but not our favorite. The Asiago Truffle Fries on the other side of the table were good, really good. Another one worth repeating: crisp, piping hot, and very flavorful – must’ve been the asiago and the truffle stuff that did it, but wow, yummm. There was so much we wanted to try and it was all tasting pretty darn good. And I’d even had three of this wonderful cucumber alcohol concoction that Katy had suggested. But there is only so much room – though we couldn’t leave before trying the Sweet Potato S’mores Fries – it was just too weird of a menu item not to try (crisp sweet potato fries, mini marshmallows, crunchy graham crackers, and chocolate chips). Sometimes things sound weird cuz they just are, and while at first it was pretty good after a few bites, it just became too much. But don’t give up on the desserts just yet. As we were leaving, Katy handed us a bag of Moon Pies to take home to our families, and they were very, very good – especially the Pumpkin variety. On the way out, who did we see, but Chef Sammy D, himself, in the flesh, and of course there was no way this nerd was going to muster up the courage and say “Hi.” I just pointed and whispered (you know the mature thing to do). All-in-all, it was a very pleasant experience and a fun concept to explore.
“Rattlecan’s focus is on giving the customer a great burger, and a killer atmosphere to enjoy it in,” said DeMarco.
Congrats, Chef – I think you nailed it.
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